Siege Army Update (part 2) – Painting Successor Troops
In the previous post, I suggested some possible eras and armies to use as inspriation for the Siege Army. This post, however, is for folks who picked up unpainted minis for the Siege Army at SOA ’23.
These figures are from Warlord Games’ “Hail Caeser: Successors Starter Army” boxset, generously donated by Sherwood Wargames. I, myself, am painting units to contribute to the Siege Army (two of which are displayed to the right). In this post, I’ll go over my choices in painting these units, and give some suggestions on how to paint yours.
First, let me provide a brief Cliff Notes preview: paint them however you want. Now I’ll explain why.
What we know about Successor armies
What do we know about the Macedonian Successor armies? Truthfully, not a lot. Contemporary depictions are preciously few. And the depictions we do have are not always reliable.
Take the depiction of Ptolemaic phalangites to the left, taken from a detail of the Nile Mosaic of Palestrina (c. 1st Century BC), near Rome. This image has been sourced as an accurate depiction of Ptolemaic soldiers for years. However, its authenticity is now largely in doubt: in the 17th Century, the entire fresco was carelessly extracted and moved for display. This detail was obliterated in the process, and reconstructed from scratch (as no map of the original tiles had been taken). It is now believed that the reconstruction artist mistook these for Roman soldiers, and gave them wholly new, Roman-style features. For example the square shields are almost certainly wrong (and would be even if they were Roman).
Unsurprisingly, the scholarship surrounding the Successors can be quite contentious, especially in areas where wargamers manage to inject themselves into the conversation. Now, I’m not going to cite my sources in this post; ostensibly because I’m not writing for a peer-reviewed journal, but mostly because I’m lazy and it sounds like a lot of work. But believe me when I say that I have trawled the depths of shockingly acrimonious forums and blog comments to bring you these nuggets of knowledge.
So, here is what I know about Successor armies:
They were dressed and adorned extravagently
There is an amusing anecdote about Hannibal Barca and the Seleucid army. During his exile, Hannibal came into the service of the Seleucid king in his war against Rome. The king arranged for a military parade with Hannibal in attendence. “What do you think of my army?” asked the king. Hannibal replied that he thought they would do well as an obstacle for the Roman legions. The king was pleased, until Hannibal elaborated, “The Romans will be compelled to stop to plunder their corpses.”
If you were Greek (or Roman, in a pinch), joining a Successor army was an easy way to obtain wealth and land grants. Therefore, I have taken the liberty of adding plenty of gold trim and fringe to my units.
Note, however, that the system of land grants ended when wealthy aristocrats, having built their wealth with military service, demanded the right to bequeath it as an inheritence to their children. As it became no longer necessary (or even possible) to obtain land grants by military service, the armies were forced to drop their exclusively Greek composition. The phalanx, as a fixture of the battlefield, limped into the next few decades, then itself disappeared forever.
They were colorful
Most contemporary depictions of Successor armies have them with at least some elements in so-called “Macedonian red.” Therefore, red is almost always a safe bet for cloths and accoutrement.
However, there is a contentious debate over the color of metal in the Successor Armies, and whether it was painted. The debate, at least as far as helmets and shields are concerned, is settled by the frescos of the Tomb of Lyson and Kallikles (circa 250 BC, to the left). The Thracian helmet to the left is almost completely painted red (and not as a stand-in color for bronze, as the helmet to the right uses yellow for that purpose). The shield in the middle is also painted in an intricate pattern. The greaves depicted appear to be bronze, but I cannot be sure.
Now, there is one interesting open question: there exists a depiction of the “Silver Shields”, an elite band of phalangites that depicts their metal armor in blue. But is that because it was their actual armor painted blue? Or was it because blue was how they depicted steel? We may never know. There is an example of a phrygian helmet (not from the Silver Shields, however) that has minute traces of blue paint on it.
So, based on the fresco from the Tomb of Lyson and Kallikles and other sources, I made the following artistic choices for my phalangites:
- Uncrested helmets are usually painted
- Crested helmets are left bronze
- Shields are painted
- Greaves are either painted or unpainted
The chest armor is called a linothorax (a neologism; we have no idea what the ancient Macedonians called them), a four-panel cuirass made of pressed, glued linen. Almost every modern depiction of a phalangite is in a white linothorax, but this is purest speculation. We have no idea if they dyed or decorated them. Mine are (for the most part) left white for the sake of expecation, but no one can tell you you are “wrong” if yours aren’t.
They were consistent
A phalangite was issued his equipment, but it was by no means uniform in type and composition. Nevertheless, each unit commander had his own color scheme, and everyone in the phalanx hewed as close to it as possible. As melee troops, it was critical for soldiers to find their way back to their commands in the middle of a confused scrap. There was one instance where opposing phalanxes were dressed almost identically; the two sides therefore paused while one of them painted their helmets white to distinguish themselves.
There is also mention that the shield pattern of a phalanx was the commander’s own device. Therefore, the shield pattern, together with the coloration of the unit, represents one of the first instances of a “uniform”.
Note that none of this applies to mercenaries, like Greek hoplites, who armed, equipped, and clothed themselves as they saw fit.
There’s no wrong way to paint Successor troops
Nothing I’ve said here should be taken prescriptively; my painting decisions are based on best guesses and inferences. The depictions and anecdotes given here could be outliers, for all I know. You can paint them all a hideous shade of chartreuse, and neither I nor anyone else could definitively tell you it’s wrong.
Therefore, don’t agonize too hard over color schemes. As long as it’s painted in time for the Siege, you’ve done it right.
In the next post (part 3), I’ll go over the specifics of how the Siege Army works, and the rules of the raffle.