The Praetorian Guard was primarily a bodyguard for the emperor of Rome, but they were often also his enforcers and, on occasions, took it upon themselves to influence events, not always to the emperor’s liking. As the elite unit they enjoyed many privileges, though unlike some they seemed to have retained their effectiveness in battle when called upon, but it was in the realm of ‘internal security’ that they are best remembered today. They have been modelled several times before in this hobby, with varying degrees of success, but this set specifies that the men are not on campaign but on ceremonial duties.
The obvious question raised by the title of this set is how did the appearance of these men differ when on ceremonial duties compared to normal or war duties, and the answer is very little. It is thought that when soldiers were paraded in Rome itself, at a triumph for example, they did not wear armour at all, but that would not necessarily apply elsewhere, especially outside Italy. All these men wear the common segmented armour so readily associated with Roman legionnaires during the first and second centuries CE, including the ‘apron’ over the groin, which appeared during the first century. They wear their gladius sword on the right side, suspended from a baldric over the left shoulder, and a standard Italic helmet of the day, so everything here is fine. The one notable feature is the crest on the helmet, which all have. It seems this was often not worn when on campaign, but clearly if ever there was a time to wear it then it was during some parade, so this alone may mark out these men as being ceremonial. There is no reason to think the Praetorian Guard differed in appearance from other legions (apart from standards and shield designs of course), so these men are suitable for either. The debate over the extent to which the Praetorians carried oval shields rather than the normal rectangular scutum is easily sidestepped in this set since the shields, though all rectangular, are all separate, so oval ones can easily be substituted if desired. For much of the first and some of the second century, these figures are accurate.
There is basically just the marching pose, with every man having the right foot forward. The figures in the second row show that half the figures are looking to right or left, but that is the only difference of note. Being used to modern military parades where soldiers are rigidly facing forward or to one side as ordered, it is hard to know if this was also the case with the Romans, and on all occasions. Nevertheless by offering all three possibilities the customer gets to choose if they want a random assortment of head positions, or all looking in a set direction. Carrying the pilum with the right hand and the shield with the left, the pose in this set is perfectly reasonable as a man in a parade.
There are many sets of Romans from Strelets now, and the style and features of this one are exactly the same as all the rest. The usual somewhat exaggerated small and thin items are on show, and the proportions generally tend to be a bit off in places. The crests directly touch the helmet throughout their length, which is unavoidable on those looking straight ahead, but is also the case with the others. The separate shields fit nice and securely onto the large peg each man has on his left hand, and there is very little flash, while the simple pose means there is no unwanted extra plastic, so a neat job on the mould.
Perhaps also useful for troops on the move during a campaign, these figures deliver the modest target established by the title well enough. They match the rest of the Strelets wide range well, though not really anyone else’s, and if you really had a mind to you could also trim off the crests, though we would not recommend it. A simple set that does what it claims to do, and does it with no historical accuracy issues.