Monday, August 10, 2009

By Gareth C. Sampson
Casemate Publishing
In the second book presented to the magazine for review by Casemate Publishing, Gareth Sampson’s “The Defeat of Rome in the East” is an excellent book that discusses Rome’s disastrous Carrhae campaign in 53 BC. No longer should the battle be viewed as a defeat by Marcus Crassus but as a spectacular victory by Surenas. Appendices cover the fate of the Roman prisoners, sources for Roman, Parthian history, notes/references, bibliography and index. 4 strategic maps, 4 battle maps, 8 pages of black and white photos, 224 pages.
The author sets the stage for the battle and war with several well written chapters describing the progressive Roman eastern expansions over several centuries and the rise of the Roman and Parthian “superpowers” and their inevitable clash. A large portion of the first part of the book discusses the political and military experience of the Roman general involved, Marcus Licinius Crassus. The second half of the book not only covers the actual invasion (55-53BC) and Carrhae itself (53BC) but the aftermath of battle with the failure of the Parthian invasion of Roman held Syria.
The book does an outstanding job of dispelling many myths about the stunning Roman defeat – Marcus Crassus, while making mistakes during the actual campaign, is not an incompetent politician who led thousands of Roman soldiers to their doom but a consummate politician with significant military experience. The true genius of the Parthian victory, Surenas, fashioned an army and strategy to eliminate the advantages of the Roman military machine and accentuate its weaknesses. Unfortunately, poor Parthian decisions and shortsightedness failed to take advantage of their victory.
Mr. Sampson’s excellent examination of the political fallout of the battle is thought provoking. The resulting battle ended the further eastward expansion of the Roman Empire and sounded the death knell of the Republic. He examines the results of the battle on Rome, Parthia, the east and the two generals involved.
This book is excellent, well written, easy and fun to read. It should definitely be a part of the library of anyone who is interested in the Roman and Parthian Empires.
Price: $32.95


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