When in Rome, Build as the Romans Build!

I’ve enjoyed learning about history as long as I can remember; one of the perks, I guess, of having a huge history buff for an older brother! Ancient societies have always been of particular interest to me. These civilizations’ mythology, culture, aesthetics, military techniques, inventions, and philosophies have long outlived them, granting them outsize legacies in the modern age.

Ancient Rome was one of the most, if not the most, impactful civilizations in Western history. The reach and cultural dominance of their empire were enormous, so much so that the Latin they spoke became the base of a half-dozen tongues still spoken today. I find Ancient Rome fascinating, so I definitely wanted to cover it in my Ancient Figbarfs series!

Ancient Roman Minifigures

From left to right, these are our characters:

Titus, a lowly legionary. As skilled in construction as he is in battle, Titus has received the same standardized training as all soldiers of his class. He’s a good shot with a pila, too.

LEGO has produced a Roman legionary minifigure before, and my character uses its signature helmet. Below the neck, though, I sought to differentiate my legionary from the LEGO one. I’ve given Titus a different torso and legs, broad shoulder armor—which, I think, does well to capture the shape of a legionary’s segmented pauldrons—a gladius sword to wear at his belt, and a more accurate pila, a special kind of javelin employed by the Roman army. I would have preferred to use the LEGO legionary’s printed shield, but just didn’t have one on hand.

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Scipio, an officious praetor. Leader of an entire legion, Scipio revels in his stature. He dreams of one day “pulling a Caesar” and leading a coup, but keeps these dreams very much to himself.

I also didn’t want to hew too close to the LEGO-released Roman Centurion figure, but there were some parts here I couldn’t resist reusing, like the crest, the breastplate, and the cape. Using a helmet by BrickWarriors helped to ease the similarities enough for me. I’m pleased with the posing on this figure, especially since it shows off those terrific white short-sleeved arms. I wish I had 10 more pairs of those…

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Felix, a proud standard bearer. The signum he carries holds symbolic value for his legion; being entrusted with it is a great honor, and one that Felix never tires of talking about.

Aside from his arms, legs and shoulder covering, Felix’s design is essentially the same as Titus’s. By the way, I opted for that fabric shoulder covering as a way to mask the detached arm socket. The main difference between my Roman soldiers is, of course, the signum. While I played around with making this banner even larger, topping it with some kind of golden animal or a pair of wings, the more understated design I’ve gone for felt more historically appropriate and realistic (any bigger, and Felix would have had too much trouble carrying it!).

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Clodius, a lazy emperor. Clodius’ favorite place to be is on a lounge couch, being fed grapes. He couldn’t be happier to be in his position.

I’m reusing the toga design I premiered in my Greek figures series here for Clodius. In fact, I originally had the intention of using this purple toga for the Greek collection, but as soon as I thought to include an emperor in the Roman one, I knew I’d need to save that color. It was a pretty late-in-the-game development for me to build Clodius a lounge couch; originally, I had posed him standing giving a Coliseum-style “thumbs down.” That didn’t read visually (minifigures not having thumbs, and all…), so I settled on this pose instead. To me, there’s nothing that better telegraphs the excess and langour of an imperial ruler than laying on a couch with a bowl of delicious grapes!

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Hadrian, an enslaved retiarius. Captured during a campaign in North Africa, the gladiator now known as Hadrian was an unsuccessful rebel against the region’s Roman governor. Every time he sets foot in the arena, he fights for his life.

I think the retiarius is one of the most interesting varieties of gladiator. It seems like the fighting style of the retiarius requires speed, strategy, and agility, not necessarily skills demanded of the more heavily armored types. Because of their distinctive silhouette, one that I associate at once with ancient Rome, my mind immediately went to building a retiarius when I decided to tackle this civilization in figbarf form.

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Maximus, an undefeated murmillo. Maximus is extremely popular in the Coliseum; his famous showmanship in battle gives the people of Rome a real “circus.”

Of the myriad types of gladiator, I don’t think any are as iconic as the murmillo. That helmet is an instantly recognizable symbol. Fun fact: the loincloth Maximus wears is a custom-cut piece I originally modified for my Sacrilege Against Quetzalcoatl scene. Although the scant armoring I’ve presented this gladiator with is historically accurate, his shield isn’t quite right. Here comes the gladiator trivia: a murmillo traditionally held a large rectangular shield, not a small round one like mine carries. Why did I go against history? I aesthetically preferred the color, shape, and size of this buckler, simple as that.


Thanks for reading! If you have any other questions or comments about these minifigs, feel free to leave them in the comments below

Major Figbarf from Asia Minor

I’ve enjoyed learning about history as long as I can remember; one of the perks, I guess, of having a huge history buff for an older brother! Ancient societies have always been of particular interest to me. These civilizations’ mythology, culture, aesthetics, military techniques, inventions, and philosophies have long outlived them, granting them outsize legacies in the modern age.

The first Persian Empire, known as the Achaemenid Empire, ruled a huge portion of the ancient world ranging from the Balkans to the Indus valley. This enormous entity, which excelled at centralizing power, endured for 200 years until its conquest by Alexander the Great. Known as notable adversaries of the Greeks during the Greco-Persian wars, the empire was also famously tolerant of numerous religions within its boundaries. I decided that, in my series of Ancient figbarfs, I had to address the Persians!

Ancient Persian Minifigures

From left to right, these are our characters:

Kourosh, a sovereign king. King of Kings of the Achaemenid Empire, Kourosh is a sound, fair, and commanding leader. He guides his satrap governors with a firm hand, and brooks no dissent among them.

I love the outfit I made for this figure. It’s regal, flowing, and feels monarchical despite its simplicity. The baby-blue color, to me, telegraphs Kourosh’s tolerance and temperance, while the overlaying cut Garmadon robe symbolizes his wisdom and authority. Meanwhile, that gold helmet signifies his monarchy… Color impressions. I’m glad I gave him this big, Babylonian-looking beard!

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Tamineh, a graceful queen. Unlike many women across the ancient world, Tamineh is treated with (relative) respect by her society and possesses some legal rights. Courtesans see her as a tempering force on the will of the king— and her wrath, though rare, is feared doubly to her husband’s!

Of the characters in this collection, Tamineh was the hardest one for me to get right. I wanted her to feel opulent, but not gaudy. I sought the feeling of a layered look—signature to ancient Persian women—that was also cohesive. I built the figure around its torso, which aptly comes from LEGO’s short-lived Prince of Persia line. Tying in a white and gold cape, a warm skirt, and some golden jewelry did the trick here.

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Ormazd, a veteran Immortal. One of the (precisely) 10,000 most elite troops in the empire, Ormazd has helped to expand its boundaries in a few campaigns.

Ormazd also uses a Prince of Persia torso… come to think of it, almost all the rest of the minifigs here do! I confess to being slightly beholden to pop culture on this character’s design. Despite history pointing towards the Immortals—a group of Persian heavy infantry, described in hyperbolic terms by the famously fanciful Herodotus—being more flamboyantly attired than my take on them here, the Immortals’ wildly inaccurate (yet striking) depiction in Zach Snyder’s adaptation of the graphic novel 300 and the darkly-armored Unsullied from Game of Thrones (who certainly take their cues from this legendary regiment) were hard icons to resit.

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Ramin, a jovial stable boy (with Jawad, a royal steed). Ramin is a devout Zoroastrian who leads his life according to the Threefold Path of Asha: Good Thoughts, Good Words, Good Deeds. As such, despite his low station in the palace, he manages to smile through most days. Jawad, meanwhile, likes running fast and eating yummy carrots.

Horses were an important part of Achaemenid civilization, tools of military might and transit that enabled the formation of their empire. It’s my first time including a horse in a figbarf, but I thought there would be no better opportunity than here! To me, Ramin is the “heart” of this figbarf, which is why he’s in the center: not only is he the most lively in face and color, but he and Jawad also tell the strongest visual story. I wanted to highlight the more peaceful aspects of even a highly militarized empire.

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Ashkan and Babak, some stoic sentries. These two have very little to say; after all, they’re paid to say nothing!

These two are a fun duo!… Well, stoic, but fun. I think the combos are simple yet effective, and having two figures “in uniform” with each other—while not necessarily a usual feature of a figbarf like this—emphasizes their roles as soldiers better than mere sword and shield could have done alone. Those shields, by the way, are pulled from a Lord of the Rings pirate ship.


Thanks for reading! If you have any other questions or comments about these minifigs, feel free to leave them in the comments below

Athens and Sparta and Crete, Oh My!

I’ve enjoyed learning about history as long as I can remember; one of the perks, I guess, of having a huge history buff for an older brother! Ancient societies have always been of particular interest to me. These civilizations’ mythology, culture, aesthetics, military techniques, inventions, and philosophies have long outlived them, granting them outsize legacies in the modern age.

Of the civilizations of antiquity, I find few more fascinating than ancient Greece. So, when I had the idea to make some minifigure collections (“figbarfs,” in LEGO fan parlance) about the ancient world, a Greek one was a no-brainer! Read on to learn more about the figures I’ve devised.

Ancient Greek Minifigures

From left to right, these are our characters:

Jason, a disciplined guard. As one of the protectors of Athena’s Parthenon, Jason takes his work very seriously; he won’t stand for any tomfoolery near his city’s sacred heart!

The helmet and breastplate that this minifig sport were designed explicitly for a Greek soldier, coming from LEGO’s 2010 collectible Spartan Warrior. In my efforts to differentiate this minifigure from that one, I had my fiancée take a nail polish brush to the plume, making it dark blue instead of its original red. I really like the pose I achieved on this figure, especially that secretly-supported spear.

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Xander, a gifted sculptor. Don’t get in the genius’ way while he’s working; he’s almost nailed the chiton dress around his masterpiece’s feet, and doesn’t take kindly to being interrupted.

Xander himself, while a dynamically-posed figure I’m reasonably happy with, isn’t the centerpiece here. I’ve intentionally positioned him facing backwards for a few reasons: first, because back angles like these add visual interest to the full composition; second, because Xander’s torso doesn’t look as Grecian from the front; third, and most importantly, because I want your eye to go to his statue instead. I initially tried to make this into the Venus de Milo, but found I couldn’t quite get the delicate posture even with my “augmented” posing tricks. So I went generic.

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Arcadius, a wise philosopher. Leader of his own academy, Arcadius teaches his pupils about everything from science to poetry, from strategy on the battlefield to strategy at the fishmonger’s. He almost never stops talking.

How, I wondered, could I give a LEGO minifigure a cloth toga? The answer was less-than-purist: cut a traditional minifig cape, wrap it around, and add a little piece of scotch tape on the back to hold loose ends in place. Don’t worry, though: I use the cut portion of that LEGO fabric elsewhere in this figbarf! I think the strong color blocking at play and the subtle texture of the fabric help to offset Arcadius’ simple design.

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Euripides, an awestruck student. Young Euripides’s can hardly handle all the jaw-dropping knowledge his teacher Arcadius shares… one educational walk around the acropolis, and his brain feels like olive oil!

Here’s the same toga design and body combo as I employed on Arcadius, only these are in dark blue rather than dark green. The fabric of Euripides’ garment is LEGO’s flexible cottony cape, rather than their more traditional paper-fabric type, so I could fold and crease it much more easily, and didn’t need to cut any of it away. I’m particularly happy with the expression I chose for this character… you can basically see the learning happening in real time!

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Nektarios, a brave warrior. An exemplary follower of the Spartan lifestyle both on and off campaign, Nektarios has proven himself in a dozen battles against a dozen different city-states.

I wanted my Spartan warrior to be as different as possible from LEGO’s 2010 version, but I also wanted to take advantage of the historically accurate details from the original. So, I’ve spruced up the helmet’s plume a little (I used a Sharpie), given my Spartan a decorated shield, armed him with a sword instead of a spear and—of course—made his skin peachy instead of yellow. The legs here are from Princess Leia as Jabba the Hut’s slave in Star Wars: Return of the Jedi.

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Hipparchia, a theatrical poet. Although women are not allowed to perform in the theater, Hipparchia’s excellent dramas and comedies made her the star of last spring’s Dionysia festival, a wave of success she’s been riding ever since.

There’s that piece of cut fabric I mentioned earlier! What a terrific and lucky use arose for the rejected cropping of Arcadius’ toga. I just adore how the draping looks here. To me, it seems tremendously dynamic and adds a splash of “kapow” to an otherwise simple minifig. The closest thing I could get to a Greek theater mask was this head from Ninjago, but I think it works decently enough… or, at least, it doesn’t upstage anything else in this picture!


Thanks for reading! If you have any other questions or comments about these minifigs, feel free to leave them in the comments below