on 3 January 2013
Sadly I have to agree with the previous guy, this book is pretty bad. The illustrations are high quality (but then again they should be, many of them are straight-up copies of the works of the old masters like Angus McBride and Peter Connolly!) but the scholarship is pretty shoddy.
You get the sense that the author sometimes just doesn't know what he's talking about. There are a shocking number of errors in the captions which accompany the artwork, most of them are brief and feel uninformed. The author doesn't make much use of specialist terms, or simply uses the wrong terms. For example he labels a bucket-looking helmet as a pot helmet, and uses the same term to describe an elaborate, ornamental helmet not a few pages later. Another statement which floored me was the claim the Diocletianic reforms abolished segmented armour. Where on earth did the author find this statement??
Figures and helmets are mislabeled in pretty glaring ways. One bronze age-esque helmet is described as a later Germanic helmet (this term doesn't really exist), and several uniforms that clearly belong in the late 1st century are labeled as 4th century. I think late Roman scholarship has progressed to a level of general public awareness that makes this kind of mislabeling unacceptable.
The worst part was two figures that appear toward the end of the book. Both are copied from or at least heavily influenced by Graham Sumner's illustration in Osprey's Roman Naval Forces. One soldier was carrying a short javelin-like object, and the caption read: the arrow-like object is probably not a weapon but a symbol of rank. That's it. No further elaboration as to what its purpose was or where it came from. It's almost like the author was taken by surprise at what the illustrator gave him. Same case with a figure on the next page, an officer wearing a blue cloak. The caption reads: the cloak is blue, probably because of his naval service. How did the author come to this conclusion? And why does he sound so unsure of it??
This is a pretty bad book overall, and any ancient military history nerd worth his salt should stay well clear of it.
on 12 June 2016
I am sitting on the fence a bit simply because there is so much that is good that it deserves three stars. On the scholarship, well it's ok. A bit loose in some areas but to be truthful I bought it for the artwork which is excellent. That said some of the descriptions are....hopelessly wrong. The illustration of Vespasian has him carrying a helmet that is mid-to-late 2nd century in type, the Gallic cavalryman of 58bc shown on page 115 is actually a Macedonian companion of Alexanders time! As we get to the later Empire it's a lot more mistakes p.143 has a 2nd century soldier shown as 3rd century, p.147 lorica segmata armour for the 3rd century is pretty unlikely, the helmet worn by a cavalryman on p.149 is odd....the cavalryman shown two pages later is great except he isn't 4th century and certainly not 5th, two pages later and we have another cavalryman that's undateable, possibly 2nd Century but certainly not 476. Oddly enough the Eastern Roman army and subsequent periods is pretty flawless (although it's taken from Angus McBrides best illustrations and a few others) although it recreates some of the more doubtful conclusions.In short if you are interested in the uniforms (I don't subscribe to the idea that "uniform" means something else...army clothing -call it what you will -the idea was to conform to a recognisable style for us and them). then this is a very, very good book. The artwork in the main is accurate, and very colourful. Ok I think they have photoshopped a few real bodies onto existing artwork and that's....just wrong ... but if you have the Osprey Books (and I do) then this is a revisiting of a few of those but it's well worth the money.
on 3 March 2013
Each book has its own fate, as the Romans were keen to observe, but I am inclined to believe that this book is merely re-living the life of others. Reading the book one very quickly gains the impression that the authors were seeking to cash in on the widespread interest in Roman military history with a minimum of effort - I really see no other explanation for such a poor result. The approach is a risky one, since the re-enactment community and other readers interested in the topic nowadays have access to a vast amount of well-written and lavishly illustrated books based on sound research and are thus mostly well-informed about recent developments in archaeology and Roman military history.
The book is obviously designed to appeal to readers for its large amount of illustrations of Roman soldiers. The illustrations themselves are a matter of taste, but they're decently done. Unfortunately, this cannot be said for the research that has, or rather has not not, gone into them. The illustrations are nearly all mere copies of pictures that have appeared in other works. Most have been adopted from the Osprey series (whose plates, let it be said, are not beyond some criticism themselves), but there are also illustrations copied from works like "Roman Cavalry Equipment" (Stephenson), "Byzantine Armies 325-1453 AD" (Belezos/Giannopoulos), and the brilliant two "Greece and Rome at War" (Peter Connolly)and "Warfare in the Ancient World" (John Warry), both still available and exquisitely illustrated if slightly dated.
"An Illustrated Encyclopedia of Uniforms of the Roman World" is riddled with mistakes and inaccuracies. Other reviewers have already remarked upon the rather quaint mistakes which have made their way into the book, e. g. the Macedonian companion cavalryman innocently trying to pass for a Gallic cavalryman from Vercingetorix's army (this was originally a mistake to be found in Osprey's compilation "Rome and her Enemies", for which no illustrations were specially commissioned), or the 1st century AD cavalry trumpeter galloping to engage the Goths in the time of the decline and fall...No offence to the illustrator intended, but the fact that the book's scientific quality is so poor may lead the reader to conclude that the authors were obviously completely out of their depth here.Perhaps the book is merely intended to make a showy supplement to the remaining books of the series, all of which concern themselves with armies of the 18th to 20th centuries. The task of providing an easily accessible and well-researched overview of the development of Rome's military forces (and those of her enemies!) from the Republic to the fall of Constantinople is no mean feat, and I am sure it would overwhelm even the most enterprising and erudiate of authors. In view of the impossible amount of challenges such an undertaking must pose I suppose that the only solution was to settle for the publishing of results already easily accessible and fairly accurate. It should not have been a problem to place them in a correct historic context. As it is, this muddle of a book will annoy any reader reasonably familiar with the topic.
on 7 September 2014
Those with a serious interest in ancient military history should avoid this like the plague. The fault in this book is revealed by its very title, which contains the words 'uniforms' and 'Roman world' in the same sentence. Anyone who believes the Romans, or any of their contemporaries over the course of the centuries had any conception of a military 'uniform' is either very naive or has zero understanding of ancient history. If you want a good book on Roman military dress you should consult the works of Graham Sumner and Dr Raffaele D'Amato, in particular. This book does little more than perpetuate the myth that ancient armies had 'uniforms' in the same sense that we understand the word. Indeed it appears that absolutely no original research went into producing this book, it's just a compendium put together from the works of other more specialist writers and as other reviewers have pointed out, the illustrations appear to be shameless re-renderings of pictures to be found in other authors works.
on 9 June 2016
It's very pretty, even if it does regurgitate previous works- however its presentation as a single and very well presented volume means it works well for everyday people and kids. It's a great reference for tabletop gamers, like Hail Caesar players- even if the errors and simplicities in the book might irk the serious history buff
on 31 January 2013
Hardcover 256 pages and well illustrated book of the arms and armour of the Roman military machine and Rome's enemies. already commented on its contents by other reviews the quality of the illustrations are very good, although a good purchase for the price i would personally refer this book really for the schoolastic level and as a tool to seek other detailed publications of this era. the other aspects of Romes military machine are briefly explored such as the triremes, siege equipment, cavalry etc, the book is mostly dealing with the latter times of the Roman Empire and interesting information of the Roman emperors ( died naturally, murdered, poisoned, mysterious death, retired, etc ) is quite fascinating. Romes enemies are covered from the early days of the republic right up to the 15th century with the dawn of the Ottomans, again the details are brief and i would recommend you look to other publications for more study- i think that's where this book is praised to encourage further reference, Connolly's books such as Hannibal and the enemies of Rome, The Roman Army, and The Greek Army go more into detail especially the republic and early imperial era's are concerned, also his Dacian campaign ( The Roman Legionary ) should be consulted into Trajan's Danube operations for further detail. on the whole i would say its a good buy for its price and good for general reference only.
on 24 December 2012
This is a very attractively produced book. It is excellent value for its price having over 600 specially drawn, colour illustrations as well as many "period" illustrations packed into 256 pages.
The book covers the whole of the Roman period, including the Eastern Roman empire until 1453. (Although uniform illustrations stop short of this end date at around the end of the 13th century).
Subjects include the the Roman army and navy and the enemies of Rome. I like the sections on the Roman Navy and artillery and there are some nice reconstructions of the Theodosian Walls of Constantinople.
The worst feature, in my opinion, is the lack of references and a bibliography. This is a pity because much of the information, and many of the illustrations, are derivative, owing much to Osprey series of military uniform books and other works by Peter Connolly, H Russell Robinson, Mike Bishop, Graham Sumner and Raffaele D'Amato.
Those who already have the books by those authors will probably be disappointed to find there is nothing new here. The illustrations are, in many cases, almost direct re-drawings of pictures by Angus McBride, Peter Connolly and Graham Sumner.
Nevertheless, many of the "copies" do full justice to the originals on which they are based. They are also drawn together in a single book, the price of which is less than the full cost of just two Osprey titles.
One of the strengths of this series of military uniform books is that the historic context for each period is more detailed, better written and much more readable than that found in some of the more "technical" studies of arms and uniforms. That is certainly evident here. One can follow the entire history of Rome from its founding to the fall of Constantinople in 1453. According to the synopsis on the jacket, the author, Kevin F. Kiley, has a special interest in the Eastern Roman Empire. It is heartening that a substantial part of this book is dedicated to that oft forgotten part of the Roman world.
The author and publishers seem to have taken on board criticism levelled at previous books in this series where the quality and style of illustration was much more varied. Here, the quality is of a consistently good to excellent standard and there is a far better blend of styles between the three artists used, Ton Croft, Simon Smith, and Mathew Vince.
My only real criticism of the illustrations is that a small number of the computer generated images show some very poor rendering of mail and some of the armour and equipment appears awkward and badly fitting.
One amusing point. Some of the figures appear to have been closely based on modern actors. I recognised Ewan McGregor as a Gallic warrior on page 117 and the Lakhmid horse archer on page 171 looks suspiciously like Christopher Lee!
If I was looking for a reasonably priced book which offers an inspiring and comprehensive overview of the subject, this is the book I would choose. It would certainly make a very good addition to a school or college library.
Charles Glenn, 24/12/2012
on 16 February 2013
I bought this book for some inspiration when painting some model Roman soldiers. There is a good introduction to this history of the Roman empire. The drawings are fantastic, they provide a lot of inspiration for painting models. What I like is that there are often two large drawings on most pages. The details on the figures is excellent. For me this book has served its purpose. My 12 year old son has also taken an interest in it and there is plenty of information in the text to keep him occupied!
There have been some critism of the acuracy of some of the drawings in the Amazon reviews. I can't comment on this, but it is obviously not a book aimed at schollers of Roman history. It's a Dorland Kingsley style book, that is a pleasure to look at the pictures and enough information to be of interest. Its not a dry academic account of Roman uniforms. It has also been compared to the Osprey books - for me it is far better value because the Osprey books are very expensive if you only use them for the limited number of colour plates they have.
If you have a child interested in Romans it would make an excellent present for them.
on 14 April 2014
An excellent source to be used as a painting guide and for the historical narrative. I have 3 of the series of books now!
on 13 January 2013
This book is great value for money. It covers a vast period of history and does it well, considering the number of changes in uniforms, weapons etc that occurred over the centuries and not just with changes involving the Roman Army but also the enemies of Rome. With such a large task it is hardly suprising it may contain mistakes. As yet, I've not come across a book in any period of history that does not. However, some of criticisms against the title from other reviewers seem a little harsh and I have the feeling that, with a little bit of research, some of the claims of alleged faults will be proven incorrect. For example, there is evdience that the claim that the Gallic horseman (page 115) should not have been depicted in Greek armour is incorrect. The helmet appears to be of the Boeotian type and Bishop and Coulston, in Roman Military Equipment, 2nd Edition, page 66, support this, when they describe the Roman soldiers on the altar of Domitius Ahenobarbus, images of which can be found online. 'This monument also depicts a cavalryman wearing what is clearly a Boeotian helmet, a broad-rimmed type dating back to Hellenistic times and recalling Polybios' comment about Roman cavalry being equipped in the Greek manner.' This type of helmet is also depicted in Nick Sekunda's Republican Roman Army, Osprey Men at Arms no 291, plate G2, but with a yellow plume. Some of the other complaints, such as Vercingetorix's armour are petty. He was described by some ancient historians as wearing armour, although no decription of what type was given. The statue of Vercingetorix shows similar armour, which may or may not be accurate, and the artist may have based his depiction on the famous statue. But there is nothing to prove he did or did not wear this or a similar type of protection. The complaint about the facemask on the cavalryman (page 149) is also petty, since the text accompanying the image states that the mask depicted was unusual and not standard, and there is an image of a cavalryman with a full facemask on page 153. There is some merit in the complaint about the Emperor Constantine's sword (page 188), although this may have been the artist basing incorrectly on the statue in York, which was not a period sculpture. However, the Romans did have long bladed swords (spatha) during this period, such as the one depicted on the opposite page (p189). But it is only the hilt that is in question, not the blade itself. If I had more time I would research the other alleged errors, some of which may indeed be errors, but I think the book is still well worth the value and full of information and fantastic images and worthy of anyone's collection.