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Belisarius: The Last Roman General Paperback – 30 Sep 2014

4 out of 5 stars 32 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Pen & Sword Military; Reprint edition (30 Sept. 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1473822971
  • ISBN-13: 978-1473822979
  • Product Dimensions: 3.2 x 16.5 x 24.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 226,900 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.

For more information go to: http://www.ianhughesma.com/

Product Description

About the Author

Ian Hughes - a teacher by profession, this will be his first book, but he comes highly recommended by Dr. Adrian Goldsworthy (the leading author on the Roman Army by a long way) who taught him at Cardiff University. So impressed was Goldsworthy, that Ian Hughes now reads and comments on all his manuscripts before publication.


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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Well, I finished the book three days ago ...

It is a good narrative / chronological history of this enigmatic figure Belisarius with an emphasis on analyzing the battles from a strategic / tactical point of view: in short a picture of Belisarius as a general. It gives a good account of the problems the byzantine empire had to face in the east with the persians, in the south with the vandals and in Italy with the goths. The authors interpretation that Justinian didn`t have any "masterplan" about regaining the lost west is also plausible. Justinian more or less just reacted to the opportunities opened due to the internal weakness of his enemies and serving his domestic politics at the same time.

One thing I noticed that the roman arms & armour depicted on the book are a bit "4th centurish" but then again we unfortunately don`t have very clear evidence of the arms and armament of the army of Belisarius at that time. Anyway in my opinion his army could have looked more or less like the armies of his enemies rather than wearing Intercisa / Burgh Castle-type helmets etc. The evidence on arms / armour of the byzantine army of this period is unfortunately sparse.

Anyway a good read, recommended to anyone interested in Belisarius especially as a general and strategist of a late roman / byzantine army.

Recommended!
Comment 26 of 27 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As three other reviewers have noticed, this is a good book on a very interesting man - Belisarius, general of Justinian - but it also has many problems.

1) The first issue, also mentioned by Arch Stanton, is that the author has defined his subject very narrowly. The book is presented as a military biography. It therefore focuses on the campaigns of Belisarius against Persia, the Vandals, and the Ostrogoths. However, because of this narrow focus, there is a need to provide a lot of context. This is what the three first chapters (Historical background, the Byzantine Court and the Early Life of Belisarius, the New Roman Army) attempt, and, I believe, largely fail to provide. The chapters are made up of various bits and pieces inspired by more specialized books. This could be fine except for the fact that the author, partly because of space constraints, feels obliged to make sweeping statements that he doesn't back by any evidence or decent explanation. One example is to contrast the Eastern and Western part of the Roman Empire with the latter being portrayed as "less civilized and wealthy". Another is to - implicitly - privilege Peter Heather's thesis (Rome fell because of the Barbarians in general and the Huns in particular) rather than the view that insists on decay and internal problems. A related issue here is that the author consistently presents as factual elements which are educated guesses. A typical example is the size of the units that made up the so-called "New Roman Army" and the the overall size of the army itself. Both issues are rather controversial. You could even dispute to what extent Justinian's armed forces were "Roman". The emphasis had largely shifted to cavalry rather than infantry.
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The author uses the sparse sources to describe the military career of Belisarius pretty well. I can't say I particularly enjoyed it: too many towns and names in quick succession, detailed descriptions of the armour and weaponry of different armies of the time. It would have been good to hear more about the wider political context, especially at the court of Justinian. Belisarius seems unbelievably trusting of his unfaithful wife, perhaps reflecting the chief source, Procipius. It was interesting that there was a 6th century Italian town called Narnia. Did this inspire C S Lewis?
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As a first thing don't be put off by the book's small size. The paucity of contemporary sources on Belisarius doesn't allow for hefty tomes if the writer's purpose is history and not speculation. And Hughes' purpose is to make the facts clean about Belisarius' military record and assess his worth as a commander.
The book is well furnished with drawings and maps to allow the reader a quick grasp of the situation.
The chapters are kept well short, allowing the reader to focus on the single events yet never lose sight of the broader picture.
Hughes also introduces up-to-date knowledge, especially when describing the "Roman" army, its enemies and their weapons and equipment.
Differently from other authors, Hughes always keeps an impartial posture: he doesn't set out to demolish Belisarius or exalt his deeds. I won't spoil what his conclusions are.
However there are two problems with this book.
The first is in some chapters, especially those dealing on the relationship between Belisarius and his wife Antonina, Hughes' style becomes convoluted and much harder to follow. It's obvious Hughes would have preferred to do away with analyzing this relationship but, as Antonina's machinations often affected Belisarius' military and public career, he had to do it.
The second is there are some errors in the text which obviously made it past the editing process. The blame here lies probably more with the publisher than with Hughes.
All in all this is an excellent book, highly recommended to all of those even remotely interested in the history of Byzantium.
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