Monday, August 15, 2011

Centurionum Vol. V: Dog of War

Leaping back and forth once again, today we've landed in the 2nd century BC. Though there seems to be basically no considerable shift in equipment or tactics compared to the preceding century - despite, perhaps, the pilum becoming predominant - the role of the Roman soldier changed a lot. Therefore I wanted to include this period here as well. Ready to soldier on, here's Gaius Varius, nicknamed "Monophthalmus", in the 140's BC.

From the First Punic War in mid-3rd century BC onwards Rome engaged in wars all over the Mediterranean and beyond. Varius is both veteran and product of these 'international' conflicts: He might have been recruited in the 170's, campaigning under Aemilius Paullus who eventually defeated the Macedonian king Perseus at Pydna, 168 BC. Therefore Varius decorated his shield with the term MACED(onicus), "he who has conquered Macedonia".
Most likely, just before Paullus could return to Italy, Varius joined the 'mutiny' of soldiers demanding a bigger share of booty - which the general calmed by unleashing his army on Epirus for free plunder. Of course, this might as well have been quite a deliberate action on Paullus' part, for he gained his men's lifelong support. In this respect, an incident which should become quite common in the decades to come.

Given the frequent Roman plunderings in the East, I originally had a genuinely Greek figure in mind. Maybe a thorakites, a Hellenistic armoured yet 'light' infantryman (sometimes quite arrogantly called an "imitation legionary", though it may well have been the other way around). However, I settled on a Roman model, because at least once I wanted to include the feather plumes, which Polybios, writing in the 2nd century BC, mentions as a distinctive Roman (rather: Italic) fashion. The Apulian design shown here is archaeologically well documented, and it provides a distinction from the certainly simpler patterns worn by ordinary soldiers. At least indicating a 'souvenir' from Hellas, I painted Varius' cloak à la mode of a Macedonian infantry officer, i.e. golden yellow bordered in purple.

Probably during the Macedonian campaign Varius also met Paullus's son Publius, roughly of the same age, who would soon afterwards be adopted into the Scipiones family. This P. Cornelius Scipio Aemilianus was to become not only patron of Polybios but an influential military and political leader, decisively battling Carthage and its former Iberian allies as well as the reforms of a certain Tiberius Gracchus. Hence the men following Scipio Africanus (called "the Younger" to distinguish him from the victor at Zama) got about quite a lot. And this demonstrates one of the biggest problems the army faced: Since it was still based on a militia system, ordinary citizens had to leave their homes for years and, in consequence, be economically supported by their leaders. In turn, this not only brought soldiers into dependance of their generals, even after a war had ended; it also made them almost professionals of war, literally unable to bear civilian life.
I intended to portray Varius as one of these restless wanderers: Covered in North African or Spanish dust, he's keeping his remaining eye on the enemy, the other one lost in just one of the other countless battles he's fought in (hence his Greek-ish nickname, "the one-eyed"). As a sign for his hard-boiled attitude, I chose the scorpion to be depicted on his shield. This symbol was later adopted by the Praetorian guard - originally soldiers like maybe Varius employed as a general's bodyguard.

Final notes on the model: Crusader Miniatures are known for their well-sculpted, easy to paint models. However, 'tis at the expense of detail and animation. So, for example, aside from its somewhat static and chunky appearance, this officer model has his sword on the wrong side. Reason: a centurion didn't take part in the constant exchange of front ranks (remember the opening scene of the first season of "Rome"?), so he could draw his sword just before first impact. His men, however, being locked in dense formation, would only draw when stepping into front line. To prevent their swords getting jammed between themselves and their shields, they simply had to wear it on their right.
Honestly, I'm not picky about that, just for the record. For other than that, it's a really nice model. The cloak took me some time to get it right, and the more I had to work up the courage to give the whole miniature a final drybrush. That said, I like the result, looks dull and dusty as it should. Hopefully you agree.

Anyway, sorry for the wall of text this time again. The later Roman Republic is a bit of a hobby-horse to me. But fear not, there's only one Republican left. Until next time…

Painted August 2011. Miniature by Crusader Miniatures.


Brummie said...

Nicely painted figure there.

This period of history is not somthing i'm into personally so the wall of text is quite informative and interesting to read.

Keep it up


The Angry Lurker said...

Great bit of info and history and an incredible figure, thanks.

Ray Rousell said...

A beautifully painted figure! love the shield, great info too.

Christopher(aka Axebreaker) said...

Another great looking miniature!


Inkub said...

Another great post and mini. Keep them coming please. Could You make some posts about signifiers maybe?

The Doc said...

This will become an amazing collection! Don't you dare let it go, when it's done! You'll be proud of these for years to come!

Giles said...

Wonderful painting, Sire G. V useful comments on the range, too.
Best wishes


Lt.Hazel said...

I love your centurions, this one isn´t an exception!

Sire Godefroy said...

Thank you a lot, gentlemen!

Inkub, my main interest are the centurion models themselves, in particular those for the 1st and 2nd century AD with a slight stretch into the preceding resp. following centuries. There's not so much that changed with standardbearers over time - at least nothing that we know of, or that is portrayed in miniature. Might be a bit boring to have just some fur-clad sidekicks for each centurion. Anyway, I'm open for suggestions.

Doc, as there's no actual (i.e. game-related) use for these miniatures, I painted them just for joy. So no real deal to sell them off, after I've portrayed them here. We'll see.


BigRedBat said...

Lovely painting! I love the subdued shiield colour and scorpions.



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