salvianus: (Intercisa)
[personal profile] salvianus
Sumner, G. (2009) Roman Military Dress, Stroud: The History Press

After having been lucky enough to see some of the material for the book when Graham came to York recently, it was great to be able to walk away from Vindolanda with a copy in my hands. Graham was kind enough to trek up to our camp and sign one for me, having rescued his personal copies from the museum bookshop, who had assumed they were for general sale and sent several over to Corbridge!

It is exactly what I and many re-enactors have wanted for some time: an expanded synthesis of the information which informed the Roman Military Clothing Osprey series, with new primary evidence, further examples, additional discussion, more illustrations and Graham's own painted interpretations. It represents a significant improvement on those slimmer volumes for those with an academic viewpoint (whom I like to call historians whether or not they have a qualification to degree level or better in history, archaeology or allied fields) and, particularly, those re-enactors wishing to advance their period impressions based on a serious interrogation of the available data.

Although by necessity referring to much of the familiar evidence base, including several of the same illustrations, the new material is extensive and the discussion is at a deeper level, specifically addressing questions and arguments raised by those of us who were so hungry for authoritative guidance that we pored over and debated every line of the volumes of Roman Military Clothing as if they were academic textbooks, rather than brief overviews.

It is 224 pages long, plus 16 pages of colour photographs and beautiful illustrations in Sumner's characteristic style, including sixteen full length portraits of Roman soldiers, only two of which I have seen elsewhere. It is divided into three sections: 'tunics and cloaks' which covers the appearance, decoration and construction from Republican to Late Imperial times, 'the clothing industry' with a catalogue of the evidence for military clothing colour up to the seventh century and 'other garments' which provides, amongst other things, fascinating new evidence on hats and helmet linings and a very sensible appraisal of the controversial subarmalis and thoracomachus.

This book represents the fruit of many years of study by a well respected author in the field. It is well written so as to be very readable for the non-academic whilst presenting a huge, and surely definitive, array of evidence. I believe 'Roman Military Dress' will become the new essential clothing guide for the period, destined to sit as comfortably next to Bishop and Coulston on the historian's shelf as on the re-enactor's sewing table. Every Roman should own one.

The publishers:
Roman Military Dress at The History Press

Roman Military Dress at Oxbow Books

Amazon UK:
Roman Military Dress on Amazon UK
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salvianus: (Default)

February 2011


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