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Roman Emperor Zeno (Hardback)

The Perils of Power Politics in Fifth-century Constantinople

Ancient History > Rome & the Roman Provinces P&S History > Social Science & Culture > Politics

By Dr Peter Crawford
Imprint: Pen & Sword History
Pages: 357
ISBN: 9781473859241
Published: 4th February 2019



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Peter Crawford examines the life and career of the fifth-century Roman emperor Zeno and the various problems he faced before and during his seventeen-year rule. Despite its length, his reign has hitherto been somewhat overlooked as being just a part of that gap between the Theodosian and Justinianic dynasties of the Eastern Roman Empire which is comparatively poorly furnished with historical sources.

Reputedly brought in as a counter-balance to the generals who had dominated Constantinopolitan politics at the end of the Theodosian dynasty, the Isaurian Zeno quickly had to prove himself adept at dealing with the harsh realities of imperial power. Zeno's life and reign is littered with conflict and politicking with various groups - the enmity of both sides of his family; dealing with the fallout of the collapse of the Empire of Attila in Europe, especially the increasingly independent tribal groups established on the frontiers of, and even within, imperial territory; the end of the Western Empire; and the continuing religious strife within the Roman world. As a result, his reign was an eventful and significant one that deserves this long-overdue spotlight.

This is an interesting biography, looking at a period in which the Eastern Empire managed to survive a series of crisis almost a serious as the ones that destroyed the western Empire. The story of Zeno’s reign resembles a fantasy novel, with rivalrys within his court (even leading to his being briefly deposed soon after coming to the throne), family rivalries, barbarian invadors, some of whom threatened Constantiniple itself, revolts, religious disputes, and in keeping with this period of later Roman history an impressive cast of strong women, not least Zeno’s wife Ariadne, daughter of Leo I, who went on to play a major role in selecting Zeno’s successor, who she then went on to marry.

Read the full review here

History of War

Who Was Emperor Zeno and How Did He Deal with the Fall of the Western Roman Empire?

Author article for History Hit

History Hit, September 2019

As featured on Omne Ignotum Pro Magnifico

Old Barbed Wire Blog

As featured by

VaeVictis - n° 144 - mars/avril 2019

As featured in

The Armourer, June 2019

This is a highly researched biography full of detail.

Army Rumour Service (ARRSE)
Dr Peter Crawford

About Dr Peter Crawford

Dr Peter Crawford gained a PhD in Ancient History at Queen's University, Belfast under the tutelage of respected classicist Professor Brian Campbell. His previous books, The War of the Three Gods (2013), Constantius II (2015) and The Roman Emperor Zeno (2018) were also published by Pen & Sword. He lives in County Antrim, Northern Ireland.

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