Thursday 12th July: The Conquests of Trajan and his Column.

Having recently expanded the realms of his empire by ravaging the regions of Dacia well beyond the limits set by his previous advance up the Grand Accumulated 3-Player Mahjong Results Table early in the spring, Emperor Traianus Davidus set out in the footsteps of the ancient poet, Bassho, on a second exhibition against one of the tribes of the east which shelter behind the broad islands over against southernmost tributary of the Great River Mogamus. That river is noted for the speed of its current and the people who dwell thereabouts for their skill in medicine. Indeed, such is the fame of their medicine that the chief men of the tribe were preoccuppied with dishing out powders and potions and were still in their witchdoctors’ gear when they were taken by surprise as Traianus Davidus marched into their encampment a full 15 minutes earlier than expected. They were alerted to the danger when the tribal totem, a little fluffy dog sporting a pink bib, began to yap excitedly and run to and fro in the entrance way to the encampment.

While the elders and chief men of the tribe girded up their loins, Trianus Davidus attacked the baggage wagons and made off with sandwiches and beer.

Now the people of the East are players of classical Japanese four-player mahjong whereas the heretical Dacian schismatics proclaim the merits of the three-player variation.

It is an ancient tradition that the general who takes to the field against the peoples of the east and overmasters them by martial prowess often comes a cropper when he turns his face and his forces against the Dacians. Likewise has it been remarked that a general who masters the field in Dacia seldom manages to march his eagles to victory in the east.

Battle was joined and ranged over three encounters. In the first, Traianus Davidus won the early skirmishes with a nice Haneman hand (courtesy of three Dora tiles) as Oya, but his forces were halted for the rest of that skirmish although they did not give up much ground, and Traianus Davidus was able to wrest the initiative back towards the end of the game. He did this by adopting the tactics of the German tribesmen, stripping off his armour and going biserker. Mrs M had declared Riichi and so Trianus Davidus promptly did the same and flung himself amongst the enemy brandishing his Issen Tenbou and closing upon them with a cry of “Okake Riichi” – which promptly turned into “Ippatsu, Tsumo…” and I forget what else to discomfit them and cause them to flee from the field.

Dr M jr had suffered most in the first encounter, and suffered almost as much in the second. Play flowed as swiftly as the eponymous river that Bassho described in one of his haiku. There were several comic moments, as for example when Mrs M retracted a “Pon” declaration a couple of times, giving away the fact that she was waiting for something, but not the Wind or Dragon that had just been discarded. The first time it happened Trianus Davidus gave away the required Wind, but I don’t think Mrs M was able to complete her hand. However, on the second occasion Trianus Davidus kept close to hand the Red Dragon that he suspected she needed, but Mrs M completed her hand anyway by other means; a generous donation by Dr M jr, if I remember rightly.

Dr M jr claimed the North Wind by a declaration of “Pon” when his seat was no longer in the North. He made a good show of having bungled, but whether that was the case or whether it was an example of the crafty cunning that is as natural to the people of the East, I dare not say.

Dr M jr, the tribal elder, prevailed in this encounter, but the losses accruing to Traianus Davidus were not fatal to his ambitions and a severe blow had been administered to the forces of Dr M jr who had threatened his left flank with a triple attack taking advantage of the South Wind. Unfortunately for him his attack was scuppered by the tribal elder took him down and touched him for a token amount of booty.

There was a general reorganization of troops for the third and decisive encounter, with Dr M sr now ranging at large on Traianus Davidus’s left flank, Dr M jr occupying a more defensive location on his right and Mrs M in the centre.

Half way through the game Traianus Davidicus had retreated somewhat but was still hopeful of victory when he, as Oya, put together a hand consisting of the old 7-Pairs (Chitoi), with the missing tile being none other than the South Wind, the Dora for that game, and with none yet showing on the table. He thought better of declaring Riichi and sat back and waited for the trap to be sprung. Sure enough, the tribal elder, Dr M sr, thinking the coast was clear to pop out the South, did so and suffered when the hidden Dora indicator pointed to a couple of tiles in Traianus Davidus his hand.

The South Wind was active again in a later hand when Dr. M sr declared Riichi, then Traianus Davidicus, seeing he was still Oya declared as well with a South/7-Coins wait. No sooner had he done that than Dr M jr also declared Riichi and began to pray earnestly to the pagan deities. If his orisons were accepted the requests they contained were not. Mrs M now contemplated throwing herself into the fray with a fourth Riichi but declined to do so and played safe. Dr M sr discarded without event and Traianus Davidus then drew the South Wind to complete his hand with Riichi, Tsumo, Table Wind, and three Dora bonuses. It was that hand that won him the game, but actually, Dr M sr pointed out, had Mrs M declared Riichi the hand would have been abandoned. In the four player game (as played here) a fourth Riichi automatically terminates play.

Perhaps the deities had opened half an ear to Dr M jr’s prayers for he was able to declare Riichi and to complete the final hand of the evening to get himself to the dizzy heights – er I should rather say “the not so low depths” – of minus two. He still finished as the evening’s bottom player. Mrs M was third. Dr M sr came in just above the bar, not on the main points but on the strength of a Maru (O) bonus, while Traianus Davidus marched off with the spoils of victory to set up what is known in the English speaking world as Trajan’s Column, an edifice of words made up chiefly of balderdash which you have just been perusing at your leisure.

Trajan (53-117AD)
Conquerer of Dacia, and the East, a virtuous pagan resurrected by Pope Gregory I and baptized into glory by the same.

Famous also for the size of his Roman column.

Of Traianus, or Trajan as he is rendered in English, Gibbon has this to say:

Trajan was ambitious of fame; and as long as mankind shall continue to bestow more liberal applause on their destroyers than on their benefactors, the thirst of martial glory will ever be the vice of the most exalted characters. The praises of Alexander, transmitted by a succession of poets and historians, had kindled a dangerous emulation in the mind of Trajan. Like him the Roman emperor undertook an expedition against the nations of the east, but he lamented with a sigh, that his advanced age scarcely left him any hopes of equalling the renown of the son of Philip.
And of his conquests he writes:

Yet the success of Trajan, however transient, was rapid and specious. The degenerate Parthians, broken by intestine discord, fled before his arms. He descended the river Tigris in triumph, from the mountains of Armenia to the Persian gulf. He enjoyed the honour of being the first, as he was the last, of the Roman generals, who ever navigated that remote sea. His fleets ravaged the coasts of Arabia; and Trajan vainly flattered himself that he was approaching towards the confines of India. (20) Every day the astonished senate received the intelligence of new names and new nations, that acknowledged his sway. They were informed that the kings of Bosphorus, Colchos, Iberia, Albania, Osrhoene, and even the Parthian monarch himself, had accepted their diadems from the hands of the emperor; that the independent tribes of the Median and Carduchian hills had implored his protection; and that the rich countries of Armenia, Mesopotamia, and Assyria, were reduced into the state of provinces.

On the death of Trajan and his legacy:

But the death of Trajan soon clouded the splendid prospect; and it was justly to be dreaded that so many distant nations would throw off the unaccustomed yoke, when they were no longer restrained by the powerful hand which had imposed it.
David Hurley