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hieronymus (düsseldorf, Germany)

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An Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Uniforms of the Roman World
An Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Uniforms of the Roman World
by Kevin F. Kiley
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £19.94

20 of 25 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Habent sua fata libelli - not!, 3 Mar. 2013
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Each book has its own fate, as the Romans were keen to observe, but I am inclined to believe that this book is merely re-living the life of others. Reading the book one very quickly gains the impression that the authors were seeking to cash in on the widespread interest in Roman military history with a minimum of effort - I really see no other explanation for such a poor result. The approach is a risky one, since the re-enactment community and other readers interested in the topic nowadays have access to a vast amount of well-written and lavishly illustrated books based on sound research and are thus mostly well-informed about recent developments in archaeology and Roman military history.
The book is obviously designed to appeal to readers for its large amount of illustrations of Roman soldiers. The illustrations themselves are a matter of taste, but they're decently done. Unfortunately, this cannot be said for the research that has, or rather has not not, gone into them. The illustrations are nearly all mere copies of pictures that have appeared in other works. Most have been adopted from the Osprey series (whose plates, let it be said, are not beyond some criticism themselves), but there are also illustrations copied from works like "Roman Cavalry Equipment" (Stephenson), "Byzantine Armies 325-1453 AD" (Belezos/Giannopoulos), and the brilliant two "Greece and Rome at War" (Peter Connolly)and "Warfare in the Ancient World" (John Warry), both still available and exquisitely illustrated if slightly dated.
"An Illustrated Encyclopedia of Uniforms of the Roman World" is riddled with mistakes and inaccuracies. Other reviewers have already remarked upon the rather quaint mistakes which have made their way into the book, e. g. the Macedonian companion cavalryman innocently trying to pass for a Gallic cavalryman from Vercingetorix's army (this was originally a mistake to be found in Osprey's compilation "Rome and her Enemies", for which no illustrations were specially commissioned), or the 1st century AD cavalry trumpeter galloping to engage the Goths in the time of the decline and fall...No offence to the illustrator intended, but the fact that the book's scientific quality is so poor may lead the reader to conclude that the authors were obviously completely out of their depth here.Perhaps the book is merely intended to make a showy supplement to the remaining books of the series, all of which concern themselves with armies of the 18th to 20th centuries. The task of providing an easily accessible and well-researched overview of the development of Rome's military forces (and those of her enemies!) from the Republic to the fall of Constantinople is no mean feat, and I am sure it would overwhelm even the most enterprising and erudiate of authors. In view of the impossible amount of challenges such an undertaking must pose I suppose that the only solution was to settle for the publishing of results already easily accessible and fairly accurate. It should not have been a problem to place them in a correct historic context. As it is, this muddle of a book will annoy any reader reasonably familiar with the topic.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 27, 2013 2:00 AM GMT

Wounds of Honour: Empire I
Wounds of Honour: Empire I
by Anthony Riches
Edition: Hardcover

17 of 23 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars To be read before mealtimes, 14 Jun. 2010
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I am sorry, but I simply don't think this is a good historic novel. There are several reasons for this.
To begin with, the plot is just too smooth to make truly satisfying reading: young hero of noble descent, guard officer, falls out of favour, assumes command of a century of battle-hardened veterans, is almost instantly accepted by the old hands as one of their own, evades murderous attacks by treacherous enemies, and finally becomes the hero of his regiment proving his mettle in a Thermopylae-scale punch-up with barbarian savages. Oh, and of course there is the beautiful though alas married young woman to nurse him after a wound (don't worry though, guess what happens in the end).
Although this book is definitely well-researched, there are some improbabilities that are just too hard to swallow, e. g. two centurions fighting out their private squabble in full view of their respective troops and with the CO's approval. No way.
The book's style is not for the squeamish. Obviously the idea is that the more obscenities can be crowded into the characters' conversations, the more authentic the military 'ring' of the setting. Not convincing, and rather tiresome on the long run. What is worse, the battle scenes (and other episodes) feature descriptions in minute detail of the most appalling cruelties (including physical torture involving castration) - it's literally blood and guts galore, in full close-up. The question remains if this nauseating narrative is really necessary to convey the horror of war. It definitely does not contribute to the book's overall literary quality.
The reader is frequently reminded of the works of Peter Connolly and Rosemary Sutcliff, the latter's concerning certain elements of the plot (you'll recognise them if you've read Sutcliff's Roman Britain novels). This may be put down to chance, but the resemblance between the name of this book's protagonist (Marcus Valerius Aquila) and that of Sutcliff's "Eagle of the Ninth" (Marcus Flavius Aquila) is just a little too close for coincidence.
The bottom line is that if you are looking for a historic shocker that makes easy if somewhat queasy reading, buy the book. If you want a gripping historic novel well-told and with and a convincing, thought-provoking plot, I would advise you to try something different. Harry Sidebottom's Ballista trilogy for instance is similarly well-researched but altogether of better quality; or why not simply dust down "The Eagle of the Ninth" and get stuck in?
Comment Comments (7) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 20, 2012 6:54 AM GMT

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