The Roman Navy Ships, Men & Warfare 350 BC – AD 475
by Michael Pitassi
Seaforth Publishing (www.seaforthpublishing.com)
RRP GBP £25.00
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This interesting book is an excellent addition to the literature available on the “Roman Navy”. It is highly informative and deals with the subject in an excellent manner. The “Roman Navy” is more correctly termed the “naval forces of the Roman state” and it is often consigned to a few paragraphs in many accounts of the Roman military endeavour.
The book reveals that for over 800 years the “Roman Navy” formed an integral part of the Roman military forces and it was the world’s first “super-power” navy. The navy was the instrument that ensured Roman domination of the Western Mediterranean and enabled the expansion into the lands surrounding it and the foundation of the Roman Empire. Also, the navy enabled the Romans to eventually dominate the Eastern Mediterranean and the lands of the near East.
It was a naval campaign and a sea battle that established and secured power for the Roman Emperors. The navy enabled trade to flourish and it suppressed piracy to an extent not equalled until the twentieth century. However given this important role the history of the Roman Navy is still not as well documented as the land campaigns of the era.
This fascinating book starts with an introduction to the history of the Roman Navy. It is then split into a number of sections dealing with various facets of its history. There are sections on the ships employed (types of ships, shipbuilding and weapons), the command structure / organisation of the fleets, matters dealing with crewing issues (recruitment, terms of service, training, weapons and uniforms), life on board (food, drink, religion etc.), seamanship (e.g. navigation), operations (strategy, blockades), tactics used in various battles, and allied and enemy navies.
The coverage of the subject is of a very high standard and this excellence makes the book very interesting. It is bound to become one of the standard reference books on the subject and the author’s research should be recognised. If you are seeking a text which not only introduces the subject but gives numerous highly detailed account of or data on the Roman Navy then there is no need to look any further. A “well done” is due to the author and I am sure that his work will be acknowledged in due course.