Books on the Roman Empire

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Roman Empire
General Works
The Roman Army
Rome's Enemies
Roman Wars
Contemporary Accounts
Ancient History Magazine

Books - Roman Empire

General Works

Roman Plate Armour, M.C. Bishop. A good examination of the most famous type of Roman armour, focusing on the Lorica Segmentata most often seen in modern depictions of the Legions, as well as the muscled cuirasses worn by the officers. Includes a clear decription of each of the three types of Lorica Segmentata, looking at how they were constructed, how they differed and way, as well as sections on how it was made, its flaws and how it probably performed in and out of battle (Read Full Review)
Roman Conquests – Mesopotamia and Arabia, Lee Fratantuono. Looks at the Roman involvement in Arabia and Mesopotamia, two areas that were never fully conquered and that saw some of Rome’s worst defeats during attempts to conquer Parthia and wars with Persia as well as the establishment of provinces of Arabia and Mespotamia in the western part of those areas. An interesting look at Rome’s one border with a power of equal standing and military power (Read Full Review)
The Forty Sieges of Constantinople – The Great City’s Enemies and its Survival, John D Grainger. Looks at all of the attacks on the city known as Byzantion, Constantinople and Istanbul, from the earliest Persian attacks to the First World War, with the bulk of the forty coming during the city’s time as Constantinople, the great eastern capital of the Roman then Byzantine Empires, when the city was one of the most often attacked in the world, but also the most successfully defended, only falling to external enemies twice in a millennium! (Read Full Review)
Gladiators 4th-1st centuries BC, Francois Gilbert. Focuses on the various types of gladiator, where they came from, how they evolved over time and the details of their arms and armour. Includes an introduction on the changing nature of gladiatorial fights and gladiators over this period, but ignores their involvement in the politics of the period. A good overview of the different types of gladiators, written by an expert on the topic (Read Full Review)
Armies of the Germanic Peoples 200BC – AD600, Gabrielle Esposito. Mainly focuses on a military history of the contacts between Roman and the German tribes of the period, from the migration of the Cimbri and Teutones during the late Republic to the 5th century fall of the Western Empire and the sacks of Rome, with one chapter on the weapons and tactics of the Germanic tribes and how they evolved over the six or seven centuries of contact with Rome (Read Full Review)
Limits of Empire – Rome’s Borders, Simon Forty and Jonathan Forty. An impressive visual guide to the border fortifications of the Roman Empire, demonstrating just much effort went into protecting the thousands of miles of frontiers, how much of those fortifications have survived (at least in fragments), and how much effort has since gone into excavating and preserving them. Combines a useful history of the frontier and the nature of life along it with an impressive visual guide to the frontier fortifications (Read Full Review)
The Wars of Justinian, Michael Whitby. Looks at the full range of campaigns that took place during the reign of Justinian, from the famous (if temporary) reconquest of Italy to the long running conflicts on the Balkan border, making him one of the most militarily successful Emperors not to directly take part in his own campaigns. Provides a valuable overview of the near constant warfare of his reign, along with an overview of the rest of his reign, including his legal reforms and domestic opposition (Read Full Review)
The Roman Barbarian Wars – The Era of Roman Conquest, Ludwig Heinrich Dyck. A straightforward account of Rome’s wars of conquests against the Gauls, Germans and Iberians, taking us from the traumatic defeat on the Allia and the resulting sack of Rome, through Rome’s conquests of northern Italy, Gaul and most of Spain and on to the failure to conquer Germany, the defeat at the Teutoburg Forest and the less familiar Roman campaigns that came after that battle. A good atmospheric account of four centuries of warfare, aimed at the general reader (Read Full Review)
Roman Conquests – The Danube Frontier, Michael Schmitz. A study of the two and a half centuries of warfare that took the Romans from the east coast of the Adriatic to the northern banks of the Danube, in a series of conflicts that stretch from the height of the Republic, through the foundation of the Empire and onto the Dacian wars of Trajan and on to the largely defensive wars of Marcus Aurelius. Brings together a series of conflicts that are rarely connected, but that saw the Romans slow push the frontier of Empire away from the most dangerous approach route to Italy, later to be used by Attila the Hun (Read Full Review)
Rome, Blood and Power – Reform, Murder and Popular Politics in the Late Republic 70-27 BC, Gareth C. Sampson. Looks at one of the most familiar periods in Roman history, but with a focus on the various attempts to reform the Republic to make it more stable, all of which failed until Augustus realised that the trick was to take control without actually looking like you were changing anything. An interesting approach that helps to explain why a series of apparently dominant figures, from Marius and Sulla to Pompey and Caesar proved unable to maintain their power once they had seized it by focusing on the details of the politics of the city of Rome herself (Read Full Review)

Caesar’s Great Success – Sustaining the Roman Army on Campaign, Alexander Merrow, Agostino Von Hassell & Greagory Starace. Looks at the role of logistics in Caesar’s military campaigns, as well as the food eaten by the Roman army, the concepts behind modern logistics and how they might apply to Caesar’s campaign in Gaul in particular, and how well Caesar performed in the task of keeping his armies supplied. An interesting approach to Caesar’s campaigns, helped greatly by the amount of attention he gave it in his own writing, combined with an intelligent look at how other elements of the campaigns must have been guided by the need for supplies. Also comes with some fun Roman recipies to try out(Read Full Review)

Rome Rules the Waves – A Naval Staff Appreciation of Ancient Rome’s Maritime Strategy, 300 BCE-500 CE, James J Bloom. An interesting idea, examining Roman naval history from the point of view of the important late 19th century and early 20th century naval strategists, in particular Mahan and Corbett, as well as the terminology of modern naval warfare. Does a good job of proving how important control of the sea was to Rome, and the loss of that control played a major role in the fall of the Western Empire, although could do with being better organised (Read Full Review)

Armies of Ancient Italy 753-218 BC, Gabriele Esposito. An impressive array of full colour, full page pictures showing enactors with reconstructed ancient Italian arms and armour, supported by a text split between a fairly uncritical narrative of Roman military history that rather skips over the general doubts about the accuracy of later Roman accounts of the early period, and a series of chapters looking at the individual peoples of ancient Italy and how they fought (Read Full Review)
Religion and Classical Warfare – The Roman Republic, ed. Matthew Dillon & Christopher Matthew. Looks at the role of religion in warfare in the Roman Republic, with a general focus on the more stable period of the middle Republic, where the patterns of religious life are at least partly documented. Paints an interesting picture of the role of religious ritual in the annual pattern of military activity in the Republic, as well as looking at some of the more unusual aspects of Roman religion including the rare examples of human sacrifice, the idea that gods could be persuaded to abandon their home city and ‘move’ to Rome, and the religious role of the Eagles(Read Full Review)
The Frontiers of Imperial Rome, David J. Breeze. Looks at the entire length of the Roman frontier, from the familiar Hadrian’s Wall to the long desert frontiers in Africa and the Middle East, including the man made lines of forts and other features and the natural borders of mountains, rivers and coastlines. An excellent overview of a massive subject, looking at the individual elements of the frontiers, how they linked up along the frontiers and what their actual purpose may have been.(Read Full Review)
Women at War in the Classical World, Paul Chrystal . A survey of the role, experiences and attitudes to women in warfare across the Classical world, from the archaic Greek world of Homer to late Roman antiquity, including both real and fictional women and mythological figures. Covers the full range of experience from women as commanders (Cleopatra being the most famous) to women as victims of war, especially in the aftermath of defeat, as well as interesting sections on the attitude of these societies to woman’s role in warfare (Read Full Review)
Patricians and Emperors - the Last Rulers of the Western Roman Empire, Ian Hughes. Looks at the final decades of the Western Roman Empire, focusing on the series of short-lived Emperors, some of whom came tantalisingly close to winning significant victories, while others were shadowy non-entities who came and went without having any visible impact. Takes an interesting approach, organising the period by the Emperors and not by the series of military commanders who normally dominate the period, and as a result giving us a rather different view of the final years of the Empire in the west (Read Full Review)
The Roman Empire and the Silk Routes - The Ancient World Economy & the Empires of Parthia, Central Asia and Han China, Raoul McLaughlin. Looks at the silk trade in China, its impact on the Roman economy, the states and civilisations along the various Silk Routes. A fascinating book that links together the two great superpowers of the Ancient world. At its best when examining the silk trade itself or the cultures along the land and sea routes, although sometimes gets a bit distracted and wanders away from the main topic. Also examines the possibility of direct contact between the two ancient superpowers, but comes to the conclusion that although this probably came close to happening, it never quite did [read full review]
Republican Roman Warships 509-27 BC, Raffaele D'Amato. Looks at the development of Roman naval power from its very earliest mentions, through the first flowering of Roman sea power during the First Punic War to the battle of Actium, the last naval battle before Augustus founded the principate, a period of almost 500 years. Covers the ships themselves, the weapons they carried, how they operated, and the wars in which they were used. Has a great deal of info packed into its 48 pages [read full review]
Byzantium Triumphant - The Military History of the Byzantines 959-1025, Julian Romane. Looks at the military (and to a lesser extent political) history of Byzantium during the lifetime of Basil II Porphrogenitus (the Bulgar Slayer). Tells an interesting story that really brings Byzantine society alive, although perhaps at the cost of skating over some of the complexities of some of the sources Byzantine history. This was a period that saw Medieval Byzantium at its most powerful, despite the rather convoluted series of civil wars that dominate the first part of the book! [read full review]
Rome Seizes the Trident - The Defeat of Carthaginian Seapower & the Forging of the Roman Empire, Marc G. Desantis. Looks at the way in which Rome seized control of the western Mediterranean from the long established naval power of Carthage, and then maintained that power for the rest of the Punic Wars, as well as tracing the impact of Roman naval power on the wider course of the conflict. Also asks why Carthage was unable to respond to the Roman naval challenge, rarely winning a naval battle during the First Punic War and not mounting a serious challenge at all during the Second [read full review]
Rome Spreads Her Wings - Territorial Expansion between the Punic Wars, Gareth C. Sampson. Focuses on Rome's other wars in the period of the first two Punic Wars, including the first expansion east across the Adriatic into Greece and the Balkans and the conquest of Gallic northern Italy. This is a difficult period, with limited sources as ancient authors either concentrated on the more glamorous wars against Carthage, or have been lost to us. Sampson does a good job of guiding us through the difficult sources for this period, often providing alternative versions of key events, complete with their supporting sources. A useful book that helps fill a gap in the military history of Rome [read full review]
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Roman Military Disasters - Dark Days and Lost Legions, Paul Chrystal. Looks at Rome's military defeats, from the earliest wars within the Italian peninsula, through the great wars of expansion and the defence of the Empire, to the disasters of the fifth century and the first two sacks of Rome since the Celts almost at the start of Roman history. A useful book, although it does sometimes lose its focus a little, and in sections is more of a general military history of Rome [read full review]
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Military History of Late Rome 284-361, Ilkka Syvänne. Focuses on the successful Imperial recovery under Diocletian, Constantine the Great, Constantius II and their various co-rulers and rivals. Starts with a series of lengthy chapters looking at the Empire, its army and its neighbours, before moving onto the narrative account of a period in which the Roman Empire held its own against enemies that threatened from all sides, despite an apparently constant stream of civil wars [read full review]
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The Rise of Imperial Rome AD 14-193, Duncan B. Campbell. Looks at the long series of border wars that saw the Roman Empire continue to expand during the two centuries after the death of Augustus. Traditionally seen as the period of the 'Pax Romana', this book demonstrates that this was actually a period of near continuous warfare. [read full review]
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Roman Conquests: Egypt and Judaea, John D. Grainger. Looks at the last major Roman successes in the East, the conquests of Syria and Egypt, famous for the involvement of Caesar, Cleopatra and Mark Anthony and for the Jewish Revolt that led to the destruction of the Temple at Jerusalem. Demonstrates that these conquests were far more complex than their popular image, and helps explain why the Empire didn’t expand any further. [read full review]

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If Rome Hadn't Fallen, Timothy Venning. Counter-factual history that looks at how the fall of the Western Roman Empire might have been avoided and what the long term consequences of that might have been. Combines some interesting credible thoughts with wilder speculation including Roman colonies in the Americans. A fun read for those who enjoy counter-factual history [read full review]
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Edge of Empire: Rome's Frontier on the Lower Rhine, Jona Lendering and Arjen Bosman. An interesting look at the history of the Low Countries and nearby areas during the Roman Empire, when they formed part of the border of the Roman world. The authors paint a picture of a largely prosperous area that survived the fall of Rome better than most, but that was vulnerable to attack from across the Rhine. [read full review]
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Greece and Rome at War, Peter Connolly. An excellent military history of Ancient Greece and Rome, including an outline of military events and a detailed examination of the organisation and equipment of the armies of the period, based on a mix of documentary evidence, art and archaeology, hands-on reconstructions and visits to the battlefields. [read full review]
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Roman Warships, Michael Pitassi. Takes an interesting approach to the problem of reconstructing Roman warships, beginning with artistic and literary sources, moving onto a detailed plan based on the known limits of rowers and ending by constructing accurate models to see if the plan actually works in practise. The results are fascinating and his arguments very convincing. [read full review]
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Roman Conquests: Asia Minor, Syria and Armenia, Richard Evans. A study of the series of wars that saw the Romans defeat the Seleucid Empire, gain control of much of Asia Minor and then fight a series of costly wars against Mithridates VI of Pontus, a conflict that took them further east than ever before, into Armenia. [read full review]
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Gladiator: Rome's Bloody Spectacle, Konstantin Nossov. An English translation and update of a Russian original, looking at the development and equipment of the gladiator, the different types of gladiator and how their fought, the rise of the dedicated amphitheatre, and finishing with a look at the difficulties of hosting a gladiatorial games, and the routine on the day of the games itself. [read full review]
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Rome's Enemies

Vandal Heaven – Reinterpreting Post-Roman North Africa, Simon Elliott. A useful history of the relationship between Rome and the Vandals, the impressive achievements of the Vandals as they crossed France and Spain and then conquered most of Roman North Africa, going on to look at the later Byzantine re-conquest and the Arab conquest that followed. Not as much material on Vandal North Africa as I’d expected, but otherwise a good book on the Vandals(Read Full Review)
Conquerors of the Roman Empire - the Franks, Simon MacDowall. Looks at the role of the Franks in the collapsing world of Roman Gaul, where they were more often Rome’s allies than her enemies, but still ended up as the rulers of most of the former Roman province. Sometimes feels more like a history of the fall of Roman Gaul than of the Franks, but that feels like the only approach that would make sense of the Frankish activities in this often confused period (Read Full Review)
Attila the Hun, Arch-Enemy of Rome, Ian Hughes. A valuable attempt to produce a look at the life and times of Attila and the Huns from their point of view rather than that of their enemies. A difficult task simply because all of the surviving sources were produced by their enemies, but a worthwhile one that gives us a different view of Atilla and his empire. (Read Full Review)
The Numidians 300 BC-AD 300, William Horsted. A useful look at the Numidian troops who fought for and against the Romans, focusing on the famous cavalry and the later light infantry, but also examining the evidence for at least a small force of more heavily armed elite cavalry, perhaps associated with the kings of Numidia. Benefits from an excellent knowledge of the artistic and archaeological evidence, which makes up for the very limited literary evidence (Read Full Review)
Conquerors of the Roman Empire: The Goths, Simon Macdowall. Looks at the long period of interaction between the various Gothic tribes and the Roman Empire, as well as the post-Roman history of the two main Gothic kingdoms in Italy and Spain. Produces a more complex picture than the normal image of the Goths as simply rampaging destroyers of the Empire, showing that Rome and the Goths were allies almost as often as enemies, and looking at the brief attempt to produce a combined Roman and Gothic society in Italy (Read Full Review)
Conquerors of the Roman Empire - The Vandals, Simon MacDowall. Tells the impressive story of the Vandals, who in not much more than a single generation crossed the Rhine into Gaul, established a kingdom in Spain and then did the same in North Africa, sacked Rome and briefly set themselves up as one of the major naval powers of the period. Also covers the earlier, rather obscure, history of the Vandals, and their eventual defeat and destruction by the Eastern Romans (Read Full Review)


The Reign of Emperor Gallienus – The Apogee of Roman Cavalry, Ilkka Syvanne. Looks at the fifteen year reign of Gallienus, a period that saw his father become the First Roman Emperor to become a prisoner of war, the Roman Empire effectively split into three and come under near constant attack from outside, and an impressive series of usurpers emerge in the areas still ruled by Gallienus. Combines something of a bias towards Gallienus with an excellent analysis of the often confusing and contradictory sources which allows the reader to make up their own mind about the author’s own views (Read Full Review)
Trajan – Rome’s Last Conqueror, Nicholas Jackson. A useful biography of the united Rome Empire’s last great conqueror, whose conquest of Dacia marked the last long term expansion of the empire before the fall of the west, but whose conquests in the east were very short lived. Really gets into its stride as Trajan rose to high rank, and includes very detailed accounts of the Dacian wars in particular. (Read Full Review)
Pertinax – the son of a Slave who became Roman Emperor, Simon Elliott. A look at the times and life of a short lived Emperor whose life turns out to be far more interesting than his brief time in power would suggest. The first half of the book focuses on the nature of the world he lived in – how life worked for a freed slave and his family, how the army was organised in that period and what Pertinax’s career would probably have been like, before enough information emerges about the man to allow the last couple of chapters to focus directly on him. An excellent study of a significant but rather obscure Emperor (Read Full Review)
Gaiseric – The Vandal who Destroyed Rome, Ian Hughes. A biography of the Vandal king Gaiseric, one of the most important figures in the fall of the Western Roman Empire as the founder of the Vandal kingdom in North Africa that both bankrupted and defeated the Empire. This is the fascinating story of a man whose career spanned the fall of the Roman Empire, and in many ways helped caused it (Read Full Review)
The Komnene Dynasty - Byzantium’s Struggle for Survival 1057-1185, John Carr. Looks at the history of the most famous dynasty in Byzantine history (largely because of the work of Anna Comnena and its overlap with the early Crusades), with a focus on the well documented reign of Alexios I. This is a useful examination of a dynasty that started well, saving Byzantium from possible collapse in the aftermath of Manzikert, but that ended with an equally disasterous defeat and dynastic chaos in the last two reigns. Also includes a useful overview of earlier Byzantine history and a brief look at the period after the end of the dynasty, which saw their descendants rule the tiny Empire of Tribizond, while Byzantium was sacked by the Crusaders. (Read Full Review)
Augustus at War - the struggle for the Pax Augusta, Lindsay Powell. A year-by-year study of all of the wars fought during Augustus’s reign, covering a suprising amount of offensive wars, in which Augustus and his generals doubled the size of the Roman Empire. Looks at both the central role of Augustus and his family and the part played by other Roman aristocrats, who were still willing to struggle for glory during this period, buying in to the idea that the Republic still existed under Augustus(Read Full Review)
Clan Fabius Defenders of Rome - A History of the Republic’s Most Illustrious Family, Jeremiah McCall. Traces the history of one of the most important families in the early and middle Republic, from their legendary origins, through the Samnite Wars and peaking with the career of the famous ‘delayer’, a key figure in the Second Punic War who played a major part in saving the city from Hannibal. Finishes with the slow decline of the family, which began before the collapse of the Republic, and ended as the family disappeared from the records in the early Empire.(Read Full Review)
Emperors of Rome – The Monsters – From Tiberius to Theodora, AD 14-548, Paul Chrystal. A look at some of the most notorious of the Roman emperors and their famous misdeeds. Covers quite a range, starting with the second emperor, Tiberius, and finishing with the early Byzantine Justinian and his wife Theodora. A bit ‘tabloid’ in nature, recounting the reported sexual misdeeds of a series of Emperors and the Imperial women. Starts with a brief introduction looking at similar atrocities committed in earlier periods, to help put these people in the context of their times, but could have done with more analysis of our sources and their motives(Read Full Review)
Septimus Severus and the Roman Army, Michael Sage. A good biography of the first Roman Empire to emerge from the Empire’s African provinces, and found of a dynasty that provided a last period of stability between the death of Marcus Aurelius and the outbreak of the third century crisis. Covers the background to Roman Africa, his early career, his rise to power and the civil wars that secured his reign, his own wars, and the controversial reigns of his sons.(Read Full Review)
Roman Emperor Zeno, Peter Crawford. A biography of the Eastern Roman Emperor most famous for being on the throne when the last western Emperor was deposed, but who managed to maintain his own position despite facing a wide range of internal and external opponents. Looks at his background, his rise to power, his difficult reign, his achievements, his rather negative later reputation, and if it was genuinely deserved (Read Full Review)
Emperor Alexander Severus - Rome’s Age of Insurrection, AD 222-236, John S. McHugh. A biography of the last Severan emperor (admittedly one with a very limited link to the founder of the dynasty), looking at the turbulent life and times of the last emperor before the start of the Third Century Crisis. An interesting look at how an Emperor from a dynasty of political outsiders managed to survive for a surprisingly long time, despite coming to the throne as a child (Read Full Review)
Gaius Marius - The Rise and Fall of Rome’s Saviour, Marc Hyden. Looks at the career of one of the key figures in the fall of the Roman Republic, a general whose victories saved the Republic from foreign invasion, but whose ambition helped trigger the series of civil wars that saw its eventual collapse into chaos that only ended with the victory of Augustus and the foundation of the Empire. A good biography of an important historical figure, aimed at the general reader rather than the specialist in Roman history (Read Full Review)
Constantius II - Usurpers, Eunuchs and the Antichrist, Peter Crawford. Looks at the reign of one of the sons of Constantine the Great, and a rather controversial Roman emperor, despite being the victor in repeated civil wars and successfully defending the borders of the Empire against increasingly powerful opponents. Paints a picture of a more than capable ruler, let down by his poor choice of courtiers and possibly by a paranoid nature and a tendency to undermine his own subordinate rulers (Read Full Review)
Lucullus – The Life and Campaigns of a Roman Conqueror, Lee Fratantuono. Looks at the public career of Lucius Lucullus, one of the less familiar Roman military and political figures in the dying days of the Roman Republic, a generally successful general who was unable to end the wars he had almost won, and who was overshadowed by his patron Sulla and his rival and replacement Pompey. Aimed at the general reader, so provides a concise narrative of the life of this important figure (Read Full Review)
Brutus - Caesar's Assassin, Kirsty Corrigan. A well balanced biography of Brutus, one of the more consistent defenders of the Roman Republic, and famously one of Caesar's assassins on the Ides of March. Paints a picture of a man of generally high moral standards (with some flaws in financial matters), but also an over-optimistic plotter, who failed to make any realistic plans for the aftermath of the assassination. Does a good job of tracing Brutus's fairly obscure early years, as well as distinguishing between later legends and historically likely events [read full review]
Mark Antony - A Plain Blunt Man, Paolo de Ruggiero . Nice to have a biography devoted to Mark Antony in his own right rather than as part of someone else's story, but be aware that the author is very biased in favour of Mark Antony and rather stretches the evidence to make his case. Readable and the author knows his sources, but would be better without the bias. [read full review]
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Sulla - A Dictator Reconsidered, Lynda Telford. An interesting but very biased biography of the Roman leader Sulla, the first to lead his own army against the city of Rome. Not idea for someone new to the topic, who would come away with a very one sided view of the period, but will be of interest to someone with more background knowledge. [read full review]
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Eager for Glory: The untold story of Drusus the Elder, Conqueror of Germany, Lindsay Powell. A useful biography of an important figure during the birth of Imperial Rome, a stepson of Augustus, successful general who conquered the area just to the north of the Alps and campaigned in Germany, where he reached the Elbe, and a skilled administrator and even an explorer. [read full review]
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The Roman Army

Roman Mail and Scale Armour, M.C. Bishop. Looks at two types of armour that were used throughout the Roman period, by legionaries, Praetorians and auxiliaries and in many different variants. Covers the evidence for their use, the variants known to exist, how they were manufactured and maintained and even how easy it was to put them on! A useful guide to some of the most significant Roman military equipment. (Read Full Review)
Roman Army Units in the Eastern Provinces (2) – 3rd Century AD, Raffaele D’Amato. Combines a brief introduction looking at the history of the period and the location of the units known to have been posted in the Roman East at this time with a longer section looking at their arms, equipment and cloths, organised on a province-by-province basis, so giving us an idea of how things changes as you moved around from the Danube provinces into Roman Syria and down into Egypt. An unusual but effective approach (Read Full Review)
Arms and Armour of the Imperial Roman Soldier – From Marius to Commodus, 112 BC-AD 192, Raffaele d’Amato and Graham Sumner. An impressive guide to the full range of Roman military equipment over a period of three centuries, covering everything from arms and armour to horse tack, all illustrated by copious pictures. Clearly the result of extensive research, this is an invaluable reference work on the equipment of the armies that created the Roman Empire. Also contains a strong argument for the accuracy of contemporary paintings and sculptures of Roman soldiers, taking a different stance to many (Read Full Review)
Roman Heavy Cavalry (2) AD 500-1450, Andrey Negin and Raffaele D’Amato. Provides a useful overview of the most important element of the Byzantine armies for almost 1,000 years, their famous heavy cavalry. Looks at the organisation, terminology, armour, weaponry and horses of the heavy cavalry and how it changed over the course of that long history, as well as the changing uses of the cavalry. Lavishly illustrated, this is reminder of just how splendid even late Byzantine cavalry must have looked (Read Full Review)
Leading the Roman Army – Soldiers and Emperors 31 BC-AD 235, Jonathan Eaton. Takes a different approach to the Roman army, looking at the relationship between the Emperor and his soldiers, both the regular army and the Praetorian Guard, how the army was led and disciplined and what influence it actually had over politics (ie the Emperor and succession), in a period when the Emperor was the sole source of military authority. (Read Full Review)
Roman Soldier vs Germanic Warrior - 1st Century AD, Lindsay Powell. Focuses on one of the most famous defeats suffered by the Romans, in the Teutoburg Pass, and the Roman attempts to get revenge on the German leader Arminius and his allies. Interesting to see how well the German foot were able to cope with the Roman Legions, even capable of facing them in formal lines of battle for short periods [read full review]
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Handbook of Roman Legionary Fortresses, M.C. Bishop. An impressive gazetteer of the permanent Legionary Fortress of the Roman Empire, with details of location, layout, plans and a list of documentary sources for each of the locations. Also includes a useful introduction that examines the nature of the fortresses and the evidence for their use and design. [read full review]
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Byzantine Imperial Guardsman 925-1025: The Tághmata and Imperial Guard, Raffaele d'Amato. Looks at the colourful and very varied units that formed the Byzantine Imperial Guard and the main field army during one of that Empire's most successful periods. Ranges from long established units inherited from the Roman Empire to newer units such as the Varangian Guard and even a powerful fleet based at Constantinople. [read full review]
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Lost Legion Rediscovered: The Mystery of the Theban Legion, Donald O'Reilly. An attempt to find an historical basis for the story of a martyred legion that was first mentioned in an account written by the Bishop of Lyon in 383 after the discovery of a mass grave. Cleverly argued, with the evidence examined in some detail. [read full review]
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Imperial General – The Remarkable Career of Petellius Cerialis, Philip Matyszak. A rare example of a biography of a general of Imperial Rome who wasn't either the Emperor or his heir. Cerialis fought against Boudicca, took part in the civil wars that brought his relative Vespasian to the throne, helped restore the Roman position on the Rhine and was then a successful general and governor in Britain. [read full review]
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The Complete Roman Army, Adrian Goldsworthy. A very good history of the Roman army from the early Republic to the end of the Empire.
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The Roman Army of the Principate, 27 BC-AD 117, Nic Fields. This entry in the Battle Orders series looks at the Roman army during the Principate – the period that started with the rise of Augustus and that saw the establishment of the Pax Romana. Fields looks at the organization, equipment, battlefield tactics and command and control of the army, and concludes the book with a look at the campaigns fought by the army, and four key battles – Saltus Teutoburgiensis, the defeat of Boudicca, the second battle of Cremona and Mons Graupius. [see more]
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Arms and Armour of the Imperial Roman Soldier, From Marius to Commodus, 112 BC-AD 192, Raffaele d'Amato and Graham Sumner. A very impressive, hugely detailed, well organised and comprehensively illustrated look at the equipment of the Roman Soldier of the late Republic and early Empire, covering the arms, armour, cloths and symbols of the Roman infantry, cavalry, naval and auxiliary forces. [read full review]
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Roman Wars

Roman Legionary vs Gallic Warrior 58-52 BC, David Campbell. Looks at three of the key battles between Caesar’s legions and the Gauls, all of which were close fought battles that could have gone the other way, but which this book suggests were won by a combination of Caesar’s own leadership and personal courage and the professionalism of the Roman infantry, which knew what to do in a crisis without waiting for orders. (Read Full Review)
Caesar’s Civil War 49-44 BC, Adrian Goldsworthy. A good history of the civil wars that ended the Roman Republic, tracing the decline of the Republic, the pressures that led Caesar to risk a civil war, the campaign itself as the fighting moved from Italy to Spain, Greece, Egypt, Pontus, Africa and back to Spain again, and follow events on to the eventual victory of Octavian and the true death of the Republic. Has a good balance between campaign and battle accounts and the political side of the conflict, as well as acknowledging the limits of our knowledge of Caesar’s true motives and intentions (Read Full Review)
Rome & Parthia: Empires at War: Ventidus, Antony and the Second Romano-Parthian War 40-20 BC, Gareth C. Sampson. Looks at the war that started with a Parthain invasion of Rome’s eastern provinces after the victory of the triumvirs at Philippi and that saw both sides carry out unsuccessful invasions of each others territory during a war that was repeated disrupted by civil wars within both powers. Not the best known of Romans wars from this period, and rather over-shadowded by the rivaly between Octavian and Antony, but still an interesting conflict and one that demonstrates the problems faced by the two empires as they expanded towards each other.(Read Full Review)
Britannia AD 43 – The Claudian Invasion, Nic Fields. A study of the first year of Claudius’s invasion of Roman Britain, a year that saw the Romans win two known battles, at the Medway and the Thames, the Emperor arrive in person to justify his Triumph, and the Romans establish a province in the south-east of the island. This isn’t the best documented of campaigns, but we do get a good discussion of where the Romans might have landed, their route after the landing, and the two battles, as well as a useful description of the opposing forces(Read Full Review)
The Nisibis War - The Defence of the Roman East AD 337-363, John S. Harrel . Looks at the lengthy conflict between the Romans and the Persian Emperor Shapur II, for possession of provinces lost to the Romans in 298. Covers the successful defensive strategy of Constantius II and the disastrous invasion of Persia led by the Emperor Julian, as well as the frequent civil wars that plagued the Roman Empire. A valuable look at one of the last major external wars fought before the fall of the Western Empire. [read full review]
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The Great Illyrian Revolt – Rome’s Forgotten War in the Balkans, AD 6-9, Jason R Abdale. Looks at one of the most costly wars fought during the reign of Augustus, a massive rebellion in the Balkans that eventually sucked in fifteen Roman legions, as well as Augustus’s heir Tiberius and marking the start of the military career of Germanicus. Perhaps a little too prone to including speculation to fill gaps, but does make it clear where the evidence runs out and the guesswork begins. Fills an important gap in the military history of this crucial period in Roman history(Read Full Review)
Rome’s Sicilian Slave Wars, Natale Barca. Looks at the first and second Servile Wars, massive slave uprisings that threatened Roman control of Sicily, and with it the grain supply to the city of Rome. Places them in the context of the wider Mediterranean world, the nature of the ancient slave trade, and the increasingly unstable nature of Roman politics. I don’t entirely agree with some of the author’s conclusions, but I did find this a useful book on two major conflicts that are often only mentioned in passing(Read Full Review)
Rome’s Third Samnite War – 298-290BC – the Last Stand of the Line Legion, Mike Roberts. Focuses on the Third Samnite War, the last time the Samnites were Rome’s main opponents in a conflict, placing the conflict in the wider context of its times and looking at Rome’s other foes at the time, as well as following the rivalry through to its end in the dying days of the Republic. Generally very good, although outside the Third War the timeline could be clearer. During the war itself does a good job of creating a coherent account of this often poorly recorded conflict.(Read Full Review)
Roman Soldier versus Parthian Warrior – Carrhae to Nisibis, 53 BC-AD 217, Si Sheppard . Looks at one of the great rivalries of the ancient world, between the infantry led armies of Rome and the cavalry armies of the Parthians, a rivalry that saw Rome suffer some of its worst defeats, and ended the Empire’s advance east. Nicely structured, examining three key battles alternating with the overview of events between to paid a picture of the overall nature of the relationship (Read Full Review)
AD69 Emperors, Armies and Anarchy, Nic Fields . A good account of the brutal Roman Civil War of AD 69, the Year of Four Emperors, somewhat marred by a series of unrelated digressions on modern politics. The main text follows each emperor in turn, an effective layout once you realise what's going on.  [read full review]
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Roman Conquests: Gaul, Michael M. Sage. Briefly covers the conquest of the Gaul's of northern Italy and the province in southern France, but most of the book focuses on Caesar's conquest of Gaul, as famously documented by Caesar himself. Other sources are used when possible, so this is more than just a reworking of the Gallic Wars, and is a useful entry in this series. [read full review]
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Stilicho, the Vandal who Saved Rome, Ian Hughes. A study of the life and times of Flavius Stilicho, a half-Roman half-Vandal soldier and politician who struggled to preserve the Western Roman Empire in the last decades before the sack of Rome in 410 AD. Hughes includes some very useful material on the wider Roman world and army, making this a very useful book. [read full review]
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The Crisis of Rome: The Jugurthine and Northern Wars and the Rise of Marius, Gareth C. Sampson. A study of a forgotten crisis of the Roman Republic, threatened by wars in Gaul, Macedonia and North Africa, and by a series of massive defeats at the hands of the Cimbri. Rome was saved by Marius, the first of a series of soldier-statesmen who eventually overthrew the Republic. [read full review]
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Roman Conquests: Macedonia and Greece, Philip Matyszak. A lucid account of the eighty years that saw the Romans go from virtually unknown outsiders in Greece to become the dominate power in the peninsula having beaten the Macedonians in a series of devastating victories that helped established the superiority of the Legions over the Phalanx [read full review]
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Roman Conquests: Italy, Ross Cowan. A look at the Roman conquest of the Italian Peninsula, the series of wars that saw Rome transformed from a small city state in central Italy into a power that was on the verge of conquering the ancient Mediterranean world. A lack of contemporary sources makes this a difficult period to write about, but Cowan has produced a convincing narrative without ignoring some of the complexity.

[read full review]
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Actium 31 BC, Downfall of Antony and Cleopatra, Si Sheppard. Despite its title this book actually looks at the entire course of the rivalry between Octavian and Mark Antony, tracing their rivalry from the temporary peace patched up at Brundisium in 40 BC to the eventual outbreak of open war and the decisive battle at Actium. Sheppard also includes a chapter on the evolution of the ancient warship, while still finding the space to cover Actium itself in some detail. This is one of the stronger entries in the campaign series and a well structured and informative look at a key period in Roman history. [see more]
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Carrhae 53 BC – Rome’s Disaster in the Desert, Nic Fields. Looks at one of the most one-sided defeats suffered by the Roman Republic when the army led by Crassus was almost wiped out during an invasion of Parthia, and Crassus and his son killed either in the battle or the aftermath. Includes good background information, an examination of Crassus’s actual army and a look at the nature of the Parthian military, all of which helps explain why the battle was so one sided (Read Full Review)
Constantinople and 717-18 – The Crucible of History, Si Sheppard. Looks at the second Arab siege of Constantinople, which saw the apparently terminal decline of the Byzantine Empire end with the succesful defence of the city by Leo III, a victory that gave the Empire nearly another millennium of life. An interesting account of one of the most important sieges of the period, which ended a major threat to the survival of Byzantium (Read Full Review)
Caudine Forks 321 BC – Rome’s Humiliation in the Second Samnite War, Nic Fields. Looks at the early history of Rome, the nature of the Samnites and their expansion in southern Italy, the earlier clashes between the two, the aftermath of the battle, the possible impact of the Samnite wars on the Roman army, and what little we know about the actual battle itself, which may not actually have included much fighting (Read Full Review)
The Battle of the Catalaunian Fields AD 451, Evan Michael Schultheis. A look at the famous clash between Atilla the Hun and a Roman led army that is sometimes described as the battle that saved Western Europe from being conquered by the Huns, but that actually came a year before Atilla invaded Italy, and only a few years before the final collapse of the Western Roman Empire. Places the battle within the context of fading Roman power in the west, the wider series of wars against Atilla, and the impact it had on the collapse of Rome (Read Full Review)
Milvian Bridge AD 312 - Constantine's battle for Empire and Faith, Ross Cowan. Looks at the background to the civil war, the events of the entire campaign and the battle itself, which turns out to be more difficult to understand than one might have expected, with no clear location and different accounts of the course of the battle itself. The author has his own views on the location and course of the battle, and supports it with a good discussion of the sources (Read Full Review)
Alesia - The Final Struggle for Gaul, Nic Fields. A useful history of the siege and associated battles that secured Caesar's conquest of Gaul and ended Vercingetorix's revolt, the first (and only) time that the Gallic tribes united against Caesar. Starts with a history of Vercingetorix's revolt and the earlier failed siege of Gergova, before moving onto the climatic siege of Alesia, the massive Gallic relief effort and its defeat by Caesar. A good account of this siege, supported by excellent maps showing the besieged town and its surroundings. [read full review]

Contemporary Accounts

The Gallic War , Julius Caesar. One of the great works of western civilisation. Caesar was an almost unique example of a great general who was also a great writer. The Gallic War is a first hand account of Caesar's conquest of Gaul, written at the time to explain and justify his actions.
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Garrison Life at Vindolanda: A Band of Brothers, Anthony Birley. One of the most significant survivals from the Roman world are the Vindolanda tablets, wooden letters that survived at the site of a fort on Hadrians Wall. These tablets provide a truly unique insight into the everyday life of the Roman army in the early empire.
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Ancient History Magazine

Ancient Warfare Special Issue 2009: The Varian Disaster – the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest. A good selection of articles to mark the 2000th anniversary of one of the most significant battles in European history. The articles cover the earlier Roman conquests in Germany, the Roman and German armies, the battle itself, a look at the battlefield and at the aftermath of the battle. [see more]
Try Ancient Warfare magazine for 6 months. Click to subscribeAncient Warfare Volume III Issue 5 . The Imperial Nemesis: Rome vs. Parthia. An interesting set of articles that look at the clash between Rome and her eastern neighbours in the Parthian Empire, including articles on Trajan's Parthian War, the armed diplomacy begun by Augustus and the famous Parthian bow. Variety comes with an article on the Athenian general Myronides, and a look at the Breviarum of Festus. [see more]
Try Ancient Warfare magazine for 6 months. Click to subscribeAncient Warfare VIII Issue 5: Rebellion against the Empire: The Jewish-Roman Wars. Focuses on the three major Jewish revolts of 66-135 AD, in which the Romans struggled successful to overcome determined Jewish resistance, and each of which resulted in worse hardships for the Jews within the Roman Empire. Most articles look at the first revolt, but there is one each on the second and third, as well as a look at the possible use of dogs in Greek warfare and on Alexander the Great's conquest of the Persian coastal satrapies [see more]
Try Ancient Warfare magazine for 6 months. Click to subscribeAncient Warfare VIII Issue 6: The Savage Captor: Taken Captive, the Roman conquest of Greece. . Looks at the series of wars that saw the Romans go from minor players in the far west to the dominant power in Greece, after a series of wars considered to be unusually savage by Greek historians. Includes articles on the reasons the Romans were seen as so brutal, their equipment, and the key battle of Cynoscephalae. [see more]
Ancient Warfare Vol X, Issue 3: Rome  versus Poisonous Pontus  - The Mithridatic Wars, 88-63 BCAncient Warfare Vol X, Issue 3: Rome versus Poisonous Pontus - The Mithridatic Wars, 88-63 BC Longs at the three wars between Rome and Mithridates VI of Pontus, spread out over three crucial decades that saw the beginning of the end for the old Roman Republic. Includes articles on the Roman strategy in Asia Minor, the Greek view of the wars, the armies of Mithridates, his ally Tigranes II and the Roman commander Lucullus. Away from the theme there is a look at Egyptian sea power, and the nature of Greek siege warfare [see more]
Try Ancient Warfare magazine for 6 months. Click to subscribeAncient Warfare Vol XII, Issue 1: Army for an Empire - Augustus’s new model military Focuses on the army used by Augustus during his rise to power and the reforms he put in place after the end of the civil war. Takes an unusual approach, built around a single long article on the main theme supported by small inserts to produce a useful study of the first Roman Imperial army. Supported by a series of articles on other Greek and Roman topics [see more]
Ancient Warfare Vol XI, Issue 2: On the Cusp of Empire - The Romans unify ItalyAncient Warfare Vol XI, Issue 2: On the Cusp of Empire - The Romans unify Italy Focuses on the period which saw Rome defeat its last enemies in peninsular Italy, the first stage on the road to Empire. An interesting focus on the Greeks of southern Italy, Rome's last major enemies , and a fascinating look at two newly discovered frescos recovered from grave robbers by the Italian police that give us images of some of Rome's enemies in this period. [see more]
Ancient Warfare Vol X, Issue 6: Ancient Rome in Turmoil - The Year of the Four EmperorsAncient Warfare Vol X, Issue 6: Ancient Rome in Turmoil - The Year of the Four Emperors Looks at one of the more familiar topics in Roman history, the turmoil that ended the reign of Nero and with it the Julio-Claudian dynasty, and ended the period of internal peace first established by Augustus. Mainly focuses on topics that are away from the main events of the civil wars, demonstrating just how widespread an impact the year of crisis had across the Empire. [see more]
Try Ancient Warfare magazine for 6 months. Click to subscribeMedieval Warfare Vol VIII, Issue 5: Early Arab Assaults on Byzantium Focuses on the early Arab attacks on the city of Constantinople, and the Byzantine armies that defeated them, including a convincing argument that the first Arab siege, of 674-8, probably didn’t happen in that form as well as a look at the siege of 717-8 that very much did. Includes a fascinating account of the contacts between the Spanish in the Philippines and Japanese exiles, including as enemies and as much admired mercenaries [see more]
Try Ancient Warfare magazine for 6 months. Click to subscribeAncient Warfare Vol XI, Issue 3 Roman against Roman, Caesar and Pompey in the Balkans Focuses on the key campaign in the fall of the Roman Republic, where an outnumbered Caesar came back from an early defeat to overcome Pompey and the main defenders of the Republic, removing the main opposition to his personal rule. Also looks at the sources for Legionary cavalry, the difficult art of the ambush and the presence of the cataphract in north-western Europe [see more]

Try Ancient Warfare magazine for 6 months. Click to subscribeAncient Warfare Volume VII Issue 6. The Reluctant Warlord: The Wars of Marcus Aurelius. Looks at the career and writings of the famous philosopher emperor, who wrote books of consoling stoic philosophy while fighting a brutal war on the German borders (one of the few later Emperors to make an impact on the modern imagination, as seen in Gladiator). [see more]

Try Ancient Warfare magazine for 6 months. Click to subscribeAncient Warfare Volume VII Issue 4 . Movement and supply: Logistics and the army train. Looks at how the realities of supplying an army impacted on warfare in the Ancient World, covering a wide range of topics from Assyria and Babylon to the mobile late Roman army. Also looks at the warrior in Greek lyric poetry and the nature of Mithraism.. [see more]
Ancient Warfare Vol VII, Issue 3: Conquerors of Italy: The Early Roman Republic.. Focuses on the centuries of warfare that saw Rome grow from a small city-state dominated by its Etruscan neighbours into the only power left in mainland Italy and one on the verge of bursting out into the rest of the Ancient world.  An interesting selection of articles on this pivotal but fairly obscure period of Roman history. [read full review]
Ancient Warfare Vol VII, Issue 2: Struggle for control: Wars in ancient Sicily. Focuses on the series of wars between Greeks, Carthaginians, Romans and native Sicilians that turned Sicily into a battleground in the centuries before the eventual Roman conquest, with good coverage of the wars between the Greek and Punic settlers and the tyrants that ruled for so long. Also looks at Roman ownership marks, attempts to avoid service in the Legions and Alexander's victory at the Granicus. [read full review]
Ancient Warfare Vol VI, Issue 1: From heroes to hoplites: Warfare in Archaic Greece. Looks at the nature of warfare as described by Homer and the differences between the heroic conflict portrayed in the Iliad and the hoplite warfare of classical Greece. Also looks at the origins of the hoplite and the phalanx, an apparently endless debate. [read full review]
Ancient Warfare Volume V Issue 5: Securing seas and shores: Fleets of the Roman Empire. Focuses on the Roman navy, the less famous branch of the Roman military but still an important part of the military machine that protected the Empire and the Emperor. Also looks at the death of Alexander the Great, a Scythian helmet and the space needed by Roman and Macedonian troops. [read full review]
Try Ancient Warfare magazine for 6 months. Click to subscribeAncient Warfare Volume III Issue 1. This is the first magazine that we have reviewed, and contains a wide-ranging selection of articles looking at the role of the mercenary in ancient warfare, from the Nubian archers of the Pharaohs to the Germanic auxiliaries of the later Roman Empire. These are well written articles aimed at the educated general reader with an interest in the topic, with a focus on the ancient Greek and Roman worlds. [see more]
Try Ancient Warfare magazine for 6 months. Click to subscribeAncient Warfare Volume III Issue 3 . This edition focuses on the individual heroic warrior, both in reality and in Homer. There is a good mix of articles, looking at Homer's work, its influence on Philip II and Alexander the Great, the shield of Achilles, Achaean armour, awards for bravery in the Roman army, the berserker and two interesting but little known sources. This is a good mix of interesting well written articles. [see more]
Ancient History Vol V Issue 2: Swords around the throne: Bodyguards of kings and emperors. Focuses on royal bodyguards, from the biblical guards of King David, to possible guards for the kings of Sparta, the guards of Alexander the Great and his successors in Egypt and on to the Praetorian Guard. . [read full review]
Ancient Warfare Vol V Issue 3: The last great enemy: Rome and the Sassanid Empire. This issue of Ancient Warfare Magazine focuses on Sassanid Persia, the last great civilised opponent of Rome (and a major opponent for the early Byzantines). Includes an overview of the Sassanid era, a look at the role of their army, an examination of their many victories over the Romans, and a reconstruction of one type of Sassanid soldier. [read full review]

Ancient Warfare Magazine: Volume IV, Issue 5, Fighting for the Gods: Warfare and ReligionAncient Warfare Vol V Issue 1: The 'new man' who saved Rome: Gaius Marius at War. An examination of the career of one of the great military and political leaders of the late Republic, looking at his military achievements, the innovations attributed to him and the political background to his rise and career. Also looks at professionalism under Alexander the Great and the role of the chariot on the battlefield. [see more]

Ancient Warfare Magazine: Volume IV, Issue 5, Fighting for the Gods: Warfare and ReligionAncient Warfare Magazine: Volume IV, Issue 5, Fighting for the Gods: Warfare and Religion. All but one of the articles are focused on the central theme, while still covering a very wide range of time and of topics, from the first introduction of religion into warfare in Ancient Persia to the conversion of the Frankish king Clovis almost at the end of antiquity. [see more]

Ancient Warfare Special Issue 2010: Core of the Legion - The Roman Imperial centuria. Ancient Warfare Special 2010 - Core of the Legion, The Roman Imperial centuria. Special issue looking at the early Imperial century, the best known sub-unit of the Roman Legion. Articles look at the organisation, equipment and battlefield role of the century and the careers of their centurions, as well as a fascinating look at the fragmentary administrative documents that have survived. [see more]

Ancient Warfare Vol IV, Issue 3, Justinian's fireman: Belisarius and the Byzantine EmpireAncient Warfare Vol IV, Issue 3, Justinian's fireman: Belisarius and the Byzantine Empire. A look at the life and times of Belisarius, one of the most talented generals to serve the Byzantine Empire and a man who came close to restoring the Western Empire, conquering North Africa, Italy and parts of Spain, and recovering Rome for the Empire. [see more]

Try Ancient Warfare magazine for 6 months. Click to subscribeAncient Warfare Volume IV Issue 1 . A multitude of peoples: Before Rome ruled Italy. Focusing on the many different peoples who inhabited Italy before the Roman conquest, from their near neighbours in Etruria to the Greek cities of southern Italy, this edition of Ancient Warfare magazine gives us a glimpse of an unfamiliar version of Ancient Italy . [see more]
Try Ancient Warfare magazine for 6 months. Click to subscribeAncient Warfare Volume III Issue 6 . Carnyx, cornu and signa: Battlefield communications. With its main focus on military signals and standards this issue of Ancient Warfare magazine looks at the evolution of the battle standard from Persian to Roman times, and the various methods used to issue commands across the ancient battlefield, including musical instruments. Also includes a look at late Roman battle tactics, and the battle of Cunaxa. [see more]



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