The Romans are not generally known for a well-developed cavalry arm, but here, like everywhere else, they looked at what worked for everyone else, and borrowed or imitated what they liked.

The second volume is still not out (nearly two years after this one), but I will assume it will cover the period where heavy cavalry is better known, while this is really more about early Roman heavy units. It starts with 1st Century references in Josephus and elsewhere, and of course deals with the Notitia Dignitatum unit list. Along with this, there’s a good section on ‘cataphract’ and ‘clibanari’, and how those terms are used in the sources, and the debate on what exactly was meant by having two different terms.

The overall production level of the book is stellar. This is a full-color book all the way through, bringing out subtleties even in technically monochromatic artifacts (such as carved stellae). The photography is similarly very good, and shows these artifacts to best effect, giving a good idea of the actual object (well, the ones that are not just fragments, there’s some art detailing a reconstructed helmet, and more like that would be good).

Unfortunately, the traditional color art plates of an Elite title are merely workmanlike. The compositions are all fairly static figures not interacting with each other, putting back into a slightly improved version of 1970’s military art. The backgrounds range from decent short-distance landscape that give a little feel to environment, all the way down to a meaningless ‘DMV backdrop’ (seen on the cover).

Finally, there’s some discussion of the organization of these units, and the tactics they employed. An interesting conjecture is that there’s no early sources for their organization, because until about the 3rd Century, these units were probably fully employed by pulling non-Romans in, who were left to their own methods of organization. (Effectively making them all auxilia.)

It is of course a bit specialized as a book, and it does seem like the subject fits well into the standard format. The photographs are plentiful, which breaks up the text some, but means its even better visual reference than usual.