4 books for the perpetually curious
Updated: May 23, 2021
A Naval History of the Peloponnesian War: Ships, Men and Money in the War at Sea
Naval power played a vital role in the Peloponnesian War. The conflict pitted Athens against a powerful coalition including the preeminent land power of the day, Sparta. Only Athens’ superior fleet, her ‘wooden walls’, by protecting her vital supply routes allowed her to survive. It also allowed the strategic freedom of movement to strike back where she chose, most famously at Sphacteria, where a Spartan force was cut off and forced to surrender.
Athens’ initial tactical superiority was demonstrated at the Battle of Chalcis, where her ships literally ran rings round the opposition but this gap closed as her enemies adapted. The great amphibious expedition to Sicily was a watershed, a strategic blunder compounded by tactical errors which brought defeat and irreplaceable losses. Although Athens continued to win victories at sea, at Arginusae for example, her naval strength had been severely weakened while the Spartans built up their fleets with Persian subsidies. It was another naval defeat, at Aegispotomi (405 BC) that finally sealed Athens’ fate. Marc De Santis narrates these stirring events while analysing the technical, tactical and strategic aspects of the war at sea.
Mummies, Magic and Medicine in Ancient Egypt
This volume, published in honour of Egyptologist Professor Rosalie David OBE, presents the latest research on three of the most important aspects of ancient Egyptian civilisation: mummies, magic and medical practice. Drawing on recent archaeological fieldwork, new research on human remains, reassessments of ancient texts and modern experimental archaeology, it attempts to answer some of Egyptology's biggest questions: how did Tutankhamun die? How were the Pyramids built? How were mummies
Many books have been written on the Second Punic War and Hannibal in particular but few give much space to his campaigns in the years from 213 203 BC. Most studies concentrate on Hannibals series of stunning victories in the early stages of the war, culminating at Cannae in 216 BC, then refocus on the activities of his nemesis ,Scipio Africanus, in Spain until the two meet in the final showdown at Zama. But this has led to the neglect of some of the Carthaginian genius most remarkable campaigns.
By 212 the wider war was definitely going against the Carthaginians. Yet Hannibal, despite being massively outnumbered and with little support from home, was able to sustain his polyglot army and campaign actively across southern Italy for another ten years. His skilful manoeuvring and victory in numerous engagements kept several veteran armies of the normally aggressive Romans tied up and on the defensive, until Scipios invasion of North Africa pulled him home to defend Carthage. Mike Roberts follows the course of these remarkable events in detail, analysing Hannibals strategy and aims in this phase of the war and revealing a genius that had lost none of its lustre in adversity.
By The Emperor's Hand
By the sixth century of the common era the Roman Empire already had many hundreds of years of accumulated ceremonial embedded in its government, and practical science embodied in its army.
The transition from Republic to Imperium and the more hierarchical structure that entailed, and the absorption of Christianity into state processes, had pushed the development of court ceremonial apace, and particularly driven its embodiment and display in ever more opulent regalia. The regalia embraced not only garments of distinctive form and decoration, but also both dress and non-dress accessories. It was crucial in displaying rank and function on an everyday basis, yet was also varied considerably for special occasions. Military dress largely reflected forms current amongst ordinary men, but with an emphasis on functionality, eschewing the excesses of fashion.
Detailed literary and artistic sources, archaeology and insights derived from reconstruction and practical experience has gone into creating an incredibly lavish picture of the clothing of the longest-enduring political entity in history.
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