The Grand Strategy of the Roman Empire

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The Grand Strategy of the Roman Empire

Postby Primus Aurelius Timavus on Thu Nov 06, 2003 6:34 am

I'd like to recommend a book that I finished a short while ago: The Grand Strategy of the Roman Empire by Edward N. Luttwak, a noted writer on modern strategy. The book examines changes in the defenses of the Empire from the first to the third centuries and tries for account for them by positing three grand strategies adopted consecutively by the Empire.

Luttwak's arguments are persuasive, although he irritates the reader by continually denigrating other authors as mere "Clausewitzians". For me, his greatest contribution is examining, in depth, the "big picture" that faced the Romans. Most of us Romanophiles, I suspect, fall in love with the details of the Roman army: its camps, equipment, arms, marches, walls, tactics, battle cries and commands, etc. But until I read Luttwak's book, I had only seen very short discussions of Roman grand strategy, just enough to be thought-provoking but hardly satisfying.

You might not agree with everything Luttwak says (I didn't), but you won't regret reading the book.

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Postby Horatius Piscinus on Thu Nov 06, 2003 1:00 pm

Salve Tergeste

That would interest me. I have read Arther Ferrill's The Fall of the Roman Empire: The Military Explanation which does take a strategic overview and basically attributes the fall to a change in Roman strategy. I would like to compare to the ideas of the two authors.

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Postby Primus Aurelius Timavus on Thu Nov 06, 2003 4:18 pm

Thanks Piscine. I was unaware of Ferrill's book and will look it up.

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Postby Primus Aurelius Timavus on Thu Nov 06, 2003 4:20 pm

Incidentally, Ferrill's book is not among Luttwak's references, so it may have been published later. Luttwak's book is quite old, having first been published in 1976.
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Ferril's Publication Date

Postby Aldus Marius on Fri Nov 07, 2003 3:12 am

Avete,

Ferril's book did indeed come out later...almost twenty years later. I don't have my copy on me, thus can't give you the exact publication date; but I received it from my bookclub in late 1994, and it was not a reprint.

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Luttwak'srand Strtegy

Postby C.AeliusEricius on Fri Jan 09, 2004 11:56 pm

Salvete.

Sorry for the lateness of this reply, I do not visit these fora that often, nor it detailed depth. Just the same Luttwak's book is one that has stayed with me since I read it in 88, and despite it being denigrated by a series of "experts". Of course Luttwak's use of "Clauswetzian" shows that he had his own bias. Which was that Clauewitz was no longer a relevent model for conflicts. That one came from, I believe, his being one of the more senior advisors on American strategy during the Cold War. Harry G. Summers wrote a book that analyzed what was seen by some as a non-Clausewitzin conflict (Vietnam) in Clausewitzian terms. And Luttwak also wrote a book on Clausewitz. But that ain't Rome [or is it?].

I particularly liked Lutwak's interpretation of the structures of Hadrian's Wall. I have always remembered his classification of the Legions as Strategic Weapons. Maybe I should see if the library still has the book, if I bought a copy it would probably just sit on my shelf with all the others. I should probably take the chance. Thank you for mentioning this book.

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