Flashback Friday: Agricola’s campaigns

Another Friday, another flashback! This time, I want to take you back to the year 2007, to the very first issue of Ancient Warfare that was ever released (not counting the issue 0 brochure). This issue dealt with the campaigns of Agricola.

The first few issues of Ancient Warfare did not have the cover illustrated by Johnny Shumate, but instead featured a completely different style of picture, created by Les Powers. This issue, like other early issues, was also a little thinner than what you might have come to expect, weighing in at just 52 pages. However, when looking at the list of contributors, it’s great to see familiar names, such as Murray Dahm, Jona Lendering, Ruben Post, Graham Sumner, and Mike Thomas.

Ancient Warfare was created by Jasper Oorthuys back when he still very actively involved with the Roman Army Talk (RAT) Forum, where many of the contributors to this issue were (and often still are) active, too. The forum played an important role in getting the ball rolling on the magazine. In preparation for the new magazine, Jasper organized an online survey, the results of which are printed in this issue’s ‘News’ section, on pp. 4 and 5.

These survey results aren’t all that dissimilar to those from later surveys. Have a look at the diagram that summarizes ‘favourite periods’: the emphasis is clearly on the Greco-Roman world between 500 BC and AD 284, followed by Late Antiquity, and then, at some distance, by the ancient Near East and Archaic Greece. That’s quite understandable, not in the least given the interests of RAT regulars, and the abundance of evidence for the military exploits of Romans and Classical and Hellenistic Greeks.

Reviews in this first issue were printed immediately after the ‘News’ section, so it’s not until page 8 that we get to the historical introduction, written by Jasper Oorthuys. This sets the context for the rest of the issue. Jona Lendering wrote the ‘Source’ article on – what else? – Tacitus’ Agricola, known for the famous phrase ‘The Romans create a desert and call it peace.’

The contribution by Kate Gilliver deals with the Battle of Mons Graupius, and features not only a really nice battle map (on p. 15), but also a reconstruction of two of Agricola’s legionaries, drawn by Johnny Shumate. The next article, again by editor Jasper Oorthuys, focuses on Agricola’s campaign in the north of Britain (AD 79–83), with a particular emphasis on Roman vessels. A reenactor is used to show what a Late Republican marine might look like (p. 21). Adrian Wink’s article deals with the Batavians and features more of Johnny Shumate’s impressive artwork.

This issue also featured the first instalment in Murray Dahm’s ‘Be a general’ series of articles. This article deals in particular with didactic military literature, and contains a number of useful diagrams. It ends with what this particular feature would become known for: a situation where you have to try to replay an ancient battle, and where you can send your solution to the editor and have a chance at winning a prize!

There are two more articles that are not related to the theme. Ruben Post’s article seeks to reconstruct Ptolemaic soldiers (something to keep in mind for when we start working on issue X.2!), while Graham Sumner’s contribution seems to anticipate, after a fashion, issue VIII.5 with its discussion of Pontius Pilate’s bodyguards (i.e. Roman soldiers in Judea in the first century AD). There’s one more page with reviews by Mike Thomas of figurines, and finally, of course, a brief discussion of the cover illustration.

The paper version of this issue has been out of print for a while, but you can still get your hands on the digital version if you haven’t read this issue. (And by the way, this is also a good opportunity to see if your subscription is still up to date or to get a subscription!)

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