When a Roman army went on the march the cavalry scouted up ahead to ensure the way was clear and thus avoid ambushes. It also gathered information on enemy activities and looked for suitable supplies of water and places to set camp. Cavalry could also operate in small units, basically fulfilling a police role, but whatever the situation they were an important part of Rome’s military machine, and one that has received little attention compared to the more important infantry.
Figures in anything other than battle poses are still something of a novelty in this hobby, so this is a particularly interesting and unusual set. Most of the men are apparently just riding holding their spear, which is just what you might expect. The man taking a swig from his canteen is a particularly nice piece, although the man with his spear pointed down is probably there more for variety than anything else. On the bottom row, the first figure is perhaps meant to be a junior officer, although there are no signs of this in the costume. Next is an officer, who appears to be trying to draw his sword. He is doing so in the correct manner, but seems to be making quite a mess of it as his sword belt has lifted, meaning that although his hand is already at his ear his sword has barely started to escape the scabbard! Whether this piece of humour was intentional we do not know, but we approve if it is, and doubtless the troopers will raise a smile at their officer’s clumsiness too. The Carnyx or war horn being used by the next man perhaps betrays the ethnic origin of these auxilia, while the draco standard of the last was increasingly common in the Roman cavalry, but only from the second century. On the whole then some very nice poses.
The horse poses too are nice in that they are all realistic and properly harnessed, but the first in the fifth row is not appropriate for troops on the march as it appears to be at full gallop. Of course there might be moments when horsemen needed to be somewhere rapidly, but in the main it is walking poses that are needed for a march.
As auxilia these men are correctly dressed, with mail armour and a fairly simple helmet. The helmets include pieces to cover the ears, which is correct, but they have a neck protector which protrudes too much for cavalry and more closely resembles that of the infantry, which is unlikely. Also there is no sign of the tunic that would usually appear under the bottom of the mail. The officer has a more elaborate helmet with a crest, which is reasonable, but his armour is unclear.
Most of the men carry a spear, which was their main weapon, although some with a supply of javelins would have been welcome too. All have the auxilia flat oval shield, which is correct, and in a few cases this is being held (those figures on the top row). For everyone else there is a peg on the back for the shield (as there is for most of those holding the shield – a useful choice for the customer). However the shield was not usually carried this way. The usual method was to attach it to the saddle, behind and below the rider. Indeed many of the figures lack the second strap across the chest that would hold the shield, so purists will want to trim off the peg on the back and somehow attach the shield to the horse.
The style of sculpting of these figures is the usual Strelets fashion, with some chunky features and less than elegant proportions. The detail is fair but apart from the missing shield straps the drinking man is missing one cheek piece on his helmet. All the shields fit well onto the pegs on the figures, and there are no separate weapons. Apart from a slight ridge round the mould seam there is no flash. The men fit their horses very well, so this is an easy set to put together.
An interesting set and nice to see a bit of humour, but details such as the positioning of the shields could have been done better.