The last legion

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The last legion

Postby Aulus Dionysius Mencius on Thu Aug 07, 2003 2:33 pm

Salvete omnes

When I went to the bookshop this morning, I came across Valerio Massimo Manfredi's latest book, 'the last legion'.

I know that Manfredi is the author of a series about Alexander the Great, and therefore, this book might be of interest to me.

Have any of you read the book?

Vale bene
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Postby Cleopatra Aelia on Wed Jan 19, 2005 4:39 pm

Salve Aule,

sorry that I could answer to your question only now after one and a half years but I'm active at this forum only since the beginning of this year.

I have read the book and I loved it because it's a nice entertaining read of an adventure story. It's highly fictional though. Valerio Manfredi blends the life of the last West Roman Emperor Romulus "Augustulus" with the myth of King Arthur because Augustulus flees with the aid of a Roman soldier Aurelius and a woman and with his teacher Ambrosinus to Britannia.
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Postby Gnaeus Dionysius Draco on Wed Jan 19, 2005 4:40 pm

Salvete Menci et Cleopatra,

It was my understanding that Augustulus later grew up in a monastery on an allowance of Odoacer? Where does the Britannia myth come from?

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Postby Cleopatra Aelia on Wed Jan 19, 2005 4:58 pm

Salve Draco,

back from Zürich? Or are you sitting at an internet café at the moment?

I guess this Britannia myth came out of Manfredi's fantasy. It's a novel and therefore doesn't need to be accurate. I'm just checking his epilogue and he tries to find an explanation for the myth of King Arthur. The story wouldn't have been so adventurous with Agustulus at a monastery.
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Postby Aulus Dionysius Mencius on Fri Jan 21, 2005 11:26 am

Salve Aelia,

Thanks for your opninion on the book. I have read it in the meantime, while I was supposedly studying in the library :roll: ... I, too, liked the book, for it was easygoing and hard to put aside.

I don't know if I have said it before, so... a late welcome to the Societas!
But I am sure you will forgive me. After all, I had to wait more than a year for a reply :wink:

Cura ut valeas

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'Hadrian's Travels': Some Real Last Legions

Postby Aldus Marius on Thu Aug 25, 2005 10:43 am

Salvete Romani,

I had an interesting thread come up on ROMARCH, a mailing list to which I was once subscribed. (It's about Roman art and archaeology, but often gets into general culture and life-and-times sorts of things.) A certain gentleman wanted to know whether any Legions (or other recognizable units) had survived the Fall. Summary of the discussion follows...


John Casey, in "The Legions in the Later Roman Empire" (Fourth Annual Caerleon Lecture, Cardiff 1991, 24-6) cites a few Eastern Legions, including Legio V Macedonica, lasting until at least the reign of Justinian, with a possible reference to Legio IV Parthica in A.D. 586. The last legions in the East seem to have been destroyed after the Battle of Yarmuk in A.D. 636.

Gregory of Tours tells of one Roman commander in north-central Gaul, Agitius(?), surviving the fall of the West to become 'King of the Romans' [sic], presumably with what was left of the comitatenses in the region. His son Syagrius succeded him but was conquered by the Franks. For more on the last administrators of Roman Gaul, see Gregory of Tours (available in Penguin Classics).

In the Life of St. Severinus (? again), there are several incidents which reveal life on the old Danube frontier after the Province had been abandoned. Among these a number of military commanders/units appear. In particular, a unit of former Batavian auxiliaries remained more or less organised into the closing decades of the 5th Century, long after the abandonment of the frontier. They even went so far as to send a detachment off to collect their long overdue pay. They did not succeed and the unit presumably disintegrated soon after.

For Britain, nothing like St. Severinus' account survives, but here there was clear resistance. In the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, a pair of late Roman Saxon Shore forts (Pevensey-Sussex, Portchester-Hampshire) were the centers of resistance: which makes for interesting speculation on the survival of military authority (and presumably troops) after the abandonment of Britain.

Gregory of Tours is quite clear that the British who were emigrating to Brittany at this point (mid-late 5th C) were organised and presented a formidable military force in their own right. They are distinguished from Syagrius' Romans, even though they were recent Roman provincials, and are placed on the same footing as other 'barbarian' tribes. It is not inconceivable perhaps some vestige of late Roman military authority was present in this organised movement, as Roman military titles were preserved among the British west and such military authority may have formed the nucleus of petty 'kingdoms' in sub-Roman Britain itself.

---

When all the experts and interested laymen had chimed in, I still found myself in possession of "the" latest mention of a Legion (peeled off of Compuserve's Ancient History/Archaeology Forum by my optio Steve--dang, he's good!!), so I sent it to them:


---
Subject: Ecce Romani!
Forum: Ancient History/Archaeology
Saturday April 20 1996

Incidentally, II Adiutrix may have outlived V Macedonica, at least notionally. John Lydus (under Justinian) notes that when a new recruit was sworn into the Civil Service, the formula of appointment included "and let him be numbered on the rolls of our Legio II Adiutrix", which the 18th-century translator promptly misinterprets as "the second legion of our assistants". The Civil Service was a Militia, and its members had to be assigned to a unit, and it seems that II Adiutrix became the notional unit for the whole Civil Service. It was a Danubian Legion and presumably one of the Illyrian Emperors, Aurelian or Probus or somebody, started using it as administrative cadre, and the practice stuck. It would be interesting to know how late that formula continued - probably died out under Heraclius or not much later.


So the Last of the Legions may well have survived, at least on paper, up 'til about AD 650 or so, almost 200 years after the Fall. I wonder where their Eagle was, or if the Christian administration took it away. I wonder how the actual-military guys, so often at war with the pen-pushers, felt about being lumped in with those same pen-pushers. And I wonder that, after all the brave Ferratas and Rapaxes, the Victrixes, Fulminators and Fretenses had fallen, that a Legion called "the Handmaidens" should have outlived them all...perhaps due more to patience than anything else.

There's something in that, mi Menci. Meanwhile, I think I can field you about 6000 Taoists! >({|;-)

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