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Farnham, Lord Belhaven and Stenton

Eagle and the Sun, The
John Murray, 1951


Although this volume is considered an historical novel, it seems more like a journal which might have been written by a Roman participating in the long, tedious march through hostile terrain; under a torrid sun. The main plot involves an account of the struggles of the Roman legion under the command of Aelius Gellius, sent by Augustus Caesar circa 24 B.C., to conquer Arabia, and includes the fact of betrayal and defeat. The subplot, however, which is of little significance, concerns a love story between a native girl and one of Gallus’ soldiers. Belhaven’s fascination, with the location of the sites involved, has resulted in contributing to the contemporary student’s familiarization with Strabo’s account of this endeavor as he begins chapter 1 with a quote from Strabo, and continues by following the chapter headings of the ancient source. Personal familiarity with the desert contributes to a vivid portrayal of topography and native people. And the author, noting his distaste of bibliographies, mentions two secondary sources which he had used for his description of the Roman legion. Whereas some might find this account thirst provoking, tedious torment, readers interested in military strategy will probably enjoy this factual and realistically portrayed work. Leona Ascher The New School University

- Leona Ascher, 11/23/2005

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