The Roman army in the last century of the empire’s life differed from that of the early imperial period in many ways, including an apparent greater emphasis on missile weapons. Many of these weapons such as bows and javelins were simply developments of the same weapon used in earlier times, but new weapons such as darts and crossbows were used for the first time.
The first two figures pictured above are of bowmen, and beside them we find a man with a crossbow. The second row shows two men with javelins and two with darts, while the final row shows the catapult and crew.
The bowmen are dressed in typical fashion for the time, with long tunics and the pannonian cap. They have a long sword on their left hip and their quiver on the right hip supported by a baldric. Both are authentic and well posed.
The crossbowman may surprise many, but the late Romans certainly knew of this weapon. To what extent this was used in warfare remains far from clear, and they may well have been limited to hunting or possibly defending static positions such as forts, but the inclusion of such a figure will provide wargamers in particular with an interesting feature for their armies. However in order to allow the mould to clearly see this weapon it is being held vertically, yet still manages to retain a bolt which simply defies gravity. A separate piece would have been a much better choice for this figure.
The two javelin men on the second row have no such doubts as to their inclusion in a Roman army. The javelin remained one of the major missile weapons of the period and both these men, who are unarmoured but hold a shield, would appear in significant numbers in any battle. The man throwing his javelin is leaning well back about to loose his weapon, and is much more believable than the standard pose we so often see of the javelin directly over the head of the soldier.
The dart (plumbata) was a new weapon at this time and it seems up to five were carried on the inside of the shield. While their range was not great they provided quick and easy extra firepower as an enemy approached. They were apparently launched either over or underarm, and the first pose is nicely done if rather flat. The second looks to be using the underarm movement, and is just at the point where the dart is being released. This would allow it to gain height and fall, weighted point first, on the enemy.
The bottom row shows the catapult and crew. The catapult has been used before, in HaT’s Punic Wars Roman Catapults, but this time a choice of spring frames has been provided. As well as the original wooden option (shown separately above) there is also an iron version, which is not appropriate for the older set but perfectly suitable for the late period. The model comes in several parts and fits together OK but the soft plastic used to produce this set is not ideal for this sort of construction. The two crew members are not particularly impressive, consisting of one man carrying a bolt and another pointing – neither are really interacting with the weapon.
The detail is not particularly sharp and we were not impressed with the general anatomy of these figures. However they exhibit no flash and all shields are made with the figures so the catapult is the only construction required.
While this is a useful set it is not an attractive one in our view, and the style is considerably different to the previous HaT set of late Roman infantry. Still it does deliver what it promises on the box, and for those with an interest in the last campaigns of the dying Roman Empire this adds some worthwhile new figures.