The Praetorian Guard: A History of Rome’s Elite Special Forces

The Praetorian Guard: A History of Rome’s Elite Special Forces, Sandra Bingham, I.B. Tauris, 2012

Special Blackwell’s Price £23.00 (RRP £25)

From the Immortals, the personal bodyguard of the Persian Achaemenid kings; the death-or-glory Companions, Alexander the Great’s glorious cavalry corps; to Napoleon’s Imperial Guards, flower of the French army, select martial cohorts are perennially fascinating. And perhaps no special force commands the romance, the mystique or the enduring appeal of ancient Rome’s throroughbred protection and counter-insurgency squadron: the renowned Praetorian Guard.

This elite military unit existed for over 300 years. Conceived as a personal army for the emperor, the Guard soon took over a wide range of powers in Rome, and thus from the very beginning made a much greater impact on the city’s life than just as an imperial bodyguard. The Praetorians were in fact inseparable from the whole machinery of state, in some cases even making or breaking individual emperors. Sandra Bingham here offers a timely history of the Guard from its foundation by Augustus in 27 BCE to its disbandment by Constantine in CE 312. Topics covered include arms and insignia; the size, recruitment and command structure of the Guard; duration of service; the duties of individual soldiers and officers; and their familes and religion. The author also provides a lively and comprehensive survey of the Praetorians in the sources of antiquity. Augmented by carefully selected illustrations, maps and plans, this book will be vital reading for students and military history enthusiasts alike.

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