Saturday, 22 May 2021

Zama 202 BC - Kill the beast

Historical Background


In the first years of the second Punic war (218 - 201 BC) the Carthagian army under the command of Hannibal won several battles (Trebbia, Lake Trasimene, Cannae) with a terrible death count for the Romans. Only when they adapted their strategy and learn from their errors the Romans were able to turn the tides of war. After successes in Spain they finally landed in Africa to bring the war to the Carthaginian homeland. Hannibal was recalled from Italy and took command of the army, his Roman opponent was Publius Cornelius Scipio. The armies clashed at Zama in the year 202 BC. The Carthaginian army was superior in numbers, but consisted mainly of raw troops - the Romans war seasoned and highly disciplined troops and were supported by Numidian cavalry (before an essential ally and a major factor in the Carthaginian tactics), Hannibal started the fight with an attack by his war elephants but with little effect and than a terrible close combat between the two armies began. On the flanks both cavalry formations clashed and the Carthaginians were thrown back. The same tactics that  Hannibal used at Cannae were now effectively carried out by Sicpio and his cavalry attacked the Carthaginians from the rear. That was the final blow and the remaining Carthaginians fled the field of battle. Scipio received for his victory the agnomen Africanus, Hannibal was on the run and left Carthage - he died between 183 BC and 181 BC (the causes are much debated and range from assassination, suicide with poision to fever after an accident)

The moment depicted is the attack of Hannibal's elephants against the Roman battle lines, the were supported by some light infantry. The Roman light infantry on their turn tried to kill the beasts or to confuse them as much as they would turn in panic. They Romans succeeded in this and the remaining elephants who effectively broke through the light infantry simply run through the gaps of the Roman formations without making much damage.


The diorama

The figures are from Zvezda and especially the elephant derserves a seperate praise - perfect work! I added a little detail in creating a convincing throat (otherwise it looks like an unrealistic hole), some small gaps between the parts have to be covered with putty. The real problem was a quite realistic colouring of the elephant. I tried many different colours and I really can't tell how I finally achieved this effect (black, light grey, dark grey, khaky, medium brown, dark brown - in several layers, partly only drybrushed).

The majority of Hannibal's elephants were young African forrest elephants, much smaller than the Zvezda specimen and most probably without towers. This exemplar is an older Indian elephant (there were a few available) with a tower. The mahout in front of the tower controls the movement of the elephant and the fighting crew tries to shield the flanks of the beast. Additional light infantry also has this job. The main function was the sheer might and weight of the elephant to disrupt the enemy lines, but it isn't possible to steer the animal directly into a wall of soldiers with spears to their front - the elaphant simply stops or even worse he got afraid and turned and crashed blindly through his own soldiers. A scared elephant is hard to stop and the mahout carried a hammer and a chisel blade for this moment - to ram it down through the forehead of the animal as a final solution.

Actual pictures of the Zama region shows this rather redbrown soil as the more often seen desert colours in paintings.


Photos (click to enlarge)











































Video (Youtube)



Sources

Nigel Bagnall - The Punic wars 264 - 146 BC (Osprey Essential Histories 16)
Mir Bahmanyar - Zama 202 BC (Osprey Campaign 299)
Kevin F. Kiley - The uniforms ot the Roman world
Terence Wise - Armies of the Carthaginan wars 265 - 146 BC (Osprey Men-at-Arms 121)
Andrea Salimbeti - The Carthaginians 6th - 2nd century BC (Osprey Elite 201)
Daniel Peterson - The Roman legions recreated in colour photographs
Nic Fields - Carthaginian Warrior 264 - 146 BC (Osprey Warrior 150)
Nic Fields - Roman republican legionary 298 - 105 BC (Osprey Warrior 162)
Nic Fields - The Roman army of the Punic wars 264 - 146 BC (Ospey Battle Orders 27)
Nic Fields - Roman battle tactics 390 - 110 BC (Osprey Elite 172)
Raffaelo D'Amato - Roman centurions 753 - 51 BC (Osprey Men-at-Arms 470)
Konstantin Nossov - War elephants (Osprey New Vanguard 150)
Simon Angum, … - Fighting techniques of the ancient world 3000 BC - 500 AD

Saturday, 27 March 2021

Bosworth 1485 - My kingdom for a horse

Historical Background

The struggle for power in medieval England culminated in the Wars of the Roses (1455 - 1485), the name derived from the badges of the two leading parties - the house of Lancaster (red rose) and the house of York (white rose). In the year 1485 Richard III. of the house of York was the king of England and had to deal with Henry Tudor, Earl of Richmond, of the house of Lancaster. The two armies met at Bosworth for the decisive battle. After a bitter fighting Richard lost his life and throne and Henry became the new regent, founding the house of Tudor (the badge being a white rose within a red rose), which ruled England for the next 118 years.

The moment depicted is the final stand by Richard III. with his last few men. The scene happened after a cavalry charge spearheaded by Richard failed and he and his men were partly driven into marshland. After losing his horse from exhaustion and wounds the famous quote by William Shakespeare "A horse! A horse! My kingdom for a horse!" should have happened here. He wanted his horse not for fleeing but for reentering combat on horseback (so the legend says). The pursuing Lancastrian foot soldiers chased after the retreating Yorkist knights and killed them one after the other. Richard's standard bearer holds his banner high till the last moment, although he had lost both legs. Finally the king was overwhelmed and perished.


The diorama

The figures are from MiniArt (very flat) and the horse from Airfix. The positioning of the figures was quite difficult for not creating a strange looking effect owing to their flatness. The horse was a major conversion as it is orginally for a british hussar of Waterloo.

I was unable to find a satisfying description how English marshland in the 15th century really looked like, so several modern day pictures were the base for the recreation. As there are many different kinds of marshes, this is only one possible approach. 

The marshland was made of MIG texture dark mud, MIG acrylic water clear, Faller foliage and grass, Busch reed and some colour variations.


Photos (click to enlarge)
























Video (Youtube)



Sources

Christopher Gravett - Bosworth 1485 (Osprey Campaign 66)
David Nicolle - European medieval tactics 2 (Osprey Elite 189)
Michael Hicks - The Wars of the Roses (Ospray Essential Histories 54)
Terence Wise - The Wars of the Roses (Osprey Men-at-Arms 145)
Terence Wise - Mediaval heraldry (Osprey Men-at-Arms 99)
Christopher Gravett - English medieval knight 1400-1500 (Osprey Warrior 35)
Clive Bartlett - English longbowman 1330-1515 (Osprey Warrior 11)
Gary Embleton - Medieval military costume (Europa Militaria Special 8)
Jens Hill, Jonas Freiberg - The medieval fighting man (Europa Militaria Special 18)
Liliane u. Fred Funcken - Historische Waffen und Rüstungen
M. Bennet, ... - Fighting techniques of the medieval world 500-1500

Saturday, 20 February 2021

Mylae 260 BC - Roma Victor

Historical Background

The first Punic war (264 - 241 BC) was the struggle between the two superpowers of their time for the control over Sicily. On the one side the Carthaginians (also known as Punics) were based on the Northern side of Africa (modern times Tunesia and a bit of Algeria) and are mainly seafearing community making trade all over the Mediterranean Sea, on the other side the Romans, purely land based with a strong will to expansion. A clash between the two cultures for predomination of the then known world was inevitable.

The casus belli was the plead for help of the tyrant of Syracuse against the growing pressure of the Carthaginians on Sicily. Rome was more than willing to help and therefore Rome sent troops to intervene. But the dilemma with that war was that the Romans were successfull on land, on sea the Romans had only small fleets from their allies and these are no match for the Carthaginians. So a stalemate between Roman land forces and Carthaginian maritime raids and invasions arose. In a typically Roman manner they built a fleet of 200 ships (based on a wreck of a stranded enemy warship), trained the crews and knowing that the Carthaginians are the much more experienced seafarers invented a secret weapon - the corvus (raven). It was a boarding bridge over which the Roman marines (lots of them!) can engage the enemy. All this was achieved within 6 months!

The first commitment of the fleet was at the battle of Mylae (modern day Milazzo) in 260 BC. Each fleet had approximately 130 ships, a real large encounter. The Carthaginians have absolutely no respect of the enemy navy and engaged the Romans even without making battle formations. The corvus came as true nasty surprise and the Carthaginians were for the first (but not the last) time decisevely beaten.

The war dragged on for further 13 years with several land and sea battles and finally ended with the Romans as masters of Sicily.

The moment depicted is the close combat between two Roman galleys (one command ship and one ship of the line with corvus) and one Carthaginian galley. The Roman ship of the line has just rammed the enemy vessel, commited the corvus and marines are engaging in overwhelming number the Carthaginians. The Roman command ship is in the process of supporting the own ship of the line.


Further information on the ships
  • The standard battleship of the period was the quinquereme, this means that each vertical section of rows has 5 rowers in 3 levels (2-2-1, variations possible) on each side. 
  • The hull of the ship should not get wet, as this would increase weight and therefore decrease speed and maneuverability. The vessels were beached every day!
  • Beneath the waterline the hull is covered with metal plates and coated with wax.
  • The ships had a high center of gravity as they had a minor draught. This of course affacted the stability of the vessel - marines, when not in combat, had to sit or hunker down on deck.
  • Only water was transported on the ships and really small amounts of food. This also made beaching every day necessary.
  • Of course there were no toilets on board - you may not saw the galley from a distance, but you will definitively smelt it.
  • As the ships were closed on all sides, there was a real problem of ventilation. Some openings on special places helped a little.
  • The ram was not part of the hull, so it possibly could broke off. 
  • Normally the masts are laid down or thrown overboard before battle (in the case of Mylae maybe not, as the Carthaginians attacked the Romans immediately)
  • Maximum speed for a quinquereme was about 10 knots (= 19 km/h) - so these vessels were very fast, but only in perfect sea and weather conditions. Waves of more than 1 meter height would keep the ship in the harbour or on the beach. The Romans lost more ships to bad weather than by combat.
  • Sinking of a rammed took a long, long time - some scholars even say, that the vessel run full of water and it was impossible to sink it (maybe with the exception if the keel is broken).
  • The rowers were not slaves, they were highly trained and paid professionals. It is difficult to get 170 rows coordinated when the crew is not well-rehearsed. Slaves in battles are too high a risk - so please forget all you have seen in the Ben Hur movies! Only in the 16th century slaves were used.
  • The rate of strokes was not indicated with beating of drums, instead tunes by flutes (or something similar) were used.

The diorama

All ships and figures are from Zvezda.
  • Ships: Greek Triera, Roman Trireme, Trireme of the Roman Emporer
  • Figures: Roman Republic infantry, Carthaginian infantry, Greek infantry, Egyptian infantry
The ships are upgraded with ventilation openings, sails are scratch built, improved rigging, some parts of the three ships are interchanged and some changes had to be made as some things are simply wrong (e.g. height of lowered corvus - would be difficult to climb in breast height and then you have no platform to stand on). The Roman ships are all brand new, the Carthaginian ship is a little bit worn out.

For reaching the interaction between the figures some conversions had to be made and for creating rowers and other marine personal the conversions were quite complex.

I tried to create sea water for the first time and used Vallejo Mediterranean water, MIG acrylic water and a wide mix of colours to achieve this final result.

I started this diorama back in 2006 (indeed!!!) and thought it won't be a long affair. But with every book I read and every contact I made it's getting more and more difficult. But now it is finally  finished and it looks quite like as I had it in mind 15 years before - but much more historically correct.


Photos (click to enlarge)






























































































































Video (Youtube)



Making of

Many pictures and explanations can be found here (German language only):


Sources

Nigel Bagnall - The Punic wars 264 - 146 BC (Osprey Essential Histories 16)
Kevin F. Kiley - The uniforms ot the Roman world
Terence Wise - Armies of the Carthaginan wars 265 - 146 BC (Osprey Men-at-Arms 121)
Andrea Salimbeti - The Carthaginians 6th - 2nd century BC (Osprey Elite 201)
Daniel Peterson - The Roman legions recreated in colour photographs
Nic Fields - Carthaginian Warrior 264 - 146 BC (Osprey Warrior 150)
Nic Fields - Roman republican legionary 298 - 105 BC (Osprey Warrior 162)
Nic Fields - The Roman army of the Punic wars 264 - 146 BC (Ospey Battle Orders 27)
Nic Fields - Roman battle tactics 390 - 110 BC (Osprey Elite 172)
Raffaelo D'Amato - Roman centurions 753 - 51 BC (Osprey Men-at-Arms 470)
Robert Gardiner - The age of the galley
H.D.L. Viereck - Classis romana, die römische Flotte
Manfred Beike - Kriegsflotten und Seekriege der Antike
Raffaele D'Amato - Republican Roman warships 509 - 27 BC (Osprey New Vanguard 225)
Simon Angum, … - Fighting techniques of the ancient world 3000 BC - 500 AD