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Stilicho: The Vandal Who Saved Rome [Hardcover]

Ian Hughes
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
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Book Description

30 Jun 2010
The period of history in which Stilicho lived was one of the most turbulent in European history. The Western Empire was finally giving way under pressure from external threats, especially from Germanic tribes crossing the Rhine and Danube, as well as from seemingly ever-present internal revolts and rebellions. Ian Hughes explains how a Vandal (actually Stilicho had a Vandal father and Roman mother) came to be given almost total control of the Western Empire and describes his attempts to save both the Western Empire and even Rome itself from the attacks of Alaric the Goth and other barbarian invaders. Stilicho is one of the major figures in the history of the Late Roman Empire and his actions following the death of the emperor Theodosius the Great in 395 may have helped to permanently divide the Western and Eastern halves of the Roman Empire on a permanent basis. Yet he is also the individual who helped maintain the integrity of the West before the rebellion of Constantine III in Britain and the crossing of the Rhine by a major force of Vandals, Sueves and Alans - both in AD 406 - set the scene for both his downfall and execution in 408 and the later disintegration of the West. Despite his role in this fascinating and crucial period of history, there is no other full-length biography of him in print.

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Stilicho: The Vandal Who Saved Rome + Aetius: Attila's Nemesis + Belisarius: The Last Roman General
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Product details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Pen & Sword Military (30 Jun 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1844159698
  • ISBN-13: 978-1844159697
  • Product Dimensions: 23.4 x 15.7 x 3.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 238,824 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

Formerly a teacher, Ian Hughes is now a professional author and freelance copy-editor and cartographer. This is his second book, following Belisarius: The Last Roman General (Pen & Sword, 2008). He is already working on the next: Aetius: Attila's Nemesis.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A rare gem 7 Feb 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I finished this book yesterday evening and found it excellent. I had wanted to read a thoughtful, thorough and in-depth analysis of Stilicho and his troubled times for a while (meaning a couple of decades or so!) and have at last found THE reference. Rather than summarizing the book, I would like to explain why it is such an excellent read in my view. There are a number of reasons, and many have already been expressed by Stuert McCunn in particular.

First, this was a very difficult, but badly needed, piece to write. Just like Aetius, about whom Ian Hughes is just about to publish his next book (in the same collection), Stilicho, his actions, his successes and his failures have always been controversial, even before his death. As Hughes shows rather brilliantly, this was largely because many of his actions did not conform to "Roman traditions" as seen by the Roman senators. Nowadays, we might be tempted to say that he was "not politically correct" (and that's the "nice" version, the other one being to brand him as a "traitor") when recruiting barbarians to beef up the numbers of the Roman army or when failing to utterly destroy and massacre the barbarian armies he faced.

Second, Hughes in fact shows that Stilicho's regime was much weaker than you (or at least I) would haveexpected: the "strongman" was rather vulnerable because his resources were constrained so much and his political backing was unstable. Moreover, his vulnerability increased over time. Most of the land in Italy and Sicily, Africa and most of Gaul had become concentrated into the hands of a small but powerful minority of landlords of which some of the richest were, of course, the senators of Rome.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
...for so it should be called perhaps.

History has given Stilicho a bad press on the whole; serving entirely his own purposes and not the state, and a collaborator with Alaric, thus acting to sow the seeds of the end of the Western empire. Hughes has written a valuable reanalysis of the life and times of Stilicho, as one who in fact had the interests of the state in mind, and sees his major failing as his inability to persuade the rich landowning classes to provide sufficient recruits for the army.

Hughes has upped his game I feel since his earlier book Belisarius: The Last Roman General delivering a work which has something more enjoyable and more scholarly about it. I can't go the whole hog and award a full five stars however. My main issue is that I feel Hughes indulges in a little too much speculation dressed as fact weaved into narrative derived from the primary sources, and it's not always entirely clear when this is the case. Though there are plenty of reference numbers in the text leading to notes at the back, it's not necessarily obvious when what is being said relates to some source and when instead Hughes begins to hypothesise. More indications in the text itself and/or footnotes at the bottom of the page would have been helpful in this regard.

Did Stilicho save Rome? Of course not; the subtitle of this book is a little daft, undoubtedly a publishing house creation which merely exists for the purpose of making an eye-catching contrast to the usual beliefs about both Stilicho in particular and Vandals in general. Stilicho of course was only half-Vandal, and there is no indication whatsoever that his upbringing and outlook was anything other than Roman.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very Good Book with Minor Editing Problems 2 April 2011
By Arch Stanton TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is an excellent book. It's very hard for me not to give it five stars, but the poor quality of the editing leaves me no choice. The book itself is filled with valuable information that is difficult to find elsewhere. There are no other books on Stilicho in English, and so for that reason alone this book is a valuable addition to academia. There were several other reviews complaining about the organization, but I felt that it worked better than his previous book, Belisarius: The Last Roman General. In that book his divisions were annoying since he spent the first third of the book laying out the background for the wars before he dealt with the man. This book is divided similarly, but manages to keep one's interest better by having all of the divisions take place in chronological order and deal with Stilicho. Thus the background information is presented in a way that makes it feel like it aids the story, not one that feels like a digression. I know that this is primarily a military history, but to be effective it has to function as a biography as well and that requires a tighter focus on the subject.

Now for the editing. Like his last book this one seems badly edited and poorly put together, although not to the same extent. It is filled with poor word choices and errors that should have been taken out by any halfway decent editor. When I first read Belisarius, I assumed that the book had been rushed to print, but this one has the same problem. An example of this problem from page 54: "It is very hard for military men to pay full price for goods from people they are protecting.
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