As I think I may have mentioned once or twice, I was a Lego-mad child. Of all the things under the tree on Christmas morning, Lego was always the most prized. Like many, I ‘grew out of’ Lego in my teens, only to come back to it as I’ve got older and had more disposable income. That distinctive rattle of a cardboard box full of little plastic bricks still has a Pavlovian effect on me, equal measures calming and relaxing. The cares of the world slip away and the inner ten-year-old is unleashed.
I’ve always concentrated my Legoine affections primarily on Space and Castle Lego, with occasional forays into Pirates. When I visited my mum last December, I dragged eight boxes of Lego from the shed and spent Christmas afternoon rebuilding a Space-themed Christmas present of 20 years earlier. By last week, the Castle itch was reasserting itself and I decided to indulge. For the first time in many years I bought some new Lego – my first new Castle sets since childhood. And I made a discovery.
Lego has double-axes now. And cows.
From there it was a small, obligatory step to this.
I showed it to other classicists and Aegean prehistorians, and calls for bull-leaping soon followed.
Those were only quick, 5-minute efforts by me, using a very limited selection of bricks. With time, money and the full stock of my Lego from my mum’s shed, I’m sure I could manage something rather better. In lieu of that, I thought I’d do a quick survey of some of the ancient-world themed Lego others have produced.
Despite the enduring popularity of Lego’s historical themes – especially the aforementioned Castles and Pirates – there haven’t been many official sets based on antiquity. Those there have been have tended to be short-lived themes focusing on more fantastical interpretations, such as the Atlantis sets of 2010-11, the Indiana Jones-inspired Adventurers sets of the late 90s, or the officially-licensed Indy sets of 2008-9.
But the whole point of Lego isn’t the official sets; it’s what you create. The arrival of the internet, with its forums, tutorials and a relatively straightforward unofficial marketplace where you can buy specific Lego pieces has done much to foster a growing community of adult Lego fans and to allow them to show their creations off to the world. These are all over the internet and the chances are you’ll have seen some of the very impressive fan-made ancient world models that are out there. For the examples below I’ve tried to steer clear of the ones I’ve seen most widely reported and highlight a few others. I’ve not limited myself to Greece and Rome: there’s a whole world of cool stuff out there, after all.
Not an amphitheatre, obviously, whatever the link suggests. But still stupendously detailed and beautiful. I’m surprised not to have seen this doing the rounds of Classicists before.
For more photos, see the links below:
The Palace at Knossos
(Follow the link for more photos).
The Antikythera Mechanism
The Mechanism itself is one of the coolest things from the ancient world. So a Lego one’s a guaranteed winner. This replicates the mechanics rather than the appearance, so it’s not as beautiful. But still a very impressive piece of work.
The Great Pyramid
Part of an exhibition at the Vancouver Science Museum, but I can’t find a credit for the original creator. A massive, detailed and very lovely diorama.
(Follow the link for more photos).
All right, so Vikings aren’t all that ancient, but they’re great. And topical too, what with the British Museum exhibition coming up. There was also an official line of Viking sets from 2005-7, and. The fan-made ones are much nicer, though:
(Click link for more pictures)
Borgund Church in Norway, replicated in Lego bricks.
Well, the creator calls them Inca, but those pyramids are clearly based on Tikal. There’s some creative use here of the Indigo Islanders spin-off of the pirates range from the mid-90s.
There’s a vast number of Lego castles and other mediaeval scenes out there on the internet, which are getting a bit beyond the scope of this blog. But I will link to this one, not just because it’s exceptionally good and the work of one of my favourite Lego builders, but also because the tutorial covering its construction is a fantastic source of guidance and techniques for anyone who wants to try their hand at building something like this themselves.
And finally, if building things without instructions isn’t your style but you still want to own some Classical Lego, there’s also the Lego’s Cuusoo site where fans can submit their designs for sets and those with enough support are considered for official release. There’s plenty of Classical stuff waiting there for your vote, including biremes big and small: