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The cavalry of the Roman republic
Title: <i> The cavalry of the Roman republic: cavalry combat and elite reputations in the middle and late republic</i><br>
Author: J.B. McCall<br>
ISBN: 0415257131<br>
Publisher: Routledge<br>
Place and date of publication: London 2001<br>
Number of pages: 208p<br>
This book deals with the citizen cavalry attached to the legions. It gives an overview of its equipment, tactics and effectiveness and discusses the motivation for elite individuals to serve on horseback. Contrary to the current main stream view on the value of the Roman cavalry, the author argues for a reassessment of its effectiveness and examines the reasons for its eventual demise in spite of military success.<br>
To a large extent modern appreciation of the Roman cavalry of the period has been shaped by the three major defeats inflicted on it by Hannibal. In an effort to counter the prevailing the combat record of the republican legionary cavalry is reexamined taking into account the pecularities of Roman cavalry equipment and tactics. Much attention is given to establish a possibel date for the notorious change in cavalry equipment hinted at by Polybius. The conclusion is that overall the Roman cavalry performed well in this period with equipment that fitted in with its actual combat role and that its failure in the first part of the Second Punic War was an exception, matched by equally poor performance of the Roman command and the infantry.<br>
After building the case for effective legionary cavalry, the supplanting of this force by auxiliary troopers is considered. The main reason for the disappearance of the citizen cavalry is according to the author to be sought in the new ways open to members of the Roman elite to achieve prestige rather than any inherent superiority of such foreign horsemen. The increased importance of rhetoric skill and advocacy replaced distinguished military service on horseback as a manner for elite individuals to enhance their status. For those with a military inclination service was done as an officer and not as a gentleman ranker in the legionary cavalry. Coupled with the ease with which auxiliary troopers of similar capability could be recruited legionary horse would only sparingly be used in the late republic untill it reappeared in a quite different form in the imperial army.<br>
The Roman cavalry has proved to be a very popular subject lately. A great number of publications on the subject has appeared in the last decade that have challenged existing views. Much of the work has concentrated on the imperial cavalry though, and this title complements those by concentrating on the often neglected republican era. Its main argument to rehabilitate the legionary horse of this period is convincing and there are useful discussions on dating the cavalry equipment reform and on the date and motivation for its gradual disappearance. After effectively demolishing a number of the modern misconceptions regarding the republican era cavalry, it came as a bit of a surprise to see some similar misconceptions regarding the imperial army's legionary horse (relatively unimportant, only scouts and messengers) repeated. Even taking the proverbial Dutch stingyness into acount there is still validity in the other point of critique. The rather high price for the hardback title is a distinct drawback, though it seems likely that a more affordable paperback issue will be forthcoming in the next year. Untill that edition hits the stores, it seems best to lend the book from the library.<br>
Related reading material<br>
Goldsworthy, A., <i> The Punic wars</i> (London 2000) 412p.<br>
Hyland, A., Equus. <i> The horse in the Roman world</i> (London 1990) 285p.<br>
Junkelmann, M., <i> Die Reiter Roms</i> 3 vols (Mainz 1990, 1991, 1992).<br>
Oakley. S.P., 'Single combat in the Roman republic' in: <i> Classical Quarterly</i> 35 (1985), 392-410.<br>
Sekunda, N. and S. Northwood, <i> Early Roman Armies</i> MAA 283 (London 1995) 48p.<br>
Sekunda, N., <i> Republican Roman army 200-104 BC</i> MAA 291 (London 1996) 48p.<br>
Speidel, M.P., 'Legionary horsemen on campaigns' in: <i> Saalburg</i> Jahrbuch 47 (1994), 36-39.<br>
Wiedemann, T., 'Single combat and being Roman' in: <i> Ancient Society</i> 27 (1996), 91-103.<br>
Sander van Dorst <p></p><i>Edited by: <A HREF=>Sander van Dorst</A> at: 12/17/01 3:50:44 pm<br></i>

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