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Disapointing Grasp On Roman Espionage
on 24 June 2012
First, I'll lay my cards on the table. I'm an Ancient History student, with interests in Roman frontier studies and Roman espionage. So when I picked up this book, I thought it would be a perfect read.
The choice of the author to make his hero a Frumentarii is a confusing one. I don't think he really grasped that the role of the Frumentarii was an administrative one, just like the speculatores, and beneficarii. So, I really don't understand what he is doing commanding legionaries. The paragraph that the author did include on the Frumentarii looked as though it had came straight from wikipedia [I would have recommended RomanArmyTalk.com for a better overview.] For anyone interested in the subject, Adrian Goldworthy's 'The Complete Roman Army' contains an interesting section.
Of course, I had to stop myself laughing at the thought an Officer's Military Academy. What, like an Ancient Roman version of Sandhurst? I did not understand either what the son of an ex-military man, and of high-rank would be doing going off to train as an orator. Surely Daddy would have sent him off for his four years as a Tribune, then go play the philosopher?
On a final word about historical accuracy, I was astounded to see that the author seemed to think that in 270 CE, that someone like Corbulo would not have come into contact with Christianity. By this point it was well rooted in Roman society and stretched up to the highest offices in the empire.
The read itself was unchallenging, and maybe it was my fault for reading this straight after Christian Cameron's 'God of War.' It's pretty A-to-B writing, very Scarrow-esque. If you like your fiction to capture time and place as do Rosemary Sutcliff, Robert Fabbri, Christian Cameron and Manda Scott, then this book will leave you disappointed.
Another reviewer mentioned Corbulo as an 'anti-hero.' To me an anti-hero is someone like Dexter Morgan, or Hannibal Lecturer. To me he just came across as an ineffectual protaganist.