Thursday, September 01, 2011

Centurionum Vol. IX: A Turning Point


Closing the final gap, you might have guessed what's left. Once more choosing a 'regional' theme I went for THE event of the Roman period in Germany - at least by German measures. And coincidentally, the idea for this series started with this model: Lucius Caedicius, primipilaris of Legio XVII, c. 9 AD.


This figure is involved in quite a few stories, so better prepare yourself! First off, its particular background is (as indicated by the date) the famous battle of Saltus Teutoburgensis. I don't want to go into too much detail, since there's so much debate of where and how this battle ensued and what its actual impact on Roman politics was - the more after the great anniversary in 2009. Only to give you an idea: Somehow three Roman legions got lost in the about-to-be province of Germania Magna, i.e. the territories between the rivers Rhine and Elbe. Roman tradition has it that they were ambushed and destroyed by a native war host under command of a supposed ally to Rome, the Germanic prince Arminius. Since this Arminius had been also in charge of auxiliary troops, it's been discussed lately, if the whole affair in fact was some kind of military revolt. The erasure of three legions could therefore have been a sanction ex post. Whatever the truth, quite a few members of the lost legions seem to have made it back to the Rhine frontier, and there's mention of a certain Caedicius being responsible for the successful escape.


Caedicius' name is conveyed by the ancient authors Velleius Paterculus (cf. II, 120.4) and Frontinus (cf. Strategemata III, 15.4 and IV, 7.8). Both tell the story of a Roman camp besieged by Germanic warriors in the aftermath of the Teutoburg battle. Only by cunning the praefectus castrorum (commander of the camp), Caedicius, manages to hold the attackers at bay and finally withdraw his troops in good order. His post was the highest rank achievable for ordinary centurions, after they had performed the tasks of a primus pilus for one year. Derived from the first centurion of the first centuria of triarii - the veterans, also called pilani, hence the centurion's (untranslatable) appellation - the primus pilus could be a seasoned warrior, but also a member of Roman upper class stepping in at an 'appropriate' rank. Some known Caedicii were of noble birth, and it might well be, that Lucius is just a fictional character emulating one of their ancestors' deeds. Thus, if Caedicius ever existed, his assignement to a particular legion is unknown. I chose the Nineteenth simply because, unlike the lost legions XVIII and XIX, there's no member of it known by name.

The Anreppen site
The fortified camp that Caedicius defended seems to have been the famous, yet undiscovered Aliso fort. There are at least as many places identified as Aliso as there are sites linked to the Teutoburg battle. (You might recognise that I'm not convinced by Kalkriese being the real deal here.) Recently I visited two of them near the city of Paderborn. The first one is the Roman fort of Anreppen, which has been partially excavated and quite recently 'restored'. Nothing to get crazy about, just indications of former roads, entrances and ditches with some information tables, but you get the impression. Anreppen was build c. 4 AD near the Lippe river as a depot to supply troops operating to the East. Its commander's house was an impressive villa, maybe housing a leader of Imperial rank (Tiberius is a likely candidate). Also quite remarkable are the huge granaries, which could be featured in Frontinus' description.

The lovely Weser Renaissance castle of Neuhaus
A less likely candidate is the peninsular of Neuhaus at the confluence of the rivers Lippe, Pader and Alme. The latter perhaps gave its ancient Saxon name "Ilasan" to the nearby village of Elsen. Both sound quite similar to Dio Cassius' "Elison", a feeder of the Lippe, mostly connected with the location of Aliso (cf. LIV, 33.4). However, that's the only evidence, since there've been found no Roman remains yet. Maybe the remnants became the base for the Medieval bishops' rectangular castle, after the latter had been thrown out of the city of Paderborn. Again, that's speculation and rather unlikely - but still interesting.


Enough of that, some words on the figure itself: Colour choice this time was given, since with the last figure I wanted to honour my first reenactment group, the Cohors IIII Vindelicorum. Sadly, due to a lack of time, I'm not able anymore to join them on a regular base. Of course, they're auxiliaries, however, I found the colour combination adequately striking to ascribe it to a primipilaris. Caedicius is mainly unharmed by the elements, for I wanted to capture the moment - as described by Dio Cassius (cf. LVI, 19-22) - when the legions' marching column was first ambushed. The legionaries, bogged down in marshy ground, might have had almost no chance to pull off their shield covers before the Germanic warriors were upon them. Just so Caedicius has dismounted (like most officers he would travel by horse) and, grabbing a shield and waving his spear as an improvised standard, cheers up his men to form ranks. His equipment follows the later Augustan period's fashion:  A corselet sporting his medals is featured on the cenotaph of Marcus Caelius, another known victim of the bellum Varianum (war of Varus, the provincial governor, who committed suicide during the battle); the Weisenau helmet derived from Gallic designs used by Caesarian soldiers; and the smaller rectangular shield had just begun to replace the older oval version.
First and foremost, this, however, is the centurion at the very peak of the Roman Empire. Here the classic image was born, but it prevailed only for a very short time, maybe the next 50 to 80 years.


And there we are, that's the final posting on this series.
Let me thank you for your comments and encouragement, seriously it kept me motivated all the way. Of course, this project has been by no means an unbearable effort - but still I'm a bit proud to draw it to an end in reasonable time.

That said, you never know, perhaps there will be something to add. I've already an addendum in mind, and one could think of other Roman officers worth a depiction. So, stay tuned!

Painted somewhen 2010. Miniature & alternative shield by Warlord Games.

9 comments:

Christopher(aka Axebreaker) said...

Looks fantastic and really like the colour choice from your re-enactment group! Spear/staff looks really great!

Christopher

Ray Rousell said...

Love the figure, the spear, the shield and the cloak!!!

Giles said...

Outstanding work, Sire G. Painting and basing thoroughly excellent, as always.

Best wishes

Giles

Brummie said...

Excellent work again very smooth paint job! Background is quite interesting History is always written by the victor!

BigRedBat said...

Another lovely bit of painting!

The Doc said...

A late comment, but full of admiration nonetheless! :) Beautiful work. The shield is once more beautiful, but it's the spear that really catches my eye! Maybe even more because I wasn't expecting such a vividly coloured spear/staff.

Beautiful little collection and great way of presenting it. Thank you for all the history accompanying your masterpieces.

Dalauppror said...

Very nice mini! Realy like the Blue/White on the staff, makes it realy stand out.

Best regards Dalauppror

Tank Girl said...

What a lovely painted miniature. Thank you for your insight in the history of this Centurionum.

Cheers,

Helen

Breazer said...

I know this is a very old post and that there is a slim chance you actually read this but I really like the roman model you painted here. I hope you come back one day to this blog and start updating it again. I added you to my readers list for that very reason because this is cool stuff. ;)

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