Book Review: Aetius: Attila's Nemesis


by Ian Hughes

Barnsley, S. York.: Pen & Sword/Havertown, Pa.: Casemate, 2012. Pp. xxiv, 276. Illus., maps, stemma, appends., notes, biblio., index. $39.95. ISBN: 1848842791

The man who almost prevented the “Fall of Rome”

The late Roman general Flavius Aetius (c. AD 391-454) was arguably the last man who might have had a chance to save the Western Empire, which dissolved little more than 25 years after his murder at the hands of an inept and jealous emperor as a result of court intrigue.  In this work, Hughes, author of Stilicho, about an earlier Roman general with a similar career and fate, has collected all available information about Aetius, and uses this, plus what can be inferred from other evidence, to give us not quite a biography, but more of a “life and times.”  Aetius is an impressive and useful work because Hughes frequently carefully explains his analysis of the often unreliable or fragmentary evidence upon which he had to base his account.  This is particularly helpful because Hughes draws several innovative conclusions about the general; for example, at a time when Roman commanders tended to be cautious, Aetius was unusually aggressive, which Hughes attributes to the fact that he had lived among the Huns for several years as a young hostage.  Despite the sparsely evidence, Hughes has written a lively, often highly insightful account of the declining years of Roman power in the West.

Aetius will be of particular value for students of Roman history, the onset of the “Dark Ages,” and early Byzantine history, but would make a good read for anyone interested in military history or generalship.

Note: Aetius is also available as an e-book, ISBN 987-1-78340-770-5

Reviewer: A. A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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