Good reading for critics of latter-day military culture, as well as students of ancient history.

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STORMING THE HEAVENS

SOLDIERS, EMPERORS, AND CIVILIANS IN THE ROMAN EMPIRE

A lucid study of battles, broken treaties, and arms races in Roman antiquity.

In ancient Rome, writes Santosuosso (History/Univ. of Western Ontario), the military was made up of members of landed families who had a very real interest in seeing to the health of the republic. In the second and third centuries (a.d.), however, the state (now an empire) entered a long period of decline, nudged downward by the staggering cost of maintaining a far-flung army numbering nearly a quarter of a million elite troops. The burden of supporting this force fell to the Roman taxpayers, who were already hard-pressed, especially in the countryside; to escape that burden, many rural people found it easier to join the army themselves than to till the fields and pay the publican. Especially after the time of the emperor Commodus (the heavy of the recent film Gladiator), they also found military service to be about the only shot they had at improving their lot (through land grants to veterans and shares in the spoils of conquest), for, as Santosuosso observes, “The Roman laws of war took for granted that conquered peoples surrendered their freedom and property to Rome.” The conversion of the Roman army from an elite force to a volunteer army of the dispossessed—and, increasingly, the non-Roman poor at that—contributed to Rome’s political instability, as individual commanders vied for control of their corners of the empire and occasionally marched on Rome to seize control, backed by troops loyal not to the empire but to themselves. Government became so militarized, Santosuosso writes, that “the imperial guard and the rank and file in the field . . . held the real power, standing behind often weak rulers.” Those rulers were eminently dispensable; between a.d. 211 and 284 an emperor’s reign ended almost always in assassination.

Good reading for critics of latter-day military culture, as well as students of ancient history.

Pub Date: Aug. 31, 2001

ISBN: 0-8133-3523-X

Page Count: 304

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2001

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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