by: Andy Brazier [ ]
Originally published on:
Leonidas was a king of Sparta, the 17th of the Agiad line, one of the sons of King Anaxandridas II of Sparta, who was believed in mythology to be a descendant of Heracles, possessing much of the latter's strength and bravery.
The date of Leonidas' birth is not known for sure. Significantly, Leonidas was not his father's eldest son. According to Herodotus Leonidas' mother was his father's niece and had been barren for so long that the ephors, the five annually elected administrators of the Spartan constitution, tried to prevail upon King Anaxandridas to set aside his wife and take another. Anaxandridas refused, claiming his wife was "blameless," whereupon the ephors agreed to allow him to take a second wife without setting aside his first. This second wife, a descendent of Chilon the Wise, promptly bore a son, who was named Cleomenes. However, one year after Cleomenes' birth, Anaxandridas' first wife also gave birth to a son, Dorieus. Leonidas was the third son of Anaxandridas' wife, and either the elder brother or twin of Cleombrotus. Because Leonidas was not heir to the throne, he was not exempt from attending the "agoge," the public school that the sons of all Spartans had to complete in order to qualify for citizenship. Leonidas was thus one of the few Spartan kings to have ever undergone the notoriously harsh training of Spartan youth. Cleomenes I succeeded to his father's throne somewhere between 520 and 516 BC. After Cleomenes' suicide, Leonidas was made king because Cleomenes had died without a son or other closer male relative. Leonidas was also married to Cleomenes' only child and heir, Gorgo. Herodotus says this was part of the reason he became king. Since they were kings from the Agiad line, both Cleomenes and Leonidas claimed Heracles (Hercules) as ancestor. Leonidas was elected to lead the combined Greek forces determined to resist the Persian invasion in 481. This was not simply a tribute to Sparta's military prowess. Sparta had two kings. If all that was needed was a Spartan commander, Leotychidas of the Eurypontid house would have done just as well. The fact that the coalition wanted Leonidas personally is underlined by the fact that just two years after his death, the coalition preferred Athenian leadership to the leadership of either Leotychidas or Leonidas' successor (as regent for his still under-aged son) Pausanias. The rejection of Leotychidas and Pausanias was not a reflection on Spartan arms. Sparta's military reputation had never stood in higher regard. Nor was Sparta less powerful in 478 than it had been in 481. Furthermore, Pausanias himself had proved an effective commander in his stunning victory over the Persians at Plataea in 479. The rejection of Leotychidas and Pausanias in 478 underline the fact that Leonidas was personally viewed by the Greek city-states in the alliance against Persia not only as the most qualified military commmander but as a man they trusted and respected.
Leonidas bravely led a small force of Greeks, mostly Spartan (the famous 300), but also Thespians and Thebans, against the much larger Persian army of Xerxes, at the pass of Thermopylae, in August 480 B.C. during the Persian Wars. According to Herodotus, Leonidas had been warned by the Delphic oracle that either Sparta would be destroyed or their king would lose his life. Leonidas chose the second alternative. All the Spartans and Thespians died, including Leonidas. The Persians mangled the corpse of Leonidas. The Battle of Thermopylae has gone down in history of one of the greatest acts of bravery the world has known, and has been immortalised in books and films. Yet it was his stance here that transformed him from a mere historical figure into a legend. The tomb of Leonidas lies today in the northern part of the modern town of Sparta. Additionally, there is a modern monument at the site of the Battle of Thermopylae, called the "Leonidas Monument" in his honor. It features a bronze statue of Leonidas. A sign, under the statue, reads simply: "Come and get them!", which the Spartans said when the Persians asked them to put down their weapons.
Scale 75 are a Spanish company that have previously released the Crusader in battle and the Flammenwerfer. Leonidas is the first figure in Scale 75 new range entitled HEROES & LEGENDS: "Throughout history and across cultures have been characters that have stood above the others for their courage, honor, personal status, or even cruelty used by the enemy. These features have become true icons or legends remembered and idolized by their generations. Scale75 has compiled some of them and made them available on most epic vision."
The packaging of this kit is exceptional, with the five main white metal parts and the four smaller white metal parts, which are bagged, are packed in-between two foam inserts, inside a box which is then inside another box depicting the painted model.
The casting is clean and flash free, with the only sign of any pour plugs on the shield. This is tiny and a very quick swipe with a file will remove it. The parts break down into, the head with helmet, crest for the helmet, torso, right fore-arm holding the sword, left fore-arm holding the shield, right leg, the tip of the scabbard and the cloak. A small base is also supplied.
The head has the helmet moulded on, which has the cheek and nose guards. Not much of the face can be seen apart from the eyes and mouth. The mouth is moulded as if Leonidas is snarling, so the teeth are seen and well moulded. The eyes are quite deep set, but do have the "eyeballs" cast into the metal. The separate helmet crest is well cast, with an ornate decoration below the horsehair crest. The hair is well defined, and does have a little variation in the thickness of the crest width. The fit of this piece into the helmet is exceptional, with no gaps visible. The torso has the left leg, and the right and left upper arms attached. A part of the cape is also moulded onto the groin area. The body is naked, which as this figure is depicted in a battle stance, seems a bit strange. It is often disputed which torso armor the Spartans wore during the Persian Wars, though it seems likely they either continued to wear bronze cuirasses of a more sculptured type, or instead had adopted the linothorax. I do believe the Spartans cleaned and oiled themselves before going into battle, but I find it very doubtful they went into combat naked, even though it would possibly be considered quite scary facing a horde of naked armed men lol. The legs have a set of greaves, which start from the ankle and cover the knee. The feet are clad in sandals. The cape is well cast and has a fantastic flowing look to it. The cape fits neatly onto the figure, but will need a little filling at the join along the groin. The right fore-arm is holding a Makhaira, which is a type of one-edged, curved sword. The sword was a secondary weapon of the Spartan Army, as the primary weapon was the Dory, a spear used in combat between Phalanxes. The left arm is holding the shield, known as a Aspis. The round shield is well cast but as previously stated does have a small nub to remove. A nice touch to the shield is moulded on battle damage. Dents, arrow damage and sword strikes are well done and add to the stance of the figure. The painted figure on the box-top has the shield painted with the widely known Spartan symbol, adopted in the 420s BC, the letter lambda (Λ), standing for Laconia or Lacedaemon. Both arms connect to the torso upper arm sections with a small guide pin. The fit is pretty good. The shield also has a small guide pin to connect this to the cape, so the left arm is well supported to hold the weight of the shield. The base is oblong and has a pitted appearance, to suggest some ground work. Two large holes are in the stand to place the figure, and a quick dry fit, shows it to hold the figure well.
Pictures of the finished figure are from El Greco Miniatures website.