I’ve mentioned before in these pages that I have a background in Roman stuff, particularly language and literature, but also some history and architecture. In fact, I compiled and annotated a Latin reader on Roman military texts for my Master’s degree. So imagine my delight when I saw this functional Roman ballista by Jerac. These things were used all over the Republic and Empire, including Caesar’s siege of Alesia. There’s no gimmickry here; just like the real deal, the force to launch the bolts comes from coiled cords, not the bow. And the whole thing is LEGO, which makes it even cooler. The Technic gear and axle connector don’t look out of place as parts of the mechanical structure, and, in fact, I believe the lip on the bushing catches on the gear to ratchet the tension. Then flip up those rods, and voilà! You have just destroyed a tower. The wooden planks and the soldiery, along with the suggestion of landscaping, are just icing on the cake to dress it up a bit; the real beauty of the build is the technological achievement.
If you like history and LEGO, Hunter Erickson is a builder you need to check out. His most recent build represents a violent slice of the late years of the ancient Roman empire. The builder gives a very detailed description on Flickr, so make sure you check it out.
Besides being very well posed in an immersive battle scene, the minifigs are quite realistic in their design. The little autumn forest on the other side of the diorama is more than just a background though — if you look closely, you can see it serves as cover for a handful of Germanic archers. And the trees are quite well built as well!
It is rare for a LEGO build to make my jaw drop and leave me drooling on my keyboard, but that is just what this stunning layout of Imperial Rome by Rocco Buttliere did. I have a Master’s degree in Classics, primarily in the Latin language, and so anything and everything Roman is right up my via, but there is a lot of great information to learn in the descriptions of the photos, even for one with an advanced degree in a tangential field. In fact, I could spend hours looking through all the pictures, and have already spent the better part of one skimming through the descriptions. It is fascinating stuff. And the build! It is huge, about 1×2 meters in size, with 66,000 bricks going into its construction. And not one is wasted or superfluous. So let’s take a brief tour of the Eternal City, shall we?
I love it when two things that I like and know something about come together, like peanut butter and jelly or LEGO and Roman history. Tim Schwalfenberg brings us a slice of the early days of Rome, when they were still constructing the Forum.
Or perhaps it is later in Rome’s history when they were building a second, third, or fourth forum. I suspect it is early, though, since the streets are not yet paved and there is still active construction going on with a wooden crane lifting up a block of marble to add to a second building. If that’s not deep enough, please excuse me while I put on my scholar hat for a moment. It should be pointed out that not everything is completely accurate here: the Romans generally built with brick or concrete and faced the buildings with marble, rather than building the whole thing of marble; and also, Caesar Augustus, the first Emperor of Rome (reigning from 27 BC to AD 14) is said by the historian Suetonius to have said, “I found it of brick, but left it of marble”, since marble was rarely used before Augustus’ day.
However, taking my scholar hat off, this is an impressive build, with lovely columns of clearly Ionic styling. The structure conveys the grandeur that is proper to that mighty republic of the past. The trees are particularly nice, with the whips coiled around in an organic way, and evoke the stone pines of Rome well. The folded minifigure capes do a great job as togas, too; you can see a few senators, perhaps, near the sundial in their white togae candidae. My favorite piece usage, though, is the inverted jumper plates for the ladders. The whole thing is impressive. Augustus would be proud.
Sure, those Romans were tough enough when massed in their Legions. But catch them isolated from the main army? In a small group? On a lonely stretch of forest road? Let’s see how tough they are then. That appears to be what Jesse van den Oetelaar is asking in this LEGO scene depicting a trio of unsuspecting Legionaries about to walk into a Barbarian ambush. The irregular base and the greenery are the stars of the show here, with an impressive mix of shrubbery and foliage providing cover for the Barbarian assailants. It’s worth a close look at some of the techniques involved, and the mix of earthy colours deployed — this is a great example of how to build realistic undergrowth in LEGO.
While Rome wasn’t built in a day, Kevin J. Walter probably built the Collesseum in a few hours. Made in the style and charm of the LEGO Architecture series. What made particular design possible is the new Arch 1 x 2 Jumper element to construct the arched columns in an accurate manner at this scale.
While Greek galleys have been an occasional subject for LEGO builders, it’s not often we feature the Roman navy, despite its historical importance in carrying the Roman army to victory across the Mediterranean in places like Carthage, as well as to Britain from Gaul. Iyan Ha has corrected this oversight with his wonderful little Roman warship, with full rigging and even pavilions on the deck for the elite passengers. As wonderful as the ship is, don’t miss the filigreed stand, complete with a custom plaque and a pair of tigers.