Celadus (thraex class) and Astacius (retiarius
following is a guest review. The review
and photos do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Michael Crawford
or Michael's Review of the Week, and are the opinion and work of the
|Mr. Parker is hitting up a
couple more Gladiators tonight - tell us all about them, Jeff!
Just a few weeks back I reviewed the new gladiator figure from ACI, he
was based on the real historical character of Flamma, a secutor class
of gladiator, and he was a solid piece of work. There’s no word yet as
to whether ACI plan to follow him up with an opponent, but fear not,
your prayers may have just been answered by another new kid on the
At the time I commented on the fact that figures based on ancient
history seemed to be getting thinner on the ground these days. But like
busses, then two come along! So, not only do we have an exciting new
company starting up here, but they are also located in Italy (a great
start when basing your figures of archaeological findings in ancient
Rome and Pompeii). And they plan on bringing us a whole new range of
base bodies and historically accurate figures that are built to be
compatible with all the best high end stuff around at the moment.
To kick off we have the first duo of releases, and they are two
different classes of gladiator. Each type of gladiator had his own
specific purpose in the arena and was modelled to represent different
aspects of Roman life, and these two are the thraex and retiarius
class. There are some great re-enactment photos on the site here,
and if you are in the mood there is further historical info
wore the same armour as the hoplomachi incorporating a wide rimmed
helmet that covered the entire head, which was always adorned with a
griffin motif on the front of the crest (this mythical creature was the
companion of the ‘avenging goddess Nemesis’, or so I learnt on
Wikipedia). He was equipped with a round or square shield called a
parmula, and a curved sword called either a sica or falx. As protection
he had two thigh-length greaves, a wide leather belt over a loincloth
and a padded linen arm covering with a leather manica that was bound to
his arm with ties.
The retiarius was a much less armoured warrior, with his title
translating directly from the Latin as the net-fighter or net-man. His
simple garb and allocated weapons were meant to represent peasant
fisherman. Meaning his weapons were a large weighted net (iaculum or
rete) for casting over his opponent, a three pointed spear (fuscina or
tridens) for attacking at distance, then a short knife (pugio) and
lastly a short four ‘spiked’ dagger (quadrens), the last two being for
close quarters combat.
His armour was simple, consisting of padded linen shin coverings (if he
was lucky), a wide leather belt over a loincloth or tunic, a padded arm
sheath with a leather manica over the top and an ornate armoured
shoulder pauldron (galerus), but he NEVER had a helmet!
|This of course
left an all-important part of his anatomy completely
unprotected. However, he made up for his lack of armour by being far
more agile and able to move around his foe with no restriction to his
vision, meaning he was still a fearsome opponent to be reckoned with,
and was often victorious in the arena.
So now you have a
little background as to who these two guys represent, you gotta decide
which to go for… or will you just jump in and get the pair, they make
pretty spectacular sparing partners. And I’d also like to recommend
checking out Dunedin’s great pics over on OSW
Kaustic Plastic are attempting to make these figures as historically
accurate as they can, so the packaging has good deal of information
about the gladiator ‘types’ on the inside front flap, behind the
The construction is like old school classic military figures, so it’s a
5 panel flap fronted box with an accessory tray fixed to the inner flap
whilst the figure is held in a vac formed tray.
No twisties are needed and everything is held securely. The whole
package is full colour throughout and carries plenty of pics of the
kitted up figures alongside details of the accessories. So nothing
truly groundbreaking, but for a new company they do the job perfectly.
Sculpting - Celadus ****,
As far as I was originally aware these weren’t based on any specific
‘gladiators’ who actually lived. But Kaustic Plastik have obviously
done some homework. I looked up the name Celadus, and there is some
known graffiti scrawled on the wall of the gladiatorial training camp
in Pompeii, it was written by Celadus Crescens and reads- ‘Suspirium
puellarum Celadus thraex’ (Celadus the Thracian makes the girls sigh).
Nice attention to detail and research there.
So I then followed it up by searching for Astacius and I found this
mosaic from Rome
(300 A.D.), which clearly shows the retiarius twice. Once defeating
Astivus the secutor and then again in a victory salute. So even though
we know very little about these two fighting men, it’s nice to know
they are based loosely on actual gladiators.
Celadus is my favourite of the two (with the irony being he will be
displayed fully helmeted up), as his portrait is quite subtle. It’s a
solid head sculpt that lends itself to a great many kit-bashes, and
because of his close cropped short hair he could be used to represent
any time in history. His expression is the focused and determined side
of neutral and looks very natural.
Astacius is also a solid piece of work, but is far more specific to his
job here as a retiarius. I did find that there are a couple of elements
about this portrait that are just slightly off, and I think the major
one for me are his eyes. They seem ever so slightly too high in his
head. Only by a millimetre or so, but it’s enough to make him look more
character specific rather than purely generic.
I have read in some places it was inspired by the Italian footballer
Francesco Totti (who plays for Roma… so there is some logic in the
decision) but I’m not really seeing that 100% either. He is
captured with a slight frown, eyes straightforward and a tight serious
expression. He wears a sculpted headband that holds back his long hair,
which is worn in a centre parting. It’s not a bad sculpt by any stretch
of the imagination, but I do find Celadus to be stronger and more
- Celadus ****, Astacius ***3/4
We have a lot to thank Hot Toys for… well as collective of collectors
and punters we do, I’m not so sure their competition feels the same way
You see we now have a situation where new companies like KP understand
the only way they will be taken seriously is by making a product that
is up there with the best the big boys have to offer in terms of
quality. And while I’m not saying this is at the ultimate pinnacle of
paint apps today, it is still very impressive. I have a clear favourite
of the two and that is Celadus again, but it’s down to the whole
package. He’s got one of those generic faces that fits being a
gladiator, but could just as easily be a mafia boss or a photo-copier
repair man, but whatever he ends up being he is 100% convincing and
looks like a dude you could pass in the street. It’s all about quiet
understatement with Celadus, while Astacius is slightly more dramatic.
He could still be used for a ton of bashes, but the headband means he’d
be more suited to 70’s hippies, 80’s rockers or perhaps Viet Nam vets.
The actual application is outstanding on both, especially when you
factor in how young the company is and also the price they are managing
to sell these at. The flesh tones are all very convincing and they have
mastered the glossy wet look eye on both of them. If this is a sign of
things to come, I think we have another major contender to look at, and
I hope they can shift plenty of units and build on this very strong
There’s no denying that Kaustic have been inspired by some of the
recent muscular bodies to come onto the market by other companies, but
it’s difficult to reinvent the wheel, and if it ain’t broke, don’t fix
As they have gone for a muscular physique you have to approach this
with realistic expectations, but what you lose in extreme articulation
is made up for in the fact that it looks good half naked (which is a
very important factor for a gladiator). Just cast you mind back to the
days when we had Sideshow giving us POTA slave Brent
or even Crazy
Horse... shudders! (I should point out I’m not knocking them,
they were both solid figures for their time of release… but things do
evolve, and the ‘Buck’ never suited being nekid).
I did manage to get one of Kaustic Plastiks new base bodies (with an
alternate head sculpt) as well, which I plan to review separately. But
for now I shall include a few basic poses to show off its range, like –
and indeed this.
I hope they give a flavour of its potential. The ankle has a good range
and is in effect a dumbbell configuration, beaning there is a ball
joint within the foot and a second in the base of the ankle. This
affords a reasonably good range in all directions. The knee is a simple
pegged hinge so you get a good 90 degree bend here, but the top of the
knee does tend to stand just a little proud when he has it completely
bent (this has been redesigned for KP’s future ‘heroic’ muscle bod to
incorporate a double knee). There is a universal ball joint at the hip
with a peg into the top of the thigh giving it a great range of motion
in all directions and the ability to turn a full 360 degrees.
The waist and mid torso can turn and tilt, giving him the ability to
slouch forward, lean to the sides and arch his back for looking up or
prone positions. The shoulders are pegged and hinged universal joints,
meaning they can turn a full 360 and bend out from the body by 90
degrees. They can also shrug up and down a little, but the soft vinyl
that covers his upper chest and neck can make it difficult to maintain
some of these more subtle and delicate poses.
The elbow is a pegged hinge with a 90-degree bend and the wrists are
the now virtually standard double pegged cut ball joint (which has
become the standard because it works so freakin well). Lastly there is
the neck, and it’s quite a doozy of a joint to end on. I love when neck
articulation works well; it’s one of the areas that really help bring
figures to life. Nothing makes a figure look more fake, dead and static
than having to have its head constantly upright. Some folks don’t
realise just how much we move, nod, tilt and shake our heads virtually
every moment of every day, and this figure is more than up to striking
almost any pose with its head. I hardly ever give muscle bods much more
than three and a half stars, but the neck articulation here is good
enough to merit an extra ¼ star.
So to sum up it’s a great body that can be got for a great price, and
it helps elevate both these figures well above my expectations for the
price range they are in. It also makes me eager to see how the bulkier
‘heroic’ body will turn out.
- both ****
This is one of the areas that Kaustic Plastik look set to shine. Not
only have they reproduced the ancient gladiatorial weapons accurately,
but they fave made many of the parts out of actual metal.
Thraex gladiator helmet
Thraex curved sword (sica)
Thraex shield (parmula)
Both the helmet and sword blade are metal. I went over the helmet above
in detail, and thought there is little to say about the sword it is
well replicated in the sica style as can be seen here.
The blade is metal whilst the handle is moulded plastic with a large
round pommel. You can find out all about Thracian ephemera and weaponry
He also has his parma style shield which is made of moulded plastic,
but the texturing and paint app is so crisp and accurate I actually
thought some of the details were metal and stuck on as sections. It has
a simple grip-bar set within the concave hemisphere that is the reverse
of the convex dome that adorns the centre of the front of the shield.
Lastly he has a simple metal stand, and I have to admit I have been
using it… I’m not proud of the fact, but the sheer weight of his armour
has made it a necessity. He can stand and pose unaided, but I wouldn’t
want to leave him on a shelf for a prolonged time without it.
Happily Astacius doesn’t need a stand, and because of that he doesn’t
come with one. But he does come with-
Retiarius shoulder guard ‘galerus’
Retiarius trident ‘fusciana or tridens’ (die-cast metal and wood)
Retiarius small dagger ‘pugio’ (die-cast metal blade)
Retiarius special four spiked dagger ‘quadrens’ (die-cast metal blade)
Fabric weighted net ‘rete’
Put simply I can’t fault any of his extras either. Even the net, which
one would think was a relatively easy item to get right but is in fact
just as easily something they could have got very wrong turns out to be
big and weighty, with the ‘weight’ being the all important factor so it
can hang and drape to look convincing at this scale. And I’m happy to
say it works well (it could perhaps do with dirtying up a bit) but it
fits well with the finished look. His other weapons are metal, or in
the case of his trident metal and wood. All the weapons and pieces of
armour are based on actual items found at archeological sites in both
Rome and Pompei, so the detailing is as accurate as can be achieved and
the fine observations on the tridents prongs and the pommels on his
daggers are finely executed. The trident even has a second smaller
metal spear tip at the other end from the fork. For those that want to
get creative and start making some extra kit bashed gladiators be sure
to check out the website, as they are selling loose weapons sets and
armour pieces parted out for very good prices (remember they are metal).
- Celadus ****, Astacius ***3/4
Gladiators, as we all know,
favour a minimalist wardrobe. Think bare feet, loincloths and the
occasional leather strap… but don’t think about it for too long!
However, even though dressed in the sparse nature they favoured for the
arena, KP have still managed to make these two look pretty authentic. I
have to admit I always imagine muted earthy tones when picturing
gladiators, but the truth of the matter is that Romans (much like
ancient Greeks) were quite adept at creating bright dyes and stains for
their ceremonial clothing, and what could be more ceremonial that a
And so it is that Astacius has a bright blue and red garter worn around
the top of his right shin, and a deep wine coloured loincloth with an
orange tasselled hem. He also has natural linen coloured padded
bindings on his shins and left arm. Over the arm padding he wears his
leather manica that is bound, strapped and tied at the rear and has a
broad strap that fits around and over his upper chest. He also wears a
wide leather belt at the waist with a simple open ended sheath for his
dagger, both these pieces have large metal ‘coin like’ emblems or
crests fixed to them and the belt laces up at the back through metal
eyelets. Lastly we get the real metal shoulder guard (galerus), which
acted like a shield against sweeping blows levelled at him from his
mostly right-handed opponents. This is a heavy item that needs to be
loosely undone and placed on the arm. You then pull tight the leather
straps, which are laced up the back through metal eyelets, and then tie
it off. The whole outfit comes together well, with my only slight miss
giving being that I would have liked the colours to have been slightly
more muted and weathered. I know (as I already explained) that they had
bright colours, but this looks like the very first time he has worn
them, and I’d have liked them to have been through the laundry a few
times and perhaps even have a spattering of blood. Yes, these are the
things any good customiser can and probably will do, but I always keep
my figures as close to how they left the factory as I possibly can.
Now onto Celadus, who once again takes the lead for me in terms of
overall coolositude. He has the same padded linen bindings on his shins
and also on his arm and he also has a leather manica worn over it, but
on the right hand side this time. The strap to hold it in place also
goes over his chest, but he has a far smaller metal emblem on his. He
wears a plain calico coloured loincloth with a bright red sash running
around its top section. Over this he sports a wide leather belt with
three more of the smaller metal motifs stuck to it (this also laces up
the back). For added protection he also wears highly ornate large ‘real
metal’ shin guards known as ‘ocrae’. These need to be laced up the back
and tied off (I found the easiest way to do this is to remove the feet,
they just pop off). And lastly, the ‘pièce de résistance’ his ornate
thraex helmet, which is again made of solid cast metal. There is a
detachable leather skullcap inside that ties under the chin; you then
simply place the helmet directly onto the head.
It has some lovely detailing and complex castings run around the bands
linking the different sections, as is always the case with thraex
helmets it has the large traditional Griffin head as part of its
crescent. Bright red real ostrich feathers spill down the back, and two
small white feathers are glued to the sides. I warn you now the small
white feathers are very delicate and I had to re-glue the left hand
side one on mine. As much as like the fact KP used real feathers, I
feel it’s one of those occasions where something moulded from plastic
might have worked better.
Also be aware that when fully kitted up Celadus weighs a ton, it’s a
bit like the old DiD Samurai, and even though I don’t favour figure
stands this is one of those occasions where it might be prudent to
utilise one, and luckily he comes supplied with a simple but sturdy
metal one (like the ones you used to get with Toys McCoys figures).
Both outfits are well carried out and look to be very well researched,
and even though I would have liked a little more weathering, it’s still
hard to actually fault the finished product. Because as cool as these
are as playthings, I can also see them adorning many a school history
departments shelf and perhaps even the occasional museum display.
Factor - ****
If you like some gladiatorial goodness in the form of 1/6th figures
from ancient history you are being just a little spoilt for choice at
the moment. First we get Flamma from ACI and now we have these two.
Kaustic have already shown preview pics of a rather spiffy Roman
Legionary (viewable here)
so as long as they sell well enough (and that’s up to you guys) I have
a feeling we could be in for some great new historical figures over the
next few years, and hopefully well into the future.
As far as fun goes these are sitting pretty, both have an impressive
array of real metal extras and both pose well (which is pretty
important for gladiators). And being a man of a certain age I grew up
watching many a sword and sandal epic before Gladiator was even the
germinating seed of a notion on Ridley Scott’s fevered brow. So if you
like a little blood, sweat, dust and death, go and get them while you
for money - Both ****
I actually consider these something of a bargain. Of course you need to
equate shipping into the price, but direct from the Kaustic Plastik
website Celadus is €76 (euros) (as long as the euro is still around by
the time you read this). That works out at around $100 a pop (less than
£70). While Astacius is €69 making him about $94 (£60)
Now considering this is a new company, with a freshly developed
‘unique’ muscular body, historically researched armour and accessories
made of real metal I think it’s fair to say these guys are doing
something very right!
And even though Astacius may appear the lighter equipped of the two, I
still have absolutely no hesitation in awarding both a full score for
Celadus **** Astacius ***1/2
I like them both a lot, if I could have only one then Celadus sneaks
ahead because of his cool metal thraex helmet, but I’m lucky I don’t
have to choose.
There are a few very minor negatives here and there, but nothing at all
that could be considered a deal breaker. I wish the feathers on the
sides of Celadus’ helmet had been sturdier (or dare I say it, even
moulded plastic) and I also wish Astacius had eyes slightly lower in
his head, but hey, some people do have more extreme facial features.
All in all I’d happily recommend both as sound purchases, and they have
got me seriously excited to see how Valerius the Roman Legionary turns
Where to buy
As I said above you can buy all Kaustic Plastik products direct from
their web site, Celadus is €76 whilst Astacius is a mere €69… a bargain
by any other name.
If you are in the US I did find Cotswold Collectibles are carrying both
figures and there was one each of them available on ebay at the time I
looked, Celadus was $119 and Astacius was $98. Happy hunting.
Did you enjoy
the review? Plus 1 it!
This product was provided free for the review by the manufacturer.
Photos and text by Jeff Parker.