Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Praetorian Guards Century

I've begun my elite Praetorian Guards minis.  This is my first one; trying out different colors for the armor and tunic, etc.  Finally this pattern strikes me as a good balance of a Praetorian Guard soldier field uniform that maintains the allure of the palace Praetorian dress uniform.  Used Ancient Bronze Masters Series Paint for the breastplate, leg greaves and helmet accent. 

Still have some light paint touching up to do (e.g. the Pilum with P3's Beast Hide) and then I will gloss poly seal the mini for the follow-up Army Painter Dip "dipping" and then Litko basing (will probably base 2 minis each) then matte varnish to finish.
Of Note:  The initial purpose of the Praetorian Guards differed greatly from the later Guards, which came to be a vital force in the landscape of Rome.  While Emperor Augustus understood the need to have a protector force in the maelstrom of Rome, he was careful to uphold the Republican veneer of his regime.  Thus he allowed only nine Guards Cohorts to be formed, originally of 500, then increased to 1,000 men each, and only three were kept on duty at any given time inside the capital.  A small number of detached Praetorian cavalry units (called Turmae) of 30 men each were also organized.  The 3 Cohorts patrolled in the palace and around major buildings, while the others were stationed in the towns surrounding Rome.  This system was not radically changed with the appointment by Augustus in 2 BC of two Praetorian Prefects, Quintus Ostorius Scapula and Publius Salvius Aper, although the organization and command were vastly improved.

Later, through the machinations of an ambitious Praetorian Prefect, Lucius Aelius Sejanus, the remaining outlying Cohorts were brought into barracks closer to Rome itself.  In AD 23, Sejanus convinced Tiberius to have the Castra Praetoria (the fort of the Praetorians) built just outside of Rome.  Henceforth the entire force was at the disposal of the Emperors, but the rulers were now equally at the mercy of the Praetorians.  The reality of this was seen in AD 31 when Tiberius was forced to rely upon loyal Praetorian Cohorts against other Cohorts loyal to Perfect Sejanus.  Although the Emperor's loyal Praetorian Guards eventually proved out to the aging Tiberius, their potential political power and danger had been established (something Emperor Caligula would later discover to his peril in AD 41 when he was assassinated by the Praetorians).

While campaigning, the Praetorian Guard Cohorts were the equal of any formation in the Roman Army.  On the death of Emperor Augustus in AD 14, his successor Tiberius was faced with mutinies among both the Rhine and Pannonian Legions.  According to Tacitus, the Pannonian forces were dealt with by Tiberius' son Drusus, accompanied by two Praetorian Cohorts, the Praetorian cavalry and some of the German bodyguard.  The German mutiny was put down by Tiberius' stepson Germanicus, his intended heir, who then led the Legions and detachments of the Guards in an invasion of Germany over the next two years (and achieved revenge for the massacre of 3 Legions at the Battle of Teutoburg Forest).  The Guard was quite active circa AD 69; they fought well at the first Battle of Bedriacum for Otho.  Under Emperors Domitian and Trajan, the Praetorian Guard Cohorts took part in wars from Dacia to Mesopotamia, while with Emperor Marcus Aurelius, years were spent fighting on the Danubian frontier.  Throughout the 3rd century, the Praetorian Cohorts assisted the Emperors in various campaigns.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Batavian Auxilia Infantry Century Started!

I've started on my Batavian Infantry Auxilia Centuries (I plan on creating only 2 Centuries at the moment, a Batavian and a Tungrian... that may grow later).  I'm using Aventine's EIR30, 31 and 32 (& UD47) packages of auxiliary soldiers in scale and mail armor with Robinson type "C" helmets to build out each Century.  I plan on using two variations of LBMS oval shield transfers to differentiate between the 2 units.  The minis come with a light spear and an oval auxiliary Scuta, called a Clipeus.  
I've almost finished the painting here... I think I will bronze the helmets with P3's Brass Balls as that is more appropriate for Auxilia helmets.  Next I will gloss varnish and then comes the "dipping" and finally basing and matte varnishing.  I think these units do a great job of representing Roman Auxiliary units. 
Of Note:  Emperor Augustus re-organized Rome's Auxilia infantry units into Cohorts of roughly 500 men.  These were under the overall command of a Tribune, and were divided into six Centuries, each commanded by a Centurion (like their Legion counterparts) and often operated independently in regions of lesser importance to the Empire.  

The Roman Auxiliary came in many types.  For example, the Balearic slingers, and the archers and spearmen of Numidia, Crete, and Syria are best known for the roles they played in Julius Caesar's Gallic conquest and the Pompey Civil War.  However, the most common form of Auxilia infantry were the common "Bracati" soldiers; named for the bracae trousers they wore underneath their tunics.  The average infantryman of an Auxilia Cohort was armed similarly, if not identically, to a Roman Legionary.  Each carried a Clipeus - a flat oval shield (Scuta), which was indeed suited to quicker movement, but was nonetheless almost as heavy as a Legionary rectangle Scutum.  He also learned to march and fight under the weight of a chain-mail or scale-mail tunic and a helmet.  An auxiliary infantryman was armed with a Gladius thrusting sword and a Pugio dagger the same as a Legionary; and they variously carried one of several Hastae (thrusting spears), Pila (heavy javelins), or Lancae (light javelins) for primary weapons.

There is much evidence starting in the 1st Century AD, that the Batavian Auxiliary Cohorts were every bit as effective as soldiers as their higher-ranking and supposedly better-trained rivals in the Legions.  Auxiliaries, both cavalry and infantry, saw hard fighting during the British wars that were waged on and off between the 40's and the 80's AD, as well as during the Year of Four Emperors, 69-70.

Roman Historian Tacitus, tells us of several Auxiliary Cohorts that became among the most elite and decorated units in the entire Roman Army.  These included the Batavian Cohorts, recruited from amongst the Germanic Batavi, and the Tungrians, who were part of the Gaulish Celts.  
The Batavian people (one of Rome's earliest allies... in the area of what today is the Netherlands) were entirely exempt from paying Roman taxes, but they were expected to send all of their able-bodied young men off to serve in the Roman Auxilia.

A Batavian Revolt occurred in 69-70 AD, and it was put down only after hard fighting. The Batavians proved their combat powers by managing to defeat veteran Legionaries in battle; in fact they destroyed two Roman Legions completely before a massive Roman field army under General Quintus Petillius Cerialis crushed them
.  Like the Legionaries, they marched forward in-line, throwing one or more volleys of javelins and then letting out a ferocious war-cry before charging at very close range into their enemy, knocking them backwards with their shields and thrusting swords into their mouths, throats, hearts, bellies, and groins.

The Batavians combined the fierce spirit of the barbarian warrior with the superior training and equipment of a skilled Roman Legionary.  Tacitus records that both the Batavi and Tungri fought with amazing courage and skill at the Battle of Mons Graupius in 83 AD and defeated a much larger Caledonian force
.  They used proper Roman Legion technique with their swords and shields, revealing that they had been trained as thoroughly as their Legionary comrades.

Not only were the Auxiliaries capable of fighting like Legionaries; sometimes they were even given the place of honor in the battle-line in place of the Legionaries. At Idistaviso (16 AD), Vetera (70 AD), and Mons Graupius (83 AD) the Auxiliary Cohorts formed the vanguard of the Roman field army.  Undoubtedly this was, at least to a point, due to the fact that as non-citizens and often as "barbarians", the Auxilia Cohorts were of less value to Roman generals than the Legions.  But more importantly it attests to the fact that Roman Auxilia were well-trained, well-armed, and expected to have the guts to stand up to the front rank of an enemy force--not just fill the secondary roles that some authors have confined them to.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Aquilifer In Progress

Painting on the VIII Legion's Aquilifer and the Legion's gods and awards Vexillifer is underway.  A base of P3 Monoth Base with a few washes of P3 Bloodtracker was applied to the lion pelt so far. 

Of Note: Consul Marius, as part of his reforms, established the Eagle or Aquila as the sole symbol of a Roman Legion (c. 106 BC).  For a Legion, the Aquilifer bore the highly coveted Aquila-Eagle, while the Imaginifer carried the Image of the Emperor.  Each Century and Cohort unit would have a Signifer to carry its Signum Standard and a Vexillarius to bear the unit's Vexillum banner.   These standard bearers wore mail (Hamata) armor instead of Lorica Segmentata plate armor and generally are depicted wearing the pelts of wolves, bears, and in the case of a Legion, a lion, over their helmets and armor.  This was a demonstration of the dominance of Rome over the forces of nature.  They generally carried a round Parma style shield in deference to the usual rectangular Scutum.  In the Castra (garrison or fort) unit encampment, the standards of the Legion and its Cohorts were housed in the Shrine or Treasury portion of the Principia (headquarters) building; where they were guarded day and night.

Various Minis Underway


Lots of different stages on some minis.  A Centurion in progress; as well as the Cohort's Roman gods and Legion's award Signum Signifer (w/bear pelt... a lion pelt is generally worn only by the Aquilifer, Signifer or Vexillarius of the Legion.  Bear and wolf pelts were worn by the standard bearers of Century and Cohort units), a Lictor, a Vexillarius standard bearer (w/SPQR Vexillum "flag") wearing a Sagum (cloak)a cavalry soldier in early painting stages, and an almost completed cavalry soldier base.
Basing a 4 Pilum soldier arrangement on a 30mmx60mm Litko rectangle base.

Of Note:  A typical soldier of the Roman army was outfitted with a Pilum (a javelin that would either kill/wound or bend upon impact with a shield as intended so it was rendered useless for an enemy to throw it back).  A Gladius; a short double edged sword for cutting and stabbing.  A Pugio; a short dagger with a wide and flat blade.  A Galea; an iron or brass helmet of which the design varied greatly across the Legions (my post Augustus period Cohort wears the "H" variant).  Lorica Segmenta, Hamata or Squamata; armor (segmented plate, mail or scale depending on the unit and time period).  A Scutum; a large, mostly rectangular shield made of layered wood with a metal boss in the middle for hand protection and offensive use.  Approximate shapes and color schemes varied across the Legions and over time.

One of the principles of the Marian reforms was that a soldier was expected to carry his personal equipment with him when marching, thus reducing the size of the baggage train of the Legion while also decreasing it's transit time between locations. As such, each marching soldier also carried a Sarcina pack, containing generally brass cooking and eating utensils, a water skin, 14 days rations, his Sagum (cloak) and a further satchel for carrying personal effects.  This would be carried via a T or Y shaped wooden yoke and the shield would be attached over their backs.

My Work Area

A few pictures of my work area.  I normally have several minis going at the same time.  I like this method in order to allow for each layer of paint to dry on the various men I have going.
Of Note:  About my selected enemy there is some easy confusion between the Gallic Celts (i.e. Gauls) of Western Europe and the Gaels (also known as Celtic peoples) of Briton Isle... Gallia/Gallic (Gaul) is the ancient Latin word for Western Europe and the Celtic peoples who occupied most of Western Europe (primarily the area that is Belgium, Normandy region and France today).  Gaels (Goidelic Celts) is an early Briton word which roughly means "Savages" and refers to most of the Celts of the Briton Isle.  But there are many similarities between all Celts; Gallic (Gauls) and Gaels, the differences were mainly language and some customs.

Interestingly, the Romans called all the unconquered (and conquered) peoples/tribes of Europe, "Celts."  The word "Celt" meant "Stranger" in Latin.  Even people of northern Italy were called Celtic during the early stages of the Roman Republic; i.e. Milan is originally a Celtic name.  It is very hard to know exactly where any of these ancient groups came from, but the word "Celt" orginially came from the Greek word "Keltoi" meaning Barbarian and they as well as the Romans, put this name on anybody that was uncivilized and living outside of the Empire... so the name "Celt" was placed onto a lot of different groups/tribes of people.  In Irish, Gaelic is interchangeable with Celtic/Celt.  Hence the easy confusion between the different peoples called Gallic and Gaelic, the former refers to Western Europe and the latter refers to those of the Briton Isle.

Legate Painting

Painting the VIII Legion Legate is underway.  I really like this figure; working on the two-toned helmet using P3's Brass Balls and Quick Silver.  The breastplate and a greaves are Quick Silver also.  He wears a leather tunic under his breastplate and a white tunic of the nobility.
The board-strip of the upper class is started on Legate Felix's cloak.  I'll finish the white (base is P3 Monoth Base and then P3 Monoth White Highlight) on the cloak once the purple stripe  (P3 Beaten Purple) is good.

Of Note:  A Legate was an Imperial appointment to the Roman Army from the highest ranking Patrician (noble) classes.  Some Legates became great and famous military men (such as Vespasian who led the 2nd Augusta in Britain), while others were politicians with little military experience.  To assist the Legion's Legate commander, 6 Tribunes were assigned from the higher classes Citizens and these could or could not be men of good military experience (young nobleman seeking a seat in the Senate for example would serve as Tribunes for a period of 2 years).  These Tribunes would rotate duties such as Cohort command and as staff functionaries.  The true military knowledge and experience of the Legions of course lay with the Centurions, 60 in number and of varying rank.

1st Century, 2nd Cohort Forming Up!

The 1st Century, 2nd Cohort starts to take shape.  To the side is Centurion Titus Pullus and his junior officer Cornicen.  In the back is the Optio and the Signifer.  I am basing 4 minis per Litko 30mmx60mm square base.  This allows the Shield Wall to form and look more appropriate in my opinion (vice the way it oddly looked with individual 30mm plastic round bases).
I finished my battlefield area.  I used 3/4" MDF boards cut and sanded and primed with flat black.  Topped them with Loctite spray adhesive and then Woodland Scenic's new vinyl-backed Spring Grass mat that I placed down and cut.  I really like the look of grass mat.  The wheat field is a cut outdoor doormat.  The wheat field also helps me with making sure no minis fall backward as that is the stairwell directly down behind the area.  The area should be large enough to hold the entire 2nd Cohort w/cavalry and auxiliaries; roughly 500 minis.  Then opposing them is a Gallic Celts force from Warlord games that is on the way via UPS mail.  Not sure what the eventual size of the enemy will be, but it will be huge I hope as I want the 2nd Cohort to be in dire straights.

Of Note:  During the post-Augustus Roman Empire period that I am modeling, the estimated overall strength of the SPQR was around 175,000-190,000 soldiers; organized into around 25-28 Legions.  The Legions themselves contained around 5,200-5,400 troops, plus an equal number in auxiliaries.  Each Legion had 10 cohorts, 9 of which were made up of 480-550 men and one made up of about 800.  When in battle, the Legions would be separated into their Cohorts.  Four of the Cohorts would typically line up on the battle line and lead the fight.  The other six would follow behind the first four as reserves (hence why "greener" soldiers where placed in the higher numbered Cohorts).  If cavalry is involved, they would be most often placed on the sides of the main Cohorts.  

The initial formation of soldiers was dictated by the enemy’s formation, the terrain of the battlefield, and the quality of the troops of each Legion.  To soften up the enemy before the main infantry clashed, the soldiers would throw a Pilum volley (or 2) on command.  On occasion, a Legion would have Ballista, or a piece of field artillery that threw large arrows.  To instill fear into their enemy, the soldiers of a legion would march onto an enemy completely silent until they were close enough to attack.  At that point, the entire army would utter a loud battle cry to frighten their enemy.

Later as the Empire grew, Legions would oftentimes split into smaller operational detachments, called Vexillations (named that because of the unit flag they carried), that would conduct semi-autonomous activities.  These units of men were constantly battle ready and trained to fight in their surrounding climate; becoming very familiar with the enemy in the area and alert to threats.


The leadership team of the cavalry detached to the 2nd Cohort is leading the charge into the mass of the Celtic enemy.  The Tribune has his Spatha (cavalry sword) raised with the bearer of the 8th Legion vexillum standard and a Decurion holding the unit's Signum standard following right behind.  They are based on a Litko rectangle 40mmx60mm base.  Two additional horseman are behind (one still needs to be matte varnished as the base flock and grass was just applied).  These are based individually on Litko 40mmx30mm rectangle bases (3mm micro-plywood).

Of Note: Cavalry in the early Roman Republic remained the preserve of the wealthy land class known as the Equites—men who could afford the expense of maintaining a horse in addition to arms and armor heavier than those of the common legions.  As the class grew to be more of a social elite instead of a functional property-based military grouping, the Romans began to recruit foreign auxiliary cavalry from among Gauls, Iberians and Numidians.  Julius Caesar himself was known for his admiration of his escort of Germanic mixed cavalry, giving rise to the Cohortae Equitates.  Early emperors often maintained a unit of Batavian German cavalry as their bodyguards.

For the most part, Roman cavalry during the Republic functioned as an adjunct to the Legionary infantry and formed only one-fifth of the force.  This does not mean that its utility could be underestimated, though, as its strategic role in scouting, skirmishing, courier, and outpost duties was crucial to the Romans' capability to conduct operations over long distances in hostile or unfamiliar territory.  In some occasions it also proved its ability to strike a decisive tactical blow against a weakened or unprepared enemy, such as the final charge at the Battle of Aquilonia.

After defeats such as the Battle of Carrhae, the Romans learned the importance of large cavalry formations from the Parthians.  They would begin to substantially increase both the numbers and the training standards of the cavalry in their employ, just as nearly a thousand years earlier the first Iranians to reach the Iranian Plateau forced the Assyrians to a similar reform.  Nonetheless, they would continue to rely mainly on their heavy infantry supported by auxiliary cavalry..

Re-basing Underway

The Litko bases arrived. Here is my 1st Century, 2nd Cohort Centurion being re-based.  It is on a 3mm micro-plywood 30mm square base.  I am applying the Smart Wall patching plaster.

White PVA by Woodland Scenics glue is brush applied.  Next the super fine grit will be added and the excess tapped off.  Then tuffs of grass and static grass is applied.  

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Great Cinema!

One of the great cinematic scenes from the outstanding movie Gladiator. To replicate this scene, as an advancing Century of the 2nd Cohort, I am using Aventine's EIR0005 packet of 4 Pilum arm attached-separately men.
I am prep'ing them with my normal large hobby sticks and Loctite Fun Tack.  Next I will prime them with P3's Black Primer.
This is a photo from the Aventine store website.  Primed in grey.  
They have Imperial Italic "H" style helmets: the "Niedermörmter helmet, classified by Robinson as Imperial Italic H, is one of the best-preserved Roman Imperial helmets to have survived from antiquity. Made of bronze and has a neck guard which is far deeper than usual. The cross bracing across the skull is actually embossed, rather than applied, and there is a rather unusual dome-shaped knob where the braces meet at the crown of the head."

Painting underway

Painting some of the cavalry minis and my General, as well as a few others.  A good example of how I have several minis underway at the same time.  I tend to attach the shields last in the process.  Then apply the LBMS transfers.

Throw Pilums!

Here is 4 packs of soldiers throwing their Pilums being prepared for priming.  These are Aventine pack EIR007.