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Roman Britain's Missing Legion (ePub)

What Really Happened to IX Hispana?

Ancient History > Rome & the Roman Provinces Colour eBooks Military

By Simon Elliott
Imprint: Pen & Sword Military
File Size: 27.6 MB (.epub)
Pages: 208
Illustrations: 28 colour illustrations
ISBN: 9781526765734
Published: 9th February 2021


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Legio IX Hispana had a long and active history, later founding York from where it guarded the northern frontiers in Britain. But the last evidence for its existence in Britain comes from AD 108. The mystery of their disappearance has inspired debate and imagination for decades. The most popular theory, immortalized in Rosemary Sutcliffe’s novel The Eagle of the Ninth, is that the legion was sent to fight the Caledonians in Scotland and wiped out there.

But more recent archaeology (including evidence that London was burnt to the ground and dozens of decapitated heads) suggests a crisis, not on the border but in the heart of the province, previously thought to have been peaceful at this time. What if IX Hispana took part in a rebellion, leading to their punishment, disbandment and damnatio memoriae (official erasure from the records)? This proposed ‘Hadrianic War’ would then be the real context for Hadrian’s ‘visit’ in 122 with a whole legion, VI Victrix, which replaced the ‘vanished’ IX as the garrison at York. Other theories are that it was lost on the Rhine or Danube, or in the East. Simon Elliott considers the evidence for these four theories, and other possibilities.

As featured in

The Armourer March 2022

The book is a great and fascinating read, you may not agree with every thing the author suggests but it is a page turner. It felt like I was reading a mystery novel at times, in that I couldn’t wait to read the next section to discover a new insight. It was definitely an engaging read, and one I couldn’t put down. It’s well written and superbly researched.

I think this will definitely appeal to military historians, those who love a good mystery and wargamers. Wargamers have the opportunity to possibly use some of the theories as a backdrop to a campaign. The book offers some interesting and intriguing ideas around the fate of the Ninth. I can’t recommend this book enough, there’s plenty inside for you to sink your teeth in and get the old brain matter working overtime.

Irregular magazine, Issue 16 Volume 2 / Summer 2021 - review by Jason Hubbard

The story alone would be enthralling, but Simon Elliott is the perfect guide to take us through the pages of history and across the entire Empire. He is deeply knowledgeable, rigorously sceptical and quite happy to present his own ideas and then knock them down in favour of better ones.

Read the full review here

Aspects of History

Here we have an historical detective story pursued with academic rigour. The mystery trail is that of the legio IX Hispana from its raising by Octavian in 44/43 BC to its disappearance from the historical record between 104 and 108 AD. All the plausible explanations are dealt with. The four major possibilities/probabilities are each considered both in an evidential way and speculative way. The conclusions are as precise and strong as the evidence allows. This raising and discussion of the possibilities is the substance of the book and is fascinating to follow
There are some appropriate photographs and an excellent bibliography. .To give away the conclusion would be to spoil a real detective story.
We highly recommend this book.

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Clash of Steel

"Roman Britain's Missing Legion: What Really Happened to IX Hispana?" is a seminal and landmark study in which archeologist and historian Simon Elliott considers the evidence for these four theories, and other possibilities. A meticulous work of detailed and document scholarship, "Roman Britain's Missing Legion: What Really Happened to IX Hispana?" includes and informative Introduction, an eight page Bibliography, and a five page Index. Of immense value for historical scholarship and an inherently fascinating read for the non-specialists general reader with an interest in the subject, "Roman Britain's Missing Legion: What Really Happened to IX Hispana?" is recommended as a core addition to British History and Roman Military History collections.

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Midwest Book Review

I thought that this was an excellent book.

It was packed with details and I felt it really gave you an insight in to the period too as well as following the author’s thought process and discoveries as he tried to uncover the mystery of Legio IX Hispana.

I really liked the approach taken, it was well researched, the theories were supported and it was a very readable book too. Plenty to keep me engaged and intrigued to see what might be uncovered. He did a great job setting the scene too.

It is 5 stars from me for this one, I really enjoyed it, it was well developed and I really enjoyed finding out more about Roman Britain’s Missing Legion – very highly recommended!!

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Donnas Book Blog

This is an excellent book for anyone who wants to learn what might have happened to the legion, based on the actual evidence we have. Simon’s method is to discuss each possible theory in turn, examine the evidence upon which it is based and reach a conclusion about how likely it is to be true. For me, this methodical approach, which dismissed no theory out of hand, worked very well...

Missing Legion is thus a balanced and comprehensive account which offers the reader a series of snapshots of moments when the Ninth Legion might have been annihilated. In doing so, it provides an insight into many aspects of Roman political, military and economic organisation during the first and second centuries AD.

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Dodging Arrows… a History Writer's Blog

An excellent book, well written and not at all dry reading.

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Army Rumour Service (ARRSE)

Incredibly well researched, Simon Elliott uses his extensive knowledge of this Roman military machine to offer all possible scenarios for the fate of the IXth legion and, with confidence, explain how likely or unlikely each scenario could ultimately be. I won’t tell you his conclusions, that would spoil it! However, the investigation process is just as entertaining as the conclusions that the author draws; perhaps more so, in that the reader learns so much about the various theatres of war in which the IXth legion may – or may not – have been drawn into.

Whether or not you agree with Simon Elliott’s arguments and conclusions, Roman Britain’s Missing Legion: What Really Happened to IX Hispania is well worth a read. It takes you on a fascinating detective journey through all the corners of the Roman Empire. And what is certain is that something extraordinary must have happened to the IXth legion to make them disappear so completely from contemporary records. Their fate remaining open to speculation for 2 millennia – so far.

Read the full review here


I truly found this book to be an easy read with an engaging and highly interesting narrative – I would highly recommend it to anyone with at least a passing interest in Roman history.


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The Borgia Bull

Elliott brings us close to the solution with a clear deductive method and a flawless analysis of historical sources!

Read the full Italian review here

Omne Ignotum Pro Magnifico

The highlight of the book is certainly the events of the mid 120s, from Dominic Perring’s 2017 report of his London excavations, with its proposal of a Hadrianic War there.

Classics for All

Article: 'Mereworth historian Simon Elliot suggests Channing Tatum and Michael Fassbender may have had it wrong’, words by Alan Smith

Kent Online, 10th March 2021

Article strip: 'Bald truth is Eagle might be wrong' as featured by

Kent Messenger, 11th March 2021

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

The author has a casual academic style of writing; accessible and careful, but not overly convoluted or impenetrably difficult to read. He manages to convey a wealth of information without being pedantic or preachy. I imagine he would be a capable and talented teacher. I envy his students. He writes clearly and concisely with a logical progression and a clear threads to follow which interweave the real and imagined history, backed by a plethora of sources. Where actual contemporaneous sources shade into speculation, he says so clearly and unambiguously.

This would be a great choice for libraries, military historians, ancient historians, students of Roman/Empire history, early British history, and similar.

Five stars. This book is clearly the product of a prodigious amount of research by an author who is a bona fide expert in this field.

NetGalley, Annie Buchanan

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I've read Simon Elliott's work before, so I was sure "Roman Britain's Missing Legion" would be well-written, informative, and very, very interesting. It was! The evidence in this book is fascinating, and the way it is presented makes this a fast read. I guess we will never truly be certain what happened to "Legio IX Hispana", but this book offers some intriguing potential fates.

NetGalley, Dawn Lewis

This is an inspiring and gripping piece of detective work of one of the great Roman mysteries of the missing IXth Legion Hispana. This book is a must have for all people interested in Roman history!

Read the full review here

Roman History Blog

A really intriguing read. It is hard to imagine losing a whole Legion – but as we know it wasn’t the first time.

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Medieval Sword School

The book explores what happened to Legio IX Hispana which mysteriously disappeared in Roman Britain.
It is extremely well-researched and goes into so much detail about Roman military history, the structure of the legions, the events that happened in Britain. I especially enjoyed the first chapters. For me, as a layperson, they were extremely helpful to understand the later arguments.
The author describes all the available evidence and explores all sides of the argument, something I really enjoyed.

Overall, it's was a very informative, pleasant read and I can definitely recommend it to people who are interested in Roman military history.

NetGalley, Karin Seiz

I really thought this is a good read - I have always wondered how it must of been stationed at Romes last outpost and suddenly you hear that Rome has fallen and no one is being sent to help you and your fellow men fight the invading Saxons and Vikings. Do you fight at all or just give up military life and blend in with the locals?

A curious and incredible part of early medieval British history, a must for anyone who enjoys Roman or British history.

NetGalley, Kayla Thomas

"... my must-read for this month" - Neil Smith

Wargames Illustrated, Issue 398, Feb 21

Was lost Roman Ninth legion wiped out in LONDON? New book hints 5,500 soldiers that vanished off face of earth were massacred after being sent south from York to suppress rebelling Britons

Daily Mail Online 20/01/21

As featured on

John Pienaar, Times Radio 28/01/21

A new book on the force made famous in The Eagle of the Ninth theorises that its men met their deaths on a journey into a Caledonian ‘heart of darkness’

The Times 29/01/21

Well researched and evidenced book for the well-informed layperson or even academics. Weight is given to both sides of the argument over various pieces of evidence. The various suppositions of what happened to the legion are discussed in full and I'd say the introduction and initial chapters are a great way to understand Roman military history in general.

This was a great read for me to unfurl my dormant historian mind! I'm not an academic but I do have a BA in Classical History so this was right in my wheelhouse!

NetGalley, Nicola Brooks

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

This is another superb history book from net galley.
This is proper history for grown ups, background is set out, evidence is examined, conclusions are reached. But it is not polemical, contrary views to the author's are also examined and given the weight they deserve.
It far more than a history of a mystery, it is a good solid introduction to the Roman military machine, the empire and their enemies.

NetGalley, Tony Stacey

An excellent inquiry into the fate of Legio IX Hispana. All of the options are discussed and the author’s view on its fate is well balanced. Good read.

Michael McCarthy. Battlefield Guide

Michael McCarthy

About Simon Elliott

Dr Simon Elliott is an award winning and best selling archaeologist, historian and broadcaster with a PhD in Classics and Archaeology from the University of Kent where he is now an Honorary Research Fellow. He has an MA in Archaeology from UCL and an MA in War Studies from KCL. Simon is widely published with numerous works in print on various themes relating to the ancient world, with a particular focus on the Roman military, and he makes frequent appearances on TV as a Roman expert. Simon lectures widely to universities, local history societies and archaeological groups, is co-Director of a Roman villa excavation, a Trustee of the Council for British Archaeology and an Ambassador for Museum of London Archaeology. He is also a Guide Lecturer for Andante Travels and President of the Society of Ancients.

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