Belisarius:  The Last Roman General

My first book is a military history of the campaigns of Belisarius, the greatest general of the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Emperor Justinian.  After campaigning against the Persians, he was sent by Justinian to conquer North Africa from the Vandals at the age of 29.  His conquest took a single year.  After his great victory, Justinian sent him to Italy in an attempt to reconquer the heartland of the Roman Empire from the Ostrogoths.  The book discusses the evolution of the army from the classical Imperial Roman model to the beginnings of the Byzantine system of warfare. It also covers their chief enemies, the Persians, Goths and Vandals.  The book reassesses Belisarius’ generalship and compares him with the likes of Caesar, Alexander and Hannibal.  It is illustrated with line drawings and battle plans as well as photographs.

Belisarius Available to purchase at Pen & Sword

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Stilicho:  The Vandal Who Destroyed Rome

The period of history in which Stilicho lived was one of the most turbulent in European history.  The book explains how Stilicho came to be given control of the Western Empire.  It then describes his attempts to save the Western Empire and Rome itself from the attacks of Alaric the Goth and other barbarian invaders.

Stilicho, one of the major figures in the history of the Late Roman Empire, may have helped to divide the Western and Eastern halves of the Roman Empire on a permanent basis.  Yet he is also the individual who helped maintain the integrity of the West.  Then came the rebellion of Constantine III in Britain and the crossing of the Rhine by a force of Vandals, Sueves and Alans – both in AD 406. This set the scene for both his downfall and execution in 408 and the later disintegration of the West.  Despite his role in this fascinating and crucial period of history, there is no other full-length biography of him in print.

Stilicho Available to purchase at Pen & Sword

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Aetius:  Attila’s Nemesis

In AD 451 Attila, with a huge force composed of Huns, allies and vassals drawn from his already-vast empire, rampaged westward across Gaul (essentially modern France). This region was then still nominally part of the Western Roman Empire. Laying siege to Orleans, he was only a few days march from extending his empire from the Eurasian steppe to the Atlantic. He was brought to battle on the Catalaunian Plain and defeated by a coalition hastily assembled and led by Aetius.

Aetius is one of the major figures in the history of the Late Roman Empire. His actions helped maintain the integrity of the West in the declining years of the Empire. During the course of his life he was a hostage, first with Alaric and the Goths, and then with Rua, King of the Huns. His stay with these two peoples helped to give him an unparalleled insight into the minds and military techniques of these ‘barbarians’.  He was to use his knowledge in his later years to halt the depredations of the Huns. That this saviour of Rome was himself half Scythian is indicative of the complexity of the late Roman world.

Aetius  Available to purchase at Pen and Sword

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Imperial Brothers:  Valentinian, Valens and the Disaster at Adrianople

Valentian was proclaimed emperor in AD 364.  At this time the Empire was still reeling from the disastrous defeat and death of Julian the Apostate (363) and the short reign of his successor, Jovian (364). The Empire was weakened and vulnerable to a victorious Persia in the East.  In addition, the opportunistic Germanic tribes along the Rhine and Danube frontiers saw their chance to invade.  There were also usurpers and rebellions within the Empire, so it was not an enviable position. Valentinian decided the responsibility had to be divided (not for the first or last time).  He appointed his brother Valens as his co-emperor to rule the eastern half of the Empire.

Valentinian went on to stabilize the Western Empire, quelling revolt in North Africa, defeating the ‘Barbarian Conspiracy’ that attacked Britain in 367 and conducting successful wars against the Alamanni, Quadi and Saxons.  He is remembered by History as a strong and successful Emperor. Valens on the other hand, fares less well.  He is most remembered for his (mis-)treatment of the Goths who sought refuge within the Empire’s borders from the westward-moving Huns. Valens’ mishandling of this situation led to the Battle of Adrianople in 378, where he was killed and Rome suffered one of the worst defeats in her long history.  The battle is often seen as the ‘beginning of the end’ for the Western Roman Empire. By tracing the careers of both men in tandem, it is possible to compare their achievements and analyse the extent to which they deserve the contrasting reputations handed down by history.

Imperial Brothers  Available to purchase at Pen and Sword

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Patricians and Emperors: The Last Rulers of the Western Roman Empire

Patricians and Emperors offers concise comparative biographies of the individuals who wielded power in the final decades of the Western Roman Empire, from the assassination of Aetius in 454 to the death of Julius Nepos in 480.

The book is divided into four parts. The first sets the background to the period, including brief histories of Stilicho (395-408) and Aetius (425-454), explaining the nature of the empire and the reasons for its decline. The second details the lives of Ricimer (455-472) and his great rival Marcellinus (455-468) by focusing on the stories of the numerous emperors that Ricimer raised and deposed. The third deals with the Patricians Gundobad (472-3) and Orestes (475-6), as well as explaining how the barbarian general Odoacer came to power in 476. The final part outlines and analyses the Fall of the West and the rise of barbarian kingdoms in France, Spain and Italy.

Patricians and Emperors  Available to purchase at Pen and Sword

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Gaiseric:  The Vandal Who Destroyed Rome

While Gaiseric has not become a household name like other ‘barbarian’ leaders such as Attila or Genghis Khan, his sack of Rome in AD455 has made his tribe, the Vandals, synonymous with mindless destruction. Gaiseric, however, was no moronic thug, proving himself a highly skilful political and military leader and was one of the dominant forces in Western Mediterranean region for almost half a century. The book starts with a concise history of the Vandals before Gaiseric’s reign and analyses the tactics and weaponry with which they carved a path across the Western Roman Empire to Spain. It was in Spain that Gaiseric became their king and he that led the Vandals across the straits of Gibraltar to seize a new home in North Africa, depriving Rome of one of its most important remaining provinces and a key source of grain. Roman attempts at reconquest were defeated and the Balearic Islands, Sicily, Corsica and Sardinia were all added to Gaiseric’s kingdom. His son, Huneric, was even betrothed to Eudoxia, daughter of the Emperor Valentinian III and it was her appeal for help after her father’s murder that led Gaiseric to invade and sack Rome. He took Eudoxia and the other imperial ladies back to Africa with him, subsequently defeating further attempts by the Eastern Roman Empire to recapture the vital North African territory. Ian Hughes’ analysis of the Gaiseric as king and general reveals him as the barbarian who did more than anyone else to bring down the Western Roman Empire, but also as a great leader in his own right and one of the most significant men of his age.

Gaiseric  Available to purchase at Pen and Sword

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Attila the Hun

Attila the Hun:  Arch-Enemy of Rome

Attila the Hun is a household name. Rising to the Hunnic kingship around 434, he dominated European history for the next two decades. Attila bullied and manipulated both halves of the Roman Empire, forcing successive emperors to make tribute payments or face invasion. Ian Hughes recounts Attila’s rise to power, attempting to untangle his character and motivations so far as the imperfect sources allow. A major theme is how the two halves of the empire finally united against Attila, prompting his fateful decision to invade Gaul and his subsequent defeat at the Battle of the Catalaunian Plain in 451. Integral to the narrative is analysis of the history of the rise of the Hunnic Empire; the reasons for the Huns’ military success; relations between the Huns and the two halves of the Roman Empire; Attila’s rise to sole power; and Attila’s doomed attempt to bring both halves of the Roman Empire under his dominion.

Attila the Hun  Available to purchase at Pen and Sword

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A Military Life of Constantine the Great

A Military Life of Constantine the Great

Much of Constantine I’s claim to lasting fame rests upon his sponsorship of Christianity, and many works have been published assessing whether his apparent conversion was a real religious experience or a cynical political manoeuvre. However his path to sole rule of the Roman Empire depended more upon the ruthless application of military might than upon his espousal of Christianity. He fought numerous campaigns, many of them against Roman rivals for Imperial power, most famously defeating Maxentius at the Battle of the Milvian Bridge. In this new study, Ian Hughes assesses whether Constantine would have deserved the title ‘the Great’ for his military achievements alone, or whether the epithet depends upon the gratitude of Christian historians. All of Constantine’s campaigns are narrated and his strategic and tactical decisions analysed. The organization, strengths and weaknesses of the Roman army he inherited are described and the effect of both his and his predecessors’ reforms discussed. The result is a fresh analysis of this pivotal figure in European history from a military perspective.

A Military Life of Constantine the Great   Available to purchase at Pen and Sword