Title: The Silver Branch
Author: Rosemary Sutcliff
Series: Roman Britain Trilogy
Major Themes: Roman Empire, British History
Synopsis: Justin, a surgeon in the Roman Army, and his kinsman Flavius, a centurion, become involved in the resistance effort when a usurper takes command of Roman Britain.
We have really been enjoying Rosemary Sutcliff’s books about Roman Britain. The Silver Branch is the second in the trilogy, and takes place somewhere around 150 years after the first book, Eagle of the Ninth, approximately 100 years before Rome fell to the barbarians. The two main characters, Flavius and Justin, are descendants of the main character in Eagle of the Ninth. At this point, Rome is losing its hold on Britain and the Saxons are now threatening the coastal cities.
Justin, a young surgeon in the Roman army, arrives in Britain, at Rutupiae, where the Romans have a fort and lighthouse, at the narrowest point of the English channel. The first man he meets turns out to be Flavius, a kinsman of his, and they quickly become inseparable friends. The two of them become personally acquainted with Carausius, who has made himself Emperor of Britain, and equal with the two other emperors the Roman Empire now has. One day, when they are out duck hunting, they see Allectus, Carausius’s second-in-command, secretly meeting with a Saxon captain, and they capture the Saxon, putting him in a prison cell. When they tell Carausius about the meeting that evening, he doesn’t believe them, and Allectus denies the charge—and the Saxon is found poisoned in his cell! Flavius and Justin are promptly sent several days’ march away, to a fort on the wall that divides Roman Britain from the part of Britain again held by the tribespeople.
Flavius and Justin find themselves, a few months after being posted to the Wall, embroiled in a plot to save Britain from the usurper Allectus and his Saxon allies. Will they be caught and killed, or will they be able to help Constantius, the emperor from Gaul, to retake Britain for the Romans? Find out in this exciting story which brings Roman Britain to life! I highly recommend The Silver Branch as a supplement to the study of the Roman Empire. It vividly shows the decline of Rome’s power.
WARNING: Chapter 1: the gods know how, the gods help anyone, follow him into the mouth of Erobos, exclaiming “Zeus!”, pouring out a libation to the gods. Chapter 2: Oh Hell and the Furies. Chapter 3: Name of Thunder. Chapter 4: Name of Thunder, I swear to you, the gods may have mercy on you, exclamation, “Roma Dea!” Chapter 5: In Typhon’s name, a man is found poisoned. Chapter 6: a man is badly injured in an accident. Chapter 7: the men find an altar to the Furies and make a small offering, “Almighty Jove,” a cockfight with wagers. Chapter 8: swearing by Mithras, “ye gods,” “the gods so willed,” “the gods be kind to you,” having food and a place for ghosts at the feast of Samhain. Chapter 9: the gods alone know, the gods be with you, by Jupiter, by Thundering Jove. Chapter 10: Roma Dea. Chapter 11: someone is mistreated by soldiers, Hell and the Furies!, thank the gods. Chapter 12: I hope to the gods, Name of Thunder, thank the gods, a man is killed. Chapter 13: Ye gods, a fight, Fiends and Furies, what in the name of Esculapius. Chapter 14: by the gods, ye gods, by the gods. Chapter 15: for the god’s sakes, in Typhon’s name, Light of the Sun, Roma Dea. Chapter 16: “as Jove might do,” description of a battle, in the name of all the gods there be. Chapter 17: the gods knew, in the name of all the gods, Roma Dea, the gods alone knew, a fierce battle. Chapter 18: sacrificial bull died before Jove’s altar
Listening Level—Ages 8 – 12, 10 – 12
Reading Independently—Ages 10 – 12, 12 – 15, 15 and Above