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Zvezda

Set 8034

Republican Roman Infantry

Click for larger image
All figures are supplied unpainted    (Numbers of each pose in brackets)
Stats
Date Released 2004
Contents 40 figures
Poses 12 poses
Material Plastic (Fairly Hard)
Colours Grey
Average Height 24 mm (= 1.73 m)

Review

When Rome became a republic at the end of the sixth century BCE, it was a small state of no consequence compared to the major Mediterranean states of the day. By the time of Augustus in the early first century CE it was the major regional power, and well on its way to building the enormous empire for which is it so well known today. Much of that rise occurred during the third and second centuries BCE (the period covered by this set), when it was victorious against its rivals, most famously Carthage and their allies.

This is by no means the first set of plastic 1/72 scale republican Romans to be made, so comparisons are inevitable with those figures from HaT and Odemars. The bulk of this set is made up of spearmen, armed with either the pilum or a thrusting spear. The last two figures on the second row are velites, basically light infantry that threw javelins to disrupt enemy formations and then retired to the rear or flanks. The last four figures are of a senior officer, a centurion, a cornucen with trumpet and a signifer. We liked all the poses, but the trouble is that with so many elements of the Roman army represented, it is impossible to get all the poses one might like for each type.

At the start of the Punic Wars, the soldiery provided their own clothing and armour. As a result, how each man dressed was largely dictated by his wealth, and many different styles were in evidence until the state began supplying equipment themselves. Some of the men here (the poorest) are wearing a simple tunic with a pectorale, a metal plate on the chest. Others, either more wealthy or from later in the period, are wearing mail, while others still are wearing a muscle cuirass. The first two styles are fine, but the muscle cuirass was normally the preserve of cavalry and officers (both wealthy citizens), so we were surprised to see it on common soldiers here. Like so much concerning this period, however, modern knowledge is incomplete and it cannot be categorically stated that this is wrong. The men wear a mixture of helmets, mostly Montefortino and Etrusco-Corinthian styles, both of which were very common. They have either three feathers or a horsehair mane in them, and indeed one man has both, which seems very unlikely (perhaps the customer is being given the opportunity to choose)! The horsehair mane is hard to prove using existing Roman images as it mainly appeared after the stated period, but cannot be discounted. Most of the men have one greave on their leading (left) leg, which is correct, while the officers are being flash and have them on both legs.

The two velites are unarmoured, and carry a bunch of javelins and a round shield. We know that these men had pieces of fur on their helmets or caps, and here this has been taken as animal heads attached to caps - fuller pelts on helmets as produced by HaT are equally likely. One has a sword but the other has a dagger (pugio), which was often the only weapon they had with which to defend themselves.

The shields are the curved oval scutum. They were reinforced wood with metal on top and bottom to add strength and a central spine. These have all been corrected done here, and Zvezda have used what we consider the best method of attaching the shields, all of which are separate to the men. This involves the shield handle and central boss being part of the figure, and the rest of the shield, with suitable hole in the middle, fixing over this lump on the hand. The result is very firm and looks great.

Zvezda have never been reticent in making figures in several pieces if that improves their look. Apart from the separate shields, some of the figures have a separate arm/spear piece which pegs into the shoulder very well. The cornucen has his left arm and trumpet as a separate piece, and the signifer has both arms separate. His left arm has a simple ring hand, and the set includes a choice of no less than three right arms, each holding one of the signums or the legionary badge as illustrated. All parts fit superbly, as we have come to expect from Zvezda, and make for a much more convincing pose than any one-piece figure can manage. The legionary badge is marked as being of the first legion, and has a she-wolf as its emblem - obviously a significant one for the Romans. The cornucen does present a concern, however, in that he wears a full animal skin, a practice that was normal in Imperial times but more doubtful during the republic.

Like the men, the officers and specialists are generally correctly done. The senior officer has a decorative head on his spear, and the centurion carries his vitis or vine staff as a sign of his rank. However this man has a different circular shield when he would normally have had one much like the rest of the men.

This is just about the longest review we have so far written, so well done on keeping with us. Part of the reason is this set covers several troop types and a long period of change, so there is much to say. However that is also a problem, because it means there are very few of any particular troop type. Basically the set includes six normal soldier poses, and while some like the kneeling triarii can cheerfully be repeated in enormous numbers, others are not in formation and do not look natural if multiples are placed side-by-side. All the figures are quite splendid in their own right, apart from the second velite, who needs to have a straight arm if he hopes to throw that javelin any distance. However overall the set is, perhaps inevitably, something of a compromise. If a customer wishes to purchase numbers of one particular type then they are more likely to buy some of the better-focused HaT sets. It need hardly be said that the usual Zvezda trademark quality shines through in this set, with wonderful crisp detail, top class sculpting and no flash. Certainly a must-buy for anyone interested in Republican Rome, but probably best used in conjunction with products from other manufacturers rather than as a single source for building an army.

Ratings

Historical Accuracy 9
Pose Quality 9
Pose Number 7
Sculpting 10
Mould 10

Further Reading
Books
"1.000 Años de Ejercitos en España" - Almena (Guerreros Y Batallas Series No.1) - José A Alcaide
"Ancient Armies" - Concord - Tim Newark and Angus McBride - 9789623616461
"Armies of the Carthaginian Wars 265-146 BC" - Osprey (Men-at-Arms Series No.121) - Terence Wise - 9780850454307
"Armies of the Macedonian and Punic Wars" - Wargames Research Group - Duncan Head - 9780950029948
"Cannae 216 BC" - Osprey (Campaign Series No.36) - Mark Healy - 9781855324701
"Cartago Contra Roma" - Almena (Guerreros Y Batallas Series No.32) - Rubén Sáez
"Fighting Techniques of the Ancient World" - Greenhill - Simon Anglim - 9781853675225
"Greece and Rome at War" - Greenhill - Peter Connolly - 9781853673030
"Republican Roman Army 200-104BC" - Osprey (Men-at-Arms Series No.291) - Nick Sekunda - 9781855325982
"Roman Republican Legionary 298-105 BC" - Osprey (Warrior Series No.162) - Nic Fields - 9781849087810
"The Complete Roman Army" - Thames & Hudson - Adrian Goldsworthy - 9780500051245
"The Roman Legions Recreated in Colour Photographs" - Crowood Press (Europa Militaria Special Series No.2) - Daniel Peterson - 9781861262646

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