Describing a set of figures as 'in defence' is a curious step as most ancient infantry would have argued they were constantly defending themselves by virtue of carrying a shield. In this case however, although many of the poses are in fairly conventional combat poses, many also seem to be shielding themselves from some overhead danger, presumably spears or arrows being showered on them. That is a perfectly valid pose of course, but an unusually specific choice of subject for a set of figures. Nevertheless that is what we have here.
Unfortunately we found several of the poses a little hard to accept. At this time a shield might weigh perhaps between 5.5 and 7.5 kg, and was held by a horizontal bar across the middle, which with the fairly awkward shape would have made it tricky to hold in the air for any length of time. Several of these poses are doing just that, and apparently holding the bar at a right-angle or even from below, which would have presented all sorts of problems for the unfortunate soldier. In this set nearly all of the shields are formed with the figure, and since they are all side on to the mould and curved, the mould cannot see the inside of the shield or the hand that holds it – instead there is a large mass of plastic into which the forearm plunges, which makes the shield very thick and certainly does not look that great. The poses are also extremely flat, and the first two in the top row are a classic but highly unnatural Strelets pose of holding the sword completely behind the body.
The sculpting is exactly what you would expect from Strelets – an unpolished finish with some small items enlarged to make them possible to sculpt, and thinner objects made much thicker for the same reason. The various hidden hands holding the shields are certainly a low point, but the detail generally is quite rough. The two shields that are separate fit onto their pegs well enough, and there is no flash to speak of.
Having made several sets on this subject Strelets have delivered figures with the same largely correct clothing, armour and helmets, and the same error in that a few of the figures have the studded leather apron that is only thought to have appeared during the reign of Augustus, and therefore after the period of these figures. Taking into account the standard of sculpting the various elements look authentic enough, and the mixture of crests on some of the helmets is fine too.
This is essentially a set of battle poses with a particular emphasis on defence from missiles. The manner in which the shield is held we found to be unconvincing in some cases, and the vague splat of plastic behind many of them was unsatisfying, making this set a good candidate for having more separate shields on our view. The usual Strelets sculpting does not help matters, and the one accuracy error is more of an annoyance than a disaster, but in a market with a healthy number of sets of Romans we were underwhelmed by this particular offering.
Note The final figure is of a soldier from the Streltsi of 17th century Russia. Though he is unrelated to the subject of this set, he is one of a series of 'bonus' figures which when combined will create a set of this unit for the Great Northern War. See Streltsi Bonus Figures feature for details.