Further Reading: Imperator Rome & the Military History of the Roman Republic

By Joe Robinson 16 May 2019 1

Next week will mark the end of Imperator: Rome’s first month of existence. It’s certainly been a tumultuous period – a recent earnings call proved that the new grand-strategy IP has exceeded sales expectations, but it also got a larger vocal backlash than was anticipated.

For a recap of our own thoughts, you should check out my review over on our sister website. The dev team’s stated plans for the immediate future of the game are already looking promising, but while we wait for them to roll out why not considered picking up some new books to expand your knowledge base? Imperator: Rome covers a wide swathe of the Mediterranean world – especially the struggles between the Diadochi – but my own interest in the game has always been firmly rooted in Rome itself.

The following books are from my own personal collection – they largely look at warfare and the Roman Army, but they also cover other concepts like how Rome governed its growing empire. These books cover everything from the early Republic through to the fall of Western Empire, where-as Imperator itself ends its timeline just before the historical establishment of the Principate, but it still makes for some excellent reading. I’ve also thrown in some of personal favourite works of fiction at the end.

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Pax Romana: War, Peace & Conquest in the Roman World (2017)

Pax RomanaAuthor: Adrian Goldsworthy
Pages: 528
Buy: Amazon

Goldsworthy has spent his entire career writing about Rome and is considered one of the field’s leading experts. In many ways it doesn’t really matter which of his books you pick up, but as an author he should be high on anyone’s reading list. Pax Romana stands out for me as it does a brilliant job at presenting different aspects of Rome’s identity in ways that mainstream media and texts often gloss over. His chapters devoted to how the Roman’s ruled (in the Republic & the Principate) and Rome’s relationship with realms outside their borders are especially illuminating and present a fascinating narrative of Rome’s (sometimes accidental) expansion and transition into imperial overlord.

Other Goldsworthy books worth checking out are:

The Complete Roman Army (2011) (Amazon)

An in-depth guide to the Roman Army, how it operated, how it evolved and how it fought. Mainly focuses on the 1st-3rd Centuries AD but there’s some good Republican-era material as well.

Roman Warfare (2019) (Amazon)

Less of an in-depth guide and more of a narrative of Rome’s military history told via the lens of key conflicts and battles up to the fall of the West. Goes into some wars in more details than others but is generally meant to be a top-level view of the subject.

Veni, Vidi, Vici: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About the Romans But Were Too Afraid to Ask (2014)

VVVAuthor: Peter Jones
Pages: 416
Buy: Amazon

Mass-market history is often a double-edged sword; it’s able to provide insight into very complex areas of history in a manner that’s easy to parse, but in doing so leaves out much of the nuance and debate central to historical study. Still, theses kinds of tomes have their uses and I personally have enjoyed reading Jones’ work in VVV,

He presents the history of the Roman people from Rome’s mythical foundation, right through to the Western Empire’s collapse in bite-sized factoids that follow a loose narrative. By design he’s had to settle on specific interpretations of various concepts to avoid bogging down the text with debate, but at the same time he largely avoids presenting his work as undisputed fact. Beyond that, he does a very good job of shining brief moments of illumination across many aspects of Roman society, including ones you may never have thought about before. An excellent gift for amateurs, but also worth a read if you’re in the mood for something lighter and with more breadth.

Legions of Rome (2010)

legions of romeAuthor: Stephen Dando-Collins
Pages: 624
Buy: Amazon

The Roman Military has always been what’s drawn me to this period, but specifically it’s the Legions I enjoy reading about. Separate to their evolution into a professional fighting machine, it’s the idea that each Legion grew its own identity and history that transcended the men who served in it that I've always found enticing.

Dando-Collins’ epic tome is excellent reading for anyone who shares the same passion and is a book of three distinct parts. The first one covers the men of the legion, as well as various minutia such as equipment, training etc… as well as ranks. The Second part covers the Legions themselves, including detailed unit histories of the known Early/Mid Imperial era (which includes those legions that survived the Late Republic period, such as Caesar’s 10th Legion).

The final part is a history of key battles fought from 30 BC to the fall of Rome at the start of the 5th Century AD. It could do with more map illustrations in this part, but it's still an excellent overview of the key engagements.

Fiction

Eagle Series

Eagles of the Empire Series

Author: Simon Scarrow

If you’re a fan of Roman history and enjoy reading fiction novels, there’s a chance you’ll know about Scarrow and his seventeen book (and counting) series covering the career of two Roman officers in the Legions of 1st Century AD Rome. The tale starts with Claudius’ invasion of Britain, but takes the two officers east as well with them currently on the Armenian frontier.

It’s mainstream fiction to be sure, but Scarrow is known for his research and care for the subject matter, and it’s definitely good fun. If you’re a newcomer you’ll want to start with the first book Under the Eagle, with the latest book being The Blood of Rome.

Vindolanda (2017)

VindolandaAuthor: Adrian Goldsworthy
Buy: Amazon

Goldsworthy decided to try his hand at fiction writing a few years ago with his ‘Vindolanda’ series, set at the turn of the 2nd Century A.D. in northern Britain. Before Hadrian’s Wall was built, the frontier was defended by a series of forts that stretched from shore-to-shore in much the same way as the wall eventually would, and the book draws from many of the little details that have been learned from the study of the Vindolanda tablets.

What I like about Goldsworthy’s effort is that it feels a lot more authentic than Scarrow’s work, and pays more care to the known details without bogging down the story. That’s not to say Scarrow’s books are bad, but they can definitely be considered to be occupying the ‘Hollywood History’ side of the scale. Vindolanda and its follow-on novels are a more grounded, but no less engaging, tale of army life at the edge of Rome’s empire.

Do you have any favourite historical works for the ancient Mediterranean? Let us know in the comments below!

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