Immortal Africanus: Belisarius and the Roman Empire’s Return to Rome

Written by Matthew Jordan Storm
Review by Steve Donoghue

Immortal Africanus, the third volume in Matthew Jordan Storm’s “Africanus” trilogy, continues the story of the 6th-century Byzantine Emperor Justinian’s efforts to reclaim cities and territories lost to the Empire when Rome fell at the end of the 5th century. In particular, as the series’ title suggests, Storm concentrates on Justinian’s greatest general, Belisarius, whose tenacity and military genius enabled Justinian to reconquer most of the former Roman domains in Africa.

In this latest volume, Belisarius and his troops, his wife Antonina, and his loyal corps of retainers turn their attentions to Italy, which is in the hands of the Goths under King Vitiges. As usual, Belisarius is outnumbered and scrambling for resources, and Storm does an excellent job of shifting his narrative focus from small-scale interpersonal encounters between his characters and large-scale military action on land and sea. He mixes highly dramatic invocations of plague, fire, and international intrigue with well-realized individual personalities, none more so than his version of Belisarius, a notoriously opaque character even in the accounts of his loyal secretary Procopius.

The result is a novel – and a series – well worth reading.