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Warfare in Antiquity: History of the Art of War, Volume I Paperback – February 1, 1990

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Warfare in Antiquity: History of the Art of War, Volume I + Medieval Warfare: History of the Art of War, Volume III + The Dawn of Modern Warfare: History of the Art of War, Volume IV
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Product Details

  • Series: Warfare in Antiquity
  • Paperback: 604 pages
  • Publisher: University of Nebraska Press; Reprint edition (February 1, 1990)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 080329199X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0803291997
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 5.9 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.9 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #643,694 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"Delbrück is internationally regarded as the first modern military historian. History of the Art of War, considered a classic, is his foundational achievement. Renfroe's translation retains the spirited erudition of the original German and renders it into elegant and readable English. Beyond a doubt a landmark in twentieth-century historical literature."—Arden Bucholz, author of Hans Delbrück and the German Military Establishment
(Arden Bucholz)

"Undergraduates, military buffs, professional soldiers, as well as historians will all enjoy this readable and often elegant translation . . . of a classic history. . . . Highly recommended."—Choice

"This intensive study will be useful for those familiar with the military and political history used by the author as background. In an excellent translation. . . Renfroe has pointed out the very rare errors or oversights within the body of the text; his highly readable translation manages to retain the flavor of the original."—Library Journal
(Library Journal)

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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
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See all 18 customer reviews
I can't reccommend these books highly enough.
James Richard C.
He engages in thoughtful study, and his conclusions, while often unconventional, are always well reasoned.
George R Dekle
Delbruck's work is an excelent study of the art of war from an historical perspective.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

23 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Jonathan Leybovich on December 11, 2000
Format: Paperback
Hans Delbruck's "Warfare in Antiquity" is an amazing critical history. Amazing not only because of the startlingly original conclusions it draws, but also because, in the 100+ years since it was written, it still remains the best examination of the practice of ancient warfare.
Perhaps this has something to do with the fact that Delbruck, being a Prussian military officer, can instantly sniff out absurdities in the sources that most other historians just credulously accept. The best example of this is Polybius' description of Roman pre-cohort battle formations. According to Polybius, a legion would be arranged in checkerboard fashion so that, during crucial moments in the battle, rear lines of fresh troops could advance and continue the fight while soldiers in the front would withdraw to recuperate. More conscientious historians (see Osprey's "Armies of the Carthaginian Wars") have at least tried to address the problem of why an enemy wouldn't just pour through the gaps in the front line and attack the Romans in the flanks. Only Delbruck has been brave enough, though, to abandon any attempt to reconcile this fanciful description with military reality and argue that, instead of a fighting formation, Polybius' checkerboard square instead describes a pre-battle MARCH formation.
This is only one example of how Delbruck persuasively challenges classical warfare's conventional wisdom.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Rodrigo Fenton on April 16, 2001
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I have been reading both BH Liddel Hart's book on Strategy and JC Fuller's "Military History of the Western World" at the same time as Delbruck. While the first two books may be more valuable for someone searching a overview of ancient struggles, Delbruk's book shines in the description of ancient warfare.

Delbruk is brave enough to argue and discard many things that historians bypass or take as true, like the supposed numerical superiority of the Persians in their conflicts with the Greeks and Macedonians, the true use of elephants in battle or the way the ancient Roman maniples were an improvement to the phalanx. He practically rewrites many battles (Marathon, Salamis, Issus, Zama, Alesia), discarding absurd notions and finding a logical interpretation for the flow of the battle that would explain the outcome. I my opinion, he describes these battles much better than most other authors I've read (Including Herodotus himself).

As noted by other reviewers, you should have a general idea of the general history of the conflicts and their outcome, because Delbruk only discusses pure military aspects and not the background. This is not a book for beginers.

If you ever felt that the overwhelming numerical superiority of barbarian armies was a gross exaggeration or that Roman tactics seem absurd when explained by non-military historians, you MUST get this book.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By "manu_lalloz" on July 11, 2000
Format: Paperback
If you are passionate about history or military history, and if you are keen to understand how the powerful Roman civilisation transitioned to a European feudal society, then this book is for you.
Hans Delbruck writes at the end of the 19th century and follows the steps of other excellent German historians such as Mommsen. The book, though, could well have been written yesterday. Delbruck's erudition is simply incredible, and the author's intimate knowledge of ancient languages, including old German, allowed him to systematically cross-check what little remains of manuscripts written between the 3rd and 6th century AD.
For the reader, the most enjoyable aspect of the narrative is perhaps that it goes right down to a level of details rarely seen in a history book. Following Delbruck's thread of reasoning you can well imagine how Roman legions lived and fought, and how German tribes were socially organised. You can also easily understand the process by which these formidable Roman legions slowly dissolved and how the German political, social and military systems progressively took over in the course of four centuries.
The topic itself is extremely complex, not least because of the scarcity of reliable contemporary testimonials. The legends and exagerated tales of huge German hordes crossing the Rhine to destroy a flourishing civilisation are nowadays so entrenched in our Western culture that it takes the patience and intelligence of someone like Delbruck to disentagle the facts.
Finally, be warned that this is no historical romance. Delbruck's style is as dry and precise as Germanic scientific litterature can be, and each section is followed by an Excursus in which the author argues around alternative theories.
Highly recommended.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By James Richard C. on January 17, 2000
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I stumbled upon this book several years ago while doing research for a computer game concerning ancient warfare and was simply stunned by Delbruck's insights. He lays bare the truth behind the myths we've all grown up believing, and the result is something of an expose, providing such startling conclusions as the fact that the Greeks actually outnumbered the Persians at the battle of Marathon!
While much of Delbruck's writing seems to fly in the face of accepted convention, he does such a masterful job of backing up his conclusions with hard facts and indisputable logic that one is rapidly converted to his way of thinking. These books are a rarity in a society that still takes ancient history at face value: Delbruck digs deep to find the truth, and as a result these works (the entire series is fantastic) are vital reading for anyone interested in truly understanding the history of warfare. I can't reccommend these books highly enough.
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