This 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, which he succeeded in doing in a single year at the age of 29. 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, as well as those of 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.
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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 and 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 before 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 – 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
In AD 451 Attila, with a huge force composed of Huns, allies and vassals drawn from his already-vast empire, was rampaging westward across Gaul (essentially modern France), 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 and 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’ which he was to use in 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.
Valentinian, Valens and the Disaster at Adrianople
Valentian was proclaimed emperor in AD 364, when the Empire was still reeling from the disastrous defeat and death in battle of Julian the Apostate (363) and the short reign of his successor, Jovian (364). With the Empire weakened and vulnerable to a victorious Persia in the East and opportunistic Germanic tribes along the Rhine and Danube frontiers, not to mention usurpers and rebellions within, it was not an enviable position. Valentian decided the responsibility had to be divided (not for the first or last time) and appointed his brother 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 Germanic Alemanni, Quadi and Saxons; he is remembered by History as a strong and successful Emperor. Valens on the other hand, fare less well and 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, 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 analyze the extent to which they deserve the contrasting reputations handed down by history.
Imperial Brothers Available to purchase at Pen and Sword
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