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AD69: Emperors, Armies and Anarchy (Hardback)

Ancient History Military

By Dr Nic Fields
Imprint: Pen & Sword Military
Pages: 240
Illustrations: 5 maps, 8pp b/w plates
ISBN: 9781781591888
Published: 31st March 2014
Last Released: 9th June 2014



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With the death of Nero by his own shaky hand, the ill-sorted, ill-starred Julio-Claudian dynasty came to an ignominious end, and Rome was up for the taking. This was 9 June, AD 68. The following year, commonly known as the 'Year of the Four Emperors', was probably one of Rome's worst.

Nero's death threw up a critical question for the Empire. How could a new man occupy the vacant throne in Rome and establish a new dynasty? This situation had never arisen before, since in all previous successions the new emperor had some relation to his predecessor, but the psychotic and paranoid Nero had done away with any eligible relatives. And how might a new emperor secure his legal position and authority with regards to the Senate and to the army, as well as to those who had a vested interest in the system, the Praetorian Guard? The result was that ambitious and unscrupulous generals of the empire fell into a bloody power struggle to decide who had the right to wear the imperial purple.

Tacitus, in his acid way, remarks that 'one of the secrets of ruling had been revealed: an emperor could be created outside Rome'. This was because imperial authority was ultimately based on control of the military. Thus, to retain power a player in the game of thrones had to gain an unshakable control over the legions, which were dotted along the fringes of the empire. Of course, this in turn meant that the soldiers themselves could impose their own choice. Indeed, it turned out that even if an emperor gained recognition in Rome, this counted for nothing in the face of opposition from the armies out in the frontier provinces. It was to take a tumultuous year of civil war and the death of three imperial candidates before a fourth candidate could come out on top, remain there, and establish for himself a new dynasty. Nic Fields narrates the twists and turns and the military events of this short but bloody period of Roman history.

The author has an engaging writing style that brings this period of conflict to vivid life. The year following the demise of the paranoid Nero was one of the most turbulent in the history of Ancient Rome – Most Highly Recommended.

Read the full review here


Fields scholarship is solid.

Roman Times Blogspot - Mary Harrsch

An enjoyable read.

Ancient Warfare

Overall, this is a good study of a disastrous year in Roman history.


The author has a very readable style and he has chosen a period in Roman history that provides many twists and turns as Rome emerged from the period of rule by Nero. The result is a fascinating account of a fascinating slice of Roman history.


Nic Fields, a former Royal Marine, navigates us through this year of tumult, firstly introducing us to Nero, and then guiding step by step through the subsequent events with an easy and engaging writing style. We appear to meet more people than the cast of Game of Thrones (with about the same mortality rate!) but with the added bonus of this being history, not fiction.
This book is history for mortals, with a hugely entertaining narrative which keeps the reader interested and wanting to know 'what happened next?'.

Miniature Wargames Magazine
Dr Nic Fields

About Dr Nic Fields

Nic Fields, is a former Royal Marine Commando turned classical scholar and now full-time military historian and tour guide. Among his many previous works are Warlords of Republican Rome: Caesar versus Pompey (2008), Roman Conquests: North Africa (2010), The Spartan Way (2012), AD 69: Armies, Emperors and Anarchy (2014), God's City: Byzantine Constantinople, and God's Victory: Lepanto 1571 (forthcoming 2020), all published by Pen & Sword.

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