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34 of 35 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The last great Roman historian
Ammianus was an eyewitness to momentous events during the mid-fourth century, and he writes the history of his own times vividly, lucidly and with an eye for posterity that makes his work both indispensable for historians (he is the first and only source for much of this information) as well as for the general reader. Here we find venal Emperors (Constantius), wicked...
Published on 7 Jan 2003 by Marcus Horatius

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10 of 20 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars not exactly herodotus
mmm, interesting but hard work- get a general modern summary first or you'll be lost. If you're reading it as literature not history try Herodotus or Dio Cassius they're much more fun.
Published on 14 Feb 2004 by M. Notman


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34 of 35 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The last great Roman historian, 7 Jan 2003
This review is from: The Later Roman Empire: (a.D. 354-378) (Classics) (Paperback)
Ammianus was an eyewitness to momentous events during the mid-fourth century, and he writes the history of his own times vividly, lucidly and with an eye for posterity that makes his work both indispensable for historians (he is the first and only source for much of this information) as well as for the general reader. Here we find venal Emperors (Constantius), wicked prosecutors (Paul "The Chain") and numerous plotters and caballers who all help bring on the decline (if not quite the fall) of the old Roman way of life. Ammianus was present at the epic siege of Amida (for a fictional account of which, read "Amida: A Novel", ISBN 0954747305),as well as accompanying the ill-fated Emperor Julian on his Persian expedition: both events are related with a gripping immediacy that carries the reader back to the dusty, dangerous desert of Mesopotamia on the fringes of the embattled Empire.

Ammianus enlivens his narrative with learned literary references and frequent entertaining though often inaccurate digressions -- some of these are omitted from this Penguin translation, which preserves most of the text but not all. As Gibbon gratefully noted, he is a genial and candid writer whose company is a joy for the reader. Anyone interested in Roman history should own a copy of this book -- after Livy and Tacitus it is not only essential but eminently readable.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very good translation, 14 July 2007
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T. L. "Motius" (Helsinki, Finland) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Later Roman Empire: (a.D. 354-378) (Classics) (Paperback)
I found this is to be a very good translation and most enjoyable reading. In my opinion Ammianus is much more fun to read than Herodotus's Histories, because he makes his world much more vivid; especially battle scenes where he exposes his military knowledge. Ammianus also makes intriguing side notes, or digressions as some could say, on different matters.

The very reason I can't give 5 stars is that the translator has omitted some of Ammianus' interesting parts in the translation. So, if someone is looking for mentions of Saracens and siege machines for example, one should consult J. C. Rolfe's translation (Loeb series). I don't, however, find Rolfe's translation as smooth and fun as this.

Finally, I'd like to give credit for useful notes and maps that made understanding much easier.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Götterdämmerung of Antiquity, 28 Jun 2012
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This review is from: The Later Roman Empire: (a.D. 354-378) (Classics) (Paperback)
Sadly, this work is only half as long as what it should be - the first half of AM's history went missing in Antiquity and such a loss is immeasurable. Given his skills as a historian, AM would surely have provided posterity with a badly needed overview of the Third Century Crisis; as things stands, we have to eke out what we can from the Historia Augusta (it only took some fifteen centuries to expose the fraud but the Nineteenth Century Germans were a sturdy lot), the last book of Cassius Dio, Herodian and the wretched epitomators of the late Fourth Century. Will we ever know who stabilised the Empire in the late 260s when the gigantic invasion of Goths was annihilated at Naissus? Possibly not. Even so, we should be grateful for what is extant.

AM provides immense detail re his own times, which covers the reigns of Constantius, Julian, Jovian, Valentinian and his brother, the ill-fated Valens. Above all, AM is a great storyteller. Serving with the Legions in the East, AM was caught up in the siege of Amida where a Roman archer on the walls made the mistake of killing the son of a Persian chieftain at long-range. Rather than bypassing the city, the Persians decided to convert it into a precursor of Warsaw, circa 1945. Being masters of siege-craft, this was duly organised. AM was lucky to escape with his life. Once read, this narrative is unforgettable. Equally memorable is Constantius' entry into Rome, accompanied by the dragon-pennants of the imperial cavalry: surely it bears resemblance in its marmoreal grandeur to the Second Inauguration of George W Bush. The History ends catastrophically with Adrianople, the battle which sounded the death-knell of the Empire in the West. Rather than wait for his nephew Gratian (the son of Valentinian and likewise an emperor) who was bringing reinforcements, the Emperor Valens foolishly decided to fight the Goths alone. Carnage ensued. His body was never found and the Goths nested themselves in the Danubian provinces like a succubus, never to be evicted.

Ammianus was a pagan himself. While he panegyrises Julian the Apostate, he is not unsympathetic to the cause of the `Afterworldsmen'.

All in all, this is a great read. For whatever reason, Penguin excised some thirty or so pages where AM muses on matter geographical but they are no great loss. May you live in interesting times, the Chinese sages stated: Ammianus Marcellinus bears testimony to this.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Good read, 14 July 2013
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This review is from: The Later Roman Empire: (a.D. 354-378) (Classics) (Paperback)
Very well written history with great detail which most will find of interest. Ammianus has attempted to echo centuries past by using a traditional classic style of writing.I could happily read this more than once.
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10 of 20 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars not exactly herodotus, 14 Feb 2004
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M. Notman "northernfag" (sheffield uk) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Later Roman Empire: (a.D. 354-378) (Classics) (Paperback)
mmm, interesting but hard work- get a general modern summary first or you'll be lost. If you're reading it as literature not history try Herodotus or Dio Cassius they're much more fun.
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1 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The main source for later Roman history, 19 Nov 2005
By A Customer
This review is from: The Later Roman Empire: (a.D. 354-378) (Classics) (Paperback)
An excellent compendium of fourth-century AD Roman history, a time of fragmentation, consolidation, civil war, religious strife and east-west clashes.
fyi - There's an epic historical novel based on Ammianus's account of the siege of the city of Amida by the Persian army: it's called AMIDA: A NOVEL by Mark Walker, ISBN 0954747305
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The Later Roman Empire: (a.D. 354-378) (Classics)
The Later Roman Empire: (a.D. 354-378) (Classics) by Ammianus Marcellinus (Paperback - 29 May 1986)
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