"It seems rather presumptuous for someone who is not a military engineer to review a book of this kind. But, as the authors point out in the preface, the writer was one 'whose interest and importance was by no means confined to the history of military engineering' (p. 8). In fact, they warn against approaching the treatise as if it were a manual of modern engineering. Athenaeus quotes literary topoi such as that security comes through strength (39.1-5). He is aware of broad political considerations: warfare is directed only against those who will not submit to 'the fine laws of the empire' As the Romans often claimed themselves, they imposed not just imperium but ius as well.
The authors are especially well qualified for their task of editing and translating Athenaeus. Whitehead is a classicist who has edited Aeneas Tacticus work on siege craft[] and Blyth is a classicist who then became an engineer.
As far as the author and the date are concerned, they are surely right to accept the proposal of Cichorius that the Marcellus to whom the work was dedicated was Augustus' nephew, M. Claudius Marcellus. Athenaeus' relationship to Marcellus is not clear, but is probably to be placed in the context of Greek intellectuals associating with and being of service to Roman noblemen, especially in the educational and administrative spheres, and eventually, in the early Principate, entering the Roman bureaucracy. Athenaeus himself came from Cilicia. That he had high contacts in Rome can be seen from the fact that he was implicated in the conspiracy of Fannius Caepio and Murena, but cleared of guilt.
There was a specific occasion for Athenaeus' work on war machines; in 25 B.C. Marcellus accompanied Augustus in his expedition to Spain. His capacity in the war is not known; he was closely associated with Augustus' stepson, Tiberius, then a military tribune which Marcellus himself may well have been. Both were given the task of organizing games for the legionaries in their camps, 'like aediles' . They were obviously being widely trained for leadership in war. Possibly Athenaeus expected that his work would assist Marcellus to take an intelligent part in the many sieges which the war involved." (... more>>)
David Whitehead and P.H. Blyth, Athenaeus Mechanicus, On Machines . Historia Einzelschriften 182. Stuttgart: Franz Steiner, 2004.
The digital images, are stored on the Oxford University Hierarchical File Server, and from the 16th century manuscript