SWORDS, SPEARS AND SANDALS: The Story of the Roman Legions by Richard Suskind

SWORDS, SPEARS AND SANDALS: The Story of the Roman Legions

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The history of the legions is the history of Rome itself,"" concludes Mr. Suskind and that's what this is, the sibilant titular attributes notwithstanding. You may be wishing for a more utilitarian title because the short, snappy text, featuring key personalities and inserting key phrases (""Pyrrhic victory,"" ""divide and conquer,"" etc.), is a viable and agreeable introduction to the continuum of Roman history, omitting primarily what interests children least: Roman culture. Emphasized, on the other hand, is what interests them most: how the summertime citizen-soldiers of Rome came to dominate central and southern Italy; how the legions, now professional, vanquished and obliterated Carthage and claimed the Mediterranean as ""Mare Nostrum"", how Caesar arose (out of the plebeian-patrician conflict that doomed the Republic) and made Rome master of most of Europe. With Augustus and the Praetorian Guard, the story compresses: we see the legionaries building, marrying and retiring in the outposts of the Empire, and in their non-Roman successors, the non-identification that contributed to Rome's fall. Throughout, purely military factors (equipment, tactics) are mentioned also, with precise illustration. Among juvenile histories only the First Book is similarly compact, but it is differently focused and generally drier.

Pub Date: Feb. 24th, 1969
Publisher: Norton