Monday, February 21, 2011

been there, done that

Back when I was at my previous residence, I had access to the HDNet Movies channel on FiOS. HDNet Movies is distinguished by the fact that it'll show some new films for free as part of a "pre-release" promo. If you time it right-- or set your DVR's timer right-- you can watch a new release for no extra cost than your monthly cable fee.

I saw a few new movies that way, and among them was the 2010 film "Centurion," which is a bit of jazzed-up, speculative historical fiction about the fate of the Roman Ninth Legion, which may have disappeared in Caledonia around 117AD. Where did 5000 men vanish to? "Centurion," which is in many ways a simple chase movie, offers us one possible theory: the soldiers were slaughtered by the local Picts, the barbaric ancestors of today's Scots.

A new movie, "The Eagle," is about to come out and explore the same territory. Like "Centurion," "The Eagle" surmises that the Romans didn't merely disband and blend in with the locals: they were hacked to pieces by them. I'll be curious to see this film's version of the story, even as I roll my eyes at Hollywood's annoying tendency to green-light pairs of films about the same topic at roughly the same time (cf. "Happy Feet" and "Surf's Up," etc.).

A recent article, however, notes that the mystery of the Ninth Legion's disappearance may have been solved:

Now a group of experts say the elite infantry force was indeed defeated by a band of ‘barbarians’ in a military catastrophe that shamed the empire, prompting a conspiracy of silence.

The dramatic new evidence hinges on a single gravestone tribute and was brought to light by historian and film-maker Phil Hirst, whose documentary Rome’s Lost Legion will be screened next month.

‘The battle of Mons Graupius was thought to have marked the end of any serious threat to imp¬erial might,’ he said. ‘But the discovery of a tombstone of a centurion stationed at the Northumbrian fort of Vindolanda shows the Romans were under attack from the north 20 years later.’

Historian Neil Faulkner, of Channel 4’s Time Team, said: ‘It is likely the insurgents formed a confederation of tribes. So what the Romans could have been facing was a rising of pretty well the whole of the north of Britain.’

Rome’s reaction after the Ninth’s disappearance lends weight to the theory. Reinforcements were drafted in to Britain to fight a major war at the beginning of Emperor Hadrian’s reign around 117 AD and the construction of Hadrian’s Wall was ordered.

Mr Hirst said: ‘The loss of the Ninth may have led Hadrian to realise that the total conquest of Britain was unachievable and a dividing wall needed to be built separating occupied territory from the barbarian hordes.’

Mr Faulkner added: ‘My guess is that the Ninth Legion was destroyed in a carefully executed ambush by northern tribes.’

Rome’s Lost Legion is on the History Channel on March 18. The Eagle opens in UK cinemas on March 25.

Uh-oh, Hollywood! Along come the researchers to spoil all the fun! But at least the research seems to confirm that the fictional stories made the right guess.



Charles said...

Re: pairs of films... Armageddon/Deep Impact has always been my favorite.

Maven said...

This is a comment in re: HDNet in general. There's a travel channel they have, which I love. However, the husband discovered that after a certain time in the evening, pornos are on that channel. strokes imaginary Freud-like beard Interesting....

Just thought I'd share, for scientific reasons, of course!