Sunday, August 28, 2011

Centurionum Vol. VIII: Pride & Progress

A lot of inspiration for this series was drawn from the work of well-known Peter Connolly. Actually, lasting interest in the Roman period (and thereby the Roman military) was founded by his two-volume illustrated biography of Tiberius Claudius Maximus, whose career is documented by an inscription on his tombstone. Most famously, in 106 AD Maximus presented the severed head of the Dacian king Decebalus to Emperor Trajan. Connolly's first book gives an account of Maximus' humble beginnings, from recruitment and legionary training to his first battle. The latter's a clash near Tapae during Emperor Domitian's Dacian war in 88 AD, and this climax is illustrated with a striking picture:

The accompanying text is no less gruesome (especially, with the intended younger audience in mind!), with the centurion cheering on his men and reminding them how to kill an enemy efficiently. "Go for the belly!" is his blunt advice. And, embarrassingly but as with so many male kids, it prompted my imagination and piqued my eventually deeper interest. Therefore I just had to honour this image within my centurion series. Dedicated to this, here's Lucius Aconius Statura, centurion of legio VII Claudia Pia Fidelis, c. 100 AD.

Since most centurion models seem to wear some kind of advanced armour, i.e. coats of mail or scale, I had to improvise a bit. Obviously, Connolly's centurion is clad in segmented armour, and he's also sporting a distinctive kind of vambraces, the so-called manica. The author explains the latter as additional protection prompted by the Dacian's use of two-handed, shield-piercing swords, the falces. But seemingly manicae were in use before and after the Dacian wars. There are nowadays a few suitable models, however, I always had a soft spot for Foundry's Early Imperial Romans. Added to that, one miniature from a legionaries' pack is taking a lunge forward, (coincidentally?) similar to the centurion's pose in Connolly's painting. Granted, the sword is worn wrongly on the right (discussion here), and there are countless centurion models dedicated to this particular period - however, I just wanted my own special version to be as true to the original as possible.

Unfortunately, Connolly's centurion stays nameless throughout the book. Hence I searched for a fitting proxy, and I found another fascinating inscription providing details of a centurion's career in the late 1st to early 2nd century AD. Maybe Statura joined the army already at a higher rank, at least there's no account of posts before the centurionate. Participating in Domitian's Germanic war (83 AD), then a campaign against Sarmatia (92-93 AD) and finally in Trajan's Dacian wars (101-106 AD), Statura was decorated several times with medals and earned the corona vallaris (a crown, rewarded for being the first to enter an enemy's camp). Also, upon his leave emperor Trajan granted him admission to the ordo equester, the Roman knightly class. Statura settled in Italy and became head of priesthood in his new hometown. Quite an achievement, showing the military as a valuable career option for 'civilian afterlife'.

Of course, there is a slight stretch in two aspects:
First, the Dacian war of 88 AD isn't part of the listing. However, as with so many Roman inscriptions, there could always be deliberate or unconscious omissions or simply a lack of "modern reasoning". For example, Statura might have left out campaigns where he didn't excel in particular. Or Trajan's wars in Dacia should be seen as the decisive ones - especially if previous efforts had been undertaken by the never-to-mention-again Domitian!
Second, four legions are given as stations of Statura's career: legio XI Claudia Pia Fidelis, legio IIII Flavia Felix, legio V Macedonica, legio VII Claudia Pia Fidelis. The latter one being the home unit of aforementioned Tiberius Claudius Maximus. Looking at the different units' itineraries, Statura's list of posts could have been in progressive order, for only 11th legion took part in the campaign of 83 AD, the other ones being on guard duty on the Dacian-Sarmatian border for the most part. Hence, the 7th legion would probably be Statura's last post, and he wouldn't have been able to act as Maximus' trainer. In any case, they both shared service in the same legion (the 7th) and in the same theatre (Trajan's Dacian wars). That's as close as I could get.

Besides these somewhat personal preferences, this model should be included here for it shows the Roman army once more in a state of transition. Traditionally, the early 2nd century is seen as the peak of Roman power. In fact, there were quite a few drawbacks the Romans still had to cope with. For example, even if not the nowadays famous "Ninth Legion", most likely the legio XXI Rapax got annihilated in 92 AD by so-called barbarians - actually Sarmatians about to ally with Dacia. Of course, the Roman Empire stroke back each and every time, but they weren't as unchallenged as one might assume - or as those among us (EIR-reenactors in particular), who seem to identify themselves more readily with invincible armies and the heyday of empires, would like to think. However, Rome had to react to those challenges, and she did. So there is progress and change in the Roman army as well, with soldiers adapting themselves to enemy tactics and weaponry, even specialising in certain styles of fighting. Inter alia, that's where 3rd century super-heavy infantry or, in contrast, the lanciarii (skirmishing regulars) came from.

PS: Now I've written my 70th post (with a few more concepts not yet ready). With the blog's 3rd anniversary approaching, I just wanted to give it a short mention. Many thanks to all for your continuous and ever-growing support!

Painted August 2011. Miniature by Wargames Foundry, plastic crest from Wargames Factory.


BigRedBat said...

Rather lovely painting; I especially like the face, and the shield. And the dust on the tunic is nicely done. Did you sculpt the manica?


Christopher(aka Axebreaker) said...

Lovely painting and great weathering!


Sire Godefroy said...

Thanks, gents. :)

Just an addendum beforehand: Connolly shows his centurion wearing a black beard, so I painted it in. However, the actual model has a somewhat "cute" face that didn't take it well. Therefore, the effect might not be too convincing.

BRB, the model comes with a manica on. As I suggested, this particular part of the range seems to be inspired by Connolly's work.


PS: Someone pointed out to me that I mixed up manufacturers. Unfortunately the comment got lost somehow (sorry!), but the tag's corrected, anyway: As already mentioned in the running text, the figure is a Wargames Foundry one, of course.

Brummie said...

Very nice work i like the shield and the weathering done on the miniature clothing as well

Top work keep it up

The Doc said...

Ha! I saw this post when this fella was still Wargames Factory! :) I was pleasantly astonished by that information... But now it's all back to normal! :)

Great work once more, Mr. T! :) I like the weathering as well very much! :) Really great addition to your collection.

Mikeland said...

Fantastic Painting there! I have been following your centurions for some time and they look great!. Please post them all side by side in chronological order when you are done!


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