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Defeat of Rome in the East: Crassus, the Parthians, and the Disastrous Battle of Carrhae, 53 BC: Crassus, Carrhae and the Invasion of the East by [Sampson, Gareth C]
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Defeat of Rome in the East: Crassus, the Parthians, and the Disastrous Battle of Carrhae, 53 BC: Crassus, Carrhae and the Invasion of the East Kindle Edition

3.9 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 4559 KB
  • Print Length: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Pen & Sword (23 July 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B008O8HOMW
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #276,637 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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3.9 out of 5 stars
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In the Kubrick film Spartacus, Laurence Olivier plays the role of Marcus Licinius Crassus. He did a fine job, the veneer of a patrician hiding the ruthlessness of a consummate politician. You want to know more. Yet in Roman history, Crassus tends to be marginalised, merely a man obsessed by wealth brought down by his pursuit of glory. His military incompetence led to one of Rome's worst defeats at the Battle of Carrhae in 53BC. A year later Julius Caesar, whose career Crassus had propelled with money and influence, achieved the astonishing victory at Alesia. Caesar fought and won against a massively larger Gallic army, Crassus's legions were virtually wiped out by a Parthian force a quarter of their size. His reputation has not been flattered by time.

Sampson's pleasing book gives a picture of Crassus. It is not a biography but a background sketch to put the battle in context. He was born to a very wealthy ruling family that held the high offices, and excelled in a world where failure would often result in death. His father and two brothers were killed or committed suicide running foul of political enemies. That would certainly make him a man who took politics seriously. His reputation was tainted by greed, he benefited financially from proscription, and as an unscrupulous property developer. He was an extraordinary manipulator, a breeder of pedigree politicians. He was perhaps Rome's greatest patron. The formation and workings of the triumvirate are largely passed over, the big beasts (he, Pompey and Caesar) found it possible to work together rather than tear each other apart. Why did Crassus go to war having attained hegemony over the Roman republic? The assumption is he wanted a triumph and that required a significant foreign military victory.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a very interesting, and at times fascinating book about the Roman disaster at Carrhae and the death of Crassus, arguably the most powerful member of the first triumvirate (the other two being Pompey and Caesar) in 53 BC at the hands of the Parthians commanded by Surena.

To begin with (and although most of the source discussion is pushed back into an appendix), the author has definitely studied and well-researched his subject. He has also identified the rather negative - and often implausible - biases contained in these sources, in particular in Plutarch, whose moralising agenda seems, once again, to have been privileged over historical accuracy.

The main interest of the book lies in the portray that it paints of Crassus, and the explanations that the author provides with the awful reputation that this "loser" acquired in Roman literature, a reputation that has mostly prevailed to this day. Gareth Sampson strenuously and valiantly attempts to rehabilitate the reputation of the vanquished Roman warlord who paid the disaster with his life. In particular, he makes a number of convincing points showing that Crassus was a highly efficient, successful and experienced Roman senator with a colossal fortune, huge political experience, vast political connections and significantly more military experience that he is usually credited for. Moreover, although about sixty years old when he left on his Parthian campaign, he was far from senile and very much at the top of his campaign.

Regarding his military experience, he was the real victor of Spartacus' slave rebellion, although Pompey managed to get some of the credit for it, in one of his usual exercises of one-upmanship.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is a fascinating book. Anyone interested in Roman history has probably heard of the battle of Carrhae; it was, after all, one of the greatest defeats the Roman Army ever suffered, and it was also the end of Crassus, one of the Triumverate with Pompey and Caeser. And frankly, that's all I really knew before reading this book.
The first thing to say is that we have very little hard evidence about the campaign, the battle and its aftermath. The author is very honest about this, but makes excellent use of what we do have. The Parthians - Rome's adversary - are an enigma to modern historians: no Parthian documents have come down to us, for reasons the author describes, so everything has to be examined from the viewpoint of other, mostly later, works, which are often biased. The author is very clear about what are facts, what are logical conclusions and what are suppositions.
The book starts off with an excellent introduction to Roman politics in the time leading up to the campaign, and a refreshing outline of the life and career of Crassus. Much maligned by all since his death, it is shown that he must have been a much more substantial figure than widely believed, and his career, and particularly his relationship with Pompey, is well described. It also gives as much detail as possible about the rise of the Parthian state.
All this leads to the campaign, and the battle itself. Sampson does not dawdle or over-dramatise. The battle was not that long, and he gives the known facts, and then moves on to the aftermath, which actually, in many ways, was worse for Rome.
He finally relates the longer term effects on both Parthia and Rome, and the Middle East as a whole.
Overall, this is excellent history. Balanced, clear about fact and supposition, and thought-provoking. It has very good appendices, and a useful bibliography. If you are interested in Roman history, I would thoroughly recommend it.
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