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The Life of Belisarius: The Last Great General of Rome [Kindle Edition]

Lord Lord Mahon , Jon Coulston
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Serving the Byzantine Emperor Justinian during the 6th century A.D., Belisarius defeated a superior Persian force that threatened to extinguish Constantinople; his small army next drove the Vandals out of the ancient Roman provinces of North Africa and forced the Visigoths to retreat from Italy, returning Rome to the Emperor for the final time. His ability to achieve victory against overwhelming odds and his fairness to both his own troops and those of his enemies became legendary. Despite his successes, Justinian recalled Belisarius and, swayed by jealous advisers, accused the general of conspiring to overthrow him. Although innocent, he was publicly humiliated and stripped of his rank. But when a massive army of barbarians moved against Constantinople and the citizenry panicked in fear, they turned to their only true hero, Belisarius. The forsaken general donned his armor, called out his trusted veterans, and repulsed the barbarian horde. But instead of showing gratitude, Justinian banished him from the city.

Considered among the greatest generals of all time and studied later for his innovative battle tactics and unconventional strategy, Belisarius is credited with reclaiming the lost glory of Rome and helping to preserve Constantinople, whose influence would continue for centuries. Lord Mahon's biography, the first scholarly history of this remarkable figure, combines the adventure of a great epic novel with the engrossing story of a man who, despite injustices, remained loyal to the end. Edited and introduced by historian Jon C. N. Coulston, this new and retypeset edition, the first in more than 100 years, will allow the modern reader to discover one of history's most intriguing figures.

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Lord Mahon (1805–1875), the parliamentary name of Philip Henry, Fifth Earl Stanhope, was a prominent British politician and historian. Through his efforts the National Portrait Gallery was founded. Among his many writings, Life of William Pitt remains a standard work.

Jon C. N. Coulston is Lecturer in Ancient History and Archaeology at University of St Andrews. His is editor of Ancient Rome: The Archaeology of the Eternal City


Product Details

  • File Size: 865 KB
  • Print Length: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Westholme Publishing; Westholme Ed edition (November 30, 2005)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B005D0TCVA
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #679,006 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding Social and Military History January 26, 2006
Format:Paperback
The life of Belisarius, a late-Georgian (not Victorian) history in the vein of Gibbons, is the story of one of the most interesting figures of late antiquity. The author does a great job of combining Byzantine court intrigue and gripping battle accounts--the entrance into Naples through an abandoned aqueduct and the seige of Rome are particularly well drawn--to chronicle the amazing military campaigns and tribulations of Belisarius. This is a sumptuous narrative--old fashioned in the best sense. These is also a very interesting subplot of the struggle between the Arian and Catholic faiths; also, the suggestion that Belisarius' defeat of the Vandals and subsequent abandonment by Byzantium led to a power vacuum in North Africa on the eve of the Islamic conquests. Professor Coulston explains in his introduction how the sources mined by Mahon are impressive for their breadth and range--and that is what makes the book relevant to the modern audience. "Lord Mahon closely attended the literary sources so in the biography we not only have a powerful story, well told, but also a solid work of history standing alongside, and interacting with, the work of other nineteenth century historians." Since the book was written more than 150 years ago, Coulston also provides a helpful "Further Reading" section.

When I decided to post a review, I became a bit concerned after reading the review below. Is this history really that "politically incorrect?" Well, I went back through the book carefully and I was relieved to find that the reviewer's claims are specious. I found no consistent allusion to "north versus south" or "east versus west." In fact to Mahon's credit, writing in an age where it was common to make sweeping generalizations based on prejudices, most of the "barbarians" are from the north.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars 19th century scholarly rigor June 22, 2007
Format:Paperback
This book is the only scholarly biography I'm aware of that deals with the life of the great Roman general Belisarius. As the author points out, Belisarius was one of the few great men in history who deserved to wear a crown but never did. He has been called the greatest Roman general of them all, having defeated the Persians, the Vandals, and the Ostrogoths in turn with forces that would have been considered paltry by Caesar. He achieved what might have been his most glorious victory of all near the end of his life when he turned away an invading army of Huns from the very walls of Constantinople with a scant 300 veterans and some ill-equipped city-dwellers.

The depth of scholarly research needed to produce this volume is impressive. Lord Mahon cast a wide net to include a wealth of citations from historians both ancient and more contemporary to himself. Let the reader beware, however--Lord Mahon includes a number of references written in the original Latin and Greek so a working knowledge of those two languages is helpful but not necessary. My only minor criticism of Lord Mahon's scholarship is that he falls prey to one of the bugbears of his times--antipathy toward Roman Catholicism in general and the Papacy in particular. While his animus toward Catholics was not nearly as pronounced as some of his contemporaries, I still found it irksome in the few instances where it reared its ugly head.

I recommend the edition of The Life of Belisarius (Christian Roman Empire Series) by Evolution Publishing. It is a completely unabridged version of the 1848 edition of the work and is not a facsimile. The clumsy footnotes of the original have been helpfully reset as chapter endnotes.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Do NOT buy the hardcover! August 28, 2010
By Jason
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I gave this review 5 stars because the book itself is outstanding and many of the criticisms on here are asinine. However, do not, under any circumstance, order the hardcover edition from Kessinger Publishing. It is an abomination that looks like it was put together from a (crummy) laser printer in someone's basement. Many of the pages aren't even legible --and I mean that seriously: you literally cannot read the text on many pages in the first half of the book. I'm returning my copy to Amazon and they need to stop selling books from this publisher. Just because someone sets up a publishing company reprinting public domain books in their mom's garage doesn't mean Amazon needs to sell their garbage.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A product of its time March 12, 2009
Format:Paperback
The 'Life of Belisarius' is really just a retelling of the works of Prokopios and Agathias, with a heavy Victorian slant. The 'scholarship' is shallow, and the writing is loaded with Gibbonisms, but nonetheless it still maintains some commendable features. The narrative, while loaded with all sorts of silly judgments that have no place amongst scholarly works, is very easy to follow. Coulston's introduction is very good, and he acknowledges the faults of the work he is writing the preface for. The maps are generally useless, being much to small to see anything, and placed at random places in the book, making it very hard to find them once again.

Nonetheless, I can't bring myself to give it less than 3 stars. While it is shallow, extremely biased, and has virtually no support material, the narrative is very readable. The modern reader should be able to see through most of the Victorian/Georgian mindset. If you want to write an essay, just go and get Prokopios and Agathias (and Malalas and Scholastikos if you're a little braver.) If you just want some light reading on the Justinianic period, this is a fine book. It does not take an advanced student to see past Mahon's faults as a historian.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars The Forgotten Roman General
Belisarius is probably the greatest General of all of Rome's great military geniuses. He warred successfully with the Persians, regained all of North Africa and Italy for the... Read more
Published 6 months ago by Robert R. Braun
5.0 out of 5 stars An Unsung Hero
This was a fine read. One comes away really respecting and admiring the last great Roman general. For me, I appreciate the perspective it gives me that sometime life is simply not... Read more
Published 12 months ago by John D. MCPEAK
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent History marred slightly by e-book OCR scan
The history does a great job of portraying the life & loyalty of Belisarius to Justinian I's service. Bias of the author's time period is clear. Read more
Published 17 months ago by Tu Cat
5.0 out of 5 stars Best to reference
BEST reference to guide oneself thru a very interesting career & consequently the river of history !!!!!

Hope readers will use it many times over!
Published 21 months ago by james v kelly
5.0 out of 5 stars Browsing For Lord Mahon's LIFE OF BELISARIUS? ...
...then make sure it's the following unabridged edition from Evolution Publishing's Christian Roman Empire Series:

The Life of Belisarius (Christian Roman Empire... Read more
Published on April 14, 2011 by Caesar M. Warrington
3.0 out of 5 stars A Proper English Biography of a Roman General
Jon Coulston's introduction describes this as "...a work of meticulous scholarship penned by a British aristocrat with the resources and leisure for travel and research. Read more
Published on June 21, 2009 by Kelly Cooper
4.0 out of 5 stars Belisarius
I became intrigued with this little known historical figure after reading the massive Gibbons book. Although Lord Mahon wrote long ago i found his style easy to follow and, as this... Read more
Published on July 31, 2007 by B. Jarvis
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Book, Get the Right Edition
The Life of Belisarius is an excellent period history. This book provides an interesting picture of the time between the disintegration of the Roman Empire and the emergence of... Read more
Published on June 16, 2007 by A reader from Chicago
1.0 out of 5 stars A Meta-analysis of Belisarius
Mahon is a classical writer of his times: quite stilted. His prose takes getting used to for a modern reader, but after a chapter or so this difficulty fades. Read more
Published on August 21, 2006 by J. P. Straley
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant work on a great leader
When the West was threatened only one man could save it. This is not today, but its symbolism is important, this is the story of the Byzantine Roman empire and the threat from... Read more
Published on January 30, 2006 by Seth J. Frantzman
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