Caracalla has one of the worst reputations of any Roman Emperor. Many ancient historians were very hostile and Edward Gibbon later dubbed him ‘the common enemy of mankind’. Yet his reign was considered by at least one Roman author to be the apogee of the Roman Empire. Guilty of many murders and massacres (including his own brother, ex-wife and daughter) he was, however, popular with the army, improving their pay and cultivating the image of sharing their hardships. Surprisingly this is the first full-length biography of this colourful character in English. Ilkka Syvanne explains how the biased ancient sources in combination with the stern looking statues of the emperor have created a distorted image of the man and then reconstructs the actual events, particularly his military campaigns and reforms, to offer a balanced view of his reign. The biography offers the first complete overview of the policies, events and military campaigns of the reign and explains how and why these contributed to the military crisis of the third century.
CARACALLA A Military Bibliography
This excellent biography is a much needed examination of the military history of the Severan age, that it began with the then largest and longest civil war in Roman history, and concluded with the epic military debacle that proved to be the last wind of the Parthians
The strengths of Sylvanne’s book are his analyses of the various military forces arrayed during the age of Caracalla. Starting with a long-needed examination as to how the Roman military system had changed from the cohortal legion of Marius, Caesar and Trajan to something akin to a Greek phalanx, how the segmented armour, Gallic helmet, short gladius and pilum of the past gave way to new gear that would be with Roman troops until the start of the Dark Ages.