Roman Army Units in the Western Provinces (1) 31 BC-AD 195

Published: July 17th, 2016     
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Author: Raffaele D’Amato; Illustrator: Raffaele Ruggeri
Reviewed by: 
Gino Dykstra, IPMS# 11198
Company: Osprey Publishing
ISBN #: 978-1-4728-1537-8
Other Publication Information: $12.99 as electronic publication
Price: $18.00
Product / Stock #: Men-At-Arms 506

During its heyday the Roman Empire sprawled across the better part of three continents, making it one of the greatest political bodies of its day. To maintain such an empire required an enormous military budget and huge numbers of men at arms (an approach to militarism we can, alas, observe to this day). One of the chief duties of this sprawling military was to hold the edges of this empire from incursion from without.

Osprey Publishing and author Raffaele D-Amato have put together a surprisingly exhausting study of the military units comprising Rome's Western borders - more specifically, what would someday become England, Germany and France.

Like other modelers, I've come to accept a rather rigid mental image of Roman military gear and weapons from this period; helmet with cheek guards, band body armor, pilum, short sword and rectangular shield. Consequently I've made literally dozens of figures in various scales over the years following some variation of this formulaic template.

What this publication makes clear from archeological and other evidence, however, is that Roman units guarding these outposts were far more diverse than previously believed. Part of this was the nature of garrisoning itself - not only did many Roman soldiers soldier their entire lives, but garrisoning was often a multigenerational process. Soldiers not only lived and died at these outposts, but married and fathered more generations of soldiers to carry on. Naturally, during any such process there would be some intermixing of Roman and local culture, to the point of adopting the dress and weaponry made locally.

Looking at the lovely color plates provided, it's a bit startling to see Roman soldiers clad in Celtic tartans or Germanic armor, but this apparently wasn't that uncommon over time. For the modeler, it certainly makes for some interesting variations otherwise not seen.

I have to admit, though, that reading the text may be a bit tasking for the average modeler. Mr. D'Amato has made much more of a scholarly piece here than something designed to appeal to the casual historian. He successfully documents resources gleaned in order to support the illustrations, but sometimes does so in a rather dry manner, going so far as to provide a table showing every garrison unit and its primary location. Personally, I would have preferred a bit more information about the average life and times of the men holding these distant outposts of empire.

Niggles notwithstanding, Mr. D'Amato has created a detailed, thoroughly researched and insightful study of these men and their arms, ably illustrated by Raffaele Ruggeri with eight pages of beautifully rendered plates. If you can't find some food for great figure modeling in this publication, you're simply not trying. Highly recommended.

I would like to thank Osprey Publishing as well as IPMS/USA for a chance to read and review this fascinating tome.

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