All Roman Legionaries were heavy infantry, and against most opposition such men encased in armour and with large shields were more than adequate for the job. On occasion however it seems there was a need for even more protection, which produced what is now called extra-heavy infantry. Because of their appearance on Trajan’s Column and the Adamklissi Tropaeum such troops are commonly associated with the wars on Dacia, but there is no reason to suppose this was the only conflict that saw such men. Nevertheless they were probably not particularly common, and may have been organised in squads to deal with particular threats such as the dreaded Dacian falx.
The extra items that have caused modern historians to label these men as extra heavy are reinforcing cross-pieces on the helmet, extra protection on the sword arm and greaves on the exposed lower leg. All the figures in this set are equipped in this way, and are otherwise relatively normal legionaries. The majority wear the segmented armour so familiar today, but some seem to wear scale armour, which is also appropriate. None seem to have mail, which is something of a surprise though. In as far as can be made out everything seems to be authentic but two problems must be highlighted. First, and relatively trivially, the greaves which all these men have are very straight-sided and not much like the examples that have been found and associated with officers. It is hard to say that such a shape is wrong, but there is no evidence for them, nor any obvious logical justification either. Secondly, and more importantly, all the men have the manicae or armguard on both arms. It is widely assumed that such an encumbrance would only have been worn on the sword arm as the other was already well protected by the shield that it was carrying. Again there is no logical reason for disputing this assumption so we must label this feature of these figures as an error.
Of the poses perhaps the most that can be said of them is every man is using his shield to protect himself, which is not nearly as common in such sets as it should be. Many of the poses are reasonable although quite flat, but the man in the top row holding his sword over his head is both defying human physiology and in a position where it would be difficult to strike at his opponent. The last figure in the third row is similarly in a position unattainable by the human right arm, and many have their particularly large shield pressed very close to their chest. However many poses are fine and work well when placed together in formation, so there is sufficient here to be perfectly useable.
The usual chunky Strelets style is repeated here, with the exaggerated small details and sometimes unclear elements. Most of the shields come as a part of the figure, but four have separate shields which fit well onto a peg that forms the boss. Two also have ring hands into which the separate sword and pilum can be inserted with a little persuasion. There is no flash to speak of, and the flat poses help to ensure little excess plastic. However the flatness ensures some items such as scabbards are in rather unnatural positions, and all the shields are rather too flat.
Another possible addition to the protection for these men - pteruges around the lower abdomen - has not been reproduced here, which is not in itself necessarily significant. What is more significant is the style of these figures, which makes them work well with other Strelets ancient sets but not with anyone else’s in our view. The sometimes awkward pose and the incorrectly armoured left arm detract further from the set, which is nonetheless a logical extension to the quite large range of Strelets Romans already produced.