Duncan B. Campbell, the author of many fine books and articles on the Roman army, has published a new book on the mysterious fate of the 9th legion, which fades from the historical record with a building inscription at York dated 108, a scattering of stamped tiles at Nijmegen, and a series of officers who were promoted away from the legion in the middle of the second century CE. It certainly was not involved in the building of Hadrian’s Wall and the other construction projects in Britain after 122 CE. When only the inscriptions from York were known, this lead to a romantic theory that it had been destroyed by the Caledonians or the Brigantes which inspired one of Rosemary Sutcliffe’s novels. Campbell goes through the history of investigations into this legion, showing how excavations in the Netherlands and Egypt and painstaking work reconstructing the careers of Roman officials allow us to sketch the history of this legion after it left its station at York. This is a story about how scholars methodically build a history of the Roman army and the men who made it up, but also about how once they have committed to a theory, human beings fight to salvage it rather than ask whether a premise was incorrect.
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