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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Stilicho: The half-Vandal who didn't act to bring Rome down, 26 Aug 2010
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This review is from: Stilicho: The Vandal Who Saved Rome (Hardcover)
...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. It becomes very clear from reading this book, and it's a point never made by any other writers anywhere else that I have seen, that it was only retrospectively after Stilicho's death and the events of 410 that writers with an axe to grind thought it necessary to make an issue of his parentage or even mention it. Stilicho did not save Rome, but neither did he act consciously or otherwise to bring it down; rather he was a good Roman let down by bad Romans.

I look forward to Hughes' next book, which will be about Aetius.
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