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The Fortress of Rhodes 1309-1522
The Fortress of Rhodes 1309-1522
by Konstantin S. Nossov
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.77

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars This is a very useful work on a subject which really deserves a fuller and more detailed treatment., 29 April 2014
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Calix Imperium, Roma Victrix Pewter wine beaker
The fortifications of the City of Rhodes are arguably one of the best preserved and most complete set of late medieval defences in all of Europe but have been surprisingly little studied or published. The Knights Hospitaller of the Order of St. John fled Palestine after the fall of Acre in 1291 and, after a troubled period on Cyprus, took control of the island of Rhodes between 1306 and 1309. They took over a city which traced its origins back to 408BC and which still had its Byzantine fortifications. From their base in the city of Rhodes the Hospitallers continued the fight against those they perceived as the enemies of Christianity.

Although the origins of the fortifications of the city go back into antiquity, the present walls are the result of three distinct phases of construction. The first, and largest, dates to the middle decades of the fifteenth century when Grandmasters Fluvian and Lastic gave the walls their current form and extent. They built a tall outer wall with a secondary wall in front of it incorporating small, rectangular towers around the perimeter separate from the main wall and connected by removable wooden ladders or platforms. Outside the wall was a narrow moat and entrance into the city was by a series of fortified gates. The second phase began just before the siege of 1480 when Grandmaster d'Aubusson modified, strengthened and consolidated the defences in readiness for an attack from the Ottoman Turks who were, since their capture of Constantinople in 1453, the predominant force in the eastern Mediterranean. The final, and crucial, phase was between 1480 and 1522 when the walls were radically altered, both to reflect the newest ideas in fortification and to make them ready for a second attack by the Turks--something which the Knights knew would come eventually. It is these changes that are perhaps the most interesting, giving us insights into the way that contemporary thinking to counteract the growing threat of artillery was developing. These changes include the widening of the moat (essentially doubling its width and leaving behind long tenailles parallel to the walls), thickening the walls, providing a wide platform for artillery, and greatly fortifying the city gates. Intriguingly, the walls were also heightened presumably to provide a commanding field of fire over the moat and down the glacis.

Nossov provides a good, short guide to the walls of the city and the two sieges of 1480 and 1522. He divides the book into a number of sections. After a brief introduction and chronology the next section is on the design and development of the walls followed by a section on the principles of defence. He is very traditional in his approach to the history of fortifications and the development of the bastion and these sections should be read with care. For example Nossov states that the Tower of St. George was one of the first fully-fledged bastions whereas this position has been seriously questioned and there is some doubt as to whether it can be described as a bastion at all.[1] He also repeats the story that Tadini had spiral vents dug to counter the Turkish mining of the walls, whereas the original text makes it clear that the vents were just that: vents.[2]

After a verbal tour of the fortress, which can be a little confusing at times, he describes the other Hospitaller building in the city and follows this with short accounts of the two sieges of 1480 and 1522. A glossary is included as is a short bibliography and a list of works for further reading.

This is a very useful work on a subject which really deserves a fuller and more detailed treatment. In fact, the current standard work to which all modern authors must refer was published by Gabriel nearly a century ago.[3] Indeed, most of the drawing of the walls and the ways they were altered over the decades of the later fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries published in the last two or three decades are based on those of Gabriel including those reproduced here. In particular this book can be recommended to those wishing a light and comparatively inexpensive guide to carry round the fortifications. Recommended.Calix Imperium, Roma Victrix Pewter wine beaker


Crusader Castles in Cyprus, Greece and the Aegean 1191-1571 (Fortress)
Crusader Castles in Cyprus, Greece and the Aegean 1191-1571 (Fortress)
by David Nicolle
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.94

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Concise, accurate work and enjoyable read for both scholars and Laymen., 29 April 2014
Calix Imperium, Roma Victrix Pewter wine beaker
David Nicolle needs no introduction to medieval military historians. One of the leading experts in the field, his studies are widely known and highly appreciated.

In this volume of Osprey series "Fortress", Nicolle examines the castles held by the Crusaders States and the Italian maritime republics in Cyprus and around the Aegean, an area which, though politically more complex, have been less studied than the Middle East. It is true that some states proved ephemeral, but others lasted longer.

Often short of money, the Crusader States made use of earlier defences and preferred to strengthen what existed. The castles were old-fashioned in their design and, in military terms, a backwater of Western European civilization. Most of them who worked on such buildings were locals or prisoners-of-war. Relying on local masons and architects, the Crusaders could not build in the styles of their homeland, and the result was a late-Romanesque style with Byzantine elements.

When used as residences, the fortresses could be pleasant to live in. Accommodating a refined culture and society, some castles were richly decorated, others contained fireplaces, latrines and water cisterns. The Crusader rulers kept their customs and expressed literary works similar to those written in their homelands.

Outnumbered and suffering from shortage of manpower, the Crusaders and the Italian colonies used their castles much more as bases for defensive rather than for offensive operations. To force most of the mainland castles to surrender it was often enough to conquer the surrounding countryside, while things were different for coastal enclaves, which could be supplied by ship.

As nearly always with Osprey, this book is a concise, accurate work which both scholars and non-specialists will find an enjoyable read. Highly recommended


The Forts of Celtic Britain (Fortress)
The Forts of Celtic Britain (Fortress)
by Angus Konstam
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.80

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A decent overview of Celtic hill forts, 29 April 2014
It I always a pleasure to read Osprey books. Well written, finely illustrated, with plenty of good photographs, they are short but exhaustive works. The one reviewed here is no exception.

Angus Konstam, author of The Historical Atlas of the Celtic World, provides an informative survey of Celtic fortifications from and around 500 BC until some decades after the Roman invasion of England of AD 80. Hill-forts and brochs are the most common fortifications that still dot English landscape. While the first are spread all over the island, the latter (still imposing stone-built towers) are concentrated in northern Scotland, especially in Orkney, Shetland and the Western Isles.

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Although smaller than the Gallic forts encountered by Julius Caesar in his campaigns, some British hill-forts were big enough to provide space for medium-seized towns. It is not completely clear how and when the forts were used, but, while some accommodated permanent settlements, others are likely to have been occupied in time of danger or for some particular reason. Most of them appear to have fallen into disuse after the Roman conquest, but a few were occupied in the next centuries.

British Celtic hill-forts were sited to make to best possible use of the ground on which they were built. If some were little more than enclosures penning domestic animals and had little military use, others were protected by a complex and formidable series of banks, ditches and ramparts. Of course great emphasis was placed on strengthening the gateway defences, the weakest point, were the builders placed a good number of obstacles in order to channels the enemies into killing zones were they could be easily hit. Additional obstacles, for instance wooden stakes or jagged rocks, were sometimes used to hinder any attacker from approaching the gate. However, these fortifications were sadly unfit to withstand a siege laid by a better equipped and technologically superior foe such the Roman army, who probably only needed a demonstration of its military might to force the surrender of most of the Celtic fortresses. It is interesting to note how some hill-forts were exploited by the Romans as training grounds where to practise siege techniques.

For those who want to visit the places described in this book, the last pages provide an useful list of sites open to the public and museums containing Iron Age artefacts. Overall, Konstam provides an excellent survey, indeed a good introduction to of a fascinating and worthy topic. Recommended.


Towton 1461: England's Bloodiest Battle (Osprey Campaign)
Towton 1461: England's Bloodiest Battle (Osprey Campaign)
by Christopher Gravett
Edition: Paperback
Price: £13.48

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A concise and very readable account of the battle of Towton., 29 April 2014
Calix Imperium, Roma Victrix Pewter wine beaker
The battle of Towton followed the proclamation of Edward, son of Duke Richard of York (killed 1460), as King Edward IV by a group of determined supporters. Edward's opponents were the supporters of King Henry VI (1422-61) of the House of Lancaster. In telling the story of Towton, Gravett follows his background discussion with a helpful chronology of the military episodes of 1455-64, then introduces the primary commanders on each side at Towton, followed by a discussion of the opposing forces, their numbers (necessarily conjectural) and armament.

The heart of Gravett's book is taken up with an effort to reconstruct the course of events before, during, and after the battle. The narrative is supported by maps, photographs of the terrain and of surviving artefacts, and striking illustrations by Graham Turner. Students will find the discussion of the battle to be very clear, and at the same time not so dogmatic as to make them believe that there is no room for uncertainty about the course of events, and exactly how Edward IV managed to emerge victorious over his Lancastrian foes. Readers will find of particular interest the manner in which William Neville, Lord Fauconberg, on the Yorkist side is credited with using archers and the weather to great advantage. The book is concluded with a travel guide for visiting the battlefield, a bibliography, and an index. Highly recommended.


The Castles of Edward I in Wales 1277-1307 (Fortress)
The Castles of Edward I in Wales 1277-1307 (Fortress)
Price: £6.58

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A a useful introduction to the major castles built by Edward I in Wales., 29 April 2014
Gravett does an admirable job of introducing the reader to the military aspects of castle architecture. The book is well-stocked with photographs and Adam Hook provides valuable cut-away illustrations that depict the construction of a castle, as well as a castle under assault.

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The true strength of the book comes in its chapters on castle design and functionality. Gravett clearly has a firm grasp of the military defences of the castles, and he is able to convey this to the reader vividly. The sheer magnitude of the castle defences and the ingenuity of the castle architects come across clearly and compellingly. The connections drawn between Edward's castles in Wales and other structures in western Europe, and the role played by master builders such as Master James of St. George are especially interesting and enlightening.

Overall, the book serves as a useful introduction to the major castles built by Edward I in Wales, and it does a good job of giving the reader a sense of the scale, complexity, and military power of the structures. Recommended.


Ancient Rome on Five Denarii a Day: A Guide to Sightseeing, Shopping and Survival in the City of the Caesars
Ancient Rome on Five Denarii a Day: A Guide to Sightseeing, Shopping and Survival in the City of the Caesars
by Philip Matyszak
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £10.36

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another worthy success from a consummate and witty author, 27 April 2014
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The perfect companion to this excellent work is THE ROMA VICTRIX WINE beaker,Calix Imperium, Roma Victrix Pewter wine beaker the author himself is the proud owner of one. This is what he has to say:
! The details on the panels is exquisite, the overall effect is both handsome and impressive, overall this beaker has proven to be both a highly practical drinking vessel and an ornament to whatever surface it rests on!

Thus begins a delightful travel guide for time-travellers to the Ancient Rome of about 200 A.D. The author starts from scratch, by laying out in detail how a sea journey is to be planned, with plenty of warnings and a distance chart, and he recommends the port of Puteoli as first destination point and carriage or foot travel from there to Rome. He concludes the guide book with a map and a few "useful phrases," such as, noli me necare, cape omnias pecunias meas, Don't kill me, here's all my money.

In between, there is all you wanted to know and more. This is great light fare to read at odd moments, light though it might look, the book is meticulously researched, drawing on sources ranging over 300 years. The pages are sprinkled with ancient quotations: from epigrams, satires and other writings by the Latin poets and playwrights; from philosophers, historians and letter writers; tomb inscriptions; graffiti from Pompeii; and inscriptions from Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum. And each chapter has artistically designed sidebars, headed RES ROMAE and containing related trivia. Page numbers, by the way, are in Roman numerals, but not to worry, the decimal ones are shown in brackets.

As can be seen from the Table of Content below, the book is well organized. After the above-mentioned initial planning, the intrepid traveller lands in Puteoli, and on the way to Rome does some initial educational sightseeing. (I & II). Then the basics of staying and surviving in Rome are explained, with plenty of warnings what not to do and a reminder, this is a different age with different standards. (III). "Meeting People" (IV) has a discourse on patrons, amici, clients and the salutatio, and the aside, "It helps to clarify the situation by considering that `patronus' literally means `big father', but has also been memorably translated as `Godfather'." Domestic life and strain are also given some space, including a letter from Cicero to Atticus about that long-suffering couple Quintus and Pomponia. There is also etiquette advice for dining out. You learn all about the ins and outs of shopping and money in Rome (V), and Law and Order (VI) tells you about the difference between Praetorians, Urban Cohorts, and Vigiles: "...By now you will have gotten the idea. If you come across any Praetorians, don't avoid them like the plague. The plague is most certainly the better option." Law courts, prison (or the lack thereof), and punishment are explained in great detail.

Once you have absorbed all this, it's time to go out and about. Entertainment (VII) apparently trumps Religion (VIII), as the former comes first. As to entertainment, we meet all the usual suspects, and concerning religion, remember that Rome still `swarms with gods,' Christianity has not yet taken hold. There are plenty of temples to visit as well as Hadrian's Pantheon, and the author runs through each month and its religious festivals. He has a lot to say about the Vestal Virgins, but glosses over the kind of punishment a straying Virgin would receive - whereas earlier on, the penalty for parricide is described in all its gruesomeness. Must-See Sights (IX) and Roman Walks (X) are nicely guided tours through Ancient Rome, with a lot of ancient lore and gossip told.

The Pages contain drawings as well as illustrative images from various kinds of monuments, supporting the text. Eleven full size and double page colour plates which show lavish virtual reconstructions of temples, baths and other buildings. The 144 pages number is a bit deceptive, as the font is smallish.

All in all another worthy success from a consummate and witty author. Highly recommended.


A Murder on the Appian Way (Roma sub Rosa)
A Murder on the Appian Way (Roma sub Rosa)
by Steven Saylor
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A worthy accomplishment for a consummate historical writer, 27 April 2014
The perfect companion to this excellent series is the ROMA VICTRIX wine beakerCalix Imperium, Roma Victrix Pewter wine beaker
Gordianus the Finder has a reputation for being beholden to no one, which makes him the perfect go-between among the factions struggling for power in Rome of the first century B.C. in 'A Murder on the Appian Way,' the fifth in the series by Steven Saylor.

It was the early spring of 52 B.C., and Rome explodes in riots when a popular leader, Publius Clodius, is found murdered on the famous road his ancestors built. Rumors fly that Clodius died during a clash with the bodyguards of a rival politician, and Clodius' allies in response burn the Senate and demand justice. Amidst the rioting, Gordianus is hired by both the dead man's family and none other than Pompey the Great to discover the truth.

Saylor takes his time developing his story, which allows the reader to tour Rome with Gordianus as his guide. We get to walk with bodyguards streets that take meanness to another level, take part in public forums in which politicians manipulate the feelings of the masses (no surprise there), and even travel the countryside to visit Julius Caesar. 'A Murder on the Appian Way' is based on actual events. The murder of Clodius, Saylor points out in an appendix, had great ramifications for the republic. The inability of Rome to deal with the crisis indicated a power vacuum that both Caesar and Pompey attempted to fill, and the result was a civil war which aided the transformation of the Roman Republic into the Roman Empire. But to the reader, the story's the thing, and Saylor's accomplished mystery is wrapped around an ancient world that, to the imaginative mind at least, could easily look like home, and that's a worthy accomplishment for the historical writer..


Knight of Outremer, 1187-1344 (Warrior)
Knight of Outremer, 1187-1344 (Warrior)
by David Nicolle
Edition: Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An excellent reference work., 17 April 2014
Calix Imperium, Roma Victrix Pewter wine beaker
Knight of the Outremer is about the Knight of the languishing Crusader States, remnants of the once great conquest of Jerusalem and surrounding territories of the first Crusade. However these Crusader States continued long enough to have developed their own traditions. The period surveyed by David Nicolle (who is a specialist in medieval arms and armour) is over 150 years in time span.

The following sections form the text of the book; Introduction; Chronology; Outremer; The Knight in Outremer; Education and Training; Society and Culture; On Campaign; Arms and Armour; Display and Heraldry; Collections; Bibliography; Glossary. The largest section (12 pages) which is central to the theme is that on Arms and Armour. Combined with the excellent colour illustrations, this is an excellent reference work.

The narrative also reveals something of the interrelationships and influence of the Muslim East with the Crusaders States and the West. For example, romance as a Muslim concept influencing western literature (page 23) and the fact that Christian Knights, as mercenaries or converts fought for Islam (page 12).

All in all a worthy addition to the Osprey warrior series, highly recommended.


The Knights of Christ (Men-at-Arms)
The Knights of Christ (Men-at-Arms)
by Terence Wise
Edition: Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A concise survey of the various military orders., 17 April 2014
Calix Imperium, Roma Victrix Pewter wine beakerTerence Wise surveys the various Military Orders, not just the well known ones, but those which are little known. 17 Orders are covered, even those which were short lived, and merged with others or simply vanished.
The Orders are as follows: Knights Templar; Knights Hospitaller; Knights of Lazarus, St Thomas of Canterbury; Teutonic Knights; Brethren of the Sword; Knights of Calatrava; Knights of Santiago; Brethren of Santa Maria; Knights of Avis; Knights of St Julian de Pereiro; Knights of Our Lady of Montjoie; Mercedarians; Knights of St George of Alfama; Knights of Christ; Knights of Our Lady of Montesa, and Knights of San Stefano of Tuscany. Where inter-relationships existed between the Orders, this is explored. The Templars and Hospiatllers overlapped, sometimes to the good but not always, when they could be found killing each other in the Streets of Acre (page 12). The symbolism of the Templar seal is explained (two Knights on a single horse), not just in reference to the "poor knights" as is often given, but to an historic detail that the two founding members had only one horse between them (page 5). It is through attention to details such as these that the author gives life to the subject.

Not a single page lacks an illustration with 39 black & white/Grey Scale illustrations throughout the book of 40 pages. In addition there are 8 excellent coloured plates. The plates in themselves offer a wealth of historical detail and the fine details are explained at the back of the book.

The author portrays a consummate grasp of the subject, and communicates this well to the reader. Sometimes lacking in other books which provide for an introduction to a topic, is not lacking in this book - an Index!
In summary the book is an excellent introduction to the topic of the Military Orders, and is far better value then some of the paperbacks on the topic, by price, information, illustrations, and durability! Highly recommended.


Armies of the Crusades (Men-at-Arms)
Armies of the Crusades (Men-at-Arms)
by Terence Wise
Edition: Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A useful introduction to the Armies of the Crusades, 17 April 2014
Calix Imperium, Roma Victrix Pewter wine beaker
This book - the Armies of the Crusades, covers those armies which fought in the series of conflicts between 1096 and 1260 in the Holy Land, known popularly as the "Crusades". In addition the Iberian Crusades, other crusading conflicts do not come within the scope of this book such as that in the Baltics.

The contents are as follows; * The Armies of Christendom; * The Armies of Islam ; * The Plates.

Essential for the understanding of the subject of the book is a necessary explanation of feudalism not only as it applied to Europe, but to the settled invasion force in the Holy Land. Terence Wise supplies this information, and this assists the reader in understanding why the Crusaders failed to hold on to the territories they had gained in 1099 and the years that followed. For example the King of Jerusalem had been elected and thus his Barons were co-equal. This affected any coercion for assistance.

The book provides details on the volunteer army which set out on the first Crusade, with an attempt to guess the true figure of the combatants at 150,000. The larger numbers quoted elsewhere will include wives and children, camp followers and pilgrims. Then covered are the armies of the Outremer, the contribution of the Military Orders, the Iberian armies, and the contribution of the Byzantine army often neglected by books and articles covering the Crusades.

Also often neglected in an assessment of the crusades in popularist accounts are details of the armies of Islam. The author provides details of; the Abbasid armies, the Moorish armies, the Seljuk armies, the Fatimid armies, the Ayyubid armies, and the
Mamluk armies .

The book was first published in 1978, and yet despite getting on for four decades, the text is not dated. Readers need to appreciate one fact as a warning, and that is, that the topic is complex and wide ranging. It is perhaps a slightly harder read than the book by the same publisher on the Knights of Christ and yet the author does well within the 40 pages (less illustrations = circa 20 pages of text), to cover the subject without sacrificing information for brevity. This book remains a useful introduction to the topic of the Armies of the Crusades, and is good value for money.


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