The Hebrews were the inhabitants of the ancient kingdoms of Israel and Judah, which gradually occupied much of Palestine from around the late 13th century BCE as the power of Egypt declined. This was achieved by defeating the Canaanites, and brought them into frequent conflict with the Philistines, one of the ‘Sea Peoples’. Both states, at times united, survived until their destruction by external powers – Israel in around 722 BCE by the Assyrians and Judah around 586 BCE by the Babylonians.
Information is incredibly scarce for the costume of Hebrew armies, and matters are not helped by the lack of a firm date for this set. Most of the figures wear a full length robe and one appears to have a helmet – the only apparent armour in the set. Four of the main poses have been given ring hands, into which any of the weapons in the last row can be inserted. The two swords, club and axe all look reasonable for the time, but the final item is not a recognisable weapon. Only one man carries a shield and no more have been provided. The sling was a common weapon of the time, partly because it was very cheap and easy to make, but also because it could be extremely effective, and there was little danger of running out of ammunition. Basically we have to admit defeat in terms of assessing accuracy as we have been unable to find adequate evidence with which to form an opinion.
The poses are dominated by men holding an edged weapon up high as if to bring it down on an opponent, and are fine. We were less keen on the pose with the club in the top row, but the slinger is particularly nicely done. The first figure is perhaps holding a horn, which might be a means of signalling, and following the biblical theme reminds us of the story of Joshua and the walls of Jericho. The man about to hurl a stone is an especially unusual pose but serves to remind us that when circumstances required it men could fight without any fashioned weapons at all. We were not sure of the reasoning behind the four female figures (although a biblical witch is a possibility), but the last figure is easy to identify. He is a representation of the Israelite champion Samson, complete with the long hair which was supposed to be the source of his strength. One story about this character has him using no other weapon than the jawbone of a donkey, and this is the strange item at the end of our line-up of weapons, although of course a more conventional weapon could be substituted if desired.
Caesar have produced many sets before this and they have achieved a remarkable consistency in terms of the quality of their sculpting – a very high standard that is maintained in this set. All the proportions are perfect and the figures extremely lifelike, while the folds in the clothing and all other detail are beyond reproach. If we were to find fault then the rather too impressive and perfect chest of the standing archer looks more like the dream of many men rather than the likely norm, but the same seems quite proper for the hero figure. No flash whatsoever, as always, and indeed a fantastic sculpting job, again as always.
We were a little surprised that there was only one spear pose in the set, and would have liked to have seen some provided as a separate weapon, particularly since several of the ring hand poses would look good holding a spear. However such weapons are not hard to find in other sets if desired. Several of the figures could easily be used for certain personalities - Deborah, Moses and David are three that spring to mind. This is another excellent ancient set for what is probably the fastest growing section of the hobby at the moment.