The 15th century BCE saw the Mycenaean civilisation flourish as they gradually expanded their influence, and somewhere around the end of the century even extended their control to Minoan Crete, becoming the dominant power in the Aegean. Through trade and diplomacy they were in contact with other civilisations of the region - notably Egypt and the Hittites - but as far as we know today, their battles were mostly with other states around Greece and the Aegean, particularly peoples on the borders of their territory, which inevitably they considered ‘barbarian’.
During this early phase of their history, the main focus of Mycenaean armies was the heavy infantryman, who carried a long spear and a large shield covering the body from the feet to the neck. This was of two types - tower and figure-of-eight - and meant the warriors needed little or no body armour. This set from Mars includes four such spearmen, who have been given spears ranging in length from 37mm (2.7 metres) to 53mm (3.8 metres). Such a weapon was of course handled with both hands, so the large shield was held by a strap round the body ('telamon'). The two poses in the second row work quite well as spearmen formed up in ranks, but the two in the first row are not useful for this. Indeed the man holding his spear in the air is surely not even in combat, so is perhaps an officer rather than a front-line warrior. The two second-row warriors seem to have a strap round the body for a shield, although this is an approximation at best, and both do not easily accept the separate shields provided, which are of both types. These fit best when slung across the back, however. Another difference between top row and second row is the second row men are lightly attired - one has a quilted tunic and one just a loincloth. The two top figures wear a very heavy armour clearly based on that discovered at Dendra, so they are authentic, although whether ordinary front line foot soldiers would wear such an elaborate and expensive armour seems open to doubt.
For close combat the spearmen would need to use their swords or daggers, and these were the weapons of the light infantry also, so the four swordsmen in this set fulfil that role. The swordsman in the middle row also wears a full set of 'Dendra' armour, which is hardly in keeping with the light role, so perhaps again is supposed to be a senior officer, especially as he also wears a full animal pelt, often used in the ancient world as a sign of authority. The rest are dressed as you might expect, with tunics or loin cloths. Two have helmets, both of which appear to be of the boar-tusk variety so commonly illustrated, which is entirely appropriate, as it is for the heavy spearmen, although theirs are much more elaborately decorated (perhaps too much so). The man holding his sword behind him is not a pose we liked, but it pales compared to the third figure in the third row, who holds his sword over the middle of his helmet in a posture that turns up a lot in Mars sets yet is completely absurd.
The third row is completed with two missile men - a slinger and an archer. Both seem very much like they were inspired by the 'Siege Rhyton' cup, which is perfectly fine, and both are simply dressed, as might be expected of such very poor troops. Indeed the slinger is naked apart from some sort of odd-shaped animal skin worn as a cloak, and is presumably about to start winding up his sling. The archer looks to be in an odd pose, drawing his bow directly in front of his face rather than along the body, and while it certainly accurately reflects the drawing on the aforementioned cup, we felt that drawing is probably a naive representation and not a good reflection of the reality.
Three of the spearmen also seem to be wearing greaves, and also some form of arm defences, which again would probably be rare items on ordinary infantry. The swordsman in the top row also has significant leg and shoulder defences, and from the position of his left arm he seems to be intended to carry one of the large shields, so presumably would be a heavy spearman who has lost/discarded his spear. Still we worried that there is much too much top quality armour on show here for a representative sample of early Mycenaean infantry, although as so often the evidence today is far from comprehensive.
The general style of these figures and the quality of the sculpting is pretty awful, as usual. The detail is OK in places, but in others it is quite crude, and the proportions are really poor, with no one having a neck. There is nothing to distinguish spear head from the shaft, and in many places different elements simply fuse together in a confused blob, particularly around the hands. The drawstring of the archer passes right through his left arm, and in general most of the poses are decidedly flat. The supposed officer in the second row about to topple over to his right is hilarious, but overall the general impression can be summed up in a single word - ugly. There is some flash, although in places this is minimal, and there is no means of connecting any of the shields to any figure. The shields themselves are nicely done, deep and concave, which however means they are even harder to attach to any figure (since originally they were supported by the telamon) - a historical challenge that will cause problems for the modern-day modeller.
While no single figure can be definitively said to be inaccurate, we felt that there was a considerably exaggerated presence of armour in this set, and armour of the most dramatic and expensive kind too. As always in ancient history, it is the elite that leave behind most of the evidence, but that does not mean they were typical of the armies put in the field. Treating such figures as officers may help to solve that problem, but it then means this set has a very high proportion of officers, when most people would want figures sufficient to make up a formation in battle array. While the research seems to be good - even little details like the turned up toes on some boots are present here - the decisions on what to include are more suspect in our view. Covering all types of infantry in just 10 poses is always going to mean there is little of each on offer, although we can imagine having many more poses or other sets might be uneconomic for a relatively little-known subject such as this. Add to that the pretty poor sculpting and the flat and sometimes absurd poses, and this set does little to tempt the customer into finding out more about this interesting chapter of the Bronze Age.