Storming The Heavens: Soldiers, Emperors, And Civilians In The Roman Empire (History and Warfare)

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In the closing years of the second century B.C., the ancient world watched as the Roman armies maintained clear superiority over all they surveyed. But, social turmoil prevailed at the heart of her territories, led by an increasing number of dispossessed farmers, too little manpower for the army, and an inevitable conflict with the allies who had fought side by side with the Romans to establish Roman dominion. Storming the Heavens looks at this dramatic history from a variety of angles. What changed most radically, Santosuosso argues, was the behavior of soldiers in the Roman armies. The troops became the enemies within, their pillage and slaughter of fellow citizens indiscriminate, their loyalty not to the Republic but to their leaders, as long as they were ample providers of booty. By opening the military ranks to all, the new army abandoned its role as depository of the values of the upper classes and the propertied. Instead, it became an institution of the poor and drain on the power of the Empire. Santosuosso also investigates other topics, such as the monopoly of military power in the hands of a few, the connection between the armed forces and the cherished values of the state, the manipulation of the lower classes so that they would accept the view of life, control, and power dictated by the oligarchy, and the subjugation and dehumanization of subject peoples, whether they be Gauls, Britons, Germans, Africans, or even the Romans themselves.

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Review:

As fans of Ridley Scott's film Gladiator know, ancient Rome could be a violent, treacherous place, one in which might made right. In this well-crafted historical study, Antonio Santosuosso shows that the structure of the Roman military itself was a cause of strife and disorder.

In the early Roman republic, military service was deemed a privilege reserved for members of the propertied elite, whose interests were considered to be close to those of the state. As Rome's empire grew, and with it the forces needed to control Rome's holdings, its armies increasingly had to rely on a different kind of soldier, drawn from the many conquered peoples the empire embraced and from the rural, landless poor, whose loyalties to faraway Rome were less constant and who saw military service as one of the few means to advance themselves in a class-bound society. As historian Antonio Santosuosso shows, armies at the edges of the empire instead gave their allegiance to their commanders, who harbored imperial ambitions of their own--and who, from time to time, turned their armies around and marched on the capital to claim the throne for themselves. Naturally enough, this made Roman politics an unstable affair, and in fact throughout the third century A.D. an emperor was likely to have come to power through a coup d'état, and to end his days as the victim of assassination.

Students of military history and Roman history alike will find much of value in Santosuosso's survey. --Gregory McNamee

About the Author:

Antonio Santosuosso is professor of history at the University of Western Ontario .

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9780813335230: Storming the Heavens: Soldiers, Emperors, and Civilians in the Roman Empire

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ISBN 10:  081333523X ISBN 13:  9780813335230
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9781845952167: Storming the Heavens:Soldiers, Emperors and Civilians in the Roman Empire

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9780712698863: Storming The Heavens: Soldiers, Emperors and Civilians in the Roman Empire

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