Book Review: Army of the Roman Emperors


by Thomas Fischer, translated by M.C. Bishop

Philadelphia: Casemate, 2016. Pp. xl, 418+. Illus., maps, chron., diagr., tables, plans, notes, biblio., index. $45.00. ISBN: 1612008100

A Handbook on the Imperial Army

Originally published in Germany in 2012, this impressive work by Prof. Fischer (Cologne) and several collaborators is essentially a handbook on the Roman armed forces from the end of the Republic through the end of the third century. Although the lengthy introduction offers an historical perspective on the background, evolution, and history of the Roman army from that of the Late Republic through AD 300 or so, the principal object of the book is to tell us almost literally everything else about it, in six parts.

Part I has a critical analysis of the iconographic sources and what they can tell us about the Army, gleaning evidence from tombstones, monuments, and so forth, while Part II offers a look at the historiography of the army and it’s institutions, from ancient writings through modern works.

Part III examines what archaeology can tell us about the clothing, arms, personal equipment, and the like, which is followed by Part IV, which looks at at forts, barracks, and other physical structures related to the army, and of course the frontier systems. Part V gives us a survey of the whys and hows of the evolution of the army across these centuries, and is followed by Part VI which looks at the Roman navy .

Army of the Roman Emperors is very well documented, using both literary and archaeological references, and also makes effective use of experimental archaeology and the experience of re-enactors. The numerous illustrations (many in color), maps, and other graphics are well chosen to help illustrate the points being made. While one could offer “nit pick” criticisms, it is  valuable contribution to the literature of imperial military institutions.



Note: Army of the Roman Emperors 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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