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Comment: **Good - Highlighting, notes and underlining on about 30 pages - Dust jacket shows wear**
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Rome's Wars in Parthia: Blood in the Sand Hardcover – January 1, 2010

ISBN-13: 978-0853039815 ISBN-10: 085303981X

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Vallentine Mitchell (January 1, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 085303981X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0853039815
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 6.2 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,891,136 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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27 of 29 people found the following review helpful By James J. Bloom on July 3, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Having read Colonel Sheldon's previous works on espionage in the ancient world and the intelligence aspects of Greek and Roman campaigns, I expected a lot. I was not disappointed. This is a comprehensive and astute examination of how Rome, reacting (some would say over-reacting) to unacceptable defiance of her prerequisites for peaceful colonial frontiers, launched a poorly reconnoitered punitive expedition into the abyss to the east of her province of Syria. The author has read widely in the diffuse scholarly works but presents her scholarly conclusions in a crisp, concise and readable text, as would be expected of one who has combined an academic with a military career. My only familiarity with Trajan's campaign before this was Lepper's badly outdated 1948 book, some works dealing with Persian and Parthian history as a whole and a collection of documents dealing with the expedition. As expected, Col. Sheldon hilights the intelligence aspect throughout but this is, as she shows, a vital underpinning of both the rationale and the planning for the campaign. Her book is also an interesting angle on the ongoing debate over whether Rome had a grand strategy and the nature of such. This book, as would be expected in a publisher of scholarly works, is a bit pricey but I consider the investment well repaid.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Stratiotes Doxha Theon VINE VOICE on December 27, 2011
Format: Paperback
In this thoroughly detailed work the author covers a series of wars that have not been covered in much detail before. Many books on the early rise of the empire make reference to the Parthian wars but few books have been given entirely to the subject. This work is well written and a relatively easy read. It will be an important reference for future writers and military historians.

Be forewarned, however, the author seems to take great pains in beating the intelligence gathering horse. Perhaps it is her own background in intelligence that gives her the perspective that the outcomes of the wars on Parthia were determined by a chronic lack of intelligence on the part of Rome. It is, as she points out, an issue we hear today that American setbacks in Iraq have been the result of not enough intelligence. But is it truly a lack of intelligence or is it a lack of right interpretation of the intelligence that was gathered? It seems more likely that commanders then, as now, tend to look for good news that supports their predetermined agenda which leads to ignoring or misinterpretation of gathered intelligence. In the end, the author is so insistent on this assertion that commanders ignored the importance of intelligence that the parallels and conclusions seem forced and heavy-handed.

Overall, a detailed and enjoyable work tainted a bit by the forced historical parallels and somewhat dubious conclusions. The political implications of such a work may be so distasteful that they miss the solid facts behind the spin and this is unfortunate. But readers who can overlook those eccentricities will find a rich well of information from which to draw their own conclusions.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By JPS TOP 500 REVIEWER on May 26, 2013
Format: Paperback
This was an interesting book to read, although I am not sure to what extent it can be called a "history book." While I very much liked Rose Mary Sheldon's "Intelligence Activities in Ancient Rome: Trust in the Gods, But Verify", I had more mixed feelings with this book, which is built on a collection of vignettes about the various wars that Rome fought against Parthia.

One of the most interesting features is, of course, that Sheldon reviews each campaign with the perspective of an intelligence officer, identifying what she terms "intelligence breakdowns" or "intelligence failures". Another is that she criticizes a number of modern authors - Luttwak in particular takes a beating - for presenting Roman thinking an intentions in anachronistic terms. In particular, she makes a strong case that Romans had no such thing as a "Grand Strategy" and that their invasions, in Parthia as elsewhere, were essentially about glory-seeking, prestige and status. There was no deliberate attempt at seeking to draw what she terms a "scientific frontier" or improve the Empire's security.

However, she can't resist transforming what I expected to be strictly a history book into a political pamphlet - or a plea to learn the lessons from the US-led invasion of Irak. While the parallels she draws are interesting, and sometimes enlightening, many of the comparisons she makes are somewhat far-fetched (such as complaints from the troops that they did not enough armour), somewhat superficial and almost always anachronistic.

While I understand the author's need to do so, I also found this a pity to the extent that, at times, her historical narrative becomes biased and distorted as a result.
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Format: Hardcover
This book, as its title already gives away, being about the not so peaceful relationship between the Romans and the Parthians, left me with rather mixed feelings.

On the one hand, I genuinely liked the parts where Rose Mary Sheldon outlines chronologically the single wars each Roman commander or emperor fought with the Parthians, starting with Crassus' rather ignominious attempt to just march into Pathia until the downfall of the Arsacid and the advent of the Sassanian dynasty. Here, she informs us not only about the Parthians, for which indeed not many books exist, and their wars with Rome, but also manages to convey a lot of knowledge about the Romans by themselves. As such, we learn not only what the Romans did, but why they did it. We get thus an insight into their motivations. Thereby, it seems that for the Romans, the means where the end. They liked to win wars and defeat the enemy for the sake of glory. In so doing, they valued the rather irrational glory and the palpable victory higher than a rational cost-benefit analysis of the whole war would have indicated. As a consequence of this, once the war was won and the defending army had been vanquished, they did not have many plans what to do with a territory. So more and more often, they just left it again. And in this, even though the scope of the book goes only up to the end of the second century CE, we also get a glimpse why the Roman Empire eventually had to fall: The Roman growth model was one of continued conquest that resulted in plunder and land. But once the areas that could still be conquered were not worth anymore the costs to actually subdue them, this model had come to its natural limits. Wars were still fought but did not result in newly occupied provinces anymore.
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