Gladiators were something of a paradox. The majority were slaves, forced to fight for the entertainment of the public, and generally shunned as being at the very bottom of the social ladder. Yet they were also widely admired and even adored, with in some cases large fan bases who followed their careers and supported their heroes. Leaving aside events such as the revolt by Spartacus they are a non-military subject, yet their enduring fascination means they have been produced in 1/72 scale plastic on several occasions before the release of this set, although with rather mixed results.
The sets produced by Atlantic and Orion have serious problems with accuracy, but that by Italeri is a fine product yet falls well short of covering this complex subject in the depth it deserves. Pegasus say this set is designed to complement the Italeri set, as well as provide a good range of figures in its own right, and from the pictures above it can be seen that a lot of effort has been put into this set. 18 poses is certainly very generous, and it allows an impressive array of styles, armament and actions to be included. The first thing that strikes you about these poses is that they are absolutely full of life, with almost everyone slashing, thrusting or otherwise engaged in their chosen or enforced profession. The impression of life is greatly enhanced by the way so many are leaning in to their task, with bodies twisted in the effort. Several of the poses are intended to form a pair. The first man in the second row has just thrown his net over the second, and is presumably pulling him in to use his trident. The first pair in the bottom row is of a man holding a knife to the throat of his defeated opponent, and is quite superb, but we liked all the poses very much.
While there are no animals or chariots in this set (Italeri already provides those), Pegasus have included some more unusual elements of gladiatorial combat. Female gladiators were certainly to be seen on occasion, and two such figures are in this set. Game sponsors (commonly the Emperor) would also introduce more exotic variations, as for example when Domitian laid on contests between woman and dwarves, so this set also has two dwarves. When a set has a healthy number of poses some can be safely set aside for these unusual subjects without failing the most common form of gladiator, which adds to the interest and therefore enhances this collection.
Gladiators fell into various categories and sub-categories, each having their own particular characteristics. The purpose was to provide even matches between very different opponents, resulting in a long and interesting fight that the audience could enjoy. The figures in this set cover all the major gladiator types, with all the correct clothing and equipment as far as they are understood by us today. Naturally as part sport part theatre it would be very hard to suggest any deviation was inaccurate, but these are all well done and perfectly reasonable.
Those that have bought Pegasus figure sets before will not be surprised to learn that all those great poses come at a price – most require some assembly. While in some cases this is no more than adding the shield, in others this means one or more separate arms or even a leg, while the pair in the bottom row is predictably the most complex. The result is great as we have said, and all these parts fit together very well, on occasion without the need for gluing. One drawback however is there are no instructions or helpful diagrams, but for the most part all the bits that belong together are adjacent to each other on the sprue, and you can always use our pictures to guide you. Naturally this also means there is some scope for adjustment or more serious conversion if you are so inclined.
These models are beautifully sculpted and beautifully engineered. All the proportions are perfect and the considerable amount of human flesh is very well done, while clothing and equipment are equally good. Flash is virtually non-existent, and while some older hands may find some of the smaller parts fiddly to handle it does mean there is no trace of any excess plastic to remove. One big omission, however, is that there are no bases. To be completely accurate there are two identical ones, large enough for a couple of figures and with some holes drilled, though how these are intended to be used we do not know. Still as pieces of sculpting the figures are all excellent.
This is a great set – we loved it as you can probably tell – and it does indeed seem to complement the Italeri set nicely. It does not duplicate any of the peripheral Italeri elements, and it concentrates on action and combat in a way Italeri did not. The size and style is much the same, as is the plastic colour, so apart from the lack of bases these mix perfectly. By focusing on the combat we would rate this as the better product however, and these often spectacular and beautiful figures, many of whom are clearly inspired by the Osprey book, finally depict this fascinating yet terrible subject in the kind of depth it requires.