Reading for the Weekend – Defeat of Rome in the East

Defeat of RomeThis time it is time to go back in history somewhat and have a look at Defeat of Rome in the East, by Gareth C. Sampson (ISBN# 978 1 844156 764, eISBN# 9781844686346).

First, of course, if anything, this would be related to Impetus because I have been thinking to build small Parthian contingent, mainly because of the historical interest on cavalry arm successfully employed by Parthians. To use all horse army was a brainchild of Surena (real name of Parthian general has not been discovered) and this, rather unique mobile force was only used effectively once**.

Defeat of Rome in the East is actually one of those books I have attempted to find for quite some time but did not realize that before reading the book. First, because author has gone long way to write book in language that is pleasant to read, concise and targeting subject nation that is mostly obscured by other historical events.

Defeat of Rome in the East concentrates on one major event, the famous battle of Carrhae, where Roman republic suffered defeat that did not only decimate Roman legions, but also ended the war. Battle of Carrhae has only been compared to few events in the history. Hannibal’s tour around Rome, and the Battle of Teutoburg forest where punitive army of Varus was annihilated by allied forces of Germanic tribes.

Book does not only draw neatly together most reliable accounts of the events, and explain what most likely happened behind the obvious scene of battle, but also dives to the brief history and expansion of both nations and the eventual political power struggle that ensued.  All this is presented in most satisfactory manner.

Only brief part of the whole book is dedicated to the Battle of Carrahae itself – two, albeit contradicting accounts are given, that of Plutarch and Dio. Political prelude and consequences receive much more pages, and author spends good part to investigate the causes of overwhelming Roman losses and decision that Craussus faced.

In fact, since Crassus has always portrayed as inept commander and that the entire war was a fiasco due to his incompetence, it is indeed refreshing to have view that delves deeper into the subject and places it into correct historical context. Defeat of Rome in the East finally recognizes the fact that it was not Roman incompetence, but Surenas brilliance that won the battle and the 1st Parthian war.

Defeat of Rome in the East is essential read to anyone that has interest on Parthian history.

**Someone could argue that 1st Cavalry Army of Budyonny was actually another very similar  instance, where extreme mobility was used against unsuspecting opponent(s) with devastating effect.

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