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Diocletian and the Roman Recovery [Hardcover]

Stephen Williams
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)

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Book Description

31 Dec 1985 0416011519 978-0416011517 1st
It is both a portrait of one of Rome's greatest and most original rulers, and a political study in the emergence of Absolutism.
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


Product details

  • Hardcover: 264 pages
  • Publisher: Methuen; 1st edition (31 Dec 1985)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0416011519
  • ISBN-13: 978-0416011517
  • Product Dimensions: 24.1 x 15.7 x 2.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 3,417,057 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Review

"[Williams] has performed a valuable service for the profession as well as for the general reader ... his judgment of particular matters is invariably sound, and the book is a well-written synthesis."-"American Historical Review USE "Stephen Williams is not a professional Roman historian, but he is certainly an expert, and his view of Diocletian is original and convincing. ... [He] is an equitable and balanced historian and I think one can rely on him."-Peter Levi "This is the first biography of Diocletian in English and is written both for students of history and politics and for general readers."-"The Bloomsbury Review USE "This biography is never dull, for the author writes with considerable style, and he has the ability to turn a neat phrase."-James E. Seaver "History Reviews of New Books --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

About the Author

Stephen Williams is a freelance writer. His most recent book is Theodosius: The Empire at Bay. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Rome had long been familiar with its immediate Germanic neighbours, as Tacitus' unrivalled study of them illustrates. Read the first page
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
By JPS TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
This is certainly one of the best biographies of a Roman Emperor that I have ever read, but it is also much more than that. It is also an account of the age of Diocletian - the late third and early fourth century - and a well-researched and unbiased account of his huge achievements and his few mistakes. In addition to being the first biography of Diocletian in English, it is also probably the best of all.

One of the main merits of this book is to set Diocletian's record straight. This Emperor has been one of the most maligned and many of his achievements have been either minimized or "confiscated" by and attributed (wrongly) to Constantin. This was essentially the work of the early Christian authors (mostly bishops) who, understandably, never forgave Diocletian for persecuting the Christians. Even to this day, this is what most of those that have ever heard of him know him for.

Another author mentioned this persecution as one of his "two significant mistakes". I beg to differ. Seen from a Roman Emperor's perspective, this was anything but a mistake: no Emperor at any time could tolerate to have some of his citizens refusing to swear the oath of fidelity or to have some of his soldiers refusing to fight on religious grounds. This was entirely unacceptable. In Roman eyes, it was in fact the cardinal sin against the State and Empire, whom the Emperor embodied according to Imperial ideology. It simply equated to high treason and warranted the death penalty. So Diocletian's reaction and harsh treatment of the Christians, which followed in the steps of a number of his predecessors, was both unsurprising and perfectly well-deserved.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent account of the age of Diocletian 4 July 2011
By Kuma
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Diocletian is largely a stranger to English Language academia, many of the principal studies of his reign, the tetrarchy and his economic policies have largely been in French and German works. This makes Stephen Williams work, highly welcome. William's displays a solid control of the source material, overcoming the bias of the primary sources (Lactantius and Eusebius are both hostile) as well as good knowledge of archaeological evidence, inscriptions and numismatics.
The book is more than a narrow biography and is as much about Diocletian the man as it is about his time period. Although it is a brief work, the content is placed in five superbly structured parts. These blend an insightful narrative history with some genuinely excellent thematic chapters, in particular Williams' discussion of military policy (loosely derived from Luttwak but well supported by good use of archaeological study), economic policy and also religious policy are well thought out with sound arguments. These chapters in particular would be very useful to anyone writing an essay on the Later Roman Empire (the appendicles are also very useful for academics).
Many arguments presented in the book provide real food for thought, Williams drives his reader towards some interesting conclusions, as well as reappraising the nature of the tetrarchy as a more collegiate system than arbitrarily territorial. Likewise he places Diocletian's rule in a more Roman mould, rather than seeing his rule as a product of Oriental Despotism he sees how it fits into the Roman respect for the law. Identifying, perhaps that the principal difference between Augustus' rule at the start of the Empire differed from Diocletian's rule more in the fact that whilst Augustus subtly held monarchical power Diocletian made this power explicit.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Cabbages and kings 14 April 2009
By E. L. Wisty TOP 500 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Diocletian has always been one of the most fascinating of emperors. Finally dropping the centuries old pretence of being primus inter pares, he strengthened the position of emperors by turning into a king in all but name, ruling by divine right. This was undoubtedly more a matter of political expediency to put an end to decades of civil war and near collapse than something he genuinely believed; he himself after his 21 years at the helm undoubtedly saw through all the vanity of power and chose to retire into a life of pastoral bliss. In the years afterwards when the civil strife between rival emperors began to reappear, his former co-emperor Maximian attempted to get him to return. In response he is said to have remarked, "If Maximian could see for himself these beautiful cabbages which I have grown with my own hands, he would not ask me to exchange this true happiness for the illusory promises of pomp and power".

Stephen Williams' analysis of the life and times of Diocletian is masterful. Whether he is discussing military structure and reforms, political structure and reforms, government and the nature of emperorship, finance and economics or the religious persecutions, he always does so with an expert eye and insightful analysis. This is a book suitable for both serious students of history and, because it is so well written, the general reader too - it could easily fit into the "popular history" genre.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
This book is an excellent overview of the life of one of the Roman Empire's greatest rulers. Williams explains how Diocletian emerged from the chaos of the late third century to pull the Empire back from the brink of disaster. Written in a crisp, clear style, it should interest general readers and scholars alike.
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