The Last Roman: Triumph

Written by Jack Ludlow
Review by Nancy Henshaw

Flavius Belisarius is the most brilliant general of his time. He is wily in war, honourable in his dealings with allies and enemies, and regarded as a lucky commander. Is he valued as an Imperial treasure? That is not what happens in Byzantium within the corridors of power. Belisarius is regarded with suspicion by Emperor Justinian, who cannot accept that he is dealing with an honest man; Empress Theodora hates him, and his wife Antonina despises him. His present task is the re-creation of the Roman Empire in its heyday, and the final volume of this series starts on the Italian mainland. Despite a chronic shortage of men and supplies and the ill will of some of his junior commanders, a campaign against the enterprising Goths receives the careful planning and precision of execution that have made Belisarius famous and adored by his armies. Its successful conclusion brings him an extraordinary opportunity, but a peremptory summons from the Emperor sends him to deal with trouble on Byzantium’s Eastern borders while all that has been achieved in Italy falls apart.

This book deals with mighty matters; it is hard to understand why such a man is deliberately frustrated by those who owe him support in return for his own incorruptible dedication to his oath and his duty. A reader simply has to accept this was how it was in Byzantium. The novel, especially the Italian section, gives a thrilling account of every aspect of warfare: sieges, pitched battles, sudden reversals, improvisation, all presented with clarity and excitement. An altogether great achievement from an experienced and deservedly popular author.