1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
A vivid counterpoint to Roman triumphalism,
This review is from: The Enemies of Rome: From Hannibal to Attila the Hun (Hardcover)
The fantastic quality of the Romans was their implacable refusal to accept defeat. Time after time, they proved their resilience by raising army after army, and eventually grinding their enemies into the dust. As described in P. Matyszak's The Enemies of Rome, the Romans recovered from disastrous setbacks and lived to tell the tale of their eventual glorious successes. The likes of Jugurtha, Mithridates, and Boudicca may have tasted initial victories, but were in the end crushed and wiped out by the ruthless Imperium.
The usual image of Rome is one of civilisation holding back the rampaging barbarians. Naturally, it suited the victorious Romans to portray themselves thus. Matyszak's interesting book tries to show the times and the wars from the perspective of the other side, and in this he succeeds to a large extent. The Celts, he demonstrates, were not long-haired savages. Among other things, their metal working was superior to that of the Romans; In some ways, their social setup was more egalitarian than the patriarchal Roman 'democracy'. The Persians were not an effete race ruled by poncy and overwrought kings (see the movie 300 to see what I mean). The Seleucid kings of Asia Minor ruled over sophisticated cultures, with manifold achievements in the arts and literature. In many cases, revolts and wars against the Imperium were caused by the venality and inhumanity of the Roman governors and military in the occupied territories. The enemies of Rome were not always honourable. But neither are they the monochrome villains that history has portrayed them to be