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message 1: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Mar 08, 2010 01:57AM) (new)

Bentley | 44167 comments Mod
This thread will discuss the military aspects leading to the collapse of the Roman Empire.

Please feel free to open up discussion regarding the Roman military organization, apparatus, strategies and what led to their ultimate downfall. This is not a non spoiler thread.

Some of the topics that may be discussed on this thread include the following:

Political Control
Frontiers and Fortifications
Army (Legion, Infantry Tactics, Personal Equipment. Siege Engines, Navy Fleet, Auxiliaries)
Decorations and Punishment

The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire 1 by Edward Gibbon Edward Gibbon Edward Gibbon

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On Line Reference Book for Medieval Studies:

Late Antiquity in the Mediterranean

The Collapse of the Roman Empire--Military Aspects

Hugh Elton

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This is some background on the Roman Army:

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This is a Wikipedia article on the Roman Army and its Historical Phases:

This is the list of the Roman legions:

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This is the list of the Roman auxiliary regiments:

Source: Wikipedia

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This is a list of the Roman Military Auxiliaries:

Source: Wikipedia

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This is a Wikipedia article on the Roman Legions:

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This is a Wikipedia article on the Late Roman Army:

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Regarding the Byzantine Army:

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message 11: by 'Aussie Rick' (new)

'Aussie Rick' (aussierick) For some easy to read accounts of the Roman Legions I can recommend books by Stephen Dando-Collins:

Caesar's Legion The Epic Saga of Julius Caesar's Elite Tenth Legion and the Armies of Rome by Stephen Dando-Collins by Stephen Dando-Collins
"A unique and splendidly researched story, following the trials and triumphs of Julius Caesar's Legio X--arguably the most famous legion of its day--from its activation to the slogging battle of Munda and from Thapsus, Caesar's tactical masterpiece, to the grim siege of the Jewish fortress of Masada. More than a mere unit account; it incorporates the history of Rome and the Roman army at the heighth of their power and gory glory. Many military historians consider Caesar's legions the world's most efficient infantry before the arrival of gunpowder. This book shows why. Written in readable, popular style, CAESAR'S TENTH, is a must for military buffs and anyone interested in Roman history at a critical pointin European civilization." - T. R. Fehrenbach

Nero's Killing Machine The True Story of Rome's Remarkable 14th Legion (Roman Legions) by Stephen Dando-Collins by Stephen Dando-Collins
The 14th Gemina Martia Victrix Legion was the most celebrated unit of the early Roman Empire–a force that had been wiped out under Julius Caesar, reformed, and almost wiped out again. After participating in the a.d. 43 invasion of Britain, the 14th Legion achieved its greatest glory when it put down the famous rebellion of the Britons under Boudicca. Numbering less than 10,000 men, the disciplined Roman killing machine defeated 230,000 rampaging rebels, slaughtering 80,000 with only 400 Roman losses–an accomplishment that led the emperor Nero to honor the legion with the title "Conqueror of Britain." In this gripping book, second in the author’s definitive histories of the legions of ancient Rome, Stephen Dando-Collins brings the 14th Legion to life, offering military history aficionados a unique soldier’s-eye view of their tactics, campaigns, and battles.

Mark Antony's Heroes How the Third Gallica Legion Saved an Apostle and Created an Emperor by Stephen Dando-Collins by Stephen Dando-Collins
"The Third Gallica Legion, originally formed in Gaul, was involved in many of the key Roman military campaigns in the century that preceded and the century that followed the birth of Christ. This, of course, was a tumultuous period characterized by political chaos and civil war as Rome made the transition from the republic to the imperium. Dando-Collins is the author of several books that focus on Roman military units. He has written a tough, gritty chronicle of the trials, tribulations, and triumphs of soldiers who operate in both military and politically treacherous waters. Dando-Collins^B has filled his account with plenty of blood and guts, and he convincingly illustrates the hard and tenuous existence of legionnaires on campaign. He also provides interesting insights into the political intrigues and machinations behind some of the campaigns, particularly during the year 69 CE, the so-called Year of Four Emperors, which resulted in the founding of the Flavian dynasty. This is an interesting and well-written work that should appeal to general readers with interests in both military and classical history." - Booklist

The only issue I have with these books is the author's use of modern military terminology and rank structure to describe the Roman Legions hierarchy.

message 12: by 'Aussie Rick' (new)

'Aussie Rick' (aussierick) Fot those who prefer a more detailed outline of the Roman Army and its Legions then "The Complete Roman Army" by Adrian Goldsworthy is one of the better books on the subject.

The Complete Roman Army by Adrian Goldsworthy by Adrian Goldsworthy
Publishers blurb:
The Roman army was one of the most successful fighting forces in history. Its highly advanced organization and tactics were unequaled until the modern era, and monuments to its perseverance and engineering skill are still visible today throughout Europe and the Mediterranean world.
This book is the first to examine in detail not just the early imperial army, but also the citizens' militia of the republic and the army of the later empire. Every aspect of the Roman army, from the daily lives of individual soldiers to the outcome of major campaigns, is explored:

• The Republican Army considers the earliest armies, the creation of the Roman navy, and the militia army that conquered the Mediterranean.
• The Professional Army describes reforms under Marius and his successors and the creation of the new legionary structure.
• The Life of a Roman Soldier looks in detail at all aspects, from recruitment and daily routine to equipment and off-duty life.
• The Army at War reveals how the army operated, from grand tactics to hand-to-hand combat and siege warfare.
• The Army of Late Antiquity examines the reorganization after the defeats of the third century and the rise in the use of cavalry.

Discussions of key Roman battles and brief biographies of the great commanders bring the army's campaigns and personalities to life, while hundreds of photographs, diagrams, and specially commissioned battle plans illustrate the many aspects of the Roman army over several centuries.

message 13: by 'Aussie Rick' (new)

'Aussie Rick' (aussierick) This next book is for those who really want to get into the nitty gritty aspects of legionary life and immerse themselves in history:

Legionary The Roman Soldier's (Unofficial) Manual by Philip Matyszak by Philip Matyszak
Publishers blurb:
This carefully researched yet entertainingly unacademic book tells you how to join the Roman legions, the best places to serve, and how to keep your armor from getting rusty. Learn to march under the eagles of Rome, from training, campaigns, and battle to the glory of a Roman Triumph and retirement with a pension plan.

Every aspect of army life is discussed, from drill to diet, with handy tips on topics such as how to select the best boots, or how to avoid being skewered by enemy spears.

message 14: by 'Aussie Rick' (new)

'Aussie Rick' (aussierick) Here is a brand new book covering one of Rome's greatest defeats:

[image error] by Robert L. O'Connell
Publishers blurb:
For millennia, Carthage’s triumph over Rome at Cannae in 216 B.C. has inspired reverence and awe. It was the battle that countless armies tried to imitate, most notably in World Wars I and II, the battle that obsessed legendary military minds. Yet no general ever matched Hannibal’s most unexpected, innovative, and brutal military victory—the costliest day of combat for any army in history. Robert L. O’Connell, one of the most admired names in military history, now tells the whole story of Cannae for the first time, giving us a stirring account of this apocalyptic battle of the Second Punic War, and its causes and consequences.

O’Connell shows how a restive Rome amassed a giant army to punish Carthage’s masterful commander, who had dealt them deadly blows at Trebia and Lake Trasimene, and how Hannibal outwitted enemies that outnumbered him. O’Connell describes Hannibal’s strategy of blinding his opponents with sun and dust, enveloping them in a deadly embrace and sealing their escape, before launching a massive knife fight that would kill 48,000 men in close contact. The Ghosts of Cannae then brilliantly conveys how this disastrous pivot point in Rome’s history ultimately led to the republic’s resurgence and the creation of its empire.

Piecing together decayed shreds of ancient reportage, the author paints powerful portraits of the leading players: Hannibal, resolutely sane and uncannily strategic; Varro, Rome’s co-consul who was so scapegoated for the loss; and Scipio Africanus, the surviving (and self-promoting) Roman military tribune who would one day pay back Hannibal at Zama in North Africa. Finally, O’Connell reveals how Cannae’s legend has inspired and haunted military leaders ever since, and the lessons it teaches for our own wars.

Superbly researched and written with wit and erudition, The Ghosts of Cannae is the definitive account of a battle whose history continues to resonate.

message 15: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

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Thank you so much Aussie Rick for your add.

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'Aussie Rick' (aussierick) For those who Gibbon has wetted their appetite for the might of the Roman Legions here is a new book due out soon that may interest them for further detailed reading; "Legions of Rome: The Definitive History of Every Roman Legion" by Stephen Dando-Collins.

Legions of Rome The Definitive History of Every Roman Legion by Stephen Dando-Collins by Stephen Dando-Collins
Publishers blurb:
No book on Roman history has attempted to do what Stephen Dando-Collins does in Legions of Rome: to provide a complete history of every Imperial Roman legion and what it achieved as a fighting force. The author has spent the last thirty years collecting every scrap of available evidence from numerous sources: stone and bronze inscriptions, coins, papyrus and literary accounts in a remarkable feat of historical detective work. The book is divided into three parts: Part 1 provides a detailed account of what the legionaries wore and ate, what camp life was like, what they were paid and how they were motivated and punished. The section also contains numerous personal histories of individual soldiers. Part 2 offers brief unit histories of all the legions that served Rome for 300 years from 30BC. Part 3 is a sweeping chronological survey of the campaigns in which the armies were involved, told from the point of view of particular legions. Lavish, authoritative and beautifully produced, Legions of Rome will appeal to ancient history enthusiasts and military history buffs alike.

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I guess this will give us the information that we did not glean from Gibbon.

message 18: by 'Aussie Rick' (new)

'Aussie Rick' (aussierick) Another very good guide to the Roman Army for those interested is:

The Roman Army by Chris McNab by Chris McNab
Publishers blurb:
This book follows the Roman Army from the first armed citizens of the early Republic through the glorious heights of the Imperial legions to the shameful defeats inflicted upon the late Roman army by the Goths and Huns. Tracing the development of tactics, equipment and training, this book will give the reader an accessible yet detailed insight into the military force that enabled Rome to become the greatest empire the world has ever seen. Each of the four historical sections will focus on the changes in the army, but will also look at the talented men who transformed and led the army, such as Scipio Africanus, Caesar and Marcus Aurelius, and the momentous battles fought, including Cannae, Pharsalus, and Adrianople. This book describes the organisation of the forces, equipment and weaponry, uniforms, and development in tactics and warfare of the Roman Army.

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'Aussie Rick' (aussierick) For those interested here is a bit more information on the book; "Legions of Rome" by Stephen Dando-Collins.

Legions of Rome The Definitive History of Every Roman Legion by Stephen Dando-Collins by Stephen Dando-Collins
◦The individual unit histories of 44 legions, the Praetorian Guard, and numerous other Roman guard and bodyguard units.
◦Tracing the rise and fall of the legions through scores of battles involving Rome’s legions between 29 B.C. and A.D. 410, all described in detail, using contemporary accounts, with extensive maps, tables and diagrams.
◦The campaigns of imperial Rome’s greatest generals, including Agrippa, Germanicus, Plautius, Vespasian, Corbulo, Paulinus, Titus, Trajan, Arrian, Aurelius, Pertinax, Severus, Constantine, Julian, and Stilicho.
◦The wars of imperial Rome’s greatest foes, including Arminius, Bato, Tacfarinas, Boudicca, Civilis, Decebalus, Bar-Kokhba, Zenobia, Shapur, and Alaric.
◦The minutiae of legion organisation, from unit emblems to bravery decorations, furlough fees to punishable offenses.
◦Exploding myths such as Caesar’s bulls, Octavian’s Capricorn, and the ‘universal’ thunderbolt emblem.
◦A new perspective on Caesar’s famous 10th Legion – its connection with the Fretensis title.
◦Explaining the disappearance of the 9th Hispana Legion.
◦Exploring the curious fact that no legion numbered above 10 was ever permanently stationed in Spain.
◦Revealing for the first time the part the French city of Vienne played in the creation of the 1st and 2nd Adiutrix Legions.
◦How auxiliaries, marines and sailors used multiple names even though they weren’t Roman citizens.
◦From the legions of Augustus to the army of the Late Empire, their weapons, tactics, officers, and battles, and why the legions ultimately failed in the West.

message 20: by 'Aussie Rick' (last edited Jan 20, 2011 11:11PM) (new)

'Aussie Rick' (aussierick) I just received my copy of "Mark Antony: A Life" by Patricia Southern and as a result of checking out the 'further reading' section of the book have decided to order a copy of "Mark Antony: His Life and Times" by Alan Roberts as it was recommended as it covers in detail (over 400 pages) 'Antony's life as a soldier and gives detailed accounts of his battles and camapaigns'. - Sounds good to me!

MARK ANTONY A Life by Patricia Southern by Patricia Southern
"It is very difficult to write an accurate biography of an historic figure. It is even more difficult to render an accurate representation of a figure from antiquity. And finally, with some of the more celebrated or legendary figures, the task is virtually impossible. Occasionally, though, a gifted scholar will surpass the reader's expectations and produce an account that is both readable and believable. Such is the case with Pat Southern and her book Mark Antony (Stroud Gloucestershire: Tempus, 1998).

One of the first and most important points that Southern makes in her book is that much of the surviving information about Antony is unreliable. After his defeat at Actium and subsequent suicide, Antony was declared nefastus ("unholy") by the Roman Senate. Undoubtedly, the senators were acting under the influence of Octavian, soon to be declared Augustus Caesar. In order to validate his own claim to power, it was necessary for Octavian to vilify his enemies. Consequently, the monuments to Antony were destroyed, and his reputation was perverted in a smear campaign. He was deliberately portrayed as a drunkard and a libertine, as a somewhat inept commander, and, ultimately, as a "strumpet's fool." It was this distorted image which survived the fall of Rome and, with Shakespeare's help, was perpetuated into the modern world.

Yet, at least some of this criticism is warranted. All the ancient sources agree that Antony lived his life with gusto. Heavy meals, late-night drinking bouts, and casual trists were typical. Of course, the Romans had always been a rather brutish people, and, in general, they would have been willing to excuse these excesses, but, behind them, there lay a noticable lack of discretion and good judgement. Unlike Julius Caesar and Octavian, Antony rarely displayed the ability to tactfully distance himself from potentially-damaging relationships.

Then, of course, there was Cleopatra VII. Like Antony, she has been the victim of a carefully-orchestrated propaganda campaign--frequently portrayed as an evil temptress who used her feminine wiles to seduce Antony in order to gain his support for her own personal aspirations. Yet, the surviving portraits of Cleopatra, while not exactly plain, are far from extraordinary, and it is worth noting that the ancient sources claim that her most seductive quality was not her face or her figure, but rather her voice. Lastly, it should be remembered that Cleopatra was the first and only Ptolemy who bothered to learn the Egyptian language so that she could communicate with her subjects in their native tongue.

It is not known if Antony married Cleopatra or not. What is known is that he abandoned two Roman wives (one of which was Octavian's sister Octavia) and four children for her. Moreover, if he did marry Cleopatra (ca. 37 B.C.), it was clearly in defiance of Roman law, which prohibited Roman men from marrying foreign women. It was also rumored that, in his will, Antony requested that he be buried next to Cleopatra--in Alexandria! All of this provided Octavian with ample ammunition, but, since Antony was a war hero and had never marched on Rome, Octavian shrewdly directed his attack against the Egyptian queen. Unfortunately, in light of Antony's continued absence from Rome, no one had reason to doubt the gossip.

In any event, no one can doubt that Antony and Cleopatra loved each other. They had at least two children together. After Actium, Antony gallantly offered to commit suicide if Octavian would agree to spare Cleopatra, while she adamently refused to surrender Antony in exchange for lenient terms. It is probably true that they died in each other's arms in Cleopatra's monument, but, as Southern points out, even if this claim could be refuted, no one would ever believe it because the image has become so deeply-ingrained in the Western tradition.

Although it was not necessary, the normally stoic Octavian honored Antony's wish and had the couple buried side by side in Egypt (their tomb has never been found). His subsequent efforts to belittle Antony, however, have failed. Three Roman emperors (Caligula, Claudius, and Nero) would later celebrate Antony as their ancestor. Over the centuries, the image of Antony would again be transformed into that of a heroic underdog and a hopeless romantic. It is entirely appropriate that Southern ends her study with the observation that, while 'some of the details are lost . . . Mark Antony has never been forgotten'." - Reviewed by John D. Haley, B.A., M.A., M.A

Mark Anthony by Alan Roberts Mark Anthony (no cover) by Alan Roberts

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'Aussie Rick' (aussierick) I've decided to order a copy of this book:

Lost Legion Rediscovered The Mystery of the Theban Legion by Donald O'Reilly by Donald O'Reilly
In AD383, according to Bishop Eucherius of Lyon, flooding caused part of the bank of the River Rhone to collapse, revealing a massed grave of thousands of bodies. Eucherius identified these as a legion recruited for the Roman army from the Christians of the Theban district in Egypt, whom he claimed had been massacred nearly a century previously (near the modern village of St Maurice-en-Valais in southwestern Switzerland) for refusing to obey orders they considered immoral. This incident, asserted by Eucherius as matter of fact, is unrecorded elsewhere. Even the existence of this Theban legion is unclear. Intrigued by this discrepancy, and suspecting a cover-up by official Roman sources, Dr Donald Reilly has spent many years undertaking some historical detective work. Piecing together scattered clues from ancient coins, inscriptions and obscure texts he identifies the Theban legion as fact and sheds light on their fate. In the process he paints a powerful portrait of an empire in turmoil, beset by external enemies and riven by religious and moral uncertainties within.

For those who like a great story and some great history can I just mention this book:

In Quest of the Lost Legions by Major J A S Clunn by Major J A S Clunn

Now released as this:

QUEST FOR THE LOST ROMAN LEGIONS Discovering the Varus Battlefield by Tony Clunn by Tony Clunn
It was a military disaster on a huge scale. It dealt a body blow to the might of Imperial Rome, and may have changed the course of European history. Three entire legions and support troops - 25,000 thousand men in all - were wiped out by German tribesmen in the Teutoburger Wald in AD 9. It was a savage running battle lasting four days, and where Varus' surviving legionaries made their last stand is the subject of this book. The author claims to have established Kalkriese as the last point of attack, the bottleneck where the six to seven thousand were trapped and died. Here we have a gripping story of field detection, buried treasures, local legends and archaeological research, persistence and reward. The fruits of many years are here in this vivid record of one man's mission of discovery - into the fate of so many men all those centuries ago.

message 22: by 'Aussie Rick' (new)

'Aussie Rick' (aussierick) Here is a very interesting book that may be quite useful for anyone ever travelling around Europe and other parts of the world and who enjoys Roman history:

Handbook to Roman Legionary Fortresses by M. C. Bishop by M. C. Bishop
This is a reference guide to Roman legionary fortresses throughout the former Roman Empire, of which approximately eighty-five have been located and identified. With the expansion of the empire and the garrisoning of its army in frontier regions during the 1st century AD, Rome began to concentrate its legions in large permanent bases. Some have been explored in great detail, others are barely known, but this book brings together for the first time the legionary fortresses of the whole empire.

An introductory section outlines the history of legionary bases and their key components. At the heart of the book is a referenced and illustrated catalog of the known bases, each with a specially prepared plan and an aerial photograph. A detailed bibliography provides up-to-date publication information.

The book will be accompanied by a website providing online links to sites relevant to particular fortresses and a Google Earth file containing all of the known fortress locations.

message 23: by Jerome, Assisting Moderator - Upcoming Books and Releases (last edited Mar 05, 2014 06:13PM) (new)

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The Day of the Barbarians: The Battle That Led to the Fall of the Roman Empire

The Day of the Barbarians The Battle That Led to the Fall of the Roman Empire by Alessandro Barbero by Alessandro Barbero Alessandro Barbero


On August 9, 378 AD, at Adrianople in the Roman province of Thrace (now western Turkey), the Roman Empire began to fall. Two years earlier, an unforeseen flood of refugees from the East Germanic tribe known as the Goths had arrived at the Empire's eastern border, seeking admittance. Though usually successful in dealing with barbarian groups, in this instance the Roman authorities failed. Gradually coalesced into an army led by Fritigern, the barbarian horde inflicted on Emperor Valens the most disastrous defeat suffered by the Roman army since Hannibal's victory at Cannae almost 600 years earlier. The Empire did not actually fall for another century, but some believe this battle signaled nothing less than the end of the ancient world and the start of the Middle Ages.

With impeccable scholarship and narrative flair, renowned historian Alessandro Barbero places the battle in its historical context, chronicling the changes in the Roman Empire, west and east, the cultural dynamics at its borders, and the extraordinary administrative challenge in holding it together. Vividly recreating the events leading to the clash, he brings alive leaders and common soldiers alike, comparing the military tactics and weaponry of the barbarians with those of the disciplined Roman army as the battle unfolded on that epic afternoon. Narrating one of the turning points in world history, The Day of the Barbarians is military history at its very best.

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The End of Empire: Attila the Hun and the Fall of Rome

The End of Empire Attila the Hun and the Fall of Rome by Christopher Kelly by Christopher Kelly(no photo)


History remembers Attila, the leader of the Huns, as he was perceived by the Romans: a savage, uncivilized barbarian brutally inflicting terror on whoever crossed his path. Drawing on original texts, including first-person accounts by Roman historians, and filled with visuals of Roman and Hun artifacts, historian Christopher Kelly creates a novel and quite different portrait of this remarkable man.

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Attila: The Barbarian King Who Challenged Rome

Attila The Barbarian King Who Challenged Rome by John Man by John Man (no photo)


Attila the Hun is a household name---a byword for mindless barbarism. But to most of us the man himself, his world, and his significance are all unknown. In this stunning historical narrative, John Man reveals the real Attila.

For a crucial twenty years in the early fifth century, Attila held the fate of the Roman Empire and the future of all Europe in his hands. The decaying imperium, dominating the West from its twin capitals of Rome and Constantinople, was threatened by barbarian tribes from the East. It was Attila who created the greatest of barbarian forces. His empire briefly rivaled Rome's, reaching from the Rhine to the Black Sea, the Baltic to the Balkans. In numerous raids and three major campaigns against the Roman Empire, he earned himself an instant and undying reputation for savagery.

But there was more to him than mere barbarism. Attila's power derived from his astonishing character. He was capricious, arrogant, and brutal---but also brilliant enough to win the loyalty of millions. Huns thought him semi divine, Goths and other barbarians adored him, educated Westerners were proud to serve him. Attila was also a canny politician. From his base in the Hungarian grasslands, he sent Latin and Greek secretaries to blackmail the Roman Empire. Like other despots, before and since, he relied on foreign financial backing and knew how to play upon the weaknesses of his friends and enemies. With this unique blend of qualities, Attila very nearly dictated Europe's future.

In the end, his ambitions ran away with him. An insane demand for the hand of a Roman princess and assaults too deep into France and Italy led to sudden death in the arms of a new wife. He did not live long enough to found a lasting empire--- but enough to jolt Rome toward its final fall.

In this riveting biography, John Man draws on his extensive travels through Attila's heartland and his experience with the nomadic traditions of Central Asia to reveal the man behind the myth.

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How Rome Fell: Death of a Superpower

How Rome Fell Death of a Superpower by Adrian Keith Goldsworthy by Adrian Keith Goldsworthy Adrian Keith Goldsworthy


In AD 200, the Roman Empire seemed unassailable, its vast territory accounting for most of the known world. By the end of the fifth century, Roman rule had vanished in western Europe and much of northern Africa, and only a shrunken Eastern Empire remained. In his account of the fall of the Roman Empire, prizewinning author Adrian Goldsworthy examines the painful centuries of the superpower’s decline. Bringing history to life through the stories of the men, women, heroes, and villains involved, the author uncovers surprising lessons about the rise and fall of great nations.

This was a period of remarkable personalities, from the philosopher-emperor Marcus Aurelius to emperors like Diocletian, who portrayed themselves as tough, even brutal, soldiers. It was a time of revolutionary ideas, especially in religion, as Christianity went from persecuted sect to the religion of state and emperors. Goldsworthy pays particular attention to the willingness of Roman soldiers to fight and kill each other. Ultimately, this is the story of how an empire without a serious rival rotted from within, its rulers and institutions putting short-term ambition and personal survival over the wider good of the state.

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Thank you Jerome - the Roman threads could use some updating - appreciate you adds.

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Valens and the Battle of Adrianople (Hadrianopolis)
By N.S. Gill

Battle: Adrianople
Date: 9 August 378
Winner: Fritigern, Visigoths
Loser: Valens, Romans (Eastern Empire)

Bad intelligence gathering and the unwarranted confidence of Emperor Valens (A.D. c. 328 - A.D. 378) led to the worst Roman defeat since Hannibal's victory at the Battle of Cannae. On August 9, A.D. 378, Valens was killed and his army lost to an army of Goths led by Fritigern, whom Valens had given permission only two years earlier to settle in Roman territory.

Division of Rome Into an Eastern Empire and a Western Empire

In 364, a year after the death of Julian, the apostate emperor, Valens was made co-emperor with his brother Valentinian. They chose to split the territory, with Valentinian taking the West and Valens the East -- a division that was to continue. (Three years later Valentinian conferred the rank of co-Augustus on his young son Gratian who would take over as emperor in the West in 375 when his father died with his infant half-brother, Gratian, co-emperor, but only in name.) Valentinian had had a successful military career prior to being elected emperor, but Valens, who had only joined the military in the 360s, had not.

Valens Tries to Reclaim Land Lost to the Persians

Since his predecessor had lost eastern territory to the Persians (5 provinces on the eastern side of the Tigris, various forts and the cities of Nisibis, Singara and Castra Maurorum), Valens set out to reclaim it, but revolts within the Eastern Empire kept him from completing his plans. One of the revolts was caused by the usurper Procopius, a relative of the last of the line of Constantine, Julian. Because of a claimed relationship with the family of the still popular Constantine, Procopius persuaded many of Valens' troops to defect, but in 366, Valens defeated Procopius and sent his head to his brother Valentinian.

Valens Makes a Treaty With the Goths

The Tervingi Goths led by their king Athanaric had planned to attack Valens' territory, but when they learned of Procopius' plans, they became his allies, instead. Following his defeat of Procopius, Valens intended to attack the Goths, but was prevented, first by their flight, and then by a spring flood the next year. However, Valens persisted and defeated the Tervingi (and the Greuthungi, both Goths) in 369. They concluded a treaty quickly which allowed Valens to set to work on the still missing eastern (Persian) territory.

Trouble From the Goths and Huns

Unfortunately, troubles throughout the empire diverted his attention. In 374 he had deployed troops to the west and was faced with a military manpower shortage. In 375 the Huns pushed the Goths out of their homelands. The Greuthungi and Tervingi Goths appealed to Valens for a place to live. Valens, seeing this as an opportunity to increase his military, agreed to admit into Thrace those Goths who were led by their chieftain Fritigern, but not the other groups of Goths, including those led by Athanaric, who had conspired against him before. Those who were excluded followed Fritigern, anyway. Imperial troops, under the leadership of Lupicinus and Maximus, managed the immigration, but badly -- and with corruption. Jordanes explains how the Roman officials took advantage of the Goths.

" (134) Soon famine and want came upon them, as often happens to a people not yet well settled in a country. Their princes and the leaders who ruled them in place of kings, that is Fritigern, Alatheus and Safrac, began to lament the plight of their army and begged Lupicinus and Maximus, the Roman commanders, to open a market. But to what will not the "cursed lust for gold" compel men to assent? The generals, swayed by avarice, sold them at a high price not only the flesh of sheep and oxen, but even the carcasses of dogs and unclean animals, so that a slave would be bartered for a loaf of bread or ten pounds of meat." - Jordanes

Driven to revolt, the Goths defeated the Roman military units in Thrace in 377.

In May 378, Valens aborted his eastern mission in order to deal with the uprising of Goths (aided by Huns and Alans). Their number, Valens was assured, was no more than 10,000.

" [W]hen the barbarians ... arrived within fifteen miles from the station of Nike, ... the emperor, with wanton impetuosity, resolved on attacking them instantly, because those who had been sent forward to reconnoiter -- what led to such a mistake is unknown -- affirmed that their entire body did not exceed ten thousand men."
- Ammianus Marcellinus: The Battle of Hadrianopolis

By August 9, 378, Valens was outside of one of the cities named for the Roman emperor Hadrian, Adrianople*. There Valens pitched his camp, built palisades and waited for the Emperor Gratian (who had been fighting the Germanic Alamanni**) to arrive with the Gallic army. Meanwhile, ambassadors from the Gothic leader Fritigern arrived asking for a truce, but Valens didn't trust them, and so sent them back.

The historian Ammianus Marcellinus, source of the only detailed version of the battle, says some Roman princes advised Valens not to wait for Gratian, because if Gratian fought Valens would have to share the glory of victory. So on that August day Valens, thinking his troops more than equal to the reported troop numbers of the Goths, led the Roman imperial army into battle.

Roman and Gothic soldiers met each other in a crowded, confused, and very bloody line of battle.

" Our left wing had advanced actually up to the wagons, with the intent to push on still further if they were properly supported; but they were deserted by the rest of the cavalry, and so pressed upon by the superior numbers of the enemy, that they were overwhelmed and beaten down.... And by this time such clouds of dust arose that it was scarcely possible to see the sky, which resounded with horrible cries; and in consequence, the darts, which were bearing death on every side, reached their mark, and fell with deadly effect, because no one could see them beforehand so as to guard against them."
- Ammianus Marcellinus: The Battle of Hadrianopolis

Amid the fighting, an additional contingent of Gothic troops arrived, far outnumbering the distressed Roman troops. Gothic victory was assured.

Death of Valens

Two-thirds of the Eastern army were killed, according to Ammianus, putting an end to 16 divisions. Valens was among the casualties. While, like most of the details of the battle, the details of Valens' demise are not known with any certainty, it is thought that Valens was either killed towards the end of the battle or wounded, escaped to a nearby farm, and there was burned to death by Gothic marauders. A supposed survivor brought the story to the Romans.

So momentous and disastrous was the Battle of Adrianople that Ammianus Marcellinus called it "the beginning of evils for the Roman empire then and thereafter."

It is worth noting that this catastrophic Roman defeat occurred in the Eastern Empire. Despite this fact, and the fact that among the precipitating factors for the fall of Rome, barbarian invasions must rank very high, the fall of Rome, barely a century later, in A.D. 476, did not occur within the Eastern Empire.

The next emperor in the East was Theodosius I who conducted clean up operations for 3 years before concluding a peace treaty with the Goths. See Accession of Theodosius the Great.

*Adrianople is now Edirne, in European Turkey.
**The name of the Alamanni is still used by the French for Germany -- L'Allemagne.


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Military History of Late Rome 284-361

Military History of Late Rome 284-361 by Ilkka Syvanne by Ilkka Syvanne (no photo)


This ambitious series gives the reader a comprehensive narrative of late Roman military history from 284-641. Each volume (5 are planned) gives a detailed account of the changes in organization, equipment, strategy and tactics among both the Roman forces and her enemies in the relevant period, while also giving a detailed but accessible account of the campaigns and battles. Volume I covers the period 284-361, starting with recovery from the 'third-century crisis' and the formation of the Tetrarchy. Constantine's civil wars and stabilization are also major themes, with the pattern repeated under his sons. Constantius II s wars against the usurper Magnentius, the Danubian tribes and the Sassanid Persians illustrate the serious combination of internal and external threats the Empire faced at this time. The author discusses these and the many other dramatic military events in their full context and puts forward some interesting conclusions on strategic and tactical developments. He argues, for example, that the Roman shift from infantry to cavalry as the dominant arm occurred considerably earlier than usually accepted. Anyone with an interest in the military history of this period will find it both informative and thought-provoking.

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Military History of Late Rome 361-395

Military History of Late Rome 361-395 by Ilkka Syvanne by Ilkka Syvanne (no photo)


This is the second volume in an ambitious series giving the reader a comprehensive narrative of late Roman military history from AD 284-641. Each volume (5 are planned) gives a detailed account of the changes in organization, equipment, strategy and tactics among both the Roman forces and her enemies in the relevant period, while also giving a detailed but accessible account of the campaigns and battles. This volume covers the tumultuous period from the death of Constantius II in AD 361 to the death of Theodosius. Among the many campaigns covered, it therefore includes the Emperor Julian's fatal campaign against the Sassanian Persians and the disastrous defeat and death of Valens at Adrianople in 378. Such calamities illustrate the level of external threat Rome's armies faced on many fronts in this difficult period.

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Teri (teriboop) The Ancient History's Bloodiest Battles: Hannibal and the Roman Empire, The Battle of Trebia

The Ancient History's Bloodiest Battles Hannibal and the Roman Empire, The Battle of Trebia by Virtus Libris by Virtus Libris (no photo)


The Battle of Ticinus was over and Rome had been defeated. It was a stinging blow to the Roman Empire and a chilling wake-up call. Hannibal had led his army over the Alps and into a battle with Scipio,one of Rome’s best military leaders, and had easily won the day. Scipio was wounded and barely escaped with his life. The Roman Consul knew that he was outmatched and led his surviving soldiers on a desperate retreat to evade the greatest military general of that or any age.

Scipio knew that if he could just buy time, that help was on the way. That help was in the form of the incredibly ambitious Roman Consul Longus leading his legions in a fast paced march to reach Scipio and defend Rome. These two generals were all that stood in the way of Hannibal destroying their Empire and all that these men held dear.

With Scipio being the lone voice of reason, Hannibal and Longus were both itching for a showdown. They clashed in the early hours of the Winter Solstice in the first major battle on Roman land, at the Battle of Trebia. What happened next would be taught in history books and military academies for centuries. The Battle of Trebia would change the fate of these great generals and would strike fear into the hearts of every Roman citizen.

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Pax Romana: War, Peace and Conquest in the Roman World

Pax Romana by Adrian Goldsworthy by Adrian Goldsworthy Adrian Goldsworthy


For much of its thousand year history, Rome was an invincible power protected by the most formidable army of the ancient world. To attack Rome, or even to resist its irrepressible advances, was to invite annihilation - and yet, throughout its history, there were those who tried. Some are famous, like Hannibal, Spartacus and Attila, while the names of others are all but forgotten. This comprehensive history describes how Rome appeared to its enemies, how a handful of leaders successfully held the empire at bay, and the terrible fate that awaited those who fought Rome and failed.

Resisting Rome covers the entire history of Rome from its early days as a republic to the final collapse of the empire in the sixth century AD. All of Rome's major enemies are covered, from the Greeks and Persians in the east to the Goths, Gauls and Britons in the north and west. Each chapter concentrates on a single leader, using a key episode in their campaign both to tell the larger story and to analyse specific themes. Comprehensive in scope and gripping in detail, this will prove to be the definitive work on the leaders and peoples who dared to defy the might of Rome.

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The Rise of Parthia in the East: From the Seleucid Empire to the Arrival of Rome

The Rise of Parthia in the East From the Seleucid Empire to the Arrival of Rome by Cam Rea by Cam Rea Cam Rea


Seleucus inherited a rather large chunk of land, extending from Anatolia in the west to the borders of India in the east. You could say he hit the "lottery" but at the same time he inherited much more than he bargained, more so for his future inheritors of this vast domain. One of the biggest problems in controlling such a vast amount of land is the issue of holding onto it. In other words, the land is too big to use for it is too big to lose. One has to consider, especially those in the Seleucid administration, that there are going to be language barriers, but even more important than language barriers, are the cultural barriers. Because of these cultural barriers, it was easier to allow the locals to govern. In this way, the Seleucids could control their eastern provinces more effectively. However, even this is a facade. While the Seleucids allowed the locals of their eastern provinces to govern, it also created a friction between the two cultures. In other words and as you shall read, the Seleucids began to ignore their supposed subjects of the east. Ignoring the various peoples on the Iranian Plateau and areas further to the east under Seleucid control caused many of them, including Greco-Macedonians, to question the intent of their masters further west. In doing so, many would secede in the east. This secession from the Seleucids enticed certain nomadic tribes, such as the Aparni (Parthians), to invade, conquer, confiscate and colonize the weakest breakaway provinces. The Seleucid regime's uncertainty allowed a small tribe from the north to invade a breakaway province considered Seleucid territory that, in turn, would go on to nearly re-conquer everything Alexander the Great had subdued almost a century earlier.

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Leviathan vs. Behemoth: The Roman-Parthian Wars 66 BC-217 AD

Leviathan vs. Behemoth The Roman-Parthian Wars 66 BC-217 AD by Cam Rea by Cam Rea Cam Rea


The Roman-Parthian Wars were cultural clashes between eastern and western titans. Parthia was the antithesis of Rome, not only culturally, but also on the battlefield.

As Rome continued to push militarily and diplomatically eastward during the 90’s BCE, they eventually arrived near the Upper Euphrates to discover that many of the mini-kingdoms were in fact Parthian client states, especially Armenia. Once Rome officially discovered and understood the sphere of influence Parthia had over its western neighbors, Rome gradually took that model and began to court the eastern kingdoms subject to Parthian influence. However, before they can accomplish this, they must first meet their equals.

Around 92 BCE, their first diplomatic meeting took place. The relationship between both empires started peacefully. As time went on, tensions began to grow over the control of the Near East. While Parthia’s sphere of influence dominated the region, Rome’s political push at Parthia’s client states slowly caused a rift between the two powers that eventually led to war when Crassus invaded Parthia and was obliterated with his Roman forces at the Battle of Carrhae in 53 BCE. After Carrhae, their relations would never be the same, as both sides would continue a tug of war with the kingdoms between their borders, at times directly engaging each other.

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Imperial Roman Warships 27 BC-193 AD

Imperial Roman Warships 27 BC-193 AD (New Vanguard) by Raffaele D'Amato by Raffaele D'Amato (no photo)


The Roman Empire was not only built by the strength of the legions but also by a Navy that was the most powerful maritime force ever to have existed. It was only the existence of the fleet that secured the trade routes and maintained the communications within the huge Empire. At the height of its power the Roman Navy employed tens of thousands of sailors, marines and craftsmen, coming from every corner of the three continents under the rule of the Caesars.

This book reveals the design and development history of Rome's naval force at the height of its Imperial Power. As well as examining its warships, it reveals the basic navy structure and the tactics that were developed to make the most of Rome's naval design superiority.

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Imperial Roman Warships 193–565 AD

Imperial Roman Warships 193–565 AD by Raffaele D'Amato by Raffaele D'Amato (no photo)


The period of relative peace enjoyed by the Roman Empire in its first two centuries ended with the Marcomannic Wars. The following centuries saw near-constant warfare, which brought new challenges for the Roman Navy. It was now not just patrolling the Mediterranean but also fighting against invaders with real naval skill, such as Genseric and his Vandals.

With research from newly discovered shipwrecks and archaeological finds as well as the rich contemporary source material, this study examines the equipment and tactics used by the navy and the battles they fought in this tumultuous period, which includes the fall of Rome and the resurgence of the Eastern Empire under Justinian the Great.

Using spectacular illustrations, carefully researched ship profiles, and maps, this third volume in Osprey's Roman Warships miniseries charts the ultimate evolution of the Roman fleet in one of the most fascinating periods of its history.

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Rome and Persia in Late Antiquity: Neighbours and Rivals

Rome and Persia in Late Antiquity Neighbours and Rivals by Beate Dignas by Beate Dignas (no photo)


The foundation of the Sasanian Empire in Persia in AD 224 established a formidable new power on the Roman Empire's eastern frontier, and relations over the next four centuries proved turbulent. This book provides a chronological narrative of their relationship, supported by a substantial collection of translated sources illustrating structural patterns. The political goals of the two sides, their military confrontations and their diplomatic solutions are discussed, as well as the common interests between the two powers. Special attention is given to the situation of Arabia and Armenia, to economic aspects, the protection of the frontiers, the religious life in both empires and the channels of communication between East and West. Considerable attention is also paid to exploring the role played by the Sasanians in the history of the ancient Near East. The book will prove invaluable for students and non-specialists interested in late antiquity and early Byzantium.

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The Fall of the West: The Death of the Roman Superpower

The Fall of the West The Death of the Roman Superpower by Adrian Goldsworthy by Adrian Goldsworthy Adrian Goldsworthy


The Fall of the Roman Empire has been a best-selling subject since the 18th century. Since then, over 200 very diverse reasons have been advocated for the collapse of the western half of the Roman Empire. Until very recently, the academic view embarrassedly downplayed the violence and destruction, in an attempt to provide a more urbane account of late antiquity: barbarian invasions were mistakenly described as the movement of peoples. It was all painfully tame and civilised. But now Adrian Goldsworthy comes forward with his trademark combination of clear narrative, common sense, and a thorough mastery of the sources. In telling the story from start to finish, he rescues the era from the diffident and mealy-mouthed: this is a red-blooded account of aggressive barbarian attacks, palace coups, scheming courtiers and corrupt emperors who set the bar for excess. It is 'old fashioned history' in the best sense: an accessible narrative with colourful characters whose story reveals the true reasons for the fall of Rome.

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The Last Roman: Romulus Augustulus And The Decline Of The West

The Last Roman Romulus Augustulus And The Decline Of The West by Adrian Murdoch by Adrian Murdoch (no photo)


A story of an empire breathing its last, this work is a biography about Romulus Augustulus. It focuses on the personalities behind this story and reveals the world into which Romulus was born - an empire that was about to die. It explores how Romulus's father Orestes, secretary to Attila the Hun, rose through the ranks to become kingmaker.

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