Adopted from the Celts in the 1st century BC, the spatha, a lethal and formidable chopping blade, became the primary sword of the Roman soldier in the Later Empire. Over the following centuries, the blade, its scabbard, and its system of carriage underwent a series of developments, until by the 3rd century AD it was the universal sidearm of both infantry and cavalry. Thanks to its long reach, the spatha was the ideal cavalry weapon, replacing the long gladius hispaniensis in the later Republican period. As the manner in which Roman infantrymen fought evolved, styles of hand-to-hand combat changed so much that the gladius was superseded by the longer spatha during the 2nd century AD. Like the gladius, the spatha was technologically advanced, with a carefully controlled use of steel. Easy maintenance was key to its success and the spatha was designed to be easily repaired in the field where access to a forge may have been limited. It remained the main Roman sword into the Late Roman period and its influence survived into the Dark Ages with Byzantine, Carolingian and Viking blades. Drawing together historical accounts, excavated artefacts and the results of the latest scientific analyses of the blades, renowned authority M.C. Bishop reveals the full history of the development, technology, training and use of the spatha: the sword that defended an empire.
This biography of the Roman Emperor Caracalla challenges his tyrannical reputation with a revealing narrative of his social reforms and military campaigns. Caracallahas one of the worst reputations of any Roman Emperor. Many ancient historians were very hostile, and the 18th century English historian Edward Gibbon even dubbed him the common enemy of mankind. Yet his reign was considered by at least one Roman author to be the apogee of the Roman Empire. He was guilty of many murders and massacres—including that of his own brother, ex-wife and daughter. Yet he instituted the Antonine Constitution, granting citizenship to all free men in the Empire. He was also popular with the army, improving their pay and cultivating the image of sharing their hardships. Historian Ilkka Syvanne explains how the biased ancient sources in combination with the stern looking statues of the emperor have created a distorted image of the man. He then reconstructs a chronology of Caracalla’s reign, focusing on his military campaigns and reforms, to offer a balanced view of his legacy. Caracalla offers the first complete overview of the policies, events and conflicts he oversaw and explains how and why these contributed to the military crisis of the third century.
A military history of the campaigns of Stilicho, the army general who became one of the most powerful men in the Western Roman Empire. Flavius Stilicho lived in one of the most turbulent periods in European history. The Western Empire was finally giving way under pressure from external threats, especially from Germanic tribes crossing the Rhine and Danube, as well as from seemingly ever-present internal revolts and rebellions. Ian Hughes explains how a Vandal (actually, Stilicho had a Vandal father and Roman mother) came to be given almost total control of the Western Empire and describes his attempts to save both the Western Empire and Rome itself from the attacks of Alaric the Goth and other barbarian invaders. Stilicho is one of the major figures in the history of the Late Roman Empire, and his actions following the death of the emperor Theodosius the Great in 395 may have helped to divide the Western and Eastern halves of the Roman Empire on a permanent basis. Yet he is also the individual who helped maintain the integrity of the West before the rebellion of Constantine III in Britain, and the crossing of the Rhine by a major force of Vandals, Sueves, and Alans—both in A.D. 406—set the scene for both his downfall and execution in 408, and the later disintegration of the West. Despite his role in this fascinating and crucial period of history, there is no other full-length biography of him in print.