Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2010.05.34

Michael Alexander Speidel, Heer und Herrschaft im Römischen Reich der hohen Kaiserzeit. Mavors Roman Army Researches, vol. 16.   Stuttgart:  Franz Steiner Verlag, 2009.  Pp. 706.  ISBN 9783515093644.  €128.00.  



Reviewed by M. Weiskopf (mnweiskopf@aol.com)

Table of Contents

Michael Speidel, descendent of Speidel the Elder, offers here a collection of his inquiries made into the Roman army. Most of the articles have already appeared in print, some in difficult-to-obtain publications. All have been edited, principally to update references and cross-reference the articles presented, thereby permitting the reader to obtain a more comprehensive understanding of the Roman army as an organization possessing a high, almost nineteenth century AD, level of Rationalisierung (p. 35). One must expect from the editing that the content and order of the footnotes will differ from the original. One may find some data repeated, it is always with a different focus. As a whole, Speidel's collection serves as a practical example of the application of epigraphy, particularly in its careful presentation of the actual inscriptions, sober restorations, expansion of Roman-era abbreviations, comparison with known data, and the incorporation of newer material which alters the interpretation of the old. Because of my own research interests I must single out "Ausserhalb des Reiches" (pp. 633-649) as a showpiece substantially adding to our knowledge of Roman activities in the Red Sea and East Africa, and providing an important supplement to the ANRW II 9 of the late '70s. Rather than comment of each piece separately, I will describe in the following paragraphs the divisions of the work, placing focus on unpublished material.

The first division (Kaiser, Heer und Reich) is introduced by a new piece, which with the introduction, places the Imperial Force into a wider context with a discussion of Augustus' reorganization (pp. 19-51): The Roman army became a standing, professional force with a new military culture. Although the soldiers' role expanded to include areas of specialization (public works, policing, infrastructure protection), the force was held together by disciplina militaris, i.e. the disciplina Augusti, with its own set of expectations and results. Most of the army served in border regions and was responsible for fostering security and peace. Endless expansion was not in the Augustan plan. Of the remaining pieces in the division, I recommend, particularly for those interested in Parthian and early Sassanian material, those on the Emperors Trajan (a realistic account of his military activities) and Septimius Severus (development of control over the northeast border with the Persians).

In division two (Militaerische Alltag und Verwaltung), the unpublished piece on military clothing (pp. 235-248) offers important correctives for those basing their perception of the Roman soldier on "Carry On Cleo" (1964) and the "Life of Brian"(1979). Monuments set up to honor individual soldiers often mixed martial and civilian aspects of the soldier's life, displaying him as a family member and good citizen. When seen on the street, the soldier's appearance varied. No shiny armor (designed to cow the enemy), but protective coverings concealed by ordinary garments. Propriety, morale, and discipline were all represented by the soldier's dress. Of the remaining pieces in the division those discussing honorable discharge and its aftermath (pp. 317-346), and pride in hard work (pp. 249-253) may be of greatest interest today.

Division three (Rangordnung und Sold) discusses a number of documents of an economic nature and illustrates the difficulties in extrapolating from limited evidence. Today' s soldier might be attracted to the piece on professional specialization and the ensuant, somewhat limited, chances for promotion (pp. 439-449). Note that illustration Figure 2, referred to on p. 403, is missing.

The fourth division (Heer und Heerschaftsraum) offers an unpublished piece, spoken at the end of 2007, on soldiers and civilians (pp. 473-500). Making up at most only 7.5 percent of the Empire's population and deployed primarily on the frontiers, the Roman soldiers' everyday contact with the local population varied from province to province (Egypt is not a representative for all). Although disorders spurred by intense stupidity (Tacitus Ann. 4.72ff) were rare, most complaints from civilians were directed at 'civilian' employees of the army and solders too anxious to avail themselves of local supplies and labor while travelling. The fact that these complaints and the ensuing judgments were inscribed served as a warning to the offending and reflected a public awareness that military Ausschreitungen (transgressions), as Togoland's Governor Zech characterized them last century, would be punished. The second new piece, spoken in 2006, analyzes how Augustus' activities were able to prompt local authorities to accept Roman control, particularly in the Vallis Poenina (pp. 545-561). Such was his success that the civitas Sedunorum asked him to be city patron and granted him the title pater patriae in 8/7 BC, a title which Augustus did not receive at Rome until 2 BC and which emphasized that the civitas Sedunorum regarded Rome as their homeland. The remaining pieces in this division I recommend to those interested in the Roman Near East. They offer important additions to material presented last century in the Encyclopaedia Iranica (s.v. "Cappadocia", "Commagene").

The final division (Heer und Errinerungen) contains two pieces. The first, originally published for the German speaking educated public, highlights the difficulties in reconstructing the true course of Cannae. The second, which will interest those examining hagiography, indicates how a non-present legion, made up of members of the Christian community, was destroyed by the anti-Christian tyrant Diocletian. In sum, permit me to restate that the book serves both as introduction to the more rigorous study of the Roman army and as an excellent introduction to the proper use of Latin epigraphy.

Comment on this review in the BMCR blog
Read Latest
Index for 2010
Change Greek Display
Archives
Books Available for Review
BMCR Home
Bryn Mawr Classical Commentaries

BMCR, Bryn Mawr College, 101 N. Merion Ave., Bryn Mawr, PA 19010

HTML generated at 09:16:57, Tuesday, 18 May 2010