||Date of Publication:
Boudica and the Britons' revolt
"The scars of Roman conquest are still livid, the clash of two disparate cultures a source of bitterness and conflict. The Roman ruling class believe it is their duty to civilize the natives; the British chafe under the conquerors yoke. When the Governor attempts to cheat Boudica, Queen of the Iceni, he underestimates the wave of fury that engulfs Roman and Briton alike. Marcus Julius Severinus, newly promoted to Commander of the First Aquitanians respects the Britons among whom he has been brought up. Even though the final battle is won, Marcus and his family will pay a terrible price.." (jacket blurb)
||This would be usable with high school students. There is no sex and only mild cursing. The violence is confined to small sections, but might be a bit much for young children, who would also, perhaps, not understand the politics of the situation.
||I recommend The Horse Coin, one of many novels dealing with this period.
David Wishart has long been an assured and masterful literary stylist and his series of Roman novels brilliantly translate the Chandlerian detective conventions into perfectly realised historical settings. Corvinus, his protagonist in the earlier books, such as The Lydian Baker, has the same laconic, wise-cracking manner of the gumshoes who
centuries later tread the equally sun-baked streets of Los Angeles--but the smells, sounds and sights of ancient Rome are conjured up with
continuing brio. The Horse Coin is the most accomplished yet, with a more straightforwardly historical narrative than its predecessors. The tale is set in Britain in AD 59, with the conflict between the sullen British and their Roman conquerors worsened by the Roman ruling class belief that it is their duty to civilise the natives. When Marcus, a youthful cavalry man in the Roman army, is promoted to Commander of the elite "Foxes" squadron, he tries to put into practice his enlightened views of co-operating with the British. But Governor Paulinus strongly disagrees and his attempts to cheat Queen Boadicea throws both Romans and Britons into a terrible battle with a monumental cost. Wishart's
utterly rigorous treatment of his material results in a classic piece of historical fiction.
||Wishart’s narrative moves at a good pace, with changes of scene and focus characters, but the main character is young Marcus Julius Severinus, son of the retired army officer M. Julius Aper. Both father and son feel that Rome needs to work more cautiously and fairly with the tribes in Britain to achieve long-run peace and prosperity.
Unfortunately, most Romans there (and back in Rome) take the short-term view that Britain should be a cash cow, whatever the effect on the natives. When the emperor and his procurator attempt to go too far (including flogging Queen Boudica & raping her daughters when she refuses their demands), Boudica precipitates a revolt that leaves
thousand of soldiers/warriors and civilians dead on both sides. The Britons are ruthless in their extermination of Romans they get hold of,
and so are the Romans toward the Britons.
Aper tries to smooth things out ahead of time with the chief of the Trinovantes, but good will on both sides still does not prevent the inevitable (at least inevitable given the personalities of the leaders on both sides, especially the Roman side). Characters we’ve come to know & like are killed, though Wishart gives us at the end a piece of
reconciliation which we may have anticipated from fairly early on.
The battle and slaughter scenes are vivid, the details of army and civilian life colorful and sound. Unlike his Corvinus series, there is no mystery to be solved, other than why people act so stupidly. Severinus is front and center a bit less than half of the book, but he is the one we most remember for his actions and his various attachments, familial, romantic and military. Overall, the Britons come off better than the Romans, except at the very end, when a sensible and sympathetic procurator replaces his greedy and stupid predecessor and Severinus proves Britons and Romans can live harmoniously together
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