The Scythians are the first nomadic Steppe people that we know much about, and they flourished between the seventh and third centuries BCE. As nomads their instinct was to conduct war on the hoof, and their principal weapon was the bow, both for hunting and battle. Although they sometimes fielded large amounts of infantry the mounted warrior was at the core of any Scythian army, and they favoured raiding and rapid manoeuvring to set-piece battles against foes with large numbers of slow, heavy infantry.
Given their location and the period when they were at their height, it was natural that the Scythians had much contact with the Greek states, and this did influence their appearance to an extent, but for the most part they retained their Steppe traditions in time of war, and these figures reflect that very well. Most of the figures wear scale armour corselets, or at least a corselet with armoured reinforcement on the chest or shoulders, and several have the characteristic girdle often seen on such men. Two of the figures – the man with couched lance and the standard-bearer – are more fully armoured as they have scale armoured coverings on the front of their legs, while the heavy rider with the lance also has a scale covered helmet and neck guard, all of which is authentic. The apparent leader of these warriors is waving a mace in the air and has some form of solid helmet, perhaps originally of Greek design but modified locally to suit Scythian tastes. The rest have the typical pointed cap but no one has any metal greaves on the lower leg, which was again a Greek import. This is a pity but not essential even though they are thought to be common by the period covered by this set (fifth to third centuries).
As you might expect there are several archer poses, each aiming in a different direction and each apparently about to loose their arrow. All these poses are well done, and each man is carrying a gorytos, or combined bow and arrows case. In fact every man here apart from the really heavy combatant is carrying such an item, which is quite correct as all Scythians were familiar with this weapon from an early age.
The third figure in our top row is holding a number of javelins, and beside him is a man with a long lance couched under his arm. In the next row there is a spearmen, and these three figures between them represent the other major weapons of Scythian cavalry. Again all these weapons are properly done, and while only having one of each is rather limiting the set does at least make a valiant effort to portray all elements of Scythian cavalry, which is to be applauded. All three poses are perfectly good and quite lively.
The last two figures are the standard-bearer and the elite leader. The standard-bearer is surprisingly well armoured and carries a standard made of horse tails, which he is excitedly raising high in the air. The noble leader carries a mace – a classic sign of authority – which is also being held high. In total this is a very good bunch of poses.
All the archers carry daggers while the rest have swords of various lengths and designs on the right thigh, all of which are appropriate. The set includes a number of separate shields which we have allocated as suggested by the instructions, although naturally this can be changed. The shields are a mix of scale-covered and slatted types plus one that is smooth and could be faced with leather or metal, but all the shapes are correct.
The horses have the soft but well designed saddle that the Scythians used, and everything looks accurate. The Scythians sometimes had elaborate protection for their horses, but none here have any apart from one which has a chamfron on the face. The bridles all have small decorative features which fits well with what we know of these people, but none are so ornate as to be solely useable by a noble. Some of the poses are very good, some not so, but that is very common in this hobby.
It goes without saying that these figures are little masterpieces of sculpting, as we would demand from Zvezda. In this case the subject requires considerable attention to detail such as in the armours and decorative elements, and this is always faithfully delivered. The faces with full beards are very nicely done, as is the long flowing hair of those without a cap. As always the men can be secured to the horses via pegs on their ankles which need to be trimmed down to fit. This forces you to match particular poses with particular animals unless you are prepared to remove the pegs and fill in the holes in the horse. A pity however that the figures are rather tall for the Steppe peoples.
As usual Zvezda have provided an attractive set of figures with good historical accuracy, useable poses and a high standard of production. We bemoan their poor attention to scale, but it is still just so hard not to like these figures.