Good parts -- detailed use of Polybius and Plutarch, very Greek centered as opposed to being Roman centered as so much on this period is, covers a perGood parts -- detailed use of Polybius and Plutarch, very Greek centered as opposed to being Roman centered as so much on this period is, covers a period of history where there isn't really much else recent out there, and he's clearly been to the sites and paid attention -- a good feel for the physical reality of locations.
Bad parts -- very heavily militarily oriented, to the point where there's practically no discussion of anything but military affairs and everything is considered as leading up to a battle. I'd have happily lost the multiple battle plans (which look terrible on the Kindle anyway) in favour of a bit of discussion on the social aspects of life. Also, Roberts never saw a cliche or a tired simile he didn't like.
I can't really recommend this except to those obsessed with the Hellenistic period and military buffs...more
We have so much more information about Rome than we do about Parthia that it's great that Sampson even tried to write a balanced account. He's also beWe have so much more information about Rome than we do about Parthia that it's great that Sampson even tried to write a balanced account. He's also bending over backwards to be fair to Crassus, which was different. But this was much more a military history than what I wanted -- which isn't fair. As a military history it's pretty good, and reasonably solid.
If you don't know much about Carrhae and want to know more, this would be a terrific book, as comprehensive and modern as you're likely to get.
I wanted more about the Parthians.
There were a couple of unexamined things that made me roll my eyes -- the "Greek cities" of Mesopotamia were glad to be liberated by the Romans? Oh really? Because? There's no evidence, and this is just sloppy thinking. I'd really like something that examined identity and culture in the Hellenistic cities -- closest I have found is Kosmin's _Land of the Elephant Kings_. Also, when discussing Crassus's head being used as a prop in _The Bacchae_ Sampson says the Parthians and Armenians had absorbed some Hellenistic culture -- well, yes, but again, how much and what did that mean? Whose heirs did they think they were? They must have been Greek speaking -- or at least bilingual. I know we don't know the answers to a lot of this, but the questions should at least be raised, rather than conventionally ignored....more
Grainger holds the punctuated equilibrium theory of history, which works quite well for looking at this turbulent decade across the east-west belt froGrainger holds the punctuated equilibrium theory of history, which works quite well for looking at this turbulent decade across the east-west belt from Spain to India. This is smoothly written, uses its sources well, and does brilliantly at making the chaos of the end of the Seleukids coherent. I'd been saving this as a treat and enjoyed it a lot.
Having said that, I'm not sure who the audience for this book is except me. It's not an academic book, though it's well researched, it's aimed at the general reader, but what general reader is likely to care? Maybe what niche publishing and the internet means is that there will be more awesome books like this on things I have always wanted to know more about like the Parthians. People always talk in terms of fiction, but maybe non-fiction is where it can really thrive.
Grainger knows his stuff, where he's talking about things I already know about, which means I could entirely trust him when he's talking about things I know nothing about like the Chinese sources for India and Baktria, and weighing up the contentious numismatic evidence. Solid book, fun read, recommended....more