A recent article in Ancient History Magazine (Vol V, Issue2) suggests that the Sillian horse were originally of Gallic origin, from Lugdenesis (Lyons) but were based in North Africa from around 20AD. Their original commander may have been an Equestrian named Gaius Silius Aviola, and his name may have stuck with the unit for the next half century, even as the original Gallic recruits were presumably completely replaced by North Africans. All pics are clickable.
“The Silians had served in Africa during the governorship of Vitellius. Subsequently summoned by Nero to be sent ahead to Egypt, and then recalled on account of the war with Vindex, they bided their time in Italy.” Tacitus, Histories 1:70.
When the rebel General Caecina was approaching Italy across the Alps, from Switzerland, this unit, stationed in Northern Italy, promptly deserted the Othonian cause for the Vitellian (presumably because of their earlier connection with him). They fought at Ad Castores and 1st (and possibly 2nd?) Cremona, and were awarded citizenship for their valour becoming Ala Siliana Civium Romanum.
Alae (or “wings”) in this period would have had a theoretical strength of around 530 men, organised into 16 Turmae (“swarms” or troops) of 30-32 men each. In 1:20 scale, I think that the best way of representing this is a unit of 24 figures that can be split (if necessary) into 2 or 4 subdivisions.
These Black Tree minis were very nicely painted by Dr. Simon’s mystery painter. I retouched and stained some of the horses, and highlighted the riders, then based. I gave them an Aventine Vexillum with LBMS transfer and a spare Foundry Imago. I’m very pleased with how they came out, particularly the hand-painted shields, which make a bold splash of colour. These will be supporting the Vitellian cause on 2nd September, at Partizan, by which time I need to paint/retouch/base another 48 various cavalry and around 150 infantry... gulp.