Roman Military

M.C. Bishop

in Classics

ISBN: 9780195389661
Published online May 2011 | | DOI:
Roman Military

More Like This

Show all results sharing these subjects:

  • Classical Studies
  • Classical Art and Architecture
  • Classical History
  • Classical Literature
  • Classical Philosophy



The Roman army evolved from a small citizen yeoman force into a tool of international diplomacy, the mercenary blade in the hands of rival warlords, and finally a provincial police force that occasionally asserted itself in political events. It is often called the first professional army, but the key to the longevity of its study lies in the fact that it was the first army with a professional attitude which trained to a degree that modern armies seek to attain. It is no accident that Vegetius, a late Roman writer who drew heavily on earlier writers, is still read in military colleges. A humanities-based tradition of Roman military scholarship grew up that eschewed the grittier side of combat, contenting itself with fairly anodyne tactics and strategy. Although a pan-European interest from the Renaissance onwards, by the beginning of the 20th century, it was a German specialty, with British and French scholars striving to keep up. The publication of John Keegan’s Face of Battle in 1976, however, had a profound effect on the discipline despite its containing no explicit examination of ancient combat, but it has served to even the balance in the subject. Books on the Roman army fall into three broad categories. There are straightforward academic publications with the usual scholarly apparatus, with either endnotes or footnotes or a Harvard-type referencing system. There are popular or “coffee-table” books designed to appeal to the casually interested reader. But then there is a further category that fits in between: books that eschew any sort of note or reference system and prefer some sort of suggested reading list, yet tackle subjects that have an academic appeal, often deriving from doctoral work and clearly aimed primarily at an informed readership. This last category includes monographs intended for specialist audiences such as modelers and wargamers, frequently including colorful reconstruction paintings. Nevertheless, all three belong within this bibliography. Given the nature of the literature and the available sources, it is inevitable that the Principate forms the principal focus of any study of the Roman army, but military tradition ensured a continuity that subdividing the army into convenient time periods tends to negate.

Article.  11396 words. 

Subjects: Classical Studies ; Classical Art and Architecture ; Classical History ; Classical Literature ; Classical Philosophy

Full text: subscription required

How to subscribeRecommend to my Librarian

Buy this work at Oxford University Press »