New Military History Book by Ian Hughes: Belisarius-The Last Roman General

Ian Hughes has produced an excellent military history text entitled:

Belisarius: The Last Roman General (2009). Barnsley, South Yorkshire, England: Pen & Sword Books Limited. ISBN: 978-1-84415-833-1.

 

To order, kindly contact:

Address: PEN & SWORD BOOKS LIMITED -47 Church Street, Barnsley, South Yorkshire, S70 2AS, England [Website: www.pen-and-sword.co.uk]

E-Mail: enquiries@pen-and-sword.co.uk

Hughes’ text is meticuloulsy researched with a plethora of references and resources. The academic calibre of this text will undoubtedly make this a major resource in classrooms and libraries across major universities.

Synopsis

This book is a military history of the campaigns of Belisarius.  After fighting the Persians, Belisarius was sent by the Emperor Justinian to reconquer North Africa from the Vandals.  This he did in a single year at the age of 29.  After this success he was sent to Italy to fight the Ostrogoths, where he recaptured the ‘eternal city’ of Rome for the Romans. 

A close-up of the Mosaic of the Basilica of San Vitale at Ravenna. The Romano-Byzantine emperor Justinian (r. 527-565) is seen at the center (note halo surrounding his crowned head). Belisarius (500-565) stands to the left of Justinian with the prominent banker, Giuliano Argentario, standing to the right. As noted by Hughes, the Basilica of San Vitale mosaic bears the only portrait we have today of Belisarius.

The book discusses the evolution of the late-Roman/early-Byzantine army and its  systems of warfare. The text also discusses the army, military equipment and tactics of Rome’s chief enemies, Sassanian Iran, Goths and Vandals. 

The Porta Pinciana (The Gate of  Pinciana). This came under the control of Belisarius during the siege of Rome. Belisarius launched a successful sortie from this location against the Germanic Goths.

There is a constant analysis of Belisarius’ exemplary abilities as a general throughout the book

Belisarius and the Military history of Romano-Sassanian Warfare

Hughes’ text is also ground-breaking in that it follows a new (and welcome) Western tradition in which (Western) scholars examine the military history of ancient pre-Islamic Iran with objectivity and balance.

Belisarius (500-565) is one of the most brilliant military strategists ever produced by the Romano-Byzantine world and its Western/European successors. Few are aware that it was in Sassanian Iran where Belisarius met his military equals. Iran’s Savaran cavalry not only held their own against the formidable armies of Belisarius but even scored a number of successes. Belisarius in turn also scored his own successes against the Savaran; indeed the Iranian-Roman frontier experienced numerous battles before the arrival of the Arabo-Islamic armies in the 7th century.

In an endeavor to provide a closer insight into Sassanian arms, equipment and tactics, Hughes has printed a number of diagrams that were produced by Kaveh Farrokh during his research for his first book Elite Sassanian cavalry published in 2005 and translated to Persian by Yusef Amiri in 2009. Farrokh also had the assistance of military historian and martial arts specialist Antony Karasuals in Australia in his research. One notable contribution by Karasulas was his deployment of the Sassanian method of firing arrows for assessment.

Below is one diagram by Farrokh which is being published for the first time in the Hughes text:

 

Late Sassanian sword (Farrokh 2004; reprinted Hughes 2010, p.51). Entire sword from front [1] and back [2]; sword handle at front [3] and back [4]; sword mount at front [5] and back [6].

Hughes also provides excellent maps, diagrams and battle plans throughout his text.

            

 

The Romano-Sassanian frontier at the time of Emperor Justinian. Note the location of Romano-Iranian battles in Pers-Armenia, Dara and Callinicum.

Hughes’ text is a highly recommended item for those interested in Roman-Byzantine military history, including those interested in the military history of the wars between Sassanian Iran and the Romano-Byzantines.

 

Late Sassanian belt found at Nahavand (Farrokh 2004; reprinted Hughes 2010, p.52). This belt system utilizes the Turco-Avar lappet suspension system for swords and quivers.