Recent Reading

12 April, 2010

In the last few weeks I’ve not managed to do any painting, but I have had quite a lot of opportunity for reading. The books I’ve read or am reading are:

  • Caesar’s Gallic Wars.

This was background for my recently completed Gallic and Ancient British armies. It’s left me with an increased respect for how tough the Roman army was in that period. I’m also interested in trying to get at how the Gallic nobility viewed Caesar. Clearly many wanted him out, yet they were required to serve him as cavalry. Rebels would come to a bad end, yet for all that many tried. And some of these had initially served Caesar, such as the Atrebatan king Commius, who went to Britain ahead of Caesar, but later was a leader in the Vercingetorix revolt. After avoiding attempts to bump him off Commius made peace with the Romans on condition he never have to come into the presence of one again! He didn’t trust them. His peers were making their adjustment to Roman rule, and many served in the Roman army as cavalry during the Civil Wars and were well rewarded for it. I’m interested to see if anyone’s attempted to study their reaction in any detail. Ambiorix’s speech in Book 5 during the attack on Cotta and Sabinus is fascinating. He claims to be grateful to Caesar, yet forced to lead the rebellion by his subjects. Caesar gives the impression that he’s thoroughly insincere and this is all a trick, yet it rings true (Sabinus seemed to believe it!). I wonder how many other leaders found themselves in his situation. The incident also leaves one to wonder at the sentiments of the less powerful Gauls that formed the bulk of their armies.

I followed up reading Caesar’s Gallic Wars with Goldsworthy’s book on the Roman army. Caesar was good preparation as he was one of the main sources Goldsworthy used (along with Josephus). The book was a very interesting read, particularly in the stress Goldsworthy put on the importance of morale in deciding encounters. It was interesting too that he noted the frequency of desertion, not just in Civil Wars. He suggested that one possible reason for making the camp each night was as much to keep the soldiers in!

I read this book as background for the Carthaginian army that is still being painted. It was written by my old Latin lecturer from Sydney university who has now retired, a really charming chap. It’s a short introductory work that was very readable. Hoyos is keen to try to get a Carthaginian perspective on the wars between the Romans and Carthaginian, and made the point that in terms of resources and manpower the two empires were fairly evenly matched at the start of the Hannibalic War.

This is a longer treatment of the development of Carthaginian power under the Barcid dynasty. I’m still reading it, and am also rereading Polybius and Livy as some of the most important sources. In particular I want to get a better handle on the chronology of the First Punic War.

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