This is part of a series of books on ancient armies which are built around the author’s experience as a military re-enactor and contacts with an impressive array of re-enacting societies.
In the first half of the book there is very little anaylsis of the Italian armies of this period, but instead a rather uncritical of early Roman military history, rather ignoring the complexities of this period. The actions of the Kings of Rome are presented as historical fact, with no mention of the more standard view that their reigns are at best semi-legendary, or that our only sources for them come from several hundred years later. As we get into better documented times the story becomes somewhat more reliable, but again there are many doubts about the events of the Samnite Wars which aren’t really reflected here.
The final five chapters change in nature, and we get a series of portraits of the main peoples of ancient Italy, covering the full length of the peninsula, from the Gauls in the far north to the original inhabitants of Sicily in the south. This moves away from the Rome centred approach of much of the earlier text, and gives us some interesting material on where these peoples came from, when they reached Italy and their other rivalries.
The biggest selling point of this book is the photographs of enactors, equipped in a range of reproduction ancient equipment. These are full colour, full page and very impressive. One minor quibble is that they often don’t match the text, so a page on the Samnites will be accompanied by a picture of someone in Greek equipment.
Personally I would have arranged the book the other way round, starting with the chapters on the individual peoples of Italy, and then moving onto the narrative of their wars. The narrative is more readable because it doesn’t touch on the serious doubts that exist about the accuracy of what we know about very early Roman history, but I do think that did need mentioning. However the beautiful photographs make up for this, giving us a very visual guide to the armies of this crucial period for the rise of Rome.
1 – The Foundation of Rome and the Army of the Early Kings
2 – The Military Reforms and Campaigns of the Etruscan Kings
3 – The Birth of the Republic and the Wars against the Oscans
4 – The Sack of Rome and the Conquest of Etruria
5 – The Samnite Wars and the Reform of the Roman Army
6 – The Pyrrhic War and the New Manipular Legion
7 – The First Punic War and the Conquest of Gallia Cisalpina
8 – The Etruscans
9 – The Latins and the Peoples of Central Italy
10 – The Gauls and the People of Northern Italy
11 – The Samnites and the Peoples of Southern Italy
12 – The Greeks and the Insular Peoples
Author: Gabriele Esposito
Publisher: Pen & Sword Military