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Eagle in the Snow: A Novel of General Maximus and Rome's Last Stand

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Banished to the Empire's farthest outpost, veteran warrior Paulinus Maximus defends The Wall of Britannia from the constant onslaught of belligerent barbarian tribes. Bravery, loyalty, experience, and success lead to Maximus' appointment as "General of the West" by the Roman emperor, the ambition of a lifetime. But with the title comes a caveat: Maximus needs to muster and command a single legion to defend the perilous Rhine frontier.

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Overview

Banished to the Empire's farthest outpost, veteran warrior Paulinus Maximus defends The Wall of Britannia from the constant onslaught of belligerent barbarian tribes. Bravery, loyalty, experience, and success lead to Maximus' appointment as "General of the West" by the Roman emperor, the ambition of a lifetime. But with the title comes a caveat: Maximus needs to muster and command a single legion to defend the perilous Rhine frontier.

On the opposite side of the Rhine River, tribal nations are uniting; hundreds of thousands mass in preparation for the conquest of Gaul, and from there, a sweep down into Rome itself. Only a wide river and a wily general keep them in check.

With discipline, deception, persuasion, and surprise, Maximus holds the line against an increasingly desperate and innumerable foe. Friends, allies, and even enemies urge Maximus to proclaim himself emperor. He refuses, bound by an oath of duty, honor, and sacrifice to Rome, a city he has never seen. But then circumstance intervenes. Now, Maximus will accept the purple robe of emperor, if his scrappy legion can deliver this last crucial victory against insurmountable odds. The very fate of Rome hangs in the balance.

Combining the brilliantly realized battle action of Gates of Fire and the masterful characterization of Mary Renault's The Last of the Wine, Eagle in the Snow is nothing less than the novel of the fall of the Roman empire.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781590710203
  • Publisher: Rugged Land, LLC
  • Publication date: 1/28/2004
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 400
  • Product dimensions: 4.90 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Table of Contents

Introduction XII
Prologue XV
Eagle in the Snow 1
Epilogue 331
List of Principal Characters 336
Historical Events 338
Principal Place Names 339
Glossary of Tribal Peoples 342
Glossary of Terms 343
Bibliography 345
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Sort by: Showing all of 8 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 30, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    "Eagle" Runs Very Deep

    "Eagle In The Snow" by Wallace Breem centers on the years 405 AD to early 407, capturing a key moment in the Roman Empire's death throes as hundreds of thousands of mostly Germanic peoples mass on the east bank of the Rhine waiting for the river to freeze and to walk into Gaul. The tale is an epitaph for the Roman Empire with General Paulinus Gaius Maximus serving as the lone pall bearer, carrying the weight of an empire marching inexorably toward its grave.

    Compared to the action adventures of Scarrow, Igguldon or Duffy, the writing style of "Eagle in the Snow" is stark, abrupt and subtle. "Eagle" is deep and the prose and exposition are very genuine. Think of Scarrow and Duffy as TV movies, and Breem as an Oscar-worthy film. It's no surprise that the book was a Bestseller, and in the realm of Roman historical fiction, "Eagle" justifies its praise as a classic. For those less interested in Roman military fiction, like the Rhine itself, "Eagle" runs much deeper.

    Breem paints a very detailed and accurate picture of life in Maximus' world. This historical novel is as solid in its history as documentation and archaeology allowed in the late '60s, and the liberties taken seem to be few and forgivable. He draws a very vivid exposition of existence at the ends of the Roman earth. He elicits emotion through the subtle interplay between characters and through Maximus' monologue.

    The story is structured from Maximus' point of view, who narrates all but the prologue and epilogue. He is the consummate Roman - born in Gaul to Roman ancestry, raised to be a soldier. He loves Rome with every thread of his being, and despite never having been there, he loves what the city is and what it represents. Breem's Maximus is the Roman ideal.

    His cousin Julian was brought up by his own parents as Julian's were forced to commit suicide by a usurping Roman Emperor. Julian also grows up to be a soldier, but at this point the cousins' paths diverge. Maximus and Julian represent two sides of a Roman coin - on one side is Maximus: the Empire, staunch, disciplined, loyal and forever Roman. On the other side is Julian: the Empire in decline, resentful, living-on-the-fringe, and consumed by hatred.

    Maximus is pushed to break away from the Empire and lead his frontier legions as a new emperor. He declines both times, once to his Roman legion and once to the Germanic tribes. Julian intercedes on the tribes' behalf and Maximus explains why he can't accept: "My Empire has had more usurping Emperors than I can count.all weakened the empire they thought to strengthen. I shall not add to their number." Julian responds: "The Empire is dying, Maximus. It is weaker than when you were a boy."

    Maximus ultimately receives no support from any other Roman legion, reflecting the fractured, disaggregated and self-interested nature of the Empire's far-flung nations. The ending is inevitable - though such is the emotive monologue by Maximus that one can't help but feel hope and optimism at each turn in the ultimate series of battles.

    The Rugged Land edition of the book (published in 2004) provides a detailed list of characters, historical timeline, Roman and modern place names, and glossaries of tribes and 5th century terms. It's particularly helpful that historical figures are distinguished from those that are purely fictional. Maximus, while perhaps loosely based on Generals of the time, is fictional. A more detailed map also would've been helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 27, 2005

    Maximus! Maximus!

    Eagle in the Snow by Wallace Breem is a classic book about Rome's Rhine frontier. The book sets off on Hadrians Wall, then progresses to the forts and cities along the Rhine River. This great historical fiction novel recieves 5 out of 5 stars.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 22, 2004

    Rome on the Brink

    If the first half of this book had been more compelling I'd have given it 5 stars without a second thought since the second half is so beautifully done, a dark and devastatingly grim tale of the last days of the Western Roman Empire as its soldiery struggle to hold the line in Gaul against encroaching Germanic tribesmen. Driven by the invading Huns from middle Asia, the Germans, who have lived for generations in uneasy relation with their Roman neighbors, decide to push into the Roman province of Gaul to claim new lands and wealth for themselves, as well as to escape the Hunnic pressure. Against them stands an aging Roman general, Maximus, plucked from obscurity on the Wall in Roman Britain, and his lifelong friend, who together must marshal the shrinking resources of a shrinking Roman hegemony as Gaul's citizenry pretends all is well. The first half of the book gives us Maximus on the Wall, living a marginal life as a soldier in a forgotten outpost, marrying and losing his wife along with a close friend, Julian, who becomes involved in an insurrection and is condemned to a life of slavery. Then the Roman general Stilicho (of Germanic descent, himself) arrives and unexpectedly taps Maximus as a soldier he can depend on, to build him a legion. The aging career soldier rises to the occasion and serves with distinction in Stilicho's forces until, at last, he is sent to man a northern frontier post, opposite Germania, with instructions to hold the line against the encroaching Germans at all costs. Faced with the corruption and lack of spirit of the Gaulish townsmen, he must build his force with bits and scraps while employing a host of stratagems and trickery to convince the Germanic leaders to avoid confrontation. In the end he fails as the German kings learn his real strength and the book's second half is devoted to his last-ditch efforts to hold them back. This part of the tale is as brooding and compelling as the first half was dry, making the whole thing worth the read. Each agonizing advance of the Germanic host is chronicled as Maximus employs careful planning and deception to save Gaul and his legion as the tribesmen make their inexorable advance. A good tale, albeit a slow-starter and somewhat thin on characterization. But the mood and images of a collapsing Roman world shine brilliantly through, making this a book worth reading. -- SWM

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    Posted July 11, 2009

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