A Military Biography

Dr. Ilkka Syvänne

Date Published :
June 2022
Publisher :
Pen and Sword
Illustration :
30+ maps, 50 b/w line drawings, 16pp plates
Format Available    QuantityPrice
Binding. : Paperback
ISBN : 9781399074827
Pages : 368
Dimensions : 9.1 X 6.1 inches
Stock Status : In stock
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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 colorful 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.

About The Author

Dr. Ilkka Syvänne gained his doctorate in history in 2004 from the University of Tampere in his native Finland. Since then he has written extensively about ancient and medieval warfare and his publications include: 'The Age of Hippotoxotai, Art of War in Roman Military Revival and Disaster 491-636' (Tampere UP 2004), 'The Reign of Gallienus' (Pen & Sword, 2019), the multivolume 'Military History of Late Rome' published by Pen & Sword and the critically acclaimed Caracalla. He is the co-author with Professor Katarzyna Maksymiuk of the 'Military History of Third Century Iran' (Siedlce UP, 2018) and the 'Military History of Fifth Century Iran' (Siedlce UP, 2019). He was Vice Chairman of the Finnish Society for Byzantine Studies from 2007 until 2016. He has been an Affiliated Professor of the University of Haifa since 2016. He lives in Kangasala, Finland.


“I cannot praise the book enough. From the illustrations to the diagrams that show how Caracalla tried to emulate the army of Alexander the Great, the information in the book is priceless.”

- A Wargamers Needful Things

“This is an excellent, thought-provoking look at a much maligned character… it is a critical read for any serious student of the period.”

- The NYMAS Review, Spring 2018

“Syvänne does an excellent job of reevaluating the traditional sources, consulting additional materials not necessarily available to past generations of scholars, such as ancient Armenian and Georgian histories, and critically comparing them, covering many critical issues in several appendices.”

- StrategyPage

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