This unusual piece is a fascinating illustration of what 3-D printing can accomplish. The Roman testudo, being a formation of men protected by shields so they could approach an enemy, especially a fortification, relatively safely, is well known and needs no introduction here. Several models of one have already been made in this scale, but none are like this one. As you can perhaps see this is actually a collection of shields (40 of them) with legs appearing at the bottom. There are no upper bodies at all, and the shields rest on a simple framework just visible in our picture. Equally there are no legs for those men inside the testudo – only those at the very edges have the legs. So the whole piece, which does indeed come as a single piece, is completely hollow. This is easy enough to see through the gaps between the shields, yet from a distance the piece is convincing.
The shields are all of the same type, being curved and rectangular with an engraved design made up of lightning flashes and wings – a typical design. Each shield is almost 15 mm in length, and the shape and design suggest a first or early second century date, which is the period many find most interesting. The arrangement of the shields is correct, and they are being held quite close together, but with the inevitable small variations that any such formation would actually exhibit, so the overall effect is entirely natural and realistic.
The 22 pairs of legs that are present all face forward and all have different poses, though there is no attempt to show the men keeping in step, which is likely to be correct anyway. All the legs have military boots and breeches to around the knee, suggesting the weather is inclement. Such breeches, while not often seen on the ‘typical’ Roman soldier, were certainly worn in the first century, and increasingly so in the second, so these match the shield dating well. Again, the random arrangement of each pair make for an entirely believable set of individuals, so looks great.
We have already said that there are no upper torsos, and nothing at all of the men in the middle of the formation. It is worth noting that also missing are any sign of tunic hems or scabbards on the legs, and there are no weapons anywhere. None of that is a problem, and certainly the piece is an impressively complex item as it is. Thanks partly to the hollow interior it is also very light, measuring roughly 65 mm across and 50 mm deep, but does not feel at all fragile or weak. The pictured testudo has been printed in a white plastic which has a slightly rougher surface than the clear compound often used, yet still absolutely perfect for painting. Leaving it pure white like this makes the detail more difficult to see, but that detail is still very good and quite clear. However the model is also available in the clear super-fine plastic used for other products on our site.
Building a testudo with individual figures (such as the Zvezda set) provides the most realistic model, but will take a very long time to paint and assemble. This printed single-piece is a far quicker, lighter and more moveable alternative, and while it may be more symbolic of the actual formation, the attractive look will probably find favour with many that need to represent one or more testudo on a table-top battlefield quickly and easily. This is not a display piece, but as a game piece it is a great idea really well executed.