For the last ten or more years I have had an interest in ancient Rome. I think it started with the mystery novels of Steven Saylor. If you like historical fiction, and particularly, historical mysteries, I recommend these highly. I also am interested in Roman Britain, where, in days past, we visited quite a few sites from the time when Britain was part of the Roman Empire. I was intrigued when I found this book. It purports to be “The Roman Soldier’s Unofficial Manual.” Having read many novels with the ever-present legions somewhat in the background, I found this book to be very interesting.
The book is exactly what it says it is. I was told how to join, the training, discipline and ranks, the equipment, where I was likely to be sent, who the enemy is. I learned what life was like in camp, what it like when on campaign, even how to storm a city. I learned the style of battle, the use of auxiliaries (who do the early fighting) and when the legions come in, how the cavalry are used. I was even told what retirement was like, in case I had lived out my twenty-five year enlistment. Nicely illustrated with statues and bas reliefs, and drawings, especially useful for the equipment and the formations for battle. There were also colored photos of modern day reenactors in full uniform displaying their weapons. The use of shields was especially impressive. Scattered throughout were quotations from various sources of the time, Caesar, of course, Ovid, Tacitus, Strabo and others. And occasionally a quote is given at the top of the page in Latin and translated, for those of us who have forgotten anything but ‘parva puella’ from our Latin in high school, at the bottom of the page. I enjoyed this book very much. It goes on the shelf with my small collection of Roman Britain.