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Besieged: Siege Warfare in the Ancient World Review by Wendy Walker

Duncan B. Campbell
Osprey Publishing
443 Park Avenue South
New York, NY 10016

For either the military history buff looking for an engaging, academic read or the homeschooling parent hoping to flesh-out battle details in a study of ancient civilizations, Besieged: Siege Warfare in the Ancient World will prove invaluable. Published by Osprey, "the world's leading publisher of illustrated military history and military aviation books" and written by Greek and Roman warfare specialist, Duncan B. Campbell, Besieged is a quality historical resource. The book explores the archaeological and literary evidence for understanding a thousand years of siege tactics and weaponry. According to Campbell, "as soon as people began to build walls around their possessions, others began to devise the means of appropriating these possessions." And what ingenious strategies ancient empires devised to conquer walled regions!

Quite honestly, I'm neither a history buff nor a parent who hoped to broaden my children's siege warfare horizons, but my husband convinced me to get the book. When the lovely hardback arrived, our three sons (ages 10-13) eagerly scoured its pages looking at the remarkable modern illustrations, ancient artwork, and photos of archaeological finds. While none of our children has decided to sit down and read the book in its entirety (it's no quick read), they have referred to it on many occasions. I was more surprised with my own response; although the book was more technical than I might find easily readable, I found the resource fascinating and informative. Vague historical events came alive as I read about the kings of biblical history and Assyrian and Persian sieges; Caesar's conquest of Gaul became more than a date on a timeline; and my memories from a 1984 visit to the ruins of Masada were juxtaposed with newly attained data so that I could actually visualize the suggested scenarios for this famous siege.

Since I've never read a work dedicated to the study of ancient sieges, I've nothing with which to compare this book, yet it's difficult for me to imagine a more thorough investigation into the topic. Throughout the reference Campbell explores commonly held battle suppositions, even those he finds absurd, offering instead what he believes to be more historically accurate and archaeologically supported theories. Maps, diagrams, recreations, and quoted historical narratives add clarity and authority to the work.

The book is not written with the young reader in mind. Of course, there may be a young historian who will find the book completely engaging, but most preteens will find the study too technical and difficult to read. However, even fourth through sixth-grade students will be captivated by the diagrams, photos, and illustrations, and with adult help will find it an interesting resource. The book, while academically challenging, is more accessible for seventh graders through adults and would be a marvelous addition to a study of the ancient world.

Whether you already know your ballista from your catapulta or have never heard of an escharion, one thing's for certain. You will, without question, understand more about all three when you're finished with Besieged.

Product review by Wendy Walker, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, January 2007