Book Review: Conflict in Ancient Greece and Rome: The Definitive Political, Social, and Military Encyclopedia

Michael F. Bemis


Classical civilization represents the foundation upon which rests all of modern-day Western society. The English language, in particular, is larded with allusions to the Greeks and Romans of yesteryear, from “Achilles’s heel” to “deus ex machina” to “Trojan Horse,” which make reference to the many influences that these cultures have had on our art, literature, theater, and, unfortunately, war and military (mis)adventures. For all these reasons, it behooves the modern reader to have at least a passing familiarity with what transpired all those thousands of years ago. The editors would appear to agree with this assessment, as they state in the “Preface” that this three-volume work “is intended to fill a gap in current reference works. It meets the need for a standard reference work on Greek and Roman military history and related institutions that is accessible to nonspecialists” (xxiii). Just what criteria the editors used in framing this statement is unknown; however, a literature search reveals many well-regarded titles covering this subject matter. From the topic-specific, such as John Warry’s Warfare in the Classical World: An Illustrated Encyclopedia of Weapons, Warriors, and Warfare in the Ancient Civilizations of Greece and Rome (University of Oklahoma Press 1995) to the more general, such as the venerable Oxford Classical Dictionary (Oxford University Press 2012), now in its fourth edition, there is certainly no shortage of print reference materials concerning warfare during the time of the Greek and Roman empires.

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