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Carausius and Allectus: The British Usurpers Hardcover – February 22, 1995
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About the Author
John Casey is one of the world's leading experts on Roman coinage, especially that of Britain and Asia Minor. An experienced excavator (he has just published, with J.L. Davies, a report on seven years' digging at Segontium in North Wales), he is Reader in Roman Archaeology at the University of Durham. He is the author of, among other works, Roman coinage in Britain and Understanding ancient coins> --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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The greatest part of the book is not a true narrative (which would take up only a few pages) but rather an analysis of raw data from speeches, chronicles, coins and excavations. The presentation is admirably lucid, but readers who are easily bored by tables of the distribution of mint marks may lose the thread.
Casey's efforts produce a convincing outline, tracing events from the rebellion of Carausius (a naval commander, assigned to chase pirates on the Gallic coast, who was accused of snatching their booty for his own purse) through his establishment of control over Britain, his loss and recapture of possessions on the continent, his overthrow by his treasurer Allectus and the latter's defeat by the Caesar Constantius (father of Constantine the Great) or, to be precise, by one of the latter's subordinates, who of course received no official credit. Unfortunately, the outline cannot be fleshed out with much detail. Even major incidents, such as the failure of the Roman authorities' first attempt at reconquest, are known only by inference. Through a dim haze we glimpse the clash of armies and fleets in what must have been "interesting times", but we can barely see who is fighting and cannot at all say why.
Appended to the main body of the work are excurses on three more or less related topics: Roman naval warfare (about which not much can be said), the mysterious "Carausius" coinage that appeared in the 350's (which some historians, though not Casey, attribute to an otherwise unknown "Carausius II") and - the most entertaining portion of the book - the legends that grew up around Carausius' name in the Middle Ages. Perpetuated and elaborated well into the 1700's, this pseudo-history transformed the Roman rebel into an Irishman, a Welshman, a Dutchman, a peacemaker between Picts and Scots, a savage invader of Scotland, the ancestor of a noble Venetian family and a founding father of the English navy.
Obscure though its subject may be, this is a well-crafted work, worth the attention of any serious afficionado of Roman imperial history.
Instead we are treated to 190 pages of incredibly dry material, with detailed coin analysis, speculation about every thread of evidence, and a detailed review about the insignificant impact of Carausius in post Roman Britian. Other books I read on the Roman period typically have 1/3 to 1/4 of the book as appendix so I can 'refer' to details on the narrative without a large sidebar away from the main story. This book has almost no appendix because he needed it all to fill the book. There is no attempt to tell the story of these two men as you are weighed down in the details of numismatic and archeological speculation. This book will only be useful as a reference book for scholars doing their own thesis. Educated general readers like myself will not like this book.