This is the second book I have read in Pen & Sword Book’s series detailing the Roman conquest of their provinces, one by one. These are slim books, but interesting as they put in one place all the information about the region in one continuous narrative. Since often parts of the story of Rome in a province falls into one of the neglected periods of history, this is a great advantage.
Even in this case, where the bulk of the book summarizes Caesar’s Gallic Wars, there is an interesting chapter on the movement of Rome into “The Province”, southern Gaul along the Mediterranean coast. As is often the case, it was more of an accidental advance than a planned one – the need to keep open supply lines to Spain, where the Romans were trying to break down both native resistance and Sertorius, a Roman renegade, meant that suddenly calm and order in this region was required. Thus normal ebb and flow of tribal squabbling brought Rome’s big hammer in to settle things their way.
Even Caesar’s conquest was accidental, in a way. His original mandate to govern was for Cisalpine Gaul (North Italy) and Illyria (the Balkans). The Province was a ‘toss in’ when the original governor, Metellus Celer, died suddenly before heading out to south Gaul. Caesar was then named to that province, too.
The narrative is good, with only a little bit of the standard academic bias against Caesar sneaking in while the author isn’t looking. Thus there is a tendency to view the anti-Caesarian forces as ‘legitimate’ here and there. I seem to remember a part where the author leaped forward some years to ‘explain’ current events, which was confusing at first and then irritating. These are quibbles and for the most part Sage is neither too adulatory nor too unfair.
There is a little wind-up at the end of the history after Caesar, which is short because the area soon became a solid province and a base to support the new frontier zones on the Rhine and in Britain.
A great series and I’m already reading a third book right now, this one on Greece and Macedonia.