“The Grand Strategy of the Roman Empire”

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“The Grand Strategy of the Roman Empire”

Postby Marcus Minucius Audens » Sat Jan 21, 2017 9:17 pm

>>>> “The Grand Strategy of the Roman Empire” <<<<

>>> Edward N. Luttwak, Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 1979

This is a book which I have admired from the time I received it, because of it’s clarity and diagrams which go far, in my view, toward explaining some rather complicated times and efforts of the Roman Empire’s military forces. However, there have been occasions when this book has been severely criticized for it’s inaccuracies, but always without detailing the criticisms. I have found the book quite fun to read, however, I took the title to mean that it was a ‘general strategy’ and not a programmed one. In my view, the idea was one of solving problems as they arose, using the weapons, fortifications, forces at hand, and placing reinforcements where they were needed. It is certainly true that Roman military tactics were changed over this time period, as new weapons and armaments came on the scene, and new fortifications were established. A more mobile army of smaller units were substituted for the large legions, which in a desert scene made the delivery of water and supplies much easier.

However, from what I read, I believe that the Romans knew essentially what they were doing at the time, and in accomplishing the goals which actually moved toward an established strategy. It is obvious to me, that the Romans made some very good decisions along these lines, considering all known aspects. The unknown aspects, of course, must be left to the archaeologists to discover. It is these ‘unknown aspects’ that sometimes give us pause in trying to determine the why and wherefore of the Roman Military actions and campaigns. Our knowledge of those times come from primary sources which were simply perspectives about how the threats were to be met and overturned, and the emphasis of the period was on defending the Empire; and the introduction of policies best fitted of the moment and of the situation to answer to needs perceived by those in power. In my view, Luttwak provides work which outlines not so much a mandated strategic policy or ‘Grand Strategy,’ but rather a more simplistic ‘Vertical Perspective’ in a logical decision making attitude and a definite, if not permanent, defined ideaology.

Further, again in my view, Luttwak’s work stands as a truly original contribution to the field of Roman Military History. His work appears to me to be an unusually coherent and directed military strategy, which makes sense and is an enjoyable read as well. The strategy written about was traceable and understandable throughout and the archaelogical record I found to be quite valuable in furthering my studies. It has been now some time since Luttwak wrote his book, and many things have been discovered since that time, however, even though other more exhaustive works have been created, what really is important is that the work of Luttwak has achieved with his efforts a reality which forces those of us who have read it to achieve a shift decisive and effective in the frame of thought with which we previously considered the Empire and its military actions.

I do NOT find this work to be a dry reading book. The author is not relentless in his scholarly and historic writing, but he does attend to his references and his topic. His writing is much more readable than many, and his views and works I believe are essential for anyone interested in Roman Military History and understanding the period military actions, conflicts, and threats to the Empire from outside it’s boundaries. It is my intention, in the future, to continue to use this work in my studies, writings, and drawings. It has five-starred some 57% on the Amazon scale of excellence, and that seems a pretty good set of standards for me. I have read most of the lower scored reviews, but they do not say as much as the large number of others. If anyone has any further comments about the book, good or bad, not included in the large number of reviews, I should be pleased to hear them!

Marcus Audens
Marcus Minucius Audens

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