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Belisarius: The Last Roman General Hardcover – 15 Jan 2009

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Pen & Sword Military (15 Jan 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1844158330
  • ISBN-13: 978-1844158331
  • Product Dimensions: 15.6 x 3.1 x 23.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 669,802 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.

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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. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

23 of 24 people found the following review helpful By P. Halme on 22 Feb 2009
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.

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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By JPS TOP 500 REVIEWER on 5 Mar 2012
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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By J. J. Bradshaw on 20 July 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Well written and very engaging book on a fascinating subject. Most histories of Rome end with the fall of the Western Empire and forget that the Eastern Empire which became the Byzantine Empire lasted for hundreds of years after this fall. Belisarius is often considered the last great Roman General and in the time of Belisarius the Eastern Empire despite its increasingly Greek character was still recognisably the Eastern Empire of Rome. After the era of Justinian and Belisarius it would assume its own independent identity as Byzantium. Whilst perhaps not a general of the callibre of Alexander, Julius Caesar or Hannibal Belisarius nevertheless deserves his reputation as one of the great generals of antiquity. This book is quite narrow in considering his military career and whilst the book touches on the politics of the Eastern Empire and the complex relationships between Justinian and his empress along with the wife of Belisarius these are tangential to the main story. This does mean that the book lacks a certain depth in some areas. However the engaging style and the authors ability to present complex events in a logical and easy to follow manner make the book a joy to read. Something that may be a surprise to those who have been brought up on the idea of a dark age falling over Europe following the fall of Rome (usually it is not presented as the fall of the West but the fall of Rome) is the sophistication and richness of the Gothic and Vandalic Kingdoms which followed, they were very far from being barbarian hordes devoid of qualities as often considered. The Kindle edition is a bargain and at this price even the annoying typo errors are not enough to prevent 5 stars. Yes, the book could do with more depth but it is a fantastic introduction to a sadly neglected subject and will hopefully inspire readers to discover more about this fascinating era.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Cella Mauro on 8 Aug 2012
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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