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Recommended Books on Ancient Warfare

f you have navigated this far in, you probably share an interest in this period of history, and are always on the lookout for some worthwhile books to read.
I have collected some of the works which I particularly enjoyed reading into this page.  It's not so much a review, as a mark of approval, since it would take far too long to go back and re-read enough of all of them to make a decent review.
There is no particularly order, and some will prompt me to add a few words, while others will not, but do not take that as any particular measure of quality.  Presence here indicates a book worth looking out for, according to me.
These are some books I recommend from my Ancients collection - I am sticking to the moderns here.  The classical authors need no recommendtion from me.
One of the joys of the Ancient period, is that it is entirely possible to have a permanently half formed opinion on something - and sway slightly between camps as you encounter something new without ever quite being fully convinced.  You will notice that pretty much every book here is 'not entirely convincing, but worth reading'.  This is not the case in more recent periods, where things tend much more into the right and wrong schools.

 Yigael Yadin

The Art of War in Biblical Lands in light of Archaeological Discovery

I have the two volume copy - I think it might be the U.S. version. 

As a tip to those looking for a copy, try Christian bookshops, rather than ones covering anccient and military areas.

For some reason, it seems to escape notice as a rare book when catalogued by Christian bookshop owners.

Any oponents I meet across a table who have an army painted in the colour schemes from this book will get bonus points.


 Duncan Head / Nigel Stillman & Nigel Tallis / Ian Heath / Phil Barker

The 'Armies and Enemies' series

I have most of these - they are an invaluable resouce for the Ancient (and Medieval) period.  This was the first I got - the last 'new' copy on sale in the world, I was told - which I picked up as I started building a proper Ancient army (the Ptolemeics).  I find I refer back to it whenever I'm building an army it covers, as I do with all of the series.


  Michael P Speidel

Ancient Germanic Warriors

A fascinating read, although not entirely convincing at every point.  Some of the continuities he finds in fighting styles are extrodinary, and go a long way to dispelling the myth of the warband which wargamers have inherited from the Seventies.


J.E. Lendon

Soldiers and Ghosts 

Another in the fascinating but not utterly convincing camp, well worth reading none the less, it compares Greek and Roman approaches to battle and how they refelct the structure of their societies..  I suspect he may have studied with Victor Davis Hanson, as there are some strong chimes to his themes - and counters to them too.


Dr Kaveh Farrokh

Shadows in the Desert

 So good, you wouldn't know its an Osprey.

He probably overstates some of the links (some think he claims the Persians invented everything, which is not quite true), but its worth it for the overall package.  Another of the not entirely convincing, but absolutely worth reading books category - especially considering it is an Osprey.

Interestingly, it is absolutely panned in a review found here on 



Tom Holland

Persian Fire

Tom is one of my favourite popular historians writing at the moment, his books are fantastic to read, and absolutley worth getting.  Rubicon was excellent, and I was captured by Millenium, but Persian Fire is my favourite, so far. also panned it, although not as much as they did to Shadows in the Desert.  the review here is also useful. 


Victor Davis Hanson

 The Wars of the Ancient Greeks

I'm picking this of his, rather than the more usual 'Western Way of War', (amongst others), because its such a good overview of Greek and Hellenistic warfare - the sort of basic book everyone needs to get started with. 

The Cassell History of War series, along with 'Modern Wars in Perspective', and 'Armies and Enemies' are excellent series, and so far I have not hit a dud book in them.  This one stands out in particular for a clear headed analysis of Alexander which stands in contrast to the usual heroic nonesense put about.



Nicholas Sekunda

The Selucid and Ptolemeic  Reformed Army

An excellent study, again controversial because it dares to suggest that the Hellenistic survivors were capable of adapting their armies to the new way of war which the Romans brought.  It's not a stone-cold case, and there is plenty of evidence which can be interpreted either way, but the basic logic of it appeals to me far more than that against it.

Having a Ptolemeic army, albeit an earlier Hellenistic one, I have to recommend this of the pair.

 I am still on the hunt for the Achamaenid Persian book in this series.

Interstingly, in March 2012, Duncan Head posted to ANCMED that he had found reference to Thorakatai within some newly digitised Ptolemeic papyrus (see post dated 21 Match 2012) - which adds a further strand to this interesting debate.


 Ernle Bradford

The Year of Thermopylae

Another fantastic read - or rather, fantastic writer.  Bradford is always worth reading, and his book on the Great Siege of Malta is another must read. 


 Philip Sabin

Lost Battles

This is an excellent book.  Not only a set of wargaming rules designed to recreate and thus illuminate the course of ancient battles, but even more valuably, a solid analysis of all of those ancient battles for which we have enough information to make a sound analysis.



 Chris Webber

The Gods of Battle

I was very surprisedby the amount of interesting material in the book.  I had initially passed on it, as I have no Thracian army, and wasnt planning on one.  However, some good reviews and a chance encounter in a bookshop whilst slightly hung over soon persuaded me.

There is a very interesting discussion of the development of the Peltast from its Thracian origins - including a worthwhile section on Iphicrates (in all his interpretations) too.

All in all, a book with more to offer than the title suggests, and very interesting to read.

Subpages (1): Ancients Books