This set depicts the Roman legions in the costume that is most popularly associated with them. It is also one of only two sets Esci produced that had troops from before the Napoleonic Wars.
With the separate shields and weapons taking up room on the sprue, Esci cut down on their usual number of poses, and only 11 are provided here. They include troops in various combat poses, though none are particularly conducive to grouping together into the strong formation that was so successful for Roman armies. In general the poses are reasonable, and the man with his shield over his head is a particularly good idea, although the soldier kneeling on the ground is very hard to find any use for. In addition the set includes an archer, a centurion, an officer and a signifer.
All wear the famous lorica segmentata that was introduced during the first quarter of the first century CE and remained in use until about the end of the second century, most commonly found in the Western Empire. This has been accurately depicted, with excellent detail everywhere. Equipment too is correct and well done. However the shields present a big problem. Esci have chosen to solve the problem of attaching shields to figures by having two clips that grip the soldier's arm. This is indeed a very secure mounting, but it means a large hole has to be left in the middle of the shield so the mould can make these clips, so the metal boss that should be in the centre must be scratch built and added. Furthermore, the clips on the shields run lengthways, meaning the bearers arms must also run down the length of the shield. This is acceptable where the arm is basically hanging, but on one of the swordsman figures the arm is outstretched, causing the man to hold his shield out, which would have been tiring to do and would offer almost no protection.
One figure does present a particular problem. Roman archers were almost always auxiliaries, and were usually of Eastern origin. They would have worn mail rather than the plate cuirass, and their appearance would have depended on their ethnic origin more than anything else, as would the appearance of the bow. Consequently the figure of a full legionnaire using a bow has no historical foundation and is useless. The temptation would be to draft in the archers from the Airfix Roman set.
For obvious reasons all the pilums are moulded separately. However it would have been nice if some swords had also been provided to add variety. Unlike many manufacturers Esci gave the figures that had to hold these weapons anatomically correct hands rather than unrealistic ring hands. This is a good thing, though it means the man's hold on the weapon is not as secure as a ring hand.
These are very nice figures, with the usual Esci attention to detail and superb sculpting. The holes in the shields look ugly and require work, and the lack of any real 'formation' pose is an error, but still we are left with an attractive set, even if of very little real value to a serious modeller today.