This is an old Men-at-Arms title first printed in 1982 and not updated since. As such, the bibliography for further reading is obsolete, and so are some of the elements discussed in the text.
These include the alleged presence of a pike-phalanx of some 4000 Macedonians fighting alongside Hannibal at Zama. Although mentioned in one of the less reliable and latter Roman sources, this is very unlikely and is currently dismissed by modern historians. At a time when Philip V of Macedon was busy fighting against just about all of his neighbours in addition to Rome, and with the later dominating the seas, it is rather difficult to see how he would have deprived himself of a whole phalanx and how it could have been shipped over to Carthage and avoided interception.
Another problem is the author’s belief that Carthage adopted “Greek-style” heavy infantry tactics, meaning in fact a pike-phalanx, and that this was already the case during the First Punic War when the Spartan mercenary general Xantippus defeated the Roman army of Consul Regulus in 255BC. This is very probably a mistake because the Greeks only adopted Macedonian pike-style phalanxes towards the end of the third century, with the Sparta of King Cleomenes III using a pike-phalanx against the Macedonians of Antigonos Doson at the battle of Sellasia being the first (in 222 BC) followed by the Achean League during the next decade. Up to then, the “Geek-style” warfare was still the hoplite phalanx, although such a phalanx would be supplemented by various types of lighter and more flexible troops, such as peltasts and thureophoroi, just as was the case for the troops with which Hannibal had set of with to invade Italy.
Apart from that, the book contains a number of other “glitches” and typos. Saguntum was NOT a Greek city, contrary to what is mentioned in the chronology. Carthage did NOT conquer “almost all of Sicily” when it first landed on its shores during the 6th century, founded its own colonies, and checked the colonisation of the Greeks. The inner Council and high Court of Carthage was called the Hundred and Four (and NOT the Hundred). Scipio the Elder landed at Ampurias in 218 BC, and NOT, of course, in 128 BC.
The bits and pieces on the organisation of Roman armies and on the manpower at the disposal of the Romans are interesting and they definitely had to be mentioned in a work on the Punic Wars, but they are somewhat confusing. This is especially the case for the evolution of the Roman and allied legions where the various stages are not always clearly laid out.
Having mentioned these limitations, this little title does still cover a lot of ground within a few pages. It is also still backed by a rather good series of plates but it is probably not worth more than two or two and a half stars anymore.
on 25 November 2007
'Armies of the Carthaginian Wars' is a good short introduction on the various forces that took part during one of the most famous wars of the Classical age.
The title begins with a short chronological timeline of events during the Punic wars, before the author sets off to describe the Carthaginians and their mercenary allies. A great deal of interesting information is covered in this section, and the author gives enough space to each of the various mercenary groups within Hannibal's army - The Numidians, Gauls, Iberians, Greeks and Macedonians and even Hannibal's Italian allies are covered. He describes their roles within Hannibal's army, their arms, armour and tactics.
The majority of the book deals with the Roman army. The author begins by discussing the reliability of historians like Polybius, and how much we can salvage from their writings on the Roman battle order of the period. He discusses the Velites, Hastati, Principes and Triarii and their respective roles within the army. He also gives a short overview of how these armies were commanded by their generals, including how the Roman system of switching command between Consuls on a daily basis affected the running of the army in the field.
This book, like other Osprey titles from the Men-at-Arms series, has 8 pages of colour plates - each showing how the soldiers of the period looked like. These are all brilliantly rendered by the famous Osprey illustrator, Richard Hook. The book also has dozens of photographs, maps and line drawings, which are very useful.
It should be noted that you can buy a copy of this book along with a campaign title on the battle of Cannae under the title of "Hannibal's War with Rome - The Armies and the Campaigns 216 BC". It is best to look for second hand copies of this title, as it is no longer in print by Osprey.
I highly recommend this book, and It is probably worth pursuing Osprey's other titles on this subject which include - The Punic Wars by Nigel Bagnall, Cannae 216 BC by Mark Healy, The Roman Army of the Punic Wars 264-146 BC by Nic Fields and Republican Roman Army 200-104 BC by Nicholas Sekunda.