The jacket blurb claims that the author "provides a fresh approach to all aspects of ancient warfare, from the philosophy surrounding it, to the strategy and the technical skills needed to fight". All aspects of ancient warfare?! This is a big claim to make for a 165-page book. And one which (surprise, surprise) is not entirely justified.
As far as supporting material goes, there are five nicely-produced maps; admittedly, they are not really tied into the text and I don't recall consulting them as I read, but so many history books appear without maps that their presence here seems to be "a good thing". And there is an interesting selection of black-and-white illustrations, including 8 scenes from the Column of Marcus Aurelius (a welcome departure from the usual Trajan's Column). Also, the "Further reading" section runs to 28 pages, so it is nothing if not comprehensive.
But what about the content? The title promises an "Introduction" to ancient warfare ... but is it? I certainly found it to be an interesting read. But does it really discuss "all aspects of ancient warfare"? There is a chapter on "Thinking with war", where Dr Sidebottom emphasizes that war was an all-pervasive constant in the ancient world, and a chapter on "Thinking about war", where he sketches the thoughts of ancient philosophers on the subject. There is a chapter about "Strategy", which includes a brief critique of Edward Luttwak's 1976 book (The Grand Strategy of the Roman Empire), and a chapter about "Fighting", where he considers the battle experience of a hoplite, a phalangite, a legionary, and cavalry, touching upon the old chestnut about whether "only a few fight?" But, in terms of the overarching theme, what Dr Sidebottom has written is actually an extended critique of the opening battle scene from Gladiator. On p.1, we read:
"The film Gladiator opens with an epic battle in the forests of Germany. On one side are the Romans, in disciplined units with uniform equipment. They wait in full view, in silence, and prepare their relatively high-technology weapons. Their watchwords are 'strength and honour'. ... In combat they help each other, and display courage. On the other side are the barbarians. They have no units, and, clad in furs, no uniformity. Some carry stolen Roman shields, but they lack the catapults that represent the top level of military technology. Initially they conceal their force in the woods. Surging backwards and forwards, each man clashes his weapons on his shield, and utters wild shouts. ... They rush into combat as a mob, and fight as ferocious individuals. On one side is civilisation, on the other savagery."
It is Dr Sidebottom's thesis that Ridley Scott's Romans represent the accepted picture of The Western Way of War, and he is at pains to demonstrate that this is incorrect. Whether or not this cinematic construct actually does represent our view of western warfare must remain a moot point. In my opinion, Dr Sidebottom has simply set up a straw man which is easily knocked down.