ebook The World of the Roman Soldier

By Guy de la Bédoyère

cover image of Gladius

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The noted ancient historian presents a comprehensive and vividly detailed recreation of what it was like to be a Roman soldier.
The Roman army was the greatest fighting machine in the ancient world. It was also the single largest organization in Western antiquity, taking in members from all classes, from senators to freed slaves. The Roman Empire depended on its army not just to win wars, defend its frontiers, and control the seas, but to act as the very engine of the state. In Gladius—the Latin word for sword—Guy De la Bédoyère reveals what it meant to be a soldier in the army that made the empire.
Surveying numerous aspects of Roman military life between 264 BCE and 337 CE, De la Bédoyère draws not only on the words of famed Roman historians, but also those of the soldiers themselves, as recorded in their religious dedications, tombstones, and even private letters and graffiti. He vividly recreates their everyday lives, whether in a bleak frontier garrison in Britain or North Africa, guarding the emperor in Rome, fighting on foreign battlefields, mutinying over pay, marching in triumph, throwing their weight around on city streets, or enjoying honorable retirement.
By illuminating the history of one organization that reflected all corners of the Roman world, Gladius gives us a portrait of an ancient society that is unprecedented in both its broad sweep and gritty intimacy.