A Sensory History of Ancient Warfare by Conor Whately

I think it’s obvious what made me curious about A Sensory History of Ancient Warfare by Conor Whately* – Reconstructing the Physical Experience of War in the Classical World. This book offers a different view on military warfare, with a focus on what people and soldiers experienced in preparation for the fight, while in combat, and in the aftermath. He uses a lot of historical documents in his research and the book is fascinating. Usually military history has a narrow audience, but I think this book could be interesting for many more due to both its topic and how it is written. Unsurprisingly I gave the book a very well deserved 5 stars.

A Sensory History of Ancient Warfare by Conor Whately

Whately uses both literary sources, but also archaeological to crate a broad view of what ancient people experienced. He looks at 6 battles in detail. Two battles are from ancient Greece, Cunaxa (401 BCE) and Issus (333 BCE), two Roman, Cannae (216 BCE) and the sieges of Jerusalem and Masada (70s CE), and the last two are from late antiquity, the battle of Strasbourg (357 CE) and the siege of Edessa (544 CE). He talks about the animals too and there is a funny story regarding an elephant.

I enjoyed the book and I would recommend it. It offers a new perspective on a subject so widely researched and analysed. There are only a few books on sensory history and I can only hope that more books will appear in the future.

A Sensory History of Ancient Warfare by Conor Whately

Details about the picture: –
My rating: 5/5 Stars
Would I recommend it: yes
Published by: Pen & Sword Military
Year it was published: 2021
Format: Hardcover
Genre(s): Ancient History
Pages: 192

About the author: Conor Whately gained his doctorate in Classics and Ancient History from the University of Warwick and is now an associate professor of Classics at the University of Winnipeg, Canada. He has published widely on ancient warfare, particularly in the Late Roman world, including four previous books: Battles and Generals (2016), Exercitus Moesiae (2016), An Introduction to the Roman Military from Marius to Theodosius II (2020), and Greek and Roman Military Manuals: Genre, Theory, Influence (2020, co-edited with James Chlup).
Website & Social Media Links: Pen and Sword

*I was sent a copy of A Sensory History of Ancient Warfare by Conor Whately for the purpose of this review. All opinions are my own.

4 thoughts on “A Sensory History of Ancient Warfare by Conor Whately”

  • In all honesty, this might be one of those books I would flick through, only stopping if an image, or a passage of narrative, particularly caught my attention. It definitely wouldn’t be something I would read from cover to cover. My interest in the classical period is not very focussed, I much prefer later wars and battles.
    I am pleased that it engaged you enough to award the full 5 stars though and I hope that you have something else equally as interesting lined up for your next read. Have a great weekend! 🙂

    • I found the book very interesting and the approach is very new with very little research made on this particular subject. I would like to read more on this topic, maybe from the medieval period or even modern-day warfare.

    • It’s curious that we know so much about troop deployment, battlefield strategy, but not a lot of how people actually felt. I think you’d enjoy this book too. 🙂

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