Two weeks were enough to finish this fun and creativity-inspiring project. I’m a Latin teacher and have studied antiquity for more than half my life, but this is (almost) my first foray into the Roman world as a modeler. It was also my first complex diorama, but it certainly won’t be my last. I’m going to bring this scene into class to share with my students, and I can’t wait to hear what they have to say.
Read on for a peek at all the details and my thoughts on creating this piece.
Ok, I’ve added a ninth and final figure to my Roman tavern/street diorama. There is pretty much no more space to add another mini, at least not in a way that would supplement the scene rather than detract from it.
This fellow is peering around the main character’s shoulder, lending emphasis to that figure’s gaze & shout. I’m not sure if he’s a patron of the bar, the landlord, or what, but I knew he belonged back in there. He’s a well fed guy, so I gave him a nice palla to wear to further emphasize his affluence.
I’ve successfully added to my diorama again, this time adding a lower class woman out shopping for food. I needed another, more typical Roman woman to complement the senator’s ostentatious wife, so this one is wearing a simple undied wool tunic while she visits the market.
She’s removing her hood to see what all the fuss is about behind her. In her basket she carries a small loaf of bread, a sausage, and an apple. I’m planning to add another item, maybe a pomegranate or a quince, which has fallen onto the street.
Here’s today’s mini added to the Roman diorama. This figure is a slave cook carrying two chickens from the market. Unlike the other figures, who are engaged in one way or another with the hubbub in front of the popina, this fellow is going about his business as planned.
I knew the scene wouldn’t be complete without a slave, a member of an often forgotten class of essential workers who enabled the vast Roman society & economy to function. We must keep in mind the institution of slavery whenever we are tempted to glorify Roman ‘greatness’. While a fundamentally different practice than modern slavery, servitudo was nevertheless a vicious and dehumanizing state of affairs.
Well, another figure entered the scene, and two more are on the way! I am having a lot of of fun cramming as much information, humor, and drama into this tiny diorama as I’m able, so I just keep adding more details & minis!
The latest is the legionary hanging out by the door, watching the scene unfold but doing nothing to help. The miniature’s face points at the main character, but if you follow his eyes he’s actually checking out the senator’s wife!
I also added a number of scenic details, finishing the rubbish & mule dung, smashing a wine cup onto the sidewalk, and tucking a tiny lizard up onto the roof above the barkeeper.
I’ve continued adding to my Roman diorama and lent some sophistication to the street with the inclusion of a senator and his elegant wife.
I’ve been painting the figures as fast as I can, aiming to get them done in an hour or less apiece. I’m after a strong expression, which I feel I’ve achieved despite poor quality sculpts. I’m making good use of the ink technique described here to liven up their faces. By concentrating on the relationships between the characters and what you cannot see (who is that fellow yelling at and why?) I’m hoping to suggest a human story with this diorama.
I’m almost finished with my little Roman tavern diorama. It’s been fun, if challenging at times. I’ve had a hard time streamlining the process to the bare minimum I’ll accept from myself, but I’m trying to produce a high (enough) quality piece with techniques and time investment I could reasonably expect from my teenage Latin students.
This is the diorama mostly completed. There are two 28mm figures, hopefully telling a simple and amusing story.
Here are the beginnings of a little tavern or popina somewhere in the Roman Empire.
The tile inside the shop, the plaster wall facing the street, and the sidewalk and cobblestone roadway are carved & textured out of styrofoam. The roof is layered corrugated paper. There’s a little wood & plastic card for structure. Everything is held in place with wood glue and super glue. The building surface is 4″x4″. Everything is to 28mm scale.