Book Review: Roman Conquests: The Danube Frontier


by Michael Schmitz

Barnsley, Eng.: Pen & Sword / Philadelphia: Casemate, 2019. Pp. xii, 150+. Illus., maps, , notes, biblio., index . $39.95. ISBN: 1848848242

The Romans on the Danube

Dr. Schmitz (Melbourne), the author of works on the Emperor Trajan’s Dacian wars, gives us an overview of several centuries of Roman military involvement on the Danubian frontier and the upper Balkans, the region that would prove the most threatening to the Empire from the mid-second century onwards.

Although the final extension of Roman power to the Danube only took place during the time of Augustus (30 BC-AD 14), Schmitz’ account covers events from the first Roman contacts with the region during Late Republic (c. 230 BC), through the Dacian Wars (AD 85-105), and then on to the campaigns of Marcus Aurelius in Bohemia, Moravia, and Slovakia (AD 166-180), the last effort by the Romans to advance beyond the great river.

Although essentially an overview of Roman activities in the region, primarily focused on strategic and operational matters – the need to secure the line of the Danube – Schmitz does touch on the ways in which the Romans responded to changing threats from peoples north of the river, which affected military organization, tactics, equipment, and patterns of settlement. He is careful to set events on this frontier within the bigger picture of the empire’s overall strategic situation as it evolved during the period.

As he does this, Schmitz takes a look at some important questions, such as whether the Romans had a long-term strategic policy, the conundrum presented by the need to have a strong military presence on the Danube and the temptation that presented for potential usurpers, or whether Marcus Aurelius’ could have successfully established a stable Roman province north of the Danube.

Roman Conquests: The Danube Frontier is a good book for those interested in Roman policy and strategy or in frontier studies.


Note: Roman Conquests: The Danube Frontier is also available in several e-editions.

StrategyPage reviews are published in cooperation with The New York Military Affairs Symposium


Reviewer: A. A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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