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The Enemies of Rome: From Hannibal to Attila the Hun [Hardcover]

Philip Matyszak
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)

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Book Description

4 Oct 2004
Until recently, it was assumed that Rome carried the torch of civilization into the barbarian darkness, bringing law, architecture and literature to conquered peoples. An alternative view now suggests that many of Rome's enemies - the Celts and Dacians, for example - were developing civilizations in their own right before premature obliteration at the Roman sword. Indeed, as Philip Matyszak argues, had Rome not crushed rival powers so completely, the drop into the Dark Ages might not have occurred: at Rome's collapse, no other powerful civilizations remained to absorb the impact. This book looks at the growth and eventual demise of Rome from the viewpoint of the vanquished peoples. They varied from the highly cultivated Greeks and Egyptians, to wild and rebellious Britons and Germans, to the Asiatic empires of the Persians and Parthians. Their leaders were driven by ambition, vindictive hatred, fear, political calculation, or simply naked greed. Some fought to preserve their heritage and ancient way of life, some for personal survival, and others from a warrior's love of battle.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 296 pages
  • Publisher: Thames & Hudson; 1st Edition edition (4 Oct 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 050025124X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0500251249
  • Product Dimensions: 24 x 16.3 x 3.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,022,093 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Product Description


Truly fascinating and superbly written.... A highly recommended addition.

About the Author

Philip Matyszak has a doctorate in Roman history from St John's College, Oxford, and is the author of Chronicle of the Roman Republic.

Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
3.9 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Nice & Light Read 10 Feb 2005
I wouldn't recommend this book to a specialist in the field, nor even to someone with a sound general knowledge of the history of Rome. But, to anyone who is just beginning to explore this huge subject, I'd say that this nice, light read will go down well and have them hankering for more.
Briefly, the author sketches short biographies of some of the most notorious figures in the Empire's history, starting with Hannibal and ending with Attila the Hun. Despite the relative brevity of each portrait, I think readers will be able to engage with each 'character' in a way that isn't really possible with most of the heavier, academic-type books. Notably, the author also avoids that tiresome critisism and revisionism thing that bedevils far too many books on this subject, only ever introducing doubt about his ancient sources in a constructive and unobtrusive manner.
This is uncomplicated, straightforward and non-controversial stuff.
As I say, this is ideal for the generalist, armchair historian interested in the basics and could even provide the stimulus for really 'getting serious' about Roman history too.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Gentle Introduction 30 Mar 2005
By Eve
A good gentle introduction to the enemies of Rome. An engaging read that I think would appeal to the general reader of history or classics. While not strictly academic - it does breathe life to a subject that can be a little dry and no doubt will inspire deeper reading.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An interesting perspective on Roman history 24 Nov 2009
In "The Enemies of Rome" Philip Matyszak presents 17 enemies of Rome, who are divided into four groups, corresponding to four different periods:

Hannibal, Philip V, Viriathus, Jugurtha

Mithridates VI, Spartacus, Vercingetorix, Orodes II, Cleopatra

Arminius, Boudica, Josephus, Decebalus

Shapur I, Zenobia, Alaric, Attila

There is one chapter for each of the 17 enemies and an introduction to each of the four parts. In addition, there is a general introduction and a conclusion. The book ends with a bibliography and an index. There are 72 illustrations in black-and-white: maps, drawings and photos.

Matyszak quotes extensively from ancient sources; he also uses archaeological material. He tries to explain the conflicts connected with each of the 17 enemies, and he succeeds to a large extent. His account is interesting and relevant. But I have to mention a few points that bother me:

(1) The bibliography is one long list (three pages). The titles are listed in alphabetical order by the last name of the author. This is often a good idea, but not in this case. Since this book presents 17 enemies of Rome, the bibliography should follow the same pattern: there should be 17 sections with 2 or 3 titles for each of the 17 enemies.

(2) According to the map of the Roman Empire (on pages 6-7) Mithridates was born in 120 BC. This is not true, and Matyszak knows it: on page 82 he explains that 120 BC is the year in which Mithridates succeeded to the throne, "though only eleven years of age." This gives a date of birth around 131 BC, which is true.

(3) On page 115, Matyszak says Vercingetorix was born "sometime around 78 BC.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good read 18 April 2006
To often most of our reading around the Ancient world centres on Rome, Greece or Egypt. This book looks at the various nations and in some cases tribes that stood against the power of the day, Rome.

There is a quote at the beginning of this book that made it almost compulsory reading for me.

It points out how we often view The Roman Empire as a civilisation far more advanced than any other nation of its era based upon the wonders it has left behind. What we do not know or forget though is there were nations and peoples of the same era that may have been equally as advanced but were obliterated at the Roman sword. The Celts, Dacians, and Carthagians to name but a few! Who knows what mark they could have left if they were not repressed by the Romans.

This book is very light yet consuming read based on some of the individuals who stood against the military might that was Rome. Boudica, Vercingtorix, Jugurtha, Cleopatra, Mithridates and of course Hannibal all get a chapter, not to mention another dozen or so as well.

Like previous reviews have stated do not expect detailed views on the various nations led by the people mentioned, but do expect to enrich your own learning and perhaps get a point of view you had not expected.
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