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Roman Britain's Missing Legion (Hardback)

What Really Happened to IX Hispana?

Ancient History Rome Colour Books Military

By Dr Simon Elliott
Imprint: Pen & Sword Military
Pages: 208
Illustrations: 28 colour illustrations
ISBN: 9781526765727
Published: 9th February 2021
This Week's Best Sellers Rank: #7


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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.

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.

Read the full review here

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

About Dr 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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