AD69 Emperors, Armies and Anarchy, Nic Fields.

AD69 Emperors, Armies and Anarchy, Nic Fields.

AD69, or the Year of the Four Emperors, saw four men take the Roman imperial throne in fairly rapid succession. After the suicide of Nero, the Julio-Claudian dynasty was played out, and power passed away from the family of Augustus. Over the course of the year the aristocrats Galba, Otho, Vitellius and finally Vespasian, seized power, although only Vespasian was able to hold onto it and found a new dynasty. Rather unusually this wasn't a single four-sided civil war, but instead a series of three separate conflicts, one following on from the other.

There are two sides to this book, one positive and one negative. On the negative side the author allows himself to be distracted by regular digressions on modern politics. These come in rather odd places - a sizable rant on parliamentary politicians comes in the middle of a section on Tacitus. There is also a tendency to make assumptions about Roman military life based on the author's own experiences in the Royal Marines. While I'm sure many aspects were indeed similar, it's always dangerous to make that sort of assumption about life 2,000 years ago in a totally different cultural world.

On the positive side the book is generally well organised - each Emperor is dealt with in turn, focusing on events from their point of view, so in most cases the next rebellion arrives quite late in the chapter, and with few details of the actions of the rebel. The author then goes back to the start of the next usurper's story in the following chapter. This is quite an effective technique once you realise what's going on. The main text is supported by a series of generally useful appendices on the Roman Army of the period, followed by a sizable section of notes that actually includes some interesting material as well as references.

Overall this is a good study of a disastrous year in Roman history, but one that would have been better if the author had reined himself in and focused more on the topic.
1 - The Twisted Emperor
2 - The Septuagenarian Emperor
3 - The Hundred Days' Emperor
4 - The Epicurean Emperor
5 - The Emperor Maker
6 - The Fourth Milestone
7 - Conflict with Civilis
8 - The Victorious Emperor
9 - The Eternal Emperors
Epilogue - Winners and Losers

1 - Provinciae Imperii Romani
2 - Principate Army - Origins
3 - Principate Army - Organization
4 - Principate Army - Equipment
5 - What Roman Soldiers Ate
6 - How Many Legions?
7 - Key to Legionary Titles
8 - Artillery Shield of IIII Macedonica
9 - Imperial Succession
10 - The Cult of Iuppiter Dolichenus
11 - Ancient Authors

Author: Nic Fields
Edition: Hardcover
Pages: 256
Publisher: Pen & Sword Military
Year: 2014

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