Book Review: War and Warfare in Late Antiquity: Current Perspectives


by Alexander Sarantis and Neil Christie, editors

Leiden/Boston: E.J. Brill, 2013. Two volumes. Illus., maps, notes, biblio., index. $329.00 . ISBN: 9004252576

War in the Final Ages of Classical Antiquity

A look at the conduct of war in the wider “Roman” world during Late Antiquity (c. A.D. 285-650). Enlightenment scholars, inspired in part by Vegetius, depicted this as a period of Roman military degeneracy, a view challenged in more recent literature. The essays in these volumes, by some two dozen scholars from several countries, are a further step in that reassessment. 

The first volume opens with an overview of the nature of war in the period, including varying interpretations and a number of controversies (notably Luttwak on “Grand Strategy”), and with the telling line, “There is no evidence that the Early Roman legionary army to the Late Roman army involved any major dissolution of military effectiveness or training.”   Eight essays follow reviewing the literature on various aspects of the subject (e.g., “Military Equipment and Weaponry,” “Tactics,” “Strategy, Diplomacy, and Frontiers,” “Fortifications in Africa,” etc.). 

The second, weightier volume, has nineteen essays grouped in eight categories (e.g., “Fortifications and Siege Warfare,” “Literary Sources and Topography,” “The Balkans,” “Civil War,” etc.). Essays cover topics like Roman and “Barbarian” military equipment, analyses of ancient histories, intelligence and “info war,” logistics, modern views of several campaigns, military archaeology, and so forth, and include “Recreating the Late Roman Army,” on the use of reenacting as a tool in helping us understand the period. 

Part of the Brill series “Late Antiquity”,  War and Warfare in Late Antiquity is an invaluable for the serious student of the Roman military, and even the more casual reader in the history of Late Antiquity may find many of these essays of interest.

Note: War and Warfare in Late Antiquity is also available in e-book format, ISBN 978-90-04-25258-5


Reviewer: A.A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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