69 A.D.: The Year of Four Emperors

Paperback | April 12, 2007

byGwyn Morgan

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The Year of Four Emperors, so the ancient sources assure us, was one of the most chaotic, violent, and frightening periods in all Roman history. It was a time of assassinations and civil war, of armies so out of control that they had no qualms about occupying the city of Rome, and of ambitiousmen who ruthlessly seized power only to have it wrenched from their grasps. In 69 AD, Gwyn Morgan offers a fresh look at this period, based on two considerations to which insufficient attention has been paid in the past. First, that we need to unravel rather than cherry-pick between the conflicting accounts of Tacitus, Plutarch and Suetonius, our three main sources ofinformation. And second, that the role of the armies, as distinct from that of their commanders, has too often been exaggerated. The result is a remarkably accurate and insightful narrative history, filled with colorful portraits of the leading participants and new insights into the nature of theRoman military. A strikingly vivid account of ancient Rome, 69 AD is an original and compelling account of one of the best known but perhaps least understood periods in all Roman history. It will engage and enlighten all readers with a love for the tumultuous soap opera that was Roman political life.

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From the Publisher

The Year of Four Emperors, so the ancient sources assure us, was one of the most chaotic, violent, and frightening periods in all Roman history. It was a time of assassinations and civil war, of armies so out of control that they had no qualms about occupying the city of Rome, and of ambitiousmen who ruthlessly seized power only to hav...

Gwyn Morgan is Professor of Classics and History at the University of Texas at Austin.

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69 AD: The Year of Four Emperors
69 AD: The Year of Four Emperors

Kobo ebook|Dec 1 2005

$8.49 online$10.99list price(save 22%)
Format:PaperbackDimensions:336 pages, 6.1 × 9.21 × 0.98 inPublished:April 12, 2007Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0195315898

ISBN - 13:9780195315899

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Customer Reviews of 69 A.D.: The Year of Four Emperors

Reviews

Rated 2 out of 5 by from Two Books Here and They Should Be Separated! I really expected to love this book. It offers a tighter, more in-depth focus on events over a very short span of ancient Roman history--only a single year, 69 A.D, which saw four emperors come and go, all by violent means. It was undoubtedly a chaotic and fearsome time to be a Roman, even by Roman standards. I was even more intrigued by the idea of the author’s direct incorporation and comparative analysis of the works and opinions of the main original sources for this book and most books on ancient Rome, names we’ve all heard before but probably know very little about specifically—Suetonius, Tacitus, Plutarch and others to a lesser extent. I’ve read a fair bit of ancient Roman history, probably far more than the average bear, and figured myself ready for a “deep-dive” toward the ancient sources themselves and a comparative analysis and critique of them. Well, I was wrong. I found the author’s frequent comparisons and conflicts between them to be disruptive to the flow of the book and just plain tedious after a while. It was like listening to a group of theoretical physicists debate the merits of string theory—when one has no basis to take one side or another, the debate becomes pointless to listen to. Just give me the results. In fact, many of the author’s arguments and conclusions seemed as capricious and arbitrary as the sources he criticizes! I now feel that the author and the book would have been much better served to leave the conflicts and inconsistencies between and among the ancient sources behind the scenes, as part of his own research, and present only his own very competent and scholarly read of historical events. Outside the numerous critiques of the sources, the book was fascinating. It got a bit tedious at times, as one would expect when one is more used to sweeping studies of wide swaths of time; here, the author gets right down to the movements and reactions of individual legions, by name, which is pretty cool overall. This is the extent of the depth I am prepared for as a casual reader and not an academic researcher. The critiques of the ancient sources would make a great scholarly study for academics who can actually distinguish the views of Tacitus versus Suetonious. I would say that the average reader like me is just trying to get a gist of historical events and players and will never have so detailed a knowledge of these as to be able to realistically debate the merit of their various direct sources. A year from now, I will be hard-pressed to name any of the players in the book other than Nero, Galba, Otho, Vitellius and Vespasian. Maybe even some of these. Ain’t exactly cocktail conversation stuff! Bottom line, this review is a now long-winded attempt to tell you to avoid this book unless you can handle or effectively skim over the debates relating to the historical sources without losing the thread of the main text relating to the events of 69 A.D. I found it a bit frustrating and distracting—it is really two books in one, targeted for two different audiences--and therefore should be two separate books!
Date published: 2008-09-02

Extra Content

Table of Contents

Introduction1. The Fall of Nero and the Julio-Claudian House2. The Reign of Galba3. Adoption and Assassination4. The Opening of the Vitellian Offensive (January-February)5. Otho Prepares for War (January-February)6. The War between Otho and Vitellius (March-April)7. The Reign of Vitellius (April-September 69)8. The Beginning of the End: Vespasian through August 699. The Opening of the Flavian Offensive (August-October)10. End-Game (November-December)ConclusionAppendices

Editorial Reviews

"This important book on the Histories of Tacitus surpasses earlier works on the civil wars that shook Rome and its empire in the year of 69. Like Tacitus, Morgan illuminates the universal themes that make the history of this one year significant for all time--the political and social upheavalsconsequent on a contested transfer of power; the nature of military and political leadership, the psychology of the military and civilian masses who are involved in, or spectators of, civil war." --Mark Morford, Professor of Classics Emeritus, University of Virginia