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Roman Conquests: Egypt and Judaea Hardcover – 30 Jun 2013


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Pen & Sword Military (30 Jun 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1848848234
  • ISBN-13: 978-1848848238
  • Product Dimensions: 24 x 16.4 x 2.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 78,440 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

About the Author

John D Grainger, a former teacher, is a well established historian with around two-dozen previous works across various periods including: The Battle of Yorktown, 1781: A Reassessment (Boydell); The Battle for Palestine 1917 (Boydell) and Alexander the Great Failure (Hambledon Continuum, 2006). This is his third book for Pen & Sword's ancient list, following Hellenistic and Roman Naval Wars (2011) and The Wars of the Maccabees (forthcoming, 2011).

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By JPS TOP 500 REVIEWER on 15 Aug 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a good and even a great overview of how the Romans conquered "Egypt and Judaea". As usual, John Grainger shows his usual acumen and conducts a thorough analysis to explain the rationales and reconstruct the politics lying behind the various events that he presents. Three points stand out in particular.

The first is the story of Cleopatra, which Grainger tells in a sober way, disbelieving the supposed romances and passions between her and her Roman warlords, successively, Caesar and Mark Antony. In particular, Grainger shows how the so-called "gifts" of territories supposedly belonging to the Republic were in fact made so that Egypt could increase the resources that would be at Mark Antony's disposal. He does show, however, how their political opponents could use these relationships with the "foreign queen" against them. This turned out to be one of Mark Antony's major weaknesses. As Grainger shows rather well, Octavius made full use of this godsend in his propaganda against his rival and largely succeeded in discrediting him well before the naval battle of Actium, although Mark Antony was, by far the most popular and the most powerful of the two warlords to begin with.

The second point concerns the Roman expeditions down the Nile and towards Yemen. In both cases, he shows that there was a conscious decision to go no further simply because it was not worth it (in the first case) or the risk that the whole expedition would be destroyed was too great (in the second case). Regarding the expedition along the coast of the Arab peninsula, his analysis shows that it was not the disaster that it is often portrayed to be, although it was certainly no victory.
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By Mr. Graham L. Vine on 17 Aug 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Another excellent book in this series
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Leslie Crumpton-Taylor on 8 Jan 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a worthy addition to this "Roman Conquests" series from the author of the equally recommended "The Wars of the Maccabees" also from Pen & Sword.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 5 reviews
6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Errors and Assumptions Stated as Facts Made This Unreadable for Me 12 Mar 2014
By bonnie_blu - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As a long-time researcher into ancient Roman history, I tried to get through this book. However, I had to give up after 74 pages due to the author's repeated personal judgements and inaccurate historical statements. A few examples:
- Introduction: "And Rome, greedy for money and territory as always, was poised in the north to grab." Greedy? This is a subjective value judgement and should not be part of a historical analysis.
- Page 21: "But it was only the inefficiency of the officials - no doubt fat, lazy, and corrupt, and supposedly secure in their inherited posts - which made the taxation system halfway tolerable to the population." Really? How can Grainger possibly know they were "fat, lazy, and corrupt"? And even if he could know such things, the terms, especially "fat and lazy," are highly pejorative and carry such highly negative connotations in modern western society, they should be avoided.
- Page 31: "He could assume that all parts of the Roman Empire were now hostile, and the eastern regions had been denuded of Roman troops to join his army at Pharsalus..." This is not true. Spain was not hostile to Pompey, and in fact, he had a great deal of support there as evidenced by how quickly continued resistance to Caesar grew.
- Page 36: "This figure is Caesar's estimate, and he is not above exaggerating the size of his enemy's forces - he had done this repeatedly in his Gallic wars." Recent research indicates that Caesar may not have exaggerated enemy numbers as much as previously thought. However, even if all of his figures were greatly exaggerated, Grainger should have stated that this was the common convention throughout the ancient world (and one can argue, it is still the convention today among many warring parties).
- Page 36: "Much destruction was done, including the Museon library." Modern research shows that Caesar did not destroy the Library at Alexandria. The fires during the fighting did damage some of the warehouses near the library, which held some of the library's works, many of which were copies.
- Page 60: "...and Caesarion was the only child he had fathered..." Caesar had a daughter, Julia, when he was younger who married Pompey (and unusual for the Romans, it was a love match); thus; tying the two of them together and making the First Triumvirate much more stable. The Triumvirate did not fall apart until Julia died and Pompey drifted into the orbit of the "Optimates."
- Pages 65 & 66: Grainger embarks on a mini-tirade about Cleopatra. His comments reduce Cleopatra to a powerless, pseudo-ruler who had no actual power. Modern efforts try to reclaim her as a person separate from the propaganda of Octavian and his followers. Quite a few modern historians agree that Cleopatra knew that Egypt would never be independent as long as Rome ruled the Mediterranean. However, Cleopatra's efforts to survive the dynastic struggles and to use Caesar, and then Antony, to retain her crown and some power, indicate an intelligence that was well aware of the facts of her political world. She may not have been "great," but to try to paint her as a delusional pawn of the Romans can't be supported.

These examples and many others have made this book unreadable for me. If I can't trust the history contained within, why should I read it?
Great overview, good analysis, different slant... 15 Aug 2013
By JPS - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
This is a good and even a great overview of how the Romans conquered "Egypt and Judaea". As usual, John Grainger shows his usual acumen and conducts a thorough analysis to explain the rationales and reconstruct the politics lying behind the various events that he presents. Three points stand out in particular.

The first is the story of Cleopatra, which Grainger tells in a sober way, disbelieving the supposed romances and passions between her and her Roman warlords, successively, Caesar and Mark Antony. In particular, Grainger shows how the so-called "gifts" of territories supposedly belonging to the Republic were in fact made so that Egypt could increase the resources that would be at Mark Antony's disposal. He does show, however, how their political opponents could use these relationships with the "foreign queen" against them. This turned out to be one of Mark Antony's major weaknesses. As Grainger shows rather well, Octavius made full use of this godsend in his propaganda against his rival and largely succeeded in discrediting him well before the naval battle of Actium, although Mark Antony was, by far the most popular and the most powerful of the two warlords to begin with.

The second point concerns the Roman expeditions down the Nile and towards Yemen. In both cases, he shows that there was a conscious decision to go no further simply because it was not worth it (in the first case) or the risk that the whole expedition would be destroyed was too great (in the second case). Regarding the expedition along the coast of the Arab peninsula, his analysis shows that it was not the disaster that it is often portrayed to be, although it was certainly no victory.

A similar analysis is conducted for the first expedition against insurgent Judaea by the then Governor of Syria, Aulus Gallus. The expedition failed to achieve its ultimate aim. The siege of Jerusalem had to be broken off after a few days, and the Governor and his troops had trouble in extricating themselves when retreating to the coast and had to get rid of their baggage and of the legionary siege machines. They and their auxiliaries suffered losses and it was clearly a defeat, but, once again, it was not the total disaster that it is sometimes portrayed to be.

A more general point about the author's analysis is that it is conducted in what looks and feel, at first, like a sober and dispassionate way, unlike that conducted in the two other books if I recently read on the subject. Unlike these books and their authors also, John Grainger makes a conscious effort to remain unbiased, although I could not help wondering, at times, if his efforts were fully really successful. He clearly has little time for caricatures, such as viewing the insurgent Jews as poor victims fighting for freedom and oppressed by the wicked, greedy and cruel Roman conquerors (which is what James Bloom had tended to do in his book on the Jewish revolts) or presenting the insurgency as an early example of class warfare (as done in Faulkner's "Apocalypse").

What John Grainger does show is the Roman army machine at work, which its ruthless efficiency and its methodical and competent commanders, and the associated Roman methods, always based on the use of force and violence. What he also shows is that the Jewish revolts, and the Great Revolt repressed by Vespasian and Titus in particular, had no chance of succeeding and was doomed from the beginning, regardless of how hard the fanatical revolutionaries were ready to fight for their cause. He also explains rather convincingly in political terms why this was the case. What he finally shows, through his careful analysis of Josephus, is the extent to which this rather unsavoury source (he was one the Jewish commanders of the revolt to begin with but changed sides to save his skin and served the Romans) has distorted the record, made it overdramatic and enhanced his own role in the process. While the Romans were clearly ruthless, and looted, killed and enslaved the Jews, this was "the Roman way of war". As the author points out, if anything, the Romans were rather good in making the war pay for itself. The implication here is that they would certainly prefer to enslave, as much as possible, rather than massacre everyone, as Josephus seems to imply in his over-dramatic account.

Having mentioned these points, and while insisting on the fact that this book gives a clear and lucid overview of the Empire's strategy in the East and its relations with Parthia - the big picture in a way - it does have a few limitations. These are mostly related to the book's format. Like many Pen and Sword publications, this book could have done with a few more pages (say another 30 or 40 more) as this would have allowed the author to explain some events a bit more, and add a bit more context. This is particularly the case towards the beginning of the book, when Pompey erupts on the scene and conquers Judaea for the first time. However, and to a large extent, this book is the continuation of another volume from the same author in the same collection (The Wars of the Maccabees) and it is in this volume that you will find the story of the Maccabees, of their struggle against the declining Seleucids, and their construction of a "Jewish Empire".

Finally, there are a few other little glitches, or perhaps even quibbles. There are a few repetitions. There are also about a dozen of typos scattered across the book, and the maps could have better and more detailed. This good overview is therefore worth a solid four stars, although it does not quite make it to five, for all of the reasons mentioned above.
good book 29 Jun 2014
By Jared L. Gibbs - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Good overview of the time and manpower spent by Rome to subdue some parts of the "Middle East" while others were less contentious with roman rule. but like other book in the series it is not a full comprehensive guide to the area of that time, but adequate for most readers interested.
Three Stars 23 Sep 2014
By fredrickson - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Excellent, well written
1 of 12 people found the following review helpful
terrible service 13 Jan 2014
By History Buff - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Sorry, but I ordered this book in December of 2012. And they just now tried to ship it (a year after the fact)? There is no excuse for taking over a year to ship something out. I actually forgot about this book until I got a notification in my e-mail that I ordered this book. I was in the process of moving when these guys finally decided to ship it out. Terrible service.

If the book wasn't ready by December 2012, then don't advertise as such. The publisher FAILED miserably with their projected date of publication. Why are publishers in such a rush to come out with a release date (that they can't even live up to)? You might think this has nothing to do with the book, but it's quite relevant. Please observe that a majority of the time that Pen & Sword releases a date of publication, it's almost always incorrect (and the publishing date will constantly get pushed back for whatever reason).

EDIT: I just called Fedex, and the automated service told me they RETURNED MY PACKAGE TO THE SHIPPER! I never got a refund on my book nor did I ever get my book. No, I paid over $30 over a year ago for a book that I never received. I will never order another book from Pen & Sword.
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