Roman Warfare by Jonathan P. Roth is a smooth overview of Roman civilization’s military practices from early republican times to the fall of the Western empire. A few pivotal battles which changed Roman methodology are discussed, but this is not a categorical list of every battle, date, and general of Rome’s many wars. A local professor (at SJSU), Roth neatly manages the trick of being highly informative without overwhelming a casual reader with minutiae as he discusses the equipment, methods, and history of the Roman armed forces over this vast period in a single readable work. Roth’s particular area of specialty is the much-neglected aspect of military logistics in the ancient world, making this book of interest even to those who are already familiar with the much more common topics of Roman strategy and tactics, as Roth fills the gaps left by most traditional histories of the subject. Roman Warfare is also nicely illustrated with painted recreations of Roman soldiers from various periods, and is accessible to new students of Rome as well as informative for those who already know something about the subject.
Many people avoid history because they’re afraid it’s just a list of facts and dates, and sometimes it can be. But in the hands of a skilled writer, history can read like a novel. Karl Friday is just such a skilled writer, and The First Samurai, his tale of an ambitious noble’s rebellious bid for power, is reminiscent of a James Clavell yarn. Friday is a historian who has figured out the trick of how much detail to leave out and how much to include, so that his books are both highly informative and highly readable.