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Rome and Persia in Late Antiquity: Neighbours and Rivals
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Top Customer Reviews
It's nice when books are so considerately laid out. The first section covers a narrative of the conflicts while the other chapters deal with the various issues involved. The second section details what the sources say. It includes large selections from these sources to describe the various conflicts. As might be expected most of these documents are Roman ones. Syrian and Armenians ones show up too, but the Persian evidence is scanty and rarely informative. The rest of the book covers topics such as diplomacy, the Arabs, and the nature of rule.
I don't have much to say about this book. That's not because it's a bad one but because it's a good one. I have no major criticisms and while I disagree with several of their interpretations I can't say that they are too far off. As I said earlier there really aren't many books on this topic. Touraj Daryaee's Sasanian Persia: The Rise and Fall of an Empire and Sasanian Iran: Portrait of a Late Antique Empire are the only books in English covering the Sassanians exclusively.Read more ›
Most of the content will be entirely familiar to readers with an interest in the period, and for English-speaking readers, many of the referenced works are in German, which makes checking footnotes and references difficult for the monolingual.
This volume is a good companion to the period, occupying a middle ground between the more detailed source books such as Dodgeon & Lieu's 'The Roman Eastern Frontier and the Persian Wars: A Documentary History' and a more generalist historical summary. One or two points did grate, for example the use of Wilcox's Osprey book as a source for the Sasanian army, and an acceptance of claims of multiple captures of Ctesiphon in the 3rd Century that have never been substantiated. The authors seem to have a very good grasp of the source material available, covering Syriac and Armenian accounts, together with the later Arab authors such as Masudi and Baladhur as well as the more widely known Western sources such as Ammianus, Procopius and the like.
I would have liked to see more critical analysis of some of the Romano-Byzantine sources, but on the whole I can recommend this book as an excellent summary for the more than casual reader.
Rating it nevertheless turned out to be a difficult task for me. One the one hand, the book contained a lot of interesting information and I learned a lot about Roman - Sasanian relations while reading it. On the other hand, I simply couldn't warm up for its structure. Maybe that's simply because I prefer history books organized in a chronological order. This one, however, after a short introduction into the events of 224 to 628, was build up according to the themes, where each theme, such as wars, peace treaties, conquest of peripheral dominions, economic and religious interactions, and so on, was discussed separately, and only in itself chronologically. We learn thus about the wars from 224 to 628, about the peace negotiations from 224 to 628, and so on, never being told the whole story, and always browsing back and forward through the pages to be reminded of what happened at the same time. Moreover as peace treaties generally involved wars, and as wars were also fought in the peripheral areas, and as economic and religious considerations were always crucial elements in the wars, a lot of information was bound to be repeated throughout the pages.Read more ›