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Taken at the Flood: The Roman Conquest of Greece (Ancient Warfare and Civilization) Hardcover – 17 Apr 2014
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The story Waterfield tells is complex, but he tells it well. (Peter Jones, BBC History)
This sorry story is told with great verve and pace by Waterfield. (Literary Review)
About the Author
In addition to having translated numerous Greek classics, including works by Plato, Aristotle, Herodotus, Xenophon, Polybius, and Plutarch, Robin Waterfield is the author of Why Socrates Died: Dispelling the Myths, Xenophon's Retreat: Greece, Persia and the End of the Golden Age, Athens: A History, and Dividing the Spoils: the War for Alexander the Great's Empire. He lives in the far south of Greece on a small olive farm.
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Top Customer Reviews
To begin with, the context of this book is about the conquest of Illyria and Greece, the defeat and destruction of the Macedonian Kingdom, the defeat of the Seleucid King Antiochus III and the control and domination that the Romans asserted over Asia Minor as a consequence of their victory. The apparent scope of the book therefore goes well beyond "Greece", however widely you might define it.
Second, the book is not so much a history of these conquests as it is a study in the ways and means of Roman "remote control" and domination. More than anything else, it is a study in Roman diplomacy and Republican imperialism, at a time when the Republic was seeking to subjugate, dominate, exploit and pillage its neighbours, rather than conquer them and occupy their territory outright.
The period covered is a relatively short one - a little more than eighty years between about 230 BC and the first war against the Illyrians for the control of the Adriatic sea to the destruction of the Achaean League and the sack of Corinth in 146 BC.
The author examines the drivers of the Roman expansion, mentioning in particular the competitive glory-hunting Senators and their use of the huge advantage in manpower that their system of alliance gave them over all other surrounding countries, tribes and states. He also shows that, as a result, Rome was almost in a state of constant war during the whole period (and also before and after).Read more ›
The narrative, primarily military, is beautifully written in smooth and fluent prose. It is worth knowing, though, that Waterfield, as an academic Hellenist, is not a great fan of Rome and that feeling does seep through this book.
This isn’t a scholarly book and is aimed at an undergraduate and general popular readership but isn’t at all dumbed down. The narrative is supplemented with maps and photos, sadly only in black and white.
So this is one of the most elegant historical narratives I’ve read on the ancient world. This period of Rome’s rise, after Alexander but before the last troubled century or so of the republic, is not very well known outside of academia – and this is a beautifully fluent and stylish re-telling.
(This review is from an ARC courtesy of the publisher)
I cannot comment on the actual battles, but it seemed to me that a major part of Rome's success was because it was so different an enemy from any encountered before. A few, like Eumenes of Pergamum, seemed to glimpse the dragon behind the benign facade and made terms, but even he miscalculated on occasion. Of course, during the course of mankind's history, many have sought to totally dominate others, but it seemed to me that what was being emphasized in this book was grinding intent which Rome displayed no matter the reverses. It seems to me that he is conveying that even in the snake pit of eastern polity, Rome was something far deadlier. If that was his intent, I got it.
No, the book is definitely not one for beginners and I will not mark higher than JPS's informed opinion, therefore, 4 stars.
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