Many in the Carthaginian Empire saw the outbreak of the Second Punic War as a chance to avenge their defeat in the first, and none more so than Hannibal. He decided to take the initiative, and since Rome controlled the sea, he chose to invade the Italian peninsular by land, over the Alps from Spain. His army entered northern Italy in early November 218 BCE, and over the following couple of years Hannibal soundly defeated every army sent against him, most notably at Trebbia (218), Lake Trasimene (217) and at Cannae (216). The latter was one of the most devastating defeats Rome ever suffered, and it largely achieved Hannibal’s main aim, which was to split the often reluctant Italian allies away from Rome, leaving her weaker and more vulnerable. After Cannae Hannibal marched into the lands of one of those allies – Campania – and the city of Capua opened its gates to him, celebrating their liberation from dominance by Rome. It is this triumphal entry that this set from Linear-A depicts.
It is important to start by pointing out that the inspiration for this set is a picture by Peter Connolly which appeared in several of his books and graces the front of the box. It always helps when reviewing to know where the ideas and information came from, so here that job is easy. We will refer to this illustration several times, and a larger and clearer copy of it can be found in the Connolly book ‘Hannibal and the Enemies of Rome’ listed at the end.
There are a lot of elements to this set, so we will start off with the centre-piece – Hannibal riding on his elephant. Hannibal left Spain with about 37 elephants, and everyone knows about his amazing trek across the Alps with these creatures, but the truth was that only seven made it to Italy, and after a particularly cold winter there was just one left by the Spring of 217 BCE. In any case the Romans knew how to handle elephants in battle by this time, so the only role for this sole survivor was to give a ride to Hannibal, and if you are going to enter a city in triumph then of course you would do so on an elephant. Opinion is divided as to whether this creature, apparently named ‘Surus’, was an Indian elephant or a Syrian. This animal stands about 38mm (2.74 metres) at the shoulder, which is typical for an Indian, but rather small for a Syrian (although this species went extinct after Hannibal’s time, so it is hard to be sure). That is not really a problem, but the other features of this animal include large, irregular-shaped ears, a two-point end to the trunk, and the highest point on the animal is at the shoulder. These, along with the shape of the head, are all features of the African elephant, not the Indian, and so are definitely wrong here. Now where visible the sculptor has flawlessly copied the Connolly illustration, which was probably their brief, but that is still wrong. Also, apparently Surus only had one tusk (this creature has two). Having said all that, the sculpting of this creature is suitably magnificent, and it does look terrific, accurate or not. One particular feature however is that it has both ears stuck out perpendicular to its head, which is an odd choice (probably done to make room for the rider's feet). This could mean it is being very aggressive but, when combined with the rest of the animal position, simply means it is fanning it’s ears to cool down.
The first figure in the top row is the general himself. He sits on a small seat attached to the back of the elephant, waving to the cheering crowds. He wears his armour and holds his crested helmet, even wearing a laurel crown, again following the Connolly picture precisely. If you make him sit on the seat however his legs are too close together to properly sit, so some trimming or hot water will be required to make that work properly. However this is a nice figure and looks good on his impressive steed.
The remaining two mounted figures in the top row are standard bearers. The first is a local Campanion, wearing a typical three-disc metal cuirass front and back, and holding aloft a flag with a banner attached. Again, exactly as Connolly, but here again it seems Connolly may have made a mistake. According to Duncan Head, this is a misunderstanding of a spear with a tunic and belt attached (see also our review of HaT Italian Allies). Whether either interpretation is now universally accepted, or it remains contentious, we do not know, but there seems no other evidence for flags at this time. Also the legs of this man are slightly too close together, so he does not sit properly in the saddle without remedial work. The second man is probably actually a Carthaginian as he holds a standard with the classic Carthaginian sun-and-moon motif. The two horses these men ride are decorated with extravagant plumes on the head, and both have a chamfron on the face, which is fine. Both are in pretty decent walking poses, which is nice to see, although we felt the anatomy of the horses was not as good as that of the humans.
The last man in the top row is identified as a Celt in ceremonial armour, and of course there were very many Celts in Hannibal’s army. The only armour here is the helmet, which is indeed very ornate, although he is otherwise dressed in typical Celt fashion. The shield he carries has an animal design that would have been very unusual. After so many victories, many in Hannibal’s army had the opportunity to help themselves to clothing and weapons from the vanquished, so all manner of variations would be likely, and as this man is at a place of honour at the head of the column he is clearly a Celt of great distinction.
Our fourth row is made up of various warriors that you might have found in such a procession, mainly Greek mercenaries and Celtic warriors or chiefs. One man holds a Celtic boar standard, and another is blowing a Celtic Carnyx horn just to add to the party going on all around him. The exotic plume of the Celt with the standard is not something you would usually see in battle, but for a dress occasion such as this it seems perfectly reasonable. All these figures are very attractive and perfectly accurate.
Our last row begins with a ‘Celtic Chieftan’, suitably adorned in a fine helmet and mail armour perhaps ‘liberated’ from a slain Roman, but the rest of the figures show the happy people of Capua as they believed they were released from the yoke of Rome (in the end they were wrong). Civilians are still fairly rare in this hobby, but these are particularly welcome because they look great, all waving at the procession as it passes. The first lady, with both arms raised, is labelled on the box as an ‘aristocratic woman’, but her relatively short garment, the ample cleavage and long flowing hair all suggest a lady very much at the other end of the social scale, perhaps happy to see new customers in town! Nevertheless, again costume here is fine.
Despite the dark colour, hopefully you can see from our scans that the sculpting here is excellent. Lovely detail throughout, with great expressive faces and every finger clearly defined and in its proper place. Proportions are also perfect, and we found that the twin-pose figures had absolutely no flash or line on the seam. The individual poses do have a quite noticeable flashy seam, but even then this is not particularly apparent. Just a little more work is needed to make sure the riders sit properly on their mounts, and we would have no issues at all with the production on this set.
The Connolly illustration is a great picture, and a worthy starting point for this set. Unfortunately it is very old and a little time in checking whether it is still deemed to be accurate would have been productive. However with great production values the one real fly in the ointment here is the elephant, which is a lovely model (and solid by the way, not a kit) but not appropriate for the time and place in question. We really liked this collection, even though no one is engaged in killing anyone else, which is unusual for us. Despite the flaws this is a product to delight anyone with an interest in ancient history, and would be a great addition to any collection.