In 2009, Lindsey Davis—writer of classical thrillers, creator of private investigator and poet Falco—listed in The Guardian newspaper her top ten books from her “shelves and shelves” of Roman material. She included Rosemary Sutcliff in “ten that are scholarly but user-friendly … all books I have enjoyed, all influenced my love of ancient Rome and most of them are in regular use for my work”.
Of The Eagle of the Ninth, by Rosemary Sutcliff, she wrote:
Somewhere about the year 117 AD, the Ninth Legion, which was stationed at Eboracum, where York now stands, marched north to deal with a rising among the Caledonian tribes, and was never heard of again. Hooked? If not, there’s no hope for you. A wonderful novel, for children of all ages.
With excerpts from her remarks, her other nine choices were: Read More »
Writing on The Guardian newspaper’s Children’s Books site, site-member Sophiescribe “loved” Rosemary Sutcliff’s The Mark of the Horse Lord. The plot was fascinating and gripping, while it still held all the qualities of a time proven children’s classic. Written by the author of the famous The Eagle of the Ninth, it is another trip back into […]
Rosemary Sutcliff’s The Eagle of the Ninth is rooted in the history of a real Roman legion. A couple of years back I noted some references about the history from a website that has now disappeared – by one Ross Cowan. He had written that
… to learn more, especially about the evidence for the legion in the period c. AD 118-161, see :
Birley, A. R. The Roman Government of Britain. Oxford: 2005, 228-229.
Birley, E. B. ‘The Fate of the Ninth Legion’ in R. M. Butler (ed.) Soldier and Civilian in Roman Yorkshire. Leicester: 1971, 71-80.
Campbell, D. B. Roman Legionary Fortresses, 27 BC – AD 378. Oxford: 2006, 27-29.
Cowan, R. For the Glory of Rome: A History of Warriors and Warfare. London: 2007, 220-234 and 271-273. Read More »
Under Another Sky by Charlotte Higgins has been nominated for the short-list for the Samuel Johnson non-fiction prize. She has in the past written of her re-reading of Rosemary Sutcliff’s The Eagle of the Ninth, ‘a childhood favourite‘. In the Guardian she has written briefly about her encounter with Roman Britain.
My academic training is as a classicist; but during my education, and for a long time afterwards, I wasn’t interested in Roman Britain – it struck me as a rather unglamorous, somewhat dreary outpost of the empire. Everything changed when, one spring, I went walking on Hadrian’s wall. I began to think about how the remnants of Roman Britain formed part of our mental and physical landscape. What had those who lived among these remains made of them? How had ideas about Britain’s Roman period shaped ideas about nationhood and empire?
The journey I took was a literal one: two summers were spent trundling around in a VW camper van in search of the physical remains of Roman Britain. I certainly revised my old, ignorant views of them when faced with such sites as the magnificent coastal military installation of Burgh Castle in Norfolk, or Hardknott in Cumbria, a spectacular fort perched on a steep mountain pass. I spent many months in libraries and archives; it was a particular pleasure seeking out antiquarian accounts of Roman Britain, from William Camden in the 16th century to writings by the learned and eccentric scholars of the 18th century.
I also became intrigued by the notion of Roman Britain as a generative place for art and ideas. Figures such as WH Auden, Wilfred Owen, Edward Elgar and Benjamin Britten had been inspired by Roman Britain, not to mention authors such as Rosemary Sutcliff, but it had also sparked apparently humbler encounters: the Bristol builder who recreated a Romano-British mosaic in 1.6m tesserae; the amateur scholar who cracked an academic conundrum while running his children’s bath; the Newcastle seller of kitchens who became a full-time centurion, working in the modern heritage industry.
Under Another Sky is a book about the encounter with Roman Britain: my own, and that of others who came before me. I found Roman Britain to be an elusive, slippery place and time, offering up more anxieties and doubts than certainties. Above all writing the book was, for me, a way of trying to understand our present, by looking it at it through the lens of long ago.
via Samuel Johnson non-fiction shortlist: From the Romans to Thatcher | Books | The Guardian.