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Roman Warfare (Cassell's History of Warfare) Hardcover – December 31, 2000

4.2 out of 5 stars 39 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Adrian Goldsworthy has a doctorate from Oxford University. His first book, The Roman Army at War was recognised by John Keegan, the general Editor of The History of Warfare, as an exceptionally impressive work, original in treatment and impressive in style. His other books include The Punic Wars, and the volume on Roman Warfare in John Keegan's Cassell History of Warfare series.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Cassell PLC (December 31, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0304352659
  • ISBN-13: 978-0304352654
  • Product Dimensions: 10.6 x 8 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (39 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #341,537 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is not the definitive history of Rome's wars, but a well-constructed survey of how it prepared, equipped, manned and made war, using selected illustrative examples from each stage of development over the thousand-year period.
Goldsworthy sets his task as tracing the development of warfare within the context of the evolution of the army and state: the nature of the army, why and with what objectives if fought a war, and the way in which it operated, taking into consideration the military institutions of the main enemies in each era. Matters such as arms,armor and equipment are handled succinctly by use of drawings and diagrams, which are especially good at depicting battle tactics for the major encounters. The positions of troops are shown as if from an aerial view rather than the bare schematic bars and squares usually shown.
Despite being touted as a general, introductory text, there is plenty to keep the knowledgeable reader interested as well. I found new insights in every chapter, which follow a chronological rather than topical arrangement.
Being pitched at the general reader, as is required by Cassell's _History of Warfare_ series, the book is heavily illustrated. This has its good and bad features. Mostly, the illustration are taken from columns, gravemarkers, monuments and ruins of forts. They are usually provided with detailed captions to explain the significance of the features shown therein. My only complaint is that some of the pictures occupy a full-page or two-page spread where a smaller image would have sufficed. I expect this is due to the publisher's required text-to-illustration ratio.
Here is an example of Goldsworthy's exposition, taken from his section on Caesar in Gaul.
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Format: Hardcover
Unlike other armies in antiquity, the Roman army evolved to be a formal institution with a distinctive military code, standard equipment, defined ranks and duties, as well as laws and procedures affecting the life and retirement of its soldiers. Although service was long (20 years/no family allowed) and discipline was strict (i.e. decimation), it was truly the first modern professional army with very specialized units ranging from doctors and cooks to sappers and siege engineers. Its men were led by leaders such as Lucullus, Pompey, and Caesar who took war as a precise implementation of massive and usually unrestricted force towards a defined political ends. Despite its defeats, the Roman army's training, efficiency and tenacity allowed it to overcome superior numbers of often disorganized tribal or despotic mercenary armies of Celtic tribes or Greeks even under higher attrition. It made Rome the master of the Mediterranean world and most of modern Europe for over 1500 years (counting the Byzantine.)

Adrian Goldsworthy's book on Roman warfare is a decent text covering the evolution of the Roman army from the Early Republic to the Empire but is primarily illustrative. The text tries to study the evolution of the Roman army from the perspective of three disciplines: historical, political,and sociological. It generally covers its projection from the origins as aristorcratic clans and retainers raiding cattle from nearby Veii to the Imperial war machine that would for so long ruthlessly crush any threat or resistance to its conquest. The problem with the text seems to be in what discipline it focuses on to explain a certain evolutionary aspect of the army: the juxtapositions are awkward and/or fail to reinforce the main purpose of the text in clarifying the evolution.
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Format: Paperback
Adrian Goldsworthy's short guide, Roman Warfare, is easily the best book of its length that I have read. If you're looking for a concise yet detailed survey of Roman military history, this is the book to buy.

Goldsworthy cuts the fat from the subject, stripping away the mundane details that typically bog down the casual reader or armchair historian. He charts the development of the Roman army from its earliest forms through the end of the empire, relying on impeccable research and a very clear style. He clears up a lot of confusing ideas (such as the composition of the republican-era triplex acies formation) and, unusual for an historian dealing with figures like Caesar, Scipio, and Hannibal, he never indulges in hero-worship (something which, sadly, cannot be said of the otherwise excellent historians Theodore Dodge and B.H. Liddell-Hart).

Another thing that makes this book worthwhile is the copious amount of maps and illustrations, all of which support the text in a clear and easy to understand manner.

If you enjoy this book and would like something a bit deeper, I'd also recommend Goldsworthy's The Fall of Carthage, a very good history of the three Punic Wars.

Roman Warfare is highly recommended reading for anyone new to Roman military history or history in general.
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Format: Paperback
Roman Warfare by Adrian Goldsworthy is a very detailed book. Starting with the founding of Rome, the conquest of Italy and the early Republic, the author gives us a great foundation for the rest of the book. We get a very complete chronology and each chapter gives us the major points of the military history of Rome, from equipment, to tactics, to where they got their recruits, to how they treated their enemies. By the time we get to the collapse of the Roman Empire in the West and the recovery, for a short period, in the East we learn that the Roman Army, if given the men and funding, was always victorious in the end. The Army did not fail the Empire, the Empire failed the Army.

With a glossary on terms, appendices with lots of information and great maps detailing some of the important battles and wars, this is a great book for its size. A must for any library on Roman history or military history.
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