Tuesday, May 8, 2012


Who were the Bastarnae?  For me, that was a good question as I hadn't seen them at our club and I didn't recognize this troop type on the Pontic army list.   I did a little reading to figure it out for myself.  Understand that while some of you have been reading ancient history for 10, 20 or more years, I'm relatively new to this field on account of spending my life reading up on the American Civil War, Napoleonics and WW II, especially the East Front.  

The Greek historian Appian thought the Bastarnae were a Thracian tribe but the current line of thinking is  they were a Germanic people.  A little more reading taught me that they were one of the tribes that made up the Dacians, who themselves were a part of the Thracians.   Appian described the Bastarnae as the bravest of Mithridates allies.  He makes a brief mention of them regarding a sortie but after that, I can't find a specific account of them in the Pontic campaigns.  Because the Bastarnae didn't utilize the written word, what we know of them is limited to other historians and the gaps in our knowledge are filled via speculation and argumentation.  There is a line of thought which says they fought in skullcap, loose pants and no shirt.  A second line of thought says this is all wrong! They appear to have been renown falxmen but another line of thought is that they weren't falxmen at all or that only nobles had falxs due to the difficulty of smithing such a large curved blade.  

Into this gap springs the ancient hobbyist's imagination. Xyston makes beautiful rhomphaia armed figures so I used them as Bastarnae.  I chose to kit them in colorful clothes in the Gallic tradition.  In Impetus, these fellows are Impetuous and get 5 extra Impetus dice in melee, basically doubling their effectiveness when they go in fresh.  

Lastly is a relief from the Tropaeum Traiani that gives a nice visual of the Roman vs. Faxlman showdown.  This one shows an imbecilic falxman who allowed a legionnaire to walk up and stick him in the ribs.  I'm hoping my Bastarnae do just a bit better against the Romans!


  1. Hi Monty good looking figs/painting job...

    have you looked at this link talks about Bastarnae.

    here is a link of images one shows Bastarnae falxman..


  2. I was going to say "same to you, buddy", but then I kept reading ;)

  3. Hey Phil!

    Thanks and yes, I start with Wiki but my wife the librarian tells me I can't count it as authoritative. A clubmate suggested I stop reading current books on the ancient era and work through the classics. To that end, I have a copy of Plutarch's Lives. It's a bit of a rabbit hole I've fallen into, isn't it?

    1. I know what you are saying about reading info off the internet i.e. Wiki are not really reliable, well sometimes they do...
      umm..hmm...every thought about contacting, on line, Bulgarian and Rumanian Museums? They may or should have info on Bastarnae culture like their gods,wars, clothing,trade, pottery art etc..... got me going now :o) lets see what I dig up about the Bastarnians? Bastarnanites? :))

  4. I'm not to sure about Plutarchs if his :o) writings are reliable? ..... anyway According to Strabo 64/63 BC – ca. AD 24 a Greek geographer, philosopher and historian.

    Strabo identifies three sub-tribes which forms the Bastarnae; the Atmoni, Peucini, and Sidoni. The Peucini name at least was probably not used until after the tribe had settled around the Danube delta by the end of the first century BC, as the name was coined by writers following their colonisation of the Danubian island of Peuce.
    By the third century BC they were far removed from this traditional Germanic territory. In fact, they may have had a mixed Celto-Germanic ancestry, possibly being Gaulish (Celtic) speakers in 179 BC, while in the first century AD they were definitely Germanic speakers. By the late first century BC they were to be found in the northern Balkans, in territory which later formed parts of Moldavia, a large part of Moldova, and areas of Transylvania and southern Ukraine. They must have occupied this area for some time prior to 29 BC as they showed some characteristics of Steppe-dwelling Iranians such as Scyths and Sarmatians.

    Their earliest mentions in history places them in Macedonia and Pontus, but not as a tribe, merely as mercenaries fighting for Greek rulers. They remained in the Balkans, however, ending up on the northern side of the Danube delta, where they eventually vanished from the historical record.

    BASTARNAE (Βαστάρναι) or BASTERNAE (Βαστέρναι), one of the most powerful tribes of Sarmatia Europaea, first became known to the Romans in the wars with Philip and Perseus, kings of Macedonia, to the latter of whom they furnished 20,000 mercenaries.

    Various accounts were given of their origin; but they were generally supposed to be of the German race. Their first settlements in Sarmatia seem to have been in the highlands between the Theiss and March, whence they pressed forward to the lower Danube, as far as its mouth, where a portion of the people, settling in the island of PEUCE obtained the name of PEUCINI They also extended to the S. side of the Danube, where they made predatory incursions into Thrace, and engaged in war with the governors of the Roman province of Macedonia.

    They were driven back across the Danube by M. Crassus, in B.C. 30. In the later geographers we find them settled between the Tyras (Dniester) and Borysthenes (Dnieper), the Peucini remaining at the mouth of the Danube. Other tribes of them are mentioned under the names of Atmoni and Sidones. They were a wild people, remarkable for their stature and their courage. They lived entirely by war; and carried their women and children with them on waggons. Their main force was their cavalry, supported by a light infantry, trained to keep up, even at full speed, with the horsemen, each of whom was accompanied by one of these foot-soldiers.

  5. Like the figures Monty. And some great research from Phil!

  6. Just thought I'd say that the roman legionaries would not have strengthened their helmets if only the nobles carried falx. The army and especially this unit looked marvellous. Keep going with the good work.