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Stilicho: The Vandal Who Saved Rome Hardcover – June 1, 2010

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Pen and Sword (June 1, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1844159698
  • ISBN-13: 978-1844159697
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.2 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #972,346 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Ian Hughes was born in Burnley, Lancashire, and attended Heasandford Junior School, Barden High School, and Burnley Grammar School.

He worked as a garage mechanic and librarian before entering the Fitted Kitchen Industry. Leaving work to study full time, he attended Cardiff University. After gaining an MA in Ancient History and Society he became a teacher. Following the birth of his son he gave up teaching and became a writer.

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Customer Reviews

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37 of 38 people found the following review helpful By Cato on December 13, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In this work, Ian Hughes traces the career of one of Rome's most famous/infamous generalissimos, Flavius Stilicho. Hughes should get high praise for even attempting this work. There is a dearth of objective historical data concerning Stilicho, and historians have had to chose between the obvious flattery by his master of propaganda, Claudian, or later-day Christian sources that lambast Stilicho for his reliance on heathen barbarians. Hughes takes a middle approach and argues that Stilicho was a competent--but not great--general and politician, that did the best he could with the resources available to him and was loyal to the family that brought him to power.

I give this book 4 stars. 5 for content and 3 for presentation. I will deal with the negatives first. I personally did not like the way this book was organized. The book is arranged (generally) chronologically by chapter and within each chapter are numerous subheadings. For instance, a chapter dedicated to a particular event or campaign will have subchapters for each actor, the general political conditions, state of the army, etc. The problem with this approach is that at times the book reads as a disjointed series of essays. The constant back and forth between topic areas breaks up the narrative flow, and also results in the reader losing his/her place because the subchapters tend to wander from the main topic. Also, the book could use a little more editing, particularly with use of pronouns. Often when the book is discussing multiple events or actors within the same sentence or paragraph, too many pronouns are used so that it is hard to tell to which event/person the author is referring.

Now, the positives--which greatly outweigh any negatives.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Arch Stanton on April 2, 2011
Format: Hardcover
This is an excellent book. It's very hard for me not to give it five stars, but the poor quality of the editing leaves me no choice. The book itself is filled with valuable information that is difficult to find elsewhere. There are no other books on Stilicho in English, and so for that reason alone this book is a valuable addition to academia. There were several other reviews complaining about the organization, but I felt that it worked better than his previous book, Belisarius: The Last Roman General. In that book his divisions were annoying since he spent the first third of the book laying out the background for the wars before he dealt with the man. This book is divided similarly, but manages to keep one's interest better by having all of the divisions take place in chronological order and deal with Stilicho. Thus the background information is presented in a way that makes it feel like it aids the story, not one that feels like a digression. I know that this is primarily a military history, but to be effective it has to function as a biography as well and that requires a tighter focus on the subject.

The core of this book is Stilicho's campaigns and the Roman military of the late Empire. In fact, the army is the real focus of this book. Hughes' simple explanations of the structure of the Late Imperial army are invaluable to students of this period. His use of Latin terms is indeed excessive, which is what I want as someone reading texts in Latin, although I appreciate that others won't. Since this seems to be for a more general audience he should probably cut down on them. An amusing thing about Hughes' books are the titles.
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16 of 21 people found the following review helpful By SkookumPete on January 11, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Despite the ludicrous subtitle -- Stilicho was a Vandal about as much as Barack Obama is a Kenyan, and Rome was sacked two years after his death -- this book is an honest effort to gather everything we know, or can guess, about the generalissimo's role in a crucial epoch of the western empire. But if it was the author's intent to tell an absorbing story, in my view he has failed.

Part of the problem is Hughes's writing style, which is plodding and repetitious at best, and ungrammatical at worst. Another reviewer has also noted the rather fragmentary way he presents his material. Characters make entrances and exits without ever springing to life. The big picture tends to get swallowed up in a mass of detail and speculation.

It is to the author's credit that he has thoroughly researched and thought about at least the political and military events of this difficult period and has assembled much information that has never appeared in one place before this. Unfortunately, the use he makes of the material is marred by carelessness. He seems obsessed by official titles, and clutters up many paragraphs with Latin versions that are all too often simply wrong: for example, the nonsense phrase "comes et utriusque militiae," which he insists on as Stilicho's title (p. 33). "Praefectus urbis" becomes "praefectus urbi" in places, and "praetorio" becomes "praetoriano". "Magister officiorum" is glossed as "personal secretary to the emperor"; in fact this was a powerful bureaucratic post with control over, among other things, the secret service and the arms factories.

Hughes refers to Arcadius as Stilicho's nephew; the emperor was actually a cousin by marriage.
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