The very word ‘Viking’ conjures up images of fearsome longships, merciless invasions, and slaughtered victims. But were the Vikings unique in their savagery, or were they instead products of an era in which all those who wished to conquer did so without taking any prisoners?
The Roman legions needed support. By the 1st century AD, the citizen legionaries of Rome, drawn primarily from Italy, were supplemented by many thousands of auxiliary ‘helper’ soldiers recruited from non-citizen peoples who possessed military skills the Romans lacked.
Introducing Seema Syeda’s new series on battlefield scoops throughout the ages. The practice of recording the events of war is as old as war itself. The likes of Herodotus and Thucydides are well known as great ancient historians of conflict. Often placed alongside them is Greek military commander and philosopher Xenophon. However, instead of being […]
The location of a fortress dating back to the Ptolemaic dynasty of Egypt has been found at Berenike on the Red Sea coast. The Ptolemaic dynasty was a Macedonian-Greek family that ruled in Egypt during the Hellenic period, from 305 to 30 BC. Berenike was part of a chain of ports along the Red Sea […]
A huge, mountainous, landlocked Central Asian state, Afghanistan has defied invaders for 2,500 years. Jules Stewart takes a look at the country’s military longue durée. Taken in historical context, the 13-year presence of NATO combat troops in Afghanistan amounted to scarcely a footnote to centuries of foreign military intervention in the country. From the […]
Journey from the original Olympic games to the defeat of the Spartan juggernaut in this extract from our latest 15-page special on the rise of Sparta. c.776 BC: Traditional foundation date for Olympic Games c.750 BC: Homer’s epics The Iliad and The Odyssey composed c.700 BC: Sparta conquers Messenia c.650 BC: Messenian Revolt followed by Spartan Reconquest At […]
‘Legion’ derives from the Latin legio, which itself comes from the verb legere, meaning ‘to choose’ or ‘to levy’. The legion represented the muster of Rome’s citizens in times of war. It appeared in English in the Middle Ages, and came to mean a large body of soldiers, or simply many people or things. In 1611, Shakespeare wrote in Cymbeline: ‘The Romaine Legions, all from […]
In the years 58-51 BC, Gaul was conquered and added to the Roman Empire through the military campaigns of Julius Caesar and his legions. For the first time in history, tribal groups in north-western Europe were confronted with the violent expansionism of an imperial system. Although Caesar’s war narrative is coloured by personal propaganda and imperial ideology, there is no doubt that the conquest had dramatic […]
The Sassanian Empire: Rome’s unbeaten rival in the East. With all its success and brilliance in Europe, the Mediterranean, and North Africa, Rome never conquered the Spah (‘military’) of the Sassanian Empire. Roman emperors such as Alexander Severus, Valerian, and Julian the Apostate tried and failed to subjugate Persia. Thanks to European and Iranian military […]
The Spah (‘military’) of the Sassanian Empire were Rome’s unbeaten rivals in the East. Here we look at 10 principles of Sassanian warfare.