This set is the latest in what is now happily quite a significant number of sets depicting the auxilia. Both HaT and Strelets have produced figures that match these first to second century soldiers, so we have already discussed their role in those reviews. These are a logical addition to the Imperial Roman range from Zvezda, and given the high quality of their legionaries much was expected of this set.
The first six poses show the ordinary soldier in what is generally accepted as the standard costume and armour. Debate still rages over how standard this was, but it seems fair to say this appearance was typical of the period. The men wear mail and relatively plain helmets with crossed reinforcement which all suggest a mid first to mid second century date, and all look historically accurate with one cautionary note. All these men have protection over their groin (thin strips of leather or fabric with studs) which is usually seen on legionaries. These auxiliaries have their mail shirt hanging to the thigh, which you would think would make such protection unnecessary. We could find no serious depiction of these troops with this until well into the second century, but of course it is impossible to say whether they were ever used in reality (perhaps as a fashion or status symbol), so we will have to limit ourselves to saying that we wished they had not been included here. In all other respects these figures are certainly historically fine.
Completing the second row are a couple of archers of apparently eastern origin, and on the third row we find a slinger (of whom those from the Balearic Islands were most famed). All these are correctly done. Also on the bottom row there is a signifer who has several notable features. He wears scale armour rather than mail and has quite a short animal pelt covering just the head and shoulders, which is reasonable. His shield is an unusual but authentic shape and he carries a very simple standard which seems to have a bull at its head (copied directly from a stele). The aforementioned legionaries set contained a wide range of normal Roman standards, so the designer has chosen something much more basic for this set.
Beside the signifer is the cornucen, dressed in a full animal pelt and in the act of blowing his cornu, and last is the centurion. This man is identical to the image of centurion Marcus Favonius Facilis as shown on his grave, and he bears all the symbols of his rank. While it is generally considered not to be the typical look of these men in small details it is clearly historically accurate. The main difference between the centurion in this set and that in the Legionaries set is this one does not have any phalerae on his chest.
Zvezda have never been afraid to use multiple parts to create the best poses and this set is as good an example as any. All the soldiers are actually sheltering behind their shield rather than simply carrying it, and all have plenty of action about them. All shields are separate but so too are some arms, which allows for the great poses but also allows some scope for changing the orientation of the arm and even swapping between poses. This small selection shows some of the new poses we achieved in this way. However even if you just stick to the poses as illustrated in the accompanying instructions we think you get a great selection.
Zvezda sculpting has long been consistently excellent and nothing much has changed here. The detail is excellent throughout and the texture of the mail is astonishing. Although not always quite as deep and sharp as some Zvezda output it is still a hard standard to equal. Where separate arms or weapons need assembling these are always well engineered – nothing requires any gluing at all, yet the fit is rock solid. The cornucen with his instrument is a stand out example of the art of the figure maker, with both arms separate to make a superb pose that is anything but flat. Flash is minimal and so too is excess plastic, so this is another first-rate design exercise.
Zvezda sets such as this are a joy and in our view represent the very best that this hobby delivers. Others have a more comprehensive range or more poses, but as individual works of art Zvezda figures are almost never bettered, and these auxiliaries would grace any early Imperial Roman army.