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4.8 out of 5 stars
28
4.8 out of 5 stars
Format: Hardcover|Change
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 24 June 2009
I purchased this with fairly low expectations, and was VERY pleasantly surprised. I've had an interest in the Romans for some years now, and I still managed to learn an awful lot from this little book - AND at times it made me laugh out loud in the process.

I hadn't realised it was going to be a hardback, so that was a nice bonus. The quality of the binding means it will last a long, long time.

Each chapter starts with a Latin inscription, with a translation at the bottom of the page. Some of these are wonderful. 'Try to appear unimportant - the enemy may be low on ammunition.' 'We were against the cream of the Gallic army. The odds were a thousand to one... but he was a very tough Gaul.'

The text is also peppered with relevant quotations by actual Roman writers (in English!)

Lots of illustrations, including a photo section of modern-day reenactment guys in full battle gear.

Chapter headings include:

Joining the Roman Army.
The 'Good Legion' Guide.
Alternative Military Careers.
Kit and equipment.
People who will want to kill you.

And much more.

Even if you're an expert on the subject of ancient Rome, you'll still find this a fun read. If you're not, you'll find it a fun read AND learn lots in the process.

Very highly recommended.
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on 21 July 2009
I have just been to two re-enactment weekends and I think the Ermine Street Guard and Leg II Avg groups would highly approve of this wonderful new book.

Full of fun facts, brilliant colour illustrations and little primary-source nuggets, 'Legionary' is another great achievement by Philip 'Maty' Matyszak.

Written as if it was a manual for someone considering a career in the Roman Army, it contains info on everything from enlisting to celebrating a triumph (or choosing the wording on your tomb.) Just dipping into it you can discover fascinating facts. For example, did you know the Praetorian Guard had the scorpion for their symbol and they wore togas while on duty in the imperial palace? Did you know a calvary courier carrying a despatch was recognized by a feather tied to his spear? Did you know slingers sometimes put rude messages on their almond-shaped lead 'bullets'?

I also chuckled at the drily witty captions of some illustrations, e.g.
"One advantage of Judaea being a Roman province is that you will understand most of the insults being hurled at you, of which 'Romani ite domum' is likely to be among the least cruel and hurtful."

The perfect mixture of fun and info, with a brilliant collection of colour illustrations, this is a better resource than a whole year of attending re-enactment events! I would recommend it to anybody interested in the world of ancient Rome.
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VINE VOICEon 2 May 2009
This is a great little book about what life was like as a Roman legionary circa 100 AD. It's written as if it's an introductory manual for potential recruits and as such is shot through with gallows humour. Don't be fooled though, the author really knows his subject and doesn't skimp over his facts just to get to the next punchline - for instance he doesn't just glibly tell you that Legionaries wielded a short sword, he goes into detail about what to look for in a sword, how to use it and even which styles were in vogue C100 AD.

In short this is a great read and manages the not inconsiderable feat of being both highly informative and great fun at the same time. If only history was taught like this in schools.
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on 22 November 2014
Brilliant fast-paced introduction to life as a legionary, comprehensive with a nice insight into the 'human-factors'. More fun than a dry didactic text, with pertinent quotes from recognised sources. Would have saved me the embarrassment of leather shields (vs leather covered wood shields) in Warrior of Camelot. Oh well.
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on 28 December 2014
First saw this in Northumberland and bought a copy on my return. A 'heavy' subject potentially, it deals with the necessary in a light-hearted way, sometimes rather too light-hearted for me. Well worth the read for the visions it conjures up.
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on 29 June 2013
I enjoyed theis very much. A very good explination of coditions in the Roman Legions and how they operated. One understands why their organisation and discipline made them allconquering despite the occasional set back by the Parthian mounted archers. Anyone thinking of joining the legions should read this first and then, like myself, join the navy.
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on 4 July 2010
This is probably aimed at boys aged 10-16, but I am an adult and I loved it. It is a fantastic introduction to the Roman army, and is also quite detailed too. There are illustrations and full colour photos to complement the text. It probably doesn't manage to convince you that it is an actual manual to the ancient Roman army, but you learn so much and have such fun along the way - who cares! Absolutely every young teenage boy who has a passing interest in Roman warfare should read this book; and absolutely any adult who suffers from Roma-mania should read it - it is neither childish nor heavy reading.
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VINE VOICEon 20 December 2010
Interesting little book this. Purporting to be the unofficial Roman soldiers manual written for anyone contemplating joining the Roman military (covers the fleets and auxiliaries) around 100 A.D.

Very similar to "Ancient Rome on five denarii a day", obviously somewhat tongue in cheek - probably very similar to the type of booklet Kipling would have produced for budding recruits to the Indian army in the days of the Raj.

The author has a great sense of humour e.g. "Legionary's are somewhat scornful of the navy, and are eager to tell of its role in the first Punic war, when it transported almost a quarter of a million men straight to the bottom of the sea without any help from the enemy." Some 200 pages long, covering areas such as `Joining the Roman Army, Life in Camp, How to Storm a City and Battle', just the sort of information I would have enjoyed before I joined the army!

For all the humour though most of the statements and information it contains are based on facts (as we currently understand them) and taken from Roman sources (albeit via various monasteries).
I read it at the same time that I was working my way through the tome that is Dando-Collins "Legions of Rome" and it was a joy, it helped put the whole thing on a more human level. Recommended, though I have to say I think it is a book that might be better served/enjoyed as an MP3.
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on 26 September 2014
What a wonderful book. It teaches in a great tongue in cheek fashion that makes it extremely entertaining. If you intended making me feel like a miles gregarius you certainly succeeded. A simple and easy to use resource for the informed and newcomer to the Roman military machine
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on 16 June 2014
This is a very informative, thoroughly enjoyable book. The author has done a great job in making many mundane facts extremely accessible and interesting. As a classics graduate, I have no shame in saying I learnt a lot from it - and have now read it twice cover to cover!
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