The Year of Five Emperors (Rise and Fall of the Severans #1) (Paperback)
This is a thoroughly researched, panoramic view of a pivotal year in mid-imperial Roman history. It can still be seen how the old Roman society functioned, but it is beginning to break down. The viewpoint shifts from chapter to chapter to show what is happening not only in the capital, where the Praetorian Guard, the City Legion, and the Senate are vying for control, but also at the frontiers: in the far northwest, the Caledonians are willing to consider joining but only on their own terms, and they will not be dishonored; in the north-center, the Germans are not currently as active as they have been before, and will be again, but need watching; in the east, the Parthian Empire is crumbling, but for Romans to take advantage they need to settle the question of who would get credit for any triumph. The pervasive role of religion is also illustrated: the traditional Roman religion with all of its gods, rituals, and omens still is the most common belief, with deities from other nationalities in the Empire incorporated into the pantheon with varying degrees of comfort; but the more skeptical philosophy of Stoicism replaces it as a moral guide among large segments of at least the more educated population; and Christianity is growing in influence, still technically illegal but generally tolerated in practice; while Jews and Samaritans maintain their distinctive ways in isolation. The Empire and the society, and the story, are tied together by an intricate web of patronage and friendship relationships: no two people in the rather small upper class are more than a couple connections away from each other, and no-one from lower down the scale can rise except by becoming connected.
The author has degrees in philosophy, law, and mathematics, and lifelong interests in linguistics and history. He currently teaches mathematics in the Detroit area.