- 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)
Belisarius: The Last Roman General Paperback – 30 Sep 2014
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More About the Author
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/
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
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.
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.Read more ›
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.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Excellent narrative history following the campaigns of Belisarius and a bit of geopolitical context. Read morePublished 1 day ago by Alex T
Interesting but very "dry" more of a historical fact than a story,the tale is told without emotion and very drylyPublished 6 months ago by Anthony Evans
It is interesting but wrapped up in too much detail and would be better just to stick to the main events.Published 7 months ago by JK-Saltdean
Read also Robert Graves (writer of I, Claudius) book about Belisarius in the form of a novelPublished 9 months ago by P. Kennedy
I liked the wider perspective concerning the arms, forces and organisation. The narrative history was perhaps a bit difficult to follow at times particularly in the Italian Wars. Read morePublished 10 months ago by P C Brickwood
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