BMCR 2005.07.83

Van Gennep (Amsterdam). Translated by S.J. Leinbach.

, Emperors don't die in bed. London: Routledge, 2004. viii, 183 pages : illustrations, maps, genealogical tables ; 22 cm. ISBN 0415312019 $24.95 (pb).

Meijer’s short vade mecum is a biographical dictionary of Roman rulers from Julius Caesar to Romulus Augustulus. The entries, of unequal length, are arranged in chronological order, and each entry contains a listing of the primary source(s) on a particular emperor. Additionally, the author includes line drawings of each emperor based on Roman coinage. The volume’s catchy title has a curious impact on each essay: in many instances, Meijer devotes more space to the deaths of the various rulers than their lives and reigns. In some cases, it is hard to determine where one entry begins and another ends; for example, the discussion of the rise of Constantine I seems to be one continuous narrative rather than a collection of individual entries.

Although Meijer, because of space limitations, does not go into great detail about some scholarly disputes that surround some of the emperors, he does manage to discuss the major issues. For example, he presents a good, brief discussion of Constantine’s vision of the cross in 312, although his discussion of the civil war between Licinius and Constantine seems truncated and limited to the second civil war between the two brothers-in-law. One encounters similar issues elsewhere in the work. In addition to a brief bibliography of secondary scholarship, the author includes several maps and imperial family trees at the end. Despite the limitations outlined above, Meijer’s work is an excellent introduction to a complex subject and will be of use to any layperson or undergraduate who wants delve into Roman imperial history.