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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful historical guide, 9 Jun 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Warfare in Antiquity: History of the Art of War, Volume 1: V. 1 (Twentieth Century Fund Book) (Paperback)
I could practically exhaust every superlative in the english vocabulary in prescribing this set of books to anyone interested in understanding the shape of battles and the conflicts involved going back to the Greco-Persian Wars to the Napoleonic Wars. In each book, Delbrük, the consummate modern historian, laboriously constructs as accurate a mantle of the major battles of each conflict meticulously seperating propaganda and myth arriving at the available facts. Delbrück's history is definitely not the digest of novices, and his detached, pedantic scholarship can be overwhelming at times unless you have at least some familiarity with the subject matter. Nevertheless, his forensic masterpiece, really a very long treatise or series of treatise on the evolution of tactical bodies, are of an unparalleled stature, and his conclusions seem to still be in some contention today as they were a hundred years ago.
Or, at least, current textbooks have yet to catch up. Some histories still seem to follow Xenephon and Herodotus precisely, and I saw a documentary last year about Ceasar's campaign in Gaul that still portrayed the Romans at the siege of Alesia outnumbered 25 to 1 against the Celtic tribes.
Warfare in Antiquity, the first volume, is especially helpfull and stands next to my copies of Livy, Thucydides, Polybius, Herodotus, Arrian, etc. - all the classical histories.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fantastic book on late Roman military history, 8 July 2000
By A Customer
If you are passionate about history or military history, and if you are keen to understand how the powerful Roman civilisation transitioned to a European feudal society, then this book is for you.
Hans Delbruck writes at the end of the 19th century and follows the steps of other excellent German historians such as Mommsen. The book, though, could well have been written yesterday. Delbruck's erudition is simply incredible, and the author's intimate knowledge of ancient languages, including old German, allowed him to systematically cross-check what little remains of manuscripts written between the 3rd and 6th century AD.
For the reader, the most enjoyable aspect of the narrative is perhaps that it goes right down to a level of details rarely seen in a history book. Following Delbruck's thread of reasoning you can well imagine how Roman legions lived and fought, and how German tribes were socially organised. You can also easily understand the process by which these formidable Roman legions slowly dissolved and how the German political, social and military systems progressively took over in the course of four centuries.
The topic itself is extremely complex, not least because of the scarcity of reliable contemporary testimonials. The legends and exagerated tales of huge German hordes crossing the Rhine to destroy a flourishing civilisation are nowadays so entrenched in our Western culture that it takes the patience and intelligence of someone like Delbruck to disentagle the facts.
Finally, be warned that this is no historical romance. Delbruck's style is as dry and precise as Germanic scientific litterature can be, and each section is followed by an Excursus in which the author argues around alternative theories.
Highly recommended.
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Warfare in Antiquity: History of the Art of War, Volume 1: V. 1 (Twentieth Century Fund Book)
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