Osprey's World Tour - Italy

In Military History, Featured

Osprey's World Tour sees us delve into our extensive backlist of books as we explore the globe through military history.

The next stop on our World Tour is Italy, a nation that has found itself at the centre of conflict throughout European history. The scene below depicts the Battle of Cremona AD 69, where the armies of two Roman rivals fought to secure their position as Emperor. The illustration itself is taken from Warrior 166: Roman Legionary AD 69 - 161.

Artwork by Seán Ó’Brógáin

Legionary versus Legionary at the first Battle of Cremona, AD 69

In mid-April AD 69, the armies of Vitellius and Otho clashed near Cremona. The large size of the armies, coupled with the varied nature of the terrain, meant that some fought in extended battle order on open ground by the river Po (e.g. the Vitellian XXI Rapax and the Othonian I Adiutrix), while others had to contend with the obstacles of vineyards and orchards of fruit trees, as illustrated here. According to Tacitus, the legionaries in the vineyards could not maintain regular order and fought as individuals or in small groups. In another sector of the battlefield, legionaries fought on the raised platform of the Postumian Way. ‘They struggled at close quarters, pressing the weight of their bodies behind their shields. They did not throw pila, but crashed swords and axes [i.e. those normally used for pioneer work] through helmets and armour’ (Tacitus, Histories 2.42; cf. Annals 3.46 for the use of entrenching tools in battle). Victory eventually fell to the Vitellian legionaries, who outnumbered the Othonians and entered the battle in better order.

 

Further Reading

If you are interested in reading more about Italian military history then take a look at some of these titles

Elite 207: World War II Paritsan Warfare in Italy
Warrior 87: Italian Arditi
Aircraft of the Aces 89: Italian Aces of World War 1
Men-at-Arms 376: Italian Medieval Armies 1000-1300
Campaign 257: Salerno 1943

Are there any elements of Italian military history you feel we are missing? Where do you want Osprey's World Tour to go next? Let us know in the comments!



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