Full Version: Review: Roman Military Dress by Graham Sumner
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Mods, please forgive me for starting a new thread specifically for the review rather than the 'Jonesing' thread :
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I thought this would make the review more findable for the many who ought to be looking for this book over the years to come.

Sumner, G. (2009) Roman Military Dress, Stroud: The History Press

Roman Military Dress is exactly what I and many re-enactors have wanted for some time: an expanded synthesis of the research of the author who produced the Roman Military Clothing Osprey series, with new primary evidence, further examples, additional discussion, more illustrations and Graham's own painted interpretations. It represents a significant improvement on those slimmer volumes for those with an academic viewpoint (whom I like to call historians whether or not they have a qualification to degree level or better in history, archaeology or allied fields) and, particularly, those re-enactors wishing to advance their period impressions based on a serious interrogation of the available data.

Although by necessity referring to much of the familiar evidence base, including several of the same illustrations, the new material is extensive and the discussion is at a deeper level, specifically addressing questions and arguments raised by those of us who were so hungry for authoritative guidance that we pored over and debated every line of the volumes of Roman Military Clothing as if they were academic textbooks, rather than brief overviews for a general audience.

It is 224 pages long, plus 16 pages of colour photographs and beautiful illustrations in Sumner's characteristic style, including sixteen full length portraits of Roman soldiers, only two of which I have seen elsewhere. It has a foreword by the august John Peter Wild and is divided into three sections: 'tunics and cloaks' which covers the appearance, decoration and construction from Republican to Late Imperial times, 'the clothing industry' with a catalogue of the material, iconographic and literary evidence for military clothing colour up to the seventh century and 'other garments' which presents, amongst other things, fascinating new evidence on hats and helmet linings and a very sensible appraisal of the controversial subarmalis and thoracomachus.

This book represents the fruit of many years of study by a well respected author in the field. It is well written so as to be very readable for the non-academic whilst presenting a huge, and surely definitive, array of evidence. I believe 'Roman Military Dress' will become the new essential clothing guide for the period, destined to sit as comfortably next to Bishop and Coulston on the historian's shelf as on the re-enactor's sewing table. Every Roman should own one.

The publishers:
Roman Military Dress at The History Press ... uctID=8088

Roman Military Dress at Oxbow Books

Amazon UK:
Roman Military Dress on Amazon UK ... 0752445766
Boo... I'm still waiting for my copy to be sent to the U.S. Tongue But great review and I look forward to getting the book.
I agree - really excellent. I'm still digesting it- a lot to read. Highly recommended.
Got my copy today.

A good extra to the Osprey Roman Military Clothing 1,2 and 3.

Thanks Graham
I have almost finished it (30 pages to go). A really great book!
Quote:Boo... I'm still waiting for my copy to be sent to the U.S. Tongue But great review and I look forward to getting the book.
I ordered mine via and got it within 7 days staright form UK for the great price of Amazon's own US shipping rate $3.99- amazing (on the other hand I just bought a book on Spanish cavalry during the Medieval and Early Modern period from abebooks and my shipping charges from Uk to US are 7 dollars)

I have been reading it bit by bit, digesting and savoring the information provided by messer Graham. So far my only complain is the smallness of the painted plates. Generally heaving read through the tunic section of this book I enjoyed every single page and got to prize the author for his stipple-drawn images of actual Roman iconographic sources as any picture is worth a thousand words....

I am using Opera browser and it does not have option for spellcheck for this website, it works fine in Firefox...
A quick review of the Graham Sumner book "Roman Military Dress" published by The History Press, £19.99.

This is probably the best overall book yet released on Roman "soft kit", and expands Graham Sumner's earlier three books published by Osprey (Roman Military Clothing) , with new material and greater depth. 224 pages long, with numerous colour and black and white illustrations.

Its main headings are
-Tunics and Cloaks (Republican, early Imperial and Late Imperial)
-The Clothing industry and the colours of military clothing
-Other Garments (Headgear, hats and helmet linings; the waistband; subarmalis, thoracomachus and armour coverings;the scarf; trousers, socks, leg wrappings and bindings, gloves, undergarments, footwear, belts and the leather industry)

It also thanks and acknowledges the help given by many familiar from Roman Army Talk, including Peronis and Crispus.

It is well written, with full sources, and as you would expect from a professional illustrator, the colour illustrations are excellent. I certainly recommend it, even if you already have the earlier Osprey books.

To give a few examples of items that were new to me, he pictures the Roman hat found at Didymoi- red in colour, with cheek guard shaped padding still surviving.

The subarmalis section is also very good, where he shows examples of subarmalis being worn without armour- very similar to the medieval practise of wearing an arming jack or gambeson as padded protection- presumably when armour was either not available or not affordable. This could be an interesting one to depict, and practically would certainly given more protection than simply wearing a tunic.

The tunic section is also very interesting. Helpfully, Sumner lists his sources, allowing people to make their own mind up.

Sumner's conclusion is that soldiers wore an offwhite tunic for everyday wear and fatigue duties. For military action, this was replaced by a red tunic in shades between salmon pink to a deep purple red. (This could be age and washing- for example, my older rugby shirts which were once scarlet are now salmon pink). On parades and religious festivals white tunics (probably specially whitened) were worn.

On cloaks, he concludes that yellow brown is the most popular for both paenulas and sagum cloaks, but off-white, red and blue are also fairly well represented.

Overall, then, highly recommended.
I find this an excellent tool for moding kit. Many thanks to Graham for his efforts!
I see you were perhaps pulling my leg when you said there was no evidence for blue, after all, Graham! :oops: :lol:
The section on subarmalis's contains a sculpture I have often thought to be a form of subarmalis, although it is titles perhaps an unknown type of armour.
I also like the depiction of a republican legionary wearing bracchae and leggings.....glad to see that! 8)

A great book with some very interesting info, I will spend a lot of time refering to this for my kit!
I based one of my slightly later period tunics on the Mars sculpture , for better or worse! Perhaps my intentions are a bit too early though!