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Book Review: Trust in the Gods, But Verify by Rose Mary Sheldon 
30th-Dec-2014 08:22 pm
Intelligence Activities in Ancient Rome: Trust in the Gods But VerifyIntelligence Activities in Ancient Rome: Trust in the Gods But Verify by Rose Mary Sheldon

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It's hard to rate this book overall: it was a bit less exciting than I'd hoped for, but that's largely to do with two things. The first is that ancient Roman intelligence wasn't quite as exciting as I might have hoped for. It was a little underdeveloped by modern standards, and to the extent that Rome engaged in what we might call "spying," most of it was spying on their own citizens. The second is that the book is really written for the expert in military intelligence. Not so much in the sense that you need specialized knowledge to understand the information presented, but you might need specialized knowledge to understand why it is interesting or remarkable.

The book has all the fascinating anecdotes and glorious military victories and ignominious military defeats that you could want. I was particularly fascinated by the chapter on recent archaeological findings in the Teutoburg forest (where Varus famously lost three Roman legions). On the other hand, I kind of bogged down in the extensive discussion of possible signaling networks between Roman forts in various parts of Britain and Germany, and I put the book down and didn't pick it up again for quite some time. On the other hand, I'm sure for some readers the signaling networks are the best part - it all depends on what you're interested in.

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