In front of me lies an unopened copy of Rosemary Sutcliff’s The Silver Branch, the second book in The Eagle of the Ninth sequence. I’m just about to start the story and thought I’d do a little research about the period in which the book is set.
The year is 284 AD, 150 years later than the first book, The Eagle of the Ninth. Britain has been occupied by Rome since AD 43, but has now been declared a sovereign state by the military commander Marcus Carausius, now turned renegade emperor of Britain.
Carausius is a very interesting character in Roman history. Here’s what www.roman-emperors.org has to say about him.
Although he had initially earned his living at sea as a helmsman, he served with honor in the military against the Bagauda e under the Emperor Maximianus Herculius. Because of his naval background, he was commissioned by the emperor to build a fleet and clear the seas of Saxon and Frankish pirates in the autumn of 286; he operated from out of Boulogne (Bononia). Although he carried out his commission with speed, for one reason or another he did not turn over to imperial treasury all of the loot that he obtained. Due to these financial irregularities, Herculius ordered his arrest and execution. Rather than submitting to the emperor’s will, Carausius fled to Britain with his fleet and declared himself emperor. His realm included Britain and perhaps the area around Bononia (Boulogne).
So it looks like Carausius was a bit of a crook, possibly in cahoots with Saxon pirates, stealing enough loot and aquiring enough boats and crew (possibly the same Saxon Pirates) to become a significant power himself, enough indeed to create an enemy of the emperor of Rome, and then become self appointed ruler of Rome for 7 years. Wow, I can’t wait to read the book!