by: CK Tang [ ]
Most of us connect the mention of Hoplites with the Spartans and the Battle of Thermopylae especially for those who have viewed Hollywood’s recent glossy, artistically modified version of the battle in the movie “300”. However, in reality the Hoplites were more than just Spartans as the other Greek nations had Hoplites as well. More importantly there were other representatives at Thermopylae that played an equally important role besides the vaunted Spartans. The Thespians from the city of Thespiai in Boeotia being one such group and it is the Thespians Hoplites that Seil has chosen to reproduce in one of their 3 offerings on the subject of Ancient Greek Hoplites.
One of the major pluses of purchasing any Seil figure for me has nothing to do with the figure itself but rather it’s the packing in which the figure comes in. As with other 54mm. Seil figures, one will find a simple grey colored, 1-piece box with a photo of the figure at the front. What comes next is what I consider makes Seil one of the best packed figure kits around. The fragile white metal parts are sandwiched between 2 substantially thick pieces of foam sponge which is in turn enclosed in a sturdy 2 piece box. As a testament to how sturdy this packing is I have experienced on 3 occasions a flying delivery by the local postman which saw the boxes sail some 10 metres across in the air to land on the hard concrete floor of my porch with no damage to the parts inside. As further proof you can see from the photos, the damage in this instance was restricted to the top, right edge of the outer box and inner box. Even more amazing was that none of the pieces even moved as evidenced by the parts remaining in the indention made in the lower sponge. The only 2 conclusions that can be inferred from this are, every postman in my country would make excellent Frisbee/Discus throwers and Seil makes fantastic boxes.
A painting reference consisting of a small, single sheet of photos showing various sides of the figure and shields which also acts a guide for the rope fastenings on the inner side of the shield is included as well.
Sculpted by Yury Serevryakov the figure comes in 11 pieces of white metal. These consist of:
Head with helmet
2 arms, one holding a Kopis (sword) the other the shield handle
2 different choices of Aspis (shields)
Upper torso with back cape attached
1 very large base
In addition to the highly welcomed option of heads and shields, a small length of string was thoughtfully provided for the fastenings on the inside of the shield.
Comments & Recommendations
As far as I can tell, given that I’m only a casual follower of Ancient Greek history, the figure itself is decked out in pretty much the standard Hoplite issue at that time. His helmet is of a Corinthian design and while it was the most widely used of all Ancient Greek helmets it was not conducive to hearing unlike the Chalcidian and Attic versions that followed later. Hammered out of a single piece of brass it was designed to yield rather than crack. The helmet is crowned with a crest which is well rendered. Unlike the rest of the parts which have short stubs for fitting, the crest did not possess a positioning stub and there was no corresponding hole in the helmet. A pin will have to be inserted to strengthen its placement.
One of the nice features of this kit is the option of 2 heads. One with the Corinthian helmet and the other bare. Both heads are well sculpted and the bare head comes with a well rendered expression of shouting out orders in line with the overall commanding pose of the figure. Not much of the cuirass or breastplate is visible being covered largely by the cape but it is partially visible on the right side. The cuirass consists of linen reinforced by scales and finished at the end towards the lower torso with leather strips called Pteruges. The painting reference shows the scales painted as brass but apparently iron scales were used as well. The body armor is completed with a set of leg guards or krismis that extend from the ankle up to the knee. The figure is depicted as barefoot.
Seil has elected to arm the figure with a decent rendition of a Kopis, a single edge, convex sword although the Xiphos, a straight, double edged blade was preferred given its relatively better versatility. The other nice feature of this kit is the option of 2 shields, one a full convex shield and the other a Boetician shield. The shields were actually called Aspis but somehow got named as Hoplons from which the Hoplites derived their name. The shields are adequately molded, detailed and accurate as far as the 2 forearm and hand attachments are concerned. The actual shields were heavy being of wood, leather and brass construction and the one in this kit is similar. While the left arm holding the shield has a positioning stub for fitting to the upper arm, an addition of a pin at the stub will likely be needed for reinforcement given the weight of the shield. As mentioned above the inclusion of a small piece of string matching the diameter of the rope grip on the left hand was thoughtful of Seil and saves a bit of time having to look for a matching string to attach to the inside of the shield.
The capes were well molded and sufficiently thin to convey its fluidity. This is not always the case with some of the kits from other manufacturers that I have come across. Like the rest of the parts, the front piece of the cape comes with positioning studs. In my set the fitting of the cape will require some sanding on the upper torso and possibly some puttying at the joint for the front cape to sit comfortably. Apart from the cape a dry fit of all other parts indicated a reasonably good match. Although manageable this kit did come with a bit more flash at the seam lines.
While not a major problem for me as I seldom ever use the base provided with most white metal figures, this set will require the stub on either foot to be cut off in order to fit the feet to the indentations on the base. It may be due to the combination of the open stance and the stubs underneath being a wee bit too thick. The simple base was adequately detailed and very generously proportioned. No stinging on material here for sure.
Despite some slight fitting problems and a bit more flash compared to other Seil figures I have encountered this figure is still a recommended buy and more so for Ancient Greek enthusiasts. It has a good, commanding pose and is well sculpted with reasonably good molding. The options of heads and shields are definite pluses adding much to the overall value of this kit.
The battle of Thermopylae in which this figure is set has forever been immortalized as a heroic battle against insurmountable odds. It also illustrates militarily how discipline, superior training and terrain can be great force multipliers. The Greek Hoplites were essentially the heavy infantry of their time. It was indeed their superior armor and their iron discipline which enabled the tactics they employed to be used to their full advantage.
The 700 Thespians led by Demofilos at the Battle of Thermopylae may not have received the visibility as the 300 Spartans but they have nevertheless earned equal footing with the Spartans when they chose to stay and fight the Persians to a certain death. Despite given the option to leave when the position of the Greeks became untenable due to betrayal, the Thespian warriors who may have been inferior in fighting skills were certainly equal to the Spartans in courage and honor. It is fitting that they have been honored today with a plaque next to that dedicated to Leonidas and the Spartans at the site of Thermopylae.