While this set makes no mention of date it is clearly aimed at the Classical Age in Greek history, from around the early 5th century to the late 4th century BCE, when the land was divided into numerous city states. Athens and Sparta are the most famous of these, but many others, including Thebes, also had considerable military strength at times and were capable of defeating their more illustrious neighbours on occasion.
In terms of small plastic soldiers there was little to differentiate between most of these city state armies – they all followed the current fashions in costume and tactics at various times, and apart from Sparta had no recognisable uniform except the emblem on their shields. The main tactic through the Classical period was the phalanx, where formations of hoplites advanced with long spears to clash with the enemy and decide the issue. Most of these figures are so armed, with a spear of good length and the round Argive shield on their left arm. As can be seen the bulk of the figures make up four poses. The first is at attention – if they were at ease they would be resting the shield on the ground, leaning against their knees. The second is advancing, but towards the back of the phalanx as the spear is on the diagonal. The third pose, in the second row, is thrusting with spear over the shoulder. This was when the two armies clashed and they prodded each other until their spear broke. The final main pose is a variant of this, although they could also be considering actually throwing the spear. These four poses, which are fine in themselves, are nonetheless much too few to depict a full phalanx. The third row shows a hoplite with drawn sword plus a commander, which again are fine poses. Finally we find a single light cavalryman and one with heavy armour. Only one pose of each type hardly covers the subject well but at least they are represented. Still as always if you claim a box contains an entire army then you will always struggle to provide enough of even the basic poses.
One reason for the small range of poses is the variety of costume each man exhibits. Hoplites wore metal muscle cuirass, linen armour (or at least linen-covered composite armour), a simple tunic called the exomis or sometimes nothing at all. All these options are covered here, and all are reasonable. Different armour was in fashion at different times, but as most soldiers had to provide their own armour and equipment a wide range of styles is entirely suitable, which is what this set delivers, while allowing some the opportunity to divide the poses by costume type to represent different units. The only item we have yet to mention is perhaps the most significant, because almost all the men wear the boeotian helmet rather than any of the more recognisable Greek styles that were the norm during this period. For any other Classical Greek army this would be an error, but as the capital of Boeotia, Thebes might very well be expected to equip her men with the local helmet long before others followed suit, as they later did. Originally a felt hat and then a cavalry helmet, the Boeotian has been correctly done here, with some even having a crest (which could easily be removed if not desired).
The two cavalry men are a minimal representation it is true, but cavalry had only a small part to play in most Greek armies – sometimes none at all – so it is right that they are not more dominant in this set. Both are dressed and armed in a reasonable manner, and sit atop horses with simple harness and a blanket for a saddle.
Many recent HaT figures have been relatively full of figure, but these are particularly slim and elegant. They are mostly well proportioned and all the necessary detail is present and properly done, including some particularly well done faces. The large amount of human flesh, particularly on the naked figures, is very well done with no flat areas or other unnatural blemishes, and for the most part flash is minimal. Apart from the obvious ring hands all the figures come as one piece apart from the commander, who has both spear and shield separate. The latter has a hole which bears no relation to the corresponding peg on the arm, so you are forced to cut off the peg and glue the whole to the arm direct, which works well enough. Even the two horse poses are good, although the riders have legs rather too far apart and will need gluing to stay on their mounts.
Apart from the helmets the other sign that these men are Theban is the club emblem on their shields, which is engraved in all cases. However we were a little disappointed that the shields were almost flat, which is not accurate as they had a noticeable depth to them, particularly later in the period. More phalanx poses would have been welcome, and anyone expecting peltasts or other auxiliary troops in this box will be disappointed. However apart from a tendency for some of the nicely slim weapons to come out of the box bent we really liked the look of these figures, and if not quite delivering the very ambitious promise of a whole army (which can be made up from other sets anyway), these are still an interesting variation on the Classical Greek warrior, which is a subject that has been little covered up to this date anyway.