Book Reviews-Uniforms of Roman Centurions, 753 BC-476 AD

th1Roman Centurions, 753-31 BC; The Kingdom and the Age of the Consuls. Rafael D’Amato. (Oxford: Osprey, 2011). Softcover. 48 pages. Illus., biblio., index. $17.95. 978-1-84908-541-0.

Archeology constantly challenges our perceptions whether by new discoveries or new interpretations. This Osprey number presents the history of the dress, arms and duties of those mainstays of Roman military power, the centurions of the legions. Tracing their presence from the earliest history of the city and its Etruscan roots, and tracing the development of these soldiers to the end of the republic we learn how they were arrayed through the legions. Varying grades and varying duties are all documented, from the headquarters to the first rank of the deployed legion to detached duty on dangerous missions. The author pays particular attention to ancient texts and monuments and thus we are able to know many centurions by name and service. In fact, Titus Pullo and Lucius Vorenus, two characters in a recent television series are based on real soldiers who were mentioned by Caesar in De Bello Gallico (p. 33). In addition to organizational details and derring do, arms, armor, decorations are all covered. The artist, Giuseppe Rava, skillfully brings color to data collected from written records and monuments and shows the centurions in action and performing civic duties. His rendition of a centurion leading the captured King of Numidia in the triumph of Marius (104 B.C.) is very evocative (Plate E).

 The author Raffaele D’Amato, has a PhD in Roman Military Archeology and is currently vice-head of the Laboratory of the Danubian Provinces at the University of Ferrara. The artist, Giuseppe Rava, is a self-taught and leading military artist.

 For the general reader or as a reference while reading the classics, Roman Centurions is highly reccomended. It also gives insights on the development of the corps of officers and non-commissioned officers in modern armies.

James B. Ronan II

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 Roman Centurions, 31 BC – AD 500; The Classical and Late Empire. Raffaele D’Amato. Osprey, Oxford, UK. 2012. Softcover, 48 pages, Illus., Index, Biblio., Glossary. ISBN: 978-1-84908-795-7. $17.95.

 This volume is a follow up to Roman Centurions, 753-31 BC, The Kingdom and the Age of the Consuls by the same author. Using ancient records and sources and archeological evidence the author and the illustrator (Company Member Guiseppe Rava) reconstruct the ever changing uniform of the Roman centurion from the Age of Augustus to the extinction of the Western Empire. Nowhere do we meet a drab centurion. Variations in leg armor, and helmet and armor styles are well depicted and explained. Even the centurion’s vine staff (vitis) changes and the distiguishing transverse crest disappears. We even see a Roman adaptation of Christian symbols on the uniform and a re-created investiture ceremony (Plates H1 and C).

 All centurion ranks are classified, their decorations are illustrated and, as in the previous volume, we are acquainted with actual centurions through their grave markers and their personal inscriptions left on various monuments around the empire. Particularly haunting is the inscription (found in modern Bulgria-ancient Moesia-and dated to 184 AD) of Lucius Maximus Gaetulicus, chief centurion of Legion I Italica, who served for 57 years (p.3).

The author Raffaele D’Amato, has a PhD in Roman Military Archeology and is currently vice-head of the Laboratory of the Danubian Provinces at the University of Ferrara. The artist, Giuseppe Rava, is a self-taught and leading military artist.

For the general reader or as a reference while reading the classics, Roman Centurions is highly reccomended.

James B. Ronan II

These book reviews appeared in the Company Dispatch (Spring 2012), the book review digest of the Company of Military Historians http://www.military-historians.org/

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