Book Review by Cohort
Nigel Bagnal packs a lot into 335 pages , painting a picture with a firm grasp of the essentials and avoiding extraneous clutter, (though some may disagree on what constitutes clutter in contrast to essential detail), Personally I see clutter as a tedious description of every god, edict and maneuver that creates and shapes a nation or describes its inner workings...
Those sort of things should be detailed in a book that is meant to address a broader theme , not one that entails a description of 120 years of warfare. In this task he does well, providing just the right amount of background without grinding the reader down with minutiae.
He paints a picture which illustrates the fundamental differences between Rome and Carthage , what Rome was before committing to fight the first war and what Carthage was and how she conducted herself as regards diplomacy etc.….and gives some reasons as to why Carthage would be consigned to the ash heap of history.
I found his descriptions of the events in Sicily to be well written, he provided some facts . and viewpoints I had not thought of or seen before. What I found particularly engaging was his descriptions of the events leading up to Rome supporting the Mamertines and explores reasons why they did so..not an easy task as there are a number of threads and players in the drama…and a myriad of contradictory reasons that Rome struggled with in justifying its involvement.
His descriptions of the plight of the first African invasion were well done. Also this applies to description of the fighting throughout the length of breath of Sicily (and its waters). He hits just the right note, enough depth to keep you informed while supplying a compelling narrative.
The Second Punic war is drawn in broad strokes, he spends time describing Hannibal’s march, he does not labor every battle Hannibal won in Italy, as, we can always seek tactical information elsewhere (as this would bog down the narrative).
I would say he speaks the tongue of grand tactics and Strategy as opposed to tactics per se’. He discusses the plots and plans to turn Rome’s confederation against it and the axis Carthage tried to put together as regards drawing Macedonia into the war as well.
In addition; we have other well designed and written chapters regarding Scipio’s campaigns in Spain, and last but not least a very good view of the last years of the 3rd war, where in he delivers a lucid and informative account of the machinations of Carthage’s fight against its own mercenaries while trying to keep the Romans at bay and simply survive, including her pleas by delegation to Rome and her proffered “complete surrender”…..which in almost any other place or time would have been enough for others, but for the behind the scenes maneuvering between factions in Rome, which is very relevant and he discusses.
Altogether; well written, easy to read and digest. Plainly spoken, if you wish an excellent strategic/grand tactical narrative of the Punic wars, its hard to go wrong here.
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