My 1977 copy of The Eagle of the Ninth (by Rosemary Sutcliff) still has the entry from the Radio Times (with a photo of Anthony Higgins as Marcus … ) glued inside the front cover. I’ve also got a page torn out of the Radio Times lurking somewhere – I was nine at the time and it made a really big impression on me. I’m now an archaeologist who really doesn’t have much time for Romans, but when I re-read The Eagle of the Ninth last year, I still found Marcus a really lovely – and yet at the same time convincingly Roman – character.
Oh, and I remember there was that bit with the dream where the ghost legionaries turned round and had skulls instead of faces. That stayed with me for YEARS!! I was freaked out by skeletons for decades afterwards (though I’ve grown out of that little foible now, thank goodness!)
Archive for the ‘The Eagle of the Ninth Book’ Category
Lindsey Davis writes detective novels set in classical Rome, featuring the world of maverick private eye and poet Falco. On the publication in 2009 of the nineteenth of what became a bestselling series of novels known for their meticulous historical detail, she chose Rosemary Sutcliff’s The Eagle of the Ninth as one of her top ten Roman books. (See here for previous post).
Regular commenter here and Rosemary Sutcliff enthusiast Anne has reminded me (via the You Write tab above) of this, and alerted me to some intriguing homage, newly paid. For Anne was ‘tickled’ when reading Lindsey Davis’s latest novel, Master and God, to find a nod to Rosemary Sutcliff when a soldier mentions a legionary marching song. It appears again in the acknowledgements at the back: “The Girl I Kissed at Clusium”’: The Legionary Song in The Eagle of the Ninth by Rosemary Sutcliff.
In Rosemary Sutcliff’s novel the snatches of song are:
Oh when I joined the Eagles
(As it might be yesterday)
I kissed a girl at Clusium
Before I marched away
A long march, a long march
And twenty years in store
When I left my girl at Clusium
Beside the threshing-floor
The girls of Spain were honey-sweet,
And the golden girls of Gaul:
And the Thracian maids were soft as birds
To hold the heart in thrall.
But the girl I kissed at Clusium
Kissed and left at Clusium,
The girl I kissed at Clusium
I remember best of all
(Thank you Anne)
Australian writer Nansi Kunze wrote at Michael Pryor’s blog about her “favourite book”, Rosemary Sutcliff’s Warrior Scarlet. The author of Dangerously Placed (‘Can a hippy chick, a goth girl in a lab coat and two guys with a taste for blowing things up really help solve the mystery – before Alex becomes the next victim?’) and Mishaps (‘Why does Pen’s name strike terror into the heart of pop princess Sereena? And just how far will Pen go to get what she deserves?’), grew up in both Australia and the UK.
I think I must have been ten when I began to read Rosemary Sutcliff’s books. It was a strange time for me – a confusing and somewhat lonely one. My parents had split up, and we had gone back to England, leaving my friends, my school and the various treasures a ten-year-old deems precious behind in Australia. (more…)
Lindsey Davis writes detective novels set in classical Rome, featuring the world of maverick private eye and poet Falco. On the publication in 2009 of the nineteenth of what became a bestselling series of novels known for their meticulous historical detail, she chose Rosemary Sutcliff’s The Eagle of the Ninth as one of her top ten Roman books.
‘Somewhere about the year 117AD, 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.
The Eagle of the Ninth was published in 1954, the year I was born, but I must have read it for the first time when I was 12 or 13, just after my Tolkien phase. Like many other Sutcliff fans, I was gripped by this story of a young man travelling from the soft south of Roman Britain to the wilds beyond Hadrian’s Wall where the Scots were still very independent indeed. Marcus Flavius Aquila is on a mission to find out what happened to his father’s legion, the 9th Hispana, which marched north into the Caledonian mists and was never seen again. (more…)
Rosemary Sutcliff’s historical novel The Eagle of the Ninth is currently ‘in print’ in English throughout the world published by OUP (Oxford University Press), and in twelve other languages (Language -Publisher):
Dutch – Facet
French – Gallimard
German – Freies Geistesleben
Greek – Aiora
Japan – Iwanami Shoten
Korean – Sigongsa
Portuguese – Gradiva
Portuguese (Brazil) – Record
Romanian – Literar
Russian – Azbooka
Spanish – Plataforma
Swedish – Barnstenen
Turkish – Ithaki
I am not persuaded that this commentator correctly characterises Esca’s relationship with Marcus in Rosemary Sutcliff’s The Eagle of the Ninth. Rosemary’s view of the slave-master relationship is not a ‘romantic’ one. Nor did the film The Eagle ‘fail’, although it was not as successful in the eyes of all the critics and with audiences as was intended by the makers! But there is ‘a lot of … provocation’ to be gained from the comments as well as the book!
I love ancient Roman history but Sutcliff writes so clearly and articulately that I don’t think a young reader, without knowledge of this period, is at a real disadvantage, except maybe in terms of their interest. Americans are predominantly interested in American history, of course, and there is a long and very rich tradition of children’s American historical fiction. A lot of it focuses on the slave experience, but Eagle takes the opposite view. Here, perhaps, is where the book might run into trouble with a non-British readership: Esca, Marcus’ slave, is written quite romantically, as a devoted indentured servant who would follow his owner to the ends of the earth. This is very out of sync with most modern literature (for obvious reasons) and really dates the book. It is a unique challenge for young readers to imagine this story from Esca’s perspective, and I think a really valuable exercise. The somewhat-recent film version starring Channing Tatum and Jamie Bell is decidedly not child-friendly but at the same time works to rectify these elements.
I truly believe that this element of the book should not stop modern readers from enjoying this text. Maybe it’s a bit optimistic of me, but I really do think that there’s a lot of enjoyment and provocation to be gained from this book and I hope that the failure of the film (well… I liked it… no one else did) doesn’t dissuade you from enjoying it. ★ ★ ★ ★ /5