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Mark Antony's Heroes: How the Third Gallica Legion Saved an Apostle and Created an Emperor [Paperback]

Stephen Dando-Collins
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Book Description

11 Mar 2008
This fourth book in Dando–Collins’s definitive history of Rome’s legions tells the story of Rome’s 3rd Gallica Legion, which put Vespasian on the throne and saved the life of the Christian apostle Paul. Named for their leader, Mark Antony, these common Roman soldiers, through their gallantry on the battlefield, reshaped the Roman Empire and aided the spread of Christianity throughout Europe.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: John Wiley & Sons; 1 edition (11 Mar 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0470224533
  • ISBN-13: 978-0470224533
  • Product Dimensions: 22.6 x 15 x 2.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 943,078 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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From the Inside Flap

In this riveting book, fourth in the author′s definitive histories of the legions of ancient Rome, Stephen Dando–Collins draws on his three decades of painstaking research into the Roman military to present the enthralling story of the indefatigable 3rd Gallica Legion. Carefully culling material from classical sources, Mark Antony′s Heroes elegantly weaves together a goldmine of little–known facts and influences on the legion′s wars, campaigns, battles, skirmishes, speeches, and dialogues, as well as the men of the legions of Rome. By a.d. 69, the men of the 3rd Gallica Legion had gained a reputation as fearsome fighters, even among their fellow Romans. They had recently slaughtered nine thousand heavily armored Sarmatian cavalry on an icy battlefield south of the Danube. The unit made a name for itself under Mark Antony, only to see its early glory fade. Then, bloodied and withdrawn from the fray, it turned its fortunes around and put an emperor on the throne—marching, ironically, behind another man named Mark Antony. Yet these formidable warriors are also credited with saving St. Paul′s life, not once, but three times, allowing him to spread the Word in Europe, which allowed Christianity to flourish. During the first centuries b.c. and a.d., the 3rd Gallica Legion would defeat the dashing prince Pacorus and the opportunistic Quintus Labienus while retrieving Syria from the Parthians. It would allow King Herod to secure his throne in Judea and help Mark Antony survive his botched campaign against the Parthians. Thanks to the 3rd Gallica Legion, Corbulo regained Armenia for Rome, the Roxolani Sarmatians were thwarted from crossing the Danube for an entire century, two Jewish uprisings were put down, Vespasian became emperor of Rome, and the empire′s stability and prosperity were restored. And, by saving the life of the Christian apostle Paul, the officers and men of the 3rd Gallica Legion gave the disciple as many as nine more years for his ministry. Covering some of the most graphic battle scenes contained in Dando–Collins′s Roman legion books, Mark Antony′s Heroes is an eye–opening account of the common men who helped make Rome great. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From the Back Cover

"A tough, gritty chronicle of the trials, tribulations, and triumphs of soldiers who operate in both military and politically treacherous waters. . . . Interesting and well–written." —Booklist In Mark Antony′s Heroes, the fourth installment in the author′s seminal histories of the legions of ancient Rome, Stephen Dando–Collins paints a vivid portrait of the 3rd Gallica Legion from the unique vantage point of the soldiers. Drawing on classical texts, Dando–Collins tells the gripping story of a unit that made a name for itself under Mark Antony, only to watch its early glory fade and rise again. Dreaded by friend and foe alike, they used their muscle to install Herod the Great and Caesar Vespasian on their thrones. They made Rome′s enemies from one side of the empire to the other dread their legion′s name. They were renowned as the fearless servants of two Mark Antonys, saving the skin of Cleopatra′s lover and making possible the meteoric career of Mark Antony Primus. By weaving together new information about the legionaries′ lives with factual Roman military practices, Mark Antony′s Heroes is a landmark in ancient military history.

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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Who wants to be a Legionnaire!! 6 May 2011
Format:Paperback
The Third Gallica Legion was both revered and reviled throughout the Roman Empire and beyond. Originally raised in Gaul by Caesar in 49 BC this most feared of the legions was taken east by Mark Anthony during the second triumvirate. While Mark Anthony's campaign floundered to disaster the Third Gallica fought with distinction and the ranks were swelled with Syrian recruits. Worshipping the sun god Baal only added to their already ferocious reputation. After their general's suicide the Third Gallica swore alleigance to Octavian. After suffering heavily at the hands of the Jews the legion's surviving cohorts were transferred to Moesia where they slaughtered 9000 Sarmatian cavalrymen which culminated in them being awarded the Triumphal Decoration. They then swore for Vespasian and found themselves at the forefront of the fighting at Bedriacum and Cremona and ended with the looting of Rome and Capua. Much is made of the saving of the Christian apostle Paul in this book but ultimately even the Third Gallica couldn't save him from fate. Maybe meddling with Nero's sex life was not such a good idea!!

I enjoyed this book. Even though it reads like a novel and has some larger than life characters the accuracy of historical fact and threading together of a good story can sometimes prove difficult. For me Dando-Collins succeeds in this attempt. I am aware that this author has indeed many detractors and no doubt the pedants will gleefully scrutinise every historical fact written, questioning everything right down to the minutiae of who picked his nose and with what finger!! To them I say "How's your book coming along?"

If you have an interest in all things Roman then this book will certainly hold your attention.
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Amazon.com: 4.2 out of 5 stars  8 reviews
25 of 26 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good, but Dando-Collins has written better 30 Jan 2007
By Lori - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I realize that Dando-Collins is writing his series for the non-specialist, but his use of modern place names and modern equivalencies for Roman army terms is condescending and off-putting. If a non-specialist cares enough to read the work, he won't be stymied by Roman terms and specialists, though I speak only for myself, find the equivalencies annoying at best and misleading at worst. Tribune, legate, cohort, vexillation, et al. are tems that can certainly be learned by anyone, especially if a glossary is provided. Otherwise, Dando-Collins is a good storyteller and I thoroughly enjoy his chronological histories of the legions, told one legion at a time.
27 of 30 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Fun Read, but Jarring Problems for Anyone with Knowledge of Roman History 17 Aug 2008
By David M. Dougherty - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This is the first book by Dando-Collins I have read, and I will not read another. It was apparently written for popular appeal, particularly with it's emphasis on how a legion saved Paul of Tarsus. That said, it was a pleasant read for an evening or two, depending upon one's reading speed. He fairly accurately depicts life in a legion and the events covered by his book. I would recommend it to someone who is not a scholar in Roman History.

The title is misleading in that the 3rd Gallica Legion was formed by Pompey in Gaul about 65 BCE, fought for Pompey against Caesar, surrendered to Caesar and was disbanded. The Legion was re-constituted by Caesar in 49 BCE (legionnaires served for 16 years) again with Gauls, fought at Munda for Caesar, and following Caesar's assassination, transferred its allegience to Mark Antony, It took part in Antony's invasion of Parthia in 36 BCE, was reconstituted again in 33 BCE with Syrian enlistees, then deserted Antony's cause for Octavian in 31 BCE. The enlistment periods were lengthened to 20 years, and by 58 CE, had been refilled with new enlistees four more times from Syria. This was when the events with Paul took place, and then after a further refilling, the Legion declared for Vespasian in 69 CE and materially aided him in achieving the throne by defeating Vitellius's troops. So why did the Author choose the emphasis on Mark Antony? One can only surmise it was due to Antony's name being familiar to the possible purchasers of the book.

The author's use of modern place name and modern terms for Roman ranks was really jarring. Calling Mucianus a Field-Marshal was really too much. A simple chart of ranks and their modern equivalents (if any) was all that was necessary. One could argue that a Legion was more akin to a modern Division (albeit much smaller) than a regiment, but such things are hardly important once the reader accepts the size, role and resources of the ancient formations. The author really stretched my credulity by using terms like lieutenant, captain, major, colonel, etc. Plus, he should know that there is no field-marshal rank in the American military. Also, using modern terms like "under fire" from arrows, javelins, slinger bolts, etc, misrepresent ancient reality. Treating modern readers like children who would be unable to understand any military terms other than those in use today (particularly when the reader is likely not to have served in the military) was insulting to say the least.

A final criticism was the author's naming convention. When he mentioned that joint emperors Balbinus and Maximus were killed by the Praetorian Guard (why not say Palace Guard?) in 238, I crossed out Maximus in my book and wrote "Pupienus." Unsure as to why the author said "Maximus", either the son of Maximinus Thrax, Caesar from 235-238, or Maximus Magnus, emperor from 383-388, I checked the full name of Pupienus. It was Marcus Clodius Pupienus Maximus, known to us as Pupienus. Calling Pupienus "Maximus" would be like calling Marcus Aurelius "Verus" since his full name was Marcus Aelius Aurelius Verus. And, of course, his co-emperor was Lucius Verus, full name Lucius Aelius Aurelius Commodus. So my recommendation to the author is to stick to Roman terms and classical naming conventions.

The author's lists of sources was excellent, although I would have been somewhat more critical of Cassius Dio (Dio Cassius). As can be seen from the list, ancient sources are few and have to be supplemented with numismatic and archeological evidence. His modern bibliography was equally good, but for readers in the dark about Roman individuals of importance I would recommend Diana Browder's "Who Was Who In The Roman World."
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Vintage Dando-Collins 4 Oct 2009
By Suetonius - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Witness Roman history against a landscape of facts, ancient imagery, personalities, passions, and human resolve, in Mark Antony's Heroes. It is vintage Dando-Collins, in that one feels immersed in the fascinating world of antiquity. You will discover the true drama of stories and passions that the schoolbooks dare not reveal. There is suspense, and intriguing looks at this most interesting empire and its famous 3rd Gallica Legion. Mark Antony's story is brought into a whole new light relative to the popular history, as is Paul the apostle's story, and the fiery passion of the Jewish people. Here too you will read about how the 3rd Gallica Legion brought both King Herod and Vespasian to the throne, among other worthy exploits. I highly recommend this book.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars interesting insights into the intersection of the Gospels and Roman history 19 May 2009
By A. Turner - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
the author does a good job of bringing facts together to shape an interesting storyline that informs as well as sparks a curiosity to dig further into the history of the Roman Legions.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Legio III Gallica 11 Jan 2009
By K. Murphy - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Overall, Dando-Collin's biography of the Legio III Gallica is not a disappointment. With relative accuracy he traces the Legion's role in Roman history from its foundation (raised by Julius Caesar from Gauls in the 40's BC) to its decisive role in the Battle of Second Cremona, in which it helped to secure victory for Vespasian in the Roman Civil War. The book is fairly light reading and is well-written.

There are a few minor things I disagree with. One is that the author assumes this had to have been the Roman Legion that saved Saint Paul from an angry Jewish mob after his conversion to Christianity. He assumes this on the grounds that he believes it was the only legion stationed in Judaea at the time (and is thus either ignoring or simply not aware of the Legio X Fretensis - which was stationed in Jerusalem for most or all of the 1st and 2nd Centuries). He also claims that he believes that the Book of Acts would suggest that the Roman soldiers involved in Paul's rescue were legionaries, not auxiliaries, though he gives no evidence for why he believes this. It was the auxiliary regiments, however, that got the dirtier jobs that the Roman soldiers of the Bible are known for - quelling riots, executing criminals, and in general playing the role of our modern policemen and firemen. The Third Gallic Legion would have spent more time watching the Parthians and keeping pesky Arab raiders out of the province.

Another thing about this author's books in general that I do not appreciate is how he equates ranks in the Roman army to those in modern western armies (e.g. `general' in place of legate, and `colonel' in place of tribune). He also alternates between calling rank-and-file soldiers `legionaries' and `privates' though this doesn't irk me as much as both terms (legionarius and privatus) were used by the Romans. I personally feel that the language and culture of ancient peoples should not be disregarded to make reading about them more palatable for modern people - this will not educate but only bring about further ignorance. It is my opinion that he does our noble Roman predecessors a disservice by ignoring the proper titles of their military men.

Overall, though, this is a decent book and I am not going to harshly criticize it - I will simply warn you not to take all of the author's opinions as historical truth, and not to let his books be a primary source for you on the Roman Army.
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