Jf Lazenby the First Punic War Review

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J.F. Lazenby. The First Punic War: A Military History. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1996.

Great wars are nothing new to the history of any of civilization; they define and change the nations involved in drastic ways. The First Punic War was the single longest war in Roman history; one of, if not the greatest naval wars ever fought. It marked the beginning of Roman expansion beyond mainland Italy and set Rome on the path to Empire. J.F. Lazenby's intent in writing The First Punic War: A Military History was "to present a narrative of the war with discussion of strategic and tactical issues where possible based on the ancient evidence and on such recent research as seemed to me significant."(x) In this context, Lazenby does an admirable job presenting the evidence as far as it is known. With the limited primary sources remaining today that pertain to the First Punic War, Lazenby provides detailed analysis and illustration of the size and scope of battles the tactical formations used, and what is known of ship technology of the period. The first 3 chapters are used to lay a foundation upon which most readers can understand the historical context of the war. Lazenby first presents the evidence he uses to form his conclusions, second a brief analysis of the makeup of the Roman and Carthaginian militaries, and third he briefly puts forward the key factors that led up to the war. Throughout the entire book Lazenby heavily relies upon the most complete ancient account of the war available today written in the first 60 chapters of Polybius Book 1. However, he does mention the fact that one cannot take all of Polybius’ accounts at face value due to the fact that he was not even born until 30 years after the end of the war and never claims to have met anyone who participated in the war. (2) The narrow focus of Lazenby’s work is perhaps his greatest short coming during his interpretation of the First Punic War. In so intently focusing on the specifics of...
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