Although the period of Mycenaean dominance (roughly the 16th to the 12th centuries BCE) is not very well known due to relatively little evidence, it is thought that the nature of their military machine changed somewhat during the 13th century BCE, with a more mobile and flexible structure rather than large organised formations. This was perhaps in response to raids from external forces such as the Sea Peoples, or internal strife, for many Greek sites were destroyed around this time. But whatever the truth, light infantry had always played a part of warfare, and if this role took on greater importance during the later 13th century BCE then this set dates itself to a particularly significant period.
Three of the figures in this set are of skirmishers, who would hope to harass and disrupt the enemy from afar before their own infantry attacked. We have an archer, a slinger and a man simply throwing a rock. All are very simply clad, with nothing more than a loincloth or kilt apart from the rock-man, who also has some sort of a pelt worn as a sort of a scarf, which seems a bit strange but hard to dismiss as wrong. There is evidence that arms were centrally issued in time of war, so this man has presumably lost or broken his weapon and has resorted to throwing rocks instead, which is reasonable (Homer often speaks of warriors throwing rocks). Each of the three poses is fine but the sculpting is of the usual rather crude Mars quality. While there is no need for detail as such the musculature is only adequate and the proportions quite ugly - the usual Mars features are here, such as a complete absence of a neck on any man. There is also a noticeable ridge where the mould has met on the archer, but the other two are much cleaner.
The rest of the poses are of light infantry rather than skirmishers, so they could operate in open against an enemy or be in formation when the need arose. Their advantage was that they were less disordered over rough terrain, and so while having less of an impact than the heavies, they were more useful in much of the Greek countryside.
Five of the seven poses carry a spear, although that is perhaps not the intention. The fourth figure in the second row seems about to throw his, and possibly the second in that row is doing the same, so the suspicion is these are meant to be javelin men. If so then the javelins are ridiculously thick and heavy, and couldn’t possibly be thrown very far. If they are intended to be spearmen then both these poses are surprising. The fourth figure in row two will not achieve a great deal by launching his three-metre long heavy spear into the air, and the second man has a very uncomfortable posture whereby he holds his spear above his head but close to its base, which would be very unwieldy and hard to maintain. The spear is of course badly unbalanced, so it is hard to imagine why anyone would hold it this way.
The spearmen all wear something on their heads which in a couple of cases is clearly the classic boars-tusk helmet, while the others could be metal or fabric caps. One has a particularly showy crest which we would not normally associate with light infantry, although he may simply have taken it from its previous owner while on the battlefield. These spearmen wear tunics or kilts and, as far as we can tell, are barefoot, although some have vague marks which are perhaps meant to suggest some form of footwear. One spearman has a cloak, and one looks to have some form of greave, which is fine. Most wear no armour, as expected, but two have a very odd feature - a single shoulder guard on their right shoulder. These are the first two figures in the middle row, and we assume the designer was inspired by the discovery of just such a single piece of armour in a tomb in Dendra. However it is thought that this was worn as part of an otherwise perishable (e.g. fabric) armour to provide more protection to a particularly vulnerable area, but here it is being worn by two men with no other protection at all, so it seems this has been taken very much out of context and looks odd.
The two poses yet to be discussed are the axe-man in the first row and the swordsman in the third. The axe-man wears a kilt and has a helmet with a plume. His weapon looks Egyptian but matches examples found in Greece, so may be imported from Egypt or produced locally in imitation - either way it is accurate for this subject. His posture is OK, but that of the swordsman is weird. He is particularly flat, and holds his wide-bladed sword across the top of his chest with both legs bent in opposite directions. The whole thing makes more sense when you realise that he is meant to be carrying a shield, although that also raises many problems which we will now come to.
Each of the four identical sprues comes with the three shields shown, and the back of the box shows what Mars had in mind for them. The large tower shield at the end is intended for the first figure in our second row, who has a belt across his shoulder to help support the weight. Although such large shields would more readily be associated with the heavy infantry, the shield is correctly shaped and looks OK on the man. However there is no means of attaching it to the warrior - you simply have to glue the smooth rear surface to the smooth arm of the figure in roughly the right place and hope for the best. The other two shields are of the common design for light infantry, being round with a large section cut out, and are intended to be carried by the axe-man and the swordsman. Again there is no help in attaching either - simply glue surface to surface - but while this looks alright for the axe-man it looks ridiculous for the swordsman. This is because the designer has made the very sloppy mistake of having the shield upside-down, as illustrated by both the box artwork and the painted figures photographed on the back of the box. Upside down the swordsman looks to be menacing some foe with his sword above his shield, which would be fine, but when placed the correct way up, with the cut-out section at the bottom to allow better movement of the legs, he is holding his sword behind his shield, which is absurd and neither threatening anyone nor any use in defence. Again both men have a strap across the shoulder to support the shield, but in this case it seems doubtful that this happened as the shield was much lighter, and having it anchored to the body like this would simply interfere with the action of the man.
We have already commented on the unattractive sculpting and poor proportions, and there is a very rough quality to all the figures here. As usual some hands melt into whatever they are supposed to be holding and give no impression of gripping, and the faces are by no means appealing. The shields have no means of attachment as such, but luckily there are no separate weapons or other assembly to worry about. The weapons are generally thick and the spearheads crude and not much like known Mycenaean examples. Our picture shows little of the arrow head of the archer because this piece broke off the figure as it was better anchored to the sprue than the shaft, but past customers of Mars will not be surprised to know that in several places the figures attach to the sprue in a thick and large area that is not easy to release (see sprue image above). However there is very little flash, and the archer is the worst of what actually is otherwise a relatively clean mould.
The persistent depiction of the light shield upside down means Mars have little credibility when it comes to their research for this set, and there are accuracy issues which we have already discussed. However it is the poor choice of some poses, and the poor rendition of all of them which make this an uninspiring collection of figures. However in the absence of any other sets depicting this particular subject those wanting such figures have no alternative, and they do at least match well with the Mars set of heavy infantry for the same period.