Books by Pat Southern

AUGUSTUS by Pat Southern
HISTORY
Released: Nov. 10, 1998

In this crisply written and well-researched biography, Southern (librarian at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne, England) presents Octavian/Augustus as an opportunistic genius whose creation of the Roman Empire was more a matter of pragmatic adaptation to circumstance than adherence to a master plan. Octavian, the sickly kinsman of Julius Caesar who became the dictator's confidant and adopted son, was one of the truly great figures of history. Achieving power at the end of over a century of violent turbulence that saw repeated civil wars among warlords, he created a form of government that preserved the forms of the old republic while allowing him to exercise absolute power over the Roman apparatus of state. Southern shows that, once Octavian was catapulted into prominence, this result was no accident: his unique blend of self-control, common sense, tact, careful calculation, and ruthlessness allowed him to take advantage of the turmoil that enveloped the Roman world after the assassination of his benefactor in 44 b.c. Aged just 19 when elevated to the consulship in 43 b.c., he used his constitutionally exalted office to strengthen his position both against his manifest enemies, the assassins of Julius Caesar who were allied with the senatorial aristocracy, and against his ostensible allies and fellow triumvirate members Marc Antony and Lepidus. Southern details Augustus's brief and sanguinary role in the battle on both fronts. Following his victories, Octavian consolidated both his power and his prestige: he assumed the elevated name Augustus in 27 b.c., built strong military frontiers, and, while avoiding the trappings of kingship, wielded immense power behind innocuously republican-sounding offices like consul and princeps (first citizen). By the time of his death in 14 a.d., the Roman Senate and people had, seemingly willingly, abandoned all pretensions to republicanism, and constituted an empire in name and in fact. A concise and thoughtful contribution to the literature of one of history's great turning points. Read full book review >
THE LATE ROMAN ARMY by Pat Southern
NON-FICTION
Released: Sept. 18, 1996

This guide to the declining centuries of the Roman military is handy for scholars but sometimes rough going for the general reader. Southern and Dixon (both scholars at the Univ. of Newcastle upon Tyne) show an impressive command of the texts and artifacts documenting the transformation of the Roman army from the late second to the early sixth centuries. The authors synthesize past findings, summarize debates, and contribute their own opinions in a manner useful to serious students of the period. However, the book almost seems designed to ward off casual visitors. Chapter One deals with sources—an undramatic way to begin. The next two chapters cover loosely connected topics: predecessors of the military reformers Diocletian and Constantine; changing frontier troop levels; the establishment of a central field reserve; the increasing number of barbarians drawn into the army. Missing are a coherent overview of the period and sufficient historical context to orient the lay reader; timelines and a glossary help but are not enough. The book's remaining chapters are more accessible, even fun. Under such headings as ``Equipment'' and ``Fortifications,'' they offer concrete specifics and eye-catching illustrations on such matters as helmets, scabbards, rations, and the practice of cutting off one's own fingers to avoid the draft. Technical details are provided for specialists, while the armchair Romanist can enjoy learning just how fire darts and battering rams work. A chapter on the decline in army morale makes connections to 20th-century war; a short conclusion captures some of the pathos inherent in Gibbon's old subject matter. The generally dry style exhibits flashes of wit, as in this wry comment regarding ancient bureaucratic correspondences: ``How the Romans would have loved telephones.'' (line drawings, maps, 16 pages b&w photos) Read full book review >