A quick lesson in Republican Roman infantry types. In battle a Roman front would consist of three lines. At the very front came the hastati - young men of some experience and well armed. Behind them came the principes, men in the prime of life and also well armed, but with more experience. The third line was made up of the triarii, the oldest and most experienced men of all. In front of the line at the start of a battle were the velites, acting like light infantry.
This set of princepes and triarii includes eight figures of infantrymen. It is difficult to distinguish which figures are meant to be which troop type, and indeed in reality the appearance of both types would have been little different. However the armament was very different, with the princepes being armed with two pila and the triarii having a spear (hastae). The pilum was about 120-150 cm long and was a kind of javelin, being thrown at the enemy as they approached. The spear of the triarii was around three metres long during the early Roman Republic period, but gradually shortened to about two metres later in the period. Those moulded here are about two metres long, which makes them little different from the pila.
The triarii spent much of the battle kneeling with left leg forward, shield resting on their left shoulder and spear pointing forwards 'like a palisade' as one Roman historian put it. Therefore the kneeling figure, which is likely to be a triarius, is not quite right. As well as the spear being upright instead of sloping forward, his shield is incorrectly placed, and his being 'held' far below the actual (central) position of the handle. In fact, this shield, which is separate and attaches with a peg, can only be applied hanging some distance off the ground in a very unnatural position. HaT say that this was due to problems with avoiding undercutting during the mould-making process. However the result is still an awkward pose which is a poor reflection of the real thing. The rest of the poses are better, but most are certainly quite flat, with shields and weapons hugging the body in an unnatural way. Also the man about to launch his pilum is doing so directly over the middle of his head, again unnatural but easier for the mould. Two of the figures have already thrown both their pila, and are shown with swords drawn ready for the close-quarter fight. The first of these, in the top row, is a bit strange is he is looking behind him, so presumably is not particularly near any enemy.
All are wearing the mail shirt that seems likely to have been common for most of the Punic wars, particularly amongst these two types of warrior, and several types of helmet are also on show, which again was normal. All carry the scutum, the oval shield made of hide-covered wood, which has been moulded as part of the figure for all except the kneeling man. This has meant some minor compromises in terms of shield position, but most people, and especially wargamers, will be glad it was done this way. Each man wears a greave on the leading (left) leg, held by straps, which is correct. Finally, long feathers are worn in the helmet to exaggerate the man's apparent height. While the appearance of these men was perhaps never entirely uniform, everything here is typical.
Detail is fair on these figures, though there is some flash to be removed. We have already mentioned the flat poses, but the texture of the mail armour is very good. The weapons could have done with better definition, but otherwise most will find these acceptable.
A reasonable set that will form the backbone of any Punic Roman army, this was the first to depict such men. Poses could have been more rounded, and some of the men should have been carrying both the pila with which they would have started the battle, but while not the best set of figures ever made they do provide a very usable collection for the defining conflict of the early Roman republic.