Review – The Fate of the Ninth

Posted December 29, 2021 by Nicky in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of The Fate of the Ninth by Duncan B. CampbellThe Fate of the Ninth, Duncan B. Campbell

I’ve always been fascinated by the Ninth Legion, at least ever since I can remember, because of Rosemary Sutcliff’s The Eagle of the Ninth (a story that I’m pretty sure was told to me until I could read it myself, though my mother liked Warrior Scarlet best). This is obviously less thrilling, since it’s non-fiction, and there’s a lot of detail about how the Roman army worked, etc… more than I could remember in one go, really: in some ways, I kinda just took the author’s word for it about the minutiae.

It did make me sad to learn from this book that the origin story of The Eagle of the Ninth is based on a wrong interpretation of an archaeological find– the eagle found in Silchester was more likely decorative, perhaps on a fort, rather than being the eagle of a legion.

Despite destroying the basis of a favourite book, I did enjoy this. It pieces together the story of the IX Hispana through the textual records they left behind — their stamps on tiles, the name of the legion on commemorative stones that discuss the careers of various Roman consuls and other officials — rather than through more exciting archaeology. If you’re not super interested in how Roman inscriptions can help date historical events, or the IX Hispana legion, it might not be of much interest, though! It’s a little dry for that.

Rating: 3/5

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