This set came as quite a shock. Italeri had long established a reputation for producing sets with a good range of high quality figures. Then suddenly, these Romans arrived.
These figures are not bad, in fact they are excellent. But just look at what you get in a box. One each of the signifer, cornucen, centurion and mounted officer. Then one of the man with the sword, and 15 of each of the two spearmen. It's not as if either of these poses lends itself to mass ranks of troops in similar pose - both appear to be in open single combat. The second pose is of a man defending himself from above - presumably from arrows, or perhaps a mounted opponent - which is a valid pose but hardly one to use if only two are being offered in total. Why there are so few poses, and so many of just two, is a mystery, but it was not well received by the buying public.
Leaving the numbers issue aside, the box tells us these legionnaires are first to second century BCE (that should be second to first, guys!). The appearance of the legionnaire changed very gradually through this period, and these figures seem most appropriate for the mid first century BCE. They wear an all mail shirt, which would have been quite an expensive item at the start of the Punic Wars, but was universal and supplied by the state by the end of the second century BCE. This is properly done apart from the yoke at the back of the shoulders, which is missing in all cases. Every man has a belt completely covered by engraved metal plates, which certainly happened, but was probably nowhere near as universal as suggested by this set. The men also sport the montefortino helmet, popular throughout this period, but it would have been decorated with three feathers early on and only with the horsehair plume by the beginning of the first century BCE. The oval shields, which attach moderately well on pegs on the arms, are correct, but would have been undecorated until the last quarter of this period. Sources suggest the men would sometimes have worn greaves on their front leg, but none of these figures have one. The two poses that form the bulk of this set both have their sword sheathed, but one has his on the left hip when it should be high on the right hip like his comrade. Finally, the men have separate spears supplied in two forms, the light javelin (or socketed pilum) and the famous heavy pilum.
Though the poses are few, the sculpting and detail are first class, as you might expect from Italeri. The detail is excellent and the proportions and general sculpting style very good indeed. Having separate shields makes for far better figures, yet these fix quite well so do not present the problems seen in some sets (such as the Airfix Romans). The separate weapons are equally well fitting, and beautifully elegant and detailed, but without the bulky ring hand sometimes seen on such figures. The command figures are just superb - little masterpieces in their own right, and even the horse is well done and realistic in anatomy and pose. We found absolutely no flash anywhere, and the design of the figures means there is no unwanted extra plastic, so these are certainly great figures.
Modern knowledge of Roman arms and armour, and particularly when a particular style came and went, is far from complete, but these figures are representative of the later republican period. With the addition of a few more poses that could have been used to produce the formations that made the Romans so formidable, this set would have been excellent. As it is, it's a missed opportunity and one that is hard to understand.