Cover image for The Roman army : a social and institutional history
The Roman army : a social and institutional history
Southern, Pat, 1948-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Oxford ; New York : Oxford University Press, [2006]

Physical Description:
x, 383 pages : illustrations, maps ; 24 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
U35 .S625 2006 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



Written by a leading authority on Roman military history, this fascinating volume spans over a thousand years as it offers a memorable picture of one of the world's most noted fighting forces, paying special attention to the life of the common soldier. Southern here illuminates the Roman army's history, culture, and organization, providing fascinating details on topics such as military music, holidays, strategy, the construction of Roman fortresses and forts, the most common battle formations, and the many tools of war, from spears, bows andarrows, swords, and slingshots, to the large catapulta (which fired giant arrows and bolts) and the ballista (which hurled huge stones). Perhaps most interesting are the details Southern provides about everyday life in the Roman army, everything from the soldiers pay (they were paid three times peryear, but money was deducted for such items as food, clothing, weapons, the burial club, the pension scheme, and so on) to their often brutal life--if whole units turned and ran, about one-tenth of the men concerned were chosen by lot and clubbed to death and the rest were put on barley rationsinstead of wheat. Moreover, soldiers who lost weapons or their shields would fight savagely to get them back or would die in the process, rather than suffer the shame that attached to throwing weapons away or running from the battle. Attractively illustrated, this book offers a fascinating look at the life of the Roman soldier, drawing on everything from Rome's rich historical and archaeological record to soldier's personal correspondence to depictions of military subjects in literature and art.

Author Notes

Pat Southern has published nine books on the Roman army and on Roman history, including The Roman Cavalry (with Karen R. Dixon) and The Roman Empire from Severus to Constantine. She has also written biographies of Mark Antony, Pompey the Great, Julius Caesar, Augustus, and Cleopatra. She lives in the UK.

Reviews 2

School Library Journal Review

Gr 10 Up--This informative, well-researched volume skillfully covers the history of this formidable force from the beginnings of the Roman Empire in the eighth century B.C.E. until its fall in the late fifth century A.D. The broad spectrum of subjects, such as the history, culture, and organization of the army; weapons; morale and discipline; renowned soldiers and battles; and the army, both in peacetime and at war, are arranged thematically. Black-and-white photographs complement the text. An appendix detailing rank structure in the army, a user-friendly glossary, a complete bibliography, and an accurate index round out the package. With its scholarly tone, Southern's work is best suited for Advanced Placement World History students.--Hillary Donitz-Goldstein, formerly of the New York Public Library (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. All rights reserved.

Choice Review

Southern has written the best general survey in English of the Roman army to appear in at least two decades. Based on literary, archaeological, epigraphic, numismatic, and art historical evidence and informed by judicious speculation based on many years study of the Roman military, the book deftly combines detailed description with engaging narrative. The author stresses the Roman army's capacity for adapting to changing circumstances over time, for organizational flexibility, and for discipline. Wide-ranging topics include historical background; organization; the characteristics; origins, pay, morale, and discipline of the Roman soldier; uniforms and weapons; communications; logistics; medicine; the army at war and peace; the late Roman army; and notable generals, common soldiers, and selected battles. Southern concludes with an assessment of the present state of studies on the Roman army. Thirty-six photographs and drawings of fair to good quality, three maps, an appendix on rank structure, and a glossary of military terms augment the clearly written and highly readable text. In addition to a short general bibliography at book's end, each chapter has a select bibliography and suggestions for further reading. ^BSumming Up: Highly recommended. Laymen, students, and scholars alike. R. I. Curtis University of Georgia

Table of Contents

Introduction Historical Background
The Roman Army Culture of the Roman Army
The Roman Army At War Tools of War
The Late Roman Army Great Soldiers and Battles Current Assessment