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Title: <i> Roman warfare</i><br>
Author: A. Goldsworthy<br>
ISBN: 0-304-35265-9<br>
Place and year of publication: London 2000<br>
Number of pages: 224<br>
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This a volume in the Cassell history of warfare series. Lavishly illustrated and lacking annotations they are primarily aimed at a generally interested readership. However the volumes are each written by academic experts on the subject and the quality of the texts is good and up to date.<br>
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There is a wide range of colour and black and white illustrations, some of the latter based on artwork from previous publications on the Roman army. The large close ups of sculptures are very useful for picking out details. There are several maps and overviews of battle manoeuvres. In case of some of the latter a more schematic depiction would in my opinion have been better given the distortions of unit arrangements which generally seem to deep.<br>
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The text is of high quality touching upon a range of widely varying subjects and with ample treatment of Roman operations and tactics and the differences between Roman warfare and that of their various opponents, subjects on which the author has published earlier. Though in a text of this type and size only a limited summary can be provided, the result is more balanced and precise than some popular publications like <i> Imperial Rome at war</i> which contain inaccuracies and outdated interpretations.<br>
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Regarding the description of the late Roman army there are points of criticism. Late Roman commanders may have employed a defensive strategy, when battle was joined tactics remained aggressive and seeking close quarter fighting remained an integral part of combat methods. Late Roman field army troops were anxious to engage their enemies both and do not appear to have lacked a will to close with the enemy. The silence maintained by the Roman army was broken before contact by the raising of the warcry both in the principate and the dominate. The Byzantine <i> Strategikon</i> similarily presses the need for silence before eventually starting a warcry. In this respect there may have been greater continuity than stated. Much of the elements of Roman battle tactics as identified by Goldsworthy for the principate can be found in Ammianus Marcellinus as well. (*)<br>
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The appendices offer some details on particular subjects. The glossary has the added advantage of giving an indication of the period in which certain terms were used. A limited bibliography is provided with the main works used since a complete list would, as the author states, take up an inordinate amount of space.<br>
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This title offers a good introduction to the development of the Roman army from the republic to the late empire. The text will introduce many of the currently adhered to academic views to readers who may be put off by heavily annotated works.<br>
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Other books by this author<br>
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<i> The Roman army at war 100BC-200AD</i> (Oxford 1996). A highly acclaimed publication (and deservedly so) that goes into the details of Roman tactics and clears up many of the commonly found myths. Very well researched and argued.<br>
<i> The Punic wars</i> (London 2000) 412p. This title is more middle of the road, highly readable and acurate at the same time. While providing annotations these are not as extensive as those provided in <i> The Roman army at war</i>.<br>
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Regards,<br>
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Sander van Dorst<br>
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(*)<br>
Ammianus Marcellinus records the eagerness of field army troops to get to grips on multiple occasions: 16.12.18; 19.6.3ff; 24.4.13; 25.1.2; 27.10.7; 31.12.16. Descriptions by the same author describe hand to hand fighting regularly as a normal part of engagements.<br>
For Byzantine army drill one can consult the translation bt G.T. Dennis <i> Maurice's strategikon</i> (Pennsylvania 1984), recently reprinted: Book II, caput 18; Book XII, capita 14 and 16. Parts of this handbook are closely comparable to works from the principate and indicate a continuity in tactics over a period of many centuries. <p></p><i></i>
Very useful review of a good book but I hope you also make a smiliar review of his first book "Roman Army at War 100 BC to 200 AD" which for me the most refreshing book I read in many years. Even though it is a more technical book (essentially his Ph.D. thesis), it is in my opinion very readable. I think even a non technical reader could enjoy it and find it more precious and return to it more than once. Actually I found his desciptions of battles at different scales, from the perspective of the general, to that of the unit, all the way down to that of the individual soldier, most stimulating.<br>
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I always suspected that the stereotype - still very much alive - of the roman army as a machine was very limited and limiting, incapable of allowing one to understand how well they performed for so long against so many different enemies on different terrains. The idea that roman commanders were basically mediocre and that the disciplined troops just needed to be pointed in the right direction didn't sound to me a credible possibility. The roman imperial army was a relatively small one and showed a great flexiblility in responding to threats and an ability to anticipate to them in more ways than the reductive stereotype can account for in any realistic way. <p></p><i></i>
For a debunking of the 'military machine' approach, see the paper by Simon James 'Soldiers and civilians: identity and interaction in Roman Britain' in *Britons and Romans: advancing an archaeological agenda*, edited by Simon James and Martin Millett (ISBN 1902771168). Also useful for a move away from 'the Roman army' to Roman *armies* (ie army groups).<br>
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Mike Bishop<br>
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