"The Roman Soldier",
A review by Carroll Quigley in The Annals of the Academy of Political and Social Sciences, Vol. --, No. -- (December 1969),
of a book.
The Roman Soldier,
by G. R. Watson.
Cornell University Press: Ithaca, 1969.
December 10, 1969
"The Roman Soldier"
The Roman Soldier.
By G.R. WATSON.
Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1969.256 pp. $7.50
This is the eighth volume in
the series Aspects of Greek and Roman Life,
edited by H.H. Scullard. Like others of that series, it has the full
apparatus of scholarship: the notes and appendices alone cover about one
third of the book (pages 155 to 246). There are eleven distinct indices
(people, subdivided into nomina, cognomina, emperors,
ancient authors, and modern authors; deities; places; inscriptions;
papyri; texts; and a general index). The 546 notes give references in
French, German, Italian, Latin, and Greek, including the Latin originals
for all quotations given in English translation in the text.
The text itself is written in a clear and readable style, although
liberally peppered with Latin words, since many terms are left in this
language, including names of weapons, military ranks, and units,
ceremonies, insignias, money values and other quantitative references.
Obviously, anyone interested in the Roman soldier should now begin with
this volume. It totally replaces Mellersh's The
Roman Soldier (1965), which never was very useful.
Some minor reservations might be expressed on organization. The
volume is concerned quite narrowly with the Roman enlisted man below
centurionate level, and especially with his life in the service. No
effort is made to cover related subjects where adequate descriptions are
already available for the reader of English. The author is not concerned
with military organization or operations, nor with the soldier's
relations with the civilian world. Thus his presentation is tailored
around such standard works as Cheesman's The
Auxilia of Roman Imperial Army (1914);
Parker's The Roman Legions (1928); or Ramsey MacMullen's
Soldier and Civilian in the Later Roman Empire
(1963). On the other hand, he describes in some detail such matters as
enlistment, training, prospects of promotion, pay, military discipline,
personal life, and retirement. This volume went to press before
publication of Graham Webster's The Roman
Imperial Army (1969).
Some chronological ambiguity arises from the fact that Watson deals
with each of five aspects of his subject in a single chapter,
attempting, without complete success, to cover the chronological changes
within the chapter. Obviously, our knowledge varies greatly over the
period covered, but it seems to me that Watson’s use of an analytical
rather than a chronological approach tends to underemphasize, or even
confuse, the very great changes which occurred. The history of the Roman
soldier covered over 900 years even in the West (from about 500 B.C. to
after A.D. 400), but this presentation is fairly well centered in only a
third of that duration (about 100 B.C. to about A.D. 200). Thus, for
example, he mentions the decision of Septimius Severus in A.D. 197 to
allow soldiers to live with their "wives" in the army, but he does not
deal with the ways this complicated military life, especially military
transportation, in the next few centuries.
Scans of original review