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Outcast
Outcast
First edition cover

Publication

1955

Length

Novel

Audience

Young adult

Historical era

Roman

Illustrations

Richard Kennedy

Outcast is a novel first published in 1955 by Oxford University Press, illustrated by Richard Kennedy. A Roman foundling raised by Britons is cast out of his tribe and enslaved by Romans.

PlotEdit

A British tribesman named Cunori discovers a baby washed ashore from a Roman shipwreck and presents it to his wife Guinear (1). The Clan debates whether Beric should be allowed to remain among them, but he is allowed at begin warrior training at age nine (2). After he is initiated at fifteen, however, a harsh winter and spring revive rumours that his Roman blood has brought the gods' curse on the Tribe, and Beric, realising that the question would never truly be settled, accepts exile (3).

Beric arrives in the Roman fort town of Isca Dumnoniorum, intending to join the army, but is taken under the wing of a Greek sailor, who brings him back to his ship, where he is knocked unconscious (4). He is enslaved and sold six months later in Rome to the household of Publius Piso the Magistrate (5). He makes a friend of Piso's kind daughter Lucilla, and an enemy of his handsome, charming son Glaucus, whom he refuses to help cheat Piso over one of his horses (6). Glaucus subtly harasses Beric in revenge, and preempts Lucilla's offer to take Beric with her when she marries by asking their father for ownership of Beric before she can (7). At a dinner-party months later, Beric spills Glaucus's wine while distracted by Justinius, a fascinating Roman-British engineer, and after an altercation, Glaucus decides to sell him to the salt mines, to Justinius's disgust (8). Beric escapes from the shed in which he is locked, and pausing only to toss his slave's arm-ring over Lucilla's garden wall, hikes northward (9). He takes shelter at a farm that is the roost of a gang of highwaymen and is arrested when the Watch turns up, and sentenced as a bandit to row in the navy (10).

Beric is a rower for two years alongside his oarmate Jason in the galley Alcestis of the Rhenus Fleet, part of a convoy transporting the Legate with a draft to the Second Augustan Legion in Britain (11). Jason is dying of a persistent cough, exacerbated by a storm en route to Britain (12). Jason collapses at his oar and dies under the overseer's whip, and Beric attacks the overseer. Beric is flogged and collapses himself, and is thrown overboard (13). The tide carries him ashore into a diked marsh, where he sees a legionary construction team and flees inland to a farmstead, where he is taken in by Justinius the engineer (14).

Beric recovers from fever and tells his story to the interested Justinius, but shortly learns that Justinius had noticed a resemblance to his wife and son who died among her kin while he was away (15). Feeling unwanted, he resolves to leave, but meets a hurt stray dog and brings her back to the farm, where Justinius gives him the manumission papers he had acquired for him two years ago and asks him to stay (16).

In the autumn, Beric hears that Justinius's friend in Rome has had him cleared of his conviction, based on an alibi fabricated by Lucilla. Slightly less embittered, he meets Rhiada, his erstwhile supporter among the Dumnonii, on the Marsh and hears news of his family (17). A massive storm blows up, and Beric and Justinius spend the three days of its duration reinforcing the Rhee Wall. Beric meets the visiting Legate of the Second, who does not recognise him, and finally feels that he is free. The Legate suggests that he join the legions, and Beric and Justinius, acknowledging it as a possibility, return home (18).

ChronologyEdit

Outcast is perhaps the most ahistorical of the Roman novels. No historical figures appear in it, and the building of the Rhee Wall of Romney Marsh, which takes place in the later chapters, is now thought to have been of Norman date at the earliest.

Two conflicting clues to its place in Sutcliff's chronology appear in the early chapters: chapter 1, the year of Beric's birth, is "sixty winters" in Merddyn the Druid's memory since the Roman destruction of the Druids, presumably Suetonius Paulinus's destruction of the stronghold of Mon (Anglesey) in 61 CE. This puts the chapter at about 120 CE and the main events of the book, when Beric is 16-20, around 136-140 CE. The phrase "sixty years ago" is also used loosely to refer to the Boudiccan rebellion in The Eagle of the Ninth (1,13), set in 126-9 CE, slightly closer to seventy years after it.

The second possible timeframe is given in chapter 4, with the remark that Isca Dumnoniorum, at which sixteen-year-old Beric has just arrived, revolted against the Roman garrison "a few years before he had been born" and was burned down in reprisal, which occurred in the early chapters of The Eagle of the Ninth in 126 CE. This puts chapter 1 at about 130 CE and the central events, when Beric is 16-20, around 146-150 CE.

TimelineEdit

  • 60 winters ago (1): Romans defeated the Druids
  • "a few years before he had been born" (4): the Dumnonii unsuccessfully revolted at Isca Dumnoniorum
  • 2 years ago (1): Cunori and Guinear married
  • 1 year ago (2): Cathlan born
  • 4 or 5 months ago, spring (1): Beric born
  • Summer (16): Justinius's wife and son die of fever
  • 2 weeks ago (1): Guinear's newborn daughter died
  • Autumn gale season (1): Cunori salvages Beric from the shipwreck
  • Beric's second year (2): tattooed with the Tribe's warrior patterns
  • Beric is 3 (2): Arthmail born
  • Beric is 5 (2): Arthgal born
  • Autumn, Beric is 9 (2): Feast of the New Spears
    • 2 days later: Beric begins warrior training
  • Beric is 12 (3): Cunori gives him Gelert
  • "four years ago" (8): Justinius begins survey and draining of the marsh
  • Autumn, Beric is 15 (3): initiated into the Men's Side
    • Winter: lean
  • Spring, Beric is 16: fever. The Clan casts Beric out.
    • 3 days later (4): Beric arrives in Isca Dumnoniorum
  • Autumn, 5-7 months later (5): Beric is sold in Rome
  • Spring, Beric is 17 (6): befriends Lucilla
  • Summer (6): Beric makes an enemy of Glaucus
    • 9 days before the wedding (7): Lucilla offers to take Beric into service
    • 3 days later: Glaucis takes possession of Beric
    • 3 days later: Beric asks Lucilla to take Hippias instead
    • End of summer (6, 7): Lucilla marries Valarius
    • Next day (8): Glaucus forbids Beric the stables and renames him
  • February (8): Piso elected aedile. Beric meets Justinius at the celebration dinner. Glaucus condemns him to the mines.
    • That night (9): Beric escapes
    • Next morning (16): Justinius goes to remove Beric
    • That night (10): Beric arrested for a bandit
    • 2 days later (16): Justinius sails for Britain
    • 2 days later (10): Beric sentenced to the Navy
  • Late spring (11): Beric is "shackled to the rowing-bench"
  • Spring, 2 years later, Beric is 20 (11): Beric's ship sails for Britain
    • 5 days later: Reach the Rhenus estuary
    • Gale (12), they put in on the coast of Gaul
    • Next day (13): Jason's dream
    • Next day: they leave. Jason collapses. Beric is scourged.
    • That night: Beric collapses and is tossed overboard, washes ashore
    • Next day (14): Staggers inland to Justinius's farm
    • Fever
    • 2 days after waking (15): Beric gets up
    •  2 days later: Justinius comes home
    • 2 days later: Beric hears about Justinius's son
    • Next day (16): Beric plans to leave, adopts Canog, accepts the offer to stay
  • Summer (17): Beric starts to work on the marsh
  • September (17): Beric is cleared of his conviction. He meets Rhiada on the Marsh.
    • Next day (18): Storm of the century, 3 day gale
    • Day after: Cornelius Chlorus arrives
    • Next day: Beric sends word with Rhiada to Guinear. Beric and Justinius return home.

CharactersEdit

  • The Dumnonii (1), tribe of southwest Britain. Men are shepherds, hunters, horsebreeders, sealers; women are farmers, cowherds. Patriarchal. "Free People" not subject to the Romans.
    • Cunori (1), son of Cuthlyn, the Chieftain's brother, Guinear's husband. Contrarian and obstinate (1). Red-haired, "a very truthful soul" (3).
    • Guinear (1), Cunori's wife, original object of the grudge between Cunori and Istoreth; mother of a dead baby girl, Beric (1), Arthmail and Arthgal. An affectionate parent (2). Rarely idle. Has a sister. Charges Beric to send her word from his new life (3). "'I heard her laugh, but I think she has not forgotten.'" (17).
    • Luath (1), Cunori's dog
    • Flann (1), villager who sights the wreck. Familiar with Romans (2).
    • Camulus the Lord of Storms (1), Celtic god
    • Merddyn the Druid (1), "Merddyn the old and crazy, who had once been powerful." "It was never pleasant to find Merddyn close to one unexpectedly". Yellow eyes, gaunt face. Long dead by chapter (2).
    • Beric (1), baby saved from a Roman shipwreck. "He was not born to be drowned, this one." Of mixed Celtic and perhaps Latin descent, small and broad with narrow hands and feet, dark haired and brown skinned. Inititated into the Spear Brotherhood but goes into exile soon after (3). Kidnapped into slavery in Rome (4). Sold to Piso (5). Becomes a stable hand, offends Glaucus over a bribe (6). Made Glaucus's charioteer (7). Catches the notice of Justinius. Attacks Glaucus (8). "although he was as tall as he would ever be, his shoulders had not yet broadened into a man's, and he was as supple as an otter." (9) Arrested in a bandit's den (10). Two years as a rower in Alcestis on the Rhine. Brutalised. "Every sound of her, every sight and smell, every variation in her behaviour in different seas had entered into him and become part of himself" (11) Whipped for attacking the overseer, collapses, tossed overboard (13). Stays afloat and swims ashore, staggers inland, flees legionaries, found by Justinius (14). "he wondered rather desperately if it would always be like this, always the Alcestis between him and the world, shutting him out." "He had felt very like a lost dog that had found someone to belong to" (15). "'We make poor sons, we who row the Empire's galleys; living after the ways of beasts, we forget how to live after the ways of men.'" (16). "'Shoulders like an ox, you have.'" "He had shut his foster kin away from him so long, they and the old life and the whole Clan that had betrayed him, and now it was very hard to let them in a again." (17). "The thought of [Alcestis] came to him without any of the old horror...he knew suddenly that never a wind would rise in all his life that would not taste salt on his lips and blow back to him, with an odd tugging at his heartstrings, the buoyant lift of the galley, and the straining swing of the white-fir oars." "it was just now, when Cornelius Chlorus the Legate, who did not much matter, had looked at him as one who had never seen him before, that suddenly he had known he was free. Free of the old unhapy things and the bitterness of betrayal that had been like an evil fog between him and the world. Free of the shackle-gall on his wrist." "'This [farm] is my belonging-place...Whether I stay, or whether I go forth again'" (18).
    • Istoreth (1), a hunter, Cunori's old rival for Guinear. Descended from a forefather of  "the Seal People, the People of the Sea" (the Epidii?) who was accepted into the Tribe's Spear Brotherhood (2). Stirs up superstition against Beric to spite Cunori (3).
    • Keri (1), another of Cunori's dogs
    • Arthmail (2), Beric's 6-year-old brother
    • Arthgal (2), Beric's 4-year-old brother
    • Amgerit the Chieftain (2), Cunori's brother, recommends that Beric be returned to the Romans (2). "drooping red wings of his moustache" (3)
    • Gourchien (2), tribesman familiar with Romans
    • Rhiada (2), the blind harper, speaks in favour of Beric (2, 3). Goes wandering after Beric's exile, taking Gelert with him. "He never asked questions that were best not answered" (17).
    • Ffion (2), "before he grew old and white haired, had been the best hunter in the tribe", speaks in favour of Beric: "I have reared a wolf-cub before now" (2). Dies before Beric is cast out (3).
    • Bran (2), "the wisest of all his father's hounds"
    • Pridfirth (2), "for twenty years and more... had taught the first handling of spear and javelin to the boys of the village"
    • Cathlan (2), a second-year boy, "a renowned fighter". Beric defeats him and he befriends Beric (2). Argues unsuccessfully for Beric (3). Married and has a son (17).
    • Gelert (3), Beric's dog, son of Bran and Keri, with a white blaze on his head. Tries to follow Beric when he leaves the village (3). " huge, brindled hound", adopted by Rhiada (17).
    • Lugh of the Shining Spear (9), Celtic god
    • Kylan (17), Rhiada's guide-kid, a tall boy of "fifteen or so", "with a thatch of fiery hair"
  • Romans (1), "the Eagle People", "the Red Crests"
    • Beric's parents (1): a young soldier and a woman with golden-brown hair, washed ashore from the wreck of their merchantman
    • Clio (4), "a battered little tub, a fine sea vessel"
      • Aristobulo (4), "a small, merry-looking" Greek slaver, sailor of the Clio, 'befriends' Beric, plagiarises the Odyssey
      • Phanes (4), captain of Clio, "a very tall man, powerfully and beautifully built...his close, curled beard was dyed vermilion and he wore gold drops in his ears like a woman"
      • Herope (4), left in charge of Clio's cargo
      • Castor (4), left in charge of Clio's cargo
    • Aaron Ben Malachi (4), slave-dealer in Rome, obsequious, with a thin grey beard. Jewish.
    • Lady Julia (5), in the market for a Gaulish litter-bearer. "A beautiful woman, but cold, so cold."
    • Philo (5), Lady Julia's temporary spare tire
    • Hirpinius (5) a Senator and acquaintance of Lady Julia's
    • A Centurion (5), "a young man with a broad, pleasant face" headed to Dacia, apologises to Beric for not being able to afford him
    • The Piso household (5):
      • Publius Lucianus Piso (5), the Magistrate, "a small stout man with a puckered pink face, and hot-tempered eyes of a very faded blue". Buys Beric (5). "under the fuss and the self-importance a kindly man", but buys and sells his slaves constantly. A heavy rider (6). Prides himself on "being a man of his word" (7). Aspires to the consulship (8).
      • Lady Poppaea (6), Piso's wife, "fat and white and fretful, without kindness". Feckless with money. Dotes on Glaucus (6). Wears jessamine scent (7).
      • Lady Lucilla (6), Piso's 15-year-old daughter. Resembles her mother superficially. Kind. Betrothed to Valarius (6). Not pretty. "she also had suffered at Glaucus's hands." (7). Invents an alibi for Beric's robbery charge that clears him (17).
      • Glaucus (6), Piso's son, "with his gay good looks and his lazy, laughing manner, standing out from his family like a goldfinch among sparrows." Beric is immune to his charm. Bribes Beric to help him trick his father into selling a horse to a debtor (6). Takes ownership of Beric in order to abuse him (7). "Beric's chief attention...focused on his master in whatever company they might be, as by the very strength of the hatred between them". Lashes out at Beric for spilling wine, gets the wine thrown in his face, and decides to sell him to the mines (8). Blackmailed by Justinius into selling Beric to him (16).
      • Nigellus (5), Piso's steward, "a thin grey man", Piso's personal slave since their boyhood. Only slave immune to frequent turnover.
      • Damon (5), slave Beric replaces
      • Tina (5), surmises that Beric is "soft in the head"
      • Panteon (5), man who takes charge of Beric on arrival
      • Hippias (6), Piso's stable-master, an old man, injured by a horse (6). Beric's friend, whom he suggests to Lucilla to take with her to Valarius's household, to prevent his being sold off (7). Prize witness for Beric's defense, coached by Lucilla (17).
        • Bucephalus (6), the roan charger who kicked Hippias
        • Venetia (6), the Icenian mare Glaucus seeks to persuade Piso to sell to a debtor
      • Aglaea (7), Lucilla's nurse, goes with her to Valarius's household
      • Automedan (7), Glaucus's body-slave, unsuitable for a charioteer
      • Agathos (7), the porter
      • Crito (8), the head table slave
      • Priscus (9), the watchman
    • Valarius Longus (6), a Magistrate friend of Piso's, Lucilla's betrothed, "a lean, dark man who bore the traces of his early soldiering" (6). "I have liked him ever since I can remember, and he likes me; he is kind and just." (7)
    • Claudia (7), pretty friend of Lucilla's
    • Dometella (7), pretty friend of Lucilla's
    • Titus Drusus Justinius (8), "a Senior Centurion of the Legions and a noted builder of roads and drainer of marshes to the outermosts ends of the Empire... a squat, barrel-chested man with immensely powerful shoulders, and arms whose length made him appear grotesque when one saw him standing. His dark, lean-cut face, with the great hooked nose and the black brows that almost met below the brand of Mithras on the forehead, might well have been a desert Arab's, but...his eyes...were the cold quiet grey of northern seas; the eyes of a man who might be merciless at times, but would never be unjust. It would be good to serve a man like that. 'If I were his slave!' Beric thought. 'If only I were his slave!'" "'I have the gravest doubts of my abilities as a Praefect, but I am a thoroughly good engineer.'" Part British on the distaff side, planning to retire above his last drainage project. Takes sudden notice of Beric, and defends him to Glaucus (8). Finds Beric in his farmyard and takes him in (14). A practiced doctor. His dead wife resembled Beric (15). Bought Beric from Glaucus, manumitted him. Asks Beric to remain as an honorary son (16). Commanding the emergency work on the Marsh Island end of the Rhee Wall (17, 18).
    • Clodias (8), a dinner-guest
    • Calpurnius Paulus (8), a dinner-guest, an old Senator conversing with Justinius. A friend of Justinius's, who might get Beric cleared of his charges (16)
    • Fulvius (8), a dinner-guest
    • Servius (8), Justinius's old Optio and steward of his house above the marsh. "whatever Justinius did was right in the eyes of his small badger-grey henchman"
    • The Twentieth Legion (9), with a charging boar standard, stationed in Britain and once seen by Beric on the Aurelian Way
    • Rhodope (9), a hill farmer who shelters Beric, "a little wizened rat of a woman, with a narrow, fierce face, but her manner, though harsh, was not unfriendly". Also shelters bandits. An ex-slave.
      • Milo (10), Rhodope's bandit acquaintance
      • Florus (10), an incompetent robber
      • Carpus (10), a dead robber
      • The Cyclops (10), a dead robber
      • Junius the Syrian (10), a robber chief
    • Licinius (10), a Watchman
    • The 22nd Legion (11), stationed at Colonia Agrippina
    • The Provincial Governor (11) of the Lower Rhenus, "a little plump man"
    • The Second Legion (11), drafts from the Upper and Lower Rhine headed for Britain. Justinius's legion on the marsh. Capricorn badge (16).
    • Cornelius Chlorus (11), new Legate of the 2nd Augustan, on a tour of inspection and heading to Britain. "he would always be in a hurry, that one, Beric thought, watching the handsome, impatient face...There would never be any patience in him." Not interested in the well-being of galley rowers (12). Coming to inspect the Wall (17). "it would take more than that, Beric thought, to keep Cornelius Chlorus the Legate from carrying out a plan, once made." (18).
    • Agrippa and Germanicus (11), generals who served in Germany
    • Alcestis of the Rhenus Fleet (11), "a low-set forty oar galley". Beric is "sixth from the bow on the steerboard side". A "square flame-red sail with its black eagle", "They hated the Alcestis, and with good cause. She had been a floating hell to them" (12)
      • Jason (11), Beric's oar-mate, kept him from giving up entirely. Ill. A Greek fresco painter enslaved for debt, who attacked a Senator. "For two years he and Beric had pulled the same oar... It was very seldom that they could speak to each other....All that seemed left to Beric of decency and faith and kindness was bound up in what he felt for the Greek beside him" (11). "gaunt, bearded face" "twisted faun's smile". Once owned a mallard-painted boat with his brother on their home island. Collapses at his oar, is whipped, dies, and pitched overboard (13).
        • Briseis (13), "my mother's old slave"
      • The Master (11), apparently a good sailor
      • Rufus (11), the Hortator. Throws Beric overboard still living (13).
      • Porcus (11), the Overseer, "lithe as a cat" with "white teeth in his copper face", "soft slurred voice" (13)
      • A Hun (11), rows behind Beric and Jason
      • Naso (12), the Second Overseer
      • The pilot (12), apparently a good sailor
      • The foxy man (13), Jason's replacement
    • Janiculum (11), Alcestis's sister-ship, rear of the convoy
    • Melas (14), legionary building the sea wall
    • Anthonius (14), responsible for the size of the building blocks
    • Cordaella (15), "a huge woman clad in a tunic of shrieking saffron, with long swinging pendants of silver filigree in her ears", "a soft, throaty voice like a wood-pigeon's". Servius's wife, Justinius's housekeeper. "a kind face soft-eyed and gentle" "'I am a free woman, and the wife of a Roman citizen.'" "to Cordaella, no sort of stray could ever come amiss."
    • Antares (14), Justinius's black stallion, "'of the strain of the Kailhan, whose descent is unbroken from the stables of Soliman, King of the Jews."'
    • Maia (14), a red Icenian brood mare
    • Justinius's wife (14), a Brigante, looked something like Beric, "'It is his eyes, and the way he carries his head. . . .Beautiful, she was–and she going against all her kin to wed with the Commander.'" Took her newborn son to visit her family and both died of the fever.
    • Centurion Geta (16), Justinius's second
    • Canog (16), "a little half-starved grey cur" Beric meets at the pool near the camp. Kicked by a pony and adopted by Beric (16). "She was a very talkative little dog. It was because of her trick of singing...he had named her Canog, a little Song." Has a puppy in September (17).
    • The Brigantes (16), "a tribe that has never taken kindly to the Eagles"

PlacesEdit

  • Dumnonia (1), southwest Britain, territory of the Dumnonii tribe beyond the Roman frontier,
    • Beric's village (1), on a hillside exposed to the sea, on the sea route to Isca Silurium. Capital of a Clan (2).
    • Killer Rock (1), wrecking shoal off the headland near the village
    • Seal Strand (1), the shore under the headland
    • Uxella (2), the Tribal Dun, former gathering-place before Roman interference
  • Roman Britain (1), Roman-governed territory
    • Isca Silurium (1), "great Legionary Station" beyond Beric's village
    • Isca Dumnoniorum (2), Roman frontier fort on the Dumnonian border. South-east of Beric's village. Walled town surrounding a red Roman fort atop a little hill. Town burned down after a rising c. 20 years ago. Forum and basilica; North and River (West) Gates, sketchy part of town below it (4).
      • The Golden Tree (4), hole-in-the-wall in the lower town, kept by a stout woman in a pink dress, where Aristobulo takes Beric
    • Justinius's marsh (8), his last drainage project, begun 4 years before (8).
      • A white shingle beach, a breast-high chalk wall, tidal saltings, a freshwater pool (14)
      • The Rhee Wall
      • Justinius's farmstead (8, 14), on a low hill above the marsh. Two wings and a tamarisk tree above a sheltered pasture.
      • A native fishing-village (16)
      • A camp of the Second (16)
      • Marsh Island (17), "a mile-long lift of land" at the south tip of the marsh and Rhee Wall, site of a small outpost and fish shacks
      • Bull Island (17), (Isle of Oxney), with a six-year-old shrine to Mithras, to the west of the Marsh
    • Durinum (8), an acceptable retirement spot
    • Aquae Sulis (8), ditto
    • Dubris Harbour (12), destination of the 2nd Legion draft convoy
    • Portus Lemanis (16), 10 miles north of the marsh
  • Barrier Sands (12), preferable not to wash up there
  • The Gaulish Fret (12), a passage
  • Italy (5)
    • Rome (5), capital of the Empire
      • The slave-market (5), in the lower city; Aaron Ben Malachi's pitch is at the corner of a temple
      • The house of Piso (5), walled compound on the Viminal Hill (6), overlooking the Forum (7)
      • The temple of Sylvan Pan (7), in a neglected garden in the vale between the Viminal and Esquiline Hills, with a single priest
      • The Suburra (7), slum also occupying this valley
      • Valarius's house (9), on the brow of the Pincian Hill
      • The Flaminian Way (9), road leading from the Forum out through the Flaminian Gate and north-east to Rimini
      • The Mamertime Prison (10), Beric does time (4 days) awaiting trial
      • The gardens of Lucullus (14), has an ornamental lake with little boats
    • The Alban Hills (6), in view of the city. Piso has a farm/summer villa there.
    • Ostia (8), the port of Rome
    • The Clodian Way (9), road carrying north from Rome
    • The Aurelian Way (9) coastal road out of Rome beyond Janiculum
    • The Appenines (9), mountain range east of Rome
    • The farm in the hills (9), a run-down operation 3 miles off the Aurelian Way, kept by Rhodope. A robbers' nest, burned down by the Watch (10).
  • The Lower Rhenus Province (11)
    • Colonia Agrippina (11), walled capital on the west bank of the Rhenus
    • Camp of the 22nd Legion (11) at Colonia Agrippina

Historical and literary backgroundEdit

Publication historyEdit

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