The Mycenaean civilisation prospered in the area that is modern Greece for a period broadly from the latter part of the 17th to the 12th centuries BCE. During this time several states in the Middle East developed chariots as a weapon of war, and despite the much less suitable Greek terrain the Mycenaeans too employed them, although probably in much smaller numbers. Over the years such chariots took on various forms, but the one to be found in this set from Caesar is of the type known as the dual chariot, which is probably the best known. Various authors differ greatly on the time frame during which this chariot was in use, but it was perhaps developed around the middle of the 15th century and lasted to beyond the start of the 12th century – one author claims it continued until the start of the 11th.
This type of chariot was a two-man vehicle, with a driver and a warrior. It had curved sides with ‘D’-shaped ‘wings’ extending beyond the floor, and the four-spoked wheel that was a common feature of all Mycenaean chariots regardless of type. The two-horse team was hitched using a horizontal pole attached to the yoke and the front of the cab, and another that was joined to the first with cross-bracing, making a very strong framework. This and the wheel design were stronger and heavier than the equivalent in Egypt, as the Greek terrain demanded more sturdy vehicles. The model in this set equates exactly with everything known about this sort of chariot, for while none have survived there are several illustrations that give quite a good idea of how it appeared.
The set comes with a choice of warrior as can be seen above. All carry a long spear, which is fine, but two are fairly lightly attired, wearing no more than a kilt and what looks to be a boar’s tusk helmet. It is generally held that warriors needed both hands to wield such long spears in a chariot, but the inverted pelta shield shown on one figure is separate and can be omitted if not desired. Otherwise the main difference between these figures is in the pose and style of helmet, but both are good. The middle warrior is something different. He is heavily armoured in plate bronze, wearing a copy of a surviving suit known today as the Dendra Panoply, and again he has the common boar’s tusk helmet. He also wears greaves and some form of footwear, so is likely to be a noble or similarly elite charioteer.
The driver is minimally clothed, with no more than a loincloth, which is perfectly possible, although he could easily have been given a helmet like the others as this is often shown. The other figure is of a woman carrying a child and a pot. There seems nothing to link her to the chariot or its crew, so this is a random civilian figure included to add value to the set, and as such we thoroughly approve as there are far too few civilian figures available for this and most other periods. All the figures in this set are entirely accurate and reasonable.
Caesar sets are always very well produced and this is no different. The figures are very well proportioned and beautifully realised, while all the clothing is well done. Lovely faces (including some beards) and great musculature make these very attractive, and as always there is no flash or other unwanted plastic. Two of the warriors have ring hands into which the separate spears fit perfectly, and all the poses are first class. All the crew figures have a peg on the foot so they can be attached to the floor of the chariot, and Caesar have thoughtfully provided extra bases so the spares can also be used as standing figures, although inexplicably only two such bases are included when four are required.
Those that have bought Caesar figures before will know they have a tendency to come out of the box with thin pieces bent, and in truth this sort of slightly soft plastic is not ideal for assembly products such as this, so while all the parts fit very well you may find some difficulty in creating a perfectly straight model (heating bent items in steam usually fixes this). Also, while chariot crews generally used spears, it would be logical that they also had a sword or knife close at hand should their enemy get within the sweep of the spear, or if it should be broken or lost, so we were a little surprised that no such secondary weapon has been included, either on man or chariot. However it is hard to find fault with this really nicely done model, which is very generous in the choice of crew figures, and includes what amount to a number of bonus warriors and civilians. This is another quality product from this important manufacturer and certainly one that is highly recommended to all devotees of Bronze Age warfare.