Legions of Rome The Definitive History of Every Imperial Roman Legion
St. Martin's Press 2010.
In Legions of Rome The Definitive History of Every Imperial Roman Legion, Dando-Collins has written a useful reference work on the Roman legions, if you use it cautiously (cum grano salis).
Dando-Collins starts with the types of people found associated with the Roman army, from officers on down. He covers uniforms, furloughs, pay, standard-bearers and a bit about marines. This section was easy to follow and read through. It was also short, ending on page 57. The second part goes up a step to the legions themselves, but continues with the same sort of introductory material. Dando-Collins describes living conditions and more on the standards. It isn't particularly clear to me why or how these sections are distinct, but they are different from the third section, which comprises the bulk of the book (pages 212-579), -- the Battles. Here, Dando-Collins provides an historical look at the legions and Roman battles that goes in a sort of chronological and/or geographical order for the entire Empire and the whole of the Imperial period.
I say the book is a useful reference book because you can find out what happened to each of the legions, if you trace their progress in the index. Subtly distinct legions in subtly different battles fighting not-at-all different foes make for confusing reading and Dando-Collins, although a talented writer, doesn't break that barrier. However, should another book or article refer to a specific legion, I will still check out what Dando-Collins has to say to fill me in on the background and to distinguish that legion from similarly named ones because there isn't a better place that I know of.
In addition to getting lost and feeling overwhelmed by the breadth of coverage, there are two warnings that are related to each other. One is that people -- with far more sophisticated knowledge of Roman military matters than I have -- reviewed his work on the Roman legions and challenged his accuracy. See Michael Thomas's Review on Amazon. The other is his reliance on Suetonius. Suetonius, compared by some with a gossip columnist, is not a reliable enough source to take categorically and worse yet, as what seems to be the main source for his information on the earlier period.
Despite this, Dando-Collins is good enough for Roman imperial and military history beginners. It is a fine starting point for others if they're planning to verify.
Dando-Collins writes pleasingly, with anecdotes to give a picture of Roman history and politics.
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