Apologies for the lack of updates recently. Hobby activities have almost completely grinded to a halt. Therefore I’m using the precious spare time for painting things that can be finished in an afternoon or two to keep me going. I’m really in fear of a downtime like last year when eventually I almost gave up my Impetus army due to a lack of time and focus.
So it wasn’t actually intended to play out the Centurion series in a row. However, I’m having fun with it, for it gives me the opportunity to tell a story as well as to search out and forward some background information with just a single miniature. The same is the more true for the following model. When I first saw it, I just had to find an excuse to pick it up – and now I’ve found it.
Entry, M. Aurelius Heliudurus, leading a patrol at the Sassanid frontier, c. 330 AD.
Allowedly, it’s a rather unusual representation of a Roman centurion. However, from archival materials, preserved at Dura-Europos (modern Syria), we can gather that at a time some 20 dromedarii (camel riders) were attached to the auxiliary cohort garrisoned there. It’s not said if they were originally foot soldiers or re-mounted cavalrymen. But given the inaptitude of camels for close combat, it’s most probable that the riders fought dismounted – or avoided engagements due to their supposed primary role as scouts.
Purely conjectural again, I wanted Heliudurus to be a legionary centurion, in particular of the legio I Parthica, a long-time guardian on the Empire’s Eastern frontier. From about 197 until 360 AD the legion was stationed at Singara (modern Iraq), when the city got lost to the Sassanids and the troops were withdrawn to Nisibis and Constantina respectively (both modern Turkey). In the 330’s they very likely took part in preparations for Emperor Constantine’s major campaign against Persia (which eventually never happened). The legions involved would have sent out detachments of exploratores (scouts), regularly attached to each of them. In case of the legio I Parthica these could well have ridden dromedaries, mounts best adapted to a desert environment.
Beyond that, I wanted to portray Heliudurus as a man native to the Near East as well. It’s not unlikely that a unit drew its recruits from their adjacencies, the more if it stayed in one place for such a long time. After Emperor Marcus Aurelius Severus Antoninus, named Caracalla, granted Roman citizenship to each free inhabitant of the Empire in 212 AD – hence the appearance of so many Marci Aurelii in the records after that – the legions, being originally reserved for citizens, could draw on more locals as well. The nickname Heliudurus (obviously corrupted Greek, meaning "gift of the sun") appears on an inscription from Dura-Europos.
Some notes on colours and equipment: Though I got really upset with all the figure’s detailing I couldn’t make sense of, I had some fun converting this Early Imperial Roman figure into a Late Roman centurion. First I chose a lot of different, bright colours. This indicates Sassanid-Persian influences, with them controlling large parts of the Western Silk Road. The mass-produced spangenhelm is also copied from Eastern equipment and a forbear of models used throughout late Antiquity and early Middle Ages. Heliudurus’ rank is shown by a golden yellow plume, the colour taken from a nowadays popular reconstruction by famous German historian and reenactor Marcus Junkelmann. Lastly, the shield bears several motifs used in the 3rd century and perhaps even thereafter. (And yes, under normal circumstances the shield would have been wrapped in a leather cover.) Most prominent is the image of Sol Invictus ("the Invincible Sun") framed by his horses, which bears a slight resemblance to depictions of Christ. For its unclear assignment it possibly survived the 'official' adoption of Christianity by Emperor Constantine – the more likely since Constantine himself wasn’t yet sure-footed in Christian symbolism, placing his own grave amidst the cenotaphs of the Twelve Apostles…
So, for anyone wondering, it’s promised: that’s the most obscure centurion model in my collection. There are still another six models I’d like to enqueue here, most of them in various states of completion, from 'ordered' to 'not yet photographed'. Hope you bear with me.
Painted July to August 2011. Miniature by Warlord Games.