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Literature / The Last Legion

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Anno Domini 476. The Roman Empire is coming to an end.

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The eagle flies for one last time
The Roman Empire is falling, crumbling into disrepair. In the last five years there have been five Caesars, and every one was murdered. Now the title of Caesar, highest office in Rome, must fall to the shoulders of a young boy, Romulus Augustus. Scared, naive, and unprepared, he is barely on the throne for a few days when the dreaded Goths supporting the chieftain Odoacer descend upon Ravenna and kill everyone except the emperor, his mother Flavia and his tutor, the british druid Meridius Ambrosius, AKA Myrdin Emreis. Deposed and exiled to the island of Capri, Romulus is rescued by a small band of loyal soldiers, the only survivors of the legion Nova Invicta, an elite force recruited by his father Orestes. But not before uncovering an ancient sword and the prophecy attached to it. Pursued by the Goths, the heroes are led by the prophecy to the faraway lands of Britain where Romulus must find his destiny.
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L'Ultima legione, as it's called in the original italian, is an action adventure novel made in 2002, freely based off the story of the last days of the Roman Empire, created by Valerio Massimo Manfredi.


This film provides examples of:

  • A Child Shall Lead Them: The last Western Roman Emperor is a boy.
  • Action Girl: Livia Prisca. She is an Archer Girl that saves Aurelio from Wulfila alone.
  • Anachronism Stew: Averted. Manfredi actually Did the Research, and most of the novel is actually pretty accurate, history sense.
  • Ancient Grome: Averted. Being an italian himself, Manfredi depicts very well the late roman society.
  • Ancient Rome: Technically still counts, though it covers (in a fictional sense) the final events of its history.
  • Arch-Enemy: Wulfila to Aurelius, and Odoacer to Orestes.
  • An Axe to Grind: Wulfila.
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  • And This Is for...: When Romulus finally takes the caliburian sword of Caesar and puts it into Wulfila.
  • Artistic License – History: It's Very Loosely Based on a True Story since the the last Emperor of the Western Roman Empire was indeed a boy who did disappear from history. But then it ends up being a prequel to the Arthurian legend.
    • Beyond this, numerous details on the nature of the Roman Empire during its twilight years (and for that matter, its hereditary nature or lack thereof) are right, as the conflict between the official Christian bishops and the dying pagan religion still present on the countryside; the intrigue around Constantinopla and their nomineés to the Occident throne, and the tension between the barbarian forces of Odoacer and the Eastern Empire.
  • Badass Grandpa: Ambrosinus is pretty spry for an elderly man, he pulls off Houdini tricks, as the Greek Fire in the waters of Capri. Also Ursinus, who guides The Squad by the Alps being an elderly, veteran miles who fought for Aecius in the Catalaunian Plains.
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  • Beware the Nice Ones: Wulfila greatly overestimates his chances of chasing the group.
  • Big Damn Heroes: The eponymous Last Legion.
  • Big Bad: Appears to be Odoacer the Goth, but after the heroes flee from Italy it dissapears, and his erstwhile second-in-command Wulfila emerges as the true main villain of the book.
  • The Big Guy: Batiatus might look it and he uses a big sword, but he's really a Gentle Giant and the best fighter among the heroes is probably Aurelius.
  • Bloodless Carnage: Averted. The fights are depicted as a brutish and gorish mess. The soldiers evade this as much as they can.
  • The Captain: Aurelius.
  • City on the Water: foreshadowed. Livia Prisca is from Venetia, but in the time of the book, it is only a very promising village.
  • Conflicting Loyalty: Within the Western Empire everyone is trying to balance between their own survival, survival of the state and protection of the emperor. Eventually most of Romans dedide to simply team up with the stronger side and drop their own agendas.
  • Cool Old Guy: Ambrosinus, by the sheer virtue of being Merlin.
  • Cool Sword: The sword of Julius Caesar. Serves as the MacGuffin. Eventually became Excalibur.
  • Dual Wielding: Demetrius uses a pair of swords.
  • Face–Heel Turn: After Rome falls to the Goths, the Senate and an official of the Eastern Roman Empire secretly send people to rescue Romulus and take him to Constantinople. But later they betray the heroes anyway after recognizing Odoacer as legitimate.
  • Foreshadowing: Livia Prisca is from a little village inhabited by refugees looking to live in the Roman way, and she believes that this city is going to be great. The little lake city is no other than Venetia.
  • Gentle Giant: Batiatus. One of the very few barbarians admitted on Nova Invicta, and one of the most feared soldiers in it.
  • Going Native: Upon finding a prophecy that leads them to Britain, the heroes look for the Ninth Legion, presumably the "last legion" loyal to Rome. But they've settled down as farmers. What Romulus does in the end. He becomes King Arthur's father.
  • Good Scars, Evil Scars: Ambrosinus has a scar on his chest shaped like a pentacle, which adds to his mysterious air. Vortgyn, who gave him that scar, hides his diseased or burned face behind a gold mask. Wulfila gets his face scarred after Aurelius slams it onto his own axe.
  • Graceful Loser: Wulfilia nearly kills Aurelius in the final battle, but knows when to back off when Romulus points the sword of Caesar at his neck. He even takes the boy into his arms when the sword goes into his heart.
  • Historical Hero Upgrade: Happens to both Aurelius and the young Emperor Romulus.
  • Historical Villain Upgrade: Odoacer, king of the Gothsnote . When Orestes seized power and illegally made his son Romulus emperor, Odoacer put down the rebellion and restored order. Odoacer then pardoned Romulus and sent him to live with his relatives with a comfortable pension.
  • Holy City: Played straight. Rome is both the spiritual center of the empire (although the actual capital of the Western Empire is Ravenna), and the seat of the Pope. All romans and italians (and even the barbarians) look at it with reverence.
  • Identity Amnesia: Aurelius. He "always was in the Legion, and can't remember anything else"
  • Ironic Name: Romulus the last Roman emperor was named after the founder of Rome. Truth in Television.
  • Klingon Promotion: Odoacer becomes the ruler of Rome by force.
  • Lady of War: Livia.
  • Last of His Kind: Aurelius and three men are all that remain of their Legion.
  • The Last Title: The title.
  • Lost Roman Legion: The Nova Invicta.
  • Luckily, My Shield Will Protect Me: Vatrenus uses a sword and buckler.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: Seems to be superstition, legends, and old cults, and maybe just a little bit of good luck, Romulus's mentor Ambrosinus is revealed to be Merlin in the last few pages of the book. Then again, his only magical act seems to be that he hasn't aged.
  • The Only One I Trust: After being betrayed by everyone, Aurelius declares that his small pack are the only people he still trusts.
  • Praetorian Guard: Aurelius is the general of the Emperor's bodyguard, comprising a legion. They're not actual Praetorians, though - those were disbanded centuries earlier.
  • Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: The Squad consist of what is left of troops loyal to the deposed emperor, said emperor and their two allies.
  • Rescue Arc: After Romulus' exile to Capri, Aurelius and his men are convinced to rescue him and provide safe passage to Constantinople.
  • Scary Black Man: Played straight. The goths actually fear him because many of them never saw a black guy in their lives.
  • Spell My Name with an "S": Vortgyn is better known as Vortigern.
  • Sword & Sandal: Technically counts, albeit it takes place at pretty much the tail end of the timespan that "Sword and Sandal" covers.
  • The Smurfette Principle: Livia Prisca.
  • Token Minority: Batiatus is black, and Ambrosinus is british.
  • Token Romance: Aurelius and Livia. Their relationship stays in the background for the entire story.
  • Undying Loyalty: Many roman characters, as Aurelius or Ursinus, and many common people that help them to escape from the goths. Also Ambrosinus with Romulus.
  • Unreliable Narrator: Ambrosinus gives opening and closing narration, and this is invoked at the end.
  • Unresolved Sexual Tension: Averted. Aurelius and Livia fuck in the woods before Stephanos betray them, believing that they will be separated. This is way before they actually confess their feelings for each other.
  • Vestigial Empire: The film opens in literal final days of Western Roman Empire.
  • We Used to Be Friends:
  • You Can't Go Home Again: After saving Romulus, he and the legion have no place in Rome or what is left of it, so they head to Britain looking for a new home.
  • You Killed My Father: Wulfila killed Romulus's parents.

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