Book Review: Roman Republic at War: A Compendium of Roman Battles from 502 to 31 BC


by Don Taylor

Barnsley, Eng.: Pen & Sword / Philadelphia: Casemate Publishers, 2017. Pp. viii, 320. Maps, diagr., notes, biblio., index. $39.95. ISBN: 1473894425

A Dictionary of the Battles of the Roman Republic

Prof. Taylor (Hardin-Simmons), who has specialized in Roman history, has complied a valuable reference guide to the battles of the Roman Republic. He opens with an introduction outlining the major trends in Roman military practice under the Republic, noting the evolution of the army as it met and adapted to various foes, often adopting useful practices from their enemies, and then gives us a brief analysis of the relevant sources in ancient literature and from archaeological finds.

Taylor then gives us summaries of almost 500 battles. Each summary can vary from four or five lines to several pages, depending on available sources, which in many cases are quite thin. As far as possible, Taylor includes details on the circumstances of the battle, as much as possible setting them within the broader picture of the Republic’s life at the time. He gives us whatever details are available on the composition and nature of the armies and their commanders, and wherever possible outlines the course of the fighting, often in some detail, but at times is only able to note who won, if that. Where possible, each entry outlines the consequences of a battle.

Naturally this means that the most famous battles -- those with Hannibal or during the Civil Wars for example -- receive the best treatment, at times going on for several pages, because they are always the most well documented. Nevertheless, for some of the more obscure battles, Taylor often manages to squeeze an impressive amount of detail from otherwise slender references. For many of the longer pieces, he includes simple, clear, and useful maps and tactical diagrams to illustrate the action.

This is an indispensable reference guide for any student of the Roman military, and a worthy companion to his earlier Roman Empire at War: A Compendium of Roman Battles from 31 B.C. to A.D. 565.


Note: Roman Republic at War is also available in several e-editions
Reviewer: A. A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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