10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on February 13, 2011
Usually Thames and Hudson have high production Standards and this book is no exception: Hardcover, high quality pages, profusely illustrated - it's a beautifull book indeed.
Dozens of books about the Roman Empire are published monthly worldwide, so Sommer made a wise decision focusing on THE emperor. Obviously Empire and emperor are closely connected, but there are very few specific books about the life of roman emperors from an historical perspective and through all the periods of roman imperial history.
The book has very useful boxed features, tables and charts detailing things as diverse as the process of adoption so important in Rome, to the location of imperial palaces, among many other data. Most of the photos are very good and complement the text with competence. In the end you will find a very good bibliography and short biographies of all the emperors. Impressive how many emperors had tough lifes on campaign and suffered assassination, death in battle and even captivity! It was a job with low life expectancy - today the insurance costs would be quite high on the premium on this job.
But unfortunately this edition has several important shortcomings:
Pág 38 "...the princeps, who at the moment of his death in AD 9 became the god divus augustus..."; Augustus died in 14 ad not in 9 AD
In page 84 there is a quote describing Maximinus Thrax attributing it to Suetonius, this quote is from Historia Augusta, when Maximinus was born, Suetonius already died many years ago...also related to Maximinus Thrax on page 187 it refers his ascension to the imperial purple on 238...also incorrect, it was in 235.
The author is severely biased against Trajan which is rather unusual. For example; he states that he auto proclaimed himself "optimus princeps" - wrong; it was the senate, in the year 114 ad; just like more than a 100 years before the senate gave the title augustus to Octavian! He refers that Trajan's campaigns against the Dacians weren't more than an attack on a client kingdom! And that the previous campaigns of Domitian against the Dacians were successful! If we consider sucessful, two legions wiped out, Legio V alaudae and XXI Rapax; the governor of Moesia Killed; the commander of Domitian army, Fuscus, Killed, and an immense tribute payed (8000000 sesterces) so that the Dacians won't pillage roman territory, then OK. Obviously they where a dangerous threat, and the roman senate and people considered the arrangement shameful. Trajan solved it and did it with competence...but here in this book domitian campaigned sucessufully and Trajan limited itself to attack an "ally". The Bias don't stop here...those are just examples.
The chapter division is well structured, but if we buy a book about Roman imperial life at court and on campaign, that's what we're looking for! But although most emperors of second and third centuries AD spent most of their life's on military campaigns - that chapter is only 16 pages on a 200 page book. The last chapters also forgot the main focus, becoming a regular history of the late Roman Empire.
In conclusion: It's an interesting title that can be improved in a next edition.
on January 17, 2013
From the review on StrategyPage.Com:
'In this lavishly illustrated volume with some innovative graphics, Dr. Sommer (Liverpool), gives us something like a handbook of how to be a Roman emperor, in the process also telling us a great deal about the empire, the structure of government and armed forces, and the 80-some men who attained the imperium, which a close look at how these interrelated and evolved over time. After chapters on the fall of the Republic and another on how Augustus put together a "republican" monarchy, chapters cover becoming emperor, ruling and -- at times OR -- enjoying the purple, commanding the armies, Rome and Constantinople, and, of course, the proverbial "decline and fall", at least in the West. A valuable work for anyone interested in Rome.'
For the balance of the review, see StrategyPage.Com