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Saturday, February 1, 2014

“The Roman War Machine” by John Peddie

Sutton Publishing Ltd, 224 pages, ISBN-13: 978-0750906739

What I absolutely loved about this book is the details it went into: it had charts about how far the various missile weapons reached; talked how signals were passed along; spoke how much food would need to be brought along; discussed how many baggage carts, wagons, or mules needed to carry supplies; and the one particular “Why?” that’s always stumped me: why a Roman army could only move about 10-12 miles a day (the answer: the column was so long – when baggage carts, etc., were included – that the first part of the column would be reaching the new camp and starting to set up before the last of the column was even leaving the old camp). These were just the types of numbers I was looking for, so I consider this book a jewel since I haven't found them elsewhere.

Its details such as these that proves that Mr. Peddie knows his subject, is comfortable with the sources he sites, has an eye for detail. Essentially Peddie illuminates one aspect of the Roman Army in each chapter, ranging from the Roman equivalent of staff officers, battlefield communications, marching camp techniques, siege warfare, equipment, and other points. Some of the more interesting contents are his rebuffs of what many other military historians have perceived as weaknesses or want in the Roman Army. He clearly points out how everything served a valuable purpose in the Roman Army and what many have assumed were missing were actually there in one form or another. He also draws surprising similarities between the British campaign in Burma during WWII and the Roman way of war.

Except for the fact I couldn't read this book at night because it put me to sleep, it actually was a good, informative work. Some of the information wasn't relevant to my search for answers, but that same information might be exactly what others are looking for. All in all a most satisfying and clear read, though perhaps he digresses a bit too much on some occasions.

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