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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Well researched and referenced guide to Late Roman military life, 29 Dec 2006
This review is from: Late Roman Army (Paperback)
Pat Southern and Karen Dixon provide an overview of the army in the historical period from Septimius Severus up to the beginning of the sixth century, including recruitment, pay and conditions, with a useful and well illustrated section on the equipment used, including a more detailed focus on helmet types, as well as discussing fortifications and siege warfare.

They describe the reforms of Diocletian and Constantine - particularly the origin of the Comitatenses, or field armies as distinct from the frontier army and give a good impression of the complexity of the debate surrounding the shifting definitions and structures as the period progressed.

The authors include an interesting discussion of morale, motivation and identity in the context of increasing cultural mix within the late Roman army. It has been criticised for containing some mistakes and for its caution in drawing new academic conclusions, but provides an excellent starting-point for study, particularly for those enthusiastic amateurs looking for an expanded and more heavily referenced progression from more introductory titles, such as the 'Osprey' series.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Follow Up to Her Book on the Roman Army, 18 Feb 2012
Arch Stanton (Nottingham, UK) - See all my reviews
Pat Southern seems to have been drifting later and later as she goes on. She started off writing about the early Republic, then she drifted into the empire, and now she has a slew of books on Late Antiquity. Her previous book The Roman Empire from Severus to Constantine covers the political history of this era in detail, and she has another book on Empress Zenobia. It's very nice to have someone with her skill writing about the late empire.

This book is a sequel of sorts to her previous book, The Roman Army: A Social and Institutional History, and a companion to The Roman Cavalry. Like that last one this book was written with Karen Dixon. I have yet to read it but if it's as good as this one then it should be a treat. This book is very technical and is laid out in a very organized and rational fashion. The first chapter deals with the army during the crisis of the third-century. There is little known about that period so this section is mostly spent trying to trace the origins of the comitatenses, the field army that was used as the nucleus of every imperial army during the fourth century. It was apparently created under Gallienus, but then it either died out or was expanded under Diocletian. What is known is that by the death of Constantine it was a unit of major importance. The second chapter continues the loose narrative right up through Justinian. This is an effort to see how the army operated rather than what it did.

The next chapter begins the thematic part of the book. The first section deals with recruitment. Where did the soldiers come from, how were they trained, did their numbers decline, etc. This is followed by 'Conditions of Service,' which covers how a soldier lived through how they were paid. This chapter could probably have been longer. The next chapters are very technical. The first one deals with their equipment. This section is filled with diagrams and drawings and takes up most of the plates in the middle of the book. There are some beautiful pictures of some late Roman helmets which I have never seen reproduced in such detail. This section is very precise and is usable mainly as a reference work. The next section deals with fortifications and also features many sketches and diagrams. The next part deals with siege warfare and includes a large glossary of terms for the various weapons and siege equipment. The final section deals with morale and is rather speculative.

The conclusions regarding the failure of the Roman army were interesting. She holds that a shortage of manpower was never the problem for the Roman state. Rather it was a shortage of TRAINED manpower that was fatal. Troops were needed so badly that the customary Roman discipline was forced to slip. And once it went below a certain level there were no experienced men to form a core around which a unit could be built. She also feels that the garrisoning of soldiers in cities was a mistake. By spreading the soldiers out in this way the Roman state relaxed its discipline and lessened the sense of fraternity. There are other more obvious comments that she makes such as the dangers of placing barbarians under their own officers.

There were things that annoyed me about this text. The constant use of in-text citations was a nuisance. I much prefer footnotes or endnotes to that. The sections on equipment and siege warfare were too technical for easy reading and can really only serve as a reference. But these are fairly minor problems. The book as a whole is good, and it provides valuable information that is difficult to get otherwise. A useful book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars LATE ROMAN ARMY, 25 Oct 2010
A. Taylor (Surrey England) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Late Roman Army (Paperback)
An in depth work that is both rewarding and informative. Full of information it almost reads more like a discussion than a book due to the authors almost constant reference to other works, some going back to the late 19th century. Covering all the aspects of the Roman Army that one would expect it to, it begins by discussing the various late emperors (there is a full list of them starting with Commodus and including cause of death and length of reign at the start of the book which comes in very handy) and the reforms/changes they may, or may not have introduced. The book then moves o n to wider aspects such as conditions of service, equipment, fortifications etc.

Smaller than A4 size, but not by much, there are some 200 pages with some 20 black and white plates. The work is lavishly illustrated with line drawings covering everything from helmets to fortifications. If there is a fault, and I think there is, it's rests with the size of the font used : it appears to be 8pt which makes it difficult to read for long periods I find, 10pt or 11pt would have been much better.

But, for all that, a good solid read.
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Late Roman Army
Late Roman Army by Pat Southern (Paperback - 20 Jan 2000)
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