Eager for Glory – Lindsay Powell

The subtitle says it all – “The Untold Story of Drusus the Elder, Conquerer of Germania”.

Drusus was the younger brother of Tiberius, and son of the Emperor Augustus’ wife Livia.  He was the father of Germanicus, and of the future Emperor Claudius, and the grandfather of Emperor Caligula.  But his life and death falls into the gap in the records after the end of the Civil Wars and before the histories by Seutonius and Tacitus take over.

Drusus died young, but he was put to work young and so accomplished a lot. He was in charge of subduing the mountain tribes in the Alps to ‘fill in’ the northern borders of Italy to the Rhine and Danube. Today this would be the border areas of France and Italy, Switzerland, Southern Germany and Austria.  With some help from his brother, Drusus accomplished this in a few campaigns.

After this Drusus was put in charge of the Gallic Provinces (modern day France), again doing very well.  As part of ensuring the safety of Gaul, Augustus decided that Germania should be pacified and Drusus took on the job.  In two years the northern half of Germany nearly to the Elbe was pacified.  During the third campaign in 9 BCE, Drusus fell with his horse and one of his legs was crushed.  He died just after his brother Tiberius reached him after an epic ride across the Empire.

This situation persisted for only about 20 years – in 9 AD a revolt fooled the governor of Germany into sending three legions into a trap at Teutoburg Wald, where they were massacred.  This setback led to Augustus and Tiberius more or less writing off Imperial expansion, and most future Emperors followed suit.  It is interesting to think that if things had happened differently in this period, that the Empire could have developed far differently.

The book itself is excellent – it has a number of superb maps of the areas Drusus fought over and of some of the cities in the area.  The writing is good, if a bit scholarly – don’t come expecting a lot of purple prose.  It isn’t a long book, but still covers his life, and a summary of his legacy in his decendants and in monuments that still survive today.

I had been wondering about some of the books I have seen on Amazon on Roman subjects and generals over the last months –  I think the bulk of them are from this publisher, Pen and Sword Military.  The last, on the survival was a mixed bag, but this effort makes up for that.  It is an excellent book on a subject I have heard little about.  I’ll be looking into more of this series in the future.

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