Often in history, we hear the term, “there is nothing new under the sun.” Many will shrug, and we are completely enthralled with whatever “new” invention or toy has come out. In the case of warfare, there is often not much that is new. While technology will advance, so will weapons, and of course, the tactics that are used against ones enemy. While there are newer ideas, it is often back to the ancient world that we fall, learning from those who came before us, and much of the wisdom that they left behind – if we choose to learn from it.
In “Roman Special Forces and Special Ops” Simon Elliott shares a wealth of information, and you will not be disappointed!
If you are in the UK, this book is now available. It will be available in the US in June 2023.
Before I get into the fun part, a huge THANK YOU to Pen and Sword for asking me to partake in this blog tour!
Rating: 4/5 stars
Much has been written about the Roman army and the mighty legions that conquered their empire and then defended it for centuries against all comers. But little has been written about the men and units employed when something more subtle than the march of legions into pitched battle was required. This is the only book available dedicated to Roman special ops and the role of the Speculatores, Exploratores, Protectores, and Areani.
Simon Elliott reveals the kinds of special operations conducted by the tactical scouting ahead of the legions, covert strategic reconnaissance in neighboring states, espionage, assassination or abduction of dissidents and enemies, counter-insurgency, and close protection of Roman officials and commanders. While such missions were frequently executed by ad-hoc units or individuals detailed for that specific mission, the author goes on to reveal the evidence for the aforementioned specialist units. He concludes with an analysis of the extent to which these various forces corresponded to a modern conception of Special Forces. These men were the eyes and ears of the Empire, the deadly tip of the Roman sword.
What an interesting book! I absolutely enjoyed reading through this one. As Rome began expanding their influence, so too did the military expand in its own influence.
As I was reading through the different examples that the author presented, I found myself comparing them to some more modern-day examples. Lt. Col. Hal Moore is one that comes to mind, during the Vietnam War, and how he used intelligence, working to understand how his enemy would fight before setting foot in the country. It was a great comparison to see that the ancient Romans had used some of the same techniques, although theirs was a bit more covert, having to carefully travel through the ancient world, without being caught.
There was quite a bit about the Roman military that I did not know, and this was a fabulous introduction to how the different sections of the Roman military functioned, intelligence-gathering techniques, and how the “first official Roman secret service ‘was staffed by supply sergeants whose original functions had been the purchase for and distribution to the troops of grain.'”
Absolutely a fun book – and definitely one that will give you a different viewpoint on some of the long-held opinions on the Roman military, and their standing in history.