RomanArmyTalk

Full Version: Best place to start reading
You're currently viewing a stripped down version of our content. View the full version with proper formatting.
So I have been a big fan of Roman history for a long time, but now I want to start really getting serious about researching/learning about Rome, which is part of the reason I joined this forum. So mainly I was wondering if you guys could point me to some good books to get to help me learn more about the Republic and early Empire of Rome, mainly the military, from what I have been seeing Plutarch seems like a good primary source to read.
Connolly's Greece and Rome at War is a little dated these days but it is still a pretty good introduction and it is beautifully illustrated.
*rubs hands* eeexcelleent… Welcome to the madhouse Big Grin

I highly recommend "Roman Military Equipment" by Bishop & Coulston. Still one of the best sources available. Connolly's "Greece and Rome At War" is a little outdated on some specifics, but still a very nice source and wonderful illustrations.

"The Complete Roman Army" by Adrian Goldsworthy is a good -general- reference, it can lead you to other sources and is a good "quick guide". Don't let the title throw you off, "The Complete" is a series of books.

"Aspects of Roman History 31BC - AD117" by Richard Alston, excellent overall look at all-things Roman, not just Military. Actually anything by Alston is excellent.

"Roman Military Dress" by Graham Sumner, there is also a 3-part series from Osprey Publishing ("Roman Military Clothing")

"The Roman Army: A Social Institutional History", Pat Southern

"Rome and the Barbarians 100BC - AD400", Osprey Publications - Ancient Society & History

All of these titles will have a lengthy works cited listing to look even more deeply at several sources, both Academic and "popular"

Also check Leg XX's pages, www.larp.com/legioxx

Do Not get anything from Dando-Collins. Just, don't. Tongue (While his work is all fun to read and all, his research and lack of academic sources leaves a lot to be desired, he also does some fanciful gap-filling)
Anything by Adrian Goldsworthy or Anthony Everitt is good. Particularly Everitt's "The Rise of Rome".
And of course Livy, Polybius, Tacitus......
Caesar for sure De Bello Gal. and Civ. both very interesting
Dio Casius as well
Bill Thayer has a nice online resource for classics at Lacus Curtius:
http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Roman/home.html
Polybius, Sallust, Livy, Caesar, Tacitus and Ammianus Marcellinus. I'm reading Appian's Civil Wars right now and so far, so good.

Read the classics! You can order cheap used Loeb or Penguin versions online for a couple of bucks. Read the modern historians too, but definitely read those classics.
This is a very helpful thread. I will start reading these as well. Smile

- Augustine
For an excellent and detailed analysis of the last years of the Republic, I’d recommend "The Last Generation of the Roman Republic" by Eric Gruen.

Rome was arguably one of the most militarized states in human history, and understanding Roman psychology has always fascinated me. The best detailed investigation of Roman imperialism from her beginnings through the Republic that I’ve found so far is "War and Imperialism in Republican Rome: 327-70 B.C." by William V. Harris.

For a similar, if slightly broader analysis of Roman strategy during the Empire, I’d highly recommend "Rome and the Enemy: Imperial Strategy in the Principate" by Susan Mattern.
Start with the original sources and then go on to the interpretations in modern histories is my recommendation.
Reading original sources aren't much help unless you have training in source analysis. You need to understand the agenda of the author, any evident bias, translation problems, untangling and prioritising contradicitons, etc. A good secondary source can help cut through this but the problem is identifying a "good" secondary source. IMO the best approach is to read a good secondary source and whenever a primary source is cited, go and read that particular passage to see what it really says - ideally in the original language. Once you have a foundation in the subject then start reading the classics in their entirety.
I think that trying to focus on the military side without understanding the overall history of Rome (and its surrounding contemporaries) can be a mistake. You will never truly "get" the military history if you don't understand what the "Conflict of the Orders" were, what the whole Punics Wars were about, or who the Gracchi were. If you can't wax poetically for 20 minutes about those three topics, among a myriad of others, than anything about Marian reforms, the Civil Wars, or anything after that will be completely out of context.

It sounds ridiculous, but grab a copy of The Complete Idiots Guide and the Dummies Guide of Roman history. Read those, take a few very brief notes, try to see if there is anything in particular that really grabs you time frame wise and then come back and ask some more in depth questions about where to look for sources.

If you read the original sources without a good foundation you will be very very confused probably. Baby steps. Craw, walk, run.