Rosemary Sutcliff’s historical novel The Eagle of the Ninth was BBC TV film in 1977

Rosemary Sutcliff’s The Eagle of the Ninth was a BBC TV series in 1977: I have at last found some details. (It is now being made into a movie). The TV series was made  by BBC Scotland and  broadcast between 4th September and 9th  October 1977. Rosemary Sutcliff loved the series. She kept a photo of Marcus (Anthony Higgins) by her writing desk in Sussex. I am on the hunt for any reviews at the time, and anyone who remembers it. Meanwhile here is some detail:


Producer: Pharic MacLaren

Writer: Bill Craig

Production Design: Gordon Campbell

Director: Michael Simpson


Anthony Higgins as Marcus; Christian Rodka as Esca; Matthew Long as Hilarion; Patrick Malahide  as Cradoc; Bernard Gallagher as Drusillus; Peter Whitbread as Marcus’ Father; Bill Henderson as Duty Centurion; Brian Carey as Aulus; Laura Graham as Guinhumara


1. FRONTIER FORT (Broadcast Sunday 4 September 1977 at 5.45pm)

Young Marcus, a Roman living in a conquered Britain of AD 117, is on a quest to find not just his father but also the Ninth legion’s gold eagle standard. Guest cast included: IAIN AGNEW as druid; GEORGE HOWELL as Soldier

2. ESCA (Broadcast Sunday 11 September 1977 at 5.45pm)

Marcus is befriended by the warrior Cradoc. Guest actors included: Patrick Holt as Aquila; Gillian Bailey as Cottia; Willie Joss as Stephanos; Paul Chapman as Clodius Maximus

3. ACROSS THE FRONTIER (Broadcast Sunday 18 September 1977 at 6.10pm)

Stuck in Calleva after being invalided out of the army after getting involved in an uprising Marcus meets up with British gladiator Esca. Guest actors included: Kalman Glass as Rufrius Galarius; Patrick Holt as Aquila; Gillian Bailey as Cottia; Willie Joss as Stephanos; Darien Angadi as Placidus; Martin Heller as Cladius; Gerard Slevin as Decurion; Iain Glass as soldier

4. THE LOST LEGION (Broadcast Sunday 25 September 1977 at  6.10pm)

Marcus and Esca get word that the Legion’s Eagle is rumoured to be up north. Guest Actors: Conrad Phillips as Legate; Victor Carin as Guern; Moultrie Kelsall as Tradui; Alec Heggie as Dergdian; David Hayman as Liathan; Robert Docherty as Gault

5. WILD HUNT (Broadcast Sunday 2 October 1977 at 6.05pm)

Marcus gets his first glimpse of the Eagle and also meets a centurion, Guern, from the Ninth Legion. Guest Actors included: Moultrie Kelsall as Tradui; Alec Heggie as Dergdian; David Hayman as Liathan; Robert Docherty as Gault

6. VALEDICTORY (Broadcast Sunday 9 October 1977 at  6.10pm)

Marcus comes face to face with the man responsible for the death of his father and also determines to steal the Eagle. Guest actors included: Patrick Holt as Aquila; Victor Carin as Guern; Gillian Bailey as Cottia; David Hayman as Liathan; Martin Heller as Claudius; Linal Haft as guard commander

Source: Memorable TV website here

Author: Anthony Lawton

Chair, Sussex Dolphin, family company which looks after the work of eminent children’s & historical fiction author Rosemary Sutcliff (1920-92). Formerly CEO, chair & trustee of various charity, cultural & educational enterprises in UK.

22 thoughts on “Rosemary Sutcliff’s historical novel The Eagle of the Ninth was BBC TV film in 1977”

  1. There is a torrent version available of BBC series, not bad quality considering comes from a videoed source. (Assume BBC don’t mind because have made no effort to release it).


  2. My 1977 copy of the Eagle of the Ninth still has the entry from the Radio Times (with a photo of Anthony Higgins as Marcus…) glued inside the front cover. I’ve also got a page torn out of the Radio Times lurking somewhere – I was nine at the time and it made a really big impression on me. I’m now an archaeologist who really doesn’t have much time for Romans, but when I re-read EoTN last year, I still found Marcus a really lovely – and yet at the same time convincingly Roman – character.

    Oh, and I remember there was that bit with the dream where the ghost legionaries turned round and had skulls instead of faces. That stayed with me for YEARS!! I was freaked out by skeletons for decades afterwards (though I’ve grown out of that little foible now, thank goodness!)


  3. According to post on some other blogs, the BBC has not released the TV series because they have lost all but a tiny a fragment of it. I don’t know whether or not this is a rumour – but if anyone has it on video, the BBC (again according to the blog rumours) would like to get hold of it.


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