Carthage’s Other Wars — Carthaginian Warfare Outside the “Punic Wars” Against Rome — Review

Dexter Hoyos has taken a look at something that has very poor coverage, namely Carthage’s Other Wars. We are all aware of the Punic Wars between Carthage and Rome and to a lesser extent, Carthage’s attempts to expand into Sicily and the conflict that arose with Syracuse among others.

The popular image of Carthage is as a maritime, mercantile state that fought a couple of wars against Rome, eventually losing and setting Rome up to to be the only major power in the Mediterranean.

Carthage’s Other Wars – Carthaginian Warfare Outside the ‘Punic Wars’ Against Rome written by Dexter Hoyos (published by Pen & Sword Military, on 18 September 2019, ISBN: 9781781593578 and 235 pages long) sets out to look at Carthage’s other wars.

According to Timaeus the Sicilian Greek, Carthage was founded in the 38th year prior to the first Olympiad, which in modern terms dates the foundation around 814/13 BC. The city was, according to legend, founded by Dido, who was fleeing from the Tyrian King, Pygmalion. She travelled through Cyprus then on to North Africa. Her alternative name in the stories of the time is Elissa.

While there is not a great deal of Carthaginian text, with the exception of Hanno’s Periplus (sea voyage) in Greek translation and referring to the journey west of the Strait of Gibraltar and down Africa’s West coast, there is information in other sources and Hoyos refers to Herodotus, Aristotle, Diodorus of Sicily who referenced Ephorus, Timaeus of Sicily and Philistus. Pompeius Trogus wrote a history that survived to later times and was abbreviated in Justin’s works. Plutarch provided information on Carthage’s involvement in Sicily and Polybius translated Carthaginian texts of Carthage’s treaties with Rome.

The contents of the book are:

  1. Sources of Knowledge
    1. Carthaginian remnants
    2. Greek and Latin Records
  2. Carthage: city and state
    1. Foundation and footprint
    2. The Carthaginian republic
    3. Trade and business
    4. Merchants, landowners, commoners and slaves
    5. Friends, neighbours and potential foes
  3. Fleets and armies
    1. Carthage’s navy
    2. The army
    3. The defences of Carthage
  4. Early Wars: Malchus to ‘King’ Hamilcar
    1. Malchus: fiction or fact?
    2. Malchus: victories, revenge and ruin
    3. The Magonids: ’empire’ builders?
    4. The expedition of ‘king’ Hamilcar
  5. The Revenge of Hannibal the Magonid
    1. The aftermath of Himera
    2. A new Sicilian war: the first expedition of Hannibal the Magonid
    3. Carthage victorious, 406-05 BC
  6. Carthage against Dionysius and Syracuse
    1. Uneasy peace, 405-398
    2. Himilco vs Dionysius
    3. Mago vs Dionysius
    4. Mago and Himilco against Dionysius
    5. Last war with Dionysius
  7. Carthage against Timoleon
    1. Carthage and the turmoils of Sicily
    2. The arrival of Timoleon
    3. Sorting out sources
    4. The enigma of Mago
    5. The battle at the Crimisus
    6. Gisco and peace
  8. Carthage against Agathocles
    1. The advent of Agathocles
    2. Agathocles frustrating Carthage
    3. Carthage at war with Agathocles
    4. Africa invaded
    5. The destruction of Hamilcar
    6. The destruction of Ophellas and Bomilcar
    7. Agathocles fails in Africa, wins in Sicily
    8. The end of the war
  9. The Sicilian stalemate: Pyrrhus and Hiero
    1. The woes of post-Agathoclean Sicily
    2. The war with Pyrrhus
    3. Hiero of Syracuse
  10. Carthage at War in Africa and Spain
    1. Libya: subjects and rebels
    2. The Truceless War: origins and outbreak
    3. Horrors of the Truceless War
    4. Carthage’s victory
    5. Barcid Carthage’s Spanish empire

There is also a Concluding Chapter, List of Plates, Maps, Preface and Acknowledgements, Abbreviations and Reading, along with Endnotes and Index.

The writing style of Hoyos is quite easy to read and flows well. He examines the sources and secondary readings critically and well, although I did have some trouble locating some of his references (for example, Connolly (1981) is referenced in Carthage’s Navy’s endnotes  but there is no reference to his works in the reading list (I could reasonably guess that we are referring to Connolly, Peter (1981), Greece and Rome at War, Macdonald Phoebus Ltd).

Having said that, the book is a solid piece of research into a little covered area of Carthaginian history. I have had an interest in Carthage since the mid-1970s but most of my previous reading was around the Punic Wars. This has opened an entire other area of interest to me in Carthaginian History.

Best of all, the book is currently on special at Pen and Sword – and it is well recommended.

Images of War — Hungarian Armoured Fighting Vehicles in the Second World War

I’ve been in an Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) period for seven weeks now, hopefully this time next week some of the restrictions will be lifted here in Makati City. The ECQ only permits us to go outside, one person only per household, for food and drugs and if in a particular industry. A lifting of that ECQ would permit being outsie for other purposes, although, of course, maintaining social distancing and wearing a mask.

On the plus side, this has given me more time in the evenings to catch up on some of my growing pile of reading. There will be a spate of book reviews coming in the near future.

First cab off the rank is an Images of War series on the Hungarian Army. The Hungarian Army was allied to Germany during the Second World War, at least up until the end. The relationship was not without conflict. The Hungarians were, however, possibly the best of the Axis Allies.

Eduardo Manuel Gil Martínez has written about Hungarian Armoured Fighting Vehicles in the Second World War. This is one of the Images of War series from Pen and Sword Military (ISBN: 9781526753816, Published: 2 October 2019). The book runs to 112 pages with 150 rare photographs from wartime archives

The book covers not just the images, but also provides a good potted history of the Hungarian Involvement. The book is organised into:

  • Introduction
  • The Birth of the Hungarian Armoured Forces
  • The Second World War Begins
  • Action in the Ukraine, 1942
  • Reorganization After the Storm, 1943
  • Defending Hungary, 1944
  • The Swansong of the Hungarian Armoured Forces, 1945
  • Conclusions
  • Bibliography

The author covers the development of the Hungarian armour from the Hungarian 3000B, which was modelled on the Renault FT-17 through the Ansaldo tanks purchased from Italy, then covering the Csaba”tank” (I would have thought a description of Armoured Car more appropriate built as it was on a 4×4 chassis), 38M Toldi, Turan I and II and so on. Also included are photographs of the motorised transport used by the Hungarians.

I did learn about the Hungarian annexation of Transylvania from the Romanians in March 1939, a full six months before the invasion of Poland and the official start of the Second World War. The Reich had tried to stop the Hungarians from this action. The author later covers the Hungarian defence of its territory from the Soviets and Romanians towards the end of the war.

The book does suffer a little from occasional dodgy editing although I suspect that issue may have been from the original manuscript not being written in English but later translated.

Overall, this is a great overview with many brilliant photographs of the World War 2 Hungarian Army and it is inspiring me to drag my unpainted Turan, Csaba and Toldi tanks out of the lead pile and on to the painting table.

Best, it is currently on sale at Pen and Sword Books.

In Action with Destroyers 1939–1945 — The Wartime Memoirs of Commander J A J Dennis DSC RN — Review

In Action with Destroyers 1939–1945 — The Wartime Memoirs of Commander J A J Dennis DSC RN by Alec Dennis, Edited by Anthony J Cumming was published by Pen & Sword Maritime on 2 November 2017 (ISBN: 9781526718495).

This book contains the wartime memoirs of Alec Dennis, who served on four destroyers during the Second World War, two of them as the commanding officers.

The destroyers were the workhorses of most navies during the Second World War and Commander Dennis saw action in the North Atlantic, the Mediterranean and the Indian Oceans. The two vessels he commanded were HMS Valorous (the fifth HMS Valorous, ex-HMS Montrose, a V-class flotilla leader of the British Royal Navy that saw service in World War I, the Russian Civil War, and World War II) and HMS Tetcott (a Type II British Hunt-class destroyer built for the Royal Navy during World War II. She was the only Royal Navy ship to be named after the Tetcott fox hunt).

HMS Tetcott on Russian Convoy Duty

Commander Dennis was mentioned in Despatches three times (Norway, sinking the Scharnhorst and in the North Sea) and awarded the Distinguished Service Cross (Greece 1942).

The experiences of Commander Dennis provide a great read, reading like a Boy’s Own tale. The text is very easy to read and the book is difficult to put down. The editor, Anthony Cumming, has taken pains to preserve most of Dennis’s recollections although he does admit that Dennis removed some recollections that, fairly or unfairly, were not very complimentary to senior officers.

The book was unfortunately released after Dennis’s death. It is split into the following sections, following Acknowledgements, a Foreword, Maps and Editor’s Introduction:

  1. The End of Peace and the Phoney War
  2. The Finest Hour
  3. Crisis in the Mediterranean
  4. The Far East ann Back
  5. The Tide Turns
  6. The Final Victory

This is followed by the Editor’s Historical Notes, End Notes, Bibliography and an Index. There are around 20 illustrations in the centre of the book as well.

It has been a fairly stressful few weeks for me here but a few pages of this book in the evening transports me to those momentous days of the Second World War and a feeling of what life was like on the workhorses of the fleet – the destroyers. A brilliant read!

 

Armies of Celtic Europe — 700 BC – AD 106 by Gabriele Esposito — Review

This particular book is a follow on from Gabriele Esposito’s previous books in the Armies of the Past series, Armies of the Late Roman Empire AD 284 to 476 by Gabriele Esposito – Review and Armies of the Hellenistic States 323 BC to AD 30 by Gabriele Esposito – Review. This book looks at the Celts in Europe from 700 BC to AD 106.

Celtic culture was (and arguably still is) a rich culture with a strong oral tradition. Celtic warriors were renowned for their fierce charges and were one of the few ancient civilisations to successfully invade Rome itself where they were ultimately thwarted by a flock of geese.

Esposito uses members of various reenactment groups to provide the illustrations, photographing them in today’s interpretations of Celtic dress. Nine reenactment groups are used and these are resident in France and Italy. While the photographs of the clothing are excellent and inspiring, one small disappointment is the lack of mounted photographs (two only) and no chariots. I suspect this is due to the cost of owning and stabling horses in modern Europe. The only other lack that I could see are the moustaches and hair of the various warriors illustrated. I guess that is because of the need to hold down a job in modern Europe as well.

Armies of Celtic Europe 700 BC to AD 106 — History, Organization and Equipment by Gabriele Esposito was published by Pen & Sword Military on 23 October 2019 (ISBN: 9781526730336) and is 172 pages long with 102 illustrations.

The book follows a similar format to his Hellenistic one and is broken up into the following chapters:

  1. The Origins of the Celts and the ‘Hallstatt Culture’
  2. The ‘La Tène Culture’ and Early Celtic Expansion
  3. The Celtic Conquest of Italy and the Sack of Rome
  4. The Celtic Expansion in Western and Eastern Europe
  5. The Celtic ‘Great Expedition’ and the Birth of Galatia
  6. The Fall of Cisalpine Gaul and the Invasion of the Cimbri and Teutones
  7. The Roman Conquest of Iberia and Gaul
  8. The Decline of the Eastern Celts and the Conquest of Britain
  9. Celtic Arms and Armour from the La Tène Period
  10. Celtic Warfare and Battle Tactics

The book also has an Introduction, Bibliography Index and a list of the Re-enactors who contributed to the book.

Anyone with an interest in the Celts will find this book useful.

The Battle of Actium 31 BC — War for the World by Lee Fratantuono –Review

We all know the Battle of Actium — Antony and Cleopatra’s final act against Octavian and the start of the Augustan Peace in Rome, albeit now with an Emperor. Professor Lee Fratantuono re-examines the ancient evidence and presents a compelling and solidly documented account of what took place in the waters off the promontory of Leucas in late August and early September of 31 B.C.

Rather than present a coherent story cross referencing different sources, Prof Fratantuono has adopted an approach when examining the battle of looking at the sources independently and then analyzing the evidence presented by them to draw his conclusions.

Fratantuono notes in the preface that his,

“interest in Actium has romance as its genesis: the twin lures of poetry and cinema, the poets of Augustan Rome and the cinematic depiction of the battle in Mankiewicz’s 1963 Cleopatra, a film that despite is numerous problems of both film quality and historical accuracy, was a contributing factor to [his] early interest in antiquity”

He goes on later to note that the methodology used in this study “will be to examine closely the surviving literary attestation of the naval conflict at Actium, with a view to reconstruction and analysis of what might have happened”.

This is the approach he takes with the first part of the book looking at Greek Historical Sources. These are:

  1. the Evidence of Plutarch
  2. The Lost Appian
  3. The Evidence of Dio Cassius
  4. Strabo’s Geography
  5. The Evidence of Josephus

The Second Part deals with Roman Historical Sources

  1. Velleius Paterculus
  2. Lost Roman Sources
  3. Octavian Himself
  4. Florus’ and Eutropius’ Detached Accounts
  5. The Evidence of Orosius

The Third Part looks at Actium in Verse

  1. The Shield of Aeneas
  2. Horace’s Epodes — The Earliest Evidence?
  3. Horace’s Cleopatra Ode
  4. The Evidence of Elegy: Propertius
  5. The Allegorized Actium
  6. The Lost Carmen de Bello Aegyptiaco/Atiaco

Part Four then is Analyzing the Evidence

  1. So What Really Happened?
  2. The Birth of a Romantic Legend

Part Five examines the Aftermath

  1. ‘Death Comes in the End’

The book finishes with an Afterword looking at Actium and Roman Naval Practice.

There is, as well, a preface and introduction as well as bibliography, index, endnotes and further reading. There are also a couple of maps and battle dispositions as well.

All-in-all I enjoyed reading this, especially as it introduced me to some areas I had managed to avoid all these years, namely the literary and poetic evidence – I guess there is more than just Plutarch and Dio Cassius.

Prof Fratantuono concludes at the end that Antony intended to fight and fight he did at Actium. He also discusses the involvement of the Egyptian vessels and concludes that they must have fought that day as well, either as part of the main battle or during the breakout at the end of the day. Prof Fratantuono is certain that Antony was planning on winning the battle that day, and so he is at odds with the views of the previous writer’s on the battle who suggested that Antony and Cleopatra always intended flight, or that they intended to launch a withdrawal that could lead to a strategic victory.

Antony and Cleopatra were planning on winning that day. The withdrawal at the end of the day, tactical or not, was a loss. The fleet remaining would have surrendered quickly and land forces in Greece and the East would also have surrendered to Octavian (and did).

Prof Fratantuono also hazards some estimates of the number of ships involved in the battle by looking at the numbers given in Plutarch, Florus and Orosius. Plutarch, for example, estimated that Antony and Cleopatra had a fleet of 500 ships to Octavian’s 250. Orosius however estimated the Antonian fleet at 200 ships. There were 60 Egyptian vessels, which if added to  Florus’ estimate for Antony’s fleet of 170 ships gives a total of 230 ships. Similar numerical discord exists between Plutarch’s estimate of Octavian’s fleet of 250 vessels and Florus’ estimate of 400 ships. There is some discussion on whether these are beaked vessels only but Prof Fratantuono concludes around 250 vessels for Octavian against 230 in the fleet of Antony and Cleopatra would seem a reasonable estimate. This seems a workable estimate — if outnumbered 2:1 it would be unlikely that Antony would give battle, similarly with Octavian. 

The Battle of Actium 31 BC — War for the World was published by Pen & Sword Military on 31 May 2016 (ISBN: 9781473847149) and consists of 194 pages.

I found Prof Fratantuono’s writing style easy to read and his discussion is, in my opinion, a good discourse of this topic. It now sits on my bookshelf with other ancient naval tomes.

Battle of Manila, Miguel Miranda – Review

I’ve been living in Manila now for over five years. In that time I have visited Corregidor Island (thank you for the tickets Craig), looked out over Manila Bay (and the scene of Dewey’s victory over the Spanish fleet), seen the American Cemetery in Fort Bonifacio (Bonifacio Global City – BGC), Taguig, but never managed to get around to some of the areas where there was fighting during the Battle of Manila in 1945.

The Japanese attacked the American (and Filipino forces) in the Philippines in 1942. To save casualties to the civilian population and damage to Manila, the Americans declared Manila an open city and the Japanese were able to take control of Manila with little or no bloodshed. Unfortunately, the reverse was not the case in 1945 and the Japanese defended Manila which required the liverating forces to literally move house by house through the city to clear the Japanese. This also meant a lot of artillery support with the resultant damage to buildings. The occupation and the fighting to retake Manila unfortunately resulted in a large number of Filipino casualties. Estimates suggest at least 100,000 civilians were casualties at the time.

Miguel Miranda, a Filipino was a reported and is the author of this ‘History of Terror’ volume. Pen and Sword notes of the author:

Writing about the battle of Manila has been an opportunity for him to confront a very dark period in Philippine history, one that is still misunderstood today. To amass the wealth of research and insight for his latest work he pored over volumes of official histories and archives, assembling a detailed narrative on the topic.

The battle of Manila lead into the total independence of the Philippines in 1946 as well as removing what turned out to be a cruel foreign domination, not that the previous period of Philippines history, the American colonial period (1899–1945) was free of cruelty, quite the opposite. The battle of Manila really was the start of the final movement to independence, ending a long period of conflict and struggle for the Filipinos.

the Battle of Manila — Nadir of Japanese Barbarism, 3 February – 3 March 1945 is one of the volumes in the History of Terror series. Written by Filipino Miguel Miranda and published by Pen & Sword Military on 16 April 2019 (ISBN: 9781526729057), there are about 60 illustrations in this 128 page book.

Miranda’s prose is easy to read, although much of what he describes is disturbing. The book is divided into the following chapters, following from a usefu timeline and Introduction:

  1. MacArthur’s Bitter Defeat
  2. Leyte to Lingayen
  3. Desperadoes
  4. The Angels
  5. Encirclement
  6. The Genko Line
  7. Bloody Hell
  8. Intramuros
  9. A Country in Ruin

The book is then closed with an Epilogue: Facing a Strategic Conundrum; then a list of sources and finally an Index. The Epilogue is a reasonable assessment of the position in the South China Sea currently with the PLAN exercising its muscle as it attempts to dominate the area while the US Naval forces, along with Japan, Australia and the other smaller navies of the region attempting to ensure that the area remains open, international waters, rather than a Chinese lake.

Te timeline commences in 1896 when Filipino revolutionaries in Cavite and Manila launch an uprising to overthrow Spain’s colonial government. This revolution carried over into the period where the US became the colonial overlord and the Introduction discusses that period in more detail.

I must admit that while the book is very well written, and easy to read, it is also a very disturbing work, but one that should be read.

Images of War — Battle of Midway — America’s Decisive Strike in the Pacific in WWII – Review

Anyone with an interest in military history or history generally will know the Battle of Midway. Following Japan’s attack on the US Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor, the US Pacific aircraft carriers were undamaged, leaving the US with three effective carriers in the Pacific.

The Battle of Coral Sea in May 1942 saw one US carrier lost so effectively only two carriers remained. The Japanese Combined Fleet commander, Yamamoto, decided then to lure the remaining carriers into a battle where they could be destroyed. This would give Japan a free hand with its expansion plans across Asia and the Pacific.

Location of Midway Atoll (image from Google Maps)

Yamamoto targeted the Hawaiian Island chain again with the target this time being the Naval Air Station on Midway Atoll. The Japanese then launched an attack on Midway on 4 June 1942. Unfortunately for the Japanese:

  1. The Americans had deciphered Japanese signals so knew exactly where the Japanese attack would fall
  2. Admiral Nimitz had three aircraft carriers in his command, not just the two that the Japanese expected
  3. The americans had more aircraft available than the Japanese, although about one third of those aircraft were land-based

The battle ran over the period 4 to 7 June 1942 and at the end the Japanese had lost all four of their aircraft carriers engaged to one US carrier lost. As a result of those losses, Japan was forced onto the back foot and never recovered its previous naval dominance through the rest of the war. The Battle of Midway is considered by most to be the turning point in the war with Japan.

There are many images and photos from the Battle of Midway, many of them on the Internet illustrating web pages or in museum collections. Frontline Books has published a book of these photographs in their Images of War series. The Battle of Midway — America’s Decisive Strike in the Pacific in WWII was written (compiled?) by John Grehan and is published as a paperback. It is 164 pages long and contains 150 illustrations and photographs. ISBN: 9781526758347 it was published on 23 September 2019.

The photographs in the book are ordered into the following chapters:

  • Map List
  • Acknowledgements
  • Introduction: The Build-up to Battle
  • 3 June 1943
    1. First Contact
  • 4 June 1942
    1. Bombs Fall on Midway
    2. Attacking the Japanese Fleet
    3. The Japanese Hit Yorktown
    4. The Torpedo Bombers Strike
  • 5 June 1942
    1. Operation MI Cancelled
  • 6 June 1942
    1. Last Shots
  • 7 June 1942
    1. The End of the USS Yorktown
    2. After the Battle
  • References and Notes

I have no hesitation recommending this book to any naval or military historian, modeller or wargamer. I have spent quite a few hours looking at the photographs in this work. In addition to the photographs there is a reasonable interpretation and map how the battle played out.

The Great Illyrian Revolt by Jason R. Abdale – Review

Jason R Abade’s previous work was Four Days in September: the Battle of Teutoburg (published by Pen and Sword). While researching and writing that, Abade came across references to the Illyrians and the interest that generated led to the writing of his current work, The Great Illyrian Revolt — Rome’s Forgotten War in the Balkans, AD 6–9. This has been published by Pen & Sword Military, is 268 pages long (ISBN: 9781526718174) and was published on 25 February 2019.

This book has sat on my desk waiting for me to read it for several months now. I regret not starting it sooner. It is a very interesting work.

The year 9 BCE was not a good year for Rome. Today we mostly remember that year for the efforts of the German warlord Arminius leadings a confederation of German tribes crushing three Roman Legions in the battle (or more correctly, series of battles, skirmishes and ambushes, that we know as Battle of the Teutoburg Forest. The three years leading up to that event, however, had been tough for Rome as well as there was an uprising in the western Balkans, an area known as Illyria. This revolt tied down 15 Roman legions in the area around the Dinaric Mountains, a revolt that was not finally subjugated until 14 BCE.

I’m not sure why that revolt is not well known today, perhaps the events in Teutoburger Wald where the armies of Publius Quinctilius Varus and Marcus Caelius were crushed by the German tribes, leading to the withdrawal of Roman forces and control to the east of the river Rhine overshadows Rome’s difficult but ultimately successful controlling of Illyria.

Jason Abdale has produced an excellent study of the Great Illyrian Revolt. As you read the book, apart from the history and culture of the Illyrians being discussed and the lead up to Rome’s eventual involvement in this are, you can also feel the author’s love for his topic. I do not know of another history specifically covering just the Great Illyrian Revolt and Abdale has done an excellent job of pulling together various primary sources, secondary informatii  and archeological evidence to weave a coherent and readable history of the Illyrian Revolt.

The book is commences with a Chronology — from about 6,000 BCE to 37 CE — followed and Introduction. The meat of the work is broken up into the following chapters:

  1. The Illyrians
  2. Rome and the Balkans
  3. Outbreak
  4. The Tide Turns
  5. A Long Hard Slog
  6. The End of the Road
  7. The Aftermath

The book is then rounded out with an Epilogue, Endnotes, Bibliography and Index.

The Illyrians over the years fought the Romans, Greeks and Macedonians as well as themselves. They were famous pirates in the Adriatic Sea. On land, they may well have started as lightly armed and irregular tribesmen types but slowly acquired some of the fighting style of the Greeks they were exposed to, remembering that much of their terrain was mountainous.

I really enjoyed this book, sort of an everything you wanted to know about the Illyrians but were too afraid to ask. On a personal basis, I am considering the figures needed to build an Illyrian army to face off against my Romans.

As this is probably the only general work that I am aware of dealing exclusively with the Illyrians, and given that it is so well written, clear and easy to understand, I can see this on the bookshelves of anyone interested in the general, political or military history of the period of Augustus Caesar’s reign in particular. Recommended!

Armies of the Late Roman Empire AD 284 to 476 by Gabriele Esposito – Review

The other recent addition to the bookcase at home (memo to self, when moving next year, build bigger book shelves), is Gabriele Esposito’s Armies of the Late Roman Empire AD 284 to 476. As with the Armies of the Hellenistic States 323 BC to AD, this covers the history, organization and equipment of the Late Roman Empire. This work was also published by Pen & Sword Military (ISBN: 9781526730374
and published on 12 December 2018) is a little longer than his Hellenistic book, running to 178 pages.

Esposito looks at the Late Roman Army over the period of its decline and fall with 476 being the watershed year that officially notes the end of the Western Roman Empire at least. This period is from the time of the accession of Diocletian in 284 C.E. to emperor through to the final defeat and then deposing Romulus Augustulus on 4 September 476 by Odoacer and his proclamation of being the ruler of Italy.

Throughout that period Rome faced many barbarian invasions, the various Goth tribes being particularly persistent. Throughout this period we invasions from the Sassanians in the east, Goths in the north followed by Visigoths, Vandals, Alans, Huns, Ostrogoths not to mention the all too frequents bouts between various Imperial contenders, seeing Romans plus allies squaring off against Romans plus allies.

Esposito discusses the Roman military machine and contends that it was an effective force until the last few years of the Western Empire. Throughout the book, the equipment and weapons of the troops are described, using various Re-eactors for the photographic illustrations as well as the reconstructed equipment. The groups used are Cohors V Baetica VexillatioCohors Prima GallicaContubernium PrimumFectienses Seniores Felices Seniores and; Septimani Seniores.

The organization and structure is also covered with charts of the high command as well a covering the different kinds of troops, such as the:

  • comitatenses (field armies)
  • limitanei (frontier units)
  • foederati (allied soldiers)
  • bucellarii (mercenaries)
  • scholae palatinae (mounted bodyguards)
  • protectores (personal guards) and so on

Apart from the photographs of various reenactors in uniform and bearing arms of the period, the book also includes the shield devices from the Notitia Dignitatum.

Apart from the Acknowledgements, Introduction and a fine Chronology, the book contains the following chapters:

  1. The Roman Army of the Principate
  2. The Transformation of the Third Century
  3. The Great Reforms of Diocletian and Constantine
  4. Clothing, Equipment and Weaponry

This is then rounded out with some Appendixes covering the Roman Army of the Notitia Dignitatum; Equipment and Weapons of the Late Roman Army; Bibliography and Index.

As with Gabriele Esposito’s other books, I really enjoy the way he has illustrated the arms, armour, dress and organization of the subject, so much so that I am looking forward to his next book, Armies of Celtic Europe 700 BC to AD 106. I highly recommend Armies of the Late Roman Empire AD 284 to 476 to any with an interest in this period.

Armies of the Hellenistic States 323 BC to AD 30 by Gabriele Esposito – Review

I have had an interest in the successor states since I first read Alfred Duggan’s historical fiction, “He Died Old”, which was set in the life and times of Mithradates of Pontus, who fought Rome for around 60 years.

From there it was a short step back to Robin Fox’s “Alexander” for some more academic ancient history. This was at the same time as starting to wargame as a hobby so building a Macedonian Army in 25mm size was a natural step given the interest I had in Alexander. Off to university studying Economics but at the same time managing to squeeze in some Ancient History in between lectures covering Malthus, Adam Smith, Galbraith, Solow, Keynes and Friedman, among others.

Pike phalanxes and Alexander’s Successors led to reading about the political machinations that exceeded even the best the popular soap operas could manage for skulduggery and I was hooked.

Over the years I referenced many Osprey publications as well as those from the Wargames Research Group when painting the models trying to achieve accuracy when painting them.

Gabriele Esposito, well known already for his articles in Karwansaray Publishers Ancient Warfare magazine has turned his attention to the Hellenistic States in a book published by Pen & Sword Military, titled Armies of the Hellenistic States 323 BC to AD 30, History, Organization and Equipment. The book is 155 pages long, (ISBN: 9781526730299) and was published on 17 July 2019.

Esposito has attempted to cover 350 years of Hellenistic history in a single volume analysing the organization and equipment employed by the armies of the Hellenistic States. Alexander the Great died in 323 BC and this resulted in his empire fragmenting into the various states of the Diadochi. Kingdoms were formed from Asia, to  North Africa and the Eastern European areas.

The book covers the complex Hellenistic military forces from the breakdown of Alexander’s empire until contact with the simplified Roman military machine obsoleted the pike phalanxes almost over night (OK, well it might have been over several years but in all interactions between the Legions and Phalanxes the Legions won and excuses were made for the failure of the Phalanx).

The Diadochi fielded armies with thousands of men, chariots, elephants and siege machines. The book covers these armies and analyses the forces of Macedon, the Seleucid Empire, Ptolemaic Egypt, the Greco-Bactrian Kingdom, Armenia, Pergamon, Pontus, Cappadocia, Galatia, the Bosporan Kingdom, Epirus, Sicily, the Achaean League and the Aetolian League.

To take such a broad subject and cover it within 155 pages means that the text rips along and Esposito’s writing style is very easy to read. The book is well illustrated with colourful maps (taken from Wikimedia under the Wikimedia Commons license). To illustrate the uniforms of the time the author has used the resources of a German based Hellenistic re-enactment group, Hetairoi which are a group covering much of the period. The re-enactors are used to illustrate uniforms, armour and weapons, shields and the like all in colour. Particularly impressive are the photos of the pikes.

The book is organised into 15 chapters, and Acknowledgement, Introduction, Bibliography and Index. There is also an appendix that discusses the re-enactors, Hetairoi e.V. (hetairoi is the Greek for “companion” and a reference to Alexander’s companions).

The chapters present are:

  1. The Military Revolution of Philip of Macedon
  2. The Macedonian Army of Alexander the Great
  3. The Succession to Alexander and the Wars of the Diadochi
  4. The Wars of the Hellenistic World
  5. The Armies of the Early Successors
  6. The Antigonid Army
  7. The Ptolemaic Army
  8. The Seleucid Army
  9. The Attalid Army
  10. Hellenistic Anatolia
  11. Pontus, Armenia and the Bosporan Kingdom
  12. The Epirote Army
  13. The Greek Cities
  14. Hellenistic Israel
  15. The Greco-Bactrian Kingdom and the Indo-Greek Kingdom

That pretty much covers the entire Hellenistic world post Alexander.

At the end of the book there is a bibliography. Interestingly, after listing some 20 primary sources, Esposito lists the secondary sources he used. These are a mix of academic works such as Bar-Kochva’s, The Seleucid Army to popular works such as Peter Connolly’s, Greece and Rome but by far the largest number of secondary sources are the publications of the Wargames Research Group, Montvert and Osprey. Esposito then lists his 17 secondary article sources, which are all from various issues of the Ancient Warfare Magazine.

This book will be of interest to ancient wargamers and military modellers in particular, full as it is with uniform and weapon detail. It is a good primer on Hellenistic Warfare. It would also interest those undertaking more serious Ancient History studies, at least enabling them to more clearly see uniforms and equipment from the past. Best of all, it is currently on sale at Pen and Sword. I will admit, now I am looking forward to both reading his older work on the Armies of the Late Roman Empire as well as the imminent release of Armies of Celtic Europe 700 BC to AD 106 at the end of next month. Recommended.