With the advent of our new Legionaries, I thought I would pen a short article on the design ethos behind the figures, particularly our Centurions, as they have provoked quite some discussion!
Our figures aim to span the era of the mid-Republic, from roughly the time of the Pyrrhic Wars in Italy (280 BC) up to and including the 2nd Punic War which ran from 218 BC to 201BC. During this period, Rome had spread her dominance over much of Latium, having been victorious in the Latin and Samnite Wars. It is thought that the Romans adopted several fighting techniques from the Samnites following the conclusion of their wars in 290BC, including the use of the pilum (although this could have come from contact with the Etruscans) and the adoption of the maniple (literally – ‘hand full’) as the basic infantry tactical formation.
Whilst the Roman Army was changing and adopting aspects of its enemies fighting style, some aspects of its dress and equipment lingered from earlier times. Greek influence was still strongly felt in the region, particularly amongst the wealthy and elite. Greek armour could still have been worn by some in imitation of the great Alexander, or the classical images of the war God, Mars. And spears still seem to have been carried by some as a mark of rank or superiority, as appears to be the case on the relief of Ahenobarbus, for instance. This relief is from the Late Republic, but still shows a man of rank (possibly the God Mars?) wearing Greek style armour and holding a spear.
So, while Rome was the dominant force in the region during this time, I like to think that the distinct cultural identities of her neighbours hadn’t been completely eradicated just yet. Our Centurion pointing with his sword has therefore been modelled as an ethnic Etruscan. The Etruscans had been absorbed by Rome, but he clings to his identity and culture. He carries an aspis shield which is typically Greek, possibly a sign of rank during this period for Centurions. He also wears an Etrusco-Corinthian helmet and carries a Greek style sword. The helmet is quite anchronistic by this period, but finds seem to show it could still have been in use. Certainly 2nd Century sculpted urns from Clusium and Volterra show warriors in such a helmet, with quilted or padded armour (which our chap is also sporting). His Greek sword is also much longer than the later, classically Roman Gladius Hispaniensis that we are all familiar with. These Greek sword blades could be very long, finds showing blades up to 27 inches or so.
Our Second Centurion is more Roman. He is carrying the classic Scutum rather than an aspis, but is also wearing more Greek style linothorax armour, Hellenistic helmet with transverse crest, and carrying a spear (hasta). The spear marks him out as an officer, as does his helmet and again, he is carrying a Greek style sword in elaborate sheath. I believe that arms and armour during this period would have been expensive, and if still serviceable, would have been used for as long as possible. So items handed down or kept within families from earlier wars might still be re-used. Also, it’s very difficult to say with precision when fighting styles and equipment changed. So, while potentially anachronistic in places, I’ve opted for armour types and styles that span the period and also add some variety to what might otherwise be a sea of Montefortino helmets and chain mail armour! Some of our Legionaries are wearing the older round style of chest armour (only one or two!) and I’ve included a couple of figures wearing Subermalis armour, padded jackets to improve protection but cheaper than metal!
Whatever your views on these choices, we hope you enjoy the sculpts – Matt I think has done a great job, and we hope you agree!