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Thread: Sigur won't stop doing historical stuff - Ancients

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    Chapter Master sigur's Avatar
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    Mar 2005
    Vienna, Austria

    Sigur won't stop doing historical stuff - Ancients

    Hullo, it's me again with my second historical painting log. This one came really as a surprise as I never considered myself much of an Ancients kind of wargamer. I did a few commissions for ancient periods but never felt too inclined to join the fun myself. It's not that the period(s) didn't appeal to me, it's just that so many other things were a bit more appealing.

    Now last week I was invited by a guy to play a game of DBA (De Bellis Antiquitatis) with him. Only having heard of DBA as this old, very popular and not too complicated system everybody should give a try once I jumped at the opportunity. He has the figures and the board, all I needed to bring was a tape measure and dice. I have to say that this DBA is an elegant and fun little system. It's not all too deep but instead it's a rather quick game with comparatively small armies on only a 2' by 2' board but it does give you results which seem plausible. Instead of thinking about rules too much you can instead think of maneuvering. The perfect game if one of the players is short on time that evening. I would say that it's possibly the ultimate "entry level" ancient wargame there is.

    So I was pleasantly surprised with the rules and on top of that I got a full army from the good fella as well! Granted, the minis aren't the cream of the crop, mostly mono-pose and are just enough to play one list but who am I to complain about free minis! Another thing about this is that I didn't have to choose my "first army" myself because I would have probably gone for some pitifully weirdo-fancy army consisting of an obscure cult of drummer-warrior-monks who only existed for 20 years on some god-forsaken mountain top. So instead I was introduced to the Thebans.

    Since I started reading on the topic of Ancient Thebans a few days ago, I found out the following - Ancient Thebes (the one in Greece, not the Egyptian one) was one of the major city-states in Greece, along with Athens and Sparta and those three were constantly at each other's throats.

    Thebes specially so with Athens. Out of those three city states, Thebes probably got the worst PR due to being the city state being mostly based on agriculture and of course the "unpatriotic" move of siding with the Persian king Xerxes: However, Thebes was the head of the Boeotian League of several provinces. After the Persians were repelled at Salamis Athens punished Thebes for siding with the invaders by dissolving the league, only to have it reinstated by the Spartans thereafter. From reading about all the back and forth between the three city-states between the 6th and 4th centuries BC I got the impression that it was mostly like this: conflict breaks out between two of the city-states, the third joins the one they like a little bit better at the moment. The one polis that stands alone is beaten but immediately helped to recuperate by one of the victors just so the other victor wouldn't get too powerful.

    So basically Athens has all the glory and great reputation for every invention and innovation we owe to ancient greece, Sparta has ...well, Spartans. What does Thebes have. First, they have the least cool looking helmets.

    Of course Hoplites were all individually equipped but this one above is the Boeotian Helmet. Not a bad helmet at all, with excellent visual field and unimpaired hearing. Later, in the 4th and 3rd century BC it got really popular with Greek and Makedonian cavalry, less so with infantry, but basically each time you see a model of a Theban Hoplite he'll wear one of those helmets (which in design are based on tied-down sun hats). While wearing sun hats on the battlefield wasn't unheard of and quite common, especially with skirmishers and Psiloi in Ancient Greece, basing your helmet design on them probably also supported the notion that Thebans were quite the "country people". I also read somewhere that in Athens and other places, Thebans were ill-reputed as being simpletons and often the butt-end of jokes. Which of course isn't true but you know how there are regions in each country which have this reputation. However, there is a reference to this even in Shakespeare's King Lear (" I'll talk a word with this same learned Theban. " in which "learned Theban" is supposed to mean "someone who does know a lot of things or at least appears as such but only because he read, memorized and replicates them rather than bearing knowledge or wisdom by insight and actual understanding". Of course I just read that somewhere.)

    So after all these things let's get to the really cool stuff there is to say about Thebans: For 40 years, after the downfall of Athens, Thebes was the dominant power in Greece. Thebes was home to several mythological figures of ancient Greece and center of the cult of Hercules. Epaminondas, Theban general and stateman, beat the numerically superior Spartans in the battle of Leuctra 371 BC devastatingly (also getting their king killed) by employing a new strategy resulting in the most significant battle amongst Greeks in history, as some historians claimed it was. After this victory, Epaminondas became one of the most revered Greek strategists.


    Not only did it shatter the Spartan predominance on the Greek penninsular and freed the Helots who had been enslaved for the past hundreds of years by the Spartans (and didn't have much fun at all. In one source I read of pretty nasty things the Spartans did to them over a LONG timespan) and established Theban predominance for a while but also, and which probably is part of the reason for Thebes' downfall, it impressed the later king Phillipp II. of Macedonia (father to Alexander the Great)who at the time was a hostage of Thebes' so much that he took many lessons from Theban warfare to introduce to the Macedonian army lateron which in the end cost the Thebans (and Greek overall) their position of power. Well, that and the fact that the Macedonians brought longer sticks.

    Also present at this very important battle (as well as many others) was the Sacred Bond of Thebes, a legendary military formation of 150 couples of male lovers who were picked out to form a sort of special shock troops of Thebes. They were chosen men from all social standings and, other than most other hoplites, were professional soldiers paid and housed by the state.

    If you're interested to read more about the Sacred Band I suggest this site or of course Wikipedia if you, like me, are too cheap or lazy to buy or rent proper books.

    Apart from that the Theban cavalry was also highly regarded across Greece and was employed in Alexander the Great's army later on.

    I'm hardly an expert on Ancient Greece and probably got lots of things wrong above but I hope that it gets you a rough overview of what makes Thebans a force to consider aside from the classic armies of Athens or Sparta. And if you're not strangely bemused or interested from the facts above, keep in mind that all these Spartan armies need someone to fight on the tabletop who isn't Spartan for a change.

    Now, after the lengthy introduction, here's the actual meat (Warning: may contain lead) of things: I got a full army of Hoplites (10 units including general) with spears along with a unit of cavalry and a unit of Psiloi (lightest infantry imaginable) with slings. 15mm scale, Essex miniatures.

    So far they are cleaned, half of them are based and primed and next thing I do is seeing if I can paint the models as they're glued to their bases or if I have to rip them off the bases agin and paint them seperately.

    The spears are seperate bits. They actually come with the minis, also cast in white metal but I discarded them right away as I'm absolutely NOT a fan of white metal or lead spears or pikes. They bend immediately and you end up with "spaghetti spears". That's why I got brass rod spears instead. So what you see here is the hoplites (with manly beards). As I said, all mono-pose but I can help that a little by painting their clothes a bit differently and giving each of the guys an individual shield design along with bending the arms a little and glue the spears on in slightly different angles and so on. Apart from that I'm considering sculpting a plumes onto a few of the the helmets which should help a lot to add some individuality.

    The armour these guys are wearing is linen armour which is a bit of a topic of discussion itself. This army is supposed to be a later Greek hoplite army so this kind of armour was much more popular at the time than the old full metal breastplate. As far as I understod it's not completely clear how linen armour worked but it is mostly assumed to be several layers of linen glued over each other which turned them into a hardy armour. Some linen armour were probably supported by sheets of metal much more like chainmail rather than plate armour though.

    This is one element out of 10 elements of Hoplites in the army (the rest is one element of cavalry and one of slingers) and now you see how you really don't need many figures to play DBA. The base is 40mm by 15mm (which I cut from plasticard). The next thing to do is probably trying to make some plumes and decide on a colour to use for the bases.

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