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Download The Age of the Soldier Emperors: Imperial Rome, A.D. 244-284 (Noyes Classical Studies) epub

by Jr. George C. Brauer

Download The Age of the Soldier Emperors: Imperial Rome, A.D. 244-284 (Noyes Classical Studies) epub
ISBN: 0815550367
ISBN13: 978-0815550365
Category: Other
Subcategory: Humanities
Author: Jr. George C. Brauer
Language: English
Publisher: Noyes Pubns; 1st edition (June 1, 1975)
Pages: 288 pages
ePUB size: 1127 kb
FB2 size: 1298 kb
Rating: 4.9
Votes: 641
Other Formats: lrf lrf rtf mbr

Well written, quick to read. Meanders through some topics that don't fit the subject of the book. It has multiple chapters on early Christianity, which is fine, but it doesn't mesh with the rest of the book.
This book is a sequel to The Young Emperors. It's an overly simplistic and moralistic telling of the second half of the 3rd Century Crisis. It relies too much on primary sources and accepts their statements almost unquestioningly. The reasoning is simplistic at best and his presentation of reality reads more like fantasy. He fills it with hyperbole like "but the day had not yet come when Germanic warriors would enter the sacred city." It comes as no surprise to learn that the author is an English professor. His interpretation of the sources is extremely basic and displays little evidence of analysis. He accepts the traditional authors of the Historia Augusta despite the fact that they have been proven fake for about fifty years by the time he wrote this.

The interpretations of character are simplistic. These figures are never allowed to develop beyond a one-dimensional character trait. It isn't usually a subtle trait either. The chapter on Valerian is entitled "The Emperor as an Old Man." Having decided that Valerian was incompetent (an opinion shared by few of his contemporaries despite his catastrophic defeat) he fills the descriptions of his actions with words demonstrating his laziness, uncaringness, and incompetence. As he put it, "neither Gallienus nor his inept father could cope." Similarly he has Odaenathus fight Persia on Rome's side solely because the Persian king Shapur insulted him. Even those who've never heard of these people should recognize that presenting this story unquestioningly is ridiculous. See that comment about fantasy above.

His simplification of character can also be sexist at times. His treatment of Zenobia is a real surprise coming from the '70s. I honestly looked to the publishing date in the beginning expecting to see a print date of 1920 or 30. An example from page 203: "Pollio in the Augustan History talks about her Arab beauty but in some ways she resembled a man." The ways that she resembles a man is in her having intellectual and leadership abilities. Or to put it his way she had "a hunger for incalculable wealth and vast domination" a trait which she "shared which Cleopatra." This is basically how he sees women who betray their gender by competing with men.

As far as the structure of the book itself it's laid out reasonably well. The book is basically a string of biographies, though he tries to make each one relevant to the bigger picture. Looking at it from a novelistic perspective the chapters flow well. The two themes of the book are the lives of the individual emperors and the history of the Christian church. The latter gets quite a lot of attention during the persecutions (five chapters deal with religious matters) but generally it's the emperors who get the focus.

I can't really recommend this book. I suppose that it could serve as a good popular history of the period but the price tag alone puts it outside the reach of all but the wealthiest of readers. As expected from an English teacher the writing and characterization read like a decent novel. Much better books on this era are The Roman Empire from Severus to Constantine and The Roman Empire at Bay. The former is a very easy read for beginners who just want to understand the narrative, while the latter is designed as an in-depth analysis of the period. Both are excellent.

EDIT: Reading through it again (while I don't withdraw any of my previous statements) I have to appreciate his passion for this period. He did a lot of research for this book and this isn't an era particularly accessible to the outside reader. Many of his sources come from dusty old 19th century translations into Latin, which couldn't have been easy for him. No English translations of Zonaras existed until 2010 and ones for Dexippus and Peter the Patriarch still don't exist. His use of coins as illustrations is wonderful, though he seems sadly unaware of even basic uses of numismatics. Since I may have been a little harsh I'm upping it from two stars to three as I think in retrospect that it is probably the easiest to read of all the books on the period. It may get a lot wrong, but if you're just reading up on it for pleasure you could do a lot worse than this book.
I found this book at a university library and it is relatively rare and now out of print. The period covered in this book is the murkiest phase of Roman history, the Period of Military Anarchy (or the 3rd Century Crisis as it is referred to in articles on wikipedia). Along with military anarchy there is a degree of narrative anarchy for anybody trying to understand what came between the Severan Dynasty and the absolutism of Diocletian. Of course Gibbon should be everybody's go-to source especially if they have all the time in the world to wade through his colorful if attenuated prose. Michael Grant has a number of books on the period too, but Brauer is good in that he is clear and attempts to bring some degree of human interest, even if it may be conjecture.He tries to make it character driven, even if there might not be enough actual material to do so. Unlike the two authors mentioned above, Brauer was not a Rome scholar, he was an English professor in Florida with an interest in Roman numismatics (coin collecting), a trait shared with Michael Grant. Like those other authors, he had to read the ancient sources and weigh them as they are frequently contradictory. Worst of all is the Scriptores Historia Augusta (HA), a court history written centuries after events and chock fulla tall tales that have been debunked from other more reliable sources.
There are frequent times Brauer will relate one of these apocryphal tales as well as the fact that its been discredited, just to spin an interesting yarn. Brauer also deals with ecclesiastical histories, so there are chapters relating to the lives of early church doctors in this period, however these don't always really propel the narrative of imperial intrigue that is the main feature of the era.
So we start off with a colorful description of Philip the Arab's millennial celebration of the founding of Rome, the rise of Decius, some early church stuff (i.e. persecutions interspersed with vicious internal bickering over orthodoxy and heresy), a bunch of coups followed by coups and civil wars. Things really get going once we get to Valerian and his son, Gallienus. This is the real Fall of the Roman Empire material: Germanic invaders in the West, Shapur the badass Persian overlord in the East and the collapse of the economy due to monetary hyperinflation (debasement of the currency).
Things only get worse when Valerian is captured in battle and Gallienus takes over. This gives a couple dozen so-and-so's with military power the go ahead to declare themselves Caesar, too. Most of them get killed, but the Empire of Gaul (France, Britain and Spain) split off and so did the Empire of Palmyra (the Roman East centered around a major trading city). Palmyra comes under the rule of Zenobia, one of the most interesting women of this period. At no time does Gallienus attempt to ransom his dad, who is now serving as a literal stepping-stool of the Persian Shan-an-shah, Shapur (whom Gibbon calls the greatest ruler of his age, so who's gonna outdo that?). To top things off, a new nation of Germanics, the Goths (who fathered so many barbarian leaders from Theodoric to Odoacer to Siouxsie Sioux) now invade the Black Sea. Gallienus has gotten a bad rap from Gibbon, but he did reform the Roman Army from a poorly disciplined (after Severus) rabble to a mobile fighting force deploying the badass cataphracts you really ought to see more of in the movies. Too bad for Gallienus they different ideas about who should be emperor.
There's some stuff in here about the history of the Church and the persecutions as well as St. Cyprian but I'm more into the State than Church angle of this book. If you read those parts, you will certainly know those stories about schisms and Arianism and just what the church did with people who had renounced it during the prosecutions.
But yeah at this point the Goths get only worse, getting as far into the Empire as the Balkans and even the Po Valley of Italy herself, but the Roman generals at this point are back to being a professional army that can kick German barbarian ass (God knows they get enough practice from this point onward), so we get a string of results oriented Emperors from these soldiers of Illyrian stock. The Breakaway Roman states get re-assimilated but the problems of keeping the army in check only gets worse as the value of Roman money gets so bad that some places start reverting to barter.
So there you have it, this is what led to the reign of Diocletion and ultimately Constantine and the beginning of Christian Medieval Europe. Read this book and you'll probably be able to remember it as well as I did, but I also read Goldsworthy, Grant and Gibbon before so by now I think I've got this part down cold. Also be on the lookout for the graphic novel about all of this once I have completed it.