For that reason then we read about more than one commander of Rome's legions, discovering what sort of people they were, what sort of lives they led, how they were always at the mercy of murderous intrigue, always at risk of becoming the centre of intrigue themselves.
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A man who survives a dangerous period of history can do so either by dominating those around him, or by avoiding unwanted attention. Is it any wonder the Roman general who lasts the course is a surprisingly shy beast?
The last third of the book is devoted to extensive footnotes. Here the reader can check the author's sources and find inspiration for further study. There are plenty of black and white photographs to enliven the reading with some visual aids.
The author writes in a style that is clear and erudite without being totally dry. His attempt to humanize the individual behind the faceless legions largely succeeds. The reader will garner a better sense of the individual soldier's contribution to Western Civilization.
Imperial General: The Remarkable Career of Petellius Cerialis
Contained within Imperial General is a nice summary of military politics in the Principate with a more personal angle than usual. You're left in no doubt of the hazards of seeking senior positions, or how easily legions chose their affiliations and loyalties. Where this book succeeds in more than any other aspect is making very clear the delicate and potentially lethal balance between politician and soldier. As if the risks they took on the battlefield were not enough, it seems their lives were inherently risky by virtue of their status.
As we've come to expect from Philip Matyszak you will find a well written and observant account of the life and times of Petellius Cerialis. Not a triumph perhaps, but deserving of an ovation. If you are going to live in interesting times, you might as well be an interesting person.
Petillius Cerialis, son-in-law of the future emperor Vespasian, qualifies on both counts.
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His career included two full-scale provincial rebellions, the destruction of entire legions, a civil war, mutinous soldiery, and two Roman campaigns of conquest. Anyone who had Nero as a boss was guaranteed moments of extreme interest in his career, and twice Cerialis had to run for his life; once from the imperial authorities and once from Boudicca who had just wiped out half of the legion he was commanding. The only man to ever try to take Rome with a cavalry charge was also the man whose command post of a ship on the Rhine was stolen out from under him by a Batavian special boat squadron.
While visiting a lady friend his camp was attacked by a huge barbarian army, and an under-dressed Cerialis had to first fight his way into the camp before organizing the defence. These escapades mark the highlights and low points of Cerialis' career as a top Roman general of the first century AD.
VIAF ID: 255953 (Personal)
In this book we travel from Boudicca's Britain to Nero's Rome and out to the bogs and forests of the Rhine frontier. In part a biography of a remarkable general, this is also a description of what it took to command the legions of Rome in the name of the Caesars. I've always liked Petellius Cerialis.
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