Imperial Roman Legionary, 150 AD

This project, begun in 2001 took 4 years to realise.

This Imperial Roman legionaire, performing sentry duty, is equipped with scratchbuilt items made from leather, various types of cardboard, sculpy, milliput, sheet metal – tin and brass – and adhesive gold foil. The pugio and pilum are by Ignite. The scutum/shield design was copied from a model reference, modified and painted onto paper coated with PVA glue. This was then distressed to create a weathered and battle-worn shield. The sandals or caligae were scratchbuilt from two types of leather. The balteus worn on this Dragon figure, is decorated with narrow leather strips, the ones seen here were considerable shorter to the 1st century AD versions. Note the ragged-edged sleeves of the tunic and the Imperial-Italic helmet. The sword though seen worn on the right was soon to officially shift to the left, according to Phil Barker in his book “The Armies and Enemies of Imperial Rome.”

I had the figurine wearing the Lorica Segmentata Newstead which dates to the second century AD. According to the various reference notes from the Legio XX online handbook, the historian “H. Russell Robinson’s core idea, which is still being repeated today, is that the Newstead lorica was a “much simplified and strengthened” improvement over the previous hinged Corbridge style.  But finds at Carlisle and other sites make it clear that the Newstead lorica was anything but simplified.  Large lobed hinges were indeed still in use.  The hinged strap and buckle fittings seem to be gone, but there are thin brass plates, often with decorated edges, around various slots and holes all over the armor, as well as brass edgings on some parts.” This would mean that the “standard” reconstruction by H. Russell Robinson (and which I had based my initial 1/6 scale construction) can no longer be considered accurate.

These helmets were sculpted out of epoxy resin, there were many variations of helmets, one of the helmets depicted here was called "the hot -cross bun" on account of the iron strips bolted on the top as a last minute counter measure against sword blows.

As written in 2001:
These helmets were sculpted out of epoxy resin, there were many variations of helmets, one of the helmets depicted here was called “the hot -cross bun” on account of the iron strips bolted on the top as a last minute counter measure against sword blows. Two coats of metal colored paints were sprayed on and when dried, the basic flesh color painted on.
I painted the face my usual style (see face painting articles), and once dried secured the brass band to the bottom front of the helmet with epoxy resin glue. I later constructed the earguards out of thin brass sheeting. Now on looking at the picture, I realise I will have to reposition the main brass band as it appears to have shifted from its position. The “hot-cross bun” iron strips were actually crudely produced by the camp ironsmiths – these were added as an afterthought when production helmets were found to have suffered severe damage from the sword slashing of the “barbarians”. More holes have been drilled in the brass pieces to take in the styrene bolts.
As written in 2005:
Finished up on the helmet by adding in styrene bolts and trimming down the upper brim. I’ve also repainted the face.

As written in 2001:

Lorica Segmentata

The lorica segmentata that I am customizing is known (to Roman researchers and experts) as the Lorica Segmentata Newstead, named after the remains of actual 1/1 segmented body armor found in an ancient Roman fort in Newstead. Here’s my step-by-step commentary, I ‘ll keep the commentary brief as I think a picture tells a thousand words.

With the metal sheets all cut up and ready, minute slots were pierced on the side girdles for the brass fasteners. These fasteners were for binding the girdles at the front and the back of the body. I did check out other readymade brass options, like brass tubings but eventually decided on handmaking these fasterners at the last moment. These were then inserted through the slots like they were originally done, almost 2000 years ago. I had also given the metal platings a spray coating of metal paint and lacquer to seal it for safety. Even then I did end up with a couple of scratches brought about when inserting the brass fasteners through the slots.The metal girdles are secured with leather strapping, one on the front, the side and the back. I used epoxy resin glue to bind the straps onto the metal sheets. The uppermost metal girdle has been trimmed to allow for the arm movement.

As written in 2005:

Fours years on and the metal sheets and bindings are still are good as the day I left them. I have however decided to discard them as recent research have revealed more about how the metal girdles are secured. Besides some of the girdles were found to be too short! What was I thinking then? Anyway, the new Lorica Segmentata Newstead is now a combination of card and metal sheet. Card is pretty easy to work with, cheap and plyable although lacking a “memory” unlike sheet metal. They can still be shaped but when used as they are, the best forms of binding or adhesion would be double-sided masking tape and … staples! If you have planned out the intrinsics of the set up, the card panels can be securely stapled before being discretely overlapped by another panel. The finishing was done with a coat of iron colour metalising paint from Mr. Colour.

A point here about all those shiny, bright Lorica Segmentata seen used by re-enactors. As a display/exhibition piece, Lorica Segmentata made out of modern metallurgy and lovingly polished with modern polishing applicators might appear impressive to onlookers. True, Lorica Segmentata in ancient times were found tinned or silvered (but that does not mean all of them were) but even so, units equipped with such and stationed in the far flung regions of the empire could not possible be expected to go into battle all shiny, bright and glittery. Taking into account the various conditions – human, environmental, ancient metallurgy technology, and wear and tear (even tinned surfaces will wear off), perhaps a more realistic iron finish is preferable. Ancient metalwork resulted in the iron panels being etched and stained, and even when polished with fine sand, it was common for rust to quickly set in after coming out of the rain into a moderately warm room. A dissertation of “The Roman Legionary and His Equipment in The First Century AD – An Assessment of the findings of The Ermine Street Guard”, commented that “It is important to remember, however, that the equipment made by the E.S.G. is generally made by the individual for his own use and that there may be a greater degree of care taken in its manufacture than perhaps would have occurred with the original artefact. Consequently, it could be suggested that to some extent equipment is ‘over engineered’. Further more it is important to note that the materials used are of a more consistent quality than Roman materials.”

There is also a difference in portraying troops on the frontier battling “barbarians” and those stationed in Rome. On account of public ceremonial duties and such, such troops in Rome would be expected to be equipped with the best attire the Empire could afford and likewise spend time maintaining them. There is this interesting comment about the sculptures on Trajan’s column by The Ermine Street Guard: ” Trajan’s column is of relevance to the latter half of the first century AD and the Arch at Orange which is probably of Tiberian date. Although these monumental works can produce some evidence, they are considered to be the work of urban sculptors trained in a Hellenistic manner, which is more concerned with the aesthetics of the sculpture than accurate representation. Also, what little the sculptors would have known of military attire and practice was almost certainly based upon the military units in Rome rather than on the frontier troops on the frontiers of the Empire, whom they were trying to portray, and who would have been subject to evolution in practice and attire as a result of changes in military policy on the frontier.”



The Ermine Street Guard –

The Roman Army, by Peter Connolly, Macdonald Educational Ltd*

The Armour of Imperial Rome, by H. Russell Robinson, A&AP*

Imperial Rome at War by Tim Newark and Angus McBride, Concord Publications Company

The Armies and Enemies of Imperial Rome by Phil Barker, A Wargames Research Group Publication