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The Crisis of Rome: The Jugurthine and Northern Wars and the Rise of Marius Hardcover – 18 Mar 2010

4.7 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Pen & Sword Military; First Edition - Second Impression edition (18 Mar. 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1844159728
  • ISBN-13: 978-1844159727
  • Product Dimensions: 16 x 2.8 x 23.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 86,558 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

About the Author

Dr Gareth Sampson has a PhD in Ancient History from Manchester University where he taught for a number of years. His first book was Defeat of Rome (Pen & Sword, 2008). He lives in Plymouth.


Customer Reviews

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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a rather good book which goes beyond what its title suggests. It is mostly about the war against Jugurtha, the northern wars and the rise of Marius. However, it is – and needs to be – more than just a narrative covering the last decade and a half or so of the second century BC.

This is because to understand what happened between 115 and 100 BC, there is a need to go back some thirty years at least, up to the destruction of Carthage and Corinth, or even further at times. This need to provided context is all the more necessary because the book is not only about three sets of events. Rather, the author manages to tell the story of how Rome adapted – or, perhaps more accurately, initially failed to adapt - to its imperial role. It also seeks to give the reader a feel of (almost literally) cut-throat ultra-competitive Roman politics, and how it became steadily more violent over the period.

In all these aims, the author has been largely (although perhaps not entirely) successful.

His first success is to show throughout the book, including in his set of appendixes, to what extent some of the assumptions currently made are in fact guesses which are not backed by any historical source. This is because we have gaps for critical parts and events of the period, including the lost volume of Titus Livius and the absence of any comprehensive narrative of the invasions of the Cimbri, Teutones (and others).

He also shows how little we really know about the supposedly sweeping “military reforms” that Marius – the “providential man”- allegedly introduced. Some of them were much less sweeping than historians have initially presented them to them. For instance, he did not, in fact, create a “professional army” because it was not a standing army.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I have read this and the authors book the defeat of Rome and found both excellent reads. In this book I especially enjoyed the coverage of the Jurgurthine War. The northern wars were hard to follow in places due to the amount of guess work but this is no fault of the author asthe ancient sources paid more attention to the actions of jurgurtha rather than the far more deadly northern invasion. Great read
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A very descent work. Doesn't wonder around, provides exatly what you would expect from a book with this title and of this size. What makes it really worth reading is that the author tends to not just state the facts but also do a good deal of analysis.
The only problem that I had with this book is that I received a different edition (the cover was different). I can't say anything about the edition with Marius on the cover, but mine had an overall impression of having been poorly edited. Not mentioning a great amount of typographical errors throughout the whole book it had, for example a blank page titled: "List of illustrations to follow once images are finalized". For me this is the second book of Pen & Sword Military that has that kind of problem (other one being "Mithridates the Great: Rome's Indomitable Enemy"), which is kind of strange considering that quality of paper and cover is quite ok.
But that is a minor thing. Otherwise a really worthy read.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: HASH(0x9ee87138) out of 5 stars 6 reviews
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9ec08d14) out of 5 stars A quality discussion of a neglected topic 3 Jan. 2011
By P. Greene - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Gareth Sampson does a nice job with this overview of a very neglected figure in a lot of scholarship on the late Roman Republic. It's very difficult to find an English language, scholarly work on the Age of Marius...however, Sampson does a good job narrating events, interpreting ancient sources, and analyzing the political ramifications of the Marian reforms and exploits against Jugurtha and the Cimbri. Overall, a quality book, despite some issues with editing and clarity. That being said, a nice piece of work overall.
8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9ec4b7b0) out of 5 stars "An empire on the brink of collapse" 18 May 2011
By First Squirrel of Summer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
This book studies the period of approximately 110-100BC in Roman history. As the author points out in his introduction, "...Simultaneously, Rome found herself fighting a difficult guerilla war in the deserts of North Africa, whilst facing tribes of migrating barbarians from northern Europe. A series of reverses in both these theatres of war saw Rome suffer one of the heaviest defeats in her history at the Battle of Arausio and a barbarian invasion of Italy itself. Yet whilst the scenario of barbarian migration, defeat and invasion is all too familiar to the Late Roman Empire, all this occured some five hundred years before the fall of Rome, at what is often seen as the height of the Republic's power". There is also a problem with sources: "Firstly, we lack a detailed narrative history of the period as a whole, giving undue weight to accounts that do survive, notably Plutarch's biography of Marius and Sallust's monograph on the Jugurthine War, which if not handled properly can provide a distorted picture of the period in question. Of the two wars which Rome faced, the Jugurthine War in North Africa is the lesser of the two in terms of severity, yet we have a fuller account of it and little detail for the wars in the north"... "Furthermore, given the loss of a wider narrative history, and the survival of works such as Appian's 'Civil Wars' and Plutarch's biographies, it is all too easy to focus on the domestic political history of Rome in this period, as though it is somehow separate from the wars that were raging at the time"... "This work seeks a broader perspective and attempts to analyse the period as a whole, taking in all the conflicts involved. This will allow us to analyse the origins, progression and ultimate military solution to this decade of military crises. Only then can any political or military reforms be placed in their proper context".

Due to the shortage of source material, the chapters on the wars contain much in the way of interpretation and reconstruction, to create a detailed description of events. There is nothing wrong with this, as this is how theories are expounded and tested. No doubt other historians may disagree, but that will fuel further research and debate. On page 188, however, he definitely throws down the gauntlet:
"Thus Marius gave his legionaries more mobility, with less reliance on a baggage train, armed them with a modified type of pilum, and made the legionary eagle the sole Roman standard. Yet given the paucity of our evidence, why has so much been made of the so-called Marian military reforms? In short, this is a recent construct, created by modern historians." He then quotes from M. Bell's article on tactical reform:

"At some point between the time of Polybius and that of Julius Caesar, a major tactical reform of the Roman army took place, which is not explicitly described by any ancient authority. The major component of this reform was the replacement of the legion of thirty maniples by the legion of ten cohorts. In addition, the velites or Roman light troops distributed among the maniples were abolished."

Back to the author: "Put simply, many historians, unable to accept that there was a major military reform which is no longer documented, chose Marius as being the most logical source of this reform...".

"...It is clear that Polybius's account is far from consistent in his use of the terms maniple and cohort (when translated from the Greek), and that whilst his main account of the Roman army is based on the maniple, cohorts crop up in a number of places in his narrative, from as early as 206 BC onwards. Further uncertainty is added by Livy and Sallust... Thus we have total confusion in our few sources about what the major Roman tactical unit was."

"We have to raise the possibility that this 'confusion' was a reflection of the true situation... there is nothing to say that the Romans rigidly used the same formation on each occasion and that at some fixed point they altered one for the other. This is the conclusion that Bell comes to, detailing the various occasions when a Roman commander would use one rather than the other."

"Thus we have to conclude that there is no evidence whatsoever that marius was responsible for reorganizing the Roman legion based on the cohort as opposed to the maniple. In fact, the exiosting evidence suggests that this change had already taken place and that it was not a straight replacement of one with the other, once again being more a case of evolution rather than revolution".

Another Military Revolution deabte begins???

The book consists of 11 chapters, divided as follows:
Rome in Crisis?
1. Rome in Crisis? (146-120 BC - p3
2. The Rise of Numidia (206-112 BC) - p21
3. The Northern Wars (120-111BC) - p43
War on Two Fronts (11-105 BC)
Chapters 4-8 - pp59-141,
The Age of Marius (104-100 BC)
Chapters 9-11 - pp145-191.
6 Appendices - pp192-221: Marius and Rome in 100BC; The other wars of the period 104-100BC; The Roman manpower question; The Metellan dominance 123-98BC; Sources for the period; African King Lists.
Notes, Bibliograhy & Index - pp222-259.
8 maps, 14 battle diagrams, plus photos.

One glaring editorial oversight - page ix, List of Illustrations - "[List of illustrations to follow once images are finalized]". Well, the author did apologise to his editor for being late, in his Acknowledgements. The book also suffers from a spell-checker, leading to the wrong words being chosen in a number of places, unless Celtic women actually had a weapon called "bear hands"... The Notes are numbered consecutively, not resetting for each chapter, either due to trouble with the software, or a deliberate choice, which makes it much easier for the reader to find the reference. Still worth five stars though.

Further reading.
These is an interesting and highly recommended series of novels by Colleen McCullogh on the Roman Revolution, and the first two cover the period of this book - The First Man in Rome and The Grass Crown, the rest of the series go on to Antony and Cleopatra.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9ec106b4) out of 5 stars Good presentation of the period and of its historiographical issues 16 Mar. 2014
By JPS - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
This is a rather good book which goes beyond what its title suggests. It is mostly about the war against Jugurtha, the northern wars and the rise of Marius. However, it is – and needs to be – more than just a narrative covering the last decade and a half or so of the second century BC.

This is because to understand what happened between 115 and 100 BC, there is a need to go back some thirty years at least, up to the destruction of Carthage and Corinth, or even further at times. This need to provided context is all the more necessary because the book is not only about three sets of events. Rather, the author manages to tell the story of how Rome adapted – or, perhaps more accurately, initially failed to adapt - to its imperial role. It also seeks to give the reader a feel of (almost literally) cut-throat ultra-competitive Roman politics, and how it became steadily more violent over the period.

In all these aims, the author has been largely (although perhaps not entirely) successful.

His first success is to show throughout the book, including in his set of appendixes, to what extent some of the assumptions currently made are in fact guesses which are not backed by any historical source. This is because we have gaps for critical parts and events of the period, including the lost volume of Titus Livius and the absence of any comprehensive narrative of the invasions of the Cimbri, Teutones (and others).

He also shows how little we really know about the supposedly sweeping “military reforms” that Marius – the “providential man”- allegedly introduced. Some of them were much less sweeping than historians have initially presented them to them. For instance, he did not, in fact, create a “professional army” because it was not a standing army. Both his legionaries, and those of the warlords that would come after him were paid a stipend while on campaign but demobilised at the end of each war. Moreover, the author shows that his “reforms” were practical at hoc measures to address very specific needs and that he was not the first to have introduced such reforms because these needs were wildly known.

One of these was the need to increase Roman manpower and this largely stemmed from the fact that the Roman Republic had become overstretched. Again, the author does a good job in showing to what extent this was the case, with the Republic getting embroiled in one war after another. This was partly as a result of previous expansion and partly because of competitive Roman politics, with each new Roman governor wanting to make a name for himself (and fill his pockets) during his tenure.

A fourth strong point of this book is to insert both the war against Jugurtha and the wars against the Cimbri and Teutones alongside all the other conflicts going on and showing their impact on Roman day-to-day politics. While this may lead to some back and forth and repetitions and force the reader to jump from one set of events to another, it does clearly show how these interacted.

Turning to the military campaigns, Gareth Sampson does again a rather good job in presenting the intentions of both sides, the problems that the various sets of opponents raised for the Romans. He is also good at analysing the various events. To some extent, his attempts to reconstruct the battles and to determine intentions may seem conjectural or even speculative at times, and it probably is. They nevertheless have the merit of being plausible or even quite likely. One element that I found particularly valuable was to show that the Roman armies were far from invincible. They were particularly vulnerable to ambushes, suffered from divided or poor command, and could break and be routed – as they were a number of times by the Cimbri and Teutones – especially when heavily outnumbered and deployed on unfavourable ground. Perhaps one of the best illustrations of this was the Roman disaster of Arausio which the author rightly ranks as being at least on par with Cannae.

Another valuable point is to show the tactical abilities of Jugurtha, but also to make sense of the apparently aimless wanderings of the “barbarian hordes” of Cimbri and Teutones (and a couple of other groups of tribes). Regarding the later, these seem to have been federations of tribes and, from a military point of view, they were probably not as crude as depicted by the Romans and seem to have learned quite a bit on how to fight them effectively from their victories against them.

There is however a few “glitches” in this book that prevent me from awarding it five stars. One is the existence of repetitions. These are at least partly a consequence of the author’s choice to tell several inter-acting stories in parallel. The existence of summaries at the end of his sections also leads to repetitions. These are also deliberate and probably intended to “remind” the so-called “general reader” of the main points which have just been made. They may (and, according to some of the other reviewers, have) put some readers off.

There are a few other problems as well. One is about numbers, where there is often a lack of clarity, especially with regards to the Cimbri and Teutones. These are alleged to have heavily outnumbered the Romans every time. However, the numbers given for these hordes – a quarter of a million for the smallest one and perhaps double that number for the largest with women and children all counted in – would not necessarily lead to an overwhelming superiority in numbers in all cases (even when considering that one out of every four Barbarian would be a warrior).

Another point that could have been discussed more in depth was the alleged “poor quality” of Jugurtha’s forces that the author contrasts with their leader’s military talent. The opposition is may be an over-simplification and a bit artificial. Numidian was renowned throughout Antiquity as first-class light skirmishing cavalry, and Numidian light infantry was not “poor quality”, even if perhaps not as good. What the author probably should have said was that neither was able to hold their ground in a pitched battle against more heavily equipped and better disciplined heavy Roman infantry operating in closed orders. Implying that one type of army is “poor quality” as opposed to the other because it is not fighting in the style it is equipped and trained to fight seemed a bit odd to me.
HASH(0x9ef0e984) out of 5 stars Great book on the Roman Empire showing the conduct of ... 4 Feb. 2016
By Scott Bailey - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Crisis of Rome describes the fighting between two fronts. One being in north Africa and the other being in Europe. This book tells the reader the key players and the fighting of the roman soldiers during this two front war. Great book on the Roman Empire showing the conduct of fighting a two front war. Great fighting spirt of the roman army. This was one of my first book on the Roman Empire and go a lot of information on it. Great book
HASH(0x9ef0eb1c) out of 5 stars but what it had was very good. 8 Jun. 2016
By Katheryn Haddad - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
It covered a different era than I expected, but what it had was very good.
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