The Roman Empire lasted for hundreds of years, and has provided the inspiration for many books, films and figure sets. Atlantic made many models for their Roman range, including the extraordinary Colosseum, but the most important set is this one - the Roman Legions, on which the Empire was built and maintained. However with their emphasis on toys rather than historical authenticity, what would they make of one of the most easily recognisable of historical subjects?
All the figures here appear to wear a muscle cuirass (presumably metal), although some have some other device which we could not make out. This is not an item ever issued to Rome's legions, unless one goes back to the Etruscan period. They mostly wear a helmet which appears to be of the Attic style and which sports a crest or feathers, a brow plate and cheek pieces. Such a helmet appears in many Hollywood films, but did not appear on the Roman legionnaire, though some cavalry may have worn something similar. All wear cloaks and carry a variety of shaped shields. One such is just three planks of wood bolted together - a crude item for which we could find no evidence but which we have been told identifies this man as a marine.
There are some interesting specialist figures. The officer holds some sort of baton, and there is a lector carrying a fasces, which was a bundle of wooden rods surrounding an axe. This is properly done, but lectors were non-combatant when carrying this, and so the carrier should not have full armour. There are also two standard bearers. The first is an aquilifer who carries an aquila (eagle) and has a full bearskin over his armour. The second is a signifer. Both the aquila and signum seem reasonably authentic as these items varied in design.
The troops are in various positions (the man charging with spear in both hands but not looking where he is going is a joke!), but none lend themselves to being placed in formation. The confusion over shields also makes it difficult to imagine these men all belong to the same unit at the same time. There are two 'guard' figures - very similar apart from the shield shape. Why there are two such figures we cannot guess, and why both are holding their weapon and shield in the wrong hands is equally baffling (as is one of the fighting men). Rome relied mostly on auxiliaries for its archers, so a full legionnaire with a bow is not a wise inclusion here.
There is so much wrong with this set, and very little that is right. The strange costume seems to most closely match the dress of some officers during the Empire, which is pretty useless. The three men in the middle row have separate weapons - a sword and a spear - which are bland generic models rather than anything authentic, though they do fit well enough in the ring hands. The random but mostly wrong manner in which the shields are held just adds to the messy appearance. Sculpting is not good by today's standards, though as ever it must be remembered that these were toys. Nearly all examples we have seen suffer very badly from flash, with a lot of time needed to extract a decent figure from the mess. As a toy they are fine, but for the serious modeller we can think of no use for this set at all.