The final few decades of the Roman Republic were marked more by civil wars and slave revolts than by expansion of their territory. With the reforms of Marius in the last decade of the second century BCE the Roman Army became more of a professional body than a militia, and one that was increasingly loyal to its commanders rather than the state. The result was improved effectiveness against foreign enemies like the Celts, but also armies were increasingly prepared to fight other Romans, perhaps simply to further the ambitions of their commander if he had brought them glory and plunder. This increasing instability would eventually cause the collapse of the republic and the establishment of Octavian as de-facto sole ruler, effectively the first emperor of the new imperial Rome.
Strelets have already made a good many sets of republican Roman infantry, and this is, well, another one. The title really tells us nothing about what to expect in the box, but what we actually get is basically two poses. Both are of men standing in full armour - one carries his shield in his left hand, and one has his resting on the ground. Each of these poses is produced in four quite similar forms, producing a group of men all more or less doing the same thing but with the small variations you would expect of any natural group. No one is actually doing anything, so presumably these men are waiting, perhaps to march, or perhaps for battle as they are in full combat gear but have none of the baggage that caused them to be referred to as 'Marius's Mules'. This presented us with a problem, since our pose number score is meant to be a reflection of how the supplied number of poses matched the stated subject, but since there is no particular activity specified here, that figure becomes meaningless. Equally, the two poses are perfectly good in themselves, but you cannot say they are suitable for not for the title of the set!
Although the term 'republican' covers a long period of time, these men are all similarly dressed, with mail armour and helmets that do vary but are all more or less of the 'Montefortino' type. This suggests the period after it became the norm to centrally issue equipment to Rome’s soldiers, which probably included suits of mail, from perhaps the last quarter of the second century BCE, although mail like this had certainly been worn by those with sufficient wealth and status long before. The sword is held on the right hip and the dagger on the left; both supported by separate belts tied loosely so as to hang below the waist. The men wear tunics of course, and some have the leather strips at the shoulders and thighs called pteruges. All this is fine and accurate, but Strelets have repeated an error found in previous sets in that they have given most of their men the studded strips hanging over the groin as an apron. There is no published evidence for this item appearing during the Republic, so it is as incorrect in this set as it is in all those Strelets have produced before.
All the men carry a pilum (often two were actually carried when battle was imminent), and of course they each have a shield. This is oval and with a vertical rib and a reasonable design engraved on it, but to our eye looked rather too small. Polybios describes a shield of either 1.18 or 1.4 metres in length (modern sources disagree), and 74 cm wide, while one discovered in Egypt is somewhat larger than this. All these Strelets ones are 14 mm (1 metre) long and 9 mm (65 cm) in width, so are indeed a bit small as they only cover the body from the neck to the knee, although it is impossible to say that no shields of the period were of these dimensions.
Unless you are new to the hobby you will probably know what the Strelets style is, and it is here too. Fairly chunky figures with certain smaller and thinner items somewhat exaggerated, although these are better than much previous output. They certainly lack the elegance and beauty of the best figures on the market today, but they still have their fans and many will find them acceptable. There is a little flash and occasional rough edges, but nothing too terrible. The four figures in the second row all have separate shields, and while the pegs onto which these fit look crude and unpromising, thanks to the soft plastic the fit is actually rather good and firm, with the peg forming the boss of the shield once attached.
While we are not sure what the title of this set is supposed to mean, it seems like a reason to produce more republican Romans, and if either of these two basic poses are what you are looking for in a plastic army then this set delivers that very well. With above average quality from Strelets these simple figures may not be exciting but can quickly build a large body of troops waiting for the action to begin.