Saturday, 26 April 2014

Republican Roman Principes

Principes - a mix of Agema plastics and metals.

During this the week I finished the first unit for my Republican Roman Legion – a unit of Principes. I’ve based them on 40x40mm bases to match my friend Björn’s Punic collection. We even found time for a game this weekend, affording a chance to see the unit in action. Naturally it got wiped out by some of Hannibal’s Celtic allies, but there you go - all beginnings are hard.

Variety of Roman Republican troops

Part of the Roman tactical formation called the Maniple (Light troops skirmishing in the front, regulars in the second line of battle, and seasoned veterans at the back), the Principes were key troops for both the Camilian army system (4th-3rd century BC) and later the Polybian during the Punic Wars.

Originally the men were from the more wealthy classes of the Roman society, financing weapons and equipment them selves. In most cases you would start out in the front units, earning your way through experience.  So the Principes would be of considerable battle know-how, thus in effect warriors of the upper class along with the wealthy Triaii veterans.

Size comparison - to the left Aventine.
To the right Agema.

This system of soldiers paying their own equipment and who’s position in the ranks was earned by age, experience, wealth and social status, worked only at the initial stages of the Roman Republic, when a large class of landowners with sufficient financial means were accessible to the army.

As time went the structure as well as the actual Maniple formation tactics would be challenged by the needs of a growing Roman Empire. Landownership shifted to a few families, and social reforms as well as army organisational and tactical reforms were needed.


The ranks of the Maniple formation.
Triaii at the back, Principes in the middle, Hastatii and Velites at the front.

The Punic Wars in many ways became the catalysts for this, seeing General Cornelius Scipio (later known as Scipio Africanus) break the coherence of the units, and spread them out on the battle field to suit his tactical needs more than to follow doctrine. His ideas were very successful, and with tactics refined by his careful observation of Hannibal’s battles, he would become the Roman hero of the Punic Wars.

Principes armed with Pilum, Scuta and Gladii.

The restructuring of the Roman Army was undertaken by Gaius Marius in 107 B.C, and would create the foundation for the later imperial roman army, equipped and paid by the state – the troops pay was called “solidi” – thus the word soldier.

Another take on the possible colors on clothes and equipment.

Unfortunately the much needed social reforms was not carried out, leading to civil unrest like the slave rebellion of Spartacus. The further alienation between the lower classes, now the core of the paid army, and the land owning roman aristocracy in power, would also be a key factor in the transition of government from Republic to Imperial dictatorship, with Caesar grabbing power by entering Rome with his army.

Thank you for reading!

27 comments:

  1. Excellent painting on these Agema figures. They seem to be quite nice figures for beeing plastics. Maybe when I come back to my Republican Romans I will give them a go.
    Thanks also for the read on Roman military doctrins.

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    1. Thank you very much, and you should give them a go, they are a treat to paint!

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    1. Cheers Andrew - glad you liked them!

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  4. Beautiful, they are beautiful!

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    1. You're too kind Phil, thank you very much! Hope to add more units to my legion shortly.

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  5. Looks great. Great with info too :)

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    1. Thanks, glad you enjoyed the read!

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  6. Wonderful work on these - the first image looks just like the McBride illustration.

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    1. Yes, none more than the figure on the left - I suspect the Agema sculptor have taken some creative inspiration on that one :0)

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  7. They do indeed look nice! I'm sure they will have better luck next time out.

    Christopher

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    1. Thanks Christopher! As their historical counterparts, they stand tall even after numerous humiliations by Hannibal. They'll be back!

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  8. Greate painting Sören !!!

    I might have placed the minis a bit more asymetic on the bases.

    Best regards Michael

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    1. Cheers Micke! I understand what you mean, but I was a bit reluctant to spread them out too much, as there is a lot of animation in the figures, and I wanted to keep the feeling of shield wall and formed unit intact. But Agema will release rank and file characters soon, and that will offer some extra degree of visual appeal.

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  9. Lovely painting on those Principes Søren! And the game looks very impressive with all those ranks of troops.

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    1. Thanks Jonas! Impressive indeed, Björn has got quite a collection there, complete with all kinds of infantry and cavalry of the Punic wars. And - I forecast that it will grow additionally in size, as all the new Punic Wars plastics come out...

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  10. They look very striking! Big plans ahead?

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    1. Cheers! Too many plans really, but that's the curse of this hobby, right :0) But when it come to the specific Punic War period, I'll certainly expand when plastic Carthaginians becomes available. The armies of Zama and Cannae seem to tempting to not have in ones collection.

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  11. Outstanding brushwork! The red shield and white tunic combination is striking and your colors are so vibrant.

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    1. Thanks Jonathan - I've used the Foundry paint system on these. Beside the yellow, which pigment anyway seems to cause all producers headaches, they are really lovely paints. Not too keen on their washes though...

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  12. Nice miniatures with a good historical explanation. I'm waiting to see your velites, hastati and triarii.
    I don't know if you could be interested but also victrix miniatures is preparing a set of Roman republic miniatures in 28 mm (http://www.victrixlimited.com)

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    1. Thanks Mark - yeah, saw the Victrix pictures at Salute - they even had a print of some Carthaginians. Looked extremely tempting. I'll get cracking at a proper maniple unit asap, I bought the Agema Velites plastics as well, so I've got no excuse :0)

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  13. These are excellent, esp like the red shields and bronze helmets.

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    1. Cheers Mike, glad you liked the result!

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