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The Later Roman Empire (A.D. 354-378)

26 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0140444063
ISBN-10: 0140444068
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Paperback, August 5, 1986
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Editorial Reviews

Language Notes

Text: English, Latin (translation)

About the Author

Ammianus Marcellinus was the last great Roman historian, continuing the histories of Tacitus from AD 96 down to his own day. The first thirteen of his thirty-one books are lost: the remainder describe AD 354 - 378.

Walter Hamilton translated Plato's Symposium, the Gorgias, Phaedrus and Letters VII and VIII for Penguin Classics.

Andrew Wallace-Hadrill is Professor of Classics at Reading University. His books include Suetonius: the Scholar and his Caesars.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 506 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics (August 5, 1986)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140444068
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140444063
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.8 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #238,130 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

61 of 61 people found the following review helpful By jeffergray on November 16, 2002
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Even the most confirmed buffs of ancient or medieval history generally take a while to get around to reading Ammianus. Part of the problem may be that his history falls into the transition period between the ancient and medieval worlds, and thus lies outside the principal sphere of interest for dedicated students of either period. Another problem is that of the the four Roman emperors who dominate this history - Constantius II, Julian, Valentinian I and Valens - only the second is a particularly sympathetic character. No matter. This history covers a fascinating epoch - the hinge between the ancient and medieval worlds - and it is full of both intriguing details and unforgettably vivid set pieces, many of which are derived from the author's own personal experience.

Ammianus Marcellinus was an emblematic figure of these transitional times - a Greek army officer who wrote his history in Latin; a man of the east, born in Antioch, who spent most of his military career facing the Persians along the eastern frontier of the Roman Empire, but who finished his life as a man of letters in Rome itself; and a pagan who viewed the rise of Christianity with detached objectivity.

The quarter century covered by the surviving books of his history - the years 354 to 378 A.D. - begins with the Roman Empire in its late antique heyday. The Empire is still the greatest military power of its time, but is wasting its strength in massive civil wars. At the beginning of Ammianus's narrative, the Empire's main external enemy is still Persia, but his history covers the critical years in which the Roman frontier defenses in the west first began to show signs of cracking under the pressure of the German tribes east of the Rhine.
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42 of 44 people found the following review helpful By Johannes Platonicus on June 28, 2001
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Ammianus Marcellinus handles the vicissitudes of the later Roman Empire with an eloquence and timeless lore that matches that of his predecessors Livy, Suetonius, and Tacitus. He is not unfamiliar to those who study the ancient world of late antiquity because of the priceless information he provides and the fact that he is one of the few to actually encounter and document facts as they occurred either through personal experience or by the testimonies of his contemporaries. Ammianus was a Greek by descent yet born in Syria, and later became somewhat of an influence in the Roman military. His account of the incursions with the barbarians and persians is very detailed, elaborate, and laced with irony - traits that the great historians were all accustomed to. Ammianus' treatment of the Caesar's: Gallus, Constantius, Julian, Jovian, Valentinian, and Valen's is fair and nearly free from partialty - there is speculation as to whether or not he came in contact with any of the Caesar's. He was a pagan and of course an admirer of the pagan Emperor Julian - this left an impression upon the great historian Edward Gibbon whose prose and sentiments complement Ammianus' in so many fashions. Ammianus never penetrates into the intestinal matters of ecclesiastical affairs, but only mentions Christianity a few times, and this is practically free from bias. Overall as a source to gain a better understanding of the later Roman world with its valiant emperors, frequent internal disasters, military prowess and defeat, and decaying social strata in general, Ammianus Marcellinus' history is the most reliable...the value of this history must not be underestimated.
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32 of 33 people found the following review helpful By R. A Forczyk VINE VOICE on June 7, 2001
Format: Paperback
There are very few Western accounts that cover the final decades of the Roman Empire, but Ammianus Marcellinus provides modern-day readers with a gem from the late 4th Century AD. Marcellinus, an ethnic Greek who served as a staff officer in the Roman army, attempted to pick up where Tacitus left off in writing a comprehensive history of the Roman Empire. Unfortunately, only the sections of his work that covers the years 354-378 AD has survived. However, even the remaining account provides vibrant insight into the declining years of the Roman Empire. .... Marcellinus vividly describes the bitter realities of unlimited warfare to the death. He also participated in Julian's campaigns in Germany and the invasion of Persia in 363.
Marcellinus' account is not for the faint of heart and it is readily apparent that his world was a very violent place, between foreign wars and civil strife. In typical passages, an unruly general in Germany is "butchered with repeated sword thrusts," while after a Roman victory over the German tribes the author notes a "discolored river, foaming with barbarian blood." Rome punishes barbarian aggression with Vietnam-style search & destroy missions in Germany, where Marcellinus notes that a typical raid entails "firing the frail homes in which they [Germans] sheltered, putting a host of people to the sword, enjoying the spectacle of numbers falling and others begging for mercy…" War against the Persians is even more brutal, where Marcellinus notes in one case where "we burned a lofty temple which crowned the citadel, and killed a few women whom we found there." Later, he calls a 'glorious achievement' whereby "a great and populous city was destroyed by the strength of Roman arms and reduced to dust and ruins.
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