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Nero's Killing Machine: The True Story of Rome's Remarkable 14th Legion Hardcover – November 1, 2004

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Editorial Reviews

Review

* ""Stephen Dando-Collins tracks the history of the 14th Legion...drawing on 30 years of research for the second of his definitive histories of ancient Roman armies. A fitting chronicle."" (Military History)

From the Inside Flap

The 14th Gemina Martia Victrix Legion was the most celebrated military unit of the early Roman Empire. After participating in the A.D. 43 invasion of Britain, the legion achieved its greatest glory when it put down the famous rebellion led by Britain's Queen Boudicca. Numbering less than 10,000 men, the disciplined Roman soldiers defeated 230,000 rampaging British rebels, slaughtering 80,000 while incurring only 400 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 a unique soldier's-eye view of their tactics, campaigns, and battles and exploring the gruesome realities of war in the Classical Age. Based on his thirty-two years of painstaking research into the Roman military, Nero's Killing Machine paints a striking portrait of daily life in the legion as it traces its storied history—beginning with the disastrous day in 54 B.C. when, led into a trap while serving under Julius Caesar, the legion was wiped from the face of the earth.

You'll see how, for decades, the legion struggled to regain its lost status, treading a blood-soaked path and slowly climbing back to glory by fighting first under Germanicus Caesar against Hermann the German, then under Gaius Suetonius Paulinus against Queen Boudicca—vastly outnumbered but determined to preserve honor if not life as it went down fighting. You'll also gain new insights into the lives of the legionnaires—men who, hardened by years of rigorous training and rigid Roman military discipline enforced by often brutal centurions, merged into a close-knit, chillingly efficient killing machine.

Filled with previously unknown details about Roman military practices, Nero's Killing Machine is a riveting, eye-opening history of the men who made Rome great.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Wiley; 1 edition (November 1, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0471675016
  • ISBN-13: 978-0471675013
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.1 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #366,864 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Stephen Dando-Collins is the author of Caesar's Legion: The Epic Saga of Julius Caesar's Elite Tenth Legion and the Armies of Rome, Nero's Killing Machine: The True Story of Rome's Remarkable Fourteenth Legion, Cleopatra's Kidnappers: How Caesar's Sixth Legion Gave Egypt to Rome and Rome to Caesar, and Mark Antony's Heroes: How the Third Gallica Legion Saved an Apostle and Created an Emperor. He is an Australian-born researcher, editor, and author who has spent the last three decades identifying and studying the individual legions of the Roman army of the late Republic and the empire of the Caesars.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

48 of 49 people found the following review helpful By Aussie Reader on March 4, 2005
Format: Hardcover
This is Stephen Dando-Collins second book covering the history of a Roman legion, this time he deals with the Fourteenth Legion (14th Gemina Martia Vietrix Legion). I thoroughly enjoyed this author's first book, "Caesar's Legion: The Epic Saga of Julius Caesar's Elite Tenth Legion", so I eagerly awaited the publication of this title. Again I must confess that I have no in-depth knowledge of this period, just a keen and general interest.

I found this book as good as the first, in fact, even better. The one criticism I have is the author's usage of modern military titles instead of those used by the Roman Empire. I had little or no knowledge of the 14th Legion but I found the story fascinating, from its decimation in 54 BC while campaign with Julius Caesar through it's campaign in Germany and latter in Britain where it achieved its immortal fame in putting down the rebellion led by Queen Boudicca.

The narrative is full of interesting accounts and information and the story flows along quite smoothly. There are no illustrations within the book and only a few maps which I think could have been of better quality but suffice to follow the story of the 14th legion.

Overall I think this book would be of interest to anyone who enjoys a decent account of the Roman Empire. It's more of a popular history, and not some stuffy dry text of military manoeuvres, tactics and famous commanders of antiquity but an account of the men who did the fighting and dying and who made the Roman Empire what is was.
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37 of 39 people found the following review helpful By Mark Booker on February 28, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Nero's Killing Machine is a fabulous read. The author took me on an enthralling journey through history with the men of the 14th Legion. He makes them and their opponents real flesh and blood people, and gave me an appreciation of what life, and death, was like in the ranks of Rome's legions 2,000 years ago.

Dando-Collins cleverly traces the path of the 14th Legion through several centuries using the texts of Julius Caesar, Tacitus, Dio, Suetonius, Josephus and other ancient Roman writers. Read Tacitus and you'll see Dando-Collins has invented nothing. Even the conversations and speeches are there in the original classical texts.

Julius Caesar is here, but Nero's Killing Machine readers will also find many more interesting people such as the dashing Germanicus Caesar and Arminius his German adversary, the British resistance leader Caratacus, the Batavian rebel Civilis, and the third time lucky Roman general Cerialis.

Dando-Collins also spells out why Boudicca and the Britons revolted in A.D. 60, why they had initial success, and why the 14th Legion eventually beat them despite enormous odds. He also points out how surprisingly brutal the British rebels were to prisoners.

This book is richer and more of a page turner than Caesar's Legion, the first in the author's series on the legions, but I know several people who love that original. My nephew, who doesn't normally read much of anything, picked up Caesar's Legion, couldn't put it down, and read it in two days. He's now a confirmed history fan.

Dando-Collins is to be congratulated for making ancient history more accessible and more enjoyable. His approach, to tell Roman history through the real-life exploits of an individual legion, is unique.

I predict Nero's Killing Machine and Caesar's Legion will become classics. I can't wait for the next book in the series.
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27 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Mike Dillemuth on April 10, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Once again, author Stephen Dando-Collins demonstrates his exceptional writing talents. This book is his second account of a Roman legion; in this case, the 14th. He follows this Legion through its long and glorious history. Along the way, he describes in vivid detail its participation in battles against "Herman" the German and Queen Boudicca. These include the famous Battle of Watling Street where the Legion succeeded in defeating a British force that outnumbered it 23 to 1. In addition to these many battles, the book also provides insight into the day to day life of a Roman soldier. The mundane administrative facts of running an army, such as recruitment, pay, retention, and discharge, are discussed in both a clear and entertaining fashion.

The greatest asset of this book, however, is the author's ability to tell history in a manner that is entertaining. This book is an easy read. The pace is quick and the reader will not want to put it down. The author provides the detail necessary to understand the story without getting bogged down in minutia. The more scholarly readers will be glad to see that the author lists all his sources in an appendix. The book also contain a handy glossary of well recognized Roman terms. Bottom line: This is an historically accurate work of non-fiction. Nevertheless, it reads like a fast paced novel. Good writing is difficult but Dando-Collins makes it look easy.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By E. Hunt on March 29, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Having been thoroughly drawn into "Ceasar's Legion," I found myself chomping at the bit to strap on my caligulae and read a similar account of glorious conquest and good old gritty Roman perseverance to see the campaign through. I'm sorry to say that I fear not all of Mr. Collins' research efforts seem to live up to that standard.

While I have no doubt Collins has done more than his fare share of reasearch to write these books, one area he seemed to neglect is the chapter dealing with the Varus Disaster. Collins gives what I feel is a pseudo-historical account concluding that the 17th, 18th, and 19th Legions were annihilated in the middle of the Tuetoburg forest, making a last stand in a hastily built fortification.

He completely failed to mention anything about the overwhelming archaeological evidence found at the base of the Kalkriese berg by Tony Clunn and German archaeologists in the mid 1990's. Nor does he mention the outlying archaeological evidence east of the Kalkriese bottelneck, in the eastern gap of the Wiehengebrige Ridge near Ostercappeln where the remnants of the Roman Army broke out of the forest before finally being destroyed a day later at Kalkriese. Nor does he cite the scatter pattern of artifacts west of Kalkriese which indicate that some of the Roman army broke through the ambush and made a run for it before most were likely mopped up by their pursuers. The Germans even built their own earthen and wicker fortifications there indicating that Arminius had likely planned all along to drag the Romans all the way through his Tuetoburg gauntlet before delivering the coup-de-grace at Kalkriese.

Having read both classical and contemporary literature on this subject, and spent three days traversing the battlefield myself, I was very much looking forward to a fresh take on the facts. But the facts, at least in this portion, were ignored.
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