Arminius: The Limits of Empire

Author Rating:
4.5/5,
  • Author:
    Robert Fabbri
    Another cracking novel from Fabbri; this time covering the loss of three Roman Legions under Roman General Publius Quinctillus Varus along with their Eagles. This time though the story is told from the German point of view, and not only that but through the written story of the battle as told by the leader Arminius and recounted by his son some decades later. Confusing? A bit. Never mind it soon becomes quite clear and this is the story of Arminius who led the Germanic tribes in battle defeating the three Roman Legions and their attached Auxiliaries.

    I love these historical novels based on fact yet mostly based on supposition, good research and the author’s vivid imagination. From this hotchpotch of sources comes a well written, easily followed history of one of the darkest days of Roman military history. Indeed, the Romans did not invade and conquer much further afield after this defeat.

    The story opens with a gladiator, nearing the end of his life-cycle in the arena and fighting for his freedom. This is the son of Arminus, Thumelicatz who returns to his tribe after winning his freedom and sets about learning about his father’s great battle. The story uses scrolls written by Arminius and left for his son to read and understand why Arminius took the actions that he did and why he eventually lost his life due to internal backbiting and jealousies. It takes Arminius back to the days when as a young boy he was handed over by his father to the Romans as hostage. Brought up in a Roman aristocratic family of Varus, Arminus grew up with Varus and fought with him in the Roman army on the western boundaries, saving Varus’ s life at one point. All this meant that Arminius picked up two vital parts that made his battle so successful: the knowledge of how the Roman army fights and more importantly, the trust and loyalty of Varus, even though Varus did not realise that Arminius actually hated him as an oppressor. There are plots, sub-plots and intrigue entwined throughout the book making it a delicious cauldron of hate and blood.

    Eventually Varus is promoted and becomes the Commander of the Roman forces in Germanica, hoping to gain further promotion to Governor of the Region. Arminius accompanies him but meets with the chieftains of the local Germanic tribes and persuades them to put aside their local differences and hatreds to strike at the Romans and defeat them utterly. I don’t want to go into the detail of how he did this as that is the point of the book and is much better painted by the author than by me, suffice to say that Fabbri keeps everything very plausible, with great descriptions of life at the time making it so easy to picture the scene.

    The Battle of the Teutoburg Forest took place in 9 AD and was the worst defeat suffered by the Romans up to that point. Fabbri has painted a brilliant picture of the times and lives of the main players making this book one that is hard to put down. Some of the detail is quite graphic, but that fits so well with the time.

    In the late 1960s I spent two years at Osnabruck which is just south of the Battlefield location. I wish it had been uncovered and made more known as I think I would have liked to have visited the area then. Another opportunity lost to the vagaries of youth! If you like Roman historical novels then don’t miss this one or you will be doing yourself disfavour. This book is a keeper which can come out frequently and be re-read. 4.5 Mr Mushroomheads for this fine story.

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  1. Sixty
    Okay, done. I enjoyed it. It's really oddly paced with the final bit (which I won't mention to avoid spoilers) feeling a wee bit rushed but overall, well-written and with that 'just a few more pages before I turn in' quality. Quite refreshing to see something written not from the Roman perspective but the prominent Roman characters from history are fleshed out well.

    The odd pacing may be because I hadn't realised it a was a standalone rather than the start of a new series.

    I'd concur with @Auld-Yin's review.
      Auld-Yin likes this.
  2. Gun_Brickie
    I just finished reading this book, and was surprised at how easy it is to read, despite some rather gratuitously violent passages. That being said, I had the damnedest time not seeing Brian Blessed as Augustus, George Baker as Tiberius, and Sian Phillips as Livia in my mind's eye as those characters appeared in the book.
  3. 49er
    I will buy this book on the strength of you recommendation. I've never heard of Fabbri. I assume he is another Scarrow. If so,all well and good.
  4. Sixty
    No worries. My undergrad degree is in Ancient History and I'm **** about these things :)
  5. Auld-Yin
    Got you, I was not looking at that properly and should not have put the word "Century" in. Thanks for pointing out my mongness. :( Now fixed. :)
  6. Sixty
    That's still not the ninth century mate. It's the first century.
  7. Auld-Yin
    @Sixty, I don't accept I am wrong. CE just stands for Common Era but the dates equate to AD. It is just the non-Christian way of denoting dates. While it has been used for quite some time, generally by non-Christians, especially the Jewish community, it had become more popular in this PC world we live in.

    I decided to use AD and I don't see that wrong. If you wish to use CE feel free to do so.

    The Battle of the Teutoburg Forest took place in 9AD, it also took place in 9CE - take your pick.
  8. Sixty
    'The Battle of the Teutoburg Forest took place in the 9th Century AD'. No it didn't. 9 AD/CE.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. Auld-Yin
      @tiger stacker Which part of this review is it that makes you ask? This maybe:-

      "Fabbri has painted a brilliant picture of the times and lives of the main players making this book one that is hard to put down. "

      I am fairly certain that there will be more than five books covering such a momentous event in Roman history.
      Auld-Yin, Jul 23, 2017
    3. Sixty
      I've just ordered it on the strength of the review and will be able to reply shortly :)
      Sixty, Jul 23, 2017
      tiger stacker and Auld-Yin like this.
    4. tiger stacker
      I'll compare it to
      Blood Forrest by Gez Jones
      Give me back my legions by H Turtledove
      Eagles at War by Ben Kane

      thank you gentlemen
      tiger stacker, Jul 23, 2017
      Auld-Yin likes this.