Book Review: Rome and Parthia: Empires at War: Ventidius, Antony and the Second Romano-Parthian War, 40-20 B.C.


by Gareth C. Sampson

Barnsley, Eng.: Pen & Sword / Philadelphia: Casemate, 2020. Pp. xxviii, 315+. Illus, maps, diagr., chron., appends., notes, biblio., index. $32.95. ISBN: 1526710137

The Second Romano-Parthian War and a Forgotten Roman General

Although concentrating on the events of 40 B.C. through 20 B.C., Dr. Sampson, an independent scholar specializing in the final age of the Roman Republic, devotes about a quarter of his text to a survey of early contacts between the two empires. So he covers early diplomatic contacts between the two empires, then gives us a look at the disastrous campaign of M. Licinius Crassus (56 B.C.) and Parthian meddling in Rome’s civil wars of 49-40 B.C.

Sampson then follows with a detailed treatment the much overlooked Second Romano-Parthian War. It began with the Parthian invasion of the Roman East in 40-38 B.C., which was defeated by the very able, and alas nearly forgotten P. Ventidius Bassus. Sampson then covers Marc Antony’s attempts to conquer Parthia and Armenia in 36-33 BC, in the hope of giving himself an edge in his struggle with Octavian for dominance of the Roman state. Massive, and massively unsuccessful, the war cost Antony a lot of Cleopatra’s money, far too many of his native Roman troops, and probably domination of the Roman world.

Sampson concludes with a look at relations between the two powers from the defeat of Antony down to 20 BC, when Octavian – by then Augustus – negotiated a general peace that endured for more than a half-century, reminding us that these empires were actually more often at peace – or at least “cold war” – than at war.

Rome and Parthia: Empires at War is a good read for anyone interested in Roman history, and particularly for Sampson’s “rescue” of Ventidius from obscurity.




Note: Rome and Parthia: Empires at War is also available in several e-editions.


StrategyPage reviews are published in cooperation with The New York Military Affairs Symposium

Reviewer: A. A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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