The Roman Army of the Principate, 27 BC-AD 117, Nic Fields

The Roman Army of the Principate, 27 BC-AD 117, Nic Fields

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The Roman Army of the Principate, 27 BC-AD 117, Nic Fields

The Roman Army of the Principate, 27 BC-AD 117, Nic Fields

Battle Orders 37

This book looks at the professional standing army of the early Roman Empire, from 27 B.C., when Octavianus became Augustus, marking the start of the Principate, to the accession of Hadrian in 117 A.D., the point at which the Empire effectively ceased expanding. Augustus's predecessors had raised legions when they were needed (although in the prolonged crisis that ended the Republic many legions remained in existence for so long that they seemed permanent), but Augustus decided to place the army on a permanent standing, creating the skilled professional legions that now dominate our image of the Roman army.

The book starts with a well illustrated section on the tactical organisation of the army, showing the standard formations used by the Romans. This is followed by sections on the evolving military equipment of the Legions, the command and control structures, from the top of the legion to the junior officers within each century. The available sources only allow for a short section on the tactics used by the army in battle, before we move on to look at the army's famous engineering skills.

The second part of the book moves beyond the details of how the army was organised to look at the major wars and campaigns of the period, with special attention paid to four key battles – the disaster on the Teutoburger Wald, the defeat of Boudicca, the second battle of Cremona, fought between the Legions, and Mons Graupius, somewhere in Scotland, a battle won by the auxiliaries.

The book concludes with some useful 'extras' – a list of Emperors, a chronology, a good glossary and a list of the titles used by the Legions during this period.

Fields has produced a wide-ranging volume that serves as a very good introduction and overview of this topic.

Roman military organization
Weapons and equipment
Command and control
The Roman Army in battle
After Actium
Pax Romana
Ancient Authors
Legionary titles

Author: Nic Fields
Edition: Papeback
Pages: 96
Publisher: Osprey
Year: 2009


Collana della Osprey Publishing dedicata alle azioni e all'evoluzione delle forze da combattimento. Ogni volume fornisce un esame, unità per unità, delle truppe e della loro potenza. Analisi dettagliata delle missioni, dell'organizzazione delle unità, delle tattiche e dei cambiamenti avvenuti durante il corso della campagna. Il testo, ben documentato, fornisce informazioni sull'efficacia sul campo di battaglia, sulle decisioni prese dai comandanti e sulle azioni operative svolte e viene corredato da diagrammi, ordini di battaglia, tabelle con dati sugli equipaggiamenti in dotazione, mappe e cartine.

The Imperial Army established by Augustus drew heavily on the nomenclature and traditions of the late Roman Republic, but was revolutionary in its design. He decided to meet all the military needs of the Empire from a standing, professional army. Military service became a career: enlistment was for 25 years (16 in the Praetorian Guard), and men were sometimes retained even longer. The loyalty of the new army was to the emperor and not to either the Senate or the People of Rome. Imperial legions became permanent units with their own numbers and titles and many were to remain in existence for centuries to come.

Wargaming with 15mm Miniatures

The Roman Principate comprises the period of time starting in 27 BC when Octavian was designated Augustus and Princeps by the Roman Senate and ending with the death of Trajan in AD 117. This period is also commonly known as the Early Roman Empire and was signed by a relative peace all across the Roman territory

Augustus decided to transform the Army into a fully professional force solely under the command of the Emperor even if he kept many of the names and terms of the dying Republic

The legion continued to be the core of the Army but its men were enlisted for a fixed period of time instead of the length of a campaign and there was a defined reward after honorable discharge from the service usually in money or land

The auxiliary forces were reorganized and given a regular status with training and service terms similar to that of legionaries, except that most auxilia were offered Roman Citizenship as the reward for their life at the Army

Finally the number of auxiliaries began to increase until they became a part as large of the Army than that of legionaries and often of similar fighting quality

The Roman Army of the Principate, 27 BC-AD 117, Nic Fields - History

Book Title :The Roman Army of the Principate 27 BC-AD 117 (Battle Orders)

The Imperial Army established by Augustus drew heavily on the nomenclature and traditions of the late Roman Republic, but was revolutionary in its design. He decided to meet all the military needs of the Empire from a standing, professional army. Military service became a career, and pay and service conditions were established that took account of the categories of soldier in the army: the Praetorian Guard, the citizen legionary troops, and the noncitizen auxiliaries. Enlistment was for 25 years (16 in the Guard), and men were sometimes retained even longer. The loyalty of the new army was to the emperor as commanderinchief, and not to either the Senate or the People of Rome. Imperial legions became permanent units with their own numbers and titles and many were to remain in existence for centuries to come. Likewise, the auxiliary units (auxilia) of the army were completely reorganized and given regular status. Trained to the same standards of discipline as the legions, the men were longserving professional soldiers like the legionaries and served in units that were equally permanent. Drawn from a wide range of peoples throughout the provinces, especially on the fringes of the Empire, the auxilia were noncitizens and would receive Roman citizenship upon completion of their twentyfive years under arms.

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The focale (plural focalia), also known as a sudarium ("sweat cloth"), [1] was a woolen or linen scarf worn by ancient Roman military personnel. It protected the neck from chafing by the armor. [2] The focale is depicted widely in military scenes from Roman art, such as the relief sculpture on the Arch of Septimius Severus in the Roman Forum [3] and Trajan's Column. [4] It is shown loosely knotted in the front, but is sometimes visible with the ends tucked inside the cuirass. [5]

In Latin literature, focale is a general word for a scarf or wrapping for the throat. [6] A focale was one of the gifts that might be given for the December festival of Saturnalia, according to Martial. [7] In one of his satires, Horace lists focalia among the "badges of illness" (insignia morbi). [8] In describing the correct attire for public speaking, Quintilian advises against wearing a focale, unless required by poor health. [9]

Although a sudarium often is used as a handkerchief, it can be worn like the focale as a neckerchief. [10] When Suetonius describes the overly casual attire of Nero, the emperor is barefoot, unbelted, and dressed in evening wear (synthesis), with a sudarium around his neck. [11] In late antiquity, orarium (Greek orarion) might be synonymous with focale, as in the description of military attire in the Vision of Dorotheus, and in a papyrus (dated 350–450 AD) listing military clothes. [12]

The focale is sometimes seen as one of the precursors of the necktie. [13] Cesare Vecellio (1530–1606) mentions the focale, calling it a cravata (cravat), as worn by Roman soldiers in his book on the history of fashion. [14] It has been compared to the amice (amictus) worn by Roman Catholic priests, which is depicted from the 6th century onward, as in the Ravenna mosaics. [15]

Roman Army of the Principate 27 BC - AD 117, The

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Shrink Wrapped. Still in the original factory shrink wrap, with condition visible through shrink noted. For example, "SW (NM)" means shrink wrapped in near-mint condition.

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Very well used, but complete and useable. May have flaws such as tears, pen marks or highlighting, large creases, stains, marks, a loose map, etc.

Extremely well used and has major flaws, which may be too numerous to mention. Item is complete unless noted.

1 &ndash Internal Strife

In ‘The History of Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire&rsquo, Edward Gibbon had a controversial theory. He claimed the rise of Christianity contributed to the fall of Rome as it bred a ‘turn the other cheek&rsquo mentality. He also claimed the religion valued idle and unproductive people and also led to internal divisions. Gibbon wrote this in the 18th century, and modern historians tend to disagree with his analysis.

Gibbon&rsquos claim that Rome was subject to moral decay probably holds more water. In the 2nd Century BC, Polybius wrote of a decline in moral virtue that led to the fall of the Republic. The same affliction appeared to damage the empire. The original ideals, values, and traditions upon which Rome was founded declined and were replaced by a notion that life was cheap and depravity, gluttony, and cruelty were the norm.

The advent of the Gladiatorial Games is one such example. Rome developed a ‘mob&rsquo mentality and these individuals needed to be entertained. The rise of slave labor led to a huge number of unemployed Romans who required state handouts. If they became bored, civil unrest and riots followed. The Games were a means of keeping the public in check and consisted of excessive violence and cruelty. The emperors paid for the games which of course mean the state bore the cost. At one point, setting up the Games cost one-third of the Empire&rsquos income as rulers tried to curry favor with the people.

The breathtaking incompetence of many of Rome&rsquos emperors was yet another problem. Even those with a cursory interest in Roman history will have heard of Nero and Caligula for example. In the early days of the empire, a good ruler would come around now and then to clean up the mess of the inept leaders before him. Towards the end of the empire, there was a succession of weak and clueless emperors incapable of dealing with the ever-growing number of threats.

The Senate acted as an advisory body, but corrupt and power-hungry rulers routinely ignored this advice. Angry senators would plot against the leader and decisions were never made for the good of the empire. The Praetorian Guard were the personal bodyguards of the emperor, but they too became drunk on power. Eventually, they decided who would be emperor and would routinely murder the person on the throne.

The Third Century Crisis almost destroyed the Empire and paved the way for its eventual downfall. From 235-284 AD, there were at least 26 emperors and all, but a handful was murdered. Rome&rsquos traditional trade network collapsed during this period so by the time Diocletian brought an end to the Crisis the Empire was on its last legs.

Imperial Roman Army – Recruitment


The Imperial Roman Army has been and is still admired by many people as an excellent fighting force. There are many reasons why the Roman Army was so effective, one was its recruitment process (probatio) which consisted in determining if a potential recruit fulfilled the necessary criteria to serve in the Imperial Roman Army.


There were physical, mental and legal requirements for joining the Imperial Roman Army. Note that the requirements were the highest for elite units like the Praetorians and Legionaries.

Physical Requirements


Let’s start with the physical requirements a soldier needed to be of a certain height. The values for a Legion soldier were at least 1.72m or 5ft 8 inches in height. For soldiers of the first cohort or cavalry even up to 1.78m or 5ft 10 inches. If you think these values are too high, you are probably right, modern scholars assume that these values are probably idealized.

Strength, Stamina, Agility and Eyesight

Other important physical attributes were of course strength, good posture, stamina, agility and eyesight. There is one known example of a soldier being dismissed due to weak eyesight.

Finally, the maximum age for joining was around 35 years, whereas the minimum age was about 13 years. But these are extreme examples, most recruits joined between the ages of 18 and 23 years. Note that the service period lasted for 16 to 30 years depending on the branch of the Army.

Mental Requirements

Next are the mental requirements, these were probably of lesser importance, but legally it was allowed to discharge a soldier based on physical or mental defects.
Education was probably not a major requirement for the common soldiers, but since commands were given in Latin a recruit had to have a sufficient understanding of it.
Furthermore, since the Army needed specialist a good education probably could tip the balance. For instance specialist posts like the signifier, who were in charge of the accounts and funds, required well educated people with good legal records, which brings us to the next point the legal requirements.

Legal Requirements

Slaves, former slaves – the so called “freedmen” were not allowed to join the Army, only in dire situation were they conscripted. Only freeborn men were allowed in the Roman Army and to join the Legionary Units the recruit also needed the Roman Citizenship.
There were other legal requirements too, we can assume that most crimes would prevent joining the Roman Army. Trajan ruled that convicts of capital offenses, adultery or any other major crimes were not allowed to serve.

Note that modern scholars have different views on how thorough or superficial these legal examination were performed.
Finally, there are some examples that a recruits used letters of recommendations in order to provide references for their “good character”, this is also a debated topic, since only a few of those letters are known.

Probatus (approved)

But even after passing these requirements the recruit wasn’t a full soldier yet, he was now considered “probatus”, which meant he was approved for training in which he needed to pass several proficiency tests. Note that in this period the punishment for failing in discipline or even criminal acts like selling military equipment was less severe and even pardoned.

Signatus (“enlisted”)

After the recruit trained for at least 4 months and passing all proficiency tests, he was “signatus”, thus he became fully enlisted. The name of the recruit with his age and any distinguishing marks would be added to the unit’s record. Now he was considered a full soldier and the recruitment process was over.


Although not all information is undisputed it is clear that the Roman recruiting process was systematic and well organized in order to ensure a constant flow of high-quality recruits to keep the ranks filled. Nevertheless, these new troops also needed further training, which will be topic of another video.
Thank you for watching and see next time!

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Online Resources


These works are recommended reading for Legio VI members.

- Adrian Goldsworthy. In the Name of Rome: The Men who Won the Roman Empire . (2004).

- Adrian Goldsworthy. Pax Romana: War, Peace, and Conquest in the Roman World . (2016).

- Adrian Goldsworthy. The Complete Roman Army . 2nd Ed. (2011).

- Adrian Goldsworthy. The Roman Army at War: 100 BC-AD 200 . (1998).

- Benjamin Isaac. The Limits of Empire: The Roman Army in the East . (1993).

- Brian Campbell. The Roman Army, 31 BC - AD 337: A Sourcebook . (1994).

- Christopher Fuhrmann. Policing the Roman Empire: Soldiers, Administration, and Public Order . (2014).

- C.R. Whittaker. Frontiers of the Roman Empire: A Social and Economic Study . (1997).

- Daniel Peterson. The Roman Legions: Recreated in Color Photographs . (1999).

- David Sim & Isabel Ridge. Iron for the Eagles: The Iron Industry of Roman Britain . 2nd Ed. (2011).

- David Sim & J. Kaminski. Roman Imperial Armor . (2012).

- Ewart Oakeshott. The Archaeology of Weapons: Arms and Armour from Prehistory to the Age of Chivalry . (1960).

- Flemming Alrune & Wulf Hein. The Bow Builder's Book: European Bow Building from the Stone Age to Today . (2012).

- Graham Sumner. Roman Military Dress . (2009).

- Graham Webster. The Roman Imperial Army . 3rd ed. (1998).

- Gregory Aldrete. Daily Life in the Roman City: Rome, Pompeii, and Ostia . (2009).

- Hilary & John Travis. Roman Body Armour . (2012).

- Hilary & John Travis. Roman Helmets . (2016).

- Hilary & John Travis. Roman Shields . (2014).

- Ian Haynes. Blood of the Provinces: The Roman Auxilia and the Making of Provincial Society from Augustus to the Severans . (2013).

- J.E. Lendon. Soldiers and Ghosts: A History of Battle in Classical Antiquity . (2006).

- Jonathan Roth. The Logistics of the Roman Army at War (264 B.C. - A.D. 235) . (1999).

- Joseph Solodow. Latin Alive: The Survival of Latin in the English and Romance Languages . (2010).

- Kaveh Farrokh. Shadows in the Desert: Ancient Persia at War . (2007).

- Lawrence Keppie. The Making of the Roman Army: From Republic to Empire . (1998).

- Leslie and Roy Adkins. Handbook to Life in Ancient Rome . (1998).

- Marie Louise Nosche & Henriette Koefoed. Wearing the Cloak: Dressing the Soldier in Roman Times . (2012).

- Mary Beard. Pompeii: The Life of a Roman Town . (2010).

- Mary Beard. SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome . (2016).

- M.C. Bishop. Handbook to Roman Legionary Fortresses . (2013).

- M.C. Bishop & J.C.N. Coulston. Roman Military Equipment: From the Punic Wars to the Fall of Rome . 2nd ed. (2006).

- M.C. Bishop & Peter Dennis. The Gladius: The Roman Short Sword . (2016).

- M.C. Bishop & Peter Dennis. The Pilum: The Roman Heavy Javelin . (2017).

- Patricia Southern. The Roman Army: A History (753BC-AD476) . (2014).

- Patricia Southern. The Roman Army: A Social and Institutional History . (2007).

- Patrick Faas & Shaun Whiteside. Around the Roman Table: Food and Feasting in Ancient Rome . (2005).

- Paul Erdkamp. A Companion to the Roman Army . (2010).

- Robert Knaap. Invisible Romans . (2014).

- Simon James. Rome and the Sword: How Warriors & Weapons Shaped Roman History . (2011).

- Susanna Shadrake, The World of the Gladiator . (2005)

- Timothy Dawson. Armour Never Wearies: Scale and Lamellar Armour in the West, from the Bronze Age to the 19th Century . (2013).

- Vesta Curtis & Sarah Stewart. Age of the Parthians . (2010).

- Yahn Le Bohec. The Encyclopedia of the Roman Army . 3 Volumes (2015).

These are primary sources that we highly recommend. Feel free to contact us if you're looking for a good translation or one with commentary!

- George Dennis. Maurice's Strategikon: Handbook of Byzantine Military Strategy . (1984).

The Strategikon is a late Roman military manual that provides much of what we know about Roman formations, drill, tactics, and strategy. A lot of it goes back to the Principate but it takes training to know what is accurate to our time period.

- Christopher Grocock & Sally Grainger. Apicius: A Critical Edition with an Introduction and an English Translation . (2006).

Apicius is a Roman author who wrote a cookbook with Roman recipes. Most translations include a guide on how to make them in the modern day as well.

- N.P. Milner. Vegetius: Epitome of Military Science . (1986).

Vegetius is a late Roman author who wrote a work on the "ideal legion," mixing Principate and late Roman elements. A useful work, but takes training to know what is and isn't accurate.

Osprey Books: These are good, short, informational books usually with great illustrations and images of original finds. Not always 100% accurate, however.

- David Nicolle & Angus McBride. Rome's Enemies (5): The Desert Frontier . (1991).

- Duncan Campbell & Adam Hook. Siege Warfare in the Roman World: 146 BC&ndashAD 378 . (2005).

- Duncan Campbell & Brian Delf. Greek and Roman Artillery 399 BC&ndashAD 363 . (2003).

- Duncan Campbell & Brian Delf. Greek and Roman Siege Machinery 399 BC&ndashAD 363 . (2003).

- Duncan Campbell & Brian Delf. Roman Auxiliary Forts 27 BC&ndashAD 378 . (2009).

- Duncan Campbell & Brian Delf. Roman Legionary Fortresses 27 BC&ndashAD 378 . (2006).

- Duncan Campbell & Sean O'Brogan. Mons Graupius AD 83: Rome&rsquos Battle at the Edge of the World . (2010).

- Graham Sumner. Roman Military Clothing (1): 100 BC-AD 200 . (2002).

- Lindsay Powell. The Bar Kokhba War AD 132&ndash135: The Last Jewish Revolt against Imperial Rome . (2017).

- Lindsay Powell & Peter Dennis. Roman Soldier vs Germanic Warrior: 1st Century AD . (2014).

- Michael McNally. Teutoburg Forest AD 9: The Destruction of Varus and his Legions . (2011).

- Michael Simkins & Ron Embleton. Roman Army from Caesar to Trajan . (1984).

- Nic Fields. Boudicca&rsquos Rebellion AD 60&ndash61: The Britons Rise up against Rome . (2011).

- Nic Fields. The Roman Army of the Principate 27 BC&ndashAD 117 . (2009).

- Nic Fields & Adam Hook. Roman Auxiliary Cavalryman: AD 14&ndash193 . (2006).

- Peter Wilcox & Angus McBride. Rome's Enemies (3): Parthians & Sassanid Persians . (1986).

- Raffaele D'Amato & Giuseppe Rava. Roman Centurions 31 BC-AD 500: The Classical and Late Empire . (2012).

- Raffaele D'Amato & Peter Dennis. Roman Standards & Standard-Bearers (1): 112 BC&ndashAD 192 . (2018).

- Raffaele D'Amato & Raffaele Ruggeri. Roman Army Units in the Western Provinces (1): 31 BC-AD 195 . (2016).

- Raffaele D'Amato & Raffaele Ruggeri. Roman Army Units in the Eastern Provinces (1): 31 BC-AD 195 . (2017).

- Ross Cowan. Roman Battle Tactics 109BC&ndashAD313 . (2007).

- Ross Cowan. Roman Guardsman: 62 BC&ndashAD 324 . (2014).

- Ross Cowan. Roman Legionary: AD 69-161. (2013).

- Ross Cowan and Angus Mcbride. Roman Legionary: 58 BC-AD 69 . (2003).

- Si Sheppard & Peter Dennis. The Jewish Revolt AD 66&ndash74 . (2013).

- Si Shepard & Johnny Shumate. Roman Soldier vs. Parthian Warrior: Carrhae to Nisibis . (2020).

Early Roman Armies

Sign up for LibraryThing to find out whether you'll like this book.

No current Talk conversations about this book.

This series is a bit pricey but the illustrations are well-done and they are excellent, brief introductions to their respective subjects.

Volumes I possess include:

Armies of the Carthaginian Wars 265–146 BC
Men-at-Arms 121
Author: Terence Wise

The Roman Army of the Punic Wars 264–146 BC
Battle Orders 27
Author: Nic Fields

Republican Roman Army 200–104 BC
Men-at-Arms 291
Author: Nicholas Sekunda

The Roman Army from Caesar to Trajan
Men-at-Arms 46
Author: Michael Simkins

Rome's Enemies (1)
Germanics and Dacians
Men-at-Arms 129
Author: Peter Wilcox

The Roman Army from Hadrian to Constantine
Men-at-Arms 93
Author: Michael Simkins

Volumes to be added include:

Roman Military Clothing (3)
AD 400–640
Men-at-Arms 425
Author: Raffaele D’Amato

The Sarmatians 600 BC–AD 450
Men-at-Arms 373
Author: Richard Brzezinski

The Thracians 700 BC–AD 46
Men-at-Arms 360
Author: Christopher Webber

Cannae 216 BC
Hannibal smashes Rome's Army
Campaign 36
Author: Mark Healy

Ancient Siege Warfare
Persians, Greeks, Carthaginians and Romans 546–146 BC
Elite 121
Author: Duncan B Campbell

Siege Warfare in the Roman World
146 BC–AD 378
Elite 126
Author: Duncan B Campbell

Roman Battle Tactics 109 BC–AD313
Elite 155
Author: Ross Cowan

The Roman Army: the Civil Wars 88–31 BC
Battle Orders 34
Author: Nic Fields

Spartacus and the Slave War 73–71 BC
A gladiator rebels against Rome
Campaign 206
Author: Nic Fields

Philippi 42 BC
The death of the Roman Republic
Campaign 199
Author: Si Sheppard

Actium 31 BC
Downfall of Antony and Cleopatra
Campaign 211
Author: Si Sheppard

The Roman Army of the Principate 27 BC–AD 117
Battle Orders 37
Author: Nic Fields

The Praetorian Guard
Elite 50
Author: Boris Rankov

Sassanian Elite Cavalry AD 224–642
Elite 110
Author: Kaveh Farrokh

Adrianople AD 378
The Goths crush Rome's legions
Campaign 84
Author: Simon MacDowall

Romano-Byzantine Armies 4th–9th Centuries
Men-at-Arms 247
Author: David Nicolle

Rome's Enemies (2)
Gallic & British Celts
Men-at-Arms 158
Author: Peter Wilcox

Rome's Enemies (3)
Parthians & Sassanid Persians
Men-at-Arms 175
Author: Peter Wilcox

Rome's Enemies (4)
Spanish Armies
Men-at-Arms 180
Author: Rafael Treviño Martinez

Rome's Enemies (5)
The Desert Frontier
Men-at-Arms 243
Author: David Nicolle

This Osprey covers the early Roman hoplites, the army of the Vedic system through the adoption of the manipular system. The text provides background on the evolution of the early Roman military system, as well as some information on the Roman enemies of this period--Etruscans, Samnites, and Gallic.

The plates are nice, though my suspicion is that they are highly speculative. Even so, it gives the poor slob wargamer trying to find some usable shield patterns something to work with. A worthwhile addition to your Osprey library. ( )

Watch the video: Αλβανός σβήνει φωτιά και τρολάρει την κάμερα.