Saturday, 12 November 2016

Cheated : The last rites.

If you buy Osprey Publishing's  'New Vanguard 225 : Republican Roman Warship' you will be cheated. Like I was.

This book is more poorly written than an undergraduate's first draft for their final project.
I have ploughed through more than half, noting grammatical errors, format and style errors, factual errors and plain wierdness. It is too much to finish this task. I can only conclude that the manuscript was NEVER proof-read.

When I first browsed thought this book I was glad to see a new title on a subject I am interested in.

This and the previous seven blogposts detail why I was rudely disappointed.

I can now see that the presentation is purposely designed to give an impression of eruditeness but this is a facade behind which the author conceals little knowledge of the subject.

This may not be a criticism if one wears one's ignorance openly and presents facts and information rather than analysis and conclusion. Readers can then make their own minds up.

This book is a confusion. Facts are incorrect or misused. The presentation is horrible. The written style is poor and inconsistent. We have already seen how poor the illustrations are but they are the tip of an iceberg of balderdash.

What is more worthy of criticism are the passages that are lifted from previous works almost word-for-word. This is not something a serious author should do.

Not so long ago I could tell students 'Don't necessarily believe anything on the Web'. Osprey has achieved the trick of reversing this advice so that printed materials seem decidedly dodgy.


Many sentences beginning with BUT, SO, AND. Not total no-no's, but  BAD STYLE.

Nonsense sentences. Such as ...

p.18 'Already in 69BC we find adopted liburnae in the Roman fleets, where the fleet of Pompey is described to deploy liburnides.'
p.22 'Ladders were employed from sailors to go up and down from land to sea.'
p.20 'In Cilicia 71 ships were taken for capture and 300 for surrender.'
p.41 Seneca's De Benificiis does not have a XXth book.
p.41 Seneca's LXXVIth letter promotes the idea that ornamented things are not necessarily functional. It does not support the idea ships were ornamented, especially not the ram.
p.43 Seneca's VIth letter has nothing to do with ships. It is about 'Sharing Knowledge'.

A short Glossary is given behind the title page. It has precisely 14 entries. It is good for nothing. It includes, for example, Thalamian(sic) and Zygian(sic) but not thranian, and a definition of 'Louvre'(sic). Go figure, as one could say as one's head implodes.

Wierdness such as ...

p.19 'Fasili Trieretiki ( φασιλοι τριερετικοι ) was a term for a variety of types.'
Where does this sentence take the discussion ? No explanation is given. The 'Latin'? is not a direct transcription of the Greek - it would be 'phasiloi trieretikoi'. The term literally means phasiloi - merchant galleys - with three banks of oars , or at least 'in the style of a trieres'.

A whole paragraph appears, on page 10, ostensibly about the wood and construction of Roman ships. We learn instead of the weight of marble carried in some shipwreck or other. WTF? Continuing, we get to know of the deck construction of this obviously merchant ship (found in Africa) before we get told
'The structure of ancient Roman oar-ships(sic) was generally the same as other ancient ships, albeit with some differences between types; they had a distinctive stolos (prow ornament), although similar to that of the Greek ships. 'WTF²!

That Roman ship construction was the same as Carthaginians or Greeks is a major  topic. Was the Roman Four or Five made after a Phoenician or Syracusan predecessor ? This is a big question. Apparently it is not worth discussing here.

This kind of 'writing'  should not escape any publishing company worth the name's warehouse doors.

There is a single footnote. In the whole book there is a single footnote. One.
It is not illegal or impermissible to have an orphan footnote. To have an orphan footnote which makes reference to a work which is given in abbreviated form without explanation is carelessness. The referenced work is an Osprey publication. This kind of book should have lavish footnotes because it is a complicated subject or it should have none - the work of interpretation being clearly undertaken by the author and his thinking being laid out for the reader.

Style Irregularities
It is customary to italicise words from another language. NOT if they exist and are used commonly in one's own language. NOT if they are misspelt. Repeatedly, quinquereme, and other ship types, are italicised. On the other hand, 'polyreme', which is a modern construct, created within the ancient ship fraternity, is also italicised.

Latin and Greek nouns not capitalised in their own languages are capitalised here. Why ?

I could go on , and on, and on, but life is short and I am bitter enough already. There is alot more i could write but the book is not worth it. Seriously, it was constructed to have a superficial appearance of credibility but examination reveals it is an amateurish production.

Buy this book for a laugh. Buy it as a warning about how NOT to do things. Buy it as a support for a wonky table. Do not buy it to get wiser about Republican Roman warships.


Sr D'Amato has no mention of this book on his FB page. I wonder why ? Maybe he feels let-down by Osprey Publishing's editorial input.

Ancient history specialist

 Oh,  and here is me, before anyone thinks it is unfair to show only the critiqued party.

Earth materials specialist

 Yes, I really am throwing mud ! Rich, sticky mud.

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