Sunday, September 27, 2015

Early Goths

The early Goths are believed to have originated in Scandanavia, but the first confirmed historical records are from 238CE, when they sacked the Roman town of Histria, having migrated into the area of Thrace and Skythia - modern day south-east Europe.

The Romans found them to be useful mercenaries, and employed them to help fight against the Sassanid Persians.

Around 375CE, the Huns began to press the Goths. Whether this came as a result of westward expansion/migration by the Huns, or as a pushback by the Huns against eastward expansion by the Goths, under their king Ermanaric, is subject to argument. The result was that the Ostrogoths came under Hun rule, and the Huns then began to press on against the Visigoths.

The Visigoth king Fritigern approached the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Emperor Valens in 376CE, asking to be allowed to settle on the south bank of the Danube. Valens allowed this, but after a famine, the Gothic War of 376-382 ensued, and the Goths and some local Thracians revolted. At the Battle of Adrianople in 378CE, Valens was killed.

Fighting between the Goths and the Romans continued, and a Visigoth army led by Alaric I sacked Rome itself in 410CE. The Visigoths were subsequently allowed to settle in Aquitaine (modern day south-eastern France), where after being driven south by the Franks, they fought and defeated the Vandals, who themselves had been pushed south into modern-day Spain and Portugal. By 475CE, the Goths had conquered most of the Iberian Peninsula, pushing the Vandals further south, into northern Africa. The Visigoth kingdom lasted until 711CE, when it fell into civil war. One faction asked the Muslim Umayyads of North Africa to help, and they decided they wanted to stay., so ended up overrunning the Iberian Peninsular themselves, creating the "kingdom" of Al-Andalus.

In the meantime, the Ostrogothic king Theodemir, broke away from Hunnic rule following the Battle of Nedao in 454, and again decisively defeated the Huns at Bassianae in 468, led by their king Valamir. The Ostrogoths began their conquest of Italy in 488CE, and their kingdom that lasted until 553CE, when Italy returned briefly to Byzantine control, before the Lombards took it over from 568CE.

The Goths were briefly reunited under one king in the early sixth century, when Theodoric "The Great" became regent of the Visigoth kingdom following the death of Alaric II at the Battle of Vouille in 507CE.

(Above) Gothic Nobles escort their king into battle.

The other groups represented in the army - archers, heavy cavalry, skirmishers/scouts armed with javelins, and the warband which formed the basis of the infantry portion of the army. (The javelin men figures are a versatile lot - they also serve part time in my Late Saxon and Viking armies. Slightly later periods, but the figures look close enough to be useable).

Monday, September 14, 2015

More fantasy figures - Orcs this time!

With Halloween fast approaching, I thought I might work on some more "nasties" who could make up an army of demon-type figures, who could fight either my Celts or Vikings (or even Germans) to mark the event.

Last year I painted up some goblins but didn't get them finished before Halloween, and also some undead types - zombies and skeletons. I have a variety of old Dungeons and Dragons monsters that could fit, and also some orcs waiting to be painted. So I've started on the orcs. Just some command figures, mostly riding wargs, at the moment.

The orc commander and his "champion" who will probably lead one of the infantry warbands eventually.

The orc commander and his champion, along with a standard bearer and a drummer to beat out orders for the troops.

Sunday, August 9, 2015


Well, they might not be historical creatures, but given I have been working on a Skythian army, I figured I'd also get two old metal centaurs I still have from my days of playing Dungeons and Dragons ready for action as well.

Some historians believe that the early (mainly Greek, but they are also evident in Indian and some other cultures) myths relating to the existence of centaurs may have been the result of stories told by peoples who weren't used to seeing horses on their first contact with the Steppe Nomad peoples of (modern day) Southern Russia and Eastern Asia.

And as far as the Greeks are concerned, the Skythians would have been the first Steppe Nomad peoples they would have come in contact with. (It is also theorized that the Skythian women who accompanied their men into battle were the inspiration for the Greek legends relating to the Amazons).

One day, I might experiment and let my centaurs join my Skythians on campaign, just for the heck of it. It would be nice to have a few more than just two of them though - a small elite unit of maybe half a dozen figures might look cool if I can find appropriate figures!

Sunday, August 2, 2015


Last week's posts were more about my Skythians, but some of my Thracians made it into a couple of the shots so here's a few more pcs of some of my Thracian warriors.

Thracian light horse armed with javelins, and peltasts with their cutting axes.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

First Skythians ready for battle

I still haven't finished the full army, but the first few units are now battle ready.

The Skythians traced their own history back to around 1,500BCE, but the first known historical records of them as a people appear in 512BCE, when the Persian king, Darius I launched an unsuccessful raid into their territory, which roughly corresponded to the area we know today as the Crimea, and up into Ukraine and southern Russia. They were fierce warriors known for their horsemanship and archery, and the regular appearances of women warriors in their ranks prompts many historians to believe that the "Amazons" of Greek legend were in fact women of the various Skythian tribes.

The Skythians were an early Steppe nomad peoples, similar to the Huns and Mongols of later eras. They traded with the Greeks and Persians, and hired out as mercenaries. Persian kings employed Skythians to train their own troops as archers, and in the Persian battle lineup, the Skythians were lined up next to the native Persian troops, indicated the higher "prestige" they enjoyed than the mercenaries of other allied and subject nations used by the Persians.

In battle, the Skythian cavalry became known for their "wedge" formation, which was later copied by Alexander "The Great" for his Macedonian cavalry. As seen in the photo above, the Skythian Heavy Horse are deployed in a "V" formation, with the tip pointed towards the enemy, and the flanks protected by mounted archers, who provided fire support for the strike and also shielded the vulnerable flanks from counter-attack.

The "wedge" drove into the enemy line (in the photos above and below, Thracian peltasts), similar to the sharp point of a drill, splitting the enemy line and piercing deep into its ranks. The rear ranks of the "wedge", and also the supporting mounted archers, capitalized on the disorganization this caused among the defenders, eventually overwhelming them.

Skythian standards were usually made of horse-tails - white in time of peace (perhaps the fore-runner of the "white flag") and black in time of war.

The Skythians were crushed by Alexander "The Great" at the Battle of Jaxartes in 329BCE and their power declined from there. They were driven out of the Balkans by the Dacian tribes, and were eventually subdued by the Pontic king Mithridates around 100BCE. When the Romans under Julius Cesar defeated Pharnaces II, the son and successor of Mithridates, they came under Roman rule.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Sea Peoples Vs Persians (Post 2 of 2)

And here we have the Persians, from their first sighting from behind Sea Peoples' lines, to action up close.

Sea Peoples Vs Persians (Post 1 of 2)

This battle was fought last January and was intended to be the first of a mini-tournament involving eight of my oldest period armies, but due to other events, I haven't been able to progress with it (so far at least).

I expected my Persians to steamroll the Sea Peoples, but the latter put up a real fight. The pics in this post are of the Sea Peoples army, emerging to defend a narrow pass in a Thermopylae-style scenario.