The Last Legionary
This is a lively description of the Roman army in the last years of its stay in Britain, using the experiences of an imaginary soldier, Gaius. By this period, 383 to 402 AD, declining manpower, a contracting economy, and the influence of Germanic culture had brought about many changes in the army’s organisation and equipment. Paul Elliott belongs to the Comitatus re-enactment group, and he gives accounts of what has been learnt from experimental archaeology and from rigorous route marches. Elliott carefully distinguishes between facts and conjecture. There are a large number of drawings and photographs, as well as a generous bibliography, and a guide to visible remains of places mentioned in the account of Gaius’s fictional career. This would be a very useful source for anyone writing a historical novel set in this period. Not only did it fill in many gaps in my knowledge, but it also corrected an embarrassing number of misconceptions that I had held for decades. A little more editing and proofreading would have been welcome, but this is a minor blemish in a highly recommended book.