Friday, July 15, 2011

Centurionum Vol. III: Winter's Coming

As threatened in the second part of our little series we're now going fast forward, right into Late Antiquity. Shown below is Iovianus, braving the elements somewhere on the Rhine frontier in winter 406 AD.

This figure's background is obviously one of the most-cited incidents in scholarship covering the Western Late Roman Empire: the crossing of the Rhine on 31st December 406 (or 405), undertaken at once by large groups of "barbarians" searching for new homes on Roman territory. Traditional view has it, the invaders awaited the river to freeze in order to avoid the guarded Roman bridges, e.g. at Mainz, seat of a high-ranking official, the dux Mogontiacensis. That said, it's debatable if this crossing was the final blow for Roman control of the Rhine frontier - or even if it ever happened.
However, the according illustration in a book for young people about the Migration Period (someone remember the "Au temps des…" series?) could be named a key moment for my lasting interest in Roman and especially Late Roman history. An empire passing off mirrored by the elements - that's drama!

Therefore I decided to capture this moment with one of the latest incarnations of a centurion. Actually, like in the very first installment of this series, we don't know much - if anything - about the centurions' rank and tasks in what seems to be an again completely re-modelled Roman army (more on that transition on another occasion). The reforms in the late 3rd and early 4th century AD obviously led to new ranks and titles which, however, didn't replace older ones at all. Added to that, new units were formed, by both raising them from scratch and splitting up existing ones. Not to mention the parallelization of military and civil ranks - with senator becoming an officer's title, or the administrative rank of a centenarius not to be taken for a centurion. Quite confusing.

I chose this model to represent a centurion for its Intercisa IV helmet, which sports a distinct metal crest, thought to be a badge of rank. Helmets like this one were mass-produced simple designs, rivetted or even stitched together, and perhaps 'visually enhanced' by coating with metal or fabric. I spared this here to show Iovianus in an workaday-kit. The colours and decoration of his tunic and cloak are based upon Graham Sumner's excellent research (see Osprey MAA 390). In adaption to the Germanic climate Iovianus wears some knitted mittens - a technique known from 3rd century Egypt, probably not introduced to Europe before the arrival of the Muslims in Spain - as well as some kind of woolen greaves, which might also offer some protection.

His shield bears the insignia of the Mattiaci iuniores Gallicani as given in the famous Notitia Dignitatum. This account places the unit in the Gallic field army (comitatus) of the Magister Equitum, but it may well be that these chaps were withdrawn border guards (limitanei or ripenses) from the Rhine frontier. At least, the Mattiaci were a Germanic tribe located just opposite to Mainz - so the connection is there. And, less academic, it gives a nice contrast to Iovianus' otherwise muted appearance.

Though this is probably not the very latest centurion in my collection, timewise we're slowly encircling the most prominent or stereotypical image of a centurion, i.e. the one from the Early Imperial period. That's not been intended, but never mind.

Just a final remark on the miniature: Spurred by Lt. Hazel I ordered some samples from Musketeer Miniatures. Despite them being literally huge and chunky compared to my beloved Perry sculpts - mounted ones in particular -, they are very nice figures. Easy to paint due to limited amount of detail, knowledgeably sculpted and cleanly cast. Recommended!

Painted July 2011. Miniature by Musketeer Miniatures.


Ubique said...

Great looking figure and interesting history notes. The weathering (& weather!)is a particularly nice touch.


Christopher(aka Axebreaker) said...

Nice background info and lovely painting and weathering! A first rate series you have done.


The Colour Kiwi said...

Excellent work, one of the nicest painted Ancients miniatures ive seen in a long time. Very interesting reading the historical notes as well.

Doc Phobos said...

I saw this guy when you'd posted them, but had forgotten to comment! :)

Really nice work. I like the snowy base and the weathering on the cape and shield especially.

By the way... could you explain how you've painted the helmet? I am loving the smoothness.

Sire Godefroy said...

Many thanks for taking the time to comment here. :)

Doc, really nothing special. It's just a coat of silver (using thinned GW Chainmail), than washing with GW Badab Black (any thinned black would do, I guess) and finally some highlights (again with the base colour). And, of course, metal looks better when gloss varnished.


Doc Phobos said...

Oh, riiiight... I gather then that you've gloss varnished the helmet. Very nice effect!

Sire Godefroy said...

No nit-picking, but I gloss varnished the whole figure and just spared the metal parts when applying a coat of matt varnish. Oh the joy of varnish to be brushed on... :D


Giles said...

Superb work, Sire G. The weathering is superb. Great notes too on the post.

Best wishes


El Senyor Verd said...

SImply, a masterpiece.

Guy said...

Very nice! Drop us a line at for a chat. Fancy doing one of our cover vignettes for us?

count of wymborn said...

That's an outstanding figure well done

Dalauppror said...

Wow !!!

Love this minia, realy good painting, he looks realy frozen.

Best regards Dalauppror


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