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on 17 June 2009
Cassius Dio was a Roman senator and imperial administrator of Greek origin who lived in the third century AD. He wrote a Roman History that ran from the mythical foundation of the city to his own time. This edition includes books 50 to 56, covering the end of the first century BC civil wars and the reign of Augustus.

Cassius Dio is an invaluable written source on the period, as one of only three extant surviving narrative pieces on it. Readers expecting to gain a complete, or even an accurate, view of Augustus based on his books, however, should beware. This only offers material to be considered alongside other, sometimes conflicting sources (Suetonius, Tacitus, the Res Gestae, or more easily digestible secondary works). Cassius Dio's format, furthermore, can be difficult to follow, alternating between annalistic writing and thematic information presented as dialogues or speeches. The dialogues, of course, are invented, and were a typical tool of ancient writers to present views and analysis without seeming to do so in their own voice. Long exposés by Agrippa and Maecenas, for example, serve as a description of Augustus' constitutional innovations and the system of imperial rule. But whereas Thucydides, the first to use such speeches, could claim to have heard the originals or spoken to people who had, Cassius Dio could have done no such thing after 200 years. Thus anachronisms crept into his text, such as on provincial organisation and government, or the legions' list.

This is to be read by people already well versed in the topic. And by the way, the Varus episode and the loss of the 'German' legions occupies only about three pages of this book.
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on 1 December 2009
Dio's Roman History:the reign of Augustus, is an essential read in the range of Roman history texts which cover this important era in Roman history when the Republic came to an end and the Empire began.

Dio stands in strong contrast to Tacitus writing of the same period in that Dio isn't anywhere near as entertaining and appears far more pragmatic although as other reviewers have noted the style is one of history as a consequence of the fitness of the rulers to rule. As such, there is nothing wrong with this, it must be remembered that at the time Dio lived the Empire was in dire straits after the succession of Severus to be followed by a virtual plague of civil wars and barbarian attacks which were overcome with difficulty and it stands as a testimony to the rulers during this period that the Empire survived. This then is the viewpoint from which Dio writes. He doesn't let Augustus appear too much of a demi-god but also brings out his weaknesses and does not just praise him but rather explains how he was able to reign so well with the help of extremely able men such as Agrippa and Maecenas and the leadership of Drusus.

Unfortunately, the book is interspersed with numerous "created" speeches which don't ring true, rather different from Tacitus where they certainly sound more genuine. Also it covers far better the events in the capital than in the provinces and more detail as regards the campaigns in Germany would have been illuminating.

Nonetheless, a good book, well worth it for a study of the style of Roman scholarship of the time.
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on 4 September 2001
In addition to the above, Dio covers the Varian disaster of 9 AD in Teutoburger Wald, where 3 Roman legions were lost under the leadership of the Governor Publius Quintillius Varus. Varus had been appointed governor by Augustus on the strength of family ties and a talent for extracting taxes rather than military ability, and Augustus bitterly regretted it later.
Fascinating to read about the Emperor's reaction to the news, and his grasp of the ultimate significance of the loss (i.e., Germany became too dangerous to invade, and so was excluded from the Romanised world). This book not only gives a superbly detailed account of the first Emperor, but also shows how the seeds of Rome's downfall were sown in the first 10 years of the christian calendar. You can also trace the beginnings of virtually every major medeival and modern war from this period in Roman history.
A uniquely compelling read.
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on 3 May 2009
Given the larege amount of lost material in Tacitus and Suetonius The Annals of Imperial Rome (Classics)The Twelve Caesars (Penguin Classics) this is the closest we have to a complete narrative account of the reign of Rome's first Emperor. Though not a contemporary (he was writing in the early 3rd Century) he will have had access to many sources which are now lost, including official documents as he was high ranking member of the military and political class and served the Severan emperors in various capacities during his career.
This is invaluable material for studying the beginning of Imperial Government.
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on 8 May 2012
Something that can be read very easily. Giving accounts of Octavian's relationship with Mark Antony, and Lepidus; the decline of their relationship.

Cleopatra's behaviour during the time before her suicide, and Antony's.
Livia's supposed murder of Augustus, and the rumours of her other poisonings of rivals to her son, Tiberius.

The book itself, and the introduction, give insight into how Roman political men were also military commanders. Particuarly useful for giving insight into how men like Julius Caesar, Pompey, Marius, Sulla, Antony, and the others, could amass such wealth, and raise such armies. That is, they raised armies and popular movements with the promise of rewards for the poor if they followed the military commander / consul.

The history catalogues the wars of the empire, and the behaviour of the legions. People will find the speeches hard to swallow, so boring as they are. Yet, Dio usually wants to make ethical points, and these are aimed at Roman readers, and could just as easily be aimed at and profitably heard by the barbarous rulers of our own time - who think nothing of assassinating their opponents, and, contrary to Augustus's own principle - starting wars to enlarge our Empire. Augustus told Tiberius not to do so, since the outcome would probably be to damage what empire they already held.
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on 9 April 2010
Cassius Dio or Dio Cassius is with Tacitus and Suetonius the nearest, just about we have to contempory sources for the early empire and, in particular for the age of Augustus since I was researching for my book on King Herod who was as friend of Augustus and of Marcus Agrippa the Emperors chief supporter and also a friend of Herod.
As Roman writers though sometime after the events they give us the thoughts and observations of people at the time. Such sources are, therefor very valuable to the historian.
Cassius, of course is much more detailed and wrote voluminously. The section on Augustus gives us a rare insight into the character of the First Emperor.
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on 12 February 2015
Very good translation! I currently use it for my university course and recommend it to all students at any level as well as all the other penguin classics books great value money!!!
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on 11 May 2016
Interesting book and really helpful for schools
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on 25 August 2015
Very good
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on 10 March 2016
Amazon rules do not allow additional comment.
Thank you.
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