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Understanding Ancient Battle (Hardback)

Combat in the Classical World from the Unit Commander’s Perspective

Ancient History > Rome & the Roman Provinces > Roman Army Military

By Dr Hugh Elton
Imprint: Pen & Sword Military
Pages: 208
Illustrations: App. 40 black and white illustrations
ISBN: 9781526753977
Published: 28th November 2023


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Traditional military history of battles focussed on the strategies of great leaders, though in modern times many scholars have discussed the ‘face of battle’, describing the personal experience of the ordinary soldier. But in between, there still lies a major gap in our understanding of ancient combat: the officer’s battle. This focuses on how units actually fought and manoeuvred in battle. Hugh Elton seeks to redress this through analysis of the interaction of equipment, morale, leadership, and terrain.

After discussing source material and the general model of warfare the author follows, this book outlines by major periods what we know of equipment, organization and tactics, then shows how battle worked in a series of case studies including include Marathon, Issus, Cannae, Cynoscephalae, Mons Graupius, and Adrianople. A total of twenty-four battles are analyzed between the fifth-century BCE and the sixth century CE, covering the wars described by the great historians between Herodotus and Procopius, including accounts written by the soldiers Xenophon, Julius Caesar, and Ammianus Marcellinus.

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About Dr Hugh Elton

Dr Hugh Elton is Professor of Greek and Roman Studies at Trent University, specializing in Roman military and political history. He has been involved in a number of archaeological projects and between 2001 and 2006 was Director of the British Institute at Ankara.

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