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Failure of Empire: Valens and the Roman State in the Fourth Century A.D. (Transformation of the Classical Heritage) Hardcover – 14 Mar 2003
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From the Inside Flap
This book will be a hard act to follow. W. H. C. Frend, The Journal of Ecclesiastical History
Splendid book . . . Lenski offers an extraordinarily suggestive description . . . information is presented without fanfare, but with style and much good sense. Clifford Ando, American Historical Review
In this energetically reasoned and learned book, Noel Lenski links the imperial biography to the administrative, military, and religious history of the late Roman StateThe result is a thought-provoking and enduring contribution to what we know about late antiquity: a book to be welcomed. Sabine MacCormack, author of The Shadows of Poetry: Vergil in the Mind of Augustine
Failure of Empire is exceptionally well organized: one gets the sense of a guiding intellect behind every paragraphLenski brings coherence to a reign that has long seemed to lack anything of the sort. Hal Drake, author of Constantine and the Bishops: The Politics of Intolerance" --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
About the Author
Noel Lenski is Associate Professor of Classics at the University of Colorado, Boulder.
Top Customer Reviews
OK, onto the book. Aside from the kudos due to the choice of such an awesome topic, there are many reasons to read this book. As far as I know, there aren't any other biographies of Valens out there so you're pretty much stuck with this one anyways. But that's OK, because this book is all you'll need. As mentioned above the book's main purpose is to analyze Valens' abilities and find out what he had and what was lacking. The information on this is fascinating, but it's also arranged in chronological order which means that it reads like a biography and not just some scholarly thesis. The book is written very well on the whole.Read more ›
The first quality of this book is its relative originality. Most books written on Roman Emperors concentrate on either the great ones or the ones that turned out to be monsters, or were painted to be so after their death. This book is about an Emperor who was neither one nor the other, who struggled during his whole reign, and who finally failed.
As the author shows so well, he was a "misfit". Although he was far from incapable and was a talented administrator, he was out of his depth. His lack of education - he neither read nor spoke Greek although this was the main language spoken in the Eastern part of the Empire - put him at a disadvantage. Neither was he a relentless soldier, like his elder brother. He was perseverant, he struggled and he tried his best, but this was not enough.
The third remarkable point made in this book is to list in a seamless way through a mostly chronological narrative the series of challenges that Valens had to face one after the other.Read more ›
'Valens arrived with his army the following spring, when he is attested at Marcianople from May 10. There, he supplemented his rather deficient strategic knowledge with the new manual 'De rebus bellicis', written for him in the period following the Procopius revolt. The manual not only recommended the sort of border fortifications that he soon built and the manufacture of the ballistae with which he equipped these forts, it also had advice on shirts to protect his men from cool and damp weather, and portable bridges, which would have been ideal for the marshy territory in which he was about to campaign'.
There is no evidence to support Valen's even knew of the existence of the 'De Rebus Bellicis' let alone took a copy of it on campaigns, and even if he had done so it would not have given him any real strategic or tactical knowledge and was full of untested and fanciful idea's to boot, especially those around the scythed chariots and ballista's.
There are similar such issues in the book which prevents me otherwise giving it a five star rating.
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