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Rome and the Enemy: Imperial Strategy in the Principate Paperback – December 2, 2002

ISBN-13: 978-0520236837 ISBN-10: 0520236831 Edition: New Ed
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Editorial Reviews


"A truly significant contribution to the discussion of Roman ideology... This is an important book, and its readers will learn a great deal about Roman aristocratic culture." - Thomas S. Burns, American Historical Review "By recognizing that the glory that was at stake was not so much that of individual Romans as that of the Roman people as a whole, Mattern has explained how an ad hoc policy administered by amateur, rotating generals who craved personal glory could nonetheless have produced the effect of a 'grand strategy' which was consistently successful for the State as a whole." - Greg Rowe, Museum Helveticum "The book is as well written as it is well informed, and historians who are interested in the nature of imperial power, in any period, will find it valuable." - David Potter, Journal of Interdisciplinary History

About the Author

Susan P. Mattern is Assistant Professor of History at the University of Georgia.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 277 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press; New Ed edition (December 2, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520236831
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520236837
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #881,925 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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34 of 34 people found the following review helpful By R. A Forczyk VINE VOICE on July 3, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Susan Mattern, a professor at the University of Georgia, has written a well-researched analysis of how the Roman Empire's leaders made strategic decisions from 31 BC to 235 AD. Chapters cover topics from the nature of the decision-making elite, the Roman image of the world around them, strategic limitations, economic resources, and strategic values. Although a bit dry and academic in tone, this work provides a valuable synthesis of the elements that enabled Roman leaders to formulate a strategic policy for the Empire.
Roman policy, as Mattern hammers home repeatedly, was not based upon either deterrence or a search for defensible borders. Rather, Roman policy rested upon overawing both external and internal enemies with the ability of the Empire to inflict massive military punishment upon all transgressors. Rome made war to avenge injuries upon the empire in order to maintain the honor of that entity. Failure to avenge a Barbarian attack or to settle disputes with diplomacy was viewed by Roman leaders as not only a sign of weakness, but also an invitation to further enemy aggression. In order to maintain peace, Barbarian arrogance (i.e. disrespect for the power of Rome) had to be kept in line by smashing military defeats, followed by humiliating surrenders. The greater the arrogance of the enemy, the more severe the Roman revenge, ranging from mere defeat to total annihilation; as Mattern wrote, "if a tribe caused too much trouble, the Romans saw no moral or ethical argument against wiping it off the face of the earth". Nor was there a time limit - Roman retribution might not come for years or even decades, but their enemies had to be assured that it would come some day.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Patrick McCormack VINE VOICE on October 9, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is not a tale or narrative. Instead, it is an examination of the evidence about how Rome thought of war, peace, and strategy. Through literature, histories, and historical evidence, the author captures a sense of Roman thought.

Romans worried about the image of Rome, the way others thought of Rome. They gaurded with ferocity the reputation of Rome as a terrible enemy.

Romans did not have a sense of mapping, geography, strategic boundaries, or key crops and resources, in a way that modern military and foreign policy specialists take for granted. Instead, Rome had a strong sense of the enemy, those who would try and push at Rome, and who needed to be kept down, subdued, killed, in order to ensure a strong Rome.

This book is a bit dry, but it is fascinating in how it weaves its sources to reveal a way of life and of thought, regarding empire. There have been those who feel that America needs to understand this Roman view of power and fear, in order to understand why some in the world go to war with Americans. I think that this is over-stated. It is not as though we lack this Roman perspective in the West... rather I would say that we have layered over it many strategic lessons, and some forgetfulness.

This sort of writing augments more narrative histories by capturing the historic sensibility of the times. There should be more histories of this quality written.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Marc Osborne on January 4, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Mattern's book is an argument that Roman imperial policy during the Principate was motivated primarily by Roman concepts of honor rather than modern geopolitical considerations such as profit or the need for defensible borders; she compares the Romans to gangsters, whose power depends on the perception of their ability and willingness to injure or kill their enemies. In defense of her thesis, Mattern discusses the limited geographical and economic, or financial, information available to the Romans and conducts an extensive review of the Romans' own explanations of their military actions. However, Mattern does not really assess the reliability of her Roman sources. Although many people today view many modern countries' justifications for their wars as inaccurate, and often as intentionally misleading, Mattern does not discuss at any length the possibility that the Roman writings about war that have survived to the modern day might be rationalizations, intentional or not. Nevertheless, her book is very interesting regardless of whether you are convinced by its thesis. A couple of smaller caveats: First, Mattern's writing is very dry, even by academic standards. Second, perhaps because she is writing primarily for specialists, she assumes a full background in Roman history, and rarely provides any introductory information about the people and events she discusses.
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