Having already covered the republican and early imperial periods of Roman history quite extensively, clearly Strelets are doing the same with the period during which the republic became the empire - a transition hurried along by Julius Caesar, although he himself was never called an emperor. This and several other sets purport to show the troops as they appeared around this time, which is the middle of the first century BCE, and this one covers the army as it prepares for battle.
These figures then are doing something most soldiers through history have been very familiar with - waiting while nothing much seems to be happening. In reality this would have meant them standing around, holding their one or two pila, with sword in sheath and shield resting on the ground, waiting for the order to move forward, or to meet the enemy attack. Some of the poses in this set are pretty convincing doing just that, so while they may not make for particularly interesting models they are certainly fit for purpose. A few however bring some variety to the set but are perhaps less plausible as troops waiting for action. No less than four have drawn their swords, when this was not usually done until the pila had been thrown and the enemy was just metres away. One of these – the first in the top row - looks to be an officer, so that’s fine, but the rest (all in the top row) we were less happy with. The second figure has even detached his scabbard from his belt, which seems a little strange. For the rest, the poses are fine. One man is holding his pilum in the air, and so seems very enthusiastic, and another is clearly shouting something, so could work as a junior officer.
For the century in question these men are appropriately armoured, which is to say uniformly as would be expected in the decades after the reforms of Marius. The helmets have some nice variety but again are authentic, and so are the oval shields and the weapons. The men correctly have their sword on their right hip and a dagger on the left, but the last man in the top row, who is the only one where the hold on the shield is visible, is clearly holding it vertically which is wrong as the handle bar was horizontal. Also where visible most of the men have the leather straps with metal studs that hung over the loins like an apron - a device that only appeared some years after the time of Caesar.
Strelets are remarkably consistent in their style, and these match the rest of their Roman range perfectly, but will struggle to sit comfortably with those from any other manufacturer. The usual clunky style with swords and other long thin items being much too wide is in evidence as always, but if somewhat exaggerated on occasions, the detail is not too bad. There is no flash and the only assembly is the separate pilum for the third figure in the second row, who holds it horizontally with a ring hand. The poses are certainly quite flat, but since these are not men engaged in battle this is a feature that does not really matter.
Not appealing figures but on the whole the poses are reasonable and believable. Having the shields as one with the figure forces some compromises, but although a little flat the set does not really suffer because of it. The apron and the manner of holding one of the shields are the only accuracy flaws, but most of the figures are sculpted such that these things are not visible anyway, so the damage is minimal. For those looking to build up their existing Strelets Caesarean armies this will be a useful set.
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.