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on 29 August 2011
I really cannot understand why anyone would give this 'work' - if that is the word for it - any rating above "1". In fact, if it was possible, I would not even have given it one star! This type of "history" is a menace. I can only conclude that people who give this volume any sort of rating at all are themselves totally ignorant of the material in question. Either that or they are being very kind and do not want to offend.

D-C has now written a number of these "Roman Army Histories" and all of them suffer from the same faults - indeed they are often repeated throughout these volumes, with no attempt that I can see to make any corrections at all. Some of the errors are relatively minor - a date missed by one year or a town with a slightly different version of the name perhaps - but there are others of a much more fundamental nature that cannot be excused as mere slips of the computer keyboard. The contention on the jacket 'blurb' that this man has spent 30 years 'researching' the Roman Army is laughable in the extreme. Whether the book 'reads very well' (as another of the generous reviewers here has stated), is irrelevant. If the information is wrong then it doesn't matter how well it 'reads'. Rubbish is rubbish, however well you dress it up in prose.

The assertions that this man makes, with not a shred of documentary evidence for them, are staggering. One of the most serious of these is his contention that the Roman army enlisted its legionary soldiers at fixed intervals and that it is therefore possible to calculate exactly how old the various batches of legionary soldiers were (rather in the manner of the Zulu impis, it would seem). If this were to be true it would mean that virtually the entire Roman army (or at the very least, a goodly portion of it) would have to be replaced en bloc, since the majority of the legions (according to him) were originally raised at more or less the same time, either by Caesar himself, or Pompey! This, of course, is rubbish. It was only in early Republican times that legions were raised in this manner - but only for one year of campaigning as the soldiers were peasant farmers who had to plant and tend their crops. Once an empire was formed, this mode of enlistment was impossible as legions would be stationed outside Italy for years at a time, sometimes decades. Even in Caesar's time this could not have been the case. Look, it took EIGHT YEARS for the man and his army to conquer Gaul!

I could go on, but this would be very boring to everyone. The text is littered with fundamental errors, contradictions of known factual information, idiotic assertions for which there is no proof cited (and none to be had either). In terms of legion 'histories' I counted at least two dozen erroneous statements (before I gave up counting). These are not simple 'slips' - they are things like denial of existence (i.e. missed from the roster), wrong postings, wrong names used, etc. The idea that each legion had a specific shield blazon and that we know which legion had which, is arrant nonsense. Attempts have been made to equate the designs seen on Trajan's Column with legions involved in the Dacian Wars but these are only tentative and cannot be confirmed. It's guesswork, not fact. And that just about sums up Dando-Collins' approach - if he can't find evidence, or doesn't know it - he just makes it up because it 'sounds' OK.

If you want to know how the Roman Army was run, what happened to the legions, where they were raised and based, etc. then there is any number of books out there, written by people who DO know what they are talking about. Read Andrian Goldsworthy, Lawrence Keppie, Mike Bishop & John Coulston, Jan le Bohec's monumental work on legio III Augusta (available in English) and so on. If you buy any of D-C's books, then you have only yourself to blame. It will only encourage him to write more of this tosh.
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on 4 June 2013
I have to echo some of the reviewers below. This book has some shocking omissions, elements of it are based on opinion more than factual information - which is fine, but the author needs to differentiate between the two clearly.

There is also some basic errors, such as dates and actual legions that have not been confirmed as actually ever existing.

I've shown this to several PhD colleagues and other professors of note, who agree this is riddled with inaccurate information that it is almost laughable.

Personally I would suggest researching from known scholars such as Adrian Goldsworthy for one.

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on 19 January 2011
Readers should be aware that this volume contains some of the same basic errors as contained in the author's previous works on the Roman legions.

It is difficult to be exhaustive in a short review of a long book, but I cite a few of the more obvious ones below by way of example.

In the first few dozen pages, the author asserts (several times) that Commodus (sole reign 180-192) was responsible for the grant of universal citizenship in 212 (it was Caracalla).

When discussing the strength of the legion, he states that the final form of the Republican legion was 60 centuries of 100 men (no primary source cited, because there isn't one) prior to the introduction of the early imperial form (80 per century).

There is no examination of the framework of the legion, for example, Speidel's Caerleon lecture on the subject is not cited.

The author seems to confuse the equestrian career structure with the senatorial one when discussing the tribunes of the legion.

The author repeats his assertion from the earlier books that a legion was recruited at a single point in time, then not brought up to strength to replace casualties until all original recruits were discharged (i.e. 20 or 25 years later). I am not aware of any ancient source which suggests that this was the case.

When discussing armour, the author seems to describe ring mail as consisting of metal rings sewn onto leather, rather than being made by linking each ring to the other rings.

Unsurprisingly, the bibliography is not especialy exhaustive, with sigificant omissions and in several cases older works are listed by authors who published later editions or new works entirely (e.g. Webster on Roman Britain & Boudica, Birley's imperial biographies). Russell Robinson's work on Roman armour is cited, but not Bishop & Coulston's standard volume, nor indeed the copious output published in JRMES.

The book looks nice, and the author's prose style is certainly very readable, but if this is the only book you read on the army of the principate, you will get a flawed understanding of the current state of knowledge of the Roman army.
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This book about the legions of Rome is written by Stephen Dando-Collins, who is the author of several books about Roman military history. The text is divided into three parts. Here is a brief overview:

* Part I - The Men
* Part II - The Legions
* Part III - The Battles

At the end of the book we find a bibliography and an index. References to ancient sources and/or modern works are given in square brackets in the text.

What about illustrations?

Throughout the book there are more than one hundred photos, drawings, maps and battle plans. Unfortunately, they are all in black-and-white, and the quality of the photos is not very high. In the middle of the book there are sixteen pages with colour illustrations.

Dando-Collins is an experienced author. But even for an experienced author something can go wrong. There are many mistakes and misunderstandings in this book. For reasons of space I can only mention some of them here:

(1) On page 119 we hear about Legio III Augusta:

"In AD 75, the legion was transferred by Vespasian to Tebessa, known today as Timgad, where the men of the legion then built a handsome town astride the road to their old base at Lambaesis."

Dando-Collins confuses ancient and modern names here. Let me explain: Originally, the legion was based in Ammaedara, modern Haidra, in present-day Tunisia (as he says on page 272). In AD 75 it was moved by Vespasian to Theveste, modern Tébessa, in present-day Algeria. In AD 81 it was moved by Titus to Lambaesis, modern Tazoult-Lambèze, also in present-day Algeria. In AD 100 Trajan decided to establish a new town about 35 km east of Lambaesis: Thamugadi, modern Timgad, was built by soldiers from the third legion, and veterans from the legion were some of the first to settle there.

[The same mistake - claiming Tebessa is today's Timgad - appears in the caption to the illustration on page 495.]

(2) The headline of chapter XV (on page 271) dates the Tacfarinas revolt to AD 17-23. It should be AD 17-24.

(3) On page 274 the author claims the ancient town Utica is "located just a few miles along the coast from Carthage." But the distance from Utica to Carthage is 30 miles (50 km). Has the author ever been there?

(4) On the map of the Holy Land on page 316 Jotapata is placed in Judaea, although this town is in Galilee; and Tarichaeae is placed at the southern end of Lake Gennesaret, although this town is on the western shore, 5-6 km north of Tiberias.

[The false location of Tarichaeae is mentioned in the text on page 318.]

(5) The caption to the illustration on page 482 reads as follows: "A family portrait of Septimius Severus, his wife Julia Domna, and one of his children."

But the painting shows both his children, Caracalla and Geta. The face of Geta has been erased, but we can still see where it was. This is a case of "damnatio memoriae." When Caracalla murdered Geta in AD 212, he also tried to erase him from history.

(6) On page 485 the author claims Septimius Severus died in Eburacum (modern York) on 4 February 210. But this emperor died on 4 February 211.

(7) The caption to the illustration on page 494 claims the "Ludovisi Sarcophagus" shows Emperor Maximinus. Perhaps. But Paul Stephenson says it shows Emperor Gallienus. See his book Constantine: Unconquered Emperor, Christian Victor (2009) page 75. The sarcophagus is on display in Palazzo Altemps in Rome. What does the museum say? The label says it shows Hostilianus (a son of Emperor Decius) who died in AD 252. So who is it? The answer is: we do not know for sure.

(8) The caption to the illustration on page 498 begins with these words:

"A Persian relief shows Roman emperor Valerian on bended knee as he surrenders to Persian emperor Shapur I."

This is not true. There are two persons in front of Shapur, one kneeling and one standing. The kneeling figure is Marcus Julius Philippus (also known as Philip the Arab) who was emperor 244-249, and (maybe) was captured by Shapur. He paid a high ransom for his freedom. The standing figure is Valerian who was captured in 260. He holds out both arms towards Shapur as a sign of surrender. The two Roman emperors were not prisoners at the same time, but the relief combines two separate situations into one scene.

(9) On page 500 there is a black-and-white photo from Palmyra. The same photo appears on page 14 of the colour section. Both captions begin with the following words:

"The Temple of Bel in the heart of the city-state of Palmyra."

The photo shows the monumental tetrapylon, which stands in the heart of the Syrian desert-town. The Temple of Bel is behind the photographer! Has the author ever been there?

(10) Masada, the famous fortress south of Jerusalem and west of the Dead Sea, is mentioned several times (pp. 160, 316, & 354-356). When did Masada fall? The traditional date is AD 73. But new evidence about the Roman commander Flavius Silva has been discovered, and some scholars now prefer the following year, i.e. AD 74. For references to the modern debate about this question see Maurice Sartre, The Middle East Under Rome (2005) page 428 (note 204).

What does Dando-Collins say? He simply gives the traditional date. He does not refer to - and does not even mention - the modern debate about this question. I am afraid he does not know about it, but he should.

[There is a black-and-white photo of Masada on page 355. The same photo appears on page 9 in the colour section. Both captions give the traditional date.]

My conclusion:

With so many flaws, this book can only get three out of five stars.
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on 6 January 2013
Basic errors. Not that good. Very pompous claims that make no sense when set into the context of what the book actually does
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on 20 March 2016
The legions made Rome. Read how they expanded the frontier, recruited their own troops from foreign lands, built the infrastructure of the Empire and maintained law and order. Above all, they acquired the mineral resources to make Rome rich, and the wheat and wine to sustain her people. Each legion had its own individual character and history, some of which became legendary.
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on 15 December 2010
As a historian who has always specialised on Roman Roads in the UK and Europe I was keen to read a book about the legions who had marched the roads I have studied for many years.

This book is the answer to many questions about the Roman legions and their history giving a potted biography of every legion under the Emperors.

It was fascinating to read how units were formed, amalgamated and disappeared with only the most prestigious lasting the full course of history. As with our own army the name, motto, battle honours and shield badge were clearly important to the individual legion.

The sections on the men, equipmant and command structure were also informative although I would have liked to see more about these. The dress etc of the legate is noted but more development of how and why he was appointed.

I am still reading the book and have not yet finished the section on "The Battles" where particular events are selected to show the way each battle was fought a typical example being AD70 'Besieging Jerusalem - Titus' time to shine' where the story pf the siege is developed from the time Titus was handed the job by Vespasian to the razing of the city walls. I look forward to the later episodes.

I would like to see a similar book for the Republican period, although the Author has produced one on Caesar's favourite 10th Legion which is also an excellent read.

Finally to all interested in Roman Military history this book is a MUST at a very affordable price and it will be many years before it is equalled. the author is to be congratulated on his marathon efforts.
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on 10 January 2012
I enjoyed reading this book however I found some inaccuracies. The one thing I noticed was that he kept referring the "Iazyges" as a German tribe where they are Sarmatian. Other than that I found the book enjoyable. I noticed some other reviewers have found faults but I am a newbie to Roman military history so I can't comment on them.
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on 9 November 2015
About a third of the way through - very well researched but generally boring unless you're seriously studying
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on 16 January 2013
There are so many books about the Roman Army and Roman Legions that when something like this one comes along it needs to stand out. It does stand out in terms of thickness ( it's literally a heavyweight) it stands out from the author who has written about Roman Legions in his well known novels and it does stand out in providing a comprehensive analysis of all the legions but and there is could and should have been much better. If you thunk of some of the ground breaking work by Peter Connolly or the Osprey series, this was an opportunity to produce something quite literally monumental. What lets the book down is that the illustrations are not very helpful, the histories seem dry and there isnt a sense of overall coherence as to where the history of the legions fit together. It's OK but it could have been amazing
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