Top critical review
38 people found this helpful
on 3 January 2013
Sadly I have to agree with the previous guy, this book is pretty bad. The illustrations are high quality (but then again they should be, many of them are straight-up copies of the works of the old masters like Angus McBride and Peter Connolly!) but the scholarship is pretty shoddy.
You get the sense that the author sometimes just doesn't know what he's talking about. There are a shocking number of errors in the captions which accompany the artwork, most of them are brief and feel uninformed. The author doesn't make much use of specialist terms, or simply uses the wrong terms. For example he labels a bucket-looking helmet as a pot helmet, and uses the same term to describe an elaborate, ornamental helmet not a few pages later. Another statement which floored me was the claim the Diocletianic reforms abolished segmented armour. Where on earth did the author find this statement??
Figures and helmets are mislabeled in pretty glaring ways. One bronze age-esque helmet is described as a later Germanic helmet (this term doesn't really exist), and several uniforms that clearly belong in the late 1st century are labeled as 4th century. I think late Roman scholarship has progressed to a level of general public awareness that makes this kind of mislabeling unacceptable.
The worst part was two figures that appear toward the end of the book. Both are copied from or at least heavily influenced by Graham Sumner's illustration in Osprey's Roman Naval Forces. One soldier was carrying a short javelin-like object, and the caption read: the arrow-like object is probably not a weapon but a symbol of rank. That's it. No further elaboration as to what its purpose was or where it came from. It's almost like the author was taken by surprise at what the illustrator gave him. Same case with a figure on the next page, an officer wearing a blue cloak. The caption reads: the cloak is blue, probably because of his naval service. How did the author come to this conclusion? And why does he sound so unsure of it??
This is a pretty bad book overall, and any ancient military history nerd worth his salt should stay well clear of it.