by Michael Sommer

Thames & Hudson, $40.00, 208 pages

The surest way to get this reviewer to pick up a book is to put the words ‘Roman’, ‘Empire’ or ‘Emperor’ somewhere in the title. I have been, and continue to be completely enthralled by Rome. The Complete Roman Emperor: Imperial Life at Court and on Campaign is tailor made for my interests. I am grateful to the author, Michael Sommer, a history professor at the University of Liverpool that his book delivers exactly what I hoped it would. This utterly useful textbook covers the role of the Emperor in Roman Life, from whence his powers derive, and how those powers were used. Dr. Sommer’s The Complete Roman Emperor is designed for the undergraduate level history student.

Not all Emperors fit the same mold. Dr. Sommers distinguishes between several eras, from the Julio-Claudian emperors (Augustus, Caligula, Claudius, Nero, etc.), and the militaristic emperors who emerged from the 3rd and 4th century AD, such as, Septimus Severus, and Caracalla.  Imperial power ebbed and flowed, depending on the personalities of the emperors, and the fortunes of the Empire.  The long decline of the Empire ended anti-climatically with the deposed sixteen-year-old Romulus Augustulus in 476. If you have an interest in Roman history or politics, I highly suggest this book.

Reviewed by Bradley Wright