Reading for the Weekend – Warlords of Republican Rome

Warlords of Republican RomeWarlords of Republican Rome – Cesar versus Pompey by Nic Fields (ISBN# 978 1 84415 830 0, eISBN# 9781783460922). Certain periods of Roman history is very much researched, and by no doubt era of Pompey and Cesar is one of them. I thought to have a look at Warlords of Republican Rome, not strictly because it would shed light on the events that occurred during the transition of Republic to Empire. General outlines of the events that lead to the second civil war and demise of both Pompey and Cesar are quite well known. However, brief look at the book gave promise that there was potential for deeper analysis of the Roman society and leading figures at this critical time.

It turned out that I was not to be disappointed. In fact, many of the often enough repeated events are only mentioned in passing and book revolves quite tightly around Pompey and Cesar or their kin – but not solemnly. It all starts from brief history that forced Roman military to reform under Marius and perhaps inevitable rise of private armies that fought not for state, but for individual commander and personal gain. After the turmoil of Hannibal’s Italian tour, Roman military was in grave need of reform. Old system of citizen army could not cope with Roman imperial aspirations and Marian stood up as the figure to bring the reform forth. In short it meant that manpower pool was to be extended to cover even the poorest of classes and those that were not citizens in old regime who found themselves in entirely new world after land reform of Marcus Drusus.

Book covers very well the confusing transition of the military, and the eventual results of “universal conscription” and land reforms. Military brief up to the first civil war is covered admirably and provides wealth of answers to questions why certain events occurred and certain factions gained power. First civil war receives equally complete treatment and good glimpse behind the curtain. Wholly necessary because without reforms of Marian and Sulla’s unprecedented march to Rome, later actions by Cesar would be very hard to understand.

However, somehow I felt that Warlords of Republican Rome lost a bit of momentum when treating Cesar and Pompey, the actual topic of the book. I had a feeling that the book is more about quartet Marian – Sulla – Cesar – Pompey than only the latter two, albeit perhaps this is only because the road that Cesar and Pompey took was already paved by Marian and Sulla. Brief section at the end is dedicated to the remaining four warlords Octavian and Mark Anthony and the saviors of Republic Cassius and Brutus.

In any case, Warlords of Republican Rome works wonders if one ever wishes to know more about the political rivalries, Roman political system and the military reforms that transformed Republican inefficiencies to imperial superpower that quickly dominated whole of mediterranean.

Another side note is that author is not afraid to take little side steps to describe in more detail Roman society, armed forces, fighting methods of Rome and their opponents than would actually be necessary. Additionally, author has made admirable job around the Roman naming system and doing utmost to eliminate the confusion that may occur when persons with same name occupy same time period. As pointed out for other books, treating recurring names in a way they can be placed in proper place are something of a bane of historians.

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