In "The Excalibur Alternative", there is a mention of the Roman Legion which was kidnapped by the Federation.

First, in Chapter XIII, they explain that the whole plot of the book was driven by that - one Guild member gained an advantage by using Romans...

"So what did the Sharnhaishians do?" the alien continued. "I'll tell you what. They went out and found another primitive world, one the Council didn't even know about yet, and they bought their damned 'Romans.' Never occurred to any of the rest of us.

"Not the Sharnhaishians, though. If they want a primitive world, they just send in their Romans. Just as primitive as the local barbarians, so the Council can't complain, and I'll say this for the Romans. They're tough. Never run into anything they couldn't handle, and the Sharnhaishians've used them to take dozens of backwater worlds away from the other guilds.

And the Commander decided to steal that same play by kidnapping more "barbarians" from Earth - this time, the protagonists:

So they gave me a chance to reclaim my career if I could find where the Romans came from, get past the Council ban, and catch us some Romans of our own. And I did it, too."

"But we're not Romans," Sir George pointed out

Then, Chapter XI of shows that the events at the conclusion of the book, were precipitated by the same Roman legion, rebelling against Sharnhaishians, taking over the ship and flying it back to Earth:

So I'd guess that the final act in that little Kabuki play will be the presentation of an official note demanding that we hand the ship—and the Romans—over on pain of military action."

... I mean, all they're really demanding is that we hand over to them a ship that's stolen private property and the crew—who are also private property, under the Federation's laws—who stole it and murdered their legal owners in the process.

I vaguely recall that I may have read something - likely by Weber - that may have described the actual adventures of this Roman Legion; but I'm not certain that it is not just a "spaghetty incident", invented just to drive plot in this book. So, my question is:

Do any of Weber's other works explain the story of the Roman legion that Sharnhaishians took?

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    Isn't that the other David's [Drake] story? Ranks of Bronze covers the rebellion of the Romans and their flight back to (but not arrival at) Earth.
    – DavidW
    Apr 12, 2021 at 18:32

1 Answer 1


It's a reference to the David Drake novel Ranks of Bronze, published in 1986. The Excalibur Alternative, from 2002, is a quasi-sequel using the same setting.

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    Yes, 3 books in a more or less series. 1. Ranks of Bronze (1986), 2. Foreign Legions (2001), 3. The Excalibur Alternative (2002). Ranks of Bronze is the Roman Legion's story. Foreign Legions is a collection of short stories by various authors set in the same universe. The Excalibur Alternative is an expansion of Weber's short story "Sir George and the Dragon" from Foreign Legions to a full length novel. As Keith mentioned, its really more of a quasi-sequel using the same setting. So read David Drake's "Ranks of Bronze" if you want the Roman Legion's story.
    – NJohnny
    Apr 13, 2021 at 0:05
  • There is a... trend, for the lack of the better word, to just throw out an idea and then invite other writers to chip in. I think it started some 20 years ago or so. There's a lot of series that are being a collaboration of several writes, so I'd say it's a series because they explore the same universe, but do expect that they are written to be standalone works, alluding, but not linking to the initial piece. They may be folded into bigger series, too... Weber had that headache with the Crown of Slaves (Honorverse spinoff, that eventually was the tail that wagged the dog...)
    – AcePL
    Apr 13, 2021 at 7:37
  • @AcePL There is a long literary tradition of doing this. Lovecraft did this. I've heard of older examples.
    – NomadMaker
    Apr 13, 2021 at 10:42
  • @NomadMaker, Yeah, I unconsciously self-edited out of the comment the "in earnest" bit from started some 20 years ago or so part.
    – AcePL
    Apr 14, 2021 at 11:41
  • @AcePL, if you want one of the oldest example in literature most people in the world would be familiar with, take the Bible. Apr 14, 2021 at 13:01

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