I grew up playing with Lego – every holiday, I and my siblings would get it all out again, spreading over the floor as we hunted for the perfect piece we needed for the castle, station, or ship we were trying to build. There are still three huge boxes full of figures, bricks, and small pieces that we could never find when we wanted them.
As I got older though, my interest faded. The newer Lego sets seemed to lose a lot of their charm, involving increasingly specific pieces that couldn’t be repurposed easily; the Harry Potter range was the worst for this, with Hagrid’s Hut containing all sorts of totally location-specific pieces, from a baby dragon to the roofing. Lego lost its charm, and while I still occasionally played around with it, the brick spent more and more of the year in their boxes.
Recently though, that’s changed. I discovered the Lego Minifigures range, and I’ve been buying Lego again. Not exactly playing with it, but collecting it and hoarding it and taking a quiet joy from the process.
If you want a specific figure, you have to buy a bunch of them and hope you get the right one, though you have to buy older figures online, and can, for a higher price, choose what you are getting.
There are several things I love about the Minifigures. Firstly, the element of chance – it’s exciting, childish as it sounds, to open one with no idea what’s inside. There’s also the gender balance – a large proportion of the figures are female, which is good to see; women are under-represented in small yellow toys. Mostly though, I just like looking at them – each little figure is detailed and accessorised, and they’re very pleasing objects.
I haven’t tried to collect all of them. That would be hugely expensive, and despite the quality of the figures, some of them leave me cold – like the man in a unicorn suit (the website says it’s a girl, but I struggle to see it as anything other than a thirty year old man) or the weirdly sexualised female robot.
Instead, I’ve focused on the Classical world, albeit loosely defined. I’ve collected all of the Minifigures who belong in or around the Roman Empire, and my collection is now complete.
Obviously, I’ve had to be creative with both history and figure design. I’ve included the Scottish, clearly Braveheart-influenced warrior, despite him truly belonging a few centuries later, for example. This is a fictionalised and best-fit approach to creating the Classical world.
In total then, there are fifteen separate figures (plus two duplicates). My ancient world, in glorious technicolour and with apologies for the poor camera work (I am not good at photography), is depicted below.
To break them up a little by factions, here is Imperial Rome:
And here the upper and lower kingdoms of Egypt:
Here the wild Norse:
Followed by a more general barbarian horde.
And, all on his own, a gladiator who I arbitrarily associate with Thrace – it didn’t seem right to put him with the Romans, what with him potentially being a slave and all.
Finally, to complete the collection, we have the Greeks. There are only two of them, which seems hardly fair as the Romans and the Egyptians got three each. However, the female warrior has a cloth skirt, which is a totally new innovation to me – I remember being very excited when cloth cloaks arrived, rather than the little plastic ones that looked ridiculous. So I guess that evens things out.
Again, my apologies for the shoddy photography. My camera doesn’t seem to do what I want it to do. Hopefully the pictures aren’t too blurry or lopsided.
It may seem a little childish. It totally is childish. But I’ve found the process of getting all the little figures really quite rewarding. It took me ages to find somewhere that would send me a Pharaoh, and I nobly only bought a couple a month, which has lengthened the process. It was quite strange to experience childlike joy again, returning from work to see the tiny little parcels on the mat. I find myself thinking idly sometimes of getting out all the Lego again, and seeing if I can lose myself in it once more.
At the moment, the little figures inhabit a bookshelf until I find somewhere else to put them. There aren’t currently any more ones that fit the theme, so their numbers won’t grow for a while. Should anyone at Lego chance to come across this post though, I do have a few humble suggestions/requests for future designs that would fill gaps and round out my Classical civilization:
- A Greek philosopher – the Spartan and the Amazon are great, but Greece is missing a hallmark of its civilisation: a small man in a robe. Possibly with a triangle, or a tortoise, or an unlit lamp. Something appropriate.
- A Gaul. There isn’t quite a barbarian that matches them yet, so an Asterix & Obelix inspired figure would be wonderful. Even a Cacofonix one.
- Boudicca. I thought about just suggesting a British warrior, for the same reason as the Gaul, but I think Boudicca would be better. Not only is she an easily recognisable character, with flame-red hair and so on, but she was crazy awesome, and deserves to be immortalised in plastic.
If you, hypothetical Lego designer, could see your way to making me those, I would be incredibly happy.