Friday 26 November 2010

Hordes of Gauls

The Roman Army for the invasion of Aquitania is finished. The Gallic army is almost finished – all that remains are some slingers and archers (Old Glory) which are rather uninspiring figures and which I will finish soon. These warbands are based slightly wider than usual to reflect the fact that they are hill tribesmen with the ability to move fast in a looser order.

This post is about the five warbands. I was uncertain as to what I should call them and in the end I have given them names after their standards. It’s not an entirely satisfactory solution and I would rather have named them after locales but most names have changed significantly and a place called, for example, Nerac (a nearby town) was probably not called Nerac two thousand years ago. There is a nearby town called Eauze and that was where an allied tribe called the Elusates was located but that is the only tribal name I have been able to track down – besides the Sotiates of course.

There is a temptation, reinforced by terms like ‘warband’, to consider Gauls to be barbarians in comparison to their sophisticated and sometimes effete Roman neighbours. But this is misleading on a number of levels.

Gallic society was surprisingly sophisticated. It traded throughout the Mediterranean, both importing and exporting and it farmed sufficiently well enough to feed a growing population. The fundamental unit of Gallic politics was the tribe, which itself consisted of one or more of what Caesar called pagi. Each tribe had a council of elders, and initially a king. Later, the executive was an annually-elected magistrate.

The tribal groups, or pagi, were organized into larger super-tribal groups the Romans called civitates. The Sotiates were a pagi within the civitates of the Aquitani but they may also have been a civitates themselves with lesser tribes within their collective. Although the tribes were moderately stable political entities, Gaul as a whole tended to be politically divided, there being virtually no unity among the various tribes. Caesar divided Gaul into three ethnic groups: the Belgae in the north (roughly between the Rhine and the Seine rivers), the Celts in the center and the Aquitani in the southwest and the first two spent much of their energies opposing the expansion of the German tribes into Gaul.

The Aquitani had the luxory of being distant from the German threat and their focus lay to the south of the Pyrenees. They were Celto-Iberians and as Crassus’s campaign continued after the defeat of the Sotiates, the remaining Aquitani pagi called for, and received, help from Iberians who had helped Sertorius in his rebellion against Rome.

Another intriguing facet of Gallic life was religion and the practice of the Druids. The druids presided over human or animal sacrifices that were made in wooded groves or rude temples. They also appear to have held the responsibility for preserving the annual agricultural calendar and instigating seasonal festivals which corresponding to key points of the lunar-solar calendar. The religious practices of druids were syncretic and borrowed from earlier pagan traditions, especially of ancient Britain. Julius Caesar mentions in his Gallic Wars that those Celts who wanted to make a close study of druidism went to Britain to do so. There is no certainty concerning the origin of the druids, but it is clear that they vehemently guarded the secrets of their order and held sway over the people of Gaul. Indeed they claimed the right to determine questions of war and peace, and thereby held an "international" status. In addition, the Druids monitored the religion of ordinary Gauls and were in charge of educating the aristocracy. They also practiced a form of excommunication from the assembly of worshipers, which in ancient Gaul meant a separation from secular society as well. Thus the Druids were an important part of Gallic society. The nearly complete and mysterious disappearance of the Celtic language from most of the territorial lands of ancient Gaul, with the exception of Brittany, France, can be attributed to the fact that Celtic druids refused to allow the Celtic oral literature or traditional wisdom to be committed to the written letter. They also encouraged the practice of of headhunting as the head was believed to house a person's soul.

The other thing that is worth noting is that the Romans were hard as nails. Under Caesar their ruthlessness was quite a shock to the Gauls. Caesar’s war was a war of conquest not a war of retribution. By the time the Gallic tribes had united under the chief of the Arverni tribe, Vercingetorix, the game was largely over. As many as a million people (probably 1 in 5 of the Gauls) died, another million were enslaved, 300 tribes were subjugated and 800 cities were destroyed during the Gallic Wars . The entire population of the city of Avaricum (modern day Bourges) (40,000 in all) were slaughtered. During Julius Caesar's campaign against the Helvetii (present-day Switzerland) approximately 60% of the tribe was destroyed, and another 20% was taken into slavery.

I take no credit for the painting of these figures as they have marched in from overseas. But I had to sort out all the shields (if I never do another transfer it will be too soon!), paint them with Armypainter to give them that dirty, muddy look and then base them. Figures are mostly from the excellent Warlord Games.

Wednesday 24 November 2010

Re-printing Greenwood & Ball SYW uniform guides: 1) Prussia 2) Austria

As some of you know, we (18th Century Press – see our link on the right) are re-printing the SYW Uniform guides. The good news is that the Prussian one is finished and the Austrian one is being worked on at the moment. I want to be able to release both at the same time and that will be within the next four weeks. I want to be able to release then together so that you will be able to buy both together at a better price than buying them individually. They will be priced at £10 each plus post and packing (quite small as you will see shortly) or £18 for the pair. I will be letting readers of this blog get the news first as to actual availability and as to when the website ( is taking orders for these booklets.

If you have never been fortunate to own these, let me tell you about them. They are 26 pages long, in booklet format with colour front and back cover and also have four pages of colour plates in the centre. There are also many black and white illustrations. The Prussian booklet has additional information (more flags are shown, we have added information of regimental commanders, grenadier battalion convergence, Fredericks own assessment of their performance etc) and the Austrian booklet will contain charts of WAS Uniform facings and a large new section on flags. The core of the work remains the Greenwood & Ball publications but there has been a serious amount of up-dating, editing and additions.

I said I’d mention postage rates. To give you an idea of these, the UK will be £1 for one booklet and £1.50 for two. Europe will be £1.80 for one, £2.50 for two. The Rest of the World will be £2.50 for one and £4 for two. As I hope you can see we have tried to keep postage to actual cost.

I’ve posted pictures of the new covers. I’ll let you know when these are ready.

Saturday 13 November 2010

Austrian GM von Kottendorf

I thought it was time to paint an Austrian Brigade General in 40mm but nobody makes them for the SYW.

So I looked for a Trident Hessian to convert and my main criteria was that there should be no gorget as this would be difficult to cut away from any metal figure. Voila, this gentleman appeared and he looked like a suitable candidate.

The model came with a bare head and a separate tricorne which, I suppose, was to be placed somehow in his outstretched hand. But the hand position looked wrong and I could not see any way of putting a tricorne into his hand. So I filed his head down and glued his hat to his head in a somewhat rakish angle. Then I had to cut away the cord that held the cane to his coat lapel (this is an error on the designer’s part as I am sure that officers in the Hessian army of the AWI – that is the period the range is designed for – did not have a cane suspended from their lapels). NCOs did though. But Austrian officers carried a black cane so it is now just being held in his hand. Then he needed fuller cuffs so I used greenstuff to fill them out.

Then it was just a question of painting him. I think it’s a splendid uniform. He is a tad taller than the men in his brigade (Sash and Saber) but, hey, maybe he is a giant amongst men.

When Chris at S&S sends me some more figures I’ll be able to finish off Kottendorf’s Infantry brigade and maybe complete a Dragoon regiment.

On a completely different note, I was spammed by Rolex, the up-market watch people, today. Now either they are no longer up-market or business is so bad that they have taken to the equivalent of begging on the street. I’ve knocked them off my Christmas list for shocking temerity!

Friday 12 November 2010

40mm Trident Hessians as Prussians

These are Trident’s 40mm Hessians from their AWI range but perfectly suited for the WAS/SYW. They are not easy to paint as the detail is so crisp that there are no areas to fudge. But, nonetheless, I absolutely love them. They are slightly thinner and taller than the heftier Sash and Saber 40mm SYW figures but I think they will do fine.

Having sold most of the 40mm I’ve now decided to restart this project and I will use these Trident figures for the Prussians while continuing to use S & S for the Austrians.

The drummer comes with a separate drum and hands. Next time I’ll paint the figures first and then add the drum and hands as getting a brush into those nooks and crannies is not easy. The standard bearer figure doubles as an NCO and comes with a spontoon if you wish to use it. Again the hands are separate. The officer has a separate right hand. All the remaining figures are one-piece castings with three basic poses of the arms and numerous head variations in each body pose.

I think these are quite possibly the finest wargames figures I have ever had the pleasure to paint - and that is saying a lot as I have painted figures from most manufacturer’s ranges. The only caveat is that they are not easy to paint. They are intolerant of sloppy painting so took me a great deal of time. Army Painter has been used again, but in a minimalist way only on straps and small clothes. I am content with the result and will soon start on the second battalion of this regiment, one of my favourites, Number 12.