The Battle of Mantinea

Mantinea 5

The Battle of Mantinea was part of the Great Peloponnesian War (430-404 B.C.). The war was fought in an effort to defeat and contain the growing power of Sparta in Greek Affairs. The war was ultimately a failure as Sparta won in the end and dictated terms to Athens and her allies in the process guaranteeing that Athens would not dominate the Greek world. The prelude to the battle itself was a gathering of Argive Alliance troops who attacked Tegea, about 5 miles south of Mantinea. The Spartans rallied to Tegea’s defense and began to divert a stream to flood Mantinean territory. The main source for the course of the … Read more…

Book Review: Holy Wars: 3000 Years of Battles in the Holy Land by Gary Rashba

HOLY WARS: 3000 Years of Battles in the Holy Land is one of the better primers about conflict in the Holy Land to appear within the last few years.  It consists of 17 chapters covering the initial Israelite conquest of Canaan in 1400 B.C. to the Israeli offensive against Hezbollah in southern Lebanon in 1982.  The more recent Israeli-Palestinian conflict is covered in the epilogue.  The work is 288 pages and includes extensive notes at the end of each chapter as well as a well sourced bibliography and index.  The Kindle edition, which is what I have, was mostly free of editing errors and the only complaint I have is … Read more…

Book Review: The Last Full Measure: How Soldiers Die in Battle by Michael Stephenson

[FULL DISCLOSURE: I received my copy of this book free from the publisher for purposes of reviewing it. I was not paid for this review and the opinion expressed is purely my own] Michael Stephenson’s work The Last Full Measure: How Soldiers Die in Battle follows somewhat in the tradition of classics such a Keegan’s The Face of Battle and Victor David Hanson’s The Western Way of War. Where it differs from these two works as that while Keegan and Hanson focus on specific battles or time periods this book aims to be a more general description of the experience of combat throughout recorded history.  In that, the book is amazingly … Read more…

Book Review: The Anabasis by Xenophon

The route of Xenophons March Up Country

I read part of this work in High School over twenty years ago and decided a few weeks ago to finish reading it. Now that I am done, I wonder why I waited so long. The book was written by Xenophon, and ancient Greek soldier and general, in the late 4th Century BC. Xenophon’s account in The Anabasis is one of the first true (in several senses of the word) adventure stories to be transmitted from antiquity. There is as much adventure here as will be found in any modern day work of fiction. One of the things that makes this book so great is that as I was reading … Read more…

Book Review: Julius Caesar: Lessons in Leadership from the Great Conqueror by Bill Yenne

[FULL DISCLOSURE: I received my copy of this book free from the publisher. I was not paid for this review and the opinion expressed is purely my own] I am someone who loves the ancients and loves reading the their stories. That being said, I am much more likely to read Caesar’s Commentaries or Plutarch’s Life of Caesar than a modern day biography derived from those sources. In fact, I have read all those ancient works, most in both English and the original Latin. This book was a pleasure to read anyway.  Bill Yenne has put together a comprehensive account of Caesar’s life that someone unfamiliar with Caesar’s exploits can … Read more…

Book Review: The Roman Army at War: 100 BC – AD 200 by Adrian Keith Goldsworthy

  I thought this book would be more than it turned out to be, unfortunately, I was mistaken. The author states in the forward that it is an expansion of his doctoral dissertation and it is obvious throughout that this is indeed the case. Neither that or my disappointment make this a book not worth reading though, it is in fact worth reading. The first chapter alone makes it well worth the purchase price. Dr. Goldsworthy has produced perhaps the best, and most concise description of the organization and structure of the roman army outside of Vegetius or Polybius that I have found. The book is divided into six sections … Read more…

Book Review: On Roman Military Matters by Vegetius

This little tome by the Roman scholar Flavius Vegetius Renatus was written sometime in the 5th Century A.D. and is known by several titles, the original Latin title is De re Militari but is variously known as the Epitome of Military Science and On Roman Military Matters, the copy I have uses the latter title. This is one of the few works that survived from antiquity in continuous publication, if you will. It was used as a text on military operations throughout the Middle Ages and has survived to this day. Just about every king, noble, and military leader of the Middle Ages had a copy of this book and … Read more…

Book Review: The Conquest of Gaul by Julius Caesar, translated by S.A. Hanford

The Conquest of Gaul tells the story of the Roman Conquest of what is now France, Switzerland, most of the Low Countries, and parts of present day Germany.  It was written by Julius Caesar, the Governor of the Roman province of Transalpine Gaul from 59 B.C. until he was declared Dictator of Rome in 44 B.C.  He presents a linear account of the conquest of Gaul set forth as a series of books, each book covering one year of his governorship.  The first seven books were written by Caesar himself as yearly reports to Rome.  The seventh book covering 51 B.C. was written after Caesar’s death by Aulus Hirtius who … Read more…

Book Review: Polybius-The Histories

The Histories by Polybius is the next book in classics arc. It covers the period from the beginning of the First Punic War in 267 B.C. to 167 B.C. when he claims the Roman Empire was essentially complete and ruled most of the known world. He claims to write the first universal history and has some pretty harsh words for historians who preceded him, especially Timaeus of Locri. The complete text of the histories is available online at several sites, the one I like the best is Bill Thayer’s site LacusCurtis, he has a huge number of classic texts online as well as travelogues of many classic sites and what … Read more…

The Battle of Lake Trasimene- 217 B.C.

I am currently reading Polybius’ Histories, and I have finally gotten to the part where he describes the events during the Second Punic War.  Last night I read his account of the battle of Lake TRasimene in 217 B.C. Trasimene was not the first of the great disasters to befall the Romans in the Second Punic War, but it was the first that really threw the Roman people into a panic. The Romans had been defeated and lost an army at the Battle of the Trebia in December, 218 B.C. the Romans had reacted to that loss by raising another army to face Hannibal led by the Consuls for 217 … Read more…