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Roman Warfare (Smithsonian History of Warfare) Paperback – August 23, 2005
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About the Author
Adrian Goldsworthy was educated at St. John's College, Oxford, where he completed his doctorate in ancient history, specializing in the military history of the Greek and especially Roman periods. He is the author of The Roman Army at War 100 BC–AD 200, In the Name of Rome: The Men Who Won the Roman Empire, The Punic Wars, and Cannae among others. He lectures frequently and has lead several archaeological digs.
Top customer reviews
Dr. Goldsworthy is a world treasure on this subject. As he really knows his stuff and has a great talent in conveying his knowledge in a lively, clear and entertaining way. I also have several other of his books and am going to start up on his biography of Caesar soon as I find the time.
The book covers the history of Rome and its empire from the founding of Rome in 753BC to 554AD (which was after the fall of the western empire and long after the city of Rome had ceased to be of any significance). Thus, it covers the complete history or the western empire, but not to the end of the empire in the east. There are many illustrations and maps, including battle maps that illustrate troop alignments and tactics. The book is also enhanced by five appendices showing:
1. the career patterns of Roman senators,
2. the organization of a Roman legion under the early emperors,
3. the size and structure of auxiliary units in the first to third centuries AD,
4. range of duties performed by a Roman garrison in 92-97 AD
There is also an 8-page glossary of terms, an extensive list of sources and suggestions for further reading as well as an index.
My only concern was with the size of the book. Consisting of a little more than 200 pages of text, pictures and maps, the book provides only an overview of the subject or Roman Warfare. However, the book's size is clearly stated in the publisher's and Amazon's listing, so one cannot complain that they were getting less than what was promised. This is clearly a case of leaving the audience wanting more.
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. After a brief excerpt from Julius Caesar's _Bellum Gallicum_, describing the battle at Sambre in 57 BC, Goldsworthy remarks:
"It is worth noting that Caesar, although he had moved into the front line, does not bother to tell us whether or not he actuallt fought hand-to-hand. What he does stress is that he exposed himself to danger in order more effectively to do his job of encouraging the battle line. The general's job was to lead and control his army, not inspire them with his personal prowess, like the warrior aristocrats of early Rome or Alexander the Great who consciously emulated the behavior of Homeric heroes."
The book is filled with such helpful commentary.
Every epoch (including that of Marcus Aurelius and Commodus, of _Gladiator_ fame) is depicted, showing how the financial and political policies of the emperors and senate affected the abilities of the armies to do what was expected.
A detailed chronology, a glossary that actually explains rather than merely annotates terms, a brief review of the ancient sources for each chapter, mini biographies of each of the luminaries, and a well thought out reading list for each chapter all add to the books usefulness.
Highly recommended both as a "first book" for novices and a handy references for old hands.