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Roman Emperor Zeno: The Perils of Power Politics in Fifth-century Constantinople

Roman Emperor Zeno: The Perils of Power Politics in Fifth-century Constantinople

Peter Crawford
ARRSE Rating
3.5 Mushroom Heads
Peter Crawford examines the life and career of the fifth-century Roman emperor Zeno and the various problems he faced before and during his seventeen-year rule. Despite its length, his reign has hitherto been somewhat overlooked as being just a part of that gap between the Theodosian and Justinianic dynasties of the Eastern Roman Empire which is comparatively poorly furnished with historical sources. Reputedly brought in as a counter-balance to the generals who had dominated Constantinopolitan politics at the end of the Theodosian dynasty, the Isaurian Zeno quickly had to prove himself adept at dealing with the harsh realities of imperial power. Zeno's life and reign is littered with conflict and politicking with various groups - the enmity of both sides of his family; dealing with the fallout of the collapse of the Empire of Attila in Europe, especially the increasingly independent tribal groups established on the frontiers of, and even within, imperial territory; the end of the Western Empire; and the continuing religious strife within the Roman world. As a result, his reign was an eventful and significant one that deserves this long-overdue spotlight.

This is a highly researched biography full of detail, and that was the problem, it was very sparse on background information. Without a doubt this was the hardest book that ever had to read let alone review, after four chapters I had to go back and start again to see why I couldn't get on with it. It is a list of dates and detail with no background explanation. As an example the book states that Zeno had a problem with the Samaritans but I could not discover who the Samaritans were nor what problems they caused for the Emperor, even going to the Index and reading every page listed on the Samaritans no further explanation was forthcoming. The whole book goes on and on like this.

Without a doubt its a scholarly presentation and far too complex for the like of me, I suggest that it could be used in parts to refer to the Emperors' reign when studying Roman History however it is NOT an easy nor interesting read. Have you ever tried reading a family tree where everyone is called Smith and there are no other details available except for the dates ? Well this is it!

Three and a half mushroom heads based on it being a terribly difficult read.

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