Group Resources

Modern Books

Roman Military Dress, Graham Sumner

A work spanning 1,000 years of military dress. Evocative illustrations march alongside a text drawing on wide ranging evidence. An excellent book.

Warfare in Roman Europe AD 350-425, Hugh Elton, (1997), OUP

Despite the importance of warfare in the collapse of the Roman Empire, this is the only comprehensive study of the subject available. Hugh Elton discusses the practice of warfare in Europe, from both Roman and barbarian perspectives, in the late fourth and early fifth centuries. He analyzes the military practices and capabilities of the Romans and their northern enemies at political, strategic, operational, and tactical levels, and covers civil wars, sieges, and naval warfare. For anyone taking up the subject of the Late Roman army in the West - this is a MUST HAVE book. My copy is extremely well-thumbed and dog-eared. The sign of a book that you keep going back to again and again.

The Late Roman Army, Southern, P. and Dixon, K.R., (1996) B.T. Batsford

Pat Southern and Karen Dixon provide an overview of the army in the historical period from Septimius Severus up to the beginning of the sixth century, including recruitment, pay and conditions, with a useful, but inevitably brief (to the re-enactor) section on the equipment used including a more detailed focus on helmet types, as well as discussing fortifications and siege warfare. They describe the reforms of Diocletian and Constantine - particularly the origin of the Comitatenses, or field armies as distinct from the frontier army and give a good impression of the complexity of the debate surrounding the shifting definitions and structures as the period progressed. The authors include an interesting discussion of morale, motivation and identity in the context of increasing cultural mix within the late Roman army. It has been criticised for containing some mistakes and for its caution in drawing new academic conclusions, but provides an excellent starting-point for study, particularly for those enthusiastic amateurs looking for an expanded and more heavily referenced progression from more introductory titles, such as the 'Osprey' series.

Rome at War AD 229-696, Michael Whitby, Osprey, Oxford, 2002

Michael Whitby does well to produce such a readable introduction to the period in one compact and very affordable volume in accessible Osprey style.

As well as outlining the political situation, he gives thumbnail portraits of some of some of the key players and gives an idea of some of the consequences of the conflicts featured. It includes some excellent maps showing the late empire and the major migrations and campaigns, although the duplication of some illustrations from other Osprey titles of the period seems disappointing. That said, the plan of the course of the battle of Adrianople is clearer than the isometric drawings in the Osprey Campaign title dedicated to the battle.

Romano-Byzantine Infantry Equipment, I. P. Stephenson 2006, Tempus, Stroud

Covering the period from the accession of Diocletian 284AD to the abdication of Romulus Augustulus in 476 in the western empire & from then to the death of Heraclius in 641 in the east, Stephenson seeks to challenge what he sees as some rapidly ossifying misconceptions. His flagship example is the Duerne helmet pictured on the cover, attested in one of it's inscriptions as belonging to a cavalryman, but which he does not see as representing a 'cavalry type' not worn by infantry. I have to say that using this shot for the cover, exactly like Southern & Dixon (2000), seems an odd, almost adversarial choice.

The colour reconstruction drawings are not to Osprey standards & some of the plates & illustrations of the extant examples will be familiar to many readers, but I like his comparisons with later medieval evidence and the way he discusses how weapons were employed - e.g. the advantage of underarm spear use as opposed to overarm. His strong opinions, for example that the 'shieldwall' did not involve overlapping shields & that infantry did not ground or angle their spears against cavalry attacks may provoke some disagreement. Stephenson prefers the interpretation of the solenarion as an arrow-guide for short dart-like arrows, not a crossbow. He omits clothing & military belts and I found the discussion of missile weapons a bit brief, but as a single volume on the period, it seems likely to prove popular.

Later Roman Britain, Stephen Johnson, BCA, 1980

This book is rather old now, but is fascinating and bursting with diagrams, photograps and maps nontheless. It provides a detailed look at Late Roman Britain as a province before looking at the enemies of Britain. Johnson's style is probing and challenging, his writing is concise and clear. This is a page turner. Chapter 3 analyses the Roman defences, before moving on to the history of the invasions and the archaeological story of the settlement. A great book looking at place names, detailed historical events, settlement patterns and more, but weaving it into a single grand narrative. Lots of great maps, too!

Roman Military Clothing (2), Graham Sumner, Osprey, 2003.

I don't know of a book more useful than this for a male member of Comitatus. Sumner is a re-enactor himself and well-aware of the concerns and details that plague the Roman re-enactor. This book looks in detail at tunics, cloaks, trousers, leg-wraps, boots and headgear for soldiers in the 3rd and 4th centuries. The scholarship is top-notch and the book is an easy and engaging read. It includes many fabulous drawings and b&w photographs. The colour plates are very very good, several are direct 'lifts' from Roman mosaics. The book is both comprehensive and detailed. A godsend to the 4th century re-enactor. His books RMC (1) and RMC (3) also contain a wealth of information. It is certainly worth having the set!

The Oxford Illustrated History of Roman Britain, Peter Salway, BCA/OUP, 1993

Perhaps the best book on Roman Britain ever written. Comprehensive to the finest degree, lavishly illustrated with colour plates, maps and diagrams. Salway's text is full and rich, omitting little and pulling in detailed archaeological reports as well as literary records. Dip in, or read through - this book is substantial and authoritative. The excellent timeline at the back includes the names of all the governors of Britain that are known.

Theodosius: The Empire at Bay, Stephen Williams & Gerard Friell, BT Batsford, 1994

A good biography of the last emperor to rule a unified east and west, and the emperor whose policies who have dominated life in 400AD, five years after his death. The story begins at Adrianople and paints a grim picture of an army wiped out, leaving the east vulnerable. Theodosius is the young aristorcatic officer plucked from obscurity to scrape together by any means necessary an army to counter the Gothic threat. The book is a good read, with plenty of background information to carry along the story, unique maps that focus on the strategic significance of places, two useful appendices (military command structure, and the significance of Adrianople) plus a family tree and imperial command rank diagram. This book gave me all of the political (and, indeed, religious) background I need to be able to get into the 400AD mindset. The authors continue the story, following Stilicho in the years after 395, as 'regent' of the west carrying on Theodosius' grand designs. Recommended.

The Roman Imperial Army, Graham Webster, A&C Black, 1985 (third edition)

Although the focus of this ground-breaking book is the first and second centuries, it provides a sound base for recreating the legions of the 4th century. A comprehensive look at the legions, fortifications, strategy and tactics is countered by more mundane aspects such as pay, religion, medical services and so on. There are plenty of b&w plates (many from Trajan's Column) and line drawings. A very influential book. A landmark book. Its modern predecessor is Adrian Goldsworthy's recent publication. A lucid and enlightening review of this book was written for the Bryn Mawr Classical Review 1999.

Cloth and Clothing in Early Anglo-Saxon England AD 450-700, Penelope Walton Edwards

I appreciate this has being out a while., and I was aware of it but it seemed just another book to read so I left it alone. Until yesterday when I bumped into the archaeological book fair in York. I'm really enjoying it. It uses historical and archaeological evidence to reconstruct cloth, dyes, and clothing, turning up regional differences in garments and accessories. There are pictures by Graham Sumner as well.

Roman Britain and the Roman Navy, David Mason, Tempus Books, 2003

An excellent overview of all naval activities in Roman Britain. Especially useful for the Late Roman periods, the attention given to the east coast defences and the Saxon Shore Forts, and how these defences worked with the Roman navy.

Bishop M.C. and Coulston J.C.N. (1993) Roman Military Equipment (2nd edition) (Oxford 2006)
The most readily available and comprehensive guide to Roman military equipment. A "must have" book.

Coulston J.C. (1985) "Roman Archery Equipment" in Bishop M.C. The Production and Distribution of Roman Military Equipment
Proceedings of the Second Roman Military Equipment Seminar, BAR International Series 275, Oxford, 220-366. The standard work on Roman archery.

Dixon K.R. and Southern P. (1992) The Roman Cavalry (London and New York 1992)
An entertaining read full of usefull information.

James S. (2004) Excavations at Dura-Europos 1928-1937 Final report VII The Arms and Armour and Other Military Equipment (London 2004)
Sometimes known as the "bible" for 3rd century military equipment. Now out in paperback.

Jones A.H.M. (1964) The Later Roman Empire, 284-602: A Social, Economic, and Administrative Survey. 2 Vol. Set (Baltimore 1986)
Perhaps the most detailed and comprehensive book on the period. A landmark study.