Book Review: Ancient Rome: Infographics


by Nicolas Guillerat, John Schied, and Milan Milocco

London & New York: Thames & Hudson, 2021. Pp. 131. Illus., maps, biblio. $29.95. ISBN: 0500252629

Viewing Ancient Rome through Innovative Graphics

A collaboration between a talented graphic designer and two historians, this beautifully produced large-format book was originally published in French, but the English translation is fluent. The history of ancient Rome is vast, extending across some eleven centuries, from the legendary foundation of the city in 753 BCE to the “Fall” of the Empire in the West in 476 CE. Compressing this immense subject into 131 colorful pages is an ambitious project, but it is executed here with elegance, clarity, and meticulous, up-to-date scholarship.

The book is divided into three sections: “The Land and People of the Empire”; “Government, Worship, and Social Needs”; and “Rome’s Military Might”. For readers here, the third section will obviously be of greatest interest, and by itself, it is well worth the book’s modest price, but the charts and diagrams that explain population trends, structures of government, and the workings of the economy will also be of value to anyone trying to understand Rome’s many wars. For example, the chart “depreciation and devaluation, as seen in the example of the silver denarius” (p. 70) makes two centuries of economic history come alive. The richly detailed chart of wages and prices (p. 71) tells us that a “very attractive slave” could cost a hundred times as much as one “with no specific skills.”

Graphics show the evolution of the legions, different types of military camps, battle formations and tactics, siege warfare, and Roman sea power. The Second Punic War against Hannibal of Carthage is treated in particular detail, with superb battle diagrams for Cannae (216 B.C.E.) and Zama (202 B.C.E.).

An elaborate timeline sprawled across a two-page spread details the movements of every legion during Caesar’s eight-year campaign in Gaul.

For me, one of the most striking diagrams (p. 91) is a detailed inventory of the equipment carried by a legionary at the height of the empire, with the weight of each item. "The total load comes to 57.3 kg (126.3 pounds!), about a third of which would have been carried by the squad mule".

A map and timeline traces the career of one imperial soldier, Titus Valerius Marcianus, born in 125 C.E., recruited in 145 by the Fifth Legion Macedonica and honorably discharged in 170. Numerous small drawings of different troop types and weapons could provide inspiration for wargame counter graphics.

The last diagram in the book (pages 126-127) clearly illustrates the slave revolt of Spartacus (73 - 71 B.C.E.) an event that slave-owning Roman historians preferred to pass over in silence.

Ancient Rome: Infographics will be enjoyed and appreciated by anyone with an interest in this era of history. It also belongs on the bookshelf of every high school Latin class.


Our Reviewer: Mike Markowitz is an historian and wargame designer. He writes a monthly column for CoinWeek.Com and is a member of the ADBC (Association of Dedicated Byzantine Collectors). His previous reviews include, The Grand Strategy of the Byzantine Empire, The Age of the Dromon: The Byzantine Navy, ca. 500-1204, Military Saints in Byzantium and Rus, 900-1200, Heroes and Romans in Twelfth-Century Byzantium: The Material for History of Nikephoros Bryennios, The Power Game in Byzantium: Antonina and the Empress Theodora, Siege Warfare and Military Organization in the Successor States (400-800 AD), Constantine XI Dragaš Palaeologus, Romanland: Ethnicity and Empire in Byzantium, The Emperor in the Byzantine World, The Politics of Roman Memory: From the Fall of the Western Empire to the Age of Justinian, Theodosius and the Limits of Empire, Byzantium Triumphant: The Military History of the Byzantines, 959–1025, Rome Resurgent: War
and Empire in the Age of Justinian, Bohemond of Taranto, and The Last Viking: The True Story of King Harald Hardrada.




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


Reviewer: Mike Markowitz   

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