Saturday, December 31, 2022

The Sanctuary of Erechtheus

The Erechtheion is a temple in the Acropolis which is said to have housed an olive-wood statue of Athena Polias (Protector of the City) which fell from the heavens. It is also the site marking the location of the mythological contest for patronage of Athens between Athena and Poseidon.

Harmsworth History of the World, 1908

The structure is probably best known in modern times for the Porch of the Maidens on the south side of the temple.

The columns supporting the roof of the porch are known architecturally as caryatids, though there are those who seem to be pretty adamant that they be referred to as korai.

c. 1860

Regardless, D&D players probably know of caryatid columns as animated statues originally introduced in the Fiend Folio.

A couple of different miniatures of caryatid columns exist, as shown in the following image.

The first figure is a Pathfinder Caryatid Column that I wrote about before. Next are two Reaper Caryatid Columns (Bones 77378), and the Pillar of Good (Dark Heaven Legends 02815). Metal versions of the Caryatid Columns exist, as does a Bones version of the Pillar of Good.

While I really like the Pillar of Good, the Bones Caryatid Columns left me cold. Particularly the animated statue with angry facial expression, that seems to go against the very nature of stone-faced statues (to my mind).

Maybe they would look better painted up, or if I did some head swaps with more proportional noggins that also better reflect classical or medieval style sculpture.

An interesting related item I have is a second-hand souvenir of the Porch of Maidens that presumably came from Athens.

If the 7.5' height of the caryatids that I read somewhere is accurate, I believe this model is pretty close to 1/72 scale. I plan on removing the lettering from the piece sometime in the future.

I imagine that this souvenir can be found in Greece (where I hope to visit one day), but the only other identifying feature on the piece is the copyright mark on the back.

The final miniature I want to show represents the Varvakeion Athena, a small replica of the Athena Parthenos statue from the Parthenon.

The miniature is from the UHA Collect Club Ancient Civilization series vol. II (UHA味覚糖 コレクト倶楽部II【古代文明編】 No.037). If the model represented the actual statue from the Parthenon, it would be 1/144 scale, but many smaller versions of the original sculpted by Pheidias existed (e.g., from temples in Priene, Pergamon, etc).

It seems likely that some of these reproductions may have been used in temples dedicated to Athena Polias. But unlike the more martial appearance of Athena Parthenos, the statue of Athena Polias in the Erechtheion is said to have been adorned in riches, and held a gold phialê in her right hand.

Denyse Le Lasseur, 1919
Les déesses armées dans
l'art classique grec et
leurs origines orientales

This concludes my final post for 2022. It has been an unusual year, and I don't think I picked up a paint brush or did any model building at all (though I did manage some figure conversions).

I barely made my goal of 12 articles this year, but amazingly enough, I actually exceeded my goal of getting at least 10 subscribers to 1/72 Channel. Hopefully I will be less distracted in 2023 and be able to publish more on both platforms.

Best wishes to all my readers, and have a happy New Year!

Thursday, December 22, 2022

Generic no-name medieval and fantasy figures

I recently bought a set of bootleg Caesar figures that had been brought to my attention by a reader a while back. I had seen the likes of them on eBay and Amazon before, but never placed an order because I had the nagging feeling that they would be bigger than 1/72 scale.

The figures look so big here...

I decided to take a chance after finding some being sold for a low price, and soon received a bagged set of 200 miniatures bearing the title "Ancient wars" in the mail.

The majority of these figures are based on Caesar figures, and I'm pretty sure that they are actually a bit larger than the originals, but I haven't been able to do an actual comparison.

Due to their nature, they are obviously not as well defined as the original Caesar miniatures.

There are 12 poses made of plastic that is on the hard side. The material still has a bit of flexibility, but a couple of the figures in the bag did have broken parts.

The distribution of colors in the bag was not equal, and I received more gold figures than black ones. I might get some of the other colors in the future.

Even more interesting are some fantasy figures I found on Etsy. I'm not sure if they were originally intended as game pieces, or if they are just regular toys, but some of the poses seem vaguely familiar to me.





The figures come in 16 poses, and are made of a soft rubbery vinyl material. Each pose is marked with a different letter on the underside of the base.

They are sold in multicolored, gold, and silver sets. I originally ordered a multicolored set, but I think those sets come with a random assortement of poses.

Upon inquiry, the store was kind enough to send me a replacement order of gold figures that included all of the different poses.

The multicolored figures have a pearlescent hue, while the gold figures have a nice metallic sheen. I don't have any examples of the silver figures, and I think there is a purple colored plastic that isn't represented in my batch.

The detail on the figures is definitely on the soft side, with some being rather crudely sculpted, but overall I rather like them.

I would say that despite being soft on detail, both sets of figures still make decent 1/72 scale gaming pieces, particularly if you have to deal with gamers who are not respectful with your painted miniatures.

Saturday, December 17, 2022

The House of Ananse

Ananse is a folk hero and trickster figure from Akan mythology. He is also considered the god (abosom) of stories and wisdom due to events related in the story Anansi and the Pot of Wisdom.

Adinkra for "spider web"
(ananse ntentan)

Ananse is variously described as a spider, an anthropomorphic spider, or a human with spider-like characteristics. In stories like How Anansi Became a Spider, he is transformed from a man into a spider (most scholarly sources claim that the transformation was performed by Nyame, but I have yet to read an actual story that relates this episode). Other tales such as Why Anansi Has Eight Thin Legs, Why Anansi Has a Narrow Waist, or Why Anansi Has a Bald Head tell how he came to acquire his spider-like characteristics.

Ȯkyeamepoma from the
Metropolitan Museum of Art

Given the malleability of his shape, it's no wonder that Ananse is often used as a source of inspiration for werespiders. The comic book Is'nana the Were-Spider by Greg Anderson Elysée tells the story of one of his sons.

Vol 1: Forgotten Stories

Meanwhile, in RPGs, werespiders inspired by Ananse include the Ananasi from the World of Darkness setting by White Wolf, and the Anadi from the Mwangi Expanse setting for Pathfinder.

I have two miniatures of Anadi in their spider form from the Pathfinder Battle line. On the left is an Anadi Elder (The Mwangi Expanse #2), and on the right is an Anadi (The Mwangi Expanse #15).

Both figures are modeled after official art, with the Anadi Elder seemingly based on some sort of huntsman spider, while the Anadi looks like it was based on a peacock spider (which actually isn't found in Africa as far as I know).

There is also a miniature of an Anadi in hybrid form (humanoid with spider head) from the Mwangi Expanse set, but it was much too tall to be useful for me.

It's not clear how the hybrid forms of Ananse were originally envisaged in Africa, and I can't seem to find modern drawings of Ananse that originate from Africa, but I did take a liking to the following images I found on the Interweb.

Unknown source and artist

From Annancy Stories
by Pamela Colman Smith

Story: Verna Aardema
Art: Lisa Desimini

From Anansi the Spider
by Gerald McDermott

African Folklore Series: Film One

Monday, November 28, 2022

Spelljammer Miniatures

I just received a few interesting pieces from last months release of Spelljammer miniatures in the mail today. These miniatures correspond to creatures found in the 5th edition rules for Spelljammer that were released back in August.

Alternate art edition

The first miniatures are some Chwinga, which I believe were first introduced in Tomb of Annihilation. They are described as shy forest spirits, but for some reason, they exist in space as well.

The origins of the Chwinga are unclear, but I'm pretty sure that they were modeled after the kodama from the Studio Ghibli film Mononoke-hime, which influenced the design of kodama in other franchises as well.

Ghibli kodama

Persona/Shin Megami Tensei kodama

A Chwinga (Adventures in Space #4), and a Chwinga & Space Guppy (Adventures in Space #17).

The Space Guppy is pretty much just another fish-like creature (among many) that seem to populate Wildspace.

Astral Menagerie cover art

The next miniature is a Void Scavver (Adventures in Space #33), which appeared in the original edition of Spelljammer. They are essentially one-eyed space sharks that fill the role of facultative scavengers.

I wish that the eye of the Void Scavver was stalked like on the cover art, but I guess the eye is retractable, since the miniature seems very faithful to the interior art.

The final miniatures are Murder Comets. They are offbeat monsters that I rather like despite the cringy name, which I take to be some sort of riff on "murder hornet" or "murder hobo".

In any event, the Murder Comet is described as a type of paraelemental created by combining the essence of earth elementals with the essence of fire elementals, to which a spellcaster has subsequently bound their spirit. I'm not sure why it wasn't a combination of earth and water, since comets are largely composed of rock and ice.

The Murder Comet has the ability to breathe fire, but I would personally add the ability to release a trail of poisonous gas, as an homage to the 1910 panic promoted by the press and other hucksters when spectroscopic analysis indicated that there were traces of cyanogen in the tail of Halley's Comet.

On the left is a Murder Comet (Adventures in Space #9), while on the right is a Swarm of Murder Comets (Threats from the Cosmos).

The regular Murder Comet is half the size of the ship scale (1:600) Swarm of Murder Comets, so both are undersized (especially if you consider that a really small comet might have a nucleus that is still ~½ mile in diameter).

The swarm looks as if it is made of multiple parts, so maybe it would be possible to separate off a couple of individual comets from the group if you wanted some larger single comets.

I also want to mention that the dragons from this set of miniatures are really nice, but I could not justify buying any of them.

There are two Solar Dragons that are roughly the same size, but I liked the sculpt and pose of the Adult Solar Dragon (right) a lot more than the much cheaper Young Solar Dragon (left). There is also a Young Lunar Dragon (center) that is exclusive to the prohibitively priced Collector's Edition Box.

A much cheaper ship scale Ancient Lunar Dragon comes with the Astral Elf Patrol set, but I think that it is probably too small for my needs despite the nice sculpt.

Thursday, November 24, 2022

Frost Salamander

The frost salamander first appears in the B/X edition of Dungeons & Dragons. It was illustrated by Erol Otus as being similar to a regular salamander, except with four arms.

In the video game Dungeons & Dragons: Shadow Over Mystara, the frost salamander is even more similar to a regular salamander, except with cold powers and a different color palette.

Stage 9-B : Lost World

However, in 2nd edition AD&D and later, it was changed to be more lizard-like, and given six limbs.

I don't care for the current look myself, so I decided to buy a couple of Vos'sykriss Serpentfolk Ghosts from the Critical Role - Monsters of Tal'Dorei Set from WizKids to represent frost salamanders.

Ghost A is on the left, and Ghost B is on the right. For some reason, they are on gigantic 50mm bases.

I'm not sure how to replicate the translucent plastic, so I'm thinking about getting a couple more models so I can use their arms for making four armed frost salamanders (or maybe I'll just be lazy and leave them as they are).

Friday, November 18, 2022

The Temple of Debod

Due to having travel credits that were about to expire earlier this month, I took an unplanned vacation to Spain with the caveat that I was not allowed to bring anything other than carry-on luggage.

I didn't have much time to plan an itinerary, but while in Madrid, I wanted to see the Egyptian temple that was given as a "grant-in-return" to Spain in 1968, for participating in the UNESCO campaign to save ancient sites and monuments at Abu Simbel, which were in danger of being submerged by the Nile due to the construction of the Aswan High Dam.

The Temple of Debod was originally a small shrine dedicated to Amun, dating back to the early 2nd century BCE. It was built south of Aswan, near the first cataract by order of King Adikhalamani of Meroe. Later, the temple was expanded and rededicated to Isis of Philae during the reigns of the Hellenic pharaohs Ptolemy VI, Ptolemy VIII, and Ptolemy XII. Construction was eventually completed by the Roman emperors Augustus and Tiberius.

Egypt, 1859–1860

The temple was rebuilt in the Parque de Oeste near the Plaza de España, and inaugurated in July 1972. The temple is open to visitors on Tuesday to Sunday. Entry is fee, but you have to queue to go in, because no more than 10 people (from what I was told) are allowed inside at once. You can visit the official tourism site for the City of Madrid for more information.

Spain, 2022

The reflecting pool was drained while I was there, so there was a security guard assigned to blow a whistle and yell at people who crossed into the temple to take selfies with the pylon gates.

Behdety symbol on gateway

It took about 1½ hours to get in, but you can take a walk around the park if you have someone to hold your place in line. The view from the hilltop at the west end of the temple is spectacular, and allows you to see the Catedral de la Almudena and the Royal Palace of Madrid.

The architecture of the temple was described in Travels in Nubia by Johann Ludwig Burckhardt, and also documented by the architect François Chrétien Gau.

François Chrétien Gau, 1819

The interior of the temple is dimly lit, and the hieroglyphics decorating the walls of the cella are described by backlit panels supported by metal poles.

Adikhalamani offers bread to Isis

Adikhalamani offers a jar of water to the
Pharaoh of Biga and the goddess Anukis (left),
Adikhalamani offers bread to Amun (right)

Adikhalamani offers a necklace to Osiris and Isis

Adikhalamani offers incense and libations
to Osiris and Isis

Adikhalamani offers an amulet to Horus and Hathor

Adikhalamani offers cups of wine to Amun and Mut

Adikhalamani worshipping Arensnuphis and Tefnut

François Chrétien Gau, 1819

Shrine of Ptolemy VIII in the adytum

Narrow stairways lead to the second floor of the structure, where various models and artifacts are on display.

Temples along the Nile at Abu Simbel

Of particular interest to me was a 1/50 scale model of the temple in its original state.