- Per La Storia Militare del Mondo Antico: Prospettive retrospettive
Those studying ancient military history have occasionally been accused of not stepping back and considering the field broadly enough. Loreto's work is his attempt at a corrective. What appears from its title to be a book devoted to the historiography of ancient military history turns out to be an epistemological study and a methodological analysis. The intended audience is advanced graduate students and scholars wishing to engage in an examination of the language, ideas, and historiography of ancient military history. Loreto sets three ambitious goals for his book: in addition to the already noted epistemological and methodological analysis which is his first stated goal, he also set out to trace historiographical patterns, and finally to conduct an examination of several recent trends. In his execution of these goals, Loreto meets with mixed results.
Loreto organized his book into seven parts, all of which are interdependent. The first part focuses attention on military history generally. This part is good for its broad treatment of military history, both recent and ancient, as fields in the west, and in particular for his attempts to define military history by drawing on hermeneutics. The epistemological crux of the study is the second part of [End Page 550] the work. Loreto strongly argues his position and his conclusions are based in modern military history. In the third and fourth parts of the book, he builds on his epistemological foundations by tackling issues related to the concept of grand strategy. Luttwak's Grand Strategy of the Roman Empire dominates part three. Loreto's own modernist approach to grand strategy in the ancient world renders part three the most problematic of the study; however, regardless of which side of the grand strategy debate one is on, this part is worth reading.
The last three parts of the book treat a variety of smaller issues linked by epistemological difficulties, some of which are more straightforward than others. The fifth part focuses on the epistemology of war on the margins, including asymmetrical war. Following this is a set of topical examinations including "military and society", battlefield treatments, and the old military history. In the final part of the book Loreto tackles other aspects of warfare in general including the mentality of war and economic aspects of war.
The work is at its strongest in the first two parts and in the later parts when the author debates what is meant when we discuss military history and other common terms. However, there are a variety of places in which his conclusions depend largely on a "presentist" interpretation of the ancient world and this pattern will alienate a number of ancient military historians. The only other flaws are a lack of a bibliography and index, but Loreto explains the omission away via comparison with a Michelin Guide. Regardless of whether one follows a more modernist approach to the ancient world, the book is worth poring over for the provocative arguments and the broad reading brought to bear.