Could I destroy the entire Roman Empire during the reign of Augustus if

“Could I destroy the entire Roman Empire during the reign of Augustus if I traveled back in time with a modern U.S. Marine infantry battalion or MEU?”

The question above was posted on reddit recently and for no particular reason, a story appeared in the comments. (Scroll down to Prufrock451’s first comment, Day 1 is pasted below). Worth a read.

The 35th MEU is on the ground at Kabul, preparing to deploy to southern Afghanistan. Suddenly, it vanishes.

The section of Bagram where the 35th was gathered suddenly reappears in a field outside Rome, on the west bank of the Tiber River. Without substantially prepared ground under it, the concrete begins sinking into the marshy ground and cracking. Colonel Miles Nelson orders his men to regroup near the vehicle depot - nearly all of the MEU’s vehicles are still stripped for air transport. He orders all helicopters airborne, believing the MEU is trapped in an earthquake.

Nelson’s men soon report a complete loss of all communications, including GPS and satellite radio. Nelson now believes something more terrible has occurred - a nuclear war and EMP which has left his unit completely isolated. Only a few men have realized that the rest of Bagram has vanished, but that will soon become apparent as the transport helos begin circling the 35th’s location.

Within an hour, the 2,200 Marines have regrouped, stunned. They are not the only moderns transported to Rome. With them are about 150 Air Force maintenance and repair specialists. There are about 60 Afghan Army soldiers, mostly the MEU’s interpreters and liaisons. There are also 15 U.S. civilian contractors and one man, Frank Delacroix, who has spoken to no one but Colonel Nelson.

Miraculously, no one was killed during the earthquake but several dozen people were injured, some seriously. All fixed-wing aircraft and the attack helicopters were rendered inoperable by the shifting concrete, although the MEU did not lose a single vehicle or transport helicopter.

As night falls, the MEU has established a perimeter. A few locals have been spotted, but in the chaos no one has yet established contact. Nelson and his men, who are crippled without mapping software and GPS to fix their position, begin attempting to fix their location by observing stars. The night is cloudy. Nelson orders four helicopters back into the air at first light, to travel along the river in hopes of locating a settlement.

I like the premise; " Sir we’ve travelled back in time, what should we do?" … “Kill all sonsabitches”. … “Yes Sir!”

Easily, if you took enough ammo. Of course, the locals would look at you like gods, so you could just walk into the city. Or the entire city would drown in the Tiber River fleeing from your helicopter.

Awesome premise, I like where the author is going.

I’ve always had a scrap of an idea for a series of novels based on a modern day military unit that somehow gets transported to an alternate dimension in time and space where they encounter not only other military and civilian groups from Earth’s past but also a few from it’s future as well. They must band together with some of these other inhabitants of the strange world to seek out a way back to their own times and places as well as combat native creatures and other less friendly groups of refugees from Earth itself. In the end it may end up that there is some imtelligence at work behind the abductions/transportations and they may have to go up against that as well.

I think it would be fascinating to explore how modern people would attempt to adapt to their surroundings in such an environment and how they would overcome language and culteral barriers to communicate with other groups from their own past, both recent (say WWII) and distant (like Romans).

The research involved in writing those would be a nightmare though, assuming you wanted anything approaching historical accuracy, and if you’re writing that kind of book I assume you would.

Someone already wrote this book!

Well kind of:

WWII instead of the Roman Empire

There was a movie in the 1980s with the premise that the Nimitz went back in time to the day before Pearl Harbor.


(I know, I’m a party-pooper)

There was a book series where a unit from the Civil War gets transported to an alternate world with large humanoids who eat human flesh. The area they’re in is mostly populated by humans from Russia under the boyars.

Actually found it quite interesting, because he took the absurd hypothesis seriously, as far as consequences and rigor.

Didn’t Stirling do this with the island of Nantucket?

So instead of marines you have rich people?

just read David Drake or Eric Flint. They make a living writing these books.

More Flint than Drake, really; Drake’s thing is more rewriting the horror of Vietnam repeatedly as a form of personal catharsis and coping mechanism that makes him a very respectable chunk of change.

The 19th century proved that you don’t need helicopters to do this, you just need machineguns and muskets.

I meant more the Belisarius series, which was admittedly mostly Flint. But it’s one of my favorite things to read.

Don’t forget Harry Turtledove, particularly Guns of the South.

Heh, mine as well; I’ve re-read that series a number of times. It’s infinitely better than his second attempt at the genre (Ring of Fire), even if it was apparently less popular.

As an aside, the Belisarius series was an underwhelming enough success that in Ringo’s Baen-specific in-joke-laden Princess of Wands, the stand-in character for Eric Flint loses it over how much work he put into the research for such little gain and makes a deal with the devil.

Flint is kind of bitter sometimes. :)

The Final Countdown. You can watch it on Netflix streaming.

Aha! this is what I was looking for. Rally Cry, by William Forstchen.

I don’t see how this pans out. The MEU runs out of oil and batteries. That means your armor and choppers become stationary gun emplacements, and your radios are worthless. Command and control becomes virtually impossible (unless they’ve been issued with the new solar-powered rechargeables). The reliance on power also means NVG and other devices are not functional for very long.

I think that a well-planned night time action by the Romans may have the result of crippling the MEU.

Heh, didn’t know the backstory. I’m sad, it’s such a perfect little series. It’s moving, incredibly funny, well plotted…

Hmmm, it’s been a while. /fetches Kindle