“On Ancient Warfare” – Book Review

“On Ancient Warfare”, in my opinion, should be used as a general reference book on the topics of fighting in antiquity, rather than a cover-to-cover read. Thank you to Pen and Sword who sent these books out to review. This is the third episode of Reviewing History Products.

Although it can be used for academic purposes, I truly believe that this book is aimed at the general reader, and Richard has done a great job in making it friendly and avoiding complex jargon. It’s a breath of fresh air in a world where it’s hard to get an understandable but educational book with lots of useful and genuinely interesting facts.

Richard leads you through probably most of what you’ll ever want to know about warfare in Ancient Times. Starting off with detailed descriptions of types of armour and the materials they were made out of, then moving onto different categories like the diet of a warrior and the physiological effect of fighting, the initial chapters, which cover a good part of the book, give a detailed background and great context to the following information.

The second half of the book focuses on actual campaigns and events that happened in history, and builds additional knowledge onto the facts learnt in the general topics from earlier. My personal favourites were the Assyrian Empire – which I had barely known much about before – and, of course, the Seven Injuries of Alexander the Great. I think this particular chapter will be very useful for my current project on the Persian invasion.

Black-and-White illustrations, diagrams and maps often pop up throughout the book, and I think the choice of printing these without colour is actually better than dedicating a coloured picture section somewhere between the pages.

This book is not at all boring, and I found that reading it is quite addictive, as at points the descriptions of battles seem like stories. On the other hand, I love how you can pick up this book at any chapter and learn something new without having to read from the start. The writing style is very appealing, and the frequent closer looks at the science behind fighting and types of diseases is a great addition to a book that is already a masterpiece.

As for the physical quality, the printing is good quality but does have the odd mistake now and then. Occasionally, you’ll see some random letters printed between the lines:

However, the book feels solid, and the pages are generally thick and feel expensive. A clear and bold cover design makes the front of the book naturally appealing to the eye, and it isn’t difficult to see what you’re going to get from this book.

Despite how easy it is to read and the smooth-flowing nature of the text, it is still content-heavy and would serve purpose as a reference book excellently. I know that whenever I need to find out something specific about Ancient Warfare, Richard A Gabriel’s publication will always be there to help.

Think you know someone who might like this?

Buy it here: https://www.pen-and-sword.co.uk/On-Ancient-Warfare-Hardback/p/15277


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