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4.5 out of 5 stars
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4.5 out of 5 stars


TOP 100 REVIEWERon 9 May 2013
This is a very readable and relatively short book (124 pages for the main text) but also a piece of carefully researched scholarship, with some 85 pages of notes and another 15 pages of references. As such, it is accessible to a wide audience. It has an interesting story to tell. It could also be a good companion for those who have already invested in Boris Rankov's "The Praetorian Guard", in Osprey's Elite series if only because the latter has some nice plates and relatively good content but not enough space to cover the three and a half centuries of history of the Guard.

The book has three particularly interesting features. One is to show in the introduction to what extent common perceptions of the Praetorians have often verged on caricatures, with the Guards been seen as evil and/or corrupt. A second feature is to show how the Guard evolved from its Republican origins as the Praetorian cohort and bodyguard of successful Roman warlords into the Guard of the only warlord to emerge victorious from the Civil Wars (Octavius Augustus). The third feature presents and discusses how the roles assigned to the Guard increased over time and went well beyond that of bodyguards to include that of secret police, executioners, fire-fighters and fighting troops accompanying the Emperor on campaigns and effectively fighting in the field.

One of the most interesting points made by Sandra Bingham is to show that all of these functions were derived from the Guard's main feature: its closeness to the reigning Emperor and that this closeness and the loyalty and the trust that it implied could lead to assigning them the most delicate missions, including in some cases the removal of other members of the Imperial family. Another interesting point is to show that while some Praetorians might have turned against their respective Emperors, plots involved Praetorians senior officers (tribunes and prefects, mostly) - that is those involved in imperial politics and closest to imperial power - and perhaps a few centurions. The rank and file, according to the author at least, seem to have been less inclined to betray and play "kingmaker", if only because they stood to lose their very privileged status in doing so.

Other interesting features include discussions on numbers (a hot topic among historians) and on the Praetorian camp, on their very favourable terms of service, and on their sometimes tense relations with both Rome's population and with the legions. The author also very correctly shows that a shift in the relations with the legions started to occur under the Flavians as the Guard's main source of recruitment changed and they came to be increasingly used in the field.

Despite all these favourable elements, there are a few problems with this book. At times, the author tends to be a bit repetitive. Also, while the book is very readable, the main text seems, at times, to have been streamlined to such an extent that you may get the impression that only the bare bones are left. Some may like it just like that, to the extent that the text is clear and gets straight to the main points, which are well made. Others may have preferred to have a bit more "flesh on the bones" and perhaps more discussions on certain points. To be fair, however, many of these discussions have been included in the notes and this is the main reason for taking up so much space. A related comment is that, at times, I found that the author tended to be somewhat over-assertive while some of the statements made are in fact assumptions. This, again, is largely part of the price that Sandra Bingham has accepted to pay to present an eminently readable account of the Praetorian Guard in English.
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TOP 100 REVIEWERon 6 March 2016
I was lucky enough to get hold of a copy of this. I find the notion of the Praetorian Guard a fascinating one; and as they always seem to be involved, whether on the periphery or right in the middle of all Empire business, it was good to be able to read their story specifically.

This book focuses on the period from the foundation of the guard by Augustus in 27 BCE to its disbandment by Constantine in CE 312. The book covers the history, organisation and duties of the Guard over that period, from the forced incorporated by Augustus for his own protection, to one that permated all aspects of life in the capital until their demise in 312. While the book is about 240 pages, only just over 120 pages of that is text; the rest is notes, bibliography and index. The notes and bibliography are worth reference. Personally I prefer footnotes to endnotes when reading a book like this, as it makes constant reference to copious notes easier than having to flip whole sections of the book to the end notes, but that's just me.

This is, to an extent as well, an attempt by the author to correct misinformation that is out there regarding the Praetorian Guard. Examples of such are given in film and internet sources, and fictional representations of the Guard are noted. Clearly the author feels strongly that the time is right for an available text in English on this most important Imperial institution. I would have to agree.

This is a most interesting book; concise yet full of information in an invaluable format for anyone wishing to learn more about the history, role and importance of the Praetorian Guard in the Empire. Totally recommended.
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TOP 50 REVIEWERon 6 March 2016
I was lucky enough to get hold of a copy of this. I find the notion of the Praetorian Guard a fascinating one; and as they always seem to be involved, whether on the periphery or right in the middle of all Empire business, it was good to be able to read their story specifically.

This book focuses on the period from the foundation of the guard by Augustus in 27 BCE to its disbandment by Constantine in CE 312. The book covers the history, organisation and duties of the Guard over that period, from the forced incorporated by Augustus for his own protection, to one that permeated all aspects of life in the capital until their demise in 312. While the book is about 240 pages, only just over 120 pages of that is text; the rest is notes, bibliography and index. The notes and bibliography are worth reference. Personally I prefer footnotes to endnotes when reading a book like this, as it makes constant reference to copious notes easier than having to flip whole sections of the book to the end notes, but that's just me.

This is, to an extent as well, an attempt by the author to correct misinformation that is out there regarding the Praetorian Guard. Examples of such are given in film and internet sources, and fictional representations of the Guard are noted. Clearly the author feels strongly that the time is right for an available text in English on this most important Imperial institution. I would have to agree.

This is a most interesting book; concise yet full of information in an invaluable format for anyone wishing to learn more about the history, role and importance of the Praetorian Guard in the Empire. Totally recommended.
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TOP 50 REVIEWERon 13 June 2013
I was lucky enough to get hold of a copy of this. I find the notion of the Praetorian Guard a fascinating one; and as they always seem to be involved, whether on the periphery or right in the middle of all Empire business, it was good to be able to read their story specifically.

This book focuses on the period from the foundation of the guard by Augustus in 27 BCE to its disbandment by Constantine in CE 312. The book covers the history, organisation and duties of the Guard over that period, from the forced incorporated by Augustus for his own protection, to one that permated all aspects of life in the capital until their demise in 312. While the book is about 240 pages, only just over 120 pages of that is text; the rest is notes, bibliography and index. The notes and bibliography are worth reference. Personally I prefer footnotes to endnotes when reading a book like this, as it makes constant reference to copious notes easier than having to flip whole sections of the book to the end notes, but that's just me.

This is, to an extent as well, an attempt by the author to correct misinformation that is out there regarding the Praetorian Guard. Examples of such are given in film and internet sources, and fictional representations of the Guard are noted. Clearly the author feels strongly that the time is right for an available text in English on this most important Imperial institution. I would have to agree.

This is a most interesting book; concise yet full of information in an invaluable format for anyone wishing to learn more about the history, role and importance of the Praetorian Guard in the Empire. Totally recommended.
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on 27 February 2013
Bingham's [Edinburgh University] is an highly enjoyable read, and takes great pains to separate the archaeology/historical texts from the fiction of the Praetorian Guard. It primarily focuses on the Guard under the Julio-Claudians, as well as giving a potted history of the cohorts until their dissolution under Constantine. The book contains detailed information on the soldiers, their uniforms, Castra Praetoria and duties; while dispelling myths of such as the Guards wearing togas around the palace.

The book also contains excellent sections on the evasive Speculatores, and the role of the Vigiles.

The actual text only comes to 125 pages, so the £25 RRP might be a bit high for some, but I highly recommend it to any Roman enthusiast.
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TOP 50 REVIEWERon 6 March 2016
I was lucky enough to get hold of a copy of this. I find the notion of the Praetorian Guard a fascinating one; and as they always seem to be involved, whether on the periphery or right in the middle of all Empire business, it was good to be able to read their story specifically.

This book focuses on the period from the foundation of the guard by Augustus in 27 BCE to its disbandment by Constantine in CE 312. The book covers the history, organisation and duties of the Guard over that period, from the forced incorporated by Augustus for his own protection, to one that permated all aspects of life in the capital until their demise in 312. While the book is about 240 pages, only just over 120 pages of that is text; the rest is notes, bibliography and index. The notes and bibliography are worth reference. Personally I prefer footnotes to endnotes when reading a book like this, as it makes constant reference to copious notes easier than having to flip whole sections of the book to the end notes, but that's just me.

This is, to an extent as well, an attempt by the author to correct misinformation that is out there regarding the Praetorian Guard. Examples of such are given in film and internet sources, and fictional representations of the Guard are noted. Clearly the author feels strongly that the time is right for an available text in English on this most important Imperial institution. I would have to agree.

This is a most interesting book; concise yet full of information in an invaluable format for anyone wishing to learn more about the history, role and importance of the Praetorian Guard in the Empire. Totally recommended.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 6 December 2014
Very good on facts: inscriptions, cohort creation etc.; less strong - I felt - on interpretation where there is a tendency to assume that the later uses of the guard can be projected fairly uncritically backwards (there is for example no discussion of whether Dio's account of the formation of the Guard might be influenced by his knowledge of figures such as Sejanus and Plautianus, who had not yet emerged at the time of the, presumably imagined, conversation).

I also thought the discussion of Sejanus's fall and how Sejanus was separated from his soldiers in the Senate missed some facts: Augustus wore mail and was surrounded by burly senators on those occasions he feared a violent response from the senators (Suet.Aug.35), and Tiberius requested a Guard of senators too, so that the miles in forum, miles in curiam comitabatur anaphora, on which her discussion of how Sejanus was separated from the soldiers implicitly relies, is probably a literary flourish with in curiam best translated as to the very doors of the senate house, and the event becomes less problematic than suggested. Dio says that Claudius held trials in the senate with prefects present (no soldiers are mentioned) (LX.16).

I missed a discussion of the guard beyond the 1st century: Caracalla, Geta, and Plautianus etc., and I had hoped for something on how the Guard Prefectures eventually became divorced from the actual Guard.
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on 17 March 2015
A great, recent, publication on many aspects of the Praetorian guard of Rome. The detailed end-notes are especially valuable to the scholar who wishes to delve deeper.
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on 29 September 2015
i liked da pwetty pikturure bot to many wordz oh put a dwagon in next tmye as found drull withoust
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on 17 January 2013
This was a present for my history mad brother, he absolutely loved this book,well written full of interesting facts please keep piblishing this type of book, many thanks
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