Gladius: The World of the Roman Soldier

December 8, 2020
Gladius: The World of the Roman Soldier

The Roman army was the greatest fighting machine in the ancientworld. More than that, it was the single largest organization inWestern antiquity, taking in members from all classes, fromsenators to freed slaves. The Roman Empire depended on its army notjust to win its wars, defend its frontiers, and control the seas,but to act as the very engine of the state.In Gladius, Guy de la Bédoyère takes us straight to theheart of what it meant to be a part of the Roman army. Rather thana history of the army itself, or a guide to military organizationand fighting methods, this book is a ground-level recreation ofwhat it was like to be a soldier in the army that made the empire.Surveying numerous aspects of life in the Roman army between 264BCE and 337 CE, Gladius—the Latin word for sword—draws notonly on the words of famed Roman historians, but also those of thesoldiers themselves, as recorded in their religious dedications,tombstones, and even private letters and graffiti. Gladiusreveals the everyday life of these soldiers and their families,whether stationed in a bleak frontier garrison in Britain or NorthAfrica, tasked with guarding the emperor in Rome, fighting onforeign battlefields, mutinying over pay, marching in triumph,throwing their weight around on city streets, or enjoying esteem inhonorable retirement.By illuminating the history of one organization that reflectedall corners of the Roman world, Gladius gives us aportrait of an ancient society that is unprecedented in both itsbroad sweep and gritty intimacy.