The Scythians were a nomadic Steppe people whose heyday was during the period stated on this box (an outline of their place in history is to be found in the corresponding review of Orion’s Scythian Infantry set). In common with all such people they were primarily mounted archers, and for most of the period it was the cavalry that was the most important part of their fighting strength.
This set could quite reasonably have been mostly made up of horse archers, which would have reflected on the Scythian tactics well, but instead Orion have delivered a much broader range of weapons and poses to make a much more interesting collection of figures. Certainly there are a couple of archers, and every man is at least carrying a bow, but the weapons in use include spears, javelins, swords, an axe and a rope. All these are perfectly correct for the Scythians, with the rope being a classic mounted herdsman’s tool that could also be useful in war. The poses are quite nice, although some like those with the long spear are strangely flat and don’t really convince as a likely battle posture. The man holding aloft the head of a slain enemy is a gory but authentic touch, while his neighbour is even better and certainly more tranquil as he holds up a cup, perhaps in a salute.
Scythian costume changed over time, although our knowledge of this today is far from perfect. There was a good deal of interaction with the Greeks, so many items found in barrows over the past two centuries have a Greek style or influence. While some Scythians wore just a tunic others had armour or part-armour of various types, usually scale armour as depicted on some of these figures (but not necessarily metal). Many have the classic cap, but some have solid helmets, including one that is covered in scale armour, which is known to be correct. Many have the armoured girdle that is often depicted, while some have greaves that again may well have originated from their Hellenistic near neighbours. In short everything about this costume looks fine, and the mix of styles is both pleasing and accurate.
As far as can be told the weapons look good too apart from the bows, which do not really resemble the classic and rather elegant Scythian bow. The long spears are really more like lances, and are of a length known to have been used, but unfortunately one of those in our review example was broken and they are tricky to extract from the sprue, leaving a less than perfectly straight weapon behind. Every man has his gorytos combined bow case and quiver on his left hip and his sword on his right, which is correct and nicely done here. Some have their sword across their lap, which is a likely position while riding. Shields are few but all of authentic shape and construction.
Like most Steppe peoples the Scythians would have mainly used their own local breeds of horses, which to the modern eye would appear more like ponies. As a result we felt the horses in this set looked rather too much like thoroughbreds of a later age and therefore less appropriate here. The poses are not the greatest either, but the fairly simple saddlery looks fine. Two of the horse poses have an armoured apron across the chest, which is known to have been used, so no problems there.
As with the infantry set Orion have produced a very fine piece of sculpting here. All the scale armour is beautifully picked out and the faces of these men are glorious – full of character and life. There is no assembly here but the men fit their mounts well enough in most cases, although a few are a little over tight. This is a set of contrasts with regard to flash, however, with some being absolutely free of any trace while others have a noticeable ridge of plastic and some, particularly some horses, are quite surrounded by large blobs of extra plastic. Why such high and low standards are achieved on the same sprue is unknown, but it is an annoyance nonetheless.
Unusually this cavalry set includes a dismounted civilian. This lady is clearly a high status individual, richly dressed with an elaborate headdress and holding a jug. Again she is a really nice figure, and a great bonus for the set, although for some reason she has been given no base and while she stands it takes little to topple her. Since it does not reduce the number of warrior poses we would love to see more such useful bonuses in future sets.
It has taken a very long time to immortalise the Scythians in plastic, but this set and the earlier infantry set have done a splendid job with some very appealing figures. There is still too much flash and a few of the poses are fairly flat, but there is plenty here to delight those with an interest in the first millennium BCE.