Book Review: The Collapse of Rome: Marius, Sulla and the First Civil War


by Gareth Sampson

Barnsley, Eng.: Pen & Sword / Philadelphia: Casemate, 2020. Pp. xviii, 286+. Illus., maps, diagr., chron., notes, biblio., index. $22.95 paper. ISBN: 1526781913

Setting the Stage for the Collapse the Republic

First published in 2013, Sampson’s look at the remarkable series of foreign wars, provincial insurrections, allied rebellions, coups, barbarian incursions, slave uprisings, and civil wars that began about 90 BC and ran about two decades broke new ground in the study of this tumultuous period in Roman – and Mediterranean – history. Displaying an impressive mastery of the rather slender sources on the period, in his opening chapter Sampson, notes that during this period Rome was more or less at war almost continuously, at home and abroad, including while divided against itself, and although greatly stressed, not only survived but actually extended its power.

Sampson’s coverage of the 15 or so conflicts, which overlapped and interrelated, is quite good, as he sorts through conflicting evidence – so poor at times that even when or where several major battles took place is unrecorded. Perhaps the best analysis in the book is his account of the “Social War” (91-87 BC), in which he not only does the best job yet seen of parsing the sequence of events, but also offers some useful ideas about the background and organization of the revolt of the allies, suggesting that there was some long-term planning for the uprising, and his discussion of the political organization they established and their political and strategic goals.

These events were of great important in setting the stage for the final generation of the Republic, and with The Collapse of Rome, Sampson helps throw fresh light on them, making this a valuable read for anyone interested in Roman History.




Note: The Collapse of Rome 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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