The first and early second centuries CE were something of a high point for the Roman Empire, and this period also saw the emergence of the 'classic' appearance of the Roman soldier. Sources such as Trajan's Column provide a detailed and vivid picture of the Imperial armies that fought to protect and extend the Empire.
During these years the Loricae Segmentata of linked iron plates appeared and became the main garb of the legionnaire. However not all legions seem to have been so equipped, and some retained the Loricae Hamata or mail, particularly those in the East. It also appears that the army was not as uniformly equipped and clothed as the official representations would have us believe, so men wearing both types may have served within the same legion. The figures in this set wear a mixture of these two styles, so they cover all the possibilities. In addition, one figure (bottom row, second from right) wears scale mail, an earlier form of mail which would not have been the norm at this time, but could still have been seen on occasions. They also wear the helmet of classic imperial design, with the extra reinforcements and wide neck guard. All imperial gallic and italic helmets were made to take a crest, and all these figures have been supplied with a full crest of possibly the most common type. However it seems the crest was often not worn in the field, so these can be easily removed if desired.
The equipment is the usual gladius and pilum plus the scutum (shield). This last is square-edged and semi-cylindrical, which again is seen as the classic shape but actually only saw service during this period. All the shields are separate, and fit on to pegs on the figure's hand. The peg passes through a hole in the shield, forming the boss on the outside and makes for a very secure fit. As we have said before, in our view this is by far the best way to attach shields, and it is pleasing to see it done here. One of the figures has two pegs so his shield can be held one of two ways - a thoughtful extra. Apart from the central boss the shields are not detailed, for which serious modellers will be very grateful. The patterns on Roman shields varied, and it is a pleasant change to have complete control over what design is used. It is also more realistic as all designs were painted on rather than being a raised surface.
We were not particularly enthusiastic about the poses for these men. To begin with they are all in profile, which is obviously necessary to allow the crest to be moulded, but makes for a much less natural-looking group of men. We would have liked to see some men facing their front, which is a more natural state and probably the more likely stance both on the march and on the battlefield. Such men could have had helmets without crests, which would have been acceptable. With a couple of exceptions these men do not have a lot of life about them (their bodies are upright rather than leaning in to some activity), and while Romans certainly spent some time in close formations they would still have had to engage in hand-to-hand combat eventually. The only figure that is clearly doing so is the man with gladius outstretched in front of him, but his stance is very unnatural. He holds his gladius in line with his arm, which would have seriously weakened the force with which he was able to use it, and with his arm held so high he cannot be thrusting as his arm is almost straight.
The detail on these figures is very good and clear. Their costume and equipment are accurately sculpted, with all the correct features for the advertised period such as the gladius on the 'awkward' right side of the body. There is no flash, though there is some extra plastic in difficult areas where the mould cannot reach. These figures could also be used as slightly earlier Praetorians as they received the best and most modern equipment before the rest of the army, in which case the crests are more appropriate. We liked the detail and the shields, which may well be used to substitute for shields in other similar sets, but the poses let the set down rather.