Defending Rome: The Masters of the Soldiers
For its last eighty years, the Western Roman Empire was ruled by emperors who were unable to provide the leadership demanded by the crisis the Empire faced throughout this period. Power was exercised instead by the commanders of the Western armies, the magisteri militum or Masters of the Soldiers, four of whom stood out – Stilicho, Constantius, Aetius and Ricimer. Challenged by barbarian invasions, constantly diminishing resources, and indifference and sometimes hostility from the imperial court, the Senate and the Roman people, these men prolonged the existence of the Empire in the West beyond what would otherwise have been its natural span. This book tells the story of the collapse of the Western Empire, as seen through the lives of these individuals, a collapse that ended more than political and military structures, that encompassed the end of an ancient pagan culture and the inception of the age of Christianity.
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LibraryThing ReviewUser Review - Ammianus - LibraryThing
A labor of love. This is a strangely expensive ($52-$177) print on demand book from Xlibris with 254 8.5x11 pages. There are 5 pages of handrawn maps, 5 pages of good color photos, whille a glossary ... Read full review
This is a marvelous book about a time of Roman history that most people know little about, yet it is filled with historical characters who are larger than life: Theodosius the Great, Stilicho, Alaric, Galla Placidia, Aetius, Count Boniface, Atilla. What is astounding is that so many of these people knew each other: Aetius was a formal hostage in both the camps of the Goths and the Huns - he knew Alaric and no doubt Atilla. Aetius and Galla Placidia could have known each other from childhood yet sparred later for control of the Western empire - it's tempting to think of an earlier romantic relationship though there is no record of it.
The unifying theme of the book is the Magistri Militum who held everything together despite enormous problems, not the least of which was so little support from their emperors who had the tendency to kill off the only ones between them and total disaster. Yet in each crisis, extraordinary men stepped forth to defend Rome. We get a vivid picture of a clueless political and aristocratic elite who were saved time and time again by brilliant soldiers, many of whom, like Stilicho, were part barbarian themselves. It is all very complex, but Reynolds does a good job explaining it to us.