In the summer of AD 79, A Roman fleet rested in the docks of an Italian town called Misentum, on the western horn of the Bay of Naples, about 150 miles south of Rome. In one of its lavish seaside villas, Pliny, the fat, rich commander of the naval detachment who had also achieved some fame as a philosopher, laid on a blanket in the yard, writing his latest work. A sizable staff attended to his wishes, answering every command he instituted.
In southern Belgium in 57 BC, the expansionist Romans under Julius Caesar fought against a confederation of several tribes of Belgian Gauls in the Battle of the Sabis. The Romans dealt a severe punishment to one Gallic tribe called the Nervii, forcing them to retreat. Three years later, the regenerated Nervii mounted an attack of their own against the 11th Claudian Legion of the Roman army led by Quintus Cicero, who had camped for the winter. The Nervii, using tactics they had learned from the Romans themselves, built a ten-mile circular wall and ditch around the Roman palisade, trapping the 11th within their own fortification. Before long, the Nervii assaulted the Roman position with towers, grappling hooks, and manpower, and the siege was on.
In the early 3rd century AD, the Roman Empire teetered on the edge of an epic fall. On March 8, 217, the despised and ruthless Emperor Caracalla stopped to relieve himself against a roadside tree during a long overland ride, insisting on some privacy as he did so. In his moment of vulnerability, one of his guards, Julius Martialis, assassinated the Emperor with a single thrust of a dagger. Martialis did not survive his victim for long, as one of the Emperor's other bodyguards, a Scythian, immediately shot the assassin dead.