Cover Image: Septimius Severus and the Roman Army

Septimius Severus and the Roman Army

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Member Reviews

Septimius Severus and the Roman Army examines the rise of Septimius Severus to emperor at the end of the second century AD, the civil wars, the issue of succession, and his relationship with the military. I appreciated that there was a chapter at the beginning examining the usefulness of the primary literary sources. I did, however, find that Sage had an annoying habit of recounting episodes from these sources as if they are fact, and then stating that they were likely overblown, made up, or at least unable to be confirmed. 

I also found that there were many rather long tangents, such as one into the banditry of Bulla Felix, which was very interesting but had little to add to the focus of the book. In fact, while Sage touches on potential proto-racism based on Severus's origins in Africa, describes the relationship between Africa and its legions and the empire as a whole, and breaks down the major campaigns that won Severus the throne, it is only the last chapter where we learn about the concrete changes under Severus that changed the lives of soldiers in the Roman army. It is also where we get the best description of how the Roman army functioned, the rising presence of equestrian status commanders, and the functional power of the army. This is what I wanted out of this book, so I was a bit disappointed to have it all crammed within perhaps 12 pages. 

The other chapters were a thorough recounting of Severus's life, the political climate, the tensions on the borders of the empire, and the very problematic role of the Praetorian Guard in the assassination of emperors and crowning of their successors. It just read more like a biography rather than an examination of the army in particular. 

Overall, this book was informative and did take the time to interrogate its primary sources throughout the chapters. There's less explicit  engagement with secondary sources than I would expect, and I felt like the book didn't spend enough time on the army and instead focused on the political machinations in the imperial household. 

Rating: 3 stars

*Thank you to #NetGalley and the publisher for a free eARC in exchange for an honest review.
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Emperor Septimus Severus cemented a fractured Eastern portion of the eRoman Empire while fighting off an internal insurrection.  This is the interesting Biography of a cany Military man but an even more impressive politician who stabilized the Empire after the Year of the Five Emperors and founded a Dynasty that would span forty years.  No small feat in the world of chaotic infighting.
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Roman history is a mystery to me. I actually felt I understood the hows and whys of change in the Roman Republic after reading this book. The Roman Army is needed to back up a Caesar and during times of stress or family quarrels that army can decide who rules Rome and who doesnt . Also the senate is discussed and the realities of their importance and influence on Rome are given, The period of time Mr Sage has written about was not a period I thought was important until reading this book! The whole future of the Roman Empire  is affected by the decisions of the leaders and this book tells the tale of brilliant leadership and greed.
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An interesting read. I like history and when I saw this title, I was very intrigued. Upon reading it, it held my interest and kept me reading until I finished it in one sittting.
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