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Books on the Roman Military

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This page features a number of good books on the Roman military. We've pointed out the best first. If you see some we're missing, by ALL MEANS, let us know!


It is, without a doubt, the best thing for the reenactor to get, as it shows full-color photos of Roman reenactors!

If the movie "Gladiator" shows Roman troops in all their glory on the big screen, "The Roman Legions: Recreated in Colour Photographs" captures all this glory in a book. The photos contained in this book are the marching Roman recreations you see on The Learning Channel, PBS, Discovery, and other educational TV shows. The author, Daniel Peterson, is a military historian and a museum curator and is also the organizer for the largest and most accurate recreations of the Roman military life. He's a member of the world's only authentically reconstructed Roman Calvary unit and in his personifying role has lived, marched, and ridden hundreds of miles across what was once the Roman Empire. His unit is authentically armored and equipped and prepares and eats authentic rations during their outings as Roman Legions. It goes without saying that his book is just as he envisioned it down to the last detail.

Suffice to say, the photos are absolutely stunning! There are hardly any drawings, paintings, or "historical art" in this book; that is all photos of Roman gear and equipment are real replicas and are worn by real humans. Front and back views are presented of Legionnaires, Calvary, Standard Bearers, Centurions, and auxiliary infantrymen. There are plenty of close-ups and detail shots of daggers, helmets, chain main, link plate, shields, and siege engines. Best of all, there are photos showing Legions marching, in formation, defending, and setting up defenses. There are no enemy actors in the photos so someone looking of battle scenes or how Rome's enemies look like will have to use other books.

This book has a brief history of the Roman Empire and also shows gear worn by early (BC) and later (300AD) Romans troops. However, the main focus of this book is showing Roman soldiers at the height of the Roman Empire: 1AD-200AD, or the traditional Legionary and Centurion with the red tunic and chrome plate body armor we often remember.

What makes this book so worthwhile? First off, the page layout is superb. Mr. Peterson succeeded in cramming in lots of photos and text onto each page with the precision, appeal, and organization of a museum display. On a single page, the reader doesn't just learn about one thing, but many things without getting "information overload." The captions are paragraph size and very informative, providing yet more information to the photo shown. Secondly, the photos are just unrivaled. Brilliant and in its entire splendor, the photos don't just provide information, color, and detail, but actually convey a sense of "Roman power" to the reader. One can see how colorful and fearsome the Roman Legions must have appeared as they march in formation towards the photographer in full battle dress. Third, the recreations are not skimpy either. They are extravagant and very serious as if dozens of Romans were teleported to present day. Similar to a well-funded TV show, all actors wear and carry the same gear and weapons. No actor shown is "shorted or cheated" into carrying a rubber toy sword or wearing armor made from aluminum foil. No shield is painted in a lighter shade of blue because the storage room ran out of Royal Blue paint to finish the job. This greatly helps the modeler for the modeler knows what he or she is seeing is accurate and consistent. Fourth, there is a LOT of text. This isn't just a picture book where the photos speak for themselves. The author explains why something is this or that way so the Roman figure modeler doesn't have to shrug his shoulders when asked (at a contest for example) and lamely reply, "I don't know." Finally, the photos show the actors behaving like ancient Romans. The poses are real as are the replica settings, props, food, procedures, and structures. So if a modeler wishes to convert or sculpt a Roman Legionnaire figure in a battle pose or show what a Roman campfire looks like, this book has lots of photos to choose from. Hands-down, not only do you see photos of reconstructed Roman troops and ways of life, but you learn about them as well.

As with all reconstructions, a lot of guesswork is created and Mr. Peterson admits what and where guesses were used. He mixes chain mail with plate armor worn in formations and shows Legions composed of various colors and dress. As the expert he is, Mr. Peterson still strives for complete accuracy despite his guesswork. This book is as accurate as one can get-with photos!I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to model Roman Empire figures or is interested in the Roman Legionary.

le soldat romain

Another GREAT book in the same vein as Mr. Peterson's book.

This book also: le soldat romain is well worth having, like Mr. Peterson's book, it is all colour photos but... about 5 times as thick--the only drawback being it's in French.

Description: For its organization and success, the Roman army has always fascinated the world to this day, its pomp and decorum--of the quintessential manifestation of omnipotence. This fascination has seen the Roman Army repeatedly copied throughout history. But if the memorable actions of great Roman generals are frequently highlighted by ancient literature, the bottom of the social ladder of the military hierarchy, the life of the common soldier remains hidden, often mixing legend and reality with it difficult to to tell the difference between the two. By comparing the ancient texts and the latest archaeological discoveries, the author reveals the life of a soldier.

Thanks to the work of reenactment groups, this can be seen. These reenactors are serious about equipment and portraying these legionnaires, auxiliary or praetorian, so that we can today relive those conquerors and the anonymous builders, from when they joined the Eagles until their demobilization.


Roman Legionary 58 BC- AD 69 (Warrior 71) -- The period 31 BC-AD 43 saw the greatest expansion of the Roman Empire. In 31 BC Octavian defeated Antony at the battle of Actium and remodelled the semi-professional Roman army into a permanent force of 28 legions. Octavian became the first emperor (Augustus) and under his leadership the legions conquered northern Spain, all Europe south of the Danube line and Germany west of the Elbe. The legionaries exemplified the heroic culture of the Roman world and this title takes a behind-the-scenes look at their lives, training, weaponry and tactics, including the bloody massacre of the Teutoberg forest.

Roman Military Equipment: From The Punic Wars To The Fall Of Rome -- Rome's rise to empire is often said to have owed much to the efficiency and military skill of her armies and their technological superiority over barbarian enemies. But just how 'advanced' was Roman military equipment? What were its origins and how did it evolve? The authors of this book have gathered a wealth of evidence from all over the Roman Empire - excavated examples as well as pictorial and documentary sources - to present a picture of what range of equipment would be available at any given time, what it would look like and how it would function. They examine how certain pieces were adopted from Rome's enemies and adapted to particular conditions of warfare prevailing in different parts of the Empire. They also investigate in detail the technology of military equipment and the means by which it was produced, and discuss wider questions such as the status of the soldier in Roman society. Both the specially prepared illustrations and the text have been completely revised for the second edition of this detailed and authoritative handbook, bringing it up to date with the very latest research. It illustrates each element in the equipment of the Roman soldier, from his helmet to his boots, his insignia, his tools and his weapons. This book will appeal to archaeologists, ancient and military historians as well as the generally informed and inquisitive reader.

Legionary: The Roman Soldier's (Unofficial) Manual -- This carefully researched yet entertainingly unacademic book tells you how to join the Roman legions, the best places to serve, and how to keep your armor from getting rusty. Learn to march under the eagles of Rome, from training, campaigns, and battle to the glory of a Roman Triumph and retirement with a pension plan.

Every aspect of army life is discussed, from drill to diet, with handy tips on topics such as how to select the best boots, or how to avoid being skewered by enemy spears. 15 color, 25 b&w illustrations.

The Complete Roman Army (The Complete Series) -- The Roman army was one of the most successful fighting forces in history. Its organization and tactics were highly advanced and were unequaled until the modern era. Spectacular monuments to its perseverance and engineering skill are still visible today, most notably Hadrian's Wall and the siegeworks around the fortress of Masada.

This book is the first to examine in detail not just the early imperial army but also the citizens? militia of the Republic and the army of the later Empire. The unprecedented scope and longevity of Roman military success is placed in the context of ordinary soldiers? daily lives, whether spent in the quiet routine of a peaceful garrison or in arduous campaign and violent combat. Key battles and tactics are described, and there are brief biographies of the great commanders.

Drawing on archaeology, ancient art, and original documentary sources, this book presents the most convincing history ever published of the Roman army. 107 full-color and 147 black-and-white illustrations

The Roman Army: The Greatest War Machine of the Ancient World -- The image of the Roman legionary is as familiar today as it was to the citizens - and enemies - of the vast Roman Empire two thousand years ago. This book goes beyond the stereotypes found in popular culture to examine the Roman Army from the first armed citizens of the early Republic through the glorious heights of the Imperial legions to the shameful defeats inflicted upon the late Roman Army by the Goths and Huns. Tracing the development of tactics, equipment and training, this work provides a detailed insight into the military force that enable Rome to become the greatest empire the world has ever seen.

As well as describing the changes in the army over the centuries, The Roman Army also sheds light on the talented men who led these soldiers in battle and the momentous battles fought, including Cannae, Pharsalus, and Adrianople. Illustrated with detailed maps, artwork and photographs, this volume provides a complete reference to the Roman Army from the 8th century BC to the period after the fall of the Western Roman Empire in the 5th century AD.

GREECE AND ROME AT WAR -- In this sumptuous guide to twelve centuries of military development, the late Peter Connolly combines a detailed account of the arms and armies of Greece and Rome with his superb full-color artwork. Making use of fresh archeological evidence and new material on the manufacture and use of the weapons of the period, the author presents an attractive and impressive volume that is both scholarly and beautifully presented with illustrations that are, quite rightly, recognized as being the best and most accurate representation of how the soldiers from these formidable military empires appeared.Greece and Rome at War lucidly demonstrates the face of battle in the ancient world. Covering the wars between the Greeks and the Persians and the epic contest between the Romans and their most capable opponent, Hannibal, as well as organization, tactics, armor and weapons, and much more, this excellent work brings the armies of Greece, Macedon and Rome vividly to life. This new revised edition contains a Preface by Adrian Goldsworthy.
Roman Army from Caesar to Trajan -- Although the common Roman fighting men themselves have left no account, much literature has survived from antiquity. The wealth of archaeological finds, plus the study of surviving Roman scultpure has allowed hisorians to learn much about the nature of the Roman army which conquered an astonishing expanse of territory. Michael Simkins brings all his substantial knowledge to bear on this fascinating subject, covering such topics as army composition, recruitment, training, campaign routine and providing a wealth of detail on weapons, uniforms and equipment. Men-at-Arms 283, 291 and 46 are also available in a single volume special edition as 'Caesar's Legions.'
The Roman Army from Hadrian to Constantine (Men-at-Arms 93) -- This book is also available with a different cover as "Legions of the North." The year of 122 was the first time a Roman Emperor had set foot in the Province of Britannia since the invasion in AD 43. No doubt he had read many reports concerning the damage caused by marauding tribesmen crossing from what is now Scotland into the Province. Hadrian, therefore, decided - in the words of his biographer - 'to build a wall to separate the Romans from the Barbarians'. This engaging work from author Michael Simkins explores in depth the organisation, equipment, weapons and armour of the Roman Army from Hadrian to Constantine, one of the most exciting periods in Roman history.
Roman Military Clothing (1) 100 BC-AD 200 (Men-at-Arms 374) -- The armour and weapons of Rome's legionaries and auxiliaries have been the subject of intense research and speculation, and much has been published - but almost nothing on the actual clothing of Imperial soldiers. In this first part of a rigorous study of the literary, sculptural, pictorial and archaeological evidence, a specialist author/artist examines the clues which enable us to attempt reconstructions of tunics, cloaks, footwear and other items worn by officers and men all over the empire, from the late Republic to c.200 AD. His text is illustrated with meticulous drawings of surviving relief sculptures - particularly soldiers' gravestones - and eight striking colour plates.
Roman Military Clothing (2) AD 200-400 (Men-at-Arms 250) -- The armour and weapons of the Roman army have long been the subject of intense research and speculation. While much has been published on their arms and armour, however, the actual clothing of Imperial soldiers has largely been overlooked. In this second part of a rigorous study of the literary, sculptural, pictorial and archaeological evidence, the specialist author-artist examines the clues which enable us to attempt reconstructions of items worn by officers and men all over the empire during the two centuries between the reign of Septimius Severus and the twilight years of Stilicho.
Early Roman Armies (Men-at-Arms 283) -- The early Romans were only one of a number of peoples that inhabited Iron Age central Italy. From the 8th to the 3rd century BC, the Romans undertook territorial expansion, and conflict with neighbouring tribes and cultures resulted in open war, most notably with the Samnites. Alliances sprang were created too - but the rise of Rome was unstoppable. This title covers the equipment, weaponry and dress of the early Romans, from the traditional foundation in 753 BC to the third century BC, where the dominance of Rome was beyond challenge. It also deals with developments in warfare, covering the early cavalry, the pre-hoplite army, the hoplite army and the manipular army. Etruscan, Latin, and Samnite warfare are also discussed.
Republican Roman Army 200-104 BC -- The principal source of information on the Roman Republican Army is the sixth book of the Histories of the Greek historian Polybius, written a little before 150BC. This engaging text by Nicholas Sekunda draws heavily on this vital source to outline the equipment and organisation of the Roman Republican Army from 200?104 BC -- a time when Rome was growing from a regional to a world power. With plenty of photographs and illustrations, including eight vivid full page colour plates by Angus McBride, this fascinating volume examines such topics as the Roman shield, helmets, the cuirass, greaves, the pilum, legion organisation, the principales and the tactics they employed.
The Praetorian Guard -- The Praetorian Guard of Imperial Rome was the power behind the throne, with the ability to make or break an Emperor. Its origins lay in the guards units of republican commanders and the units of Octavian and Anthony that fought at Actium. This title covers the organisation, dress and history from these early days to the Guard's effective destruction at the battle of Milvian Bridge in AD 312, and also details the guard units of the third and fourth centuries that replaced those lost.
Warriors of Rome -- Contains some odd theories by the author, and the illustrations by Simkins are not up to the standards of Ron Embleton, Angus Mcbride et al, but still a decent basic book with a lot of historical data not covered in other volumes.
Lorica Segmentata: A Handbook of Articulated Roman Plate Armour (Lorica Segmentata) -- This monograph is the first in-depth examination of articulated Roman plate armour since H. Russell Robinson published his ground breaking reconstructions of lorica segmentata in The Armour of Imperial Rome (1975). The book contains a detailed discussion of all the significant evidence including previously unpublished material. Bishop looks at each of the principle types of articulated plate armour, using photographs and drawings of original finds alongside full-sized and specially-prepared computer-generated reconstructions. He examines the strengths and weaknesses of this form of armour, considering a wide range of technical details, as well as practical aspects relating to its reproduction. An accompanying website will provide additional multimedia resources, including colour photographs of original and reconstructed segmental armour, 3D models, video clips, plans, and card models. (100 b/w figures).
The twilight of the Roman Empire saw a revolution in the way war was waged. The drilled infantryman, who had been the mainstay of Mediterranean armies since the days of the Greek hoplite, was gradually replaced by the mounted warrior. This change did not take place overnight, and in the 3rd and 4th centuries the role of the cavalryman was primarily to support the infantry. However, by the time of the 6th century, the situation had been completely reversed. Late Roman Cavalryman gives a full account of the changing experience of the mounted soldiers who defended Rome's withering western empire.

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