on 3 June 2014
So disappointed. Osprey books are usually excellent but this one was very poor. There are some good bright illustrations by Peter Dennis but the Macedonian 'warriors' look like they've stepped out of a fashion catalogue. Not fighting men at all but fancy-dress soldiers. Far too many old coins, cracked vases, photos of faded stonework and mosaics from Pompeii. Not much on the fighting men or their equipment. Not a single image of men at war, just a lot of well-dressed people shaking hands!
I largely aggree with the other three star review on Amazon.co.uk: there isn't a huge amount of substance and whatever there is arguable and should have been subjetc to a disclaimer. Having mentioned this, however, this little Osprey could have been made significantly better.
Right from the beginning, the section titled "The historical background" was rather problematic. The choice of title alone, and the fact that over a century and a half are summarized and crammed into three and a half pages, shows that this is conceived as no more than a very high level introduction. I found this rather surprising since the history of the Kingdom of Macedon and of its Kings is linked somewhat closely to that of its armies, to sat the least. Nocholas Sekunda could have at least tried to alleviate the supposedly limited information available on arms, equipment, appearances and unit organization of the post Alexandian and Antigonid armies. In fact, there are a number of books published on the Antigonids, including some that he has not bothered to mention in his bibliography, such as a biography of Antigonos Doson (BC 229 to 221). It would have been useful for the author to rely on it, especially since it is not accessible in English and contains a rather significant section on the Macedonian army and some excellent developments on Macedonian campaigns and battles, especially Sellasia. However, Sekunda chose not to do so.
Even if not willing to tell the history of the Macedonian Army after Alexander, which might have been somewhat difficult to squeeze into this very limited format, I was at least expecting some assessment of the Macedonian armies' perfomances against his ennemies including the various Greek Leagues, Illyrians and Celts (and not only the usual flawed comparisons against the Roman legions with the usual overreliance on the somewhat biaised Polybios and Livy). However, there is none of this either. Simply nothing at all...
Then there is the contents of the so-called "historical background" which, despite its size (and perhaps, in some cases, because of it!) still manages to be problematic in several respects. Its deliberately small size means that the author keeps "cutting corners" and simplifying. So, for instance, you learn about Lysimachos "defeated and killed at Kouropedion by another coalition of monarchs" in 281, but you do not learn that "all the work" was essentially done by Seleukos who was shortly afterwards assassinated by Ptolemy Keraunos who took over his army AND what was left of that of Lysimachus, proclaimed himself King of Macedon but was cut to pieces by the invading Galatian (Celts) in BC 279. Instead, after a vague reference to "marauding Galatian barbarians" (they were rather more than "marauding", by the way), the author jumps to the victory of Antigonos Gonatas two years latter. This King had the longest reign of all (almost 40 years) and made sure that Macedon retained control of Greece and remained a major, if much poorer, power that both the Seleukids and the Ptolemies had to count with. Sekunda has almost nothing to say about his reign which ended in BC 239 and probably was the apogee of the Macedonian Kingdom of the Antigonid. Neither does he have much to say about Antigonus Doson, who, despite being ill with consumption (tuberculosis), spend his short reign almost constantly on campaign, defeating all of the numerous ennemies of the Kingdom who had taken the opportunity to invade as soon as his predecessor had died, living an infant son (the future Philip V) behind. Doson finally died on the battlefield after a crushing victory against the Illyrians. Allegedly, he died by laughing so much that he burst a blood vessel but this was not "in battle", but after having won the battle against the odds. The entire reign of Philip V (another 42 years) is worth just about 24 lines - 2 paragraphs with one of them being of course about his first encounter with Rome. Finally, the second encounter and the defeat of Perseus is evacuated in five lines, with another seventeen mentioning three further revolts over the next thirty years.
What you do get instead are mostly detailed, but sometimes almost confusing, explanations and descriptions of the various pieces of equipment used by the various units of the army, complete with measures of shields and sarissa. You also get explanations and discussions about the various units, what they really were (at least according to the author) and what they could corresponded to. You also need to bear in mind that the meaning of Greek words tended to change over time. A given word did not always have the same meaning in - say - 200 BC as it had in the time of Alexander - just to make things even more confusing... So, in addition with a certain amount of confusion, I found this title rather dry and uninteresting. In addition, and just like the other reviewer, I simply did not like the plates very much. A wasted opportunity: it could have been so much better because there was a much more interesting story to tell...
on 17 April 2013
Interesting and covers a little known period. Different view of Peltasts in later armies, more like Ipicrates type hoplite, small shield and long spear which is shorter than sarissa. Could have been useful in chasing off raiding Thracians but relies a lot on one image showing this type of infantry, would like to find more evidence