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LW

Set 50

Onager

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All figures are supplied unpainted    (Numbers of each pose in brackets)
Stats
Date Released 2002
Contents 5 figures and 1 engine
Poses 5 poses
Material Plastic (Medium Consistency)
Colours Light Grey, Brown
Average Height 23 mm (= 1.66 m)

Review

The onager was a one-armed stone-throwing catapult used by the Romans in besieging fortifications. It's ancestry is far from clear, and no one now knows when it was first used, although there is no good evidence for it until at least the later third century CE. It was a simpler mechanism than the earlier ballista weapons, and not so accurate to use, but seems to have been used in good numbers by the last decades of the Western Empire and well into the Byzantine era, although disappearing entirely in the West.

The onager in this set stands about 'two metres' high (they were originally made in many sizes), and is 'at rest', i.e. not set ready to release its stone. The model comes in just six pieces, but there are no instructions in the packet and it took us a little while to work out how it all went together. However once we achieved that we found quite a nice little model. Surprisingly for LW, the pieces fitted together pretty well, and there was little flash to impede construction. Clearly all the ropes etc. could not be included in a model of this size, but a fair effort has nonetheless been made, although it is likely that more than one design was used for the original and there is insufficient evidence today to be sure of the precise details of construction. As a result it is a fairly pointless exercise to comment on accuracy, except to say that this design is plausible. One omission however is that the rear winch which pulls the rope taught should have a handle on either end, but this model only has a handle on one end.

The five figures that accompany the machine are largely a waste of time. As can be clearly seen, none of them are working the machine at all, and seem to have been added to bulk out the set. Presumably the figures are meant to be Romans, but they do not match any period particularly well, looking more like generic ancient soldiers than any specific subject. The detail is very difficult to make out and much of it is clearly missing altogether. In all cases the shield is supplied separately, though these fit well on to long pegs on the men's arms. However the assortment of shields is strange, and adds to the general lack of direction of these men. Two also have ring hands to take their sword, but we found the ring too small for the rather chunky sword, and resorted to splitting the hand to get the weapon to fit. Also the middle figure on the scan cannot take a shield of any sort, even though he is supposed to, as all the shields caused him to topple over.

So we have a quite nice if fairly simple model of an onager plus some very poor Roman-ish infantry figures that are nothing to do with the engine. If the figures had been done as crewmen then this could have been very worthwhile, but as it stands only the machine is likely to attract any attention at all.

Ratings

Historical Accuracy 6
Pose Quality 2
Pose Number 0
Sculpting 4
Mould 7

Further Reading
Books
"Ancient and Medieval Siege Weapons" - The Lyons Press - Konstantin Nossov - 9781592287109
"Fighting Techniques of the Ancient World" - Greenhill - Simon Anglim - 9781853675225
"Greece and Rome at War" - Greenhill - Peter Connolly - 9781853673030
"Greek and Roman Artillery 399BC - AD363" - Osprey (New Vanguard Series No.89) - Duncan Campbell - 9781841766348
"Siege Warfare in the Roman World" - Osprey (Elite Series No.126) - Duncan Campbell - 9781841767826
"The Armies and Enemies of Imperial Rome" - Wargames Research Group - Phil Barker - 9780904417173
"The Complete Roman Army" - Thames & Hudson - Adrian Goldsworthy - 9780500051245

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