Osprey’s battle tactics series continues to be well done overall. This one concentrates a bit more on background, but that doesn’t really interfere with the main parts of the presentation. Despite the title, Fields takes a look at the situation on the Italian peninsula from Rome’s founding ca. 750 BC, and discusses the likely organization (or lack thereof) of fighting in that period.

Unlike other titles in this series, there’s not a lot of battle discussion. There is some, with seven diagrams of pertinent battles, but there’s no sidebar discussion of them in particular, and the mentions in the main text are usually very brief. The worst part of the book is missed opportunities: There are sections titled ‘Phalanx versus war band’ and ‘Legion versus phalanx’, that could have been about how one organization was superior to/defeated the other, but instead lightly touches on the battles mentioned before. Worse, the first one shows a couple of Roman defeats by war bands, and doesn’t go into the actual advantages brought to warfare by adopting such an organized formation.

The heart of the book is of course the manipular legion of the Republic, which is fairly well understood, and I’ve seen explained elsewhere, so this book isn’t all that new for someone who’s read a bit of Roman military history. However, it does nicely bring everything together into one place, and as always with Osprey, does a good job of showing the actual equipment of the period. It also includes a good page or so on the Roman practice of establishing a fortified camp each night on the march, and showing how that worked.

Of the various pre-modern Battle Tactic books, this is the one with information that is easiest to find elsewhere, but it is nicely gathered together, and well illustrated, making it one of the better single references on the subject I’ve seen.