All figures are supplied unpainted (Numbers of each pose in brackets)
The testudo (literally tortoise) is one of the best known tactics of the Roman army. It was usually used to approach fortifications, and was first mentioned by Polybius, writing in the second century BCE. Basically it involved a number of men in a carefully planned formation, each with his shield facing outward so as to protect the whole from missiles etc. The number of men that made up one of these varied, but it required considerable training and rehearsal to perfect. Once formed it was all but invulnerable to missiles, though Josephus tells of how the defenders of Jotapata broke one by pouring boiling fat onto it.
This model is basically a lump with shields carved on all sides. The shields are perfectly tightly formed, with no gaps anywhere, though in fact the overhead shields should be overlapping. This testudo is stationary, yet the shield arrangement is perhaps a little too perfect for a group of men under fire, but it does mean there is no need to sculpt any part of the actual men themselves. This would be OK except that it has been taken too far. The testudo had shields to the front, sides and top to protect the men as they moved forward, but this model also has shields along the back (indeed there is no sense of which is the front and which the back here). This would have been quite pointless as the back was facing the rest of the Roman army. More seriously it would not have been possible as it would require four extra men to hold these shields, which would have enlarged the whole body such that the shields would not have covered everyone. Also, the means by which such 'rear gunners' would have been able to move forward while holding their shield behind them would have at best been very awkward and probably impossible. Of course, MIR have done this as the alternative would have been a very complex piece of sculpting to show all the men under the shields - simply not possible in one piece, even in resin and with a flexible mould like this.
This is a very cheap and easy way to place twenty odd Roman troops on a battlefield, and will no doubt be popular with wargamers in particular. The rear shields are not accurate, but this was probably a design decision that was forced on the manufacturer by the practicalities of the project. Other than that this is an interesting piece that should prove very useful.