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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A new, first class text on the Thracians - at last
I was so pleased when I read about this book's imminent publication (it has only been released in June 2011, not Feb. 2010 as per the blurb). There are precious few texts out there about the Thracians, the brave, warlike people who lived in the region encompassed by parts of modern day Bulgaria, Romania, Greece, Turkey, Ukraine, Moldova and Macedonia. There's The...
Published on 14 July 2011 by Ben Kane

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Too much, confusing and partial at times?
I hesitated when rating this book: it could just as easily have been four stars as the three that I finally gave it, mainly because it could have been much better and, as it stands, it is, at times, both confusing and annoying despite being valuable.

First of all, this book has a lot of value. It seems to be the only "comprehensive" reference on the Thracians...
Published on 13 July 2012 by JPS


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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Too much, confusing and partial at times?, 13 July 2012
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JPS - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Gods of Battle: The Thracians at War, 1500 BC - 150 AD (Hardcover)
I hesitated when rating this book: it could just as easily have been four stars as the three that I finally gave it, mainly because it could have been much better and, as it stands, it is, at times, both confusing and annoying despite being valuable.

First of all, this book has a lot of value. It seems to be the only "comprehensive" reference on the Thracians at war in English where all aspects are covered: costumes, arms, armor, tactics, battles, numbers, army organization, fortifications, history, political organization (tribes and kingdoms).

Second, the breath of information that it contains seems impressive. It is therefore easy to understand why a novelist could find it so valuable: all the materials needed for a novel including Thracians can be found within this single book. However, for an "ordinary" reader, it can be almost overwhelming at times.

Third, many aspects, including the various types of Thracian swords and the influence of the Thracian peltast on Greek and Hellenistic warfare, are discussed rather thoroughly, regardless of whether you agree or not with the author's conclusions.

One of the problems of this book is that it is often repetitive, something that can be annoying at times. Another reviewer attributed this to a lack of editing, with the author picking up a point that has already being made and re-using it almost verbatim in a different context. This may be the case but the author also seems to have been somewhat over-ambitious and tried to cram in too much detail within a Pen & Sword volume. A typical example is the description of each significant Thracian strongpoint across Bulgaria, Eastern Greece and parts of actual Rumania, Serbia and Kossovo with, in each case, the height and width of walls.

A related issue is the impression seeks to be all things for all people. Rather than just being a military history of the Thracians over a period of over 1500 years, which in itself was a rather considerable challenge to meet, the book also seeks to be a gazette of fortifications and a book for wargame campaigners seeking to use Thracian armies. I personally have no problem with this (and used to be a wargamer myself, along time ago!). However, trying to be everything at the same time can become somewhat problematic and may explain at least some of the repetitions.

In addition, some of the author's statements can be confusing. He mentions some 40 Thracian tribes, but only lists 30 of them. He also mentions one tribe as being in reality a clan of another tribe (the Bessi), but then mentions another clan as being part of the first one. In reality, these apparent contradictions seem to illustrate the numerous uncertainties surrounding the Thracians. The author is certainly correct in stating that we know more about the Thracians than what is commonly assumed. However, we may also know less about them than what he may want us to believe. Some of his statements are in fact no more than his interpretations, and at least some of these interpretations may be controversial, or even questionable, such as listing the Triballi (the major tribe living to the west of the Odrysians, the largest of all the Thracian tribes) as Thracians. Other historians believe they were Illyrians, rather than Thracians.

A similar point may be made for the Agrianian javelinmen, which, according to Webber, were used by Alexander as his own SAS and their achievements during his campaigns have not been recognized by modern historians. All three point are questionable. It is uncertain as to whether the Agrianians were Thracians or not. They were not the only ones used as special troops by Alexander for forced marches and dangerous missions. He usually brigaded them together with the foot guards (the Hypaspistai) and a couple of other units so that the claim that they were the equivalent of the SAS, apart from being wildly anachronistic, is also factually incorrect. Finally, their role in Alexander's campaigns has been recognized by at least some historians whom the author happens to have omitted from his bibliography.

So while this book is very valuable and I personally learned a lot about the Thracians, it could have been much better if it had been more focused, better edited and perhaps more selective in some cases, and more objective in others.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars For the want of an editor..., 7 Sept. 2011
This review is from: The Gods of Battle: The Thracians at War, 1500 BC - 150 AD (Hardcover)
The author and publisher deserve congratulations for producing a work on an important but difficult aspect of the ancient military world - the Thracians, who had a significant impact on Greek and Hellenistic armies in particular. And Mr Webber is to be praised for his consideration of recent archaeological progress in countries such as Bulgaria, which perhaps tends not to be percolate easily through to Anglophone studies. However, at times I have despaired whilst reading The Gods of Battle over the absence of tight, thorough editing. The same quotations and statements are repeated in different chapters. And it is often all too obvious where the author, having written one paragraph, has subsequently revisited the issue and drafted additional material - but then has failed to amend or remove the original text. The result is disjointed, repetitive and sometimes illogical and contradictory.

The author's reliance on Homer for evidence of historic Thracian martial practices is also somewhat surprising; that is not to say that it is wholly irrelevant, since there may be some reflection of archaic Greek perceptions of Thracian arms thus preserved; but to throw Homer into a consideration of the historical size of Thracian armies is, to my mind, of very questionable value. Peiros' combat with Diores (Iliad IV) is referenced no less than five times - twice (in three pages!) simply to prove that ancient soldiers were not above throwing rocks at each other.

For anyone with an interest in Thracian military history, the book is certainly worth getting. But there is a far better work inside, struggling to get out.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A new, first class text on the Thracians - at last, 14 July 2011
By 
Ben Kane (Nr Bristol, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Gods of Battle: The Thracians at War, 1500 BC - 150 AD (Hardcover)
I was so pleased when I read about this book's imminent publication (it has only been released in June 2011, not Feb. 2010 as per the blurb). There are precious few texts out there about the Thracians, the brave, warlike people who lived in the region encompassed by parts of modern day Bulgaria, Romania, Greece, Turkey, Ukraine, Moldova and Macedonia. There's The Thracians, a slender Osprey volume by the same author; Thrace and the Thracians, a dry text by the academic Alexander Fol, and that's about it.

In my opinion, this is a "must buy" for those who have longed to know more about Thrace and its people. There's a foreword by Fol, and then chapters covering the Thracians' historical outline, their costume, armour, and weapons, as well as military organisation, their fortifications, battles and tactics and a good long chapter on the different tribes. The Thracians' history is covered in detail from deepest antiquity until the time of the wars with Greece and Rome, and their eventual subjugation. There are plentiful colour and black and white plates, maps, and good discussions on such controversial topics as the rhomphaia, the sica, and the falx. The author has spent considerable time writing this volume, and is to be congratulated on a work of excellence.

Five solid stars out of five.

Ben Kane, author of Spartacus: The Gladiator.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars May become a classic, 17 Aug. 2011
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This review is from: The Gods of Battle: The Thracians at War, 1500 BC - 150 AD (Hardcover)
After reading on the internet that Chris Webber was working on a longer study of the Thracians I decided I had to look into the matter more closely and then bought the book directly as it was published. There are not many accessible studies on the Thracians, as Webber puts it in his introduction, many texts are either published in languages not understood by a mainstream, Anglo-Saxon audience, or they are marred by the fact that they too strongly reflect time and instance of their publishment, i.e. Bulgarian and Romanian publications from before the nineties will often contain standard, doctrinal socialist viewpoints. Moreover, even if they should be more or less untainted by such views, they do tend to focus on concerns stemming from the socialist roots of the universities the scholars attended, i.e. the sociological or religious sphere. Thus, this is one of the few monographs focussing on the "Thracians at War". In this respect, it is, generally speaking, very good, covering a lot of ground, both regarding time and range of the Thracians. Webber fairly discusses controversial point of study (like the so-called Iphicratean reforms), states his own, factually based opinion, but also shows how he came to his conclusions - still allowing not only for other, parallel opinions, but also stating that the last word in scholarship has not yet been spoken on many issues.

However, there are flaws: Webber generally relies on translations of his source material, discussing translations, where he should be discussing the actual source. The quotes from source material are often flawed (the only direct quote in Greek has something like one mistake per word, sometimes even two! What should have been "rhomphaia. thrakion amynterion, machaira, xiphos, he akontion makron" on page 67 for instance became "rompsaia. thrachion amynterion, machaira, eiphoz, e achontion machron" - with a Latin transcription of "rhomphaia" as "romphaia" and "machaira" as "machiara"), insinuating that he, or maybe the copy editor, has mastered neither Ancient Greek, nor Latin, the actual lanuages of the sources - something at least I regard as a problem for a classical scholar. In general though, he is absolutely meticulous in his detail, as far as the mass of source material is concerned: You will hardly find anything on Thrace in the classical authors not mentioned here.

So, I think four stars is well deserved. Being a classical scholar myself I jsut got rubbed up the wrong way by mistakes like the one mentioned above. But make no mistake, this is still an excellent book. As a work of scholarship it may lack here and there, as a "book" book, for people who want to know basically all there (currently at least) is to know about Thracian warfare, this is a must buy, together of course with Webber's classic from Osprey on the same topic. I would advise reading the Osprey book first as a kind of introduction, especially due to the pictures, then read "the Gods of Battle" for more in-depth immersion into the subject.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating in parts, 30 Dec. 2012
By 
M. Western (Dunfermline, Fife, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Gods of Battle: The Thracians at War, 1500 BC - 150 AD (Hardcover)
If you're interested in Thrace then you simply have to read this book as there is little else available. Webber has certainly done his homework and should be congratulated on pulling all the source material together.

If you are a re-enactor or wargamer of the ancient period, then you will find his discussions on equipment and tactics of high interest - I particularly enjoyed the sections on slings and peltasts.

Some of the chapters covering the archeological evidence are a little dull, but the book would not be complete without them.

There are also some nice colour plates, as well as plenty of drawings, justifying the price.
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The Gods of Battle: The Thracians at War, 1500 BC - 150 AD
The Gods of Battle: The Thracians at War, 1500 BC - 150 AD by Chris Webber (Hardcover - 18 Feb. 2010)
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