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The Frontiers of Imperial Rome (Paperback)

Ancient History > Rome & the Roman Provinces Colour Books Military

By David J Breeze
Imprint: Pen & Sword Military
Pages: 272
Illustrations: 17 b/w maps, 40 b/w drawings and diagrams integrated throughout & colour illlustrations
ISBN: 9781526760807
Published: 24th July 2019
Last Released: 3rd April 2023



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At its height, the Roman Empire was the greatest empire yet seen with borders stretching from the rain-swept highlands of Scotland in the north to the sun-scorched Nubian desert in the south. But how were the vast and varied stretches of frontier defined and defended?

Many of Rome's frontier defences have been the subject of detailed and ongoing study and scholarship. Three frontier zones are now UNESCO World Heritage sites (the Antonine Wall having recently been granted this status - the author led the bid), and there is growing interest in their study. This wide-ranging survey will describe the varying frontier systems, describing the extant remains, methods and materials of construction and highlighting the differences between various frontiers. Professor Breeze considers how the frontiers worked, discussing this in relation to the organisation and structure of the Roman army, and also their impact on civilian life along the empire's borders. He then reconsiders the question of whether the frontiers were the product of an overarching Empire-wide grand strategy, questioning Luttwak's seminal hypothesis.

This is a detailed and wide-ranging study of the frontier systems of the Roman Empire by a leading expert. Intended for the general reader, it is sure also to be of great value for academics and students in this field. The appendixes will include a brief guide to visiting the sites today.

This is a fascinating book, providing an excellent overview of the huge array of border fortifications built by the Romans around their Empire, along with a discussion of what these buildings were actually meant to achieve – customs post, military frontier or an early version of the Berlin wall!

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History of War

This book does not just cover the technical aspects of fortified structures but offers a macro perspective on role and functions the Roman fortifications served. The author carefully distinguishes terms such as “boundaries” and “frontiers” and what they signified as the geopolitical situation for the empire changed over time. For instance, due to the disastrous outcome of the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest, in which three Roman legions were decimated, Roman expansionist policy took a severe blow, thereby effectively discouraging any major advances into the German hinterland. In essence, Professor Breeze interweaves politics, economics, and social dynamics into military fortification, thereby making the book all the more interesting and a worthy read for anyone who wishes to delve deep into the subject.

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Amazon Customer, Kunwon Saw

This volume is essential reading for frontier aficionados.

Current World Archaeology, issue 98

The author prepared the bid for World Heritage Site status for the Antonine Wall and is the leading archaeologist in the study of the frontier zones of Imperial Rome. This is a work of scholarship that is very readable and very well illustrated – Most Highly Recommended.

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A seminal work of impressively meticulous and documented scholarship written for the benefit of academia -- but one with all the flair of a deftly crafted and engaging history for the benefit of interested non-specialist general readers, "The Frontiers of Imperial Rome" is a detailed and wide-ranging study of the frontier systems of the Roman Empire.

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Midwest Book Review

We are used to seeing documentaries and films (Gladiator, for example) featuring battles involving the furthest outposts of the Roman Empire. David Breeze's book examines those furthest outposts in great detail and provides essential information on how they were managed by the mightiest army in the history of the world.

Books Monthly

This covers looks at the actual outer reaches of the Roman Empire and helps us to define the frontiers of Empire. It still staggers me how vast the Roman Empire was.

Living in East Kent, we are surrounded by Roman footprints, Canterbury, Reculver and Richborough…

But what about right out there on the edge of empire? This book not only covers the structures but also includes the impact these frontiers had on the local civilian population and how the frontiers were run by the Roman military.

It shows us how the frontiers were made or used natural landmarks to construct the border.

Medieval Sword School

As featured in

The Bookseller 26/4/19

About David J Breeze

Professor David Breeze prepared the successful bid for World Heritage Site status for the Antonine Wall and now leads the team implementing its management He was formerly Chief Inspector of Ancient Monuments for Scotland. He has written books on both the Antonine Wall and Hadrian's Wall as well as on Roman Scotland and the Roman army. David Breeze is an honorary professor at the universities of Durham, Edinburgh and Newcastle, and is chairman of the International Congress of Roman Frontier Studies. He lives in Edinburgh.

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