zondag 25 september 2016

Ascarii Iuniores

During the campaigning season in Roman times the emperor took the fight to the barbarians themselves. Usually in response to previous raiding, treaty violations, other offences or just to let them know who was in charge. In some cases a new Caesar or Augustus would simply launch a campaign to build his reputation as a unbeatable emperor and thus show his divine right to rule the empire.

So he would have a pontoon bridge built across the Rhine or Danube and set out. A set battle was almost impossible as most barbarian groups fleed the area Farmlands were reaped clean, villages burned to the ground and booty was taken; this almost everytime forced the german chieftains to conceed defeat and sign a disadvantageous treaty with victorious Rome.
Treaty conditions were normally the release of all their prisoners, the giving of hostages and a non-agression pact. On top of which were added to deliver food to nearby Roman garrisons and provide recruits to the Roman armed forces.

But in times when the emperor let his gaze drift from the frontiers and pulled troops and resources away, the germanic groups saw their chance to do some raiding of their own.

As was the case in 357AD in the reign of Constantius II Augustus and Julianus II Caesar. (According to Ammianus Marcellinus: Book 16, Chapter 11)
 The new Caesar was despatched to Gaul and began to recover lost frontier towns and cities and ultimately pushed on to the banks of the Rhine. Alemanni who had settled on the Roman side of the river fleed to to small islands riddling the Rhine and threw insults to the nearby Romans, safe and bold in the assumption that the Romans were unable to cross.
 Interrogation of captured german scouts quickly revealed that the river was fordable this time of summer and inspired Bainobaudes, tribune of the Cornuti, to cross with a body of light armed troops.
They supported themselves on theri shield and swam to the small islands where they killed everyone they got their hands on. Once they were tired of slaughter they returned with a rich haul of loot.
 The remaining Alemanni, seeing that the islands gave no more protection, evacuated to the german side of the Rhine.

There were several Roman units in the Notitia Dignitatum who were named after this type of specialty warfare: the Ascarii Seniores and Ascarii Iuniores in the West under the Comes Hispenias, in the East under the Magister Militum per Illyricum there were also Ascarii Seniores and Iuniores. Further there were the Honoriani Ascarii Seniores under the Western Magister Equitum and a limitanei unit called the Auxilia Ascarii commanded by the Dux Pannoniae secundae ripariensis et Saviae.
 The name Ascarii might come from the Greek "Askos" meaning; skin, bag, hide. So probably it meant that these could cross rivers on enflated animal stomachs, leather bags or the likes.

In wargaming terms these troops look like the ideal candidate for the light armoured Roman troops with a believable explanation of why they're unarmoured. It also brings interesting scenarios with it; a small Roman raiding force on barbarian shores...

So without further ado here are my first of three such units.




These are the new Unarmoured Late Romans from Ebor Miniatures and to me very cheap.
The good:
x Details are good. Even the shield, front & back, is superbly detailed.
x A lot bang for your buck: 23£ for 24 figures. (Crusader miniatures is almost as good with 20 figures for 20£)
x Size up great with 1st Corps' Late Romans.
x And of course they paint up great.

The bad:
x Although these are new figures, they had to be cleaned up quite a bit.
x Variation is limited; apart from the four man command there are only three different poses for the rank and file. Technically there are even only two poses because the third one is a variation with his spear arm in a different angle. (As you see in the picture; the beardless figure attacking is the same one as the one in the back with his spear at the ready. the mouth is a dead give away.)

All in all I'm happy with these figures, especially price/quality.


Now we jump ahead a thousand years for a Swiss intermezzo:

Wargames Foundry Swiss
These are going to be based for Impetus. These twelve are ready but need another five to be complete so I need some more reinforcements to finish this unit (and others).
 Thankfully Crisis 2016 is near at hand.


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