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on 29 September 2014
The author uses the sparse sources to describe the military career of Belisarius pretty well. I can't say I particularly enjoyed it: too many towns and names in quick succession, detailed descriptions of the armour and weaponry of different armies of the time. It would have been good to hear more about the wider political context, especially at the court of Justinian. Belisarius seems unbelievably trusting of his unfaithful wife, perhaps reflecting the chief source, Procipius. It was interesting that there was a 6th century Italian town called Narnia. Did this inspire C S Lewis?
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on 21 October 2014
I was particularly interested in descriptions of Belisarius' character: he was certainly canny. He looked after his men and in turn expected them to treat citizens of towns under attack fairly, to get the citizens on his side. He knew that an invading army cannot hold a nation under subjugation indefinitely - like the early Romans in England who encouraged people to become Roman citizens and share in the better life that was apparently on offer.

Belisarius used opportunities. Ian Hughes does justice to the strategy of taking advantage of opportunities as they arrive: as Hughes says, probably there was no master plan. The ding-dong of events across the Mediterranean areas can be explained not only by military might but also by the weaknesses of others. Opportunity was what counted. So, when Byzantium faced a strong Persia there was no war.

'Make the best of things' might be sufficient for the sensible Belisarius.
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on 12 September 2014
For my taste this book dwells a little bit too much on the minutiae of military equipment and culture. Particularly as the author makes clear that his subjects genius was as much as a politician as a General. However, this is part of the the Pen and Sword series and so I should probably have expected this emphasis. A strength of Pen and Sword books is generally the detail given to the tactics in specific battles and 'Belisarius' excels in this respect, each battle being beautifully illustrated with helpful diagrams and maps.

The aspect of the book that appealed most to me was the revisionist element. Lord Mahon's seminal work on this subject painted Belisarius as a genius and near saint. We all like to read about heroes and so this explains part of the lasting appeal of the work. If we cannot get a hero we like a villain or even a failure. In producing his book it would have been very easy for Hughes to react against Mahon and paint Belisarius in dark colours. Instead Hughes avoided the easy routes of hagiography or synography, instead presenting us with very good general, but not one of the greatest. A good man but far from a saint.
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on 5 February 2016
Excellent narrative history following the campaigns of Belisarius and a bit of geopolitical context.

Although the book is well written, it REALLY needs someone with a basic knowledge of Latin to proof-read it. This is not me being a Latin-snob, but whenever a Latin or Greek term is used there is more than a 50% chance it is spelled incorrectly and often so distorted as to be almost unrecognisable. In particular the "bucelarii," a general's personal retinue, is variously spelled as bucellam or bucellarn. Another embarrassing highlight is when the name of the actual subject of the biography is rendered as "Belisanus" and there are a few where I genuinely can't work out what the word is supposed to be. I suspect this is probably specific to the Kindle edition as it seems to happen only happens to words in Italics, so probably a problem with the system that was used to scan the text. However, a basic proof-read could have picked these up very easily.

Although I've focused on one particular problem, this is mainly because the book is otherwise extremely interesting and well-written. I would very much recommend this book to anyone with an interest in Belisarius, Justinian, late Roman/early Byzantine history but if you're not already familiar with the Latin and Greek terms do be VERY wary when using the Kindle edition!
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on 11 April 2014
Very unusual subject matter and one that has been delivered well with a clever descriptive of internal and external Middle Eastern politics. Quite frankly, I had never appreciated what Belisarius has accomplished and this story has delivered a proper memorial to a Constantinople Christian general who delivered no matter what his personal costs. Excellent story but I would have enjoyed it even more with proper maps and diagrams that were better legible in e-book format.
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on 3 November 2014
A bit heavy going in places but nevertheless very interesting account of Belisarius, a Roman General fighting at the dying stages of the great Roman Empire. What was of more interest to me than the battle descriptions was the narrative around the maneuvering and machinations of the Empire in its death throes.
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on 29 March 2015
I liked the wider perspective concerning the arms, forces and organisation. The narrative history was perhaps a bit difficult to follow at times particularly in the Italian Wars. I found the style of the writing a little turgid at times.
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on 19 November 2014
This is a balanced appraisal of the man and his times. It is the fault of neither Belisarius nor the author, that the struggle to subdue the Goths in Italy becomes somewhat repetitive and dispiriting; Belisarius and Justinian must certainly have thought so. The book gives a good insight into this period of the Byzantine empire.
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on 1 August 2015
Interesting but very "dry" more of a historical fact than a story,the tale is told without emotion and very dryly
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on 31 October 2016
excellent, would recommend
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