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on 3 March 2018
maybe a little too much military detail for me..eg close descriptions of swords etc at every poss opp. But interesting & useful on the topic.
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on 27 February 2016
Very good. An interesting book on one of Rome's great Generals.
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TOP 100 REVIEWERon 20 October 2013
After writing a book on Drusus the Elder (Germanicus' father), Lindsay Powell has just published a book on the somewhat better known son. Both books have a lot in common, although this one is longer and more detailed, largely because we know more about Germanicus than about his father. Both were portrayed as war heroes and "wonder boys", chiefly because of their victorious expeditions in Germany. Both were dashing and somewhat rash. Both died young. While the father died accidentally, the son seems to have been poisoned, as he himself believed.

There were however quite a few differences between them. Germanicus Iulius Caesar, as he became named (his initial name was Nero Claudius Drusus, was heavily influenced by his father's glory and reputation. As the book shows art times, the son used the same tactics and strategies as the father had in Germany. Times had changed, however. While the father had set off to conquer and pacify "Germania Magna", the son was in fact conducting retaliatory expeditions against the tribes that had a hand in the destruction of Varus' legions. Also, the son seems to have lived to be a bit older than his father and had the time to be sent to the East as a king of "viceroy" to govern and settle a number of disputes.

Germanicus, the grandson of Marcus Antonius the triumvir through his mother (Antonia), is also known for his family life and in particular his association and love match with Aggripina the Elder, the daughter of Agrippa (Augustus' right hand man when he was still only Octavian) and of Iulia, and his large family. His uncle was Tiberius. His brother became the Emperor Claudius who succeeded his son nicknamed "Caligula" during his youth by the legions on the Rhine. He became Augustus' darling since he seemed to be the incarnation of everything that Augustus wanted his new regime and its Princeps to look like.

All this, and much more, is shown and told by Lindsay Powell in this book with a luxury of details and an overabundance of footnotes (often some two hundred per chapter!). The genealogical trees are, for instance, particularly useful to understand the various relationships. Both men and women often had the same names as their parents and they tended to intermarry, making it even more confusing at times. Also useful are the maps and the colour photos of coins and places.

I had, however, two kinds of problems with this book, and these were quite similar with the ones I had had with the author's previous book on Germanicus' father. One is about form and the other, perhaps a bit more serious, is about substance. Both are related to - and seem to be the consequences of - the author's enthusiasm for his topic (at least this is the impression I got).

The problem about form is that the author comes up with multiple digressions about a whole range of topics while telling the story. For instance, each and every step of Germanicus' career is the occasion for the author to start explaining what the various positions that he occupied meant, their origins and how they had evolved. This is, for instance, the case for the consulship but also for the various religious priesthoods that were bestowed on Germanicus. Depending on your point of view, and perhaps also on how much you already know about Rome and its institutions, you may consider this to be either a wonderful bonus ("two books in one", as another reviewer stated for the book on Drusus) or, on the contrary, unnecessary padding that slows the book down and makes it harder to read. To be frank, I had both impressions, at different times.

The problem with the substance is that the story is essentially a very biased one, with the author essentially taking for granted that Germanicus was both the war hero and the wonder boy that he was portrayed to be. The Romans certainly believed it and so did the Roman sources. Was he really such a "superhero" and "wonder boy", and, if so, to what extent? Given the Romans talent for propaganda, a discussion of these questions would have been worthwhile, rather than taking for granted what all of the sources have to say about the "wonder boy". Also, the author does show that the Germanic campaigns of the young general were both high risk and rather costly in all respect, starting with Roman lives. So the track record is not exactly perfect but the author, even in his assessment section right at the end, never really gets such a discussion going, although he skirts around it a couple of times.

Another topic that might disappoint some, but where I believe the author was both prudent and, contrary to the point above, quite impartial and careful not to jump to conclusions and speculate, is Germanicus' death. Here again, Lindsay Powell tells the facts as we know them through the sources. The author does a rather good job in exonerating both Tiberius and his mother Livia from any responsibility in the hero's death. This is done essentially by showing that despite insinuations (and those from Tacitus have been particularly damaging for Tiberius' reputation), neither seem to have had any real reason to get rid of the "wonder boy". However, this essentially leaves the problem unsolved: who murdered him, or did he die of some disease? We will never know for sure.

Four solid stars for a book that is well-worth reading.
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on 17 November 2016
Fine as described.
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on 25 November 2013
i think germanicus to be an excellent book and an excellent successor to 'eager for glory' (the book about drusus the elder)

powell does his utmost to describe the live of germanicus from birth until death. he does this in the most neutral manner possible, highlighting both good and bad characteristics of his subject.

in his book, he also takes the necessary time to explain terms to his reader which makes this a most readable book, even for the people who have no previous knowledge on the roman world during augustus' time.

i would highly recommend it to all people interested in roman military history.
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on 24 October 2013
This is a tough review to write and I'm not even going to pretend it will be any where as good or as detailed as JPS above. I read a lot of the same books as JPS and generally will wait to see if they have done a review before buying. This is the one time I will slightly disagree with there analysis.

I agree with the aspect in regards to the death of Germanicius, as for my sins I am a Police detective and the conclusion didn't fully satisfy me but given the fact it is a extremely cold case I can see why he came to the conclusion he did but fully agree with JPS that Tiberius gets of way to easily given the amount of circumstantial evidence that points to him and Piso. Also Tiberius actions leading up to and after the death merits closer look and discussion. Due to dealing with people's motivations for crime I do tend to see the worst in people so can understand Powell giving him the benefit of the doubt, I do not though.

That aside I can not fault the book I would argue it deserves five stars. Yes there is a lot of detail but I think that, that is a great positive and does not adversely affect the flow of the story. The author presents his arguments well if at times does not have enough discussion. But this is minor points, the book is a wonderfully detailed look at this amazing mans life. I really enjoyed his first book Eager for Glory and this book has surpassed that.

JPS keep up the good reviews I thoroughly enjoy them
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on 1 January 2014
Germanicus Julius Caesar was born Nero Claudius Drusus, after his father, on 24 May 16 BCE. The son of famed warrior, Drusus the elder, and of the daughter of Mark Anthony and Octavia; the step-grandson of Emperor Augustus; and the eventual father to Caligula, Germanicus was destined for greatness.
Lindsay Powell traces the life of one of Rome's most popular generals from his cultured and well-educated upbringing to his impressive military career, which began at the age of 21.
Drusus the Elder gained the unusual agnomen of Germanicus posthumously, out of respect for his great military victories in Germania Magna. The name was passed down to his surviving sons, and after being adopted into Augustus' family, Germanicus was also given the title of Julius Caesar. A marriage was arranged between Germanicus and Augustus' granddaughter, Agrippina and their unbreakable and steadfast love for one another is one of the central themes of Powell's book.
Powell narrates the life of a man who was much loved by the Roman people for his diplomacy, his bravery and his loyalty. He was a poet, an augur, an advocate, a loyal family man and a military hero. Powell follows the military campaigns of Germanicus in fascinating detail, painting a picture, not just of a great man, but of the Roman Empire during a tempestuous period: the complex politics, military strategies and threat of invasion. But as he makes clear in the subtitle of Germanicus, he is not only concerned with the life of one of Rome's great heroes but also with his mysterious death and ensuing legacy. A good third of the book is dedicated to these latter events, with Powell delving into some detail over the mysterious circumstances which led to Germanicus' untimely death at the age of 34.
A prolonged illness which created bluish spots on his skin, and the report that he was foaming at the mouth, led to suspicions that Germanicus was poisoned. Powell gives a clear account of the uproar and great distress which followed Germanicus' demise, painting a picture of hysteria - a nation distraught and inconsolable. Was Germanicus a victim of the poor sanitary conditions in Syria, or was his death the result of a sinister murder plot? It is a question which has never been answered and Powell returns once again to the contemporary evidence to explain why his death provoked such a strong reaction in the Roman populace.
Powell's book is meticulously researched and backed up by a fantastic spread of illustrations containing Germanicus' imprint on coins, representations of him in works of art and maps of the military campaigns he was involved in.
The story of a Roman Emperor that might have been, Germanicus is a thorough, unbiased account of a man who is often overlooked despite the great impact he made on Ancient Rome.
It is a fascinating study and well worth reading if you have an interest in the Roman Empire.
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on 25 August 2014
Given as a present, so hard to judge, but looked good.
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on 11 December 2013
Textbooks on Germanicus - arguably one of Rome's finest generals - are few and far between, sadly. When one is published, therefore, it gives cause for celebration - particularly when it's as good as the volume penned by Lindsay Powell. Meticulously researched, absorbing and well written, this is no dusty, academic tome, but a `must have' text for any reader with an interest in Rome. Powell knows his subject matter inside out, and is to be highly commended on a most welcome addition to the biographies of Rome's most famous sons.

Ben Kane, author of Hannibal: Enemy of Rome and Fields of Blood.
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on 5 July 2014
I have just finished reading Germanicus. Wonderful read and certainly made me think more deeply about him.
I cannot recommend this book highly enough.
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