Review by Northern Neil
Ancient Warfare (Vol.III Issue 2) dropped through my letterbox, and I immediately did what I do with all magazines at first – flick through quickly and look at the pictures. In the minute or so it took me to do this, I could see that this was a magazine that I would read cover to cover, review or no review pending. I was greeted by a series of detailed maps, wonderful reconstruction paintings, detailed articles and mouth watering ads full of enticing books and re-enactment gear.
The general theme of this issue was ‘Alexander’s Funeral Games: the Wars of the Successors’. Looking at the back numbers, it appears that the magazine follows a theme each month, with roughly two thirds of the magazine’s content directed towards that theme, the rest covering everything else. Now, I have often avoided the study of the Hellenistic period, finding it a confusing entangled time in which a broadly uniform culture spent 150 years hacking itself to pieces. I was pleasantly relieved of this misconception by what then followed.
The first article, ‘Alexander’s Funeral Games’ neatly summarised the immediate aftermath of Alexander’s death, giving a coherent explanation as to how and why his erstwhile generals fell out, and how the Hellenistic world took shape as a result.
An article on Philon of Byzantium followed – a brief summary of the primary source Poliorketika in which the military engineer himself gives us some valuable tips on fortifying ones city. The writer of the article, Dr. Konstantin Nossov, then goes on to give existing examples of military works which appear to have been inspired by Philon’s suggestions, and provides us with some detailed plans, diagrams and photographs.
The story of Demetrius Poliorcetes (Antigonus’ son) came next, followed by a piece on the development of Hellenistic armies during and after the age of the successors. The Battle of Gabiene was featured in great detail, complete with clear battle diagrams and a dramatic painting of the collapse of Antigonus’ phalanx; to complete the theme, we have a piece on Sarissa (pike) finds from an archaeological excavation at Vergina, Northern Greece.
The remainder of the magazine contained a number of shorter articles on various subjects - one section discussed amphitheatres attached to forts and fortresses, informing me of several in Britain I was unaware of. A feature on a marine whose body and equipment were found at Herculaneum displayed detailed photographs and a splendid artistic reconstruction.
Towards the end was a little feature I particularly liked. The ‘quiz’ content of the magazine invited us to re-fight the battle of Stasbourg. To help us in this task there are extracts from Vegetius’ treatise, and a map of the battle showing just the German forces. The Roman forces are laid out below the map for us to arrange as we see fit, as are instructions to cut, paste and submit answers to the Ancient Warfare Forum - which, incidentally, happens to be www.ancient-warfare.com/forum.
The magazine itself is very well produced and set out, with a mix of text and illustration which seems just about right. The articles themselves are written by published authors and scholars of repute, and end with suggestions for further reading.
Themes of back issues, which are still available, include: The Campaigns of Caesar, Roman Crisis: The Third Century AD, Warfare in the Ancient Near East, and The Age of the Trireme. Future themes will include: Gods, Kings and Heroes, The Barcid Family at War, Rome vs. Parthia, and Tactics, Standards and Military Music.