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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars good, thorough ... and amusing!, 25 May 2010
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P. Beelen (Eindhoven, Netherlands (Europe)) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Roman Conquests: Macedonia and Greece (Hardcover)
This book is the second in a series. Each of its volumes is dedicated to a part of the Roman Empire, and describes the way in which the Romans got involved in adding it to their ever growing sphere of influence. I use the word 'involved' on purpose, because (as Mr. Matyszak clearly points out) the Romans have played any role from avid aggressor to very reluctant bystander and every other possible one in between while enlarging their empire.

Mr. Matyszak describes how the Romans had contacts with the Greek speaking world from a very early date, and over the years got more acquainted with them - and vice versa. Especially the first conflict between Rome and Carthage opened the eyes of the Greek world.
In an entertaining way, Mr. Matyszak throws light on the various stages of the ever deepening conflict between the inhabitants of Greece proper and Macedonia on one side and the Romans on the other. What with all the squabbling between them, the Greeks almost never formed a united front against any aggressor (not even against the Persians). There always was a reason to be found not to take part in an alliance, because a former enemy or such was to be part of it too. It was up to Macedonia to be the most coherent force for the Romans to reckon with. Under its leader Philip V, a curious mix of attack, defense and diplomacy marked the fortunes of Macedonia in the early years of the second century BC. His son Perseus tried to emulate his father, but the Roman juggernaut was unstoppable. With their usual refusing to give up, the Romans pressed on, and after some tactical blunders and some luck on the Roman side, things quite suddenly came to an end. Greece was de facto Roman, though some embers kept smouldering and flared up now and then, to be permanently exstinguished in 146 with the destruction of Corinth.

All this stuff Mr. Matyszak presents to us in a very attractive way. The book is well researched, the conclusions he reaches are very reasoned, and above all he tells his story with a certain amount of light humour. This in no way distracts from the story told. On the contrary, the readability of the book becomes even greater.

Nevertheless, let's nog forget that in reality what this history tells us, is a tale of countless people killed, wounded and enslaved; of lots and lots of towns, villages and homes destroyed and plundered; and of an ever growing Rome feeding on the blood and goods of the conquered.

But what a story! And Mr. Matyszak tells it superbly. Only one comment: perhaps a finer editorial comb could have removed the remaining typo's.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A concise and lucid account of the Roman conquest of Macedonia., 28 Mar 2014
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This review is from: The Roman Conquests: Macedonia and Greece (Hardcover)
Roman military involvement in Greece began with the First Illyrian War of 229 BC, a tentative expedition across the Adriatic that was not seen at the time as the first step on a road to conquest. Perhaps inevitably the Romans were drawn further and further into Greek affairs, eventually fighting a series of wars against Macedonia. The Roman victory at Pydna in 168 BC, only 61 years after that first expedition, saw the destruction of Macedonian power, and established Rome as the main power in Greece, although another twenty years passed before another Roman victory saw them take direct control of the area. In just over eighty years the Romans had gone from virtually unknown outsiders to become the rules of Greece.

The perfect companion to this excellent work is the ROMA VICTRIX WINE BEAKERCalix Imperium, Roma Victrix Pewter wine beaker

The focus here is on producing a lucid account of the Roman conquest of Macedonia and Greece, rather than on the often confused fine details of events (few of which actually affect the overall story anyway). Matyszak has picked a line of argument in each case, and the result is a good readable account of these events, aimed at the general reader.

Just as I have when working in this period Matyszak finds it almost impossible not to become exasperated with the Ancient Greeks, who by this time seem to have seen 'freedom' as meaning having the right to attack each other at the drop of a hat, and to call in any external help that wasn't directly prohibited - with a little more self control on their part the various Greek powers might have avoided Roman conquest altogether, but the idea that all the Romans wanted was quiet neighbours doesn't seem to have sunk in.

This is an excellent narrative account of the series of wars that saw the Roman Legions gain their fearsome reputation as the most impressive fighting force of the ancient world, claiming that crown from the Macedonian phalanx which had dominated since the time of Alexander the Great. Highly recommended.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Fighting and losing to the Roman invader, 24 April 2014
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JPS - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Roman Conquests: Macedonia and Greece (Hardcover)
This book is a relatively good overview and introduction to the domination and conquest of Greece and the destruction of the Macedonian Kingdom by the Romans.

It is concise, with some 180 pages of text. It is written in a clear, lively and entertaining way and targeted at a general audience. It contains enough elements hinting at current debates between historians on a number of issues and enough references and notes in the short bibliography - almost two dozen titles, including most, although perhaps not all, of the major references – and at the end of each chapter to allow any interested reader to go further.

Perhaps the main asset of this book is that, in addition to the qualities mentioned above, it makes all of the main points, including the fact that the Romans did not initially have any “master plan” to conquer Greece and destroy Macedon, and the fact that when they did come up against the Macedonian Kings, these gave them more than a run for their money.

One of the merits of this book is to show that Philip V and his son and successor Perseus were far from being incompetent generals outclassed by their Roman opponents. These had a tough time during each of the Macedonian wars. They suffered setbacks and it was only through a combination of luck for the Romans and wasted opportunities on the Macedonian side that the initially successful wars of attrition waged against the Romans and the initial setbacks did not turn into major defeats or even disasters.

A related merit of the book is to show that both the battles of Cynoscephalae and Pydna were not the “walk-overs” that they are traditionally portrayed to be, given the huge discrepancies in casualties between the Romans and the Macedonians. As shown by the sources, The Romans very much feared the Macedonian phalanx, and quite rightly so. In addition, and during the initial stages of both battles, the Romans did not have the upper hand, to put it rather mildly.

One area where the author might be somewhat open to criticism is that he does present, like many other authors, the pike phalanx as somewhat “inferior” when compared to the more flexible Roman legions. This old view, which finds its roots in Polybius, misses however the point. It is also somewhat misleading because it fails to compare like with like. This is because the Roman (and allied Italian) legions of the Republic were forces that included heavy and light infantry, and a modicum of cavalry. A more apt and fairer comparison would have been to compare them to the whole of the Macedonian army with the corresponding light infantry, pike men and cavalry. Another related element is that a pike phalanx was neither expected to fight and win the battle on its own.

On the contrary, it was meant to be (and was) used in combination with both light infantry and cavalry, with the decisive blow being landed by the heavy cavalry Companions in true “Alexandrian style” with the light peltast-style infantry harassing the enemy’s battle line or outflanking it. In other words, the phalanx was to be used in combination with the two other components of the army. It was expected to block and hold the enemy’s heavy infantry until the decisive blow to be delivered by the cavalry (which is in fact what happened at the battle of Magnesia and almost cost the Romans the day against Antiochus III).

A legion’s maniples of heavy infantry were certainly more flexible than a phalanx in terms of tactical formations, and the legionaries were better equipped for close quarter combat with their deadly combination of Scutum and Gladius (both of which were not of Roman origin and borrowed from the Celts and Iberians). However, the legions were outclassed by the Macedonians in light infantry and cavalry in both battles. Both battles were nevertheless won handsomely by the Romans. Both battles were quite atypical from the Macedonians’ point of view (one took place on a ridge and the other was a somewhat “spontaneous” encounter). In both cases the Macedonian cavalry did not deliver the “usual” decisive charge, neither did their superior light infantry play a major role.

There are a number of topics where the author’s position gives the impression of trying to conciliate different views. One case is the issue about whether the Roman Conquest of Greece and Macedon was inevitable over the long term, at least once Rome had (mostly) dealt with Carthage, the Gauls and the Iberians, or not. He seems to believe so, mentioning that “in the end, the superior soldiery and resources of Rome prevailed”, which is another statement that would have needed to be qualified, if only because the Roman army opposed to Philip V was made up of veterans of the Second Punic War while his army included many fresh recruits but the army lead by Perseus some thirty years later was better trained and more experienced than their opponents. However, he does also mention that “it was not an easy victory” and that the Macedonians “went down fighting, repeatedly.”

Another set of limitations somewhat relate to the book’s format, but also to the author’s style, and to relatively poor editing, although the editing of a number of other Pen and Sword titles is much worse than in this one.

One the first point, the author has a bit of a tendency “to go” for sweeping and somewhat inaccurate statements. One of these can be found on the very first page of the introduction. I was somewhat surprised to learn that “Rome was a democracy, albeit a limited one, and Rome’s foreign policy broadly reflected the electorate’s swings in opinion.” As it stands, this statement is somewhat misleading and would have needed to be qualified, developed and explained, at the very least.

On the second point, the author, at times, comes up with statements that are plainly incorrect, such as the one where Lysimachos, former bodyguard of Alexander and one of his major “Successors” is presented by the author as one of Seleukos’ generals. He never was. Instead, he became one of his main rivals, after having been his ally some twenty years before and Seleukos defeated him in the last major battle between two “Successors” in 281 BC. Lysimachos died on the battlefield. Another such strange statement is the one where the author claims that no one had successfully invaded Macedon since the Persians. How about the Celts between 280 and 277 BC, which rampaged through Thrace, Macedonia and Thessaly and pillaged at least as far as Delphi?

Since I assume that the author, who has a doctorate in ancient history from Oxford and has been studying and teaching and writing on the subject of the Late Republic and the Early Empire for over twenty years, happens to also know something about Greece and the Hellenistic period, I can only ascribe these kinds of blunders to poor editing. Four stars, but not five…
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great series, 13 Aug 2013
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This book is an excellent coverage of the battles between Rome and the failing Hellenistic states and provides a great chronological story of Macedonia's demise.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Flame passes from the old to the new, 3 Mar 2012
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This review is from: The Roman Conquests: Macedonia and Greece (Hardcover)
Another great book in the roman conquest series (properly the best so far) telling of romes conquest of Greece and Macedonia. After finally defeating Hannibal in the second Punic war Rome turns its attention to Macedonia as Philip V had made an alliance with the great Barca general. Rome had the reason to go to war it needed. After a valiant but doomed fight Macedonia was defeated and Rome stepped into Greece to liberate them (someone was always claiming to liberate the Greeks!). Great characters arise In this story, romes first encounter with Antiochus the great and the final crushing of Greece and its incorporation into the new world order. For me the saddest part was reading of Sparta after its great decline and eventual defeat, gone was the duel kingship, blindly lead to destruction by the sinister Nabis. Great read, again this author has produced another great book
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4 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, 23 Sep 2010
This review is from: The Roman Conquests: Macedonia and Greece (Hardcover)
I wanted to read this for some time to see how the land of Alexander finally came under the under Roman boot. Its an interesting read. Basically, Macedonia learns its phalanx is out-of-date too late and they also suffer from poor leadership. At the same time, the Romans could have been checked had the Macedonians improved relations with Greek allies instead of having to fight Rome alone. In the end, Rome triumphs (as we know) and the dog eat dog world of ancient times continues.
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2 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Thee details are great, 15 Jun 2011
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This review is from: The Roman Conquests: Macedonia and Greece (Hardcover)
I have not yet finished the whole book but do not think the remaining part will change my mind.The detail of the approach to Dogs Head are fasinating and make it clear that this was no open and shut case
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The Roman Conquests: Macedonia and Greece
The Roman Conquests: Macedonia and Greece by Philip Matyszak (Hardcover - 19 Nov 2009)
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