In the final centuries of the Iron Age in what is now Spain and Portugal there were two broad groups of people. The native Iberians were by this time mostly in the south and east, while the Celt-Iberians covered much of the rest of the peninsular, and were a fusion of Iberians with Celts that had come over the Pyrenees around the 6th century BCE. Both were renowned as warriors and fought as mercenaries in many armies throughout the Mediterranean, but from the modern perspective they are best known for providing warriors for the armies of Carthage and, after the defeat of that great city, their long fight against Roman attempts to take over their native lands.
Definitions of the word Iberian tend to be a bit vague, with some writers referring to all inhabitants of the peninsular as Iberians. In truth the differences in terms of a set of figures such as this are small, so we will refer to Iberians even if we really mean all races in that region.
The majority of Iberian infantry at the time was made up of Scutarii, so named for their large oval shields. These were fairly heavy infantry, armed with throwing spears and swords, which effectively charged at an opponent and hoped to batter them into defeat. However despite their dominance in Iberian armies you will struggle to find such men in this set, because there are just three, all to be found in our second row. Looking at our photo you may wonder why we say three whan only two seem to have the necessary shield, so we should point out that the last figure in this row also carries a full shield, but the quality of production is so poor that very large parts of it are missing through air trapped in the mould. However later shots of this set have been better done and do show this man's shield in full. All three heavies have been correctly attired, with a short tunic and a wide belt. One has some form of armour, possibly scale, and another has a mix of scale and mail armour, which was not common but neither was it particularly rare. The third figure wears a pectoral plate on his chest, and was probably more common, although many such men had no more than stiffened linen armour or no armour at all. All have authentic shaped helmets, though whether these were of metal, leather or some other material no-one now can decide. Where the plastic has been able to get to the mould the shields are well done and both fully-formed ones have authentic designs raised on their surface. Two have waistbelts with swords of the kopis style called falcata, which again is accurate.
The remainder of the army, and by far the majority in this set, are the lighter infantry known as Caetrati, who again were so named (by the Romans) for the caetra shield they carried, which was small, round and with a pronounced boss. These skirmishers were armed with javelins as well as swords, and wore a similar costume (all Iberian infantry was considered to be quite light and nimble by their opponents). These men wear the short tunic with, in one case, armour on top. The range of helmet styles all look correct, and the men are mostly armed with spears and swords as they should be. The buckler-type shields are properly done and with appropriate raised decoration on the face. The swords are a mix of the curved falcata and the straight sword of more Celtic influence, but all are realistic. The sword scabbard is often held almost horizontally at the waist, which is fine, and several of the men also have daggers, including the characteristic almost triangular design that seems to have been a popular choice.
The final grouping of warriors is the two slingers in the bottom row. Slings were a popular weapon in Iberia as elsewhere, and skilled slingers were much to be feared, particularly as the Iberians made little or no use of bowmen for war. Most famous of the slingers were those from the Balearic Islands, but these two figures could be either from there or the mainland. They are lightly dressed with just the tunic and the usual wide belt, and both carry a dagger for personal protection. Slingers generally carried three slings, for short, medium and long ranges, and we are told they usually tied those not in use around the head. However neither of these figures have such a 'headband', and nor do we see the slings tucked into the belt, so unless they have them in the bag where they presumably hold their ammunition these items are missing. That’s not necessarily an error, but we would have preferred some evidence of the other slings. Beside the slingers is the officer, who wears a large cloak which seems to hide a very ornate pectoral, and he has a splendid crest on his helmet, which is perhaps influenced by Greek warriors. In short, everything on all the figures here is historically accurate as far as the available evidence can tell.
The poses are quite flat and not at all inspiring. There are a number of the rather crude poses where the spear is held directly over the centre line of the head, which is convenient for making the mould but lazy and unnatural, and a number of other figures hold their weapons very close to the body - again convenient but not particularly lifelike. However Orion’s biggest problem is in understanding the point of balance of a spear. Poses like the third in the top row and the first in rows two and three all hold their weapon very far back from the point of balance, which would make it very difficult to control and very uncomfortable. With a shield in the other hand it would be difficult to move your hand to this position, and why would you want to as this makes fighting very awkward?
The standard of sculpting is somewhat variable, with generally very nicely worked and fine detail on all the figures, but with some problems like the baldric of the first figure in the second row, which has a large gap in it, and as we have said some copies of this set suffer badly from missing areas where air has forced gaps. Some of the spears and javelins are fairly rough too, and the way in which the third figure in the top row is holding his shield is clearly very unnatural. There is a little flash although nothing to get upset about, but a few of the poses do lean alarmingly such that they easily topple from their small bases.
The relative paucity of the numerous heavier infantry is a real problem for anyone wanting to depict an Iberian army in something like authentic proportions, and while we could live with the imperfections in the sculpting the unnatural and awkward poses mean these are not good looking figures, while the poor quality of production means what you will find in the box may be better formed than ours, or worse. You have been warned, but this certainly spoils things, which is a pity as the historical research is good.