We get a fascinating view of the annual pattern of warfare in the middle Republic, a period in which most of Rome’s wars were fought in Italy, and in the traditional summer campaigning season. This was a period in which there was a regular pattern to life, with the same religious ceremonies carried out each year, first to start the campaigning season and later to end the year and welcome the army back to the city. Many of these topics will be vaguely familiar to anyone who has read any Roman military history – diviation or the Legion’s Eagles – but it’s very useful to have a more detailed examination of each of these topics.
There are some flaws here. Some of the chapters are a little too academic in tone, using terminology that even I had to look up - one section was introduced as being ‘largely synchronic’ for example, and I’m still not sure what that is meant to mean. However the topic is interesting enough to overcome this, even in the chapter in question.
One thing that immediately strikes you is how little evidence we have for some of these topics. Even the famous live burials of Greek and Celtic couples at three times of crisis aren’t well documented, and almost all of our sources come from later periods. In some cases this makes you realise just easy it is to turn a handful of references into a sweeping statement – the best example here is that of the evocation, a ritual in which the Romans effectively asked the gods of a besieged city to change sides. This is often said to be a thing that the Romans did on a regular basis, but we actually only have a handful of examples, one of which does require a bit of a leap of faith in our sources, relying on the accuracy of one author’s reference to an earlier author’s reference to an otherwise unknown earlier work by an author who shared one part of his name with one of the commanders during a siege of Carthage…
These are an interesting collection of studies of aspects of Roman religion, looking in great detail at many aspects of Roman warfare that are normally only passed over rather briefly.
1 – Introduction: new Perspectives on Religion and Warfare in the Roman Republic: 509-27 BC, Matthew Dillon
2 – Religion and Roman Warfare in the Middle Republic, John Serrati
3 – Evocation: Taking Gods Away from Enemy States and Peoples, Matthew Dillon
4 – The Religious Functions of Romans Arms and Armament, Brandon R. Olson
5 – The Cult of the Eagles in the Roman Republic, Christopher Matthew
6 – Women, Warfare and Religion in the Roman Republic, Lora Holland Goldthwaite
7 – War, Vestal Virgins and Live Burials in the Roman Republic, Paul Erdkamp
8 – With the Gods on their Side: Divination and Warfare in the Roman Republic, Kim Beerden
9 – Triumphal Transgressions, Jeremy Armstrong
Author: ed. Matthew Dillon & Christopher Matthew
Publisher: Pen & Sword Military