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Ancient Warfare: Introducing Current Research. Vol. 1

Ancient Warfare: Introducing Current Research. Vol. 1

Edited by Geoff Lee, Helene Whittaker, and Graham Wrightson. Pp. xvi + 361. Cambridge Scholars Publishing, Newcastle upon Tyne 2015. £29.99. ISBN 978-1-4438-7694-0 (cloth).

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This fascinating book offers a number of chapters outlining some of the newest ideas and theories in the study of ancient warfare. Based on papers presented at the 2013 International Ancient Warfare Conference, the 18 chapters in this volume span “archaeology and social history to more traditional tactics and strategy” (ix) in order to expand our understanding of this area of history. The chapters, which have been written by various scholars, cover a vast array of topic areas and time periods from Minoan Crete to Celtic Europe to imperial Rome and are expertly presented with their own accompanying notes and bibliography.

While the chapters themselves are not grouped together in sections with a common theme, the editors of this volume have taken great care to order the chapters so that each does relate to those around it. Following the opening introduction, the first two chapters—Whittaker’s “Symbolic Aspects of Warfare in Minoan Crete” and Lloyd’s “Death of a Swordsman, Death of a Sword”—examine archaeological evidence from the Greek Bronze and Iron Ages in an analysis of the connections between warfare, religion, and burial customs. The original ideas put forward in these chapters then set the benchmark for those that follow.

The next three chapters—Schofield’s “Filling the Gaps: Catapults and Philon of Byzantium,” Barley’s “Aeneas Tacticus and Small Units in Greek Warfare,” and Wrightson’s “To Use or Not To Use: The Practical and Historical Reliability of Asclepiodotus’ ‘Philosophical’ Tactical Manual”—all share the common theme of investigating the validity of ancient military manuals via textual analysis, comparison, and experimental archaeology. These chapters will force any reader to see these texts in a new light.

The next three chapters, by Antela-Bernardez, Lentakis, and O’Connor, investigate some of the more fundamental aspects of ancient warfare: tactics, strategy, and logistics. Examinations include discussions of Alexander’s siege of Thebes in 335 B.C.E., the use of terror and counterinsurgency in classical Greece, and the provisioning of Xenophon’s Ten Thousand, respectively. These fascinating contributions provide valuable new insights into commonly investigated areas.

Mounted warfare is the focus of the next two chapters, but in two very different cultures—Busetto’s “War as Training, War as Spectacle: The Hippika Gymnasia from Xenophon to Arrian” and Perez-Rubio’s “Trouble Comes in Threes: From Chariot to Cavalry in the ‘Celtic’ World.” While the study of ancient cavalry warfare has risen in popularity recently, these two original chapters demonstrate that there is still a lot that remains to be investigated and understood when it comes to ancient mounted warfare.

The focus then shifts to naval warfare for the next two chapters. Emanuel’s discussion of the changes in early naval warfare during the transitional period from Bronze Age to Iron Age and Zaccarini's examination of the “Athenian Myth” of how naumachiae should be conducted and how these details have subsequently influenced our understanding of ancient naval combat will challenge how war on the sea in the ancient world is viewed by modern scholars.

The next four chapters deal with some of the social ramifications of ancient warfare. Franchi and Proietti’s examination of the commemoration of war dead and the creation of battlefield heroes in classical Greece, Deacy and McHardy’s discussion of gender-based violence in ancient Greece, Laskaris’ investigation of ancient Greece and Rome’s capacity to deal with battlefield injuries, and Anders’ analysis of the Roman military’s ideal of virtus all demonstrate that war involves far more than just the soldiers on the battlefield.

The final two chapters—Ball’s “To the Victor the Spoils? Post-Battle Looting in the Roman World” and Cornwell’s “The Role of Peace-Makers in Roman Attitudes to War and Peace”—combine social, political, and military history to add to the growing corpus of literature that deals with what happens when a war is over. The book concludes with short biographies of the contributors and a set of indices.

Due to the varied nature of the content presented in this volume, there is bound to be something for almost anyone interested in ancient warfare within its pages. This is a collection of quality works that will force many of us to see aspects of ancient conflict in new ways, introduce us to unfamiliar areas, and, in some places, challenge currently accepted ideas. This volume should find a place on the bookshelf of academics, students, and laypersons alike. I am very much looking forward to volume 2.

Christopher Matthew
Ancient History
Australian Catholic University

Book Review of Ancient Warfare: Introducing Current Research. Vol. 1, edited by Geoff Lee, Helene Whittaker, and Graham Wrightson

Reviewed by Christopher Matthew

American Journal of Archaeology Vol. 121, No. 1 (January 2017)

Published online at

DOI: 10.3764/ajaonline1211.Matthew

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