Alexander vs. Darius

Piecing Together Darius III's Royal Chariot Puzzle
by Jeff Jonas

Darius III's Heroics!

This is the shortest article here.
You can read a real decent biography at:

Why repeat when you can link? :)

"Poor Darius... I would need a poop sack too if I was being chased by a psychopathic killer with a long pointy stick"

The Quest for Chariot

Ever since starting the AtG project I have wanted to create a 28mm model that captures the look and feel of Darius III from the famous "Alexander Mosaic" from the Naples Museum. Unfortunately there were not   many promising kits out there at the time. The Essex kit did not impress me because of the horses, although the figures seemed useable. But I had no way to look it over before buying, so I decided not to pass on this expensive kit. Soon I found some others to check out.

Over the years I have collected a number of different kits. All of these have some flaws.  The first bag I bought a while ago was the 1st Corps chariot, it had a driver and a standard bearer, but otherwise was the same as their scythed chariot set.  On the plus side it did have big wheel rims, and really nice horses with decent animations and tied up tails and hogged manes.  On the down side, the horses do have blankets which was not great.  The Driver had a quilted corselet, but the standard bearer is way too archaic in his Median robes. The big plus was I got it on discount at Brookhurst.

After that an Old Glory "Royal Chariot" model fell into my hands as some booty from a tournament, otherwise I never would have purchased this model as you only get one chariot for 30 USD!  The King model was too old school for Darius III, so my hunt continued. I didn't need the parasol, but it has found a place in my Indians "bit box".  The wheels were too small. On the good side, the horses did not have blankets, but this was overwhelmed by the fact that the horses have no features that make them look Persian in the least. Most of these parts will be turned into a scythed chariot along with the other extra bits gathered from this "Quest for chariot"...

Next I purchased the Vendel kit, based on their posted advert on The Miniatures Page. The model on the advert was much different than the one I received.

The advert showed the model on the far left, but the one I got had the driver with the old style conical helm, and Darius himself had a rather bulbous tiara... not even close to the style of Darius upright head dress. Worse still the kit came with barded horses...with no hobbing or tail knots.....

I was getting frustrated in my quest!  The plus side is that I kind of like the ample size and shape of the actual Vendel chariot....but the wheels were tiny... nothing seemed to be coming together!  I probably would have asked for Vendel to rectify things for me... but heck at the time it didn't matter, work was overwhelming my play time anyway.

So I had collected a bunch of  models (fortunately at little expense) and was not happy with any single one of them. Time passed and the Darius Chariot project slipped onto the back burner....

After AtG was released a number of 'freebie' figure were released to help lure folks to buy from venders... I was intrigued by North Star's figure of Darius, but never had a chance to get one (of course ordering more than the eight copies of my own book plus half a dozen freebies, didn't make me want to rush out and order more... but I have learned that lesson-- next time spread out the wealth, even if it costs a bit more postage :).  Jérôme Grebet, a WABlist colleague and fellow traveler Persianophile, came to my rescue a while back. He traded me an extra North Star "freebie" Darius that he had for some of my left over Persians. Once I received the figure from France I was recharged and started bringing the project together. You can see how he went with Vendel's model at:

The Royal Chariot Recipe:

The photos below show the finished model which is constructed from the following ingredients:

The North Star Darius (I think it was sculpted by Crusader Miniatures?).  This figure (IMO) is close to capturing Darius, although he has a kandys (jacket cloak) rather than a cape, I could live with that!  I did add an extra Thracian bow to him. (I cut off  the old hand and added the whole new hand an bow).
The nice thing abotu this figure is that although he is posed in a stance that resembles the mosaic, he is not so animated, and gesticulating so much that he only works for a 'fleeing general'....(I don't really want him to flee, after all my Darius is intended to re-write history not just follow it.... this is wishful thinking most times he flees :)

1st Corps horses. I tried to scrape off the blankets, but messed up a horse so badly I decided to leave them on, at least they look like Persian horses.
1st Corps Chariot wheels.  These were large enough to match.
Older Foundry Persian casualty figure. This guy is so close the the pose in the mosaic I could hardly have posed him better.
1st Corps hoplite shield. Big and flat, this worked well as the shiny shield, I added an arm grip on the inside.
Older Foundry Spearman converted to driver. He didn't have quilted armor, so I puttied him up and just used paint to make it look like quilting, I chose this figure becuase his face and tiara are perfect in the side view for the mosaic driver. The whip is an old lead spear shaved down.
Vendel Greek casualty figure. This model is very large, but by placing him under the chariot, you don't notice that.
An extra bow, and swords and debris from the "bit box".
2mm white beads..... (see further comments below)

The goal was to capture the 'flavor' of the mosaic without trying to be exact.  Given the compromises need to bring the parts together, I feel that overall the model works, even though the details are incorrect in many cases! It looks like it is moving!

The reins are made out of some old (empty) lead       paint tubes that I have squirreled away for just such things.. they are thick enough to bend and        work better than thinner wine bottle covers.         Still the reins were a pain, and there are still   details that I decided to save for later!
(Hopefully the lead police won't find out)

One of the 'selling' points for the Vendel chariot was that it had a backdoor. This is described by Xenophon in his Cyropedia as being a common feature of Persian chariots. The Oxus chariot model in the Royal Museum has a bench as well... my model did not have room for a bench.

V-r-r-r-o-o-o-o-m!   Darius' driver makes sure his
"advance to the rear" is as swift as possible!

How it all came together: The saga of the marshmallow wheels, and digressions

Ok, so you are going to ask.. "What's with the wheels?"....  The rims of Darius' chariot has these goofy white balls (of course this could be iron, but it looks like paint to me , but what do I know?) The wheels of some Assyrian, Babylonian and Median chariots apparently had these studs attached to help traction and probably to protect the wheel.  Some of these have been found in excavations. I found this out by asking my buddies on ANCMED....

Nigel answered:

--- In, "Jeff Jonas" <jjonas@s...> wrote:

Still what could they possibly be made out of, and how are they affixed to the wheel?

A section of just this sort of wheel has been found recently. As indicated on the Alexander Mosaic, the running-surface of the felloe
and the outer surfaces for about a third/half of the distance are sheathed with metal (bronze in the case of the excavated example IIRC)
forming a tyre. The "balls" are large nails with semi-spherical heads driven into the running surface of the tyre sheathing to hold it on,
and presumably to aid traction. Neo-Assyrian royal chariots used flatter dome-headed nails BTW.

Oh yeah. One other thing, if the typical chariot has a seat on the left side, would the driver in the Alexander mosaic have to be
kneeling on the seat to be where he is, or is he centrally located with the bench on the other side of the cab.

The seat runs down the centre of the chariot, probably over the top of a cab-divider, as in the chariots excavated on Cyprus (though this
detail isn't shown on the Oxus Treasure chariot models).

You might like to take a look at the evidence I've posted on TNE for the use of Babylonian Kn chariots in the Achaemenid army.


Ok, armed with that info, I started part two of the quest.. figuring out how to make the wheel balls, or nails/studs as Nigel states.    I tried a couple things, little drops of glue built up. This took too long so I aborted.  Next I tried some old bird shot I had in my grandpa's tool box... these were a bit uneven. Also they were a bit small for my fumble-thumbs to glue on with forceps.... more of them ended up flying off and sticking to the closet wall or my pasty inner thighs, than ended up on the wheel rim. I ran out too.. after only gluing on about 1/4 inch worth. I don't have a shotgun, so running down to the gun store and buying a case of birdshot didn't seem like a good idea... and they would probably be lumpy. Of course maybe I should just buy a shotgun, just in case a terrorist or Jehovah's Witness shows up on my doorstep.. you never know nowadays.. I hear they have a secret airbase just outside Barstow .. oops... I digress.

Ok so I aborted the birdshot idea... probably a mistake.  My next brainfart was to rush to my wife's well organized 'rolling-compartmentalized-shelf-bead-organizer', which has now become part of the family room as it also serves as a handy place to put the TV remote controller (her own TV remote, I might add, a good method to solve control issues for lazy asses like us, get two..... damn kids .. when we were young we had to get up and go over there and turn the damn thing to other channels "Manually"... yeah scary eh?) Ooops lots of digression.

Anyway my bead raid found these 2mm white beads, and LO! They glued on swell. I filled their pesky little holes and they went on in a reasonable amount of time (still I bet many are fused to the ceiling, but more went on then flew off into the stratosphere).. after a feverish night they were on. I sealed them and the next day I primed them.  The wierd thing you might ask is... hey Jeff? Hello? Did you ever really look at them? Don't they kind of look like marshmallows?

I could lie and say something erudite like: "It was part of my plan to unify the whole model with roundness associated with the other white circular dot garment designs on the figures and chariot cab.".... but everyone would know that is a bunch of crap.  What I will say is that in miniature standing away from the model it doesn't look all that bad even though the nails are way out of scale.... of course when I took these photos suddenly I went "HOLY Crap! They look like marshmallows!"    Allen Curtis really helped when he labeled this the "Sta-Puft marshmallow delivery SUV chariot"..... G-r-r-r-r-r... why I otta turn him in to the thought police!

BAM! As if Emeril accidently added turpentine to the asparagus instead of vinegar, it hit me... boy that looks dumb in close-ups.  So what to do? Currently my warm fuzzy feeling of being done with project far exceeds my desire to do anything about it.... but maybe I do need a shotgun afterall.

Anyway, after all that I hope you all enjoy the model.. I could have probably bought the Battlestandard chariot shown at:

But I'm too cheap, and that one has other "issues" I can get finicky about as well....Of course the BS chariot debuted long after I had already set these machinations in motion, and is one major reason why I passed it by. I think it would look good with this combination of miniatures, but sorry I would have to drop the dancing Darius (Gotta Dance!).  So that's the chilling story of the Sta-Puft marshmallow chariot.  Anyway, until another brain fart arrives that is so good that it will justify me tearing the wheels off... that's where it will stand!
Oh, there's somebody at the door, damn where is that shotgun when I need it.
(Sadly, this is truly how my minds work)

Detail shots:

Here's Darius' face .. he looks sufficiently "Pie-Eyed"...normally I hate "starry-ness", but with a psychopath such Alexander trying to skewer me with a long shish kabob pole, I think a little wide eyed stare is relevant!

Ignore the marshmallows :)

You can't see it too clearly, but the King and driver are standing on a rug... the whole peice is set in so I can remove them for travel to far distant gaming venues, hopefully without busting them up.
(I'm so damn clever!)

Here's some nice Persian chariot related stuff:
(I like this page.. why didn't Darius  use those War Wagons from the Cyropedia? They look like the bomb!
In the AoA army list in WAB you acan argue they have an infinite crew!)
(what don't read Russian, get Babelfish to do it :)
(Zvesda's chariot has nice balls, small wheels but with a swap of horses you got 20mm of ignominy in your hands for a few dollars)
(This is the Oxus chariot, you've seen it in every Alexander book you own)

(The above were compiled by Duncan Head on Ancmed and gratefully swooped by yours truly, thanks Duncan!)


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