‘A fascinating and exotic journey along the frontiers of the largest and most enduring ancient power – the Roman Empire’ enthuses the blurb on the front of the book, but I am afraid I have to disagree. For ‘fascinating’ and ‘exotic’ read ‘impressively detailed’. Though now and again the writer intervenes to remind us that he was there and got the T-shirt (‘A Bedouin shepherdess scrutinises us uncertainly as we approach the Nabataean reservoir’), this historical and archaeological account of Rome’s frontier provinces reads as if it has been put together from a shelf-full of travel guides.
There is, of course, nothing wrong with travel guides. If you want information, they often provide it. But one soon gets indigestion when a guide presents itself as an exotic journey and a good read.