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Revell

Set 02552

Praetorians

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All figures are supplied unpainted    (Numbers of each pose in brackets)
Stats
Date Released 1989
Contents 50 figures
Poses 15 poses
Material Plastic (Medium Consistency)
Colours Grey
Average Height 23 mm (= 1.66 m)

Review

The Praetorian Guard developed out of select units of troops that acted as bodyguards for commanders in the field during the first century BCE. Their elite status was underlined by much better pay, shorter service, and by relatively comfortable and easy duties in Rome rather than policing the frontier. Once they had become a mostly Imperial unit, their duties consisted of protection of the emperor and a kind of riot police within the city of Rome. To appease the Roman citizens they did not usually wear armour when on such duties, and since they rarely took the field during this century, their normal state was unarmoured.

All this may be interesting, but it leaves the question of what this set has to do with the Praetorians, and the answer seems to be almost nothing at all. These men are clearly in battle, and are fully armoured. They include archers and slingers, which were not to be found in the Guard. So if not Praetorians, then perhaps ordinary legionnaires? Well again, the clothing does not match the style common during the first century BCE. Most of the men wear a muscle cuirass, and have a fine crested helmet of one sort or another. Some wear greaves, and some sandals or boots. It's a real mess, with some items reminiscent of earlier centuries, and others owing more to Hollywood perceptions of the appearance of a Roman soldier than any real evidence. Shields too are very confused, with all sorts of different shapes and sizes, and have some odd methods of being held which again are very far from accurate.

Most and possibly all of these poses began life as Elastolin figures, and it must be said that many of them are quite attractive. Several convey well the sense of being in close-quarter combat or about to launch a javelin, but most would not work well placed together in blocks to represent the disciplined advancing unit of a Roman army. Those figures on the top and bottom row come with shield moulded onto the figure, but those on the middle row have pegs onto which one of many separate shields must be placed, often quite insecurely.

Revell produced a number of sets based on Elastolin figures, and it is possible that they used the larger figures as masters instead of sculpting new ones. If so, this would explain the fact that while there is reasonable detail it is very shallow in many places. In making the figures work for a two-piece mould some places such as the face of some shields have virtually lost all detail.

This set does have some redeeming features. We liked the officer figure, and the poses are really nice and energetic, while the inclusion of the archers and slinger was a good idea (though not for the Praetorians). However that is pretty much it, and it is difficult to think of a use for these troops. Originally designed and sold in the 1960s as toys, these figures share a characteristic of some of the Atlantic figures in that they are more suggestive of Roman troops as the public might expect to see them than any sort of an accurate historical model. Though possibly cheap to produce, was it worth the effort? Probably not, and there are many far superior sets of early imperial Romans on the market today.


Ratings

Historical Accuracy 0
Pose Quality 6
Pose Number 9
Sculpting 4
Mould 7

Further Reading
Books
"Arms and Armour of the Imperial Roman Soldier" - Frontline - Raffaele D'Amato - 9781848325128
"Roman Army: Wars of the Empire" - Brassey (History of Uniforms Series) - Graham Sumner - 9781857532128
"Roman Guardsman 62 BC - AD 324" - Osprey (Warrior Series No.170) - Ross Cowan - 9781782009252
"The Armies and Enemies of Imperial Rome" - Wargames Research Group - Phil Barker - 9780904417173
"The Complete Roman Army" - Thames & Hudson - Adrian Goldsworthy - 9780500051245
"The Praetorian Guard" - Osprey (Elite Series No.50) - Boris Rankov - 9781855323612

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