The Limes – Relics of an Empire

Many people have heard of Hadrian’s Wall in the UK and same have even heard of the Antonine Wall a little farther north.  What many people have never heard of or if they have heard of do not know where they are located are the Roman Limes(pronounced leem-ez) that stretched around the entire periphery of the ancient Roman Empire.  In many places the Limes ran along rivers or inaccessible mountains but in places where this was not possible the Romans built and garrisoned physical fortifications to mark the extent of their territory and prevent outside invaders from getting in an attacking or raiding within Roman territory. Because my wife and … More after the Jump…

The Battlefield of Cannae: a Site Visit

The Battlefield of Cannae: a Site Visit The Battle of Cannae in 212 B.C. is perhaps the platonic ideal of what a decisive victory should look like.  Western commanders have been trying to replicate it since it happened over two millennia ago.  It was the final in a series of crushing defeats suffered by the Romans in the second Punic War to Hannibal Barca the other two being the Battles of Trebia and Lake Trasimene; one day I will visit these sights as well.  I covered the battle in a post almost exactly five years ago here: http://www.military-history.us/2010/10/rome-and-cannae/.  This past summer while on vacation in Italy I finally got around … More after the Jump…

The Marian Legion

I haven’t touched on anything about antiquity for a while so I thought I would put this up as I have been thinking about this for the last week or two. This is the Marian Legion or the Reforms of Marius, whichever you choose to call it. These reforms are important because they set the stage for the Legion of the period of the Civil War and early Imperium, especially the time of the Pax Romana.   These reforms are probably not a direct result of the genius of Gaius Marius, he just gets credit for implementing them.   That being said, he is the one who implemented them and … More after the Jump…

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 … More after the Jump…

Book Review: Makers of Ancient Strategy – Edited by Victor David Hanson

This book was conceived as being a sort of prequel to the modern classic, Makers of Modern Strategy, edited by Peter Paret and first published in the 70’s and updated in the 90’s. As Dr Hanson states in his foreword the scholars who wrote the various essays presented in the book did so with an eye to drawing lessons from antiquity that are relevant to the challenges faced by modern states and statesmen. They have succeeded admirably. It is not as hard to do as you might think despite the fact that modern war is fought with the benefit of tanks, night vision, aircraft, and satellite communications. Modern commanders Face … More after the Jump…

The Battle of Zama – 202 B.C.

The Battle of Zama, fought in 202 B.C., was the culminating battle of the Second Punic War between Carthage and Rome. The short story of the battle is that a Roman army under Scipio met and destroyed the Carthaginian Army under Hannibal. The defeat forced the Carthaginian Senate to sue for peace and ended the war. What makes the battle interesting from my perspective is that the Roman army was outnumbered and on the offensive and still won. This is not typically what happens in warfare, especially in warfare in antiquity when numbers made a rather large difference in melee combat. One thing that makes Zama stand out is the … More after the Jump…

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 … More after the Jump…

Roman Infantry Attacks

I recently re-watched the movie Gladiator and was struck again by the lack of historical accuracy in films. This is the scene of which I am writing about. What strikes me about this scene is the way the Romans stood and received the charge of the Germans after marching forward of their fixed defenses. To the best of my knowledge and everything I have ever read, the Romans did not stand and receive a charge in open field battles and especially not when fighting from fixed or field fortifications. Instead, whether attacking or defending; when the enemy was within 20-30m the Legionnaires would throw their Pilums and charge or counter-charge … More after the Jump…

Ancient Roman Military Equipment according to Polybius

Polybius provides a detailed description of Roman Legionary equipment in Book VI of his Histories. He begins by describing infantry equipment and then describes the equipment of the cavalry and auxiliaries in turn. This post will concentrate on his description of the equipment worn by the four classes of citizen infantry velites, hastatii, princeps, and triarii. The velites were light troops or skirmishers. They were equipped with a plain helmet, sword, javelins, and a shield called a parma. According to Polybius, the shield was round and about 3 Roman feet in diameter. The javelins were also 3 Roman feet long and had an iron point made such that it was … More after the Jump…