STORMING THE HEAVENS: Soldiers, Emperors, and Civilians in the Roman Empire

Antonio Santosuosso, Author . Westview $26 (265p) ISBN 978-0-8133-3523-0

In a fascinating sequel to his Soldiers, Citizens, and the Symbols of War from Classical Greece to Republican Rome, Santosuosso traces the rise and fall of the Roman Empire via the rise and fall of the Roman army. By the second century B.C.E., Rome had established dominance in the Mediterranean world through its military conquests and its policy of Romanization of the conquered nations. Yet, internally the relationship between the army and the state was beginning to deteriorate. In the middle of the second century, the army, which until then had come from the ranks of land-owning citizens, was thrown open to all citizens. Numerous social and civil wars occurred in the latter half of the second century and into the first century B.C.E. over questions of Roman citizenship and slavery, the most famous being the slave revolt of the gladiator Spartacus. In addition, since most of the soldiers had no land to return to, they fought battles not for the honor and glory of the state but for the loot they could gain. Thus, commanders bent themselves to the wills of the soldiers in order to ensure loyalty. The Roman army, then, began a slow devolution into a rapacious group of pillagers and still later into an army that served the needs and desires of the emperor rather than the empire. Caesar and Augustus briefly brought the army back to its original purpose. By the time of the late Roman Empire (roughly 450–476 C.E.), however, the army was in such political, social and military disarray that the barbarians poured in over the porous Roman borders and brought the empire to its knees. Santosuosso's crackling prose and lively narrative provide illuminating glimpses into this history. Maps. (Aug.)

Reviewed on: 07/30/2001
Release date: 08/01/2001
Hardcover - 304 pages - 978-0-7126-9886-3
Paperback - 280 pages - 978-0-8133-4160-6
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