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Damion Hunter

Centurions, The
Ballantine, 1981


Set in the reign of Vespasian (69-79 C.E.), Hunter's The Centurions is one of the best-researched historical novels I have ever read. The book is accurate on everything from tack on a horse to the usage of the Imperial Post. Add to that a rollicking, action-filled story, that keeps you turning pages as fast as you can read them, and the lover of Roman fiction could not ask for a better novel. The Centurions is the first book in Hunter's Centurion trilogy. The story follows the adventures of slave-born, adopted Correus and his legitimate half-brother, the senatorial-ranked Flavius, as they complete their schooling on their father's villa and then join the Roman legions as centurions. Hunter's vivid prose carries the reader through the rigors of the Roman officer's training and to the half-brothers' posting to the sixth century, eighth and ninth cohorts of the Eighth Legion Augusta in Germania. Once Correus and Flavius reach their posts, they knuckle down to the business of trying to build roads and perform other mundane duties while fighting a war. The book is loaded with "extras" to help the reader with the period, including maps, details about the reigns of the Roman emperors who are mentioned in the text, and a list of characters who appear in the book along with brief descriptions of them. A glossary at the back (pp. 390-394) provides definitions of unfamiliar terms. Scattered throughout the text are several helpful illustrations and diagrams as well: a Roman villa, a legionary wearing his kit while marching, a legionary ready for battle, a Roman fort, an aquilifer (standard-bearer), a centurion, and Germanic warriors and their village. Each illustration is labeled to give the reader a clear image of the various items and locations described in the book. Hunter's achievement in bringing to life the history of Rome under Vespasian has not received the credit it warrants. The book is an absolutely fabulous read, accessible to non-history buffs and thrilling to the scholar of Roman history. The Centurions is out of print and is very, very hard to find in used bookstores (most likely because everyone who owns it and has read it cherishes the text too much to sell it!). This work definitely deserves to be reprinted. It is a true masterpiece of Roman fiction. -Linda A. Malcor 10/99

- Linda A. Malcor, 10/1/1999

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