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5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book on the Roman Republic at war, 9 Aug 2011
This review is from: Andrea Palladio and the Architecture of Battle (Hardcover)
This is an edition of Andrea Palladio's illustrations for Polybios's `Histories' and Julius Caesar's `Commentaries'. The Polybios illustrations were considered to be `lost' for four hundred years, as they hadn't been seen since the death of Palladio in the late 16th century, before he could publish them. Whether anyone was looking for them is another matter, as Sir John Hale found them in the British Library in the 1970s, bound into a 16th century edition of Polybios, which was part of the King's Library - George III's personal collection, donated to the British Museum as a base for creating the British Library. The king had bought the collection of the British Consul in Venice after the Seven Years War (which apparently had got in the way of his buying it earlier). The Consul, Joseph Smith, had been a noted collector and dealer in Venice, for art, books, coins, and anything else not nailed down, for most of the first half of the eighteenth century. Another (incomplete) copy was later found in the New York Public Library, and a third was sold by a Florentine book dealer to a private collector. The plates in the London edition contained notes in Palladio's own hand, and it is believed to be a `proof' copy, or a test copy to see how the final edition would look.

Palladio was a noted architect, but this volume reflects his interest in the `art of war', something that was undergoing a serious `revolution' in his day - see David Eltis' Military Revolution In Sixteenth Century. Palladio and his circle were involved in the study of, and publication of new editions of the classic authors to support the new study of modern warfare. His illustrations to Caesar's Commentaries were published in his lifetime, but, as noted above, the illustrations for Polybius were lost at his death. This book reprints the illustrations from the Commentaries, and for the first time in over four hundred years, the lost illustrations of Polybius. There are also a number of supporting essays. The contents of the book are:
P012: Palladio and Polybius Histories
P078: A note on the copy of the Dell'imprese de Greci... of Polybius Histories.
P085: Andrea Palladio. Texts and Illustrations for Polybius' Histories
P177: Andrea Palladio. Texts and Illustrations for Julius Caesar's Commentaries
P226: The Renaissance Tradition of the Ancient Art of War
P240: The Organisation of Warfare and the Military Milieu in the Republic of Venice
P254: Honour and Virtu in a Sixteenth-Century Aristocratic Republic
P272: Sebastiano Serlio and the Roman Encampment
P299: Appendix
P326: Index

As noted in the essays, it was the custom, from Machiavelli onwards, in books on the Art of War, to show troop formations by the use of letters of the alphabet. Palladio decided that it would be more effective to engrave battle scenes with figures of the combatants in the proper formations and deployments according to the descriptions of the classical authors. The essayists make a big point of this innovation, but if you read Eltis above, you will find that it is actually `horses for courses', as he points out that the use of letters in deployment diagrams was an important development in drill manuals as it helped (in 16th century England for sure) the shire muster-masters to drill their militia companies with clear illustrations of what they were trying to achieve. It was also much cheaper than engraving plates, as the letter-style of diagram could be (I assume), set in type. However, for explaining what went on the classical battlefield, Palladio's illustrations are incredibly useful. I have been reading up on Roman tactics and organisation recently, and both Gareth Sampson's The Crisis of Rome: The Jugurthine and Northern Wars and the Rise of Marius and Nic Fields' Roman Battle Tactics 390110 BC (Elite) were not as clear as Andrea Palladio's illustrations and supporting notes. Just to show that he was not infallible, Palladio's reconstruction of a classical warship shows five banks of oars; current theory has it that there were never more than three banks of oars, but with a varying number of rowers to each oar. See Hellenistic and Roman Naval Warfare 336BC - 31BC and The Navies of Rome. Palladio also gives a clear account of how the members of a phalanx are able to change frontage and face to the flank or rear.

This book was written in Italian, but has been fully translated into English. It is profusely illustrated (aside from Palladio's own plates). There are 43 double-page plates of the Polybios' illustrations, and 42 plates of Caesar, these on single pages. The plates vary from illustrations of battles on land and sea, both famous and not, sieges, including a multi-part siege of Alesia, and an occasional map. The text of Polybios and Caesar are not included, but Palladio's supporting notes are. He apparently invented the idea of putting letters on the diagram and having a key boxed off to the side with an explanation, a system which has endured to this day. I noticed that there are events in some of the plates which don't always tie-in with modern commentators' views, but apparently Palladio found them described in the classical text, and has depicted them. Hannibal's elephants crossing the Rhone, for instance differs slightly form more florid accounts. I have noticed in the past, that writers who come from a pre-mechanised background sometimes have a better understanding of classical combat than modern writers, also a better grasp of Latin and Greek, as many current popular writers have little or no grasp of sources other than in the English language; read Theodore A. Dodge's studies of Alexander, Hannibal and Caesar for examples of studies by someone who successfully commanded troops in pre-mechanised combat and was able to clearly describe what famous generals of the past were up to.

If you are interested in the Roman art of war, then this is an incredibly interesting and useful book to have, and currently at an incredibly inexpensive price as well. And if you are interested in the sixteenth-century `military revolution', then it will also be of interest. I borrowed it from a library, and having read it, then ordered a copy from Amazon before typing this.

The plates for Poybius:
Cavalry formations; Quinquereme according to the manner of the Ancients; Roman encampment; Quinquereme according to the manner of the Ancients; Siege of Agrigentum; Battle of Cape Ecnomus; Battle of Adys; Battle of Tunis; Battle of Palermo; Siege of Lilybaeum; Battle of Trapani; Siege of Eryx; Encampment on Mount Hercte; Battle of the River Makaras; Battle of Telamon; Battle of Sellasia; Battle of the River Tagus; Crossing the Rhone; Ferrying the elephants across the Rhone; Combats in Savoy; Crossing the Alps; Battle of the Ticinus; Battle of the Trebia; Battle of Trasimeno; Stratagem of oxen with burning horns; Attack on troops gathering corn; A Carthaginian ambush; Battle of Cannae; Battle of Cannae; Siege of Psophis; Battle of Sparta; Battle of Apollonia; Siege of Seleucia; Battle of Raphia; Siege of Thebes; Siege of the fortress of Tarentum; Capture of New Carthage; Battle of Mantinea; Battle of Baecula; Attack on the encampments; Battle of the Great Plain; Battle of Zama; Battle of Cynoscephalae.

The plates for Caesar:
Roman encampment; Battle formations of the Macedonian phalanx and the Roman legion; Division of Spain; Division of France; Caesar prevents the Helvetii from crossing the Rhone; Battle of the River Arar (Saone); Battle of Bibrax; Caesar deploys his army opposite Ariovistus' camp; Caesar defeats Ariovistus; Battle of the River Axona (Aisne); Battle of the River Axona; Battle of the River Sabris; Battle at the confluence of the rivers Rhine and Meuse; Caesar's bridge over the Rhine; Caesar's encampment in Britain; Titurius Sabinus deploys his troops in `round formation'; Quintillius Tullius Cicero defends his encampment from the Nervii's assaults; Titus Labienus defeats the Treviri; Section of wall reinforced with wooden beams; Caesar is defeated by Vercingetorix at Gergovia; Labienus is victorious at Agendicum, Melodunum and Lutetia; Battle between Caesar and Vercingetorix; Battle of Alesia; The double fortified trenches of Caesar's encampment at Alesia; Battle of Alesia; Battle of Alesia; Caesar marches against the Bellovaci; The Bellovaci flee and set fire to their own encampment; Caesar fortifies the port of Brundisium; Caesar defeats Lucius Afranius and Marcus Petreius at Ilerda; Caesar defeats Lucius Afranius and Marcus Petreius at Ilerda; Pompey defeats Caesar at Durazzo; Battle of Pharsalus; Naval battle off Alexandria; The encampment of Caesar and Ptolemy along the Nile; Gnaeus Domitius Calvinus is defeated by Pharnaces at Nicoplis; Caesar defeats Pharnaces at Zela; Caesar clashes with Titus Labienus at Ruspina; Caesar puts Titus Labienus to flight at Ruspina; Caesar defeats Titus Labienus at Ruspina; Battle of Thapus; Battle of Thapsus.
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