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Late Roman army
#1
Title: <i> Late Roman infantryman 236-565 AD</i><br>
Author: S. MacDowall<br>
ISBN: 1-85532-419-9<br>
Publisher: Osprey<br>
Place and year of publication: London 1994<br>
Number of pages: 64<br>
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Part of the well known Osprey series these popular books are generally somewhat uneven in the quality of their texts. The titles produced by S. MacDowall thus far are however in my opinion above average. Despite the fact that the Osprey books are not annotated as a rule, the author constantly provides the references for his descriptions in the text itself which makes verification of statements a lot easier. The black and white drawings and photographs are well chosen and include besides the obligatory ones such as the diptych of Stilichio a number of less well known and not often published drawings and carvings. A drawback is perhaps that the period 236-286 AD from the title seems passed over, yet when considering the confines within which authors for this series have to operate the result is indeed pretty good with a wide range of subjects touched upon, however briefly.<br>
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There are some inaccuracies in the text. Soldiers in the late Roman army were tattooed, not branded. Recruits on the other hand received a kind of dog tags, only getting marked when they were accepted as soldiers. Maximilianus would otherwise have a hard time breaking his <i> signaculum</i> should this have been the <i> signum</i> or tattoo. The unit names provided in the captions by an overview of Western infantry units have a lot of mistakes with wrongly spelled titles and the epithets <i> iuniores</i> and <i> seniores</i> invariably truncated. In addition the tetrarchic legionary shown on colour plate A is depicted with openwork <i> caligae</i>, a type of footwear which by that date would have fallen out of use for about a century. The final plate contains a sword baldric of a type that would have been a real antique in the period of the fifth century, being dated over two hundred years back.<br>
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Title: <i> Late Roman cavalryman</i><br>
Author: S. MacDowall<br>
ISBN: 1-85532-567-5<br>
Publisher: Osprey<br>
Place and year of publication: London 1995<br>
Number of pages: 64<br>
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This title has the same merits of the earlier volume on the foot soldier. There is a bit more info provided on developments in the third century which was sadly absent from the infantry counterpart.<br>
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The colour illustrations in this volume are excellent. Some of the artwork is obviously based on photographs from Junkelmann's <i> Die Reiter Roms</i> series with equipment suitably changed. Among the horsemen at the Milvian bridge (plate E) one can recognise reenactor Dan Peterson at the rear though with a different helmet than worn with the <i> ala</i> II <i> Flavia</i> experiments (cf <i> Equites alae</i>, plate 60). Among the black and white illustrations there is some overlap with the previous volume on the infantry, but most are different. The reproduction of these is in my example pretty dark which makes some details hard to distinguish. The problem of the annoying mistakes in the captions has been addressed in this title with unit titles untruncated and using correct spelling.<br>
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Title: <i> Adrianople AD 378. The Goths crush Rome's legions</i><br>
Author: S. MacDowall<br>
ISBN: 1-85532-419-9<br>
Publisher: Osprey<br>
Place and year of publication: London 2001<br>
Number of pages: 128<br>
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The reconstruction of this famous battle does away with the myths which can still be found in current publications regarding the nature of this battle and the implications it had for development of troop types. There are no hordes of stirrup using Ostrogoths changing the balance of military power overnight to a millenium of absolute heavy cavalry rule here. Instead it offers an overview that is in line with the views adhered to in academic circles that for some reasons are ignored in treatments of the battle in more popular publications.<br>
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The text considers all kinds of aspects relevant to the understanding of this engagement. The subject of army numbers, particularly of the numerical strength of the horsemen, gets a good handling as does that of establishing ethnicity of the forces involved. An interesting deviation from the usual interpretation of the battle the author places the main Gothic infantry line not within the wagon laager, but deployed apart from it along a ridge in the plain. Rereading Ammianus Marcellinus' account it seems that the text leaves room for this theory in spite of the prevailing notion of the Goth main force awaiting them within the wagon laager. That there may have been more than a skirmishing line, as suggested by Nicasie, can be supported by the mention of hand to hand combat by Ammianus before he describes Goths pooring out of the wagon laager.<br>
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To my great delight this title provides a number of full colour reproductions of the <i> Notitia Dignitatum</i> shield devices, a great improvement over the inclusion of black and white illustrations with a colour code as found in the earlier titles and Seeck's edition of this document. Regarding other black and white illustrations there is some overlap with pictures in the previous Warrior series volumes, but as the quality is lighter and clearer this goes a long way to make amends. The perennial diptych of Stilichio again makes an appearance however and this space could in my opinion be so much better used for eye candy like another page of the original ND manuscript. A number of photographs from the site of the batlefield are provided which are most useful for getting a clearer picture of the environment than that based solely on maps.<br>
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Overall conclusion<br>
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These three volumes provide a good introduction to the subject of the late Roman army and are better in the quality of text and information than the previous Men-at-arms volumes which dealt with this period. Their more accessible text, good range of illustrations and lower price than the currently available monographs on the same subject make them a good buy.<br>
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Some related reading material<br>
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Burns, T.S., 'The battle of Adrianople: a reconsideration' in: <i> Historia</i> 22 (1973), 336-345.<br>
Burns, T.S., <i> Barbarians within the gates of Rome. A study of Roman military policy and the barbarians, ca 375-425 AD</i> (Bloomington and Indianapolis 1994) 417p.<br>
Crump, G.A., 'Ammianus and the Late Roman Army' in: <i> Historia</i> 22 (1973), 91-103.<br>
Crump, G.A., <i> Ammianus as a military historian. Historia Einzelschriften 27</i> (Stuttgart 1975) 140p.<br>
Dixon, K.R. and P. Southern, <i> The late Roman army</i> (London 1996) 206p.<br>
Elton, H., <i> Warfare in Roman Europe AD 350-425</i> (Oxford 1996) 312p.<br>
Nicasie, M.J., <i> The twilight of empire. The Roman army from the reign of Diocletian until the battle of Adrianople</i> (Amsterdam 1998) 321p.<br>
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Regards,<br>
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<br>
Sander van Dorst<br>
<p></p><i>Edited by: <A HREF=http://pub45.ezboard.com/bromanarmytalk.showLocalUserPublicProfile?login=sandervandorst>Sander van Dorst</A> at: 7/12/01 12:31:21 pm<br></i>
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#2
Great job, Sander! Terrific reviews. Thanks--<br>
<br>
J.<br>
<br>
<p></p><i></i>
Cheers,
Jenny
Founder, Roman Army Talk and RomanArmy.com

We are all travelers in the wilderness of this world, and the best we can find in our travels is an honest friend.
-- Robert Louis Stevenson
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#3
Can anyone assist with a good analysis of the units in the Notitia Dignitatum - origins etc.<br>
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I have been wading through the information and found that with a bit of detective work, it is possible to piece together likely origins of the various units and pretty good guesses of what the unit types may have been.<br>
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But I suspect someone has probably done all the hardwork before me.<br>
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I am particularly interested in piecing together likely OB for some of the major battles in the late Roman era - Milvian Bridge, Mursa, Adrianople, Strasbourg, Frigidus.<br>
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Any suggestions (other than give up!!)?<br>
<p></p><i></i>
Reply
#4
Hi Iain,<br>
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A good site for all the units of the Notitia, and a good enough analysis without going too deep, can be found [url=http://www.ne.jp/asahi/luke/ueda-sarson/NotitiaPatterns.html" target="top]Late Roman Shield Patterns taken from the Notitia Dignitatum[/url].<br>
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I've not found modern books dealing with all the battles which you mention, apart from Adrianople, in the list at the top of this thread.<br>
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Valete,<br>
Valerius/Robert <p></p><i></i>
Robert Vermaat
MODERATOR
FECTIO Late Romans
THE CAUSE OF WAR MUST BE JUST
(Maurikios-Strategikon, book VIII.2: Maxim 12)
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#5
A short review as well as the order of battle for Stasbourg can be found in Adrian Goldsworthy "Roman Warfare", London, 1999.<br>
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Cheers,<br>
<br>
Helge <p></p><i></i>
If you run away from an archer...
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#6
thanks <p></p><i></i>
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