Book Review: The Complete Roman Emperor: Imperial Life at Court and on Campaign


by Michael Sommer

London/New York: Thames & Hudson, 2010. Pp. 208. Illus., maps, tables, diagr., biblio, index. $40.00. ISBN: 0500251673

In his first book published in English, Dr. Sommer (Liverpool) gives us something like a handbook of what it was like to be a Roman emperor, from daily routine to the demands of office to the command of the army.

The Complete Roman Emperor tells us a great deal about the empire, the structure of government, the organization and missions of the armed forces, and the 80-some men who attained the imperium, which a close look at how these interrelated and evolved over time.  After an introductory overview of the history of the Empire, Sommer goes back and gives us a chapter on the fall of the Republic and the creation of Augustus’s “republican” monarchy.  There follow chapters on how one became emperor, on ruling and – at times or -- enjoying the purple, on commanding the armies, on the imperial cities of Rome and later Constantinople, and, of course, on the proverbial “decline and fall”, at least in the West. 

This lavishly illustrated volume, which has some innovative graphics, is well written, and liberally seasoned with passages from ancient literature.  Altogether a valuable work for anyone interested in Rome and its empire.


Reviewer: A. A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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