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TOP 50 REVIEWERon 24 August 2012
This is a great book; compressing a very complex year of betrayal, murder, ambition and Roman politics at its most tortuous into 300 or so pages must have taken a fair bit of work. The book triumphs also in that it is extremely readable; not a dry, scholarly tome, but a highly enjoyable read which races along at a fair pace through these eventful times. Even making sense of all the characters in these sorry tales is handled brilliantly.

Morgan begins in the Introduction with an explanation as to why he chose to write this book; he refers specifically to the three earlier English studies published in the last century, by Henderson, Greenhalgh and Wellesley - and then proceeds to explain why these, for reasons of their own, fall short of what he feels is a more definitive `truth' which needs to be told.

Also in the introduction is a retrospective of Tacitus as an historian, and some words on Suetonius. At the end of the book is a section on the main sources - Josephus, Plutarch, Tacitus, Suetonius and Dio, as well as `the common source' and the memoir by Vipstanus Messalla. These are all referred to in the narrative, and clearly the author has attempted throughout to rationalise and clarify these sources to sew together a `reasonable' interpretation of the events of which they are the primary sources.

I confess to finding it odd that a book of this nature offered very little in the way of citing of more current sources, or any explanatory notes. Clearly the complexity of the material would make for a very confusing and many-paged book if all the doubtful or interpretative matters in the story were dissected to their ultimate end, but I would have expected some acknowledgment of other authors' works, and even some discussion (perhaps relegated to Appendices) on some of the more contentious matters. Even some intriguing details were not expanded upon; why, for instance, is the sentence on page 76 concerning marriage of Vitellius' brother Lucius to Triaria, and their lack of children, concluded with "a nondevelopment for which those who knew Triaria should have been profoundly grateful". I wanted to know! But alas I had to search out other material to find out why that may have been the case.

This book really piques the interest of the reader, and, eager for more, I naturally would look to a Bibliography or a list of Further Suggested Reading to find out more about the people, the period, the times, and the whole series of events covered in this book, and before and after these events. But there were no such listings in this book; a shame in many ways, and the only thing that detracted, for me, from a totally fantastic overall experience.

A great read; a most informative and entertaining as well as enlightening read; and highly recommended for anyone wishing to learn more about the tumultuous times of Galba, Otho and Vitellius and the ultimate victory of Vespasian.
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TOP 50 REVIEWERon 30 November 2015
This is a great book; compressing a very complex year of betrayal, murder, ambition and Roman politics at its most tortuous into 300 or so pages must have taken a fair bit of work. The book triumphs also in that it is extremely readable; not a dry, scholarly tome, but a highly enjoyable read which races along at a fair pace through these eventful times. Even making sense of all the characters in these sorry tales is handled brilliantly.

Morgan begins in the Introduction with an explanation as to why he chose to write this book; he refers specifically to the three earlier English studies published in the last century, by Henderson, Greenhalgh and Wellesley - and then proceeds to explain why these, for reasons of their own, fall short of what he feels is a more definitive `truth' which needs to be told.

Also in the introduction is a retrospective of Tacitus as an historian, and some words on Suetonius. At the end of the book is a section on the main sources - Josephus, Plutarch, Tacitus, Suetonius and Dio, as well as `the common source' and the memoir by Vipstanus Messalla. These are all referred to in the narrative, and clearly the author has attempted throughout to rationalise and clarify these sources to sew together a `reasonable' interpretation of the events of which they are the primary sources.

I confess to finding it odd that a book of this nature offered very little in the way of citing of more current sources, or any explanatory notes. Clearly the complexity of the material would make for a very confusing and many-paged book if all the doubtful or interpretative matters in the story were dissected to their ultimate end, but I would have expected some acknowledgment of other authors' works, and even some discussion (perhaps relegated to Appendices) on some of the more contentious matters. Even some intriguing details were not expanded upon; why, for instance, is the sentence on page 76 concerning marriage of Vitellius' brother Lucius to Triaria, and their lack of children, concluded with "a nondevelopment for which those who knew Triaria should have been profoundly grateful". I wanted to know! But alas I had to search out other material to find out why that may have been the case.

This book really piques the interest of the reader, and, eager for more, I naturally would look to a Bibliography or a list of Further Suggested Reading to find out more about the people, the period, the times, and the whole series of events covered in this book, and before and after these events. But there were no such listings in this book; a shame in many ways, and the only thing that detracted, for me, from a totally fantastic overall experience.

A great read; a most informative and entertaining as well as enlightening read; and highly recommended for anyone wishing to learn more about the tumultuous times of Galba, Otho and Vitellius and the ultimate victory of Vespasian.
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on 1 October 2015
If you bought this in order to clarify developements in the Roman Empire 68-69 ce after Tacitus' mezza pudding then prepared to be disappointed. This takes the extremely convoluted events and endevours to complicate things further by introducing ifs and buts from contemporary and recent accounts. This is an example of how and why digital accounts could be coded to take various routes to a conclusion to avoid necessary and un-necessary diversions. A modern interpretation of the footnote say!
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on 22 May 2013
Full of detail and very interesting - a lot of it is the Authors take on what each of the ancient writers actually meant as none of them gave a pure historical account as we know it today - they all had specific methods and agendas. They often wrote in Rhetoric - which is NOT the same as a factual History and the author gives a great deal of emphasis to this (almost too much occasionally).

But all good stuff and not too academic, so it is a reasonably easy read in most places.
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on 18 February 2011
I wanted to know more about the year of the 4 emperors. This is a really useful book because it's not too long or wordy but it gives you enough info about what was going on and the characters involved. Recommended for anyone doing research into this period.
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on 16 January 2015
Well written and easy to read ad assimilate
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on 25 May 2013
I found the format of the book pleasing and easy to follow and the fact that someone finally listed the legions as they were .
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on 8 March 2010
Well written, a clear and easy read. Lot of information and detail but not dull or boring - very enlightening
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