Book Review: "Roman Legionary AD 284-337"

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Book Review: "Roman Legionary AD 284-337"

Postby Marcus Minucius Audens » Tue Jan 24, 2017 12:02 am

>>>> "Roman Legionary AD 284-337" <<<<

>>> Book Review: Ross Cowan, Sean O’Brogain (Illust.)

The emperors Diocletion and Constantine were the great emperors of their period and it was during that era that we see the highpoint of the legionary system as was exemplified in the earlier principate and later during the empire. New weapons and smaller size reduced the legions in size, but actuated a more agile movement and fighting style. This book reveals that while the legions during this period, reigned supreme over all opponents, they were changing. The battle formation is covered in detail together with the chronological history of the battles. The legions pressed upon the Sarmatians and the Goths both in defeat and in the return of these barbarians to the position of vassal groups. This volume will detail for the reader the background, weapons, training, equipment, and the experience of combat, which were combined in the Roman Legions, and which formed the strong backbone of this rather murky and confusing time period of new ideas, and change. Many color drawings gives this book an added plus, as well as being easy to read and very enjoyable.

There is a feature in the author’s approach, which, is developed systematically in this particular book. Essentially, the late c.3rd to early c.4th legionary, which corresponded to the reigns of the two emperors, is examined largely through descriptive evidence; triumphal arches, funerary steles, archaeological remains of Roman equipment, and the legions’ brick stamps that can be found throughout various Roman ruins. This approach is one that yields a number of significant benefits. It also is different from the usual historical approach which utilizes as the starting point written sources and also which uses the following sciences, that include archaeology, epigraphy, and numismatics. The author has chosen the hard evidence approach both in stone and metal. This is the starting point and the written sources with all their various views, and otherwise limited evidence is used as appropriate to corroborate it.

The major benefits, when using the inscriptions of gravestones of Roman legionaries of the period under review, is that it allows the author to identify who they were, what their careers were like, and how they represented themselves. The main point here being, that the author’s approach is particularly useful, interesting, and informative about a legionary’s life both in garrison and on the field. The many different roles of soldiers are mentioned. There are, of course, many different military positions as well, one particularly, is the mention about ‘trainers.’ In a more general fashion, is the investigation of the sociology of a legion. Also, we know the numbers and names of the various legions, and where the legionary's had completed their service; so it is often possible to place the legions as to their location at various times. It would also be possible to gain an idea as to the length of service an individual legionary had with each legion.

The sections on battles, campaigns, and battle reviews are very good and take up about twenty pages (this includes the color plates). One very good point which shows to what extent the Legend of Constantine has quite deliberately obscured the fact that neither the Roman Commanders Maxentius, nor Licinius were either incompetent or dilatory, and that, in both cases, Constantine’s victories were not simplistic, but rather, hard-fought battles. A second point which was excellent, was that much more emphasis should be placed on differences in morale between the two opponents instead of the relatively small differences in religion. Also to be considered is that Constantine’s victories, in large part may well have been brought on by his penchant for leading from the front in the style of other great commanders, together with his significant personal charisma.

Respectfully Submitted;
Marcus Audens
Marcus Minucius Audens

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