THE ROMAN ARMY OF THE PUNIC WARS, 264-145 BC
OSPREY PUBLISHING, 2007
QUALITY SOFTCOVER, 96 PAGES, ILLUSTRATIONS, MAPS, PHOTOGRAPHS, CHARTS, $23.95
Polybius, the Greek historian the Romans took hostage in 167 BC, described the Roman Army of the Middle Republic as being organized into small tent parties known as contuberinum, which consisted of eight soldiers, which shared a tent, millstone, mule, and a cooking pot. A century was made up of ten of these tent parties, commanded by a centurion. With the military reforms of Camillus in the early 4th Century BC, a clear chain of command was established, with centurions of several grades and military tribunes, from the Equestrian class, who were in the military to advance their political careers. Camillus also introduced a new tactical unit, called the maniple (manipulus, "handful"), which was composed of 120 to 160 men (two centuries), and commanded by the senior of the two centurions. During the Punic Wars, the Roman legions consisted of cavalry, light infantry, and heavy infantry, all of which were land owners who bought their own equipment, weapons, and armor. A legion's cavalry, or equites, consisted of ten groups of thirty men on horseback, all commanded by one decurion. The cavalry consisted of wealthy young Romans looking for a stepping stone to an eventual career, and as such, were unlikely to be seen near the front lines during battle. The light infantry consisted of javelin-throwers, and had no formal organization, being called into battle as necessary. The principal military unit of the legion was the heavy infantry, which included those individuals who could afford more expensive equipment, such as a bronze helmet, shield, armor, and a pilum, a heavy, short spear with a long metal shank. The weapon of choice of a heavy solder was the gladius, a short sword. The heavy infantry was subdivided into three groups, based on age and military experience. The hastati ("spearmen") formed the front line during battle, and consisted of 1,200 younger individuals. The second line of attack, known as principes, included 1,200 men in their late twenties to early thirties ("in their prime"), were more experienced than the hastati. The rarely-used third line, the triarii, consisted of 600 older, veteran soldiers. These three lines were divided into maniples, which were spaced in a so-called quincunx formation (a modern term, referring to the checkerboard layout resembling the five dots on dice.) As Rome's power and influence extended across the Mediterranean, she was destined for a collision with the Carthaginian Empire, a clash ultimately resulting in the decisive Second Punic War. At first, theRoman Army was no match for the superior tactics and leadership of Hannibal and his troops. However, talented generals like Scipio Africanus transformed the legions into a formidable fighting force. Covering Rome's catastrophic defeats at Lake Trasimene and Cannae to her final victory at Zama, THE ROMAN ARMY OF THE PUNIC WARS, 264-146 BC examines the development of Roman tactics and organization through Rome's transition from a city-based state to a Mediterranean powerhouse. This is a good book for anyone interetsed in how the Roman Army functioned and how it changed over time. For specialists, this book will seem simple but for the general public, the book is good.
Lt. Colonel Robert A. Lynn, Florida Guard