Numidia was a land to the west of Carthage, and as that city grew there were considerable links between the two - sometimes cooperative and sometimes hostile. The Numidians were nomads and excellent horsemen, making them much sought after as light cavalry in particular, and it was chiefly in that role that they are remembered today. Their proximity made them natural allies of the Carthaginians, but in the Punic Wars with Rome some were persuaded to ally with the growing Italian state, and at the Battle of Zama there were Numidians on both sides.
There is no pictorial evidence and precious little other evidence for the look of this cavalry, but from what there is plus a later depiction on Trajan's Column it seems they wore a simple loose sleeveless tunic held by a belt. In cold weather something more would have been required, but most of the figures in this set are thus clothed and therefore likely to be completely accurate. However two figures deserve particular attention. The figure in the second row is labelled as a commander, and he wears both a cloak and some sort of trousers. Commanders, and wealthy or high-status individuals in virtually any society, have always looked for ways to show their wealth and authority, so it seems perfectly reasonable that such an individual might dress in this fashion. He also wields a sword - another weapon not associated with the Numidians but again a likely status symbol. The third figure in the top row has a more interesting costume of a closer-fitting long-sleeved tunic, boots, a full cuirass front and back, a more complex shield and a sword suspended on a baldric. While this does not match the traditional costume Numidian kings had a bodyguard and again it is perfectly normal to have elite troops more expensively dressed. With strong links to Carthage body armour would have been known in Numidia, but would clearly have been an expensive item more appropriate to a close-support bodyguard than the usual light horse. This figure seems to be based on a terracotta figurine of a North African cavalryman, and it has been suggested that he may not be a Numidian but a Libyan or Libyphoenician heavy cavalryman. Whatever he is, he seems reasonable.
The traditional Numidian weapons were the light spear and javelin, with a small round shield as the only protection. All these figures are so equipped, and as we have said the swords would have been a luxury item imported by the wealthiest individuals. With so simple an array of weapons it is perhaps more understandable that there are relatively few poses, but still we would have liked to have seen more, if only for a more varied 'rabble' kind of look. We have figures carrying and using their weapons, so nothing is exactly missing, but by the standards of Zvezda this is not a generous selection, particularly when one pose is a commander and another is an elite or late-period figure.
The Numidian horses were small and sturdy, but not particularly fast. Still they were well suited for their task, and the Numidian's skill in handling them was well known. They had neither bridle nor saddle, and were controlled with the aid of a simple rope around the neck, as depicted here. Again there is an exception. The final horse pose has a saddlecloth and a girth around the body. Again this seems out of place, but while there is no evidence either way it seems reasonable that a few elite troops might have had a basic blanket saddle, as much to display their wealth as for any practical use. The girth however seems a particularly surprising addition as it would be used to hold a saddle in place. Each horse pose is assigned a rider pose, and the four horses with the cloth are for the commander and the man with the more sophisticated later costume.
The sculpting of these figures is of the usual exceptional Zvezda standard, with lifelike muscle definition and folds in the clothing (such simple figures having little need for 'detail' as such). What is not apparent from our pictures is the good depth of these figures, for which Zvezda have used the usual trick of moulding some figures at an angle, which works OK. Regular viewers will have let out a groan as they notice the pegs on the ankles and the holes in the sides of the horses. This is a problem with Zvezda cavalry sets that we have moaned about before, and nothing has improved here. Basically as you try to force the figure on the horse the pegs bend upwards, meaning they cannot be persuaded to enter the holes in the horse. Our advice is cut the pegs off as the figures fit very well without, although purists will then have to fill the holes in the animal. In this set it is worse as one figure has pegs at 90 degrees to each other, making it all the more obvious that it is impossible to get them in the holes.
With this set Zvezda have pushed beyond our very poor knowledge of these important horsemen, but we feel the decisions they have made are reasonable. Apart from the annoying issue with the pegs we were disappointed not to see more ordinary poses of the lightly clothed warriors – three is not impressive by any standards. Luckily the older HaT set can provide more variety, and the sets work quite well together with riders and horses being interchangeable. This is not one of Zvezda's finest efforts (the figures are somewhat too large too) but still well worth having and an obvious addition to their Punic Wars range.