The Janissaries were oft admired by their enemies, but debate continues to this day as to their effectiveness. The King of Poland even recruited some, and clothed some of his own subjects in imitation of them, which is a remarkable tribute to an enemy unit. They were by no means the bulk of an Ottoman army, but were considered an elite and enjoyed many privileges that made membership very attractive, and to this day they remain the most recognisable of the Sultan’s forces.
The box claims an extraordinarily long period for these figures - 1500 to 1799, but in fact the Janissaries were very traditional in some of their attitudes and did retain a similar appearance for much of this time frame. The only really uniform part of their appearance was the bork hat, with its long flowing white 'tail' and tall plume. It is unclear how much the plume was actually worn in battle, but if so desired it can easily be removed with a knife. In all respects the costume of these figures is accurate, and those of the officers and specialists are also perfectly appropriate.
While costume may have changed little during this lengthy period weapons and equipment certainly did, and this is where the claims of the box are more critically tested. Originally the Janissaries were bowmen, but adopted firearms quite quickly. The single bowman in this set therefore is appropriate for the early part of the period but certainly not for much of it, when bows were purely ceremonial. All of the musketeers seem to have matchlocks, which is good as these men retained the matchlock long after the rest of Europe adopted flintlocks, but again flintlocks were adopted late in the period so these men are less suitable for that time. The medieval glaive (called a tirpin) of the officer is however largely timeless in this context.
In covering such a broad time span the modest number of poses presents some difficulties. For instance, if you wish to show a unit of bowmen then you have exactly one pose to play with. Nevertheless we liked all the poses and felt they were very suitable for the subject. The inclusion of the musician, standard-bearer and officers is good and provides even more scope for colourful and exotic painting for those so inclined.
The pictures speak for themselves in terms of the artistry on offer here. Zvezda have consistently delivered superb sculpting and lifelike poses almost from the beginning, and these are every bit as good as any that have come before. The only assembly is the fantastic plume of the senior officer, but this and all the figures are perfectly engineered with no flash. The only problem is the size. Our stats section shows an average height of 25mm, which is rather too tall to be historically accurate. However a couple of the figures, particularly the standing firing example, are 26mm tall, so while the equipment and weapons remain the correct scale we feel such unusual extremes of human height should not be represented in sets such as this.
During the three centuries mentioned on the box the Ottomans fought many enemies, including those that they absorbed into their empire and their neighbours such as Russia, Poland and Austria. This means there are many possibilities for using these beautiful figures, although it would be several years after this set before anyone made figures for the bulk of the Ottoman armies, the auxiliaries ('Provincial Army') that usually outnumbered the professional Janissaries. In our view Zvezda, like all manufacturers, should ensure their figures represent the average height of the subject in 1/72 scale, not the upper limits, and for a set covering such a large subject 12 poses is not generous, but these are undoubtedly excellent figures and we can only hope for many more of this quality in the future.