The Last Legion (novel)

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The Last Legion
Original title L'ultima legione
Country  Italy
Language Italian
Publication date

The Last Legion is a novel by the Italian author Valerio Massimo Manfredi. It was first published in 2002. It was adapted into a film of the same name in 2007.

Plot of the novel[edit]

In 476, the Western Roman Empire is under attack by the barbarian armies under the Heruli General Odoacer. Forces loyal to the empire were destroyed and the Emperor Romulus Augustus, a child at the age of 13, was arrested, deposed, and exiled to the island of Capri. Meanwhile, in Dertona, where stands the castrum of the last legion, the "Nova Invicta", the battle rages against the Heruli and Skyrian horsemen. The officer Aurelianus Ambrosius Ventidius, detached from his friends, rides desperately toward the villa of the noble Orestes for help, but the villa was attacked and destroyed by Odoacer's barbarians. Aurelius soon finds Orestes fatally wounded and can only receive the last request of Orestes' dying breath to save and protect Romulus Augustus, his son, the last emperor of Rome.

Having reunited with the last survivors of the massacre of his legion (Rufius Vatrenus, a veteran of countless battles, and Cornelius Batiatus, a black giant of enormous strength from Ethiopia) and with the aid of the beautiful Venetian Livia Prisca and former Greek soldiers Orosius and Demetrius, Aurelius takes action and assaults the house of Capri, where Romulus was held prisoner. He is freed along with his tutor Meridius Ambrosinus, and is in possession of a valuable (and much-desired) object: the legendary Calibian sword of Julius Caesar.

Pursued by Wufila, Odaocer's ruthless lieutenant, and a small force of barbarian troops, the heterogeneous group will continue to flee north. They soon realize that the Eastern Roman Empire had betrayed them and sided with Odoacer, so they cannot seek refuge in its capital at Constantinople. Precluded any other way, the old Celtic tutor Ambrosinus remembers an old prophecy from his land, and decides to lead the young emperor to Britannia, while the stories of Livia, Aurelius, and their comrades begin to take place in a troubled journey that led the group through the barbarized and devastated territories of Gaul and northern Italy. The group soon arrived in Britain to find that the way of the Roman past, and with it the old and legendary legion of Britain (Legio XII Draco), is not yet entirely disappeared. Still threatened by Wufila, and more by the tyrant Wortigern, who rules over most of the island, hidden by a mask of gold, the group decided to address their enemies in a final battle.

Setting a defensive position in the abandoned fort of the Twelfth Legion, Aurelius, Romulus, and their comrades faced Wufila's and Wortigern's mercenaries on the slopes of Mons Badonicus. Before all was lost, the Twelfth Legion appeared on the hilltops, holding high their dragon standard, and drove back the enemy. During the battle, one of Aurelius' faithful friends, Vatrenus was pierced by three spears and nailed to a tree. Batiatus and Livia were mortally wounded. Finally, the ruthless Herulian warrior Wufila was killed by Romulus and Aurelius, who pierced his body both with the Roman officer's sword and the Calibian sword of Julius Caesar.

The victory was won for Romulus and Aurelius, though their comrades were either dead or wounded. In his victory, Romulus launched the sword of Caesar into the air, and it stuck to the rock at the center of the lake itself. The inscription on the sword (originally "Cai.Iul.Caes. Ensis Caliburnus", meaning "The Chalybic Sword of Caius Julius Caesar") with the passing of time will be partially erased, showing only the letters "E-S-CALIBUR". In the years that followed, Aurelius, accompanied by Livia Prisca and Cornelius Batiatus, returned to Italy to establish a new life. Romulus was called Pendragon by the Romans, and he became king of Britain. He married Ygraine, the daughter of Kustennin, the commander of the Twelfth Legion, and they had a son. Their newborn son would soon be the future hero of Arthurian legend: "King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table."