“The Imperial Nemesis” is a stock phrase and you’d be forgiven if you decided to ignore the latest issue of Ancient Warfare, but that would be a mistake. The articles on the conflict between Rome and Parthia are actually more interesting than the title suggests.
Pawel Grysztar’s historical introduction consists of three parts: a slightly predictable overview of the major campaigns, and extremely illuminating sections on the theaters of operation and the asymmetrical nature of the conflict. After all, the Parthians retained many nomadic traits, while the Romans were essentially sedentary agriculturalists. This aspect is also stressed by Glenn Barnett and Arnold Blumberg, in an article on asymmetrical warfare that I found excellent. Duncan Campbell focuses on the relation between warfare and diplomacy – a theme that Ancient Warfare ought to explore more often.
Joaquín Montero describes the historiographical tradition of Trajan’s campaigns: the notes by the emperor himself, Arrian’s Parthica, Cassius Dio’s rendering of these notes (all quoted), and the survival of this part of Dio’s Roman History. The Parthian bow is the subject of a contribution by Paul McDonnell-Staff, while legionary equipment is dealt with by Raffaele D’Amato. Ross Cowan, finally, describes the Battle of Nisibis in 217, and gives more credit to Macrinus than is common.
As always, Ancient Warfare has some articles that are not directly related to the main theme. In this case, Fred Eugene Ray deals with the Athenian general Myronides and the land empire that Athens created in the mid-fifth century; Murray Dahm continues his entertaining series of articles on ancient military handbooks with an article on Festus’ Breviarium.
My summary would be incomplete if I didn’t mention the fine cover by Johnny Shumate, the maps by Andrew Brozyna and Carlos de la Rocha, the reconstructions of two Iranian warriors by Giorgio Albertini and two Romans by Graham Sumner, and the drawing of Tiridates’ surrender of his diadem to a statue of Nero by Angel Garcia Pinto. The highlight is Igor Dzis’ painting of the battle of Nisibis, which is a work of art, not just an illustration in a journal.
All in all, I liked this issue, and bought five copies for friends in Iran. I you want your own copy, go here.