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on 23 May 2017
I am 1/3rd way thru' this book - highly readable, packed with relevant info., and if you are a reader who might be shy of history books on "the ancients" because they are "stuffy", this has been penned in a style which is never that. I recommend to all readers (16 years upwards) interested in the Empire which was Rome. How I wish my history teacher had been able to have brought the past to life like Mr Goldsworthy. On that, my mediocre tacher failed terribly, but the fact I am enjoying this book is proof he failed to kill my interest in ancient Rome entirely!
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on 18 May 2017
Goldsworthy does it again. His knowledge is as clear as his writing style.
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on 24 February 2011
This is an excellent book that gives you a complete overview of the Roman Empire detailing the generals who commanded the legions from Scipio Africanus to Caesar. It gives information about specific battles, where they occurred, the landscape, geography and how these charasmatic men won them and why.

Additionally it gives you information about the people they fought such as Hannibal and the campaigns against him. If you are interested in Roman history then you are sure to enjoy this book thats written in a way that helps make learning history easy (its not suffy academic stuff) and goes to the sixth century!

As History Today says its, Here is a highly readable compedium of military experience; Goldsworthy knows his material inside out. It's a great book packed with all kinds of useful information!
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on 19 April 2015
A bit dry to be honest.
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on 30 December 2003
In the Name of Rome chronicles the major periods throughout Roman history, from early republic to late empire. Goldsworthy does this in a series of sections, each devoted to a particular period.
The writing itself is detailed, yet it does not bombard the reader with too much information. The text is indeed saturated, but reading it is a pleasure. The diagrams which intersperse the text are informative, and easy to comprehend.
A word or two about the content is also necessary to highlight why In the Name of Rome is such an excellent book in general, and as a resource.
Goldsworthy blends the actual happenings of the campaigns with the political background, giving a wide overall picture of the "climate" at the time.
These are all important traits for any book. In the Name of Rome is special, in my mind, because of its versatility and accessability. It can be read by anyone, for almost any purpose, be it for study of for pleasure.
For those with an interest in this period of history or for those studying the Roman Republic and Empire then I would definitely recommend this title.
I hope this has been of use - cheers, Simmo.
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on 2 February 2013
There are so many books about the Roman Empire and the Roman Army that it must be hard to think of a new angle from which to write. Adrian Goldsworthy's answer is to focus on the careers of fifteen of Rome's generals from the second century BC to the middle of the sixth century AD. The subtitle is misleading, because seven of the fifteen were defending Rome or its Empire rather than winning it.

In his preface, Goldsworthy says his concern is with such things as, "what was actually done, why it was done, what it was supposed to achieve, how it was implemented and what were its consequences in fact." (p 11) Of these five points, the first and last are descriptive while the middle three are analytic; so I was expecting to find a good deal of analysis in the book. Goldsworthy does a good job of describing the careers of his chosen generals, summarising their deeds from the accounts of the primary historians from Polybius to Procopius. However the analysis is much weaker. There are comparisons made between the actions of the different generals but there is no overall drawing together into a summary of what made a Roman general successful and why.

There are, too, some surprising omissions. Thus Goldsworthy says of the final confrontation between Hannibal and Scipio Africanus at Zama, "[the] battle was not marked by especially subtle manoeuvring on either side. In the end, the Romans prevailed in the resultant slogging match..." (p 76) Very true; but why did the two greatest generals of the era (arguably of any era) allow the battle to become a slogging match? Both generals had shown themselves to be masters of deploying and manoeuvring an army. Perhaps this question cannot be answered but surely it should be discussed.

Again, in the early stages of the Civil War, Julius Caesar attacked the Pompeian armies in Spain. Caesar avoided a pitched battle (to keep Roman casualties to a minimum) and instead outmanoeuvred his opponents, cut them off from water and thus forced them to surrender. This was a brilliant campaign to which Goldsworthy devotes three sentences. (p 245) Surely this campaign merits some in-depth discussion and analysis.

If you are looking for a descriptive summary of the careers of these fifteen Roman generals, then this could be a useful book. If you are looking for discussion, analysis and understanding, this is not the text in which to find it.
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TOP 100 REVIEWERon 31 December 2011
Despite exceeding 400 pages, covering some 800 years of Roman history through a series of 15 chapters (plus the 16th, which is a conclusion on the legacy of these generals), this is barely enough to cover the topic, and another 400 pages could have been easily added. Nevertheless, Adrian Goldsworthy has done a wonderful job here and managed to present a clear, concise and well-researched collection of vignettes summarizing the main achievements of his selection of generals.

A close look at his selection will show, however, that this is a bit biaised towards the generals of the Republic (9) as opposed to the generals of the Empire (only 6 mentioned, and one of these is Belisarius). This is were you need to look carefully at the book's subtitle: it's about "The Men Who Won the Roman Empire", so this may explain why a number of Imperial generals (who were mostly also Emperors) are missing, such as Septimus Severus, Aurelian or Constantine, to name but three. However, the presence of others, such as Corbulo or, even more so, of Julian in Gaul, is more surprising, if only because they did not exactly "win the Roman Empire", or add to it, especially not Julian. Other, less well known defenders of the Empire who did at least as well as Julian, such as Galerius (colleague of Diocletian) or Valentinian (successor of Julian and Jovien), could also have deserved a place. Finally, there is at least one glaring omission in the list of Republican generals: Marius gets a full chapter but Sylla, who was probably the better general of the two, is barely mentioned and does not make it to the A-list. Rather strange...

It is for these omissions and inconsistencies in treatment, which were probably at least in part the result of some difficult choices related to space constraints that this book gets 4 stars, instead of the 5 that it would have otherwise deserved.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 19 September 2016
In this book, Goldsworthy seeks to answer the questions, why some Roman generals succeeded outstandingly and what lessons we can draw. To answer them, he looks at a series of generals from the Punic Wars (3C BCE), which ensured Rome's survival and determined its future course, to the last great general, Belisarius, who tried and failed to recapture the western portion of the Empire in the 6C CE.

Each general had different styles and faced unique circumstances, but shared certain traits, namely, they ensured that their troops were logistically prepared and well trained; they shared the risks but more often maintained distance for purposes of command with an overview; and they instinctively knew where and when to press an engagement. Not all of them were popular with the men, many suffered distrust and neglect by the politicians they served, and their popularity and glory were fickle at best.

Each chapter offers a detailed portrait of one general, told in a narrative style and within the broader context of what was going on, with comparisons to their immediate rivals for power and how well they fit with current circumstances. For example, to counter the seemingly unbeatable Hannibal, Fabius Maximus developed a strategy of delay and avoidance, buying time for Rome to rebuild its forces after a series of defeats and thereby taking advantage of his adversary's mistaken assumption that Rome would sue for peace and come to reasonable terms. Though disdained as a dishonorable coward, he enabled Marcellus and later Scipio Africanus to pursue more offensive strategies. In contrast, Julius Caesar fought to enhance his own glory, to become one of the most powerful and famous Romans of all time. They are wonderful studies of character and leadership. That makes it a very different book from Goldsworthy's classic Roman Warfare, which offers neither narrative nor individual portraits, but concentrates instead on more technical detail.

The history of Rome is also brilliantly encapsulated. When its period as Mediterranean superpower began, the greatest threat it faced came from Carthage, a trading empire opposite it. At that time, the Roman army was composed of land-owning farmers, clearly amateurs who needed to return for the harvest season or face financial ruin. Once triumphant, Rome turned to conquest, eventually dominating the entire Mediterranean region, this time with a massive popular army that became a career for the poor and an almost managerial profession for aristocrats. It then became stable, a sprawling geographical patchwork that required a very different army to defend it; here, it was composed of smaller forces of different ethnicities and even mercenaries. As countries were absorbed, local aristocrats were allowed to take part as participants and citizens, ensuring their loyalty and widening to base of talent. While it helps if the reader knows this context already, it is not necessary.

The political calculus is also explained in perfect detail. Generals almost always came from the aristocrats, who were born to rule. During the time of the Republic, victory and glory were fundamental to the cultivation of political power: you had to win to rule for a limited time at the top of the hierarchy. However, highly competent generals were also feared as would-be kings or dictators, which led to their mistreatment at the hands of jealous senators. Though Scipio and others grudgingly retired into obscurity after outstanding careers, this later resulted in genuine threats to the political order: as armies became professionalized (a gradual process, Goldsworthy argues), they became loyal more to their generals than to the Republic itself, which was regarded as quasi-religious but proved politically unable to provide for retired soldiers. With his war on Pompey and the Boni, Julius Caesar definitively ended this, of course, but he had predecessors who waged civil war, i.e. Caius Marius and Sulla.

Following the death of the Republic, there was a constant tension between the Emperor and his generals: the former needed them to fight effectively, but feared that they would usurp power. Because Generals still came from the largely reconstituted Senate, it remained a hotbed of political intrigue that required constant attention. Often, by acclamation from their men or via their own ambition, they did indeed seize power, particularly when the Empire was so big that generals had to operate in faraway regions for lengthy periods of time. This resulted in periods of catastrophic instability, draining resources from defense and soon even maintenance of its vast territories. That is one reason why Rome declined over a long period of time.

Though it is not my subject, there is also plenty about military tactics and strategy. The reader can study grand wars of attrition (Gaul), skirmishes that led to negotiated peace or fealty (Parthia), and sieges (Jerusalem). Throughout, the limitations of the time - slow communications, difficult transport, and muscle-dependent weaponry - offer interesting contrasts with present day technologies. Goldsworthy even addresses the relevance of classical studies to the conduct of modern war in his concluding chapter.

This is a thoroughly engrossing read by a master writer and scholar. Goldsworthy is setting the standard for popular histories of Rome. Recommended warmly.
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on 1 January 2006
The book contains everything that one wants to know about the leadership of the imperial or republican Roman army; from formations of the legions to the training practises of each military unit of the day. The book is set in chapters in chronological order with each chapter about a famous general of the time (from Fabius Maximus 'the delayer' circa 200BC to General Belisarius circa 500AD). Though in each chapter Goldsworthy describes their triumphs and notable failures to trace the evolution of the Roman Army with supporting references from Livy and Plutarch rather than decribing their entire careers. Goldsworthy also successfully describes famous battles and wars such as the battle of Anctuim or the Punic wars against Carthage in terms of tactics and politics, this is a rare acheivement. Raise the 'gladii' to Adrian Goldsworthy, this is his 'Spolia Opima'!
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on 3 January 2008
This overview of the lives of some of the most eminent Roman generals is a fantastic book to own: giving the reader a brief but very informative overview of some of the greatest military minds, not only in the ancient world, but of any age.

Personal favourites are Scipio Africanus, the two chapters on Caesar, and Belisarius. I cannot praise Goldsworthy enough. Very enjoyable.
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