on 10 December 2012
In this volumes Messrs Pollard and Perry have produced exactly what it says 'on the tin' - a complete history of the legions of Rome, the professional soldiers that won and maintained the Roman empire. It also makes a superb counterpoint to the rubbish published elsewhere on this subject by a certain Australian. This is how a book on the Roman legions should look and be arranged. It is quite clear that a considerable amount of scholarship has gone into the assembly.
One really interesting thing about this book, however, is the inclusion of information on the legions of both the Republican Roman state as well as those of the late empire, the so-called 'Tetrarchy'. To be sure, there isn't too much known about these other periods, but what there is deserves to be brought forward and the authors have done an excellent job of doing just that.
Another aspect that I found to be particularly useful and interesting is the way that the various Imperial legions have been dealt with. Instead of a mere listing in 'numerical' order (not much use, owing to the repeated use of the same number, e.g. there were at least five legions that carried the numeral 'I'), the various legions have been grouped together under the provinces in which they spent most of their service lives. To be sure, information has also been included when a legion was moved to another province but this seemed to have been a comparatively rare occurrence. Thus legio II Augusta spent most of its time in the province of Britannia, so that is where it will be found here but also included under this entry is the fact that it served in Spain and Gaul. Likewise, the bibliography has been similarly arranged, which saves searching amongst reams of references if all you want is some information on (say) legio I Minerva.
The book is also beautifully illustrated, the majority of which are in colour. Many of these illustrations were new to me. Also, lest you think that the work is merely a catalogue of the legions, the authors have included useful information on the organizational structure of the legions and their battle tactics.
I would unhesitatingly recommend this volume to anyone with an interest in the Roman Army. I think that it may become the standard reference work on the subject for many years to come.