Book Review
Roman Shields
Roman Shields
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by: Frederick Boucher [ JPTRR ]

Modelers and historians should be thrilled with this detailed and well presented book. The text is supported by an excellent gallery of images.

Roman Shields from Osprey Publishing LTD reveals the development, technology, training and use of the scutum and other Roman shield types. It is the 234th title in Osprey's series Elite. Authored by authority of all aspects of Ancient Rome at war archaeologist/publisher M.C. Bishop, this softcover book is 64 pages thick, and illustrated by artist Giuseppe Rava. It is also available in PDF and ePUB formats, and catalogued as IBSN: 9781472839626 and the Osprey Short code ELI 234.

Says Osprey of this volume;
    The introduction of the scutum in the 4th century BC revolutionized the way the Romans fought. Instead of being purely defensive, the shield became a weapon in its own right. Using the top edge or boss to punch an opponent, or the lower rim to smash down on their feet, it served to unbalance an enemy and allow the sword to do its work. The versatility of the scutum was characterized by the testudo, a formation the Romans used offensively like a pedestrian tank. Meanwhile, other shield types equipped the auxiliaries who fought alongside the legionaries. The curved, rectangular scutum survived into the 3rd century AD, only to be replaced by an oval, slightly domed shield derived from the oval shields of Early Imperial auxiliaries.

    Drawing together historical accounts, excavated artefacts and the results of the latest scientific analyses of the boards and fittings, renowned authority M.C. Bishop reveals the development, technology, training and use of the scutum and other Roman shield types.

Who doesn't love movies of Roman Legions marching and fighting with their imposing shields? I do and look forward to this book.

Roman Shields presents eight sections with multiple subsections through 64 pages:
      Republican Early Principate High Principate Late Principate Dominate Smaller legionary shields
      Oval shields Hexagonal shields Flat, rectangular shields Other shields Bosses and fittings
      Workshops Manufacture Decoration
      Hand-to-hand combat The testudo Unit identification Other secondary uses Carriage Awards. Models Ownership Legacy
      Ancient sources Modern sources

The author breaks down the history of these shields and their many different kinds. His archaeology background allows him to discuss findings of artifacts and museum pieces, and insight to scientific processes of analysis of the surviving wood, metal, and leather. These are explained in sufficient detail to understand what they were made of, how they were employed, and other aspects for personal armor. While the text is enriched by artwork, it is supported by many images of statues and carvings which verify and authenticate the text. Sources are drawn from private collections, public museums and universities, and personal artifacts. Workshops begins with noting an Egyptian papyrus document dating from the 2nd or 3rd century AD, among other ancient sources. Voices of the past are used with excepts of ancient manuscripts;
    But in the case the soldiers at any time stry from their comrades in the confusion of battle, different cohorts painted different emblems (Signa) on the shields, 'digmata'nas they called them, as indeed in now done by custom. In addtion, the name of the soldier was added from which cohort he was and which century. (Vegetius, DRM 2.18)
Another excerpt is from Roman military law, addressing the penalty for a soldier to sell his armor.

Use is 18 pages of education of what is known of these shields. They were of course employed defensively, and also had an offensive use. How they were used in conjunction with swords and other offensive weapons is detailed. Finally, the legacy of Roman shields is explored as to use of the designs for present day.

Photographs, Artwork, Graphics
Photographs of surviving artifacts and museum pieces are excellent - well exposed, developed, and cropped. Images include bas-relief scenes and statues, actual artifacts, and reproductions. They are a good mix of color and black-and-white photos.

Artist Giuseppe Rava created original artwork to enrich the marvelous text. All of the illustrations are accompanied by detailed captions and narratives.

Color Artwork

A. The Vatican Shield is illustrated with two Roman soldiers and a cutaway of the shield.

B. The Kasr El-Harit Shield is illustrated with three examples found in Egypt. Two are illustrated with their external veneer pulled back, revealing material and construction.

C. Action scene Shield Covers is a detailed depiction of legionaries removing the leather carrying cases of their shields and helmets.

D. The Dura-Europos Shields illustrate six examples of shields found in Syria, again with construction shown for two.

E. Action scene Shield Manufacture in a Fabrica Scutorium presents a look inside an assembly facility for shields.

F. Training With Practice Shields is an action scene.

G. Using the Shield in Combat presents seven stances and moves a Roman soldier would use with his shield.

H. Forming the Testudo shows a centuria being formed.

I. (Not original artwork) Personalized shield paintings taken form an original medieval manuscript.

Gray Scale Artwork

1. Shield bosses from Spain and Germany present 'barleycorn' and 'butterfly' styles.

2. The Doncaster Shield, as excavated.

3. Hand grips

4. Shield nails, decorated and undecorated.

5. Shield fittings: six components, some in profile and planform.

6. Excavated leather covers from shields, as found around Europe.

The artwork is excellent: clear; detailed; colorful. Each photo and illustration strongly enhances the erudite text.

Roman Shields is an excellent reference and historical volume from Osprey. It features expert content from a renowned authority on Roman warfare, and excellent photographs and illustrations.

I have no complaints about this book. Instead, it is rekindling my interest in the Roman Empire and modeling subjects thereof. Recommended.

Please remember to mention to Osprey and vendors that you saw this book here - on Historicus Forma!
Highs: Detailed expert content from a renowned authority on Roman warfare, and excellent photographs and illustrations.
Lows: Nothing.
Verdict: This should be an excellent reference and historical volume for students and modelers of Rome, antiquity, and related subjects. It has awoke my interest in the Roman Empire and modeling subjects thereof.
  Scale: N/A
  Mfg. ID: ELI234, 9781472839
  PUBLISHED: Sep 24, 2020

Our Thanks to Osprey Publishing!
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About Frederick Boucher (JPTRR)

I'm a professional pilot with a degree in art. My first model was an AMT semi dump truck. Then Monogram's Lunar Lander right after the lunar landing. Next, Revell's 1/32 Bf-109G...cried havoc and released the dogs of modeling! My interests--if built before 1900, or after 1955, then I proba...

Copyright 2021 text by Frederick Boucher [ JPTRR ]. Images also by copyright holder unless otherwise noted. Opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of Historicus Forma or Silver Star Enterprises. All rights reserved.


Nice review Fred. Very detailed and informative. Randy
SEP 24, 2020 - 12:57 PM

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