The Punic Wars

It took me a while to slog through The Punic Wars by Adrian Goldsworthy, but it was well worth it.

When I picked up this book I assumed that it was a general history of the Punic wars. However, rather than give a broad, cultural history of the time period, Goldsworthy spends his time on the military aspect of the wars; troop formations, battle tactics, military organization, strategies and politics are the focal points of Goldsworthy’s history. This was a bit out of the way for me, not being a huge military history buff. In the end, though, I came away with a much better understanding of the course of the wars and of the brilliance of its major leaders, as well as a clear idea of the tactics and strategies of the Roman army and how they changed greatly over the course of the second century B.C.

Throughout the book, Goldsworthy carefully sifts the primary sources and critically examines them where they disagree with one another. I was glad to have read Livy prior to reading this book, but now I also want to go back and read the accounts of Polybius and Appian to round out my reading on the subject. The Punic Wars also includes ample notes and a couple of very helpful indices. The only thing that would make the book better is more frequent maps.


If you already have a broad knowledge of the Punic Wars from high school or other reading, and you want to go deeper into the political and military changes effected by these major conflicts, you will definitely appreciate this book.

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