Book Review: Augustus at War: The Struggle for the Pax Augusta


by Lindsay Powell

Barnsley, Eng.: Pen & Sword / Philadelphia: Casemate, 2019. Pp. xl, 458+. . Illus., maps, chron., plans, tables, diagr., personae, appends., biblio., inde. $44.95. ISBN: 1783831847

Augustus the Conqueror

Powell, author of Eager for Glory: The Untold Story of Drusus the Elder, Germanicus, and many other works in Roman military history, has produced a comprehensive treatment of military events during the final years of the Republic and the early ones of the Empire, in the process reminding us that Octavian, later the Emperor Augustus (63 BC-AD 14), the adopted son of Julius Caesar, while not generally regarded as a great commander, added more territory to the Roman domain than anyone else ever.

Powell opens in 31 BC with the great clash between Octavian and Caesar’s former right-hand man, Marcus Antonius, and his paramour and business partner Cleopatra, and takes us through the death of Augustus in AD 14. He uses an unusual annalistic approach, in which he covers events year by year, much as did the ancient historian Livy. Each year’s entry examines the military, political, and dynastic events, usually in order of importance, with frequent use of maps, tables, diagrams, and more to supplement his narrative. Powell often injects into his account of a year, explanations of important changes in military practice and organization, or discussions of important political, religious, diplomatic, or dynastic developments .

Although this technique is perhaps not optimal for following how multi-year conflicts (e.g., the Cantabrian War of 29-19 BC, the German War of AD 9-16, etc.) unfolded, it does help give the reader a better grasp of the challenge of ruling the sprawling Roman empire, as we see Augustus coping with frequent problems on multiple fronts.

Augustus at War, can be read from cover to cover, or used as a reference, to be dipped into for information on the events of particular years, and is thus useful for both serious scholars and armchair historians.


Note: Augustus at War is also available in several e-editions.


StrategyPage reviews are published in cooperation with The New York Military Affairs Symposium

Reviewer: A. A. Nofi   

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