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Rome, Parthia and India: The Violent Emergence of a New World Order 150-140 BC Hardcover – 19 Sep 2013

4.5 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 219 pages
  • Publisher: Pen & Sword Military (19 Sept. 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1848848250
  • ISBN-13: 978-1848848252
  • Product Dimensions: 16.5 x 2.5 x 23.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 361,701 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

About the Author

John D Grainger, a former teacher, is a well established historian with around two-dozen previous works across various periods including: The Battle of Yorktown, 1781: A Reassessment (Boydell); The Battle for Palestine 1917 (Boydell) and Alexander the Great Failure (Hambledon Continuum, 2006). This is his fourth book for Pen & Sword's ancient list.


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By JPS TOP 100 REVIEWER on 5 Nov. 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book from John Grainger is both original, at least in its presentation, and remarkable because of the topic that it covers.

Presented as the rise of a new order over a period of slightly more than a decade (150-140 BC) it goes beyond that. Rather than concentrating on a single area, it analyses events that were happening almost simultaneously within this period (and before) across the whole of the Mediterranean and the East, up to the limits of Alexander's and the Old Persian Empire. The purpose is to show how these events were interconnected, had knock-on effects, and resulted in the decline and fall of the Seleucid Empire and the emergence of Rome and Parthia.

While the approach is somewhat original, it also has risks which the author may not have entirely avoided. Rather than a continuous narrative, I had at times the impression of reading a collection of fascinating vignettes, sometimes loosely connected and where the connection appeared sometimes to be established as a bit of an afterthought. Some connections are much looser than others, with the most flimsy being perhaps the sack of Pataliputra, the capital of the ex-Mauryan Empire, by forces led by a Bactrian-Greek king named Menander who had moved to northern India and happened to be a Buddhist. This is almost all we know about this event in particular. We do not know much more about the Bactrian Greek Kingdoms themselves, although Grainger does a rather good job in presenting our limited knowledge in a clear and concise way.

Accordingly, the book's title is perhaps a bit of a misnomer. Rather than being about Rome, Parthia and India, it is about the two former and their rise from the West and the East, and about the demise of the Seleucid Empire.
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Format: Hardcover
Rome, Parthia & India: The Violent Emergence of a New World Order, 150-140 BC, John D Grainger, Pen & Sword, 2013, 210pp (+xiv)

This is an excellent narrative account of the turmoil in the Hellenistic world between 150 and 140 BC, looking at interrelated events reaching from Spain to India. The author is a noted historian, specialising in the later Hellenistic period, and has written many original and readable histories thereof – see ‘Further Reading’ below.

This book looks at a relatively ‘busy’ period in the Hellenistic world, which stretches, as the Author notes in his opening chapter, from Spain to India, and anyone who spoke Greek could communicate with most people across that region, thanks to the penetration of Greek colonists and culture since Alexander’s campaigns. This is a period relatively unexplored by historians, as there are no Great Captains, few famous battles, and the political leaders are, with a few exceptions, mainly obscure. I would note here that the Author, in one of his earlier introductions, has had a rant at publishers (and writers) who insist on publishing ‘yet another’ biography of Roman emperors who achieved nothing other than have good sources for their reigns, making them easy to write about, and therefore popular with readers because so many people wrote about them – historical celebrities, in fact; famous for being famous. This Author has chosen the narrow, narrow road, “so thick beset with thorns and briars”, and has worked to master the sources for the Hellenistic world, which allows him to paint a picture of the relative interconnectedness of events in the decade studied here.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 3.3 out of 5 stars 3 reviews
38 of 41 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Valuable Insights Negatively Impacted by Questionable Writing Choices 12 Jan. 2014
By bonnie_blu - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I admire Grainger's efforts to show how events occurring across widely dispersed geographical areas impact each other and future historical developments. However, I have several issues with the writing in this book:
1. The text contains numerous value judgements of the actions of individuals and empires, and the author often applies modern morality to ancient behavior by using pejorative descriptors. The ancient world had a very different moral structure, and to judge it by modern standards is not beneficial to historical analysis.
2. Many of Grainger's negative comments are aimed at the actions of the Roman Republic while being less critical of other empires. I don't know why this is the case, but it is off-putting.
3. The author uses a mix of ancient and modern names for territories. This in itself is not a problem if appropriate caveats are given so that the reader understands these territories may not be the same geographically. However, this is not the case in the book, and I especially think calling the territory in and around modern Iran by its modern name is misleading. The empires of the Persians, Seleucids, and Parthians grew and shrank in size over time, and using the term "Iran" could easily be misconstrued by readers not familiar with the history of the area. Ditto for "India."
4. The text would have benefited by greater use of dates throughout and more maps (again, to benefit the armchair historian).

Overall I think Grainger's book makes valuable connections among the widespread events of 150 BCE - 140 BCE, and shows how no historical event exists in a vacuum.
20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Decline and fall of the Seleucids 30 Nov. 2013
By JPS - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Review first posted on Amazon.co.uk on 5 November 2013

This book from John Grainger is both original, at least in its presentation, and remarkable because of the topic that it covers.

Presented as the rise of a new order over a period of slightly more than a decade (150-140 BC) it goes beyond that. Rather than concentrating on a single area, it analyses events that were happening almost simultaneously within this period (and before) across the whole of the Mediterranean and the East, up to the limits of Alexander's and the Old Persian Empire. The purpose is to show how these events were interconnected, had knock-on effects, and resulted in the decline and fall of the Seleucid Empire and the emergence of Rome and Parthia.

While the approach is somewhat original, it also has risks which the author may not have entirely avoided. Rather than a continuous narrative, I had at times the impression of reading a collection of fascinating vignettes, sometimes loosely connected and where the connection appeared sometimes to be established as a bit of an afterthought. Some connections are much looser than others, with the most flimsy being perhaps the sack of Pataliputra, the capital of the ex-Mauryan Empire, by forces led by a Bactrian-Greek king named Menander who had moved to northern India and happened to be a Buddhist. This is almost all we know about this event in particular. We do not know much more about the Bactrian Greek Kingdoms themselves, although Grainger does a rather good job in presenting our limited knowledge in a clear and concise way.

Accordingly, the book's title is perhaps a bit of a misnomer. Rather than being about Rome, Parthia and India, it is about the two former and their rise from the West and the East, and about the demise of the Seleucid Empire. This started with the breakaway and loss of their more far-flung provinces: Bactria, Asia Minor and then Parthia.
As the author shows rather well, even after its (more narrow than commonly admitted) defeat in battle against the Romans, the Seleucid Empire very much remained the major superpower in the East.

This was especially the case since in BC 200 and for the next fifty years or so, Rome was very reluctant to occupy subjected territory and conquered states. Parthia, still a vassal state of the Empire thanks to Antiochos' expeditions in the East, was not a major threat. What the author shows in fact is that the Seleucid Empire almost self-destructed, with vicious bouts of civil wars pitting rival candidates for the throne against each other. He also shows how others, starting with the Parthians, but also the Maccabean Jews and Ptolemy VI of Egypt, took advantage of these wars and, in the two latter cases, interfered and took sides in their own interest.

It is then, as he shows, that the Empire lost first the so-called Upper Satrapies - the Iranian plateau which provided most of the King's best cavalry - followed by Babylon and Mesopotamia, the richest province by far, the Empire's bread basket and one of its heartlands (the other being Syria).

This book turned out to be a rather fascinating piece of little-known history. I do have one regret however: as is often the case, the author seems to have lacked space and to have at times limited himself to cursory explanations. In some cases, little or no explanation at all is provided. This is for instance the case for Ptolemy VI and Antiochus VII Sidetes (and his brother Demetrios II to a lesser extent), presented as capable rulers and soldiers, but who failed.

Four stars for a book that is, in a way, the continuation of the recent and excellent biography of Antiochus III published in the same collection. It is clearly written by someone who knons his topic and is currently preparing a three-tome history of the Seleucids (which is badly needed since previous efforts are either twenty years old or almost eighty years old, not necessarily in English, out of print and hard to find and terribly expensive) and for whom this Empire constitutes a main area of interest.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Solid book 25 Sept. 2014
By Life long learner - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As bonnie_blu stated in their rating this book has some hiccups about adding modern values to what transpired. However, this book has alot of interesting details on an area of history that is not well presented in schools nowadays .
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