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The Roman Army: A Social and Institutional History Paperback – October 1, 2007
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Query: what is the relationship between this book and the author's later The Roman Army: A History 753 BC - AD 476?
To begin with these, and irrespective of the author’s considerable knowledge and efforts, it is quite impossible to write the definitive history about the Roman army, not even in four hundred pages. Patricia Southern gives a number of reasons for this throughout her book. The main one relates to the shortcomings of our sources which are largely incomplete. Many written sources no longer exist and many sites where archaeology might make major finds cannot be accessed. Moreover, what has survived and what is now lost owes a good deal to chance. One illustration of this is that Caesar would probably not have acquired quite the same the standing he has if his “war diaries” on the Gallic and Civil wars had not been preserved. Other generals or emperors, such as Corbulo or Trajan, who also wrote such diaries, now lost, would have been much better known to us had these been preserved in some form.
Another limitation of this book, which may also be a quality depending on your perspective, is that it is a bit of a “jack of all trades”. It is a social and institutional history of the Roman army, its organisation and its culture. It is also a bit of an overview, meaning that it contains a bit of everything and does not always devote enough space in discussing the issues in depth. To illustrate, you have the last but one section which is titled “Great soldiers and Battles” and which is a collection of vignettes briefly presenting a selection of outstanding Roman generals, summarising their careers and sketching some of the most important battles fought by the Roman Army.Read more ›