Ancient Rome was uniquely bellicose. Her legions marched out to war every year and the fury of legionaries in combat was terrible. Officers and common soldiers gloried in single combat, taking heads and despoiling their enemies. Long before the Vikings emerged, Roman warriors were discarding their armor to fight berserk and bare-chested in battle, going so far as to maul opponents with their bare teeth and sometimes even drinking their blood. Generals would occasionally perform the act of devotio – sacrificing themselves to the gods of the Underworld – to secure victory. Yet these same warriors read philosophy, wrote history and recited poetry. Singing, too, was popular – in battle as much as elsewhere. At Pharsalus in 48 BC, where Julius Caesar routed his rival Pompey the Great, his more psychotic legionaries sang gleefully as they killed. Regimental anthems were popular, but at Pharsalus lyrical pronouncements on the parentage of your opponent, virtue of his mother, and reputation of his city were most prominent. Warriors of the Roman Empire introduces the heroic, sometimes contradictory, and utterly ruthless men who carved out the Roman Empire. Men like Siccius Dentatus, victor of eight single combats; Decius Mus, the consul who charged into the midst of the enemy at Sentinum to 'devote' himself to the gods; Claudius Marcellus, the last Roman to dedicate the spoils of honor to Jupiter; and Ennius, centurion and epic poet.
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