Title: The Eagle of the Ninth
Author: Rosemary Sutcliff
Series: Roman Britain Trilogy
Major Themes: British History, Roman Britain
Synopsis: Centurion Marcus has a mission—to recover the lost Eagle from his father’s Ninth Legion.
How much do you know about Britain in Roman times? If you’re like me before I read Eagle of the Ninth, not much! Oh, I knew that Rome had occupied Britain for a few hundred years, and I knew that Roman coins were often found buried in London, and had read about Hadrian’s Wall. Beyond that, however, I knew next to nothing.
As Eagle of the Ninth opens, young Centurion Marcus arrives at a Roman fort in the south of Britain, in the year AD 134, to take charge as Cohort Commander for a year. After only a short time in this, his first command, however, he is badly injured when the natives rebel, and is honorably discharged from the Eagles. He goes to live with his uncle in a town several day’s march away. After his wounds finally heal, he hears about a rumor concerning the Eagle—the standard—of his father’s Legion. Fifteen years before, his father’s Legion had marched away into the northern part of Britain, and were never heard from again. Now, a vague rumor has emerged that a wild tribe far in the North has the Eagle—and it will be bad for Rome if the tribes revolt, with a Roman Eagle in hand! How can Marcus find and take back his father’s Eagle?
Despite the rather slow start, this turns into quite the enthralling adventure. I read it aloud to my sons last week. At first, they weren’t too interested, but by the time we got halfway through, they were begging for more and more! As we reached the climax, one of the boys, who remembered when I read the story to their older sister several years ago, relieved the suspense when I had to stop for the night, and told his brothers what happened. I wouldn’t recommend allowing that to happen—it spoiled the rest of the story to a certain extent! If you are studying the Roman Empire or British history, this would be an excellent supplement, or if you just want an engrossing story, rich in details of a fascinating historical period, you would enjoy Eagle of the Ninth.
WARNING: Chapter 1: Swearing by Hercle. Chapter 3: attack of the Roman fort by the Britons, praying to Mithras, Marcus injured badly. Chapter 4: Swearing by Jupiter. Chapter 5: gladiatorial games, a man nearly killed. Chapter 6: Marcus curses, swears “Name of Light,” swears by Mithras twice. Chapter 8: swearing by Jupiter. Chapter 10: pouring out a libation to household gods, swearing by Jupiter, swearing in the name of Light, “the gods willing,” swearing by Bacchus. Chapter 11: making a sacrifice to Mithras. Chapter 12 (and to the end of the book): song about kissing girls. Chapter 13: mention of Boudicca committing suicide. Chapter 14: calling someone an old devil, initiation rites in which priests “become” animals. Chapter 16: swearing by Mithras, in the name of the Thunderer. Chapter 18: mention of Mithras, “the Light of the Sun be with you,” “only the Lord of the Legions knew,” curse. Chapter 19: someone is forced to lie, “praise be to Lugh,” “curse the wind,” “what in the name of Thunder.” Chapter 20: swearing by Jupiter three times. There were more mentions of Mithras, especially, in the earlier chapters, including Marcus remembering his initiation, but I didn’t start marking them right away.
Listening Level—Ages 8 – 12, 10 – 12
Reading Independently—Ages 10 – 12, 12 – 15