Triumph in Defeat. Military Loss and the Roman Republic.
Oxford University Press, 2014. XVIII,240p. 4 maps. Hardback with dust wrps. 'As the first monograph in twenty-five years on Roman military defeats, Jessica Clark’s Triumph in defeat: military loss in the Roman Republic is a most welcome contribution to the fields of Roman history and political culture. The book started out as a PhD thesis, and Clark should be credited for taking an unexplored path already at a doctoral stage. She is well aware that her book represents a novelty, and identifies the conspicuous lack of works on Roman military loss as an important reason for undertaking this study. Triumph in Defeat: Military Loss and the Roman Republic does not deal specifically with the military reasons for and consequences of battlefield setbacks. Nor does the book set out to investigate the long-term memorial implications of military loss. Instead, Clark targets the more immediate responses to defeat in Rome. She is particularly interested in challenging the definition of victory, and throughout her book, she discusses defeats in relation to military success. As she justly points out, the outcomes of Roman wars were not decided solely on the battlefield, but ultimately by the Senate’s verdicts. Hence, Clark asks, at what point did the Senate chose to declare a war finished and to celebrate a triumph? What can this tell us about Roman perceptions of war, of victory and defeat? One might say that Clark inquires into the Roman theology of victory by analysing how defeats were handled and worked into meaningful historical narratives. (...) It is evident that Clark masters the full corpus of relevant source material and scholarship. The overall style is very pleasant. My concern is a certain lack of clarity in the argumentation. (...) However, it should be noted that the writing improves by and by, and at the end of the book, she presents her conclusions in a clear, comprehensible style. (...) The overall conclusion that Rome handled her defeats by reworking them into narratives of success is very convincing. Most importantly, Clark has managed to prove what generations before her have failed to see: that the ways in which Rome countered military loss were just as important as how they celebrated their victories.' (IDA ÖSTENBERG in Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2015.01.36).