Tuesday, May 06, 2008
Brilliant young historian Simon Young has invented a multi-generational family, part Roman, part Celtic (invaders intermarrying with natives) to tell the dramatic story of 400 years of Roman rule in Britain. Vivid historical detail is balanced by a real feel for the psychological depth of the individual stories. The narrator is writing this 'family history' in 430 AD, realising the Romans will never return. He chooses 14 of the most interesting, but not always the most admirable, of his ancestors. The big events of Roman Britain are all here: scouting for Caesar's expedition in 55 BC; the Roman invasion in 43 AD; Boudicca's revolt and the massacre of 70,000 Romans; the Pict attacks on Hadrian's Wall; the great Barbarian Conspiracy of 367; and the sudden cataclysmic departure of the legions in 410. But there are plenty of non-military episodes: spying on the Druids; a centurion dreaming of retirement with a young slave he has bought; an ambitious wife on the northern frontier; a bad poet in Londinium; infanticide in Surrey; a young Christian girl facing martyrdom in a British amphitheatre.