Wednesday 9 January 2019

10mm Illyrians - the search

Thucydides account of the Spartan Brasidas' Macedonian campaign of 424-423 BC provides one of the only narrative descriptions of a Classical Macedonian army in the field. Indeed, it might be the only relatively full account; most references to the Macedonians at war refer to allied contingents - perhaps exclusively cavalry - serving in predominantly Greek campaigns. I've referenced the Thucydides passages previously when preparing my Macedonians (hoplites, other infantry).

The account of the same campaign also provides us with the knowledge that Perdikkas II, the king of lowland Macedonia had arranged to hire a body of Illyrians, a group of non-Greek tribes situated to the north and west of Macedonia, renowned for their aggressive and warlike nature.

"The victors [Brasidas and Perdikkas] now set up a trophy and waited two or three days for the Illyrian mercenaries who were to join Perdiccas. Perdiccas then wished to go on and attack the villages of Arrhabaeus [king of the highland Macedonian kingdom of Lynkos], and to sit still no longer; but Brasidas, afraid that the Athenians might sail up during his absence, and of something happening to Mende, and seeing besides that the Illyrians did not appear, far from seconding this wish was anxious to return.

"While they were thus disputing, the news arrived that the Illyrians had actually betrayed Perdiccas and had joined Arrhabaeus; and the fear inspired by their warlike character made both parties now think it best to retreat. "
Thucydides 4.124

The Illyrians really were a force to be reckoned with. In the following century Illyrian armies would go on to drive the Macedonian king Amyntas III into exile at least once, or possibly twice (393/381 BC), and defeat and kill his son Perdikkas III in battle (360/59 BC). Illyrian attacks on the Macedonian kingdoms, and on the Epirotes were endemic. If ever there was a justification needed for buying more little men to 'value add' to an army, this was the perfect excuse to get some 10mm Illyrians to compliment or oppose my Macedonians.

The problem being, no one does 10mm Illyrians. In truth, I've even struggled to find decent pictorial and textual sources that would allow me to make a well educated version of 10mm Illyrians. Most of what I have seen so far has the distinct whiff of modern nationalism...

After much searching and pondering, I came up with the following solution - Pendraken Celtiberians. Now, hear me out. These warriors are sculpted with little pot helmets, tunics, belts, greaves, spears, swords, and rectangular scutum-like shields. To Hellenise the unit somewhat, I did a few head swaps with some Magister Militum hoplite heads who wear what appears, serendipitously enough - to be an Illyrian style helmet. Above you can see the two Pendraken sculpts in the centre, flanked by the two converted figures. The Magister heads are a bit larger, but I think I can get away with it. Below you can see the mix of figures to go on the base - six originals, and six with new heads.

The main problem with my attempted solution is that Illyrians seem to usually be depicted without belts. I was planning to green-stuff over the belts, but it really does look very fiddly. I'll sleep on it and decide later.

The greaves seem to be appropriate - although not always shown pictorially, there are some from an Illyrian grave on show in the Tirana Museum in Albania. The oblong shield also seems to be fine - especially for northern Illyrian tribes who were influenced by their Celtic neighbours. See the top image which looks to be engraved metalwork perhaps - if anyone can provide references to where it is from, I'd love to know.

The open-faced Illyrian helmet appears throughout the Balkans, from the Greek city-states, up into Macedonia and, of course, Illyria (such as this example from Budva, Montenegro). The head-swapped figures now wear crested versions of this, while the other sculpts either wear something like an Attic helmet (open face with hinged cheek pieces), or a pilos type hat/helmet.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting article

    Take care