Book Review: Roman Empire at War: A Compendium of Roman Battles from 31 B.C. to A.D. 565

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by Don Taylor

Barnsley, Eng.: Pen & Sword / Philadelphia: Casemate Publishers, 2016. Pp. viii, 216. Maps, diagr., notes, biblio., index. $34.95. ISBN: 1473869080

A Dictionary of the Battles of the Roman Empire

Prof. Taylor (Hardin-Simmons), who has specialized in Roman history, has complied a valuable reference guide to the battles of the Roman Empire from the reign of Augustus through that of Justinian.  He opens with an overview of the evolution of the Roman military institutions during the empire, gives a brief look at changes in organization, missions, and tactics. Taylor follows this with a short critical discussion of the relevant sources and their reliability, and a note on the use of numbers in these.

Taylor then gives us summaries of about 300 battles, arranged in alphabetical order. Depending on available sources, which are often quite thin, an entry can vary from four or five lines to several pages. As far as is possible, he includes details on the circumstances of the battle, the respective armies and their commanders, the course of the fighting, and the consequences, with some commentary on unusual aspects of the encounter, at times offering excellent analysis of the strategic situaton. Naturally this means that the most famous battles receive the best treatment, because they are always the most well documented. Taylor, however, often manages to squeeze an impressive amount of detail from seemingly slender references, in part on analogy with other fights and in part through inference. For many of the longer pieces, he includes simple, clear, and useful maps and diagrams to illustrate the action. Taylor ends the book with a summary listing of the battles chronologically; while it might have been more useful had he listed the main entries of the battles chronologically rather than alphabetically, this is arguably a matter of taste

Roman Empire at War is an indispensable reference guide for any student of the Roman military.

Note: Roman Empire at War is also available in several e-editions

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Reviewer: A.A. Nofi, Review Editor   


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