On Patrol with The 13th Legion

May 23, 2023
Andrew Bates
Culips English Podcast
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[00:00:07] A story for English learners. 

[00:00:09] Episode two, On Patrol with The 13th Legion, guest starring Andrew Bates from Culips English Podcast.

[00:00:19] You can find the interactive transcripts, subtitles and vocabulary for this episode for free at Leonardo English dot com. 

[00:00:28] Yes, I have to admit that I was a little jealous that Winston was the first one of us to travel through time. He came face to face with Adolf Hitler, and put a bullet in his brain. 

[00:00:43] Or so he told us at least. 

[00:00:46] But now it was my turn. 

[00:00:48] I had spent months brushing up on my Latin, working on my cover story and going through ancient records to pinpoint exactly where Julius Caesar would have been on the 10th of November, in 54 BC.

[00:01:02] Luckily, the Romans kept meticulous historical records, a fact that I would use to my advantage since I’m a historian myself!

[00:01:11] See, I wasn't so interested in changing the course of history or assassinating anyone. I wanted to go back and actually meet Julius Caesar before he became really famous. I wanted to meet him for myself, to get the measure of the man.

[00:01:26] And now I was about to do it.

[00:01:28] I got into the box-like chamber that would transport me through time, ignoring the teasing comments from the others about my Roman robes.

[00:01:37] I closed my eyes and asked them to proceed. Immediately, the air felt different, colder. There was noise all around. The sounds of clanking metal and orders being shouted. I opened my eyes to find I was in a large tent full of military supplies. It had worked!

[00:02:02] I rose to my feet and made sure that I was holding the trigger device that would send me back - the chronotrigger. 

[00:02:09] After all, things could turn dangerous, and fast.

[00:02:13] My urge was to examine the shields, swords and armour stacked in the tent. I mean, this was a historian’s dream!

[00:02:21] But I wasn’t here to look at artefacts, I had a mission. I was here to find Caesar.

[00:02:27] Stepping out of the tent, I looked around. 

[00:02:30] Amazing! 

[00:02:31] Roman military camps were always built in the same layout: a large rectangle with four gates, several “roads” including one through the middle and the general’s tent in the centre. It could be constructed in three hours. I had studied it and now here I was!

[00:02:48] “ Quis es? Quid tu hic agis?” called out a voice. It was a legionary. 

[00:02:54] Latin! 

[00:02:56] I had spent years studying it, but this was the first time I had heard it spoken outside of a simulator.

[00:03:03] “I’m lost,” I replied in Latin. “I’m looking for General Gaius Julius Caesar.”

[00:03:10] It was the first time in thousands of years that anyone had spoken Latin to a real Roman. I hoped it would work…

[00:03:19] “Baldie? What would he want with you? And what’s that accent?”

[00:03:25] Did he just refer to Caesar as “baldie”? I know that Caesar was bald, but it was amazing to hear his own men referring to him in such a derogatory way!

[00:03:36] Right, it was time for my cover.

[00:03:39] “I’m Xenophes, a historian from Greece. I’ve travelled here to Gaul to compile a history of your great general. I’d very much like to meet him.” 

[00:03:49] You see, I was hoping that claiming to be Greek would explain away my accent. 

[00:03:55] And Caesar loved publicity - he surely wouldn’t turn down an opportunity to feature in the history books!

[00:04:02] The legionary considered my words. Meanwhile a couple of his fellows came up to see what was happening.

[00:04:10] “Well, I’m sure Baldie would love that - as long as you write about how wonderful he is. But you’re out of luck; he’s away for a couple of days meeting a local chieftain and accepting his submission. We’ll put you up in a tent if you want. I’m Valerius, by the way”

[00:04:28] The words crushed me. 

[00:04:30] I had successfully travelled here right to the heart of Caesar’s camp and I made contact without arousing any suspicion. But I only had an hour before being automatically triggered back to my own time.

[00:04:44] Of course, I couldn’t tell these men all that. But what could I do here for a single hour? Time to put my thinking cap on.

[00:04:53] “I’m not only interested in General Caesar,” I told the group. “I’m writing a new kind of history. I want to learn about the common soldier; the legionary. Take me on a tour of the camp and tell me about yourselves.”

[00:05:08] I figured it was worth a short at least and when I saw Valerius’ face lighting up, I knew I was in luck.

[00:05:16] “Well,” Valerius said, “That sounds acceptable. We’re just about to go on a short patrol, but we’ll be back before nightfall.”

[00:05:25] Dammit, I was about to lose my opportunity. One last chance!

[00:05:31] “Perfect!” I cried. “Take me with you! I’ll write about it.”

[00:05:34] It was risky, but what other choice did I have?

[00:05:39] And one of the men stepped forward, saying “We don’t take random Greeks on patrol with us. Can you defend yourself when the Gauls attack?”

[00:05:49] “Yeah!” I replied, knowing full well that that was a lie. I had never been in a fight in my life, let alone against a fearsome Gaul.

[00:05:58] And there was something about what he'd said that confused me. 

[00:06:03] He said “when” the Gauls attack, not “if” they attack. Still, I would only be here for an hour, so how dangerous could it be?

[00:06:14] Valerius took my wrists. “Look how soft his hands are. This Greek’s been living the good life, by Jupiter. And what’s this?”

[00:06:23] He had my chronotrigger. Damn, I wasn’t expecting them to find it.

[00:06:29] “It’s a good luck charm. I carry it everywhere.”

[00:06:32] Luckily, he seemed uninterested in it.

[00:06:35] “No doubt it’s dedicated to Zeus or some such Greek nonsense. Do you know what these are?”

[00:06:42] Valerius showed me a short sword and a spear that he took from the man next to him.

[00:06:48] " A gladius and pilum", I replied. 

[00:06:51] Now I'm guessing you're not a historian, so you might not know either. A gladius is a sword and a pilum is a spear, the kind the Romans used. 

[00:07:01] I took the pilum from him and held it in my hands.

[00:07:05] In high school, I competed in javelin events, and I was sure I could handle this seven-foot spear. I held it above my head in a throwing pose.

[00:07:15] “Okay, Greek,” Valerius replied, at least somewhat impressed. “Drusus, fetch the others and we’ll leave immediately.”

[00:07:24] “ Marcus Antonius won’t like it if we take the Greek with us”, moaned Drusus.

[00:07:30] “Never mind about that. It looks like the Greek wants to meet some Gauls. We’d better introduce him!”.

[00:07:38] Some of the legionaries laughed. 

[00:07:41] And so it was that a few minutes later, I found myself walking through the forest in ancient Gall with a patrol of nine legionaries. 

[00:07:49] Valerius took the lead and I realised that he must be decanus - leader of a group of eight to ten men.

[00:07:58] The forest was thick and dark. The legionaries spaced themselves out so that they were walking several metres apart and they fell completely silent. I kept pace with Valerius, eager to gain more information in my limited time.

[00:08:14] He was reluctant to talk much while on patrol, but he humoured me and I learned that his men were part of the thirteenth legion. Now, if this timeline held the same as mine, this meant that these men were about to go down in history! Caesar famously crossed the Rubicon river into Rome with a single legion and triggered a civil war. That legion was the thirteenth!

[00:08:39] And the Marcus Antonius he had mentioned back in camp must have been Marc Antony, Caesar’s protege who went on to become Cleopatra’s lover. I kicked myself - I should have asked them to introduce me!

[00:08:53] I thought we were striking up some kind of relationship, Valerius and I, so I decided to ask him if he thought “baldie” was a good leader to his men. 

[00:09:03] That was not a good idea… 

[00:09:06] When he heard me refer to Caesar in this way, Valerius spun around and held his gladius to my throat, his face a matter of centimetres away from me.

[00:09:16] “You don’t call him that, Greek. Ever.”

[00:09:20] He could probably see the terror in my expression, and after he put his sword down his voice softened and he answered my question. 

[00:09:29] “ He has brought us what every Roman soldier wants. Honour and glory. Riches and land will follow in time. I believe that once we have subdued the Gauls, we will join him in the greatest honour of all, a triumphal procession through the streets of Rome!”

[00:09:48] Hearing this caused a strange sensation to come over me. 

[00:09:52] I knew that Caesar would really conquer the Gauls, winning victory after victory to become one of the greatest military leaders of all time. And these men would really get their triumph, although it was a few years and many battles away.

[00:10:08] I felt a burning desire to tell Valerius of the glory that lay ahead for him. And then I thought, why not?

[00:10:16] “Valerius, before I left Greece, I consulted an oracle. She told me that Caesar really would subdue Gaul. You’ll defeat their leader Vercingetorix in one of the greatest battles in history. You’ll get your Triumph in Rome.”

[00:10:31] He went silent, looking down at the ground. 

[00:10:34] “Hmmph! You Greeks should stick to your dramas and philosophy. The leader of the Gauls is Viridovix, not Vercingetorix.”

[00:10:44] Although he dismissed my prediction, Valerius continued with a bit of a spring in his step, he seemed pleased by my remark. I smiled to myself. If Viridovix was the leader of the Gauls, that was proof that I'd come to a slightly different timeline, exactly as I'd hoped. 

[00:11:03] Time to bring the conversation back to the present day, the present hour, even.

[00:11:08] “Do you think we’ll really encounter the Gauls today, Valerius?”

[00:11:12] “I’m sure of it, Greek. That’s why we’ve come this way.”

[00:11:16] I realised that this was not really a patrol, but a provocation! 

[00:11:20] Valerius was seeking a fight, hoping for a battle. 

[00:11:24] Had I made a big mistake coming along? There was no way I could hold my own in a fight against an army of Gauls! Still, I probably had only fifteen minutes or so left; I just needed to stick it out until then. After all, I had my chronotrigger, I could push the escape button if I really needed to.

[00:11:44] “Valerius,” I said. “What if we’re outnumbered? There are only ten of us.”

[00:11:50] Valerius laughed. 

[00:11:52] “Outnumbered? Of course we’ll be outnumbered, or they wouldn’t dare attack us! We’re Romans. We’ll fight them like Romans.”

[00:12:02] I considered this. Caesar was vastly outnumbered in nearly all of his major battles. The one time he actually outnumbered his enemy, he won so easily that he summed up the battle in three words": veni, vidi, vinci [I came, I saw, I conquered].

[00:12:20] The legionaries wouldn't fear a large number of Gauls, but I would. I felt my stomach tighten in fear.

[00:12:28] Valerius motioned for me to be quiet and pointed up ahead. The patrol slowed and grouped closer together as we eventually came to a clearing. I wondered if I could make a run for it.

[00:12:40] “Come out, Gauls. I know you’re here!” shouted Valerius to the surrounding trees.

[00:12:47] And out from the shadows stepped a group of fearsome Gauls, painted head to toe in various colours. They carried spears, sticks and swords. Some carried wooden shields. There were fifteen of them.

[00:13:01] I didn’t hear a command, but the legionaries immediately formed into two lines, their shields locking together noisily, swords protruding from the first line and spears protruding from the second. A hand grabbed me and pulled me into the back line.

[00:13:18] The Gauls screamed, shouted, threatened, shook their weapons and hurled insults. Meanwhile, the Romans maintained complete silence and lack of emotion, their focus complete. The might and discipline of the Roman war machine was embodied in this small detachment. And then there was me, shaking in fear.

[00:13:42] The tight Roman formation emphasised the difference in numbers, as the Gauls spread out in front of us.

[00:13:49] As they shouted and gathered courage for an attack, I noticed one Gaul staring directly at me, and I knew what he was thinking: a soft target, an easy kill. 

[00:14:01] As I stared back, his eyes never left mine, burning with anger and hatred. It reminded me that the Romans were invaders here, occupiers in the middle of a genocide. He would run me through with his spear in an angry rage.

[00:14:18] “Release arms!”, Valerius shouted.

[00:14:22] Five pila soared through the air, easily finding their marks in the throats and chests of five Gauls who fell to the ground in their death throes.

[00:14:32] Suddenly the field was even - ten against ten. The remaining Gauls hesitated, realising what they were dealing with here.

[00:14:41] “Advance!”, roared Valerius.

[00:14:45] The Roman formation advanced towards the enemy, taking advantage of their hesitation. I stepped back, letting them go on without me; later they'd surely call me a coward, but I was in no position to worry about “later”.

[00:15:01] At that moment, half the Gauls attacked while the other half fled. Four Gauls charged the Roman formation, a move of pure suicide. The fifth Gaul charged directly towards me, spear thrusting forward, a wild battle cry piercing the air.

[00:15:19] In desperation. I held out my pilum to deflect the blow, but the enemy warrior moved to the left at the last moment, thrusting his spear into my…

[00:15:31] I was back in the lab. Blood was trickling from my stomach where the very tip of the spear had pierced me just before I had been pulled back into my own timeline.

[00:15:44] It was the closest of escapes.

[00:15:48] “ Caesar wasn’t as happy to see you as you’d hoped, it would seem?” asked Winston, motioning for Marcie to pass the first aid kit.

[00:15:56] I laughed in relief. Somewhere in another timeline, over 2000 years ago, was a very confused warrior whose enemy had vanished upon contact. 

[00:16:08] I suppose he was probably cut down by some cold Roman steel a few moments after that. 

[00:16:15] Ancient times were bloody and brutal, and as soon as I returned, I made a promise to myself to leave history firmly in the past.


[00:16:25] Pioneers of The Continuum was a Leonardo English production. 

[00:16:33] The story was written by Emile Dodds and me, Alastair Budge. 

[00:16:39] Bobby was played by Andrew Bates from Culips English Podcast. 

[00:16:44] Make sure to subscribe and follow the podcast to get the next episode straight into your favourite podcast app. 

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