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Posted on May 17, 2007 in Books and Movies, Front Page Features

Greek & Roman Warfare – Book Review

By Marshal Murat

cover.jpgBook Review – Greek & Roman Warfare, Battles, Tactics, and Trickery
John Drogo Montagu

The author begins by stating that this is about the ‘software’ of war, as he terms it, concentrating on actual battles and the events surrounding them. He doesn’t drag the reader down with ‘hardware’ which is both a pro’ and con’ to the book. If you are a casual reader, who enjoys a good book about Greek and Roman warfare, this is for you. If you are deeply immersed in the era, be advised that this is a very good overview of the situation, but not as in-depth as may have been hoped for.

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The author has divided the book into 2 parts. The first talks about elements, much akin to The Art of War by Sun Tzu. He identifies the Element of Doubt, Planning, Surprise, Deception, Secrecy, Chance, and Luck. One of the first chapters is, however, the Human Element. Mr. Montagu provides historical examples of good and bad human qualities, citing Hannibal, Scipio Africanus, Alexander, and many other generals of the era. He talks about how surprise affects a battle, either a strategic surprise or a tactical surprise. Deception and Surprise are  talked about extensively, and he backs up every argument with two or three historical examples that add support to his ideas.

The second part concerns the battles. These are really an enjoyment, as you read about the preliminary conditions and some history, the actual battle, and the effects of the battle. He also provides several points to think about, and describes how each one affected the battles themselves with examples from Alexander’s General Successors and Roman warfare.  The author stretches his book from the Peloponnesian War to the Roman Civil War, and covers the battles in between, with maps to help clarify the events.  There were some faults however – the author fails to include any of Caesar’s Gallic War battles, and the wars between Mithridates and Sulla, or Marius and Sulla, and also stops after the battle of Pharsalus. There was also a certain redundancy to the book, where the author repeated the history several times.

Overall, the book was entertaining and enjoyable, a quick and informative read, with graphs and maps that allow the reader to grasp the finesse of ancient conflict. However, the author could have added a wider span of battles that would provide the reader not only with the tactics and trials of the battles, but also provided an informative history lesson as well.

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