The origins of the Huns are still a matter for scholarly debate, with the Xiongnu of Mongolia/Northern China being a possible source, but they had already been gradually migrating westwards for centuries when they first impacted Europe in the late 4th century. They subjugated the Alans and attacked both the Eastern Empire and the Sassanid Empire, but their most famous exploit was in 451 when they attacked the Western Empire under their charismatic leader Attila. Roman writers considered anything non-Roman as ‘barbaric’, and in time the Huns became a byword for cruelty and violence, although they were just one of many groups migrating west and putting pressure on the Empire, and some Huns served the Romans loyally as mercenaries. They were not one ethnic group, and except during the brief rule of Attila were never a unified host with a single purpose, yet their memory today continues to be influenced by the hostility of those ancient writers; an overwhelming evil for which the word horde might have been invented.
As with any people of the steppe, their principal weapon was the composite bow, and happily all the poses in this set carry one. All the complete figures (top row) are using theirs, and a bow arm is available for the two figures with no right arm too. The poses of the three bowmen are fine, although the last figure in that row is holding his bow in a very peculiar way, with his hand in a position where he could not draw it, despite having an arrow at the ready. The two bodies with separate right arms can both have any of the available arms, with bow, sword and spear all being appropriate. The main difference is that the second such figure is well armoured, so would be a nobleman or other wealthy man, and so by implication perhaps an officer of some sort. Both figures make good poses with any of the supplied arms, but the set also includes a circular shield which has a small hole in the middle for which there is no peg anywhere. The suggestion is this is for the armoured figure, although this does not have to be the case, but however it is used it would have to be glued somewhere on the arm, and the hole would need to be filled. Overall however the poses are very nice and without the stiffness of some similar sets.
The poses of the two horses, especially the first one pictured above, are not great, but plenty worse have been made in the past. Both are on the move, but only at the trot, when a charging animal would have been particularly appropriate for a subject such as this. The style of the animals is not the best either – particularly the heads – but in addition they do not well reflect the short, hardly animals these steppe peoples actually rode. In this hobby saddles are generally given little thought, probably because they are almost invisible when the man is mounted, but the Huns used a framed saddle with wooden arches front and back. Both horses here have a front arch, although this has strangely been allowed to extend much too far down the animal, but no real back arch (for reasons we will come to in a moment). Otherwise the horse furniture looks reasonable, although curiously the animals have buckles for the central girth on both sides.
The sculpting of the men is much better than the horses. The proportions are good, and we had no problem believing the various items of clothing. There is no call for fine detail here, but the faces are reasonable and perhaps even have a hint of the Mongoloid features so many would have had. One enormous problem however is that their contemporaries described the Huns as short of stature, and that is compared to a Roman who might be only 160 cms tall, yet four of the five figures here all measure 25mm in height while they are sitting on their horse, so would of course be taller if standing straight, which makes them giants compared to any ancient peoples, and certainly for steppe peoples. The separate arms fit the bodies really well, with almost no discernible enlargement of the shoulder to accommodate the peg and hole, but the men sit very poorly on the horses because all their voluminous clothing gives them a large area that does not sit well in the saddle but more hovers above it, even though it lacks the rear arch. Without gluing then the man sits precariously on his mount.
In terms of clothing all these men are dressed for a cold climate. The four main poses all wear a thick fur-trimmed coat and caps of various sorts (one is bareheaded), all of which are fine, as are the boots. The fifth man, the officer or heavy cavalryman, is as we have said armoured, in fact wearing a lamellar armour suit and a helmet with plume. This too is fine, although such wealthy men could have their pick of armours and might have chosen from many, particularly after they came into contact with the Roman world. The style of the clothing here is quite eastern, which is fine, as it is unclear how much their appearance changed once they operated in the west, and especially when in the service of western powers. The bows and sword look good too, and each man has a bow case on his left hip and a quiver on his right, although the latter was also often carried across the back. The sources tend to agree that the bow case, quiver, and any sword scabbard (two here have one) all hung from a waist belt, but here they all seem to be attached to baldrics. This is a concern for us, although it would be hard to say that baldrics were never used, but we would have preferred to have seen fewer here. Although such men kept equipment to a minimum to maximise their speed and mobility, we would have liked to have seen some at least with a rope on the saddle, but we were pleased that no one has stirrups, a device that would probably only feature on Huns late in their history.
The device of including spare riders for the 12 horses means there is some room for variation, so you can have 11 warriors and one armoured leader should you wish, which is great, and if you can source suitable extra horses then you can even get 15 mounted figures from the set. The separate arms also helps make the most of what is on the sprue, and the good engineering makes the fit easy and so not a chore. We had a couple of worries about accuracy, although it is hard to say for sure that anything here is wrong, but perhaps not typical, and generally the men are well sculpted and in good poses. The horses are the weak point of the set in our view, both in looks and the way the men sit on them so loosely, but this remains an attractive set which adds to the array of steppe peoples already modelled. Just a pity however that the men, and to a degree the horses, are so large.