A collection of several short stories by David Drake, detailing a single story thread among all the stories.
The basic plot behind all the stories is the existence of a group of approximately 12 alien races, known as the Doge. These are races that have achieved interstellar travel. They use their advanced technology to advance a mercantile society among the races they find in space.
Under their own laws, any society that has not left their own planet or discovered atomic technology are Class Two, suitable only for slave labor. Any that have found these technologies but not hyperdrive, are Class One, suitable for use in advanced jobs.
Using their own technology, and various slave races, they keep any and all races they discover from advancing their own technology, thus keeping the power of the Doge within the same twelve races.
One of their few rules is that to "trade" on a planet (in other words, take complete control of the economy and the race), is that they are not allowed to use any type of weaponry more advanced than the beings on the planet have.
At this point, we enter the story. A group of Roman Legionaries, fresh from a loss against Parthians has been sold to a slave ship that had delved deep into the far reaches of the galaxy. This is the only contact with Earth for many years.
The first and third stories detail what happens to this group of Legionaries over thirty some campaigns, with cold sleep time in between, and how they finally escape, many years later.
These stories are quite crude, and appear to be an example of David Drake's earliest work.
A third story, "St. George and the Dragon", is written by another author in the same universe, while also being non-canon, as the final story shows.
SPOILERS BELOW FOR FINAL STORY.
The final story was written many years later, and the polishing of the writing shows. This story details how humanity dealt with the return of the Romans, 2000 years after their abduction.
It ends up being a wonderful story, with unbelievably funny imagery. Think USS Enterprise (the aircraft carrier) as a space ship, protected by force shields. Think a Roman Galley as a messenger ship, with the Admiral on the Enterprise unable to keep his laughter and sense of the absurd as the Romans "row" their galley to the carrier, outside the orbit of Pluto.
It is imagery like this, and the sense of granduer and fellowship that makes this last story shine. I found myself cheering during the first "show of power".
A nice light read, quite suitable for fans of military sci-fi.