Robert Fabbri : Arminius: The Limits of Empire (2017) Review

Robert Fabbri
Switzerland (1961 – )
Robert Fabbri's picture

Robert Fabbri read Drama and Theatre at London University and has worked in film and TV for 25 years. He is an assistant director and has worked on productions such as Hornblower, Hellraiser, Patriot Games and Billy Elliot. His life-long passion for ancient history, especially for that of the Roman Empire, has drawn him to write his first novel. He lives in London

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book cover of Arminius: The Limits of Empire

A.D. 9: In the depths of the Teutoburg Wald, in a landscape riven by ravines, darkened by ancient oak and bisected by fast-flowing streams, Arminius of the Cherusci led a confederation of six Germanic tribes in the annihilation of three Roman legions. Deep in the forest almost 20,000 men were massacred without mercy; fewer than 200 of them ever made it back across the Rhine. To Rome’s shame, three sacred Eagles were lost that day. But Arminius wasn’t brought up in Germania Magna – he had been raised as a Roman. This is the story of how Arminius came to turn his back on the people who raised him and went on to commit a betrayal so great and so deep, it echoed through the ages.


When i picked this book up i struggled to see where it fitted in the whole Vespasian world, Arminius and the Teutoburg Wald happened about 25 years before book 1, But slowly the author draws you into a brilliantly simple and yet complex story, told from Multi perspectives. The long dead voice of Arminius echoing from beyond the grave, ironically, only because he has adopted the roman way of chronicling his life. The voice of his Son, the voices of Romans past and present, all impacting on the stage that was one of Romes greatest defeats.

How the author ties this book into the rest of the series is amusing and clever, and made me want to reread Romes Fallen Eagle. As ever with the use of impeccable research and  superb writing skills he weaves a take both dark and terrible, fully portraying the horror and scale of the deaths on those terrible 4 days. With touches of dark humor and a very fatalistic tone the differing tones or a Sons lost life and adoration, tempered by experience to a slaves bitter resignation and humbling shame, every emotion is covered, as is every facet of the Roman mindset and how it was exploited by a barbarian from the woods.

Coupled in with this are some fantastic glimpses at the hierarchy of power with Augustus, Livi, Tiberius, Germanicus and most of all Varus and Lucius.  Robert Fabbri is a master story teller, capturing the author within his pages. I have to say that occasionally i found the narrative jarring as it dropped from past to present to past, but this was always handled with the snap shots of humour and some great characters and lines, Pickled testicles will stay with me for a while!

What really made this book for me was how Arminius slowly made his plans, how they were in part inspired by Romans at the highest level, how (whilst we know much of what Fabbri writes in Fiction) we know that Arminius must have had to be some orator and one of those people that others naturally gravitate too. There is no way he could have hoodwinked so many Romans, and also been able to talk to his fellow Germans on the same level and convince them of this ambitions. To also do this amidst the fear or betrayal, as a person in history he is not only fascinating but stands as an iconic personality… all of this comes across in the book.

So while not my fav book in the series, probably one of the most impressive.Highly original in style, hugely impressive in breadth and scope, stunningly entertaining and complex.


1. Tribune of Rome (2011)
2. Rome’s Executioner (2012)
3. False God of Rome (2013)
4. Rome’s Fallen Eagle (2013)
5. Masters of Rome (2014)
6. Rome’s Lost Son (2015)
7. Furies of Rome (2016)
8. Arminius: The Limits of Empire (2017)
Vespasian Vol 1-3 (omnibus) (2014)


Crossroads Brotherhood Trilogy
1. The Crossroads Brotherhood (2011)
2. The Racing Factions (2013)
3. The Dreams of Morpheus (2014)
4. The Alexandrian Embassy (2015)
5. The Imperial Triumph (2017)
The Crossroads Brotherhood Trilogy (omnibus) (2015)


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Filed under Historical Fiction, Robert Fabbri

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