Friday, May 27, 2011

Centurionum Vol. I: Etruscan Warrior

Rather coincidentally this post is dedicated again to a single miniature. As said before, recently I've acquired and discovered quite a few models which are not meant to result in larger projects. However, today I'm going to start a little series. Some might remember me mentioning my love for Roman centurions. There's something about their appearance, both in attire and historical background, that appeals to me greatly. Therefore I'm collecting all kinds of centurion models, up to now mainly in 28mm. My collection isn't nearly comprehensive, yet I don't want to add just more miniatures to the pile of unpainted lead (or plastic respectively). So, choosing a more orderly approach I'll make up a small tour de raison through Roman military history and show centurions from different periods, areas and units. Perhaps sometimes there will be more than one figure - especially since the 1st to 2nd century AD incarnations are by far my favourites.

We start off at the very beginning. This is Poplios Vibenna, leader of suodales (distinguished for "thugs"), sometime in the 450s BC.

Click to enlarge

Apparent by his large round shield (clipeus), he's normally fighting as a hoplite. The Etruscan adopted phalanx tactics, designed after the Greeks from southern Italy, early on, likely in the 7th century BC. This new kind of warfare was also introduced to Rome, being an Etruscan lead city, approximately at the same time. In the 6th century the Roman army consisted of upper class warriors in hoplite's panoply, supported by horsemen and lighter armed citizen soldiers. If the term centuria (a hundred men) and the derived centurio (leader of hundred) already had military connotations, is rather debatable. In particular since our sources are by majority literal reconstruction from later times.

Click to enlarge

Maybe tribal organisation and personal bonds were still predominant in the early Roman army, with noblemen (patricii) maintaining bands of warriors made up of followers (clientes). Most likely these groups had leaders elected by their brothers in arms, as this practice, if limited, was still in use even in the Imperial period. Since they fought among their men in the line (cf. the Greek term lochagoi for infantry officers) and lead from the front, they probably were recognisable by a turned crest (crista transversa) - which would become a centurion's trademark.

Click to enlarge

Other than that mentioned, Vibenna is equipped with a stylish Pseudo-Corinthian helmet (perhaps of Apulian origin), a curved sword (kopis) and some kind of quilted leather armour (depicted in an Etruscan burial site). So maybe he's rather a leader of light infantrymen, but I wanted him to carry a hoplite's shield in order to add a small freehand. The motif is taken from an illustration in Peter Connolly's "Greece and Rome at War". The model's also one of my first trials to muddy a miniature - I thought it fit, since these guys were mostly involved in dirty business like cattle or women raiding…

Click to enlarge

If you want to know more about early Roman warfare, issue No. IV.1 of the Ancient Warfare Magazine is highly recommended. Actually, Vibenna's sculptor took inspiration from its cover illustration.
Since this model is the earliest incarnation of a centurion I can think of (apart from Villanovan warriors, of course), following up are better known examples of centurion - if not appearing in chronological order, perhaps.

Painted May 2011. Miniature by Gorgon Studios, shield from a plastic hoplite by Immortal Miniatures.


The Angry Lurker said...

Nicely done and painted and interesting.

Christopher(aka Axebreaker) said...

Really nice work SG and the shield tops! Looking forward to the rest of the series.


Andy said...

Great job. I especially love the shield, not just the freehand but the wear and tear.

Inkub said...

Excellent painting and really insightful posts.

Ray Rousell said...

Fantastic painting and a very interesting post! Love the shield!

Sire Godefroy said...

Thanks to you all, gents. I'm flattered. :)

After some discussion on a forum I've posted these pictures at as well, just for the record: I'm fully aware that the "facts" delivered here are for the most part suggestions, based on my own research as well as the sculptor's interpretation (by which, in turn, I'm limited). Therefore I don't mean to masquerade these "facts" as an unquestionable "truth" - if there's only one, especially in historical studies, at all.

In consequence, please take my explanations as casual talk, 'cause that's (at least for me) the format of blogs and web-based discussion in general. Scientific approaches and standards have their own, "real life", so to speak, forums. I do know that for sure, since that's my own occupation. ;)

However, if anyone's interested in discussing this matter, limits of historical approaches in wargaming in particular, I'm more than willing to give it its own posting here - since it's been and will continue to be of great interest for myself.


Lt.Hazel said...

He´s really cool. The freehand on the hoplon is superb, and there can´t be enough mud on a grimm veteran like him!


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