The Mark of the Horse Lord by Rosemary Sutcliff – The 1965 Club

The Mark of the Horse Lord cover

Participating in The 1965 Club encouraged me to read The Mark of the Horse Lord by Rosemary Sutcliff which I’ve had in the house for at least a couple of years. I would have read it sooner if I had realised that the setting is mainly in the exact place that I grew up – albeit some 2000 years or so earlier than when I was stravaiging about the land around Dumbarton Rock or Theodosia as the Romans called it, and Are-Cluta which is an ancient name for Dumbarton although it was more widely known locally as Alclutha. There is a handy map and glossary in my 1967 reprint of the book.

The Romans are in control of most of Britain and Phaedrus is a young red haired gladiator hoping to win his freedom after spending seven years as a gladiator. He does gain his freedom but a drunken night of celebration leads him into big trouble and imprisonment again.

He’s confused when he’s unexpectedly sprung from prison by a group of strangers, they had spotted how similar in looks Phaedrus is to Midris, their missing king. Eventually they talk Phaedrus into taking the king’s place and to try to eject the usurperer Queen Liadhan from Are Cluta (Dumbarton). Phaedrus will have to make the rest of the tribe believe that he is really King Midris. The real king has been blinded by Liadhan to make sure that he can never be accepted as their king again and he’s earning a living as a leather worker in the south.

While travelling north of the Antonine Wall to Dumbarton Phaedrus works hard at learning the history of all of the tribe so that he won’t be discovered as a fake Midris, and eventually a brutal battle ensues.

As you would expect of Rosemary Sutcliff this book is beautifully written, she does take some liberties with the geography of the area but not many readers would realise that. I was particularly pleased that she included an unusual character in the shape of a young warrior who just happened to be in touch with his feminine side when it came to clothes and jewellery. He was a bit of a fashion icon but the inclusion of Conory seems to have riled up the fundamentalist religious types one of whom cut her Goodreads rating right down to one star!!! for what she kept calling ‘content’. Honestly there is nothing in the least bit sexual in this book. Some people just go around their lives scouring everything for something they can object to, and if it isn’t there then they make up something that will feed their homophobia. I suppose it makes them feel superior somehow.
But we all know better don’t we?!

I’ll give it four stars on Goodreads. If you want to know what Dumbarton Rock (Theodosius) looks like have a keek at some of the posts on this link here.

For a much more detailed review have a look at Helen’s @ She Reads Novels
I read this one for The 1965 Club.

1965 club

The Eagle – the film

Amazingly, we actually went to the cinema in Dunfermline last night to see The Eagle which is based on the Rosemary Sutcliff book which I enjoyed reading years ago. Mind you it was SO long ago that I’m not sure how true to the book the film is. I don’t remember there being so much fighting and goriness but as that seems to be what most people want then they’re obviously going to add in as much as possible.

It’s set in Roman Britain and Marcus Aquila has been given command of a fort on Hadrian’s Wall and he is determined to gain back his family’s honour which was lost when his father and the Ninth Legion which he had command of, disappeared along with their golden eagle standard. The only way he can do it is to find the standard and take it back to Rome.

I quite enjoyed it but the battle scenes were so loud, they shook the whole place and it’s positively painful on my ears. Marcus and his slave Esca travel north into Caledonia/Scotland and some of the Scottish scenery is quite spectacular, the best part of the film for me really. It turned out to have a bit of a Romano-British Brokeback Mountain flavour to it, I think.

We hadn’t been to the flicks for ages, since we saw Tamara Drew actually because we didn’t get around to seeing The King’s Speech. I think we’re the only people in the western world who haven’t seen it. We did try when it was at the wee local cinema but we couldn’t get in as everybody else had booked their tickets! You live and learn!

Corbridge Roman Fort

We visited Corbridge in Northumberland during the summer holidays. The Roman remains there are quite extensive although it’s thought that there is still a lot to be found underneath the surrounding fields.

The town which I was brought up in is situated just to the north of the Antonine Wall which was the wall which marked the farthest point of the Roman Empire. They might have managed to get a bit further north but I don’t think there is any proof of that. I’ve always found it really funny that the Romans managed to conquer just about everyone else but the folks of the Dumbarton area were just too much for them to cope with.

So visiting this Roman ruin was a real novelty for us and there is quite a lot to see inside as well as outside. There is an interesting museum on the site which houses a lot of the artefacts which have been dug up from there. It’s well worth going to see if you’re in Northumberland.

Hadrian’s Wall is another great place (thing). It was built by the Romans to stop the Scottish savages from being able to attack the Romans. The first time I went there on a school trip with the Latin/Classical Studies department I couldn’t get over how big the wall is. The Romans must have been very scared of us. I’ve always fancied walking the whole length of it, the whole breadth of the border, but life has somehow got in the way, maybe one day!