Top positive review
4 people found this helpful
on April 29, 2012
Imagine working as a house servant in the Roman Emperors's Mansion for most of your life and suddenly finding yourself enrolled in the Roman Legion. You have no training or experience, yet due to a political maneuver, you begin as second in command to a Centurion who leads 80 men into battle.
Quintus Licinius Cato, a new recruit who was conscripted into the Second Legion (the toughest Legion in the Roman army), learned upon arrival that the Emperor had ordered he be a Centurion. Titus Flavius Sabinus Vespasian, Commander or Legate of the Second Legion, decided to appoint Cato as Optio, the second in command to a Centurion. Cato pleaded with his Centurion, Lucius Cornelius Macro, to be a regular foot soldier, but Macro was unwilling to change an imperial directive.
Under the Eagle is a historical novel about the Roman Legions in the first century A.D. The Second Legion is stationed in Gaul where they guard the Rhine river (Rome's northeastern border). Several months after Cato arrives the Second Legion is ordered to deploy to the shore of the Atlantic Ocean to join an army preparing to invade Britain.
Most of the events in this novel occur while Cato is training to be a legionnaire, and during the preparations for the invasion. The book details the training program endured by all new recruits, and exposes the conditions of life with the legions. Under The Eagle explains the ranks, equipment, and discipline, expected in a legion. The book even details the process of equipment maintenance and supply. The paper work expected of all Centurions is burdensome.
Under The Eagle highlights clothing and equipment issue, which reminds me of the beginning of my military duty. There is the same tossing of general sizes - "you will grow into them, one size fits all, no complaints, no exchanges." bellows the supply officer. Thinking of my own military experience, I noticed similar rough treatment by training officers - the same impatience. Similarities abound in training - while learning tasks, they give a short demonstration and enforce multiple practice sessions until all is perfect.
The novel details battle strategy. In one skirmish, the first battle in the book, the officer in charge messes up and the cohort has to adjust to an enemy of overwhelming numbers. The officer's battle strategy served as a negative example for all the legionaries involved.
My one disappointment with this novel is some of the language that does not fit the time in history: "look bloody harder then", "having said that", "at the end of the day" are used as conjunctions, explicatives, and transitions.
I recommend this book to lovers of historical novels. This is especially good for those who enjoy studying the Roman military.