Corvus Belli Xyston15mm Liby-Phoenician Spearmen Shield Designs Freehand Fighting Scutarii

Liby-Phoenician Spearmen – The backbone of any Carthaginian army

My Hannibal in Spain project is almost finished, but so far I only posted a rough overview and my army list.

In a series of articles I will now introduce the different units of my Carthaginian army, complete with pictures of the painted models and some notes about their usage in Field of Glory.

Historical Background

Having only a small citizen-body the Carthaginians relied heavily on foreign soldiers and mercenaries. The backbone of any Carthaginian army and the most reliable troops were the Liby-Phoenician spearmen. The Libyans were not merely mercenaries but could be provided by allied city states or might have been conscripted from a peasant base.

Before Hannibal’s Italian campaign they were presumably armed with long spears, round or oval shields and wore bronze helmets of the montefortino type as well as linen cuirasses as protective armour. A recent publication by Quesada (2011) suggests that the thureos (a large oval shield) was introduced by the Carthaginians to Iberia (see my post on Iberian Scutati for more on this). If this is correct, it is well possible that the Libyans used the thureos before the march over the Alps. However, it is equally possible, that they still relied on the aspis, with the thureos used by lighter troops.

Polybios reports that at the battle of Cannae in 216 BCE “the armour of the Libyans was Roman, for Hannibal had armed them with a selection of the spoils taken in previous battles. The shield of the Iberians and Celts was about the same size, but their swords were quite different. For that of the Roman can thrust with as deadly effects as it can cut, while the Gallic sword can only cut, and that requires some room” (Plb. 3.114). This would suggest a gradual change to a more roman appearance, that could have started as early as the aftermath of the battle of the Ticinus or maybe the battle of the Trebia. The armour changed from linen cuirasses to chain mail or pectorals. The wording could imply that the spearmen used Roman style swords and shields, but the spearmen might well have kept their spears or used both weapons. If they still used the aspis, but realised that a thureos type shield is more effective to fend off the pilum, a gradual adoption of the scutum is not impossible.

LibyPhoenician spearmen white background

Use in Field of Glory

In Field of Glory they can either be fielded as average, protected, drilled, offensive spearmen or, to depict Hannibal’s veterans, as superior, armoured, drilled, offensive spearmen, which gives them staying power and makes them a formidable opponent. The army list allows either three units of six or two units of eight bases.

Each option has its advantages and disadvantages, but so far I mostly went for the three superior battlegroups giving me some flexibility and maneuverability. Given their high points cost one will field a rather small force, but their superior quality makes up for this. More than once did they hold the centre or a flank, the quality re-rolls making sure they pass their cohesion tests and hit the opponent hard. Even when they take heavy casualties they still stand, giving more time to turn the table.

In combination with Hannibal as an Inspired Commander they are extremely resilient against shooting and will have good chances to pass critical cohesion tests. In battle against Impact Foot, say superior Romans, they need to survive the impact phase without dropping a cohesion level or they will loose there steady spear bonus. It might thus be a good idea to reduce the front to one or two bases and then expand in the melee phase to three to make sure the opponents has as few dice as possible in the impact phase, where he would fight on a double plus.

Finally, don’t forget that spearmen can assume orb formation, which makes them more resilient when surrounded and might just give you the time you need to break through somewhere else.

The wheat fields lie deserted, the peasants try to avoid the encroaching Carthaginian forces.

The Miniatures: Sculpting and Painting

The spearmen are  a mix of Xyston, Corvus Belli and Old Glory miniatures. Xyston and Corvus Belli convince in every aspect, however, the Old Glory can not stand up to the high quality of the other two ranges. Mixed up they work well enough, but I will replace the Old Glory miniatures with some nicer sculpts from the Forged in Battle Kickstarter.

The sculpting of the Xyston and Corvus Belli figures is very good and one does get quite some poses and head varieties with Corvus Belli. The Xyston ones are more static, but rank up more easily. The sculpting of the Old Glory spearmen is rather rough in places (especially the legs) and some casting artefacts such as small holes can be found.

Xyston has almost no flash, while Corvus Belli and Old Glory have moderate flash. Not too bad, but preparation of the last two will take you more time.Mold lines are not too bad with any of the three and you won’t get awkward lines across the face.

Surprised by a local Iberian tribe the Libyans are pushed back to the shore of a lake. With no way to run a fight to the death ensues.

I went for a colour scheme that reflects the fact that all soldiers had to equip themselves. This implies that no uniformity existed and one is relatively free in terms of colours and shield designs.

I avoided purple for the common soldier, as this colour would have been expensive and reserved for the higher ranks. Red dye, however, was one of the goods Iberia was well known for, and with Carthage having a foothold in southern Iberia easy access to red dyes is very likely. Green and blue I used sparingly. They can be achieved using natural dyes such as woad (Isatis tinctoria) for blue or a variety of herbs for a dark, pale green. Trade and cultural exchange with Celtic tribes was common in northern Iberia, which would also account for access to locally used dyes such as woad. Browns and yellows are easy to achieve using herbs or natural earth pigments such as ochre. Especially for shields earth pigments might be an easy to procure and affordable way to adorn them. Untreated linen or wool finally adds an off-white or beige tone to the mix.

For the designs I used Greek, Phoenician and Carthaginian symbols: Palm trees, depictions of Tanit, animals and geometrical patterns. I started with the Old Glory miniatures to practice my free-hand abilities, followed by the Corvus Belli and Xyston shields. One can clearly see a difference in quality. The same goes for the rest of the paintjob. When I replace the Old Glory miniatures in some point I’ll put some more time in the new ones to match the Corvus Belli and Xyston miniatures.

I will also paint up a full compliment of Hannibal’s veterans with Roman equipment for his exploits in mainland Italy.

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12 thoughts on “Liby-Phoenician Spearmen – The backbone of any Carthaginian army”

  1. These guys look great! You really maximized the chance to be creative with the shields, and the designs you came up with feel like they were created by an ancient people with strong beliefs in an animistic/spiritual/magical world. Awesome scenery, as well.


    1. Thank you. Glad you like them and the shield designs. I think the soldiers of that time might have believed in the protective power of the designs on their shields. Be it the protection of their goddess or maybe the symbol of their home town or an entirely personal symbol. I could also see that they filled dead time while on campaign with painting and refurbishing their shields.


      1. Well, the effect is fantastic. Really makes you wonder “what’s this guy’s story?” Which is pretty rare in massed miniature armies!


    1. Thank you very much. I am glad the composition works. I am always a bit limited by the size of the background.

      My favourite designs are obviously the three I singled out. I also have some dedicated Veteran Spearmen models with oval shields. Should be interesting to transfer some of the designs to their shields.


  2. Red dye nerd here – love the reference you made to the trade/realism of colours in this post ^_^

    The pictures, especially with your terrain, are awesome! I love the glitter of the light on the water…and the adorably individual shields 🙂


    1. Thank you. The water effect worked out well, but it is really the sun that is making it look so convincing.

      Glad someone else is interested in ancient dyes. Hlaf the fun is historical research if it comes down to painting up some acient people.


  3. Your handwork on the shield design are brilliant. All of it a brushwork, I presume (too realisticly lively to be transfers)? Wondering if you ever thought to publish some designs as drawings to take inspiration from (or to copy by those of us that lack the imagination 😉 )
    Seriously though, good samples of Gallic, North African and Iberian designs are hard to get by, especially if not familiar with the subjects.
    Of course had occurred one if anyone would make tiny transfers for 6mm Greeks – other than the starburst.


    1. Hi, yes all of them are freehands. The close-ups are obviously the best of the lot, after some more crude, earlier attempts.

      Maybe someday I make a little painting guide in booklet form, just for fun ;).

      There are some good samples out there if you look at the websites of shield transfer companies, such as Veni, Vidi, Vici or They even make custom designs. They might make tiny transfers for you, but in 6mm might be almost easier to paint them, instead of fiddling around with transfers ;).


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