Lost Legion Rediscovered: The Mystery of the Theban Legion, Donald O'Reilly

Lost Legion Rediscovered: The Mystery of the Theban Legion, Donald O'Reilly

In 383 Eucherius, Bishop of Lyon wrote an account of the martyrdom of an Egyptian legion, said to have taken place in 286. This account was prompted by the discovery of a mass grave, revealed when the bank of the River Rhone collapsed after a flood. This is the first surviving mention of this event and the only even near-contemporary mention.

The basic argument here is that Roman historians often ignored very major events (or at least they aren't recorded in the surviving texts). The eruption of Vesuvius is given as an example of this. This allows for the existence and destruction of an entire legion to slip through the historical cracks, and not be mentioned in any contemporary historian. This is certainly true of the destruction of legions, and some do disappear from the record without any explanation in the Imperial period.

O'Reilly puts a great deal of effort into assembling a collection of clues that might prove the existence of this Theban Legion and support the story of its martyrdom. Some are quite convincing, others require a real leap of faith to accept (the historical investigation is marred for me by a tendency towards religious moralising in the text). These clues are used to support the Bishop's account and to suggest a fate for the survivors of the legion.

I must admit I'm not convinced by the author's arguments, especially for the existence of a Theban legion, but I do like the amount of detail he provides to support his ideas, which allows the reader to make their own judgement on this issue. The result is an interesting historical argument, and a worthwhile attempt to discover the truth behind an ancient mystery.

Chapters
1 - Eavesdropping Yields a Clue
2 - What is in a Nickname?
3 - The New Testament Tradition
4 - Civilization's Collapse and Recovery
5 - An Error of War
6 - Law, Order and Compassion
7 - The Church as New Creation
8 - To Find Oneself in Jerusalem
9 - From an Imperial Perspective
10 - A Dream for Betterment
11 - Recall and Recruitment
12 - Shipping Out
13 - All Roads Lead to Rome
14 - In the Eye of the Storm
15 - Destination the Saxon Shore
16 - Contenders for the Crown
17 - Race Across the Alps
18 - Martyrdom in the Mountain Valley
19 - Against the Bagaudae
20 - The Sea King
21 - Cure Worse than the Illness
22 - Agony in Egypt
23 - The Great Persecution
24 - Politician and Mystic
25 - Battle of the Milvian Bridge
26 - Epitaph for Acaunus

Author: Donald O'Reilly
Edition: Hardcover
Pages: 208
Publisher: Pen & Sword Military
Year: 2011


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