Campaigning under Gaius Julius Caesar (100 - 44) must have been quite exhilarating. His campaigns in Northern Gaul brought a huge new territory under the control of Rome, and when his men were asked to march into Italy - an act that meant certain civil war - there was no hesitation on their part. The subsequent fighting would bring about Caesar’s own elevation to dictator, and ultimately the destruction of the Republic, to be replaced by Emperors and an Empire that would be the golden age of the city state.
With so many sets of Romans having been made in this hobby it is refreshing to find one that is quite specific about the time period. Usually the best we can hope for is the label 'republican' or 'imperial', but here we are told exactly where to place these figures, with the campaigns of Caesar lasting from his adventures in Gaul starting in 58 BCE to the conclusion of the civil war in 45 BCE. All these figures wear much the same costume, with the mail shirt over an ordinary tunic, and a military belt with the sword on the right hip and the dagger on the left. This is all as it should be, but unfortunately every man also has an apron of studded leather straps over the groin, a feature that did not appear until after Caesar's death. The one area of variety is with the helmet, which is the Montefortino type, for while all have the small rear peak and the cheek pieces covering the ears, some have a crest and some do not. A few have a reinforcement over the brow, a feature just starting to appear at this time, so the helmets are well thought out.
Each man carries a pilum and an oval shield. The pilum is reasonably well done here, but it seems generally troops were armed with two of these, of different weights, so each man here is missing one. Also, troops on the march would have had their shields protected by a cover, not open to the elements as shown here. A couple look like they may have some edge of a cover at the back, but none actually have one at the front. This allows us to fully see the shield, which is properly done with the spine and boss, and it is being held correctly too. Our first observation on the burden of these men also implies another problem - since the reforms of Marius the Roman soldier had had to carry a good deal of kit, but none of that is here. Strelets have made better sets of marching Romans before, so it looks like the set is really misnamed. With no pack and shields uncovered, these men are more moving into battle position than on the march, despite the re-enactors photographed for the box artwork, who clearly show they know more about the subject then the sculptor because they do not make the same mistakes. It should be pointed out that Caesar had a proportion of his men march with uncovered shield and unencumbered in case of surprise attack, so a couple of poses like this would be reasonable, but not all of them.
The sculpting is about average for Strelets, so all the usual quite basic and sometimes enlarged details are on show. There is no assembly, so all weapons are shields are part of the figure, which means they are held pressed up to the body to avoid excess plastic. There is also quite a lot of flash, which is not something we usually see from this manufacturer lately.
Given that these men are simply on the move, there is a good deal of variety in the poses. The third figure in the second row would need a fair bit of room if he is to hold his pilum like that, and the similar poses either side of him have not turned out well. Presumably the original idea was to show men resting their pila on their shoulder, but because these figures, like the rest, are very flat, the sculptor has instead got them holding them across the top of their backs, where far from being supported they would be very awkward and tiring to hold. The second figure in the top row holds his pilum behind his hand, which is perhaps not impossible but certainly unusual and not the easiest of positions from which to have the weapon ready if needed. The last figure in the third row is rather different because he has levelled his pilum as if going into action, but has his shield hanging from a strap on his back. It is hard to make out what his left arm is doing, and the position of the torso is awkward, but the shield hangs almost down to his ankles, so must be interfering with his movement.
The studded aprons on all these men is an obvious accuracy error that is hard to ignore or repair, and several of the poses look ridiculous because they are too flat to achieve what was probably intended. The chunky sculpting style is a problem as usual, but it is the lack of shield covers or any other baggage that really makes these men seem nowhere near a march. Use them for moving into the battle line by all means, but as men on the march they are just not credible.
Note The final figure is of a soldier from the Streltsi of 17th century Russia. Though he is unrelated to the subject of this set, he is one of a series of 'bonus' figures which when combined will create a set of this unit for the Great Northern War. See Streltsi Bonus Figures feature for details.