Conflict in Ancient Greece and Rome: The Definitive Political, Social, and Military Encyclopedia. Edited by Sara E. Phang, Iain Spence, Douglas Kelly, and Peter Londey. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2016. 3 vols. Acid free. $310.00 (ISBN 978-1-61069-019-5). E-book available (978-1-61069-020-1), call for pricing.

The glory that was Greece, and the grandeur that was Rome.
—”To Helen” by Edgar Allen Poe

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.

Be that as it may, the current work under review is well researched, clearly written, and designed for a wide audience, including senior high school/undergraduate college students and inquiring literate adults who wish to know more regarding this subject. As the subtitle suggests, there is more between these covers than a mere description of battles. Entries on “alcohol,” “bribery and corruption,” “coinage,” “diplomacy,” and many other ideas, issues, and influences that helped to shape armed conflict may be found here. The text is supplemented with black and white illustrations of arms, armor, battle sites, fortifications, and so on. As expected, entries are alphabetically arranged. Unexpected is the fact that the work is composed of two halves. All of volume 1 and the first half of volume 2 is dedicated to conflict in ancient Greece, with the remainder of the work devoted to conflict in ancient Rome. For those researchers concentrating on just one aspect of classical warfare, this eliminates a lot of unnecessary page flipping. Special features include a chronology, bibliography, maps, glossary, excerpts from primary documents, and a selection of quotations from those who did the fighting.

To keep this review to a reasonable length, it will suffice to say that all of the editors are well versed in their respective fields of classical studies and ancient military history. The contributors that wrote the individual articles are academics and independent scholars.

It is the considered opinion of this reviewer that Conflict in Ancient Greece and Rome would be an appropriate purchase for all public and academic libraries, especially those of the latter with a curriculum supporting classical studies or military history.—Michael F. Bemis, Independent Reference Book Reviewer


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