The book “Legion” by Geraint Jones is the last, and at the same time, the first part of the series tells the story of the Roman legionnaire Corvus. The second part of “The Bloody Forest” appeared on the publishing market, telling about the great defeat of the Roman legions in the Teutoburg forest. The next volume of “Siege” is a dramatic escape of the surviving legionnaires who, together with the camp crew, stand in the way of Arminius’ army.
Both earlier parts of the series were extremely popular with Readers who appreciated the vivid and tragic picture of war written by a war veteran. Geraint Jones, not being a historian, decided to show the life of the Roman legions from the perspective of ordinary soldiers who share the hardships of fighting and suffering. There is no denying that the author’s combat experience and the ability to write a colourful plot allowed him to create a really interesting work.
In the latest instalment, the Reader is transported to 6 CE to Pannonia, from where Tiberius’s expedition against the warlike Marcomanni, across the Danube, is also to set off. Our main character – Corvus – does not take part in the main offensive this time, remaining in the troops securing the province. As it turns out, however, the soldiers’ initial dissatisfaction with the lack of participation in the campaign and the chance to get loot is quickly replaced by shock. In Pannonia, in units recruited from the local population to form auxiliary units, a revolt breaks out, which turns out to be – as Suetonius reported – the most serious conflict since the Punic Wars. The reason for the rebellion is dissatisfaction with high taxes and the bad rule of the Romans.
Corvus stands in the front ranks in a battle described by the historian and Roman military – Velleius Paterculus – where half of the legion (over 2000 soldiers) faced off with over 20,000 rebels. However, the miraculously won clash did not stop some of the rebels who planned to directly threaten Rome. Further fighting on the coast took the form of guerrilla warfare over time.
Certainly, the location of the plot in the so-called Bellum Batonianum in 6-9 CE. it’s a great move. The author did a great job, as always, in terms of emotions and experiences tormenting ordinary privates. The visualization of clashes and human suffering gives us a great idea of what soldiers have to face in war. In this respect, the world has not changed.
However, being honest, I missed a broader presentation of the conflict, which worried Augustus himself and required the involvement of really large forces in the region. What’s more, I believe that it is worth supplementing this type of novel with footnotes, useful literature (especially ancient) and Latin vocabulary, which educates and allows you to better find yourself in the told ancient world. Of course, my suggestions are certainly explained by the fact that the author clearly defines himself not as a specialist in antiquity, but rather as a man who survived fighting on the front and knows how to write an interesting plot.
In conclusion, this book is a continuation (actually a prequel) of the story of the Roman legionnaire Corvus. The author again shows us the brutal world of war and the emotions and relationships that prevail in the smallest unit of the legion – contubernium. However, juxtaposing all the volumes with each other, it is certainly the weakest volume.