I was sitting, just now, admiring my Sassanid army arrayed on the workbench - see bigger photo in my Sassanid Photo Album - and the thought struck me that, even though it's now approaching 3,500 WAB points in size, it isn't all that big really, and doesn't look all that impressive. Mad - or what?
(The die has been cast)
I decided on 'point up' for the shields, so here is one unit, finished. I'm sure you'll agree that they look very different. I'm rather pleased with them - the big shields in the front rank fit rather better with descriptions of Sassanid infantry in the sources, as well as following the archaeology. I'm glad I went to the trouble of having them made.
I got all the replacement shields for my Sassanid infantry painted today, so now I've got the tricky task of deciding which way up to mount them on the figures - point up or point down?
Simon James's book on the military finds from Dura Europos, from where I got the information on the shields in the first place, reckons (in the absence of evidence pointing either way) that they must have been used point up, so that the 'flat' end of the large 'pavise-type' shields could have simply been sat on the ground and would be more stable that way.
Having grown up in the west, with images in my mind of Norman milites with kite shields, and high medieval knights with heater shields, I would instinctively put them point down... And this has the advantage, for the big pavises, that you have a point to poke into the ground, so they'd be more stable and less inclined to 'give' when the 'shield-wall' was charged by the enemy.
Only one piece of wood thought to have been a hand grip survived in the ground, and it was detached from the shield it was found near and there is absolutely no clue as to where it might have fastened, which might have given a hint as to which way up the shield was used.
So I might just have to go with what looks 'coolest'... Currently thinking that 'point up' looks nicest - and most exotic. My missus agrees with me, but the kids prefer point down. I am really, really, pleased with the shields, whichever way I end up mounting them - I think they look great.
Matt of Elhiem Figures is a mega-star. I only sent him the 'greens' for the shields on the 21st, and he has already cast a batch up for me - they arrived today. Clean-up was minimal and took almost no time at all. The castings are lovely and should take paint - and the dip - really well. I can hardly wait to get them painted up and stuck on the figures. These will be available for sale shortly (from me, not Matt!) - so if you want any, get in touch with an email address and I'll get back to you with details of price and the likes.
My one problem is which way up to glue them on - point up, or point down? Simon James (the archaeologist who wrote the book I got the details from) suggests point upward, with (for the larger, pavise-like, shield at least) the flat end resting on the ground. I also seem to recall something from one of the reliefs from Nineveh or somewhere like that, Assyrians having 'spara' tapering towards the top - of course, that's the best part of a thousand years earlier than these, but perhaps the 'tradition' is justification enough. On the other hand, point down makes sense, as it'd be easier to 'jab' the point into the sand - plus somehow it looks right (but perhaps that's my western eyes, used to everything from Norman 'kite' shields through to medieval 'heater' shields). So - exotic (point upward) or mundane (point down)? The archaeology isn't giving any hints away - a 'hand grip' was found with one of the shields, but it was detached, and there's no evidence for where it was attached on the shield.
Here's a photo of the two Sassanid shield masters Hicksy kindly made for me. I'm toying with the idea of getting a production mould made, and selling a few - if you'd like some, please get in touch! I've no idea on price yet, but I'd hope to be able to price them in line with fairly typical industry prices - for instance Mark Sims of Crusader charges £8 for forty shields, though I'll probably sell them individually rather than in packs (unless lots of people want them and the job of counting them out becomes too onerous).
We have just spent the weekend in Oxford - mostly sightseeing, but in addition Harry Sidebottom (author of the 'Warrior of Rome" novels) had offered to show us around the college he works in. This was, at least partly, for the benefit of my lad, who is a bit clever, and is thinking that, once he's old enough and has finished his GCSEs and A Levels, he might like to read Classics at Oxford. So it was very kind of Harry to offer. We had lots of fun - Harry is a good bloke.
By the way, the third novel in the series, "Lion of the Sun" is available for pre-order on Amazon. If it's even half as good as the first two, it'll be well worth reading. I have pre-ordered my copy - I shan't be waiting for the paperback - sometimes frugality just has to take a back seat.
Once he'd extended the offer to show us around, I tried to think of some little gift he'd appreciate, and came up with the idea of painting a couple of figures - an 'Eastern' legionary (just like one of the ones in the banner at the top of the page) and another, shown in the photo above. I made Harry guess who the latter figure represents. It took him a few minutes of increasing agitation and fast talking (playing for time!) before he 'got it'. You are also at liberty to guess - but those who, unlike Harry, own a copy of Osprey MAA 390 "Roman Military Clothing (2) AD 200 - 400", need not bother to reply - in fact, please don't spoil the game for others!! A quick hint - he's a particularly unpleasant emperor from the third century. If no-one guesses it in a day or two, I'll post a couple more hints.
The postman has just delivered the greens (greys really!) of the replacement Sassanid infantry shields which Hicksy has made me. They look great - I blue-tacked them to a couple of figures to get an idea of how they'll look when they're done. Size-wise, they're about perfect, and the detail looks excellent. …
I've just finished off the cavalry for my Cohors Equitata (mixed cohort). They're intended to work with the guys in this photo. Sometime, I'm hoping to do a few skirmishers for the Romans, but I need to get some suitable javelin quivers made. Other than that, the Romans are finished. The Sassanids just need new shields for the infantry - the masters for which Hicksy said he'd stick in the post last week. Palm trees - that's the other thing I'd forgotten. I keep thinking I've finished, and then finding I haven't!
Having decided that I'd like to 'do' Pyrrhus versus Rome, I thought that, just perhaps, I ought to learn a little bit about the period - what came before, what happened during, and how that affected what happened after. So I bought a book: "Roman Conquests: Italy" by Ross Cowan (published by Pen and Sword, I got my copy from Amazon …
This unit was a bag of bare castings yesterday lunchtime.
I had already painted a unit of archers, and called them Cohors I Damascenorum Sagittariorum (The First Cohort of Damascan Archers), but then realised that I'd missed a trick or two... Firstly, I'd forgotten that they'd likely be arabic in appearance, and so needed darker flesh and secondly, that it is 'traditional' amongst wargamers for 'Eastern' Auxiliary archers to be dressed in green (for no good reason beyond (I believe) an illustration by Ronald Embleton - not that that is necessarily any worse a reason than many we use to choose the colours we use!).
So I decided to rename the other unit (to Cohors I Ulpia c.R. Sagittariorum - Trajan's Own First Cohort of Archers, Roman Citizens) and paint another unit as Cohors I Damascenorum Sagittariorum. And the above is the result. I decided that all green might be a bit much, so I went for white tunics with green trim. Shield transfers are of my own manufacture.
Tomorrow I'm going to start on 8 cavalry figures to change a unit of auxilia into a cohors equitata (mixed cohort), and rename it.
I have charged through the latter stages of the third unit of Savaran - there's a photo in my Sassanid Photo Album. Apart from, possibly (if Hicksy ever sends the masters to me) changing the shields on the infantry for some which more closely resemble those revealed by archaeological excavation, I have nothing left to do for the Sassanids - I'd need to buy more figures if I was going to add any more units. …
It's Easter Monday, and it's raining. All is therefore well with the world: it's meant to rain on Bank Holidays!
Yesterday Matt asked me whether I could post 'before and after' photos of the dipping process. So, without further ado, in the sidebar is a 'before' photograph.
The model has been cleaned up, washed in hot soapy water, rinsed, dried, glued to its base, and primed white. …
Happy Easter everyone!
We have my wife's father and step-mother here for the weekend. Happily they're staying in an hotel, so we are getting some peace, but it is a bit busy, and so I'm not getting much painting done. We just have to have lunch with them today, and then we're back to our usual peaceful selves. …