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News from a wargamer with a special interest in the military history of the Balkans. It mainly covers my current reading and wargaming projects. For more detail you can visit the web sites I edit - Balkan Military History and Glasgow & District Wargaming Society. Or follow me on Twitter @Balkan_Dave

Saturday, 8 August 2020

Legions of the Mist

 My latest bedtime fiction reading has been Amanda Cockrell's (writing as Damion Hunter) novel The Legions of the Mist

This is the latest of many takes on the mysterious disappearance of the Ninth Legion Hispania somewhere in northern England or Scotland in the early 2nd century AD. The story was most famously told by Rosemary Sutcliffe in 1954 and has recently formed the basis of the film, The Eagle. In essence, the theory is that around 5,000 men of the Legion and auxiliaries were lost in the swirling mists of what was then Caledonia, as they marched north to put down a rebellion. There is evidence that something happened to the Legion and they were replaced by the Sixth. The new Emperor Hadrian then famously build the wall to keep the Caledones out. Other historians argue that it was simply a unit transfer, although the Ninth does seem to disappear from the records.

In this retelling, the focus is on two characters. A Roman centurion Justinius and the young High King of the Brigantes, Vortrix. The Ninth is not a happy unit and there is an insurrection in the ranks long before the Legion marches north from York. Most of the book is spent on the domestic and garrison lives of the two main characters who clash in the first rebellion, which is put down, and again in the final chapter. But I won't spoil the story.

The author has done her research on the garrison life of Roman soldiers and the British tribes. This is not without interest, but frankly, it doesn't make great historical fiction. It is sold as, 'a gripping novel of Roman adventure', which I'm afraid it isn't. If you want to know want the centurion had for his tea, this is the book for you. If you are looking for Bernard Cornwall style historical fiction, it isn't.

Sadly, this book did not inspire me to get my 28mm Romans onto the tabletop.


  1. There is some evidence the 9th, or a vexillation, built part of defensive works in Holland at Nijmegen after 120 AD.

  2. The article by Prof Russell on the BBC site which i linked to says this was earlier AD80s.

    He says: "Three stamped tiles bearing the unit number of the Ninth found at Nijmegen, in the Netherlands, have been used to support the idea of transfer from Britain.But these all seem to date to the 80s AD, when detachments of the Ninth were indeed on the Rhine fighting Germanic tribes. They do not prove that the Ninth left Britain for good."