Friday, 12 November 2010

The Eagle (of the Ninth) & Roman Military Studies

At long last, on YouTube, the trailer for the forthcoming film The Eagle, based on Rosemary Sutcliff's classic novel The Eagle of the Ninth. Now we just have to wait until February to see the film itself. Comments so far seem dominated by the (questionable) acting abilities of the star, Channing Tatum, who plays Marcus Aquila*. I'm more interested in how faithful the film is to the novel, although really bad acting by the star might just sink it.

*LatinGeek note: full marks to whoever is responsible for Aquila being pronounced correctly.

I've recently discovered History of the Ancient World, a splendid source of academic articles about the ancient world. There are frequent headsy-upsies on Twitter (@historyancient). The website appears to make freely available articles from a few years ago that were first published in learned journals not accessible to non-academics. Anyway, there's one from 2002 by Simon James about Roman military studies in Britain which I found riveting.

There's quite a lot at the beginning about the development of Roman military studies in Britain during the 20th century, including the rivalry between historians and archaeologists (fascinating in a not-very-edifying way), and how changing attitudes to the study of war and violence have influenced Roman military studies. But the most interesting part is later on, where we get to more recent developments and the question is asked: Was there such ever such an entity as The Roman Army? And the author makes a startling comparison between the Roman military and the Georgian Royal Navy (he could have been writing that just for me, as both fascinate me). Read on...

Writing the Legions: The Development and Future of Roman Military Studies in Britain by Simon James. Archaeological Journal, Vol. 159 (2002)

New Historical Fiction for 2011

The historical fiction goddess Sarah Johnson (Reading the Past) has just posted on the Historical Novel Society website a list of historical fiction to be published in the USA in the first half of 2011. I compile a list of HF published in the UK for the same period for the same webpage. But I'm behindhand as usual, still waiting for some of the big UK publishers to make their catalogues available. If you're reading this, Sarah, that's my excuse and I hope to get my list to you soon!

Meanwhile, here's a sneak preview of novels from the UK list so far, set in my favourite periods:


M K Hume, Prophecy: Clash of Kings, Headline (novel about Merlin)

John Stack, Masters of the Sea, HarperCollins (latest in Roman naval series)

Mark Keating, The Hunt for White Gold, Hodder & Stoughton (second in 18th-c pirate series)


Christian Cameron, King of the Bosphorus, Orion (latest in Tyrant series set post-Alexander the Great)

James McGee, Rebellion, HarperCollins (Bow Street Runner goes on dangerous mission to Napoleonic Paris, 1812)


Robin Blake, A Dark Anatomy, Macmillan (murder mystery set in 1740 Lancashire)

R S Downie, Ruso and the River of Darkness, Penguin (latest in Roman sleuth series set in Roman Britain)

Russell Whitfield, Roma Victrix, Myrmidon (sequel to Gladiatrix, further adventures of a female gladiator in ancient Rome)


Patrick Easter, The Watermen, Quercus (crime novel set in 18th-c London Docklands)

Anthony Riches, Fortress of Spears, Hodder & Stoughton (latest in Roman army series set on Hadrian’s Wall, 3rd-c AD)

Imogen Robertson, Island of Bones, Headline Review (Cumbria 1783: one body too many found in a tomb leads to discovery of a past that won’t stay buried)


Justin Hill, Shield Wall, Little, Brown (tumultuous events from the death of Ethelred the Unready to the Battle of Hastings, first of a series)

M C Scott, Rome: The Coming of the King, Bantam (second in series takes spy to Judea in pursuit of man bent on destroying the Roman province, 1st-c AD)

Stella Tillyard, Tides of War, Chatto & Windus (two young women in London and Spain during the Peninsular War)

Christopher Wakling, The Devil’s Mask, Faber (young Bristol lawyer uncovers deadly secrets in the aftermath of the abolition of the slave trade)


Elizabeth Chadwick, Lady of the English, Sphere (struggle for the English crown between Henry I’s daughter Matilda and his widow Adeliza who is Matilda’s stepmother)

Diana Gabaldon, Lord John and the Scottish Prisoner, Orion (latest in 18th-c crime series)

Ben Kane, Soldier of Carthage, Preface (first in Punic War series)

Kate Quinn, Daughters of Rome, Headline (2 sisters in Rome in AD69, Year of the Four Emperors)

Julian Stockwin, Conquest, Hodder & Stoughton (latest in naval series set during Napoleonic Wars)

And not one, but two novels about Hereward the Wake:

Stewart Binns, Conquest, Penguin, February

James Wilde, Hereward, Bantam (first in series), June