While this set mentions no date it is clear these figures are intended for the medieval period – a very turbulent one for the Muslim world. Warfare with neighbours such as the Byzantines was a fairly common occurrence but there were also three major incursions to be dealt with. First the Sejjuk Turks conquered during the 11th century, then European Christians came in a series of crusades and temporarily established kingdoms in the Middle East, and finally the Mongols appeared in devastating force during the 13th century. However throughout this period a Muslim soldier was just as likely to find himself fighting fellow Muslims in a local power struggle, and could very easily find himself serving alongside Turks, Europeans or Mongols at various times.
A common tactic of the time was to harass the enemy with showers of arrows from mounted archers who would retire to the safety of their own infantry lines when threatened. Infantry was a very important part of Muslim warfare, particularly when a siege was conducted, and we find a selection of such warriors in this set from Strelets. Aside from the archers the principal infantry weapons were the spear, the sword and the axe, and all three are to be found here. Spears varied enormously in length, with some being long enough to imply use as pikes, but all those here are much shorter and in some cases separate, fitting in to ring hands on the figures. While the common impression is of curved scimitars Muslim swords were straight or only slightly curved until well into the 13th century, so all those in this set are fine.
In general Muslim infantry was less well armoured than in Europe, and many who perhaps wore armour did so under other garments, so we were surprised to find every single figure in this set clearly wearing armour. Most seem to have mail or lamellar armour while one has quilted fabric armour – all of which are appropriate. Most appear to have a helmet partly covered by a turban, and while styles and helmet design also varied greatly all these look fine. Neck protection is much in evidence, and many also have their faces covered. Round shields dominated most Muslim armies and are plentiful here too, but kite-shaped ones (and truncated versions too) are correctly included, as are some ovoid examples. Overall then there are no accuracy problems except that this is a rather heavy set of warriors, which are not representative of the general infantry of the time.
The poses are a pretty sedentary lot, suggesting it is a shield wall that the designer had in mind. No one is running or even walking, and the four kneeling poses seem to be in contact with the enemy so are clearly defensive. This doesn’t make for a very exciting set of figures but at least they all sit well together. Strangely several seem to hold their spear by the very end – a most unnatural and uncomfortable position which offers little control of the weapon. Others have swords or spears raised but again not much action about them. A couple of the ring hand figures hold their weapons to the side as a result, which again looks awkward.
The quality of the figures is about average for Strelets, with some nice detail but not particularly fine. All the separate weapons and shields fit well enough, and as usual there is no flash to remove.
The text on the box implies these figures are for a shield wall, which would help explain the static poses and perhaps the high proportion of men wearing armour, As a general set of infantry these do not impress but for that limited role the figures are reasonable. While they don’t compare well with the very nice Italeri Saracen Warriors, as the first instalment of what looks like a wide range of figures for this period this set is not a bad start.