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any good books on the late roman army?

I've read Late Roman Army by Karen R. Dixon and Pat Southern and am now searching for some other books as well.

Is Romano-Byzantine Infantry Equipment by Stephenson good book? I heard his books are of a dubious quality?
I can't comment on Stephenson (and would be interested to hear what others think) but the following should set you up nicely:

A.D. Lee. War in Late Antiquity: a social history. Blackwell, 2007. 282 pages

This one's a favourite of mine - very clearly written and solidly researched.

Martinus Johannes Nicasie. Twilight of Empire: the Roman army from the reign of Diocletian until the Battle of Adrianople. J.C. Gieben, 1998. 321 pages

This is a rather academic text, and hard to find (or expensive to buy), which has given it great cachet. Actually I prefer Lee, but Nicasie is comprehensive and detailed.

Paul Elliot. The Last Legionary: Life as a Roman soldier AD400. Spellmount, 2007. 208 pages

A more 'popular' read, with fictionalised aspects, but lots of great stuff about soldiers' diets, everyday life and the ground-level experience of battle.

Ramsay MacMullen. Soldier and Civilian in the Later Roman Empire. Harvard University Press, 1963. 217 pages.

Another favourite - see my review here. Basically covers everything the army did when it wasn't fighting!
Quote:I can't comment on Stephenson (and would be interested to hear what others think)
Stephenson makes some leaps which I can't follow, but it's easy to read and can function as a book for beginners after you've read an Osprey on the same subject. A bit similar to
Southern & Dixon: The Late Roman Army. But nice reads to get an overview, but when you need quotes they are too light.

A favorite of mine is:
Elton, Hugh (1996): Warfare in Roman Europe AD 350-425, (Oxford).
Fairly new and wider in scope than its title suggests is "The Cavalry
of Diocletian". I haven't read it yet as it only arrived a few days ago, so I am afraid I cannot comment on whether it is a good read, diverges from/converges with the views of other historians etc.

It is only currently showns as available from Caliver in the UK, but they sent me my copy very quickly so seem to be a good source of supply.
Forgot to mention...the following thesis is good, very detailed with lots of tactical material and not too expensive, but it deals with the Eastern army from 491AD down to Yarmuk 636AD, so maybe a bit too late for your interests:

"The Age of Hippotoxotai. Art of War in Roman Military Revival and Disaster", S Ilkka, (2004)
I would add for the sake of completeness Arthur Ferrill's 'The Fall of the Roman Empire - The Military Explanation' Thames and Hudson - 1986. I disagree with a lot of what he proposes mainly because of a lack in academic rigour in the work and his many suppositions which lack research.

Also the hard to get 'Cataphracti and Clibanarii - Studies on the Heavy Armoured Cavalry of the Ancient World' Maruisz Mielczarek - Oficyna Naukowa. I was lucky enough to bag a copy last year from Oxbow books. Again an essential read but deeply flawed in its thesis.
Quote:"The Cavalry of Diocletian". I haven't read it yet as it only arrived a few days ago, so I am afraid I cannot comment on whether it is a good read

Looks good! Please do let us know what you think, once you've had a chance to read it. Confusedmile:

I'm still waiting avidly for Ancient Warfare VI-5, 'The Army of Diocletian' - release date now December 15th...
Ferrill is a good one to mention - I recall buying it when it came out, thinking it was jolly exciting to have found any book at all covering late Roman military affairs. It is quite short, but interesting, and while it is perhaps now slightly at odds with current orthodox opinion (e.g. on use of body armour, or the scale of casualties at Adrianople), it remains firmly on my shelf and has survived various clear-outs over the years! When it appeared, there was much less available on the late Roman Army than there is now, so I think it was quite an important book at the time.

I had a couple more thoughts. On leaders there are:

"Generalissimos of the Western Roman Empire",J O'Flynn,(1983) (concentrating on the political role of the senior leaders - a couple of copies on Amazon)

“Late Roman Warlords”,P MacGeorge,(2002) (a bit wider-ranging - rather pricey):

And there is a slim BAR volume:

"Unit Sizes in the Late Roman Army". Really quite slim and I don't recall it was able to reach very firm conclusions, so the price is probably a bit steep for the amount of book you will get!:

On religion, and so relating the army to wider society, there is also "Soldiering for God: Christianity in the Roman Army":

Finally, and a less expensive volume, "Byzantium & its Army" starts with Diocletian and has lots on numbers and structures. I think it also (from memory, slighly distant now) does a nice job of setting out the transition to the Theme-system from the Notitia's field armies.

I'll do my best to give some comment on "The Cavalry of Diocletian" as soon as I get round to reading it.

There's also to mention Yann le Bohec's book on the late Roman army, if you read French:

L'armée romaine sous le Bas-Empire

This was (rather bad) translated into German:

Das römische Heer in der späten Kaiserzeit

I have the German edition but still had no time to read it but you can find a review here:

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2010.10.77


Here is a short review of "The Army of Diocletian" by Lecki, 2012:


“The Cavalry of Diocletian: Origin, Organization, Tactics, Weapons”, Piotr Lecki, (2012),

The book is a study of the Roman cavalry forces of the 3rd and 4th centuries AD. It consists, in addition to an introductory chapter and conclusion, of chapters addressing the following:

• Sources
• The Roman Cavalry in the Army of Diocletian
• Roman cavalry equipment in the 3rd & 4th centuries“
• A chapter covering the uses ad activities of cavalry on the march, and on the battlefield.

Having discussed the sources, in the second main chapter the author proceeds to review the cavalry arm of the late Roman army around the time of Diocletian, starting with the early imperial background, the structure of alae and equites of the cohortes equitatae and then an examination of the “new units”. The text diverted slightly onto other aspects of the army, for example the change in command (from legatus to praefectus) with Legiones I – III Parthicae, which did not seem strictly relevant.

Chapter two also contains a discussion of unit sizes, which having cites the primary evidence (which is inconclusive) then proceeds to agree with the general consensus that the late Roman cavalry vexillationes and cunei were circa 500 strong, citing the various secondary sources who are in accord with this. Absent any concrete new evidence, therefore, unit sizes remain elusive.

Highlights of Chapter 3 on equipment were a discussion of the use of the contus lance, as well as a discussion of the cataphractus/clibanarius troop type (without seeking to conclude on whether there was actually any distinction between them). The chapter contains a full examination of the various other main items of arms and armour with various line drawings.

Chapter 4 on the use of cavalry on and of the battlefield is fairly generic and a lot of what is contained in here is applicable to earlier times. This is probably inevitable given the dearth of primary source material for the time of Diocletian, but one wonders if it might have been more fruitful to look at later Byzantine writers and try to project backwards, rather than citing, for example, Josephus or Arrian.

The book is a translation from Polish and the translation is mostly sound. The main points where this is noticeable are in the use or non-use of definite or indefinite articles, and in the case of Latin names where the conventional English form differs from the form used, for example, Gallien instead of Gallienus.

Overall, the book is a good summary of the state of knowledge of the late Imperial Roman cavalry (and contains much of relevance for the earlier period as well). Readers familiar with the secondary literature mentioned earlier in this thread will probably not find any major revelations here, and progress of knowledge in this area is really dependent on archaeology and epigraphy, as the existing primary historical sources have already been fairly thoroughly examined. The main text is 170 pages, and there are 23 maps, photographs and line drawings.
John-You mention there are some line drawings,are they in the style of the one on book cover?I like that one.
Quote:... and then an examination of the “new units”.
What does he mean by the "new units"?
Pavel - yes, there are depictions of a mounted archer, a cavalryman using the contus, and various detailed equipment pictures (helmets, swords, baldrick arrangements), as well as a map of fabricae and some photographs. No colour, I'm afraid, but the artwork is crisp and clear.

To be clear, "new units" is my shorthand, i.e. referring to the residual class of units appearing in the Notitia other than the old alae, legions and cohorts if that makes sense.

Quote:And there is a slim BAR volume:

"Unit Sizes in the Late Roman Army". Really quite slim and I don't recall it was able to reach very firm conclusions, so the price is probably a bit steep for the amount of book you will get!:
This is based on Coello's PhD thesis of the same name, which is available for free download from the British Library's EthOS website here:
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