The Armies of Bactria by Valerii.P.Nikonorov. Montvert Publications, 1997. 2 Volumes, pp.88, 47 figures, 8 plates.
The internet bookstores do not stock this book. However, Hersants the military booksellers do have copies available, telephone UK, 0181 440 6816 or Email to email@example.com.
This book is the first, by any publisher, on this period. This book includes the early period, the period of Greek domination, the coming of the Yu-chi, the period of the Kushan kings and the collapse of the Kushan Empire. The work consists of over a hundred pages, bound in two separate volumes and sells for about eleven pounds as one set. The first volume is composed almost entirely of text with a few black and white illustrations. It provides the authors account of the military history divided into six periods, as well as a brief overview of the general history. The second volume consists of 8 colour plates and about 40 pages of black and white sketches of various pieces of primary evidence, statues, coins, pictures etc.
I will stick to the important part of the book, the Kushans. All in all Nikonorov has provided an excellent scholarly work. There is considerable research, the theories are explained if at times a little tenuous. He does reference all of the figures, plates and statements for the reader. In addition he provides the first real attempt at a synthesis of the evidence for the military composition of the Bactrian armies.
However he tacitly accepts the problems with the evidence. The entire of Yu-chi and Kushan military receive only 11 of 49 pages of text, but they do get 20 of 47 figures and 4 of the 8 plates. Within the text he makes some quite large leaps of faith, without really discussing the problems with the reader. Such as his reconstruction of a Yu-Chi cataphract which ignores the absence of any large numbers of armoured horse illustrations in any part of Yu-chi history let alone the very start. More serious mistakes are made in his general history, which for the Kushans gives a lot of information which is quite obviously not up to date on present research. Inevitable really when considering the fragmented nature of Kushan history and the difficulty in finding books.
The figures each have a small description which is useful but insufficient information is given on the dating, location of find. If it were easier to follow up his references this would not be such a problem. The plates themselves by Rory Little are competent paintings, in the man at arms style, and on the whole very few bits of artistic licence creep in (The Yu-chi cataphract has scale armour on his lower leg, while the drawing it is based on has banded armour down to the feet, but this is the only very minor quibble I saw) which is considerable credit both to Little and Nikonorov.
In conclusion, the whole book is nicely produced. I liked the two volume style that Montvert used. I doubt many people will agree with everything Nikonorov says but the work is well written. The plates are nice, if Montvert employ Little on a regular basis, excellent, and if not they should. The final word is if you have an interest in Kushan military history you should buy it for the black and white figures alone, which bring together a lot of disparate sources.