In which I blog about my miniature wargaming and whatever else takes my interest!

In which I blog about my miniature wargaming and whatever else takes my interest!

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Legions in Crisis- book review

One of the things that has always annoyed me about most histories of the Roman army is how get from this guy:
To this guy:
All the books I have discuss the army of the Principate in agonizing detail, then skip right to Diocletian without really exploring how and why the army got that way.

I got Legions in Crisis, the Transformation of the Roman Soldier by Paul Elliot at Christmas. Well, ok I picked it out but Mrs. Rabbitman wrapped it up for me.
This book answered my questions. He covers the sketchy and confusing, blood-soaked history from Marcus Aurelius to Diocletian to explore how politics, new enemies and tactical demands mixed with the army's changing demographics brought about the changes in costume and equipment and organization within the legions.

The Danube frontier, facing the Sarmatians and then the Goths forced the switch from scuta, plum and gladius to oval shield and longer spatha and spear to fend off horsemen. The change in fighting stance meant the legionary helmet got deeper. The movement of veteran troops from the Danube frontier to reinforce other fronts spread these changes. Lorica segmenta, optimized for defence against downward slashing blows from German and Celtic tribesmen was abandoned in favour of the easier to make and maintain chain mail.

I won't bother repeating his book in its entirety because if you're interested in Roman military history you should read it yourself.

The period covered is so rich I'm surprised that the big figure makers haven't produced dedicated sets instead of yet more boring early Imperial figures. Of course now that I've built my army, the Perry twins will release a plastic box set next year.

Highly recommended.

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