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Fire in the East (Warrior of Rome, #1)
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Fire in the East (Warrior of Rome #1)

3.87 of 5 stars 3.87  ·  rating details  ·  1,748 ratings  ·  105 reviews
'WAR IS HELL . . . '

The year is AD 255 - the Roman Imperium is stretched to breaking point, its authority and might challenged along every border. The greatest threat lies in Persia to the east, where the massing forces of the Sassanid Empire loom with fiery menace. There the isolated Roman citadel of Arete awaits inevitable invasion.

One man is sent to marshal the defences
Hardcover, 432 pages
Published September 12th 2008 by Michael Joseph (first published 2008)
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Mr. Matt
Fire in the East is the story of Marcus Clodius Ballista, a Roman commander who is sent to the frontier with the aggressive Sassanid Persan Empire. He is to hold things together in the East while the Emperors deal with troubles along the Rhine and the Danube. If he dies in the process, well, too bad. As a German, he is expendable.

The book starts slow. Super duper slow. I struggled to get invested in the story. Far too much time is spent on the journey from Rome to the distant town of Arete. And
I am left with a distinct feeling of ambivalence about this book. I have neither praise nor censure to bestow upon it. Which could be it's main issue in my eyes, it did not induce any emotion from me. Not to love or hate, not to recommend or malign it.

I did find a great quote because of it though. From the Roman senator and historian, Tacitus; from his book, The Agricola: When I reflect on the causes of the war, and the circumstances of our situation, I feel a strong persuasion that our united
There were two things wrong with this book in my opinion as I review it, yet I gave it 4 stars? Well, the first thing was that the pacing was slow. Slow. Slow.

It took me a good deal of time to get into it, and the siege (Not a spoiler, you know that Ballista, our hero, is taking his command to prepare the city of Arete for a siege. Yet that is foretelling, and that is the second troublesome problem with the book. (Now there be spoilers ahead...)

Here we have a doomed city. They are outnumbered 2
Gordon Doherty
This is an enjoyable tale once it gets going. I'm a big fan of the later, less-than-invincible Roman Empire, and this is set in just that era, with Dux Ballista being sent with a weak straggle of poorly-trained legionaries and auxilliaries to defend a sand-swept city far to the east against the might of the Sassanid army. The whole siege/bunker mentality really gets you onside with the protagonists.

Harry Sidebottom has gone to extreme lengths to ensure that the minutae of life in this time perio
David Manns
Sometimes it seems that the supermarket shelves are groaning under the weight of historical novels set during the 'Glory that was Rome'. Sadly many of them are unreadable tosh (yes, Ben Kane, I mean you!). However, Harry Sidebottom is a different proposition altogether.

A teacher of classical history at Oxford, Sidebottom knows his stuff, but, more to the point, he can also write. The man knows how to construct a pacey, exciting story and keep it moving.

Fire in the East is volume one of the Warri
This is definately more of a slow burner than other Roman period novels I've read so far.
There's none of the instant magnetism of Conn Iggulden or the earthy empathy & humanity of Ben Kane. It was this that initially led me to think that I'd be overall disappointed with this book, but as I've progressed further into the deep recesses of it, the more I've realised I'm starting to lap up the pages.

I guess the nature of the situation - protagonist heads to far-flung city to defend it against im
rating: 3/5

The first half was slow. Oh so very slow. I get that it was a set-up for the rest of the novel (series?) and came along with all the cultural explanations of the vastly culturally diverse Roman empire of the period. But still, damn, I was bored.

It also took me a long time to actually come to care about the characters. I was slow to warm up to Ballista, Maximus, Demitrios, Mamura, and others.

However, half-way through the book, the siege occurred, action started to pick up, and, once
Warrior of Rome: Fire in the East, the first book in a new series by Oxford scholar Dr Harry Sidebottom, is an unwieldy beast – just as unwieldy as the elephants ridden by the Persian army in this novel. It’s a cliché to say it, but this really is a book of two halves, and the first is by far the worst. It’s a slowly-plotted travelogue exploring ideas and ideologies present in the late Roman Empire, as we follow the unlikely-named Ballista and his men as they take a small force to the Persian ci ...more
Deren Kellogg
In the year 255 AD, Marcus Clodius Ballista, a German serving in the Roman army, is sent to take command of the city of Arete in Syria - the farthest eastern outpost of the Empire. His task is to defend the city against an expected attack by the Sassanid Persians and hold out until relieved by an Imperial field force. To do this, he has only a small detachment of legionnaires, some auxiliaries, and a few mercenary troops. After the siege begins, it becomes evident that there is an unknown traito ...more
Nick Brett
This is the first in academic Harry Sidebottom's "Ballista" Roman series.

Ballista is sent to the far eastern edge of the Roman empire to prepare and defend the Citadel of Arete from the onslaught of Persian forces. So, in a nutshell this is the tale of the journey to Arete, and then the defence of the city where the `barbarian' Ballista has to prove both his credibility and leadership.

This is not a fast moving story, those who suggest it is ponderous at times are not far from the truth, perhaps
M.G. Mason
Dealing with a period generally untouched in Roman history (due to a considerable lack of scholarly sources from the period) this series from Classical Historian Harry Sidebottom is set during the 3rd century crisis, a period that sees an almost endless supply of Emperors being installed and then deposed.

Some 30 years before Diocletian would rise to power and divide the empire into four manageable parts, this novel throws us straight in to a critical time in Roman history.

Enter Marcus Clodius Ba
To be honest when I went into this one it was with a hankering for some Historical fiction, but also with slight fear. When a historian turns his hand to fictional writing there is always the danger that it will turn into a lecture, not a story. This however, despite threatening, did not happen. I am pleased with this book and will certainly be coming back to sample more or the series soon. Four Stars.

This is the second historical fiction in a Row that has tackled the slightly prickly subject o
This was just okay for me. I read a different roman empire book yesterday that I liked much better than this one. I liked the history contained in this, hence the 2 stars. For being historical fiction, it was quite heavy on the historical aspect.

What I didn't appreciate was the way the story was told. It felt too contemporary for this particular era. It rubbed me the wrong way.
Not top-shelf historical fiction, but close. Nicely written, reasonably well plotted, and superbly well researched. If you're an armchair historian who is fond of Rome, the Hellenistic world, or Sassanid Persia, you'll find something to like. If you pay attention, there are plenty of Easter Eggs waiting for you. I'll be reading the second installment.
Jean Poulos
Harry Sidebottom is a fellow in ancient history at Oxford. His expertise shines though this book of historical fiction. The book is set for the most part during the Sassanid siege of Dura Europos (thinly disguised as the City of Arête. In the third century AD, the Roman Empire was in turmoil as civil war tears Italy apart and emperor follows emperor in rapid succession. The protagonist is Marcus Clodius Ballistra, a barbarian prince. In 255 AD the Persian Sassanid Empire attacks Rome’s eastern t ...more
Very good descriptions of 3rd century life and warfare in ancient middle east.
For most of the novel the lead character Ballista (the Roman commander) doesn't make a mistake. It seemed that every decision he made was correct; the way he interacted with the common soldier and the city's residents always was the right way. It was too good to be true and I was waiting for the 'other shoe' to drop - on him - and it did.
I have some reservations about the final battle and its aftermath - all because I
S.J. Arnott
"We will do what is ordered, and at every command we will be ready."

The first of five books featuring Ballista, an Angle who has risen through the ranks of the Roman army to become a general. In this story, he's sent to east to defend a border city against the Persians. Most of the book revolves about the preparations for the siege, then culminates in the attack itself.

The story is full of intrigue and excitement with Ballista simultaneously battling the enemy beyond the walls while watching his
David Campton
This is the first in this series, but I am glad it wasn't the first one that I read or else I might not have read any more. It starts very slowly, and whilst the pace picks up once the siege starts (it's OK - that's not a spoiler as the impending siege is a given from the beginning) it comes to a very sudden stop. He also doesn't follow through fully on a number of story arcs, including a who/why dunnit and the work/fate of the frumentarii... But I suppose that there is a certain authenticity in ...more
Mark Hennion
Perhaps a better way to sum up this book would be "At the farthest ends of the Roman Empire, a newly appointed governor must bolster the defenses of a city facing an enemy greater than ever known. But the enemy gathers inside the walls as well as without, and when the governor's predecessor is found murdered he must root out the corruption from within before it is too late."

Or something like that.

As with so many series books, the challenge of the publisher and author to provide a good synopsis
Kerry Hennigan

Warrior of Rome Part One

Harry Sidebottom

Dr Sidebottom knows his stuff, as he should being a teacher of classical history at the University of Oxford. His story of Ballista, military leader of the Roman Empire’s remote eastern outpost on the Euphrates River, is based on real events. It is AD255 and the Sassanid Persians under their leader Shapur are besieging the city of Arete – a fictional version of Dura Europos. What we know about Dura is based not on historical texts, most of
Jess Schira
I have mixed feelings about this book. On one hand, the historical accuracy is amazing, which is one of the reasons I decided to read this book. The problem with historical accuracy is that it can be hard to follow, and doesn't always make sense.

The biggest problem I had with this novel, which is the first in a trilogy, was that it was slow going. Reading this book, particularly the first 150 pages takes time. It's not a book that I would recommend someone take on a vacation or to the beach. Ge
Adam Foerster
Um conto sobre um guerreiro germânico(anglo) chamado Balista que se torna oficial no exército do império romano. Após criar uma reputação de bom defensor de cidades sitiadas ele é enviado como Dux para defender uma cidade que está prestes a ser sitiada pelos sassanides.
O velho conflito do oriente versus ocidente, contada a partir de uma era onde o oeste decadente cada vez mais é ameaçado por um oriente ascendente.
Toda a estória gira em torno do sítio, e, apesar de acompanhar de perto Balista não
The comparison has been made between this and Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey-Maturin series. There are some obvious character parallels - Ballista/Aubrey, Demetrius/Maturin - plus similarities in the scholarly employment of historical detail as a means of immersing the reader in the worlds of Rome during the last days of the empire and Britain/France during the last days of Napoleon. This is especially true in the description of the instruments and prosecution of warfare.

Where the two series differ i
While I've read - and enjoyed - my share of historical novels, I usually stayed away from ancient Roman and Greek times (having suffered too much through history classes as dry as they were unimaginative). I don't recall what made me pick up Fire in the East and give it a try, but I am glad that I did.

Harry Sidebottom paints a vivid picture of the situation at the Eastern border of the Roman Empire in 256 AD, with recognizable characters who - while not forcing you into their heads - still mana
Jason Golomb
Fire in the East is a strong newcomer in the category of Roman Military Historical Fiction. The book is smart, finely detailed, violent and exciting.

Author Harry Sidebottom is a published professor of ancient history and he draws very detailed accounts of all aspects of Roman military life in the mid 3rd Century. This is the true victory of what's intended to be a 3-book series titled "Warriors of Rome". Few historical fictions contain the detailed notes, glossary and bibliography that Sidebott
Duarte Branquinho
A trilogia “O Guerreiro de Roma”, iniciada com “Fogo a Oriente”, tornou-se um verdadeiro fenómeno literário. O autor destas aventuras é Harry Sidebottom, professor de História Clássica na Universidade de Oxford, onde é membro da St. Benet’s Hall e leitor do Lincoln College, e especialista em guerra na Antiguidade, arte clássica e história cultural do Império Romano. À qualidade da narrativa e do enredo junta-se assim um profundo conhecimento histórico. Tal nota-se, ainda, nos excelentes anexos n ...more
Keith Currie
Did you hear the one about the Englishman, the Scotsman and the Irishman who went off to fight for a declining superpower against religious fanatics in the East where they were under-resourced and written off as expendible, yet achieved wonders against incredible odds? Well then, meet Ballista the 'Angle', Calgacus the 'Caledonian' and Maximus the 'Hibernian'. I was initially put off reading this book because of the title which conjured up another cash-in series of violent and inaccurate novels ...more
Alex Telander
Dr. Harry Sidebottom knows what he’s talking about when he writes about ancient Rome: he teaches classical history at the University of Oxford, and is a well-respected scholar on ancient warfare, classical art, and the cultural history of the Roman Empire. It seems perfectly fitting that he should turns his writing abilities and knowledge to writing historical fiction on the world he is so familiar with.

It is the year AD 255 and the Roman Empire encompasses most of the western world, but it is b
I am not well versed in the history of the later Roman Empire so much of this book was educational. The novel is set in the Roman far east and describes the siege of a fictional city supposedly set near modern Homs, Syria by Sassanid Persians. The book was well written but it had certain flaws. The primary character's language was unnecessarily foul and while I don't expect the most gentle utterances by a Roman legate, I doubt he would have said the f-word every paragraph. The author was going t ...more
You can't help but like Ballista, the big, blond barbarian from the north. From the way he treats his slaves - Calgacus has some of the best lines in the book. From the way he plans to defend the city and to the way he remains faithful to his wife, regardless of the temptation thats right in front of his face.

The story was good, kept me page turning. Not as entertaining as The Eagle series by Scarrow but well worth a read. Looking forward to the next one.
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Harry Sidebottom is Lecturer in Ancient History at Merton College, Oxford, and part-time lecturer in Classics and Ancient History at the University of Warwick. He has written for and contributed to many publications, including Classical Review, Journal of Roman Studies, and War and Society in the Roman World.

More about Harry Sidebottom...

Other Books in the Series

Warrior of Rome (6 books)
  • King of Kings (Warrior of Rome, #2)
  • Lion Of The Sun (Warrior of Rome, #3)
  • The Caspian Gates (Warrior of Rome, #4)
  • The Wolves of the North (Warrior of Rome, #5)
  • The Amber Road (Warrior of Rome, #6)
King of Kings (Warrior of Rome, #2) Lion Of The Sun (Warrior of Rome, #3) The Caspian Gates (Warrior of Rome, #4) The Wolves of the North (Warrior of Rome, #5) The Amber Road (Warrior of Rome, #6)

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