In The Name Of Rome - Adrian Goldsworthy
In The Name Of Rome
(The Men Who Won The Roman Empire)
ISBN: 0297846663 (Amazon link)
I should not be allowed in real, bricks and mortar bookshops, as I'm prone to walking out with expensive hardbacks. In this case I had just finished the authors The Fall of Carthage and wondered what his other titles were like. Next thing you know I'm noticing that two of the case studies in this book cover events I've read about in fiction and am using that to justify buying In The Name of Rome.
It's a niche title really, even within the history section, and probably not one I would have considered without flicking through a physical copy - 15 essays on the lives of famous Roman generals (okay, Caesar gets two essays). Typically you get some background on the period they operated in, a potted bio of the general, and then a detailed examination of their campaigns. This is a military history, and the politics of the time is only considered when required to understand the appointment or actions of each general. Naturally, as the essays span a long period of history, from the early Republic to Byzantium, Goldsworthy has to use some of the essays to look at wider issues - changes in the Roman political system, or changes to the armies equipment and organisation.
Actually, I found this book filled in a lot of blanks for me as I've been confusing the manipular and cohort armies for some time in my fiction reading, and although I was aware of the Marian reforms, I was never really sure what they entailed. Equally interesting was the examination of some of the more famous figures from a military point of view - usually when reading about Pompey and Caesar the campaigns are secondary to their political ambitions, and it was fascinating to see how they are regarded strictly on their generalship.
The two episodes that caught my eye in particular were Titus Vespasianus' Siege of Jerusalem and the campaigns of Julian the Apostate. The Siege of Jerusalem is background in Lindsey Davis' Falco detective novels, with Falco having lost a brother there under Titus. Julian the Apostate gets an entire book by Gore Vidal to himself and, as I've noted before in this book-log, Julian is one of the novels that got me interested in Roman history.
Personally, I found In The Name of Rome surprisingly interesting. As I noted when reading his history of the Punic Wars, he's strict about his sources and cautious in his analysis, but writes clear history for an amateur audience.
Posted: Sun - January 11, 2004 at 09:29 PM