|One silver lining of the lockdown has been the chance to chip away at the backlog of books piled high and waiting to be read. One in particular had slipped down behind a bookcase so was a very pleasant discovery, namely Duncan B. Campbell's The Fate of the Ninth. The author will be very familiar to those interested in ancient military history and especially the Roman army for his numerous books, including a number for Osprey, and as a regular contributor to Ancient Warfare> magazine. |
Reading the introduction brought back lots of memories, as our paths to studying the Roman army are similar. I had not realised that the artist who did the pictures for the Ladybird also did the original Thomas the Tank Engine stories. (It's strange how these stick in the memory. I was surprised how many I remembered when I came to read the stories to my son in the last few years). Then there was Rosemary Sutcliffe's Eagle of the Ninth and the marvellous BBC dramatization in 1977 - copies of which were discovered fairly recently and released on dvd. Again, strange how many scenes were familiar when I watched it for the first time in over forty years.
The book, as you might guess, is an exploration of just what did happen to Legio VIIII Hispana (who usually chose to spell their title that way, rather than using the more familiar IX as numeral). More than just a survey of the evidence itself, Campbell traces the way the matter has been studied and how the idea of a legion lost in the mists of northernmost Britain was created and gathered a momentum of its own. Along the way we meet many of the key figures to shape the understanding of the legions and Roman Britain. Throughout the analysis is clear and very sensible. This is not an author parading a pet theory and forcing the evidence to fit, but a highly accomplished scholar assessing the matter clearly and thoroughly. I do not think it is giving the game away to state that there is no fixed conclusion - no solving every mystery - and instead we are taken as far as the evidence will go. In the process, many issues of how the Roman army worked are examined, familiar theories challenged, and plenty of questions raised. For instance, whether the senatorial tribune was in truth the second in command of a legion.
All in all this is well worth a look, especailly if you have fond memories of Sutcliffe's story.
The Fate of the Ninth
|Philip and Alexander|
|My latest non fiction book, Philip and Alexander. Kings and Conquerors is due for release soon. In the UK, it will come out on 3rd September and in the USA about a month later. A Dutch edition will be released in the Netherlands in September. There will be other translations, but I do not yet have all the details. Soon there will be a page about the book on this site.|
One very kind review so far:-
|Kindle offer on The Encircling Sea in the UK|
|The Encircling Sea is available this month for £1.69 on amazon.co.uk.|