M C Bishop
Osprey Publishing, £12.99
ISBN 978-1472815880
Review Kate Gilliver

Mike Bishop’s beautifully produced volume on the Roman pilum collects a vast amount of evidence – archaeological, sculptural, and literary. The author does an excellent job covering the development, use, and impact of this iconic javelin, leaving us in no doubt of the seriousness with which the Romans took weapons development, though we might wonder about regional and chronological variation in design across Rome’s territories.

Bishop is well known for his view that legionary and auxiliary infantry in the Roman army were armed differently, reflecting their different primary roles in combat, and this is a consistent theme through the book. For him, the pilum is very much a legionary weapon. He is not afraid to throw in a fair amount of historiographic information in a book aimed at a broad audience, backed up with an excellent bibliography. Whether one wants the detail of the pilum’s shape and dimensions, how it might have been thrown, or the damage it could do, the book delivers, backed up by terrific artwork from Peter Dennis and dozens of high quality illustrations.

This review was published in CA 331.

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