The Eagles Fly South
First edition cover




Short story



Historical era



Charles Keeping


Stories from Scottish History, BBC Scotland


The Capricorn Bracelet

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"The Eagles Fly South" is the last of six stories in the 1973 collection The Capricorn Bracelet, originally written as episodes of the BBC Scotland radio programme Stories from Scottish History. The book is illustrated by Charles Keeping.


Lucian, son of Centurion Lucius Calpurnius of the Onnum garrison, lives with his parents in a fortress-town on Hadrian's Wall. When he is fourteen, General Maximus, a famous commander with whom Lucius served in the Pict War, declares himself Emperor of Britain and takes troops from the south to wrest Gaul from the Emperor Gratian.

The following spring, soon after the birth of Lucian's sister, Maximus tours the Wall in order to remove part of its garrisons, including Lucius's Century. Lucius tells Lucian to take the family to his Votadini kin in Traprain Law if he does not return. In the autumn, they receive news of Gratian's defeat and death.

They hear nothing further for two years, when word reaches Onnum that Maximus has been defeated and executed along with his officers by the Emperor Theodosius. Lucian and his mother refuse to mourn until they receive definite word of Lucius's death. The next winter, Theodosius's officers come to dismantle the obsolete Wall defences. Their escort centurion seeks out Lucian to return his father's heirloom bracelet, entrusted to him on the night before his beheading.

Lucian takes the bracelet to his mother. They resolve to leave Onnum the next morning, but his mother declares that they will return to her father, a chieftain of the Damnonii. Lucian, with no Roman service to return to, remains among the Tribe, knowing that his sons will lose all trace of their Roman identity, all but for the Capricorn bracelet. The Wall is abandoned to the wolves.


Dates for The Capricorn Bracelet are given in the chapter headings.

  • 360s CE: the Pictish Wars, Hadrian's Wall fort towns abandoned
  • 383, summer, Lucius is 14: Maximus declares himself Emperor of Britain. Lucius's mother conceives.
  • 384, Spring: Lucius's sister born. Maximus comes to remove troops from the Wall.
  • 384, Autumn: Maximus defeats Gratian and controls Gaul
  • Autumn, 2.5 years later: news of Maximus's deafeat by Theodosius
  • Winter's end: Theodosius's officers inspect the Wall. Lucian's family leaves.


  • Lucianus Calpurnius,
  • Old Paulus, an old soldier who served all along the Wall, a justified cynic
  • Lucius Calpurnius, Lucius's father, Number Three Centurion of a Spanish Cohort at Onnum, from North of the Wall with kin at Traprain Law. Served under Maximus in the Pict War.
  • Lucius's mother, from the Dumnoni (Damnonii) northwest of the Wall, a chief's daughter, married at 17, with 2 dead sons after Lucius
  • The Sea Wolves, raiders from the east
  • The Scots, raiders from the west
  • General Maximus, Emperor of Britain
  • Lucius's sister, fifteen years younger than him
  • Gratian, young emperor fighting Maximus
  • Constantine, "Emperor before the Emperor before the last one", who converted the Empire to nominal Christianity
  • Theodosius, Emperor and next foe of Maximus
  • Centurion of the Officers' Escort, a comrade of Lucius's in the Pict War, commander of his guard before his execution


  • Hadrian's Wall
    • Onnum, Lucius's fort-town, where the North Road crosses into Valentia
    • Corstopitum, south of the Wall
    • Segedunum, the eastern end of the Wall, where Maximus lands
    • Borcovicus, Scythian Archers transferred to Onnum
  • The South, the Saxon Shore
  • Gaul, necessary to hold Britain
  • The North, Votadini to the east and Dumnoni to the west
    • Traprain Law