The majority of Dacian warriors were quite lightly armed with either javelins or bows, but naturally those that could afford it chose heavier weapons. Although only a small part of the army these men would have spearheaded any charge on the enemy, hoping to complete the destruction started by the missile men.
The box art shows both lightly and heavily armed warriors, and was obviously originally done for a mixed set of all Dacians, but inside we only find heavies; men carrying swords, spears and the falx. The spears and swords are routine for the time, but the curved blades were unique to the Dacians. Figures like the last two in the third row hold a falx, a long curved blade with a two-handed handle that was sharpened on the inner curve. Apparently this fearsome weapon caused the concerned Romans to reinforce their helmets to give them extra protection. There was also a smaller, one-handed version of this weapon called a sica. Basically this was just a curved sword, although again the blade was sharpened on the inner curve. Three men have this weapon, which is usually represented as having a constant curve, but there are too few representations to be sure what other styles may have been used.
The majority of figures here are carrying a shield, which in all cases is moulded with the figure rather than separately. Dacian shields are always represented as oval, which most of these are, but one is more of a rectangle with rounded corners, which would have been unusual but perhaps not unknown. None of the shields are engraved, which allows the customer to choose to paint any of the many complex patterns known to have adorned Dacian shields.
Dacian costume was a simple tunic over trousers and a cloak over the shoulders where necessary. Several of these figures are stripped to the waist, which seems perfectly reasonable, but where they wear a tunic this is sometimes very short, which does not match the available evidence. Two of these figures are wearing a full scale armour cuirass and helmets, which would be reserved for only the wealthy nobles due to the cost. With such armour so rare it is hard to say whether the styles depicted here are authentic or not. However one man wears a small piece of armour in the middle of his chest and back, which is not justified by any historical evidence. Finally two men have very ornate necklaces or gorgets, which again we could find no historical evidence for. However what is noticeable by its absence is any mail armour (such as is shown on the box), which would surely have been the most common armour, so we cannot understand why it has been ignored in this set.
Two of the poses have ring hands (last figure in rows one and three), but the rest are fairly flat. This is particularly true of the figures in the bottom row, which insist on holding their weapon on or over the middle of their head in a very unnatural stance. The spearmen poses are pretty good but the swordsmen are less acceptable as the choice seems to be either having the shield facing the enemy or the weapon, when in reality it would normally be both. This is clearly done to make the sculptor’s task easier but does not produce good figures.
The sculpting of these figures is not very appealing, with fairly chunky detail and some not particularly good proportions. In some places the sculptor has not made the effort, so for example some of those holding shields do so with absolutely no hand – the arm merely disappears into the back of the shield. The separate weapons will only fit in the ring hands once the latter have been widened slightly. The flatness of the figures has already been mentioned, although there is almost no flash and little sign of the join between the mould halves.
We also worried about the helmets here. Helmets would have been rare, but some of the examples in this set are hard to match with historical evidence and must be suspect. Added to the rather skimpy look of this costume (which is the complete opposite of the ample tunics and cloaks seen on Trajan’s column) we were far from convinced about the look of these figures. Some quite poor poses and an unattractive sculpting mean this set falls well short of what is expected in this hobby today.
In response to the poor quality of this set Strelets subsequently produced a retooled or type 2 version. A huge improvement, you can read our review here.