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Imperial Brothers: Valentinian, Valens and the Disaster at Adrianople Hardcover – 30 Aug 2013

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 282 pages
  • Publisher: Pen & Sword Military; UNKNOWN edition (30 Aug. 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1848844174
  • ISBN-13: 978-1848844179
  • Product Dimensions: 3.2 x 16.5 x 24.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 553,919 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

About the Author

Ian Hughes is a former teacher and now a full-time military historian. He specializes in Late Roman history and is the author of Belisarius, The Last Roman General (2008), Stilicho, the Vandal Who Saved Rome (forthcoming 2010) and Aetius: Atilla's Nemesis (2012). He lives in a small, former mining village near Barnsley in South Yorkshire.

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By J. White on 23 Oct. 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I was interested in this book since it describes a critical period in late Roman history - I doubt if many would dispute that the Battle of Adrianople in 378 was the beginning of the end for the Roman empire - yet is outside my own specialist area. In short, I am just the right kind of target reader for a book of this nature, intended to bridge the gap between expert academic and merely interested layman.

I enjoyed the book enormously, and read it from cover to cover within the space of about a week. It is certainly well written, and contains many maps. The division of the two ‘imperial brothers’ (Valentinian and Valens, ruling respectively over west and east of the Roman empire) into adjacent chapters for each year caused me no difficulty. It means that each chapter has to begin with a brief reminder of ‘in last year’s episode...’, but this format works perfectly well on television (‘in last week’s episode...’), provides a good memory jog for key events, and I do not share a previous reviewer’s objection.

Hughes has clearly read a very wide range of sources, and his description of the Battle of Adrianople, aided by some intelligent reasoning, is very plausible. In particular, he dismisses the oft-stated belief that the Roman army was advancing without proper reconnaissance, a concept that I have always found hard to credit.

I am not competent to judge whether this book is suitable for an academic specialising in this period of Roman history. However, it is definitely suitable for those who, lacking much previous background, wish to acquire advanced knowledge of the age of Valentinian and Valens.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By E. L. Wisty TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 29 Sept. 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I'm not even going to attempt to say much when there are two substantial and highly informative reviews here already with which I broadly agree, though I'm not quite so negative in a star ranking.

My main problem with Hughes (and has been my main problem with his three previous works) is his tendency to overindulge in complete and wild speculation with no basis for evidence (reviewer JPS mentions the example in this current work of a supposed inquiry by Theodosius into the reasons for the defeat at Hadrianople). He has usually tended to weave his speculation into the historically attested facts too closely for my liking in the past; he has perhaps not intertwined them together as much this time round, but I still personally don't like historians hypothesising in this manner. This apart, and bearing in mind some of the other flaws mentioned by the previous reviewers, it's a reasonable if not outstanding read. (As an aside, for a more scholarly and more general analysis of the reigns of Valentinian and Valens, I would recommend Roman Imperial Policy from Julian to Theodosius.)
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By JPS TOP 500 REVIEWER on 16 Sept. 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is Ian Hughes' fourth book for Pen and Sword, although it is not his best, and it is not as good as his other books on Stilichon or on Aetius. The reasons for this pertain to the choice of topics, this book's structure, but also the relative lack of originality, meaning that the book felt mostly like a compilation of several previous works to me with, perhaps, a couple of exceptions.

The choice of topics, to treat the reigns of the two imperial brothers (Valentinian and Valens) in parallel, is a relatively bold one, but the execution is a bit problematic. This is especially the case when this is accompanied by an annalistic approach, with the events of each year being treated in separate chapters that gather together what was happening in the Western and in the Eastern parts of the Empire. The first problem with such an approach is that it leads to repetitions and breaks up the narrative of given campaigns or actions that straddle several years. In addition, the author frequently feels obliged to summarize the events of the past year as the opens up a new year on the same topic. Moreover, while this ploy does allow for the two stories to be told in parallel, it is also somewhat artificial and breaks up the narrative's continuity.

Another point, although not necessarily a problem, is that Pen and Sword authors often borrow from and heavily rely upon a limited number of secondary sources which they summarise and present in a non-scholarly format to the so-called "general reader". This is fine, and some of these books can be truly excellent, provided that these sources and authors are clearly and fully acknowledged. Unfortunately, I sometimes had the impression that this was not exactly the case with this book.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Arch Stanton on 3 Sept. 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is a military biography of two Late Roman imperial brothers: Valentinian I and Valens. A military biography of these two makes sense as Valentinian is famous as the last powerful emperor of the west, who repaired the frontier defenses and campaigned in barbarian lands, while his brother Valens is famous mostly for losing the battle of Adrianople, the battle that allowed the Goths to establish a permanent foothold in the empire. The two lives are not exactly symmetrical or even often connected (events in the east and west rarely intersected militarily), but they are both undoubtedly known for their campaigns.

As with previous Pen & Sword books this one is well illustrated. It has numerous fine diagrams, maps, and illustrations which all help in understanding the events described. It's even better than Hughes' previous work. Unlike many of his previous works this one has a good deal on non-military events too, particularly in years where there weren't many wars. In addition to the Gothic, Persian, Alamannic, Quadic, and Pictish wars Hughes details the magic trials and building programs of both emperors. Sometimes it feels a bit out of place, but in general I found it aids understanding of these emperors.

This book is divided up in an annalistic format that has each chapter represent a single year. He did something similar in his book on Aetius, although it worked better there. In Aetius he was detailing the career of one man operating in a relatively narrow region. Here he is describing two men on opposite sides of the empire. The annalistic approach feels like a distraction and adds unnecessary confusion.
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