Last month I noted the release of Focus Film’s Roman period piece The Eagle, an adaptation of Rosemary Sutcliffe’s novel for young readers The Eagle of the Ninth. I still haven’t seen the film–I rarely have the opportunity to see movies in the theater–so I can’t comment on the artistic merits. However, I did want to share this BBC article that argues that the central but speculative plot idea of Sutcliffe’s novel is correct: that Rome’s Ninth Legion was destroyed in Britain by Scottish or Pictish forces north of Hadrian’s Wall.
No one knows what happened to the Ninth Legion; it simply disappears from the records in the mid-second century A.D. Sutcliffe’s novel has given the theory of its destruction in Britain much publicity, but among academics it is a minority view. The latter prefer the more mundane (and–let’s face it–sort of boring) explanation that the Ninth was simply transferred to somewhere in the Middle East. But this theory is pure speculation, too, according to Miles Russell of Bournemouth University. Russell argues that the losses suffered by the Ninth are probably what inspired Hadrian to build his wall across northern Britain, many sections of which are still visible today.
We may never know which explanation is correct, but if there’s no way to know, I say we go with the more interesting theory!