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The Seleucid Army of Antiochus the Great (Hardback)

Weapons, Armour and Tactics

Ancient History Military

By Dr Jean Charl du Plessis
Imprint: Pen & Sword Military
Pages: 360
Illustrations: 50 mono
ISBN: 9781399091794
Published: 23rd February 2022

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The Seleucid Empire was a superpower of the Hellenistic Age, the largest and most powerful of the Successor States, and it’s army was central to the maintenance of that power. Antiochus III campaigned, generally successfully, from the Mediterranean to India, earning the sobriquet 'the Great'.

Jean Charl Du Plessis has produced the most in depth study available in English devoted to the troop types, weapons and armour of Antiochus’ army. He combines the most recent historical research and latest archaeological evidence with a strong element of reconstructive archaeology, that is the making and using of replica equipment.

Sections cover the regular, Hellenistic-style core of the army, the auxiliaries from across the Empire and mercenaries, as well as the terror weapons of elephants and scythed chariots. Weapons and armour considered in great detail, including, for example, useful data on the performance of slings and the wounds they could inflict, drawing on modern testing and the author’s own experience.

The army’s performance in its many battles, sieges and campaigns is analysed and assessed.

It is a very well researched book filling a gap in the historical market. It is also a reference book for the historian, the war-gamer and the model maker. I recommend it very highly and award it Five out of Five mushroom heads.

Read the full review here

Army Rumour Service (ARRSE)

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

This is a meticulously written and annotated history of the organisation, training, history, armour & weapons technology, and campaigns which Antiochus III's army were involved in during the 36 years of his reign (222-187 B.C.E.). The information is arranged logically with thematic chapters in several sections: the land forces (infantry and cavalry), the auxiliary forces at Raphia (including campaigns and engagements), special forces and terror weapons (elephants and chariots!), and battle history and assessments.

Although the author is a historian and academic, the writing is perfectly accessible to any readers interested in military and political history, even ones who are not academics with a background in the time period. There are copious notes and annotations throughout which will provide many hours of additional reading and information. The book contains illustrations and many maps showing the borders and changes in the geopolitical landscape during Antiochus' time. I really enjoyed the modern photos of replica (and historical) weapons and armour which show the construction and utilisation of protective/offensive gear which would've been like those used by the soldiers of the time period.

The cross referenced index and bibliography are well written and extensive.

Five stars. This would be a superlative selection for public or school library acquisition, fans of military history, as well as historical re-enactors, SCAdians, and possibly theatre type folks. I was riveted to see the actual damage a .45 slug did to a reproduction Corinthian bronze helm (photos on p. 212 in the eARC edition which I received for review). The author has seriously done his homework on what sort of physical protection might have been afforded soldiers in battle.

NetGalley, Annie Buchanan

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

The Seleucid Army of Antiochus the Great provides a well-studied look at the army of Antiochus III, including its arms and tactics. The author accomplishes his task of showing how Antiochus’ armies maintained a level of excellence that some modern scholars have denied. He does this by comparing most aspects of the Seleucid armies to other ancient armies. Therefore, the book would benefit any reader interested in military history from Alexander to the Roman period.

The author’s knowledge of the phalanx was impressive. He was able to offer interesting insights while relating the various types of phalanx formations pertinent to the study. In one place he pointed to Alexander’s ability to counteract the Persian battle chariot by shifting his phalanx. The description of the armor and weaponry used by the phalanx, as well as the calvary and auxiliary forces, was comprehensive. The reader can mentally survey the ancient battlefield with real insight.

Part of the book’s strength comes through the support of ancient testimony. Writers, inscriptions, and artifacts from that period help establish the author’s claims. An interesting example of artifact support was given when discussing slings. “Numerous slingshot have inscriptions which denote messages to their enemies. …such as ‘Fire’, ‘It Rains’, ‘Sweetmeat’, ‘Ouch’ and ‘Take that.’”

It is obvious by reading that the author has a real passion for ancient warfare. This passion spills over to the reader. If you have any interest in the Greco-Roman world buy this book.

NetGalley, Brian Gochenour

The Seleucid Army of Antiochus the Great provides a well-studied look at the army of Antiochus III, including its arms and tactics. The author accomplishes his task of showing how Antiochus’ armies maintained a level of excellence that some modern scholars have denied. He does this by comparing most aspects of the Seleucid armies to other ancient armies. Therefore, the book would benefit any reader interested in military history from Alexander to the Roman period.

The author’s knowledge of the phalanx was impressive. He was able to offer interesting insights while relating the various types of phalanx formations pertinent to the study. In one place he pointed to Alexander’s ability to counteract the Persian battle chariot by shifting his phalanx. The description of the armor and weaponry used by the phalanx, as well as the calvary and auxiliary forces, was comprehensive. The reader is able to mentally survey the ancient battlefield with real insight.

Part of the book’s strength comes through the support of ancient testimony. Writers, inscriptions, and artifacts from that period help establish the author’s claims. An interesting example of artifact support was given when discussing slings. “Numerous slingshot have inscriptions which denote messages to their enemies. …such as ‘Fire’, ‘It Rains’, ‘Sweetmeat’, ‘Ouch’ and ‘Take that.’”

It is obvious by reading that the author has a real passion for ancient warfare. This passion spills over to the reader. If you have any interest in the Greco-Roman world buy this book.

Brian Gochenour

About Dr Jean Charl du Plessis

Dr Jean du Plessis recently completed his doctorate in ancient history and was recommended to publish his thesis (this book). As well as traditiomal academic research, Jean puts great value upon practical research and ‘experimental archaeology’. He practises traditional slinging and archery, and was placed second in the South African National Traditional Archery Championships in 2008. He is also an avid Historical European Martial Artist (HEMA) and was placed 1st in the 2007 and 2008 National Championships in both sword-and-shield and longsword.

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