Although the Kingdom of Epirus was never part of Alexander’s Macedonian empire, its position adjacent to that country inevitably meant there were close links. The enormous success of the phalanx would of course inspire imitators, and when King Pyrrhus embarked on his many military adventures, it was with an army that would have looked very similar to those of Macedonia. The core element for both armies was the phalanx of pikemen, who would occupy the centre of any battle line, and often be the deciding element in a battle.
As with other sets of pikemen from Linear-A, this one can be divided as per our photos, which follows the labels given to these figures on the box. The top image holds those poses marked as ‘first rows’, the next holds the ‘second rows’, then the ‘middle rows’ and finally the ‘back rows’ at the bottom. The differences are in the angle at which the pike or sarissa is being held, and in the level of protection each man enjoys. From the lowered pikes of the front row to the upright ones of the back rows, all these poses make perfect sense and look good. Of particular note is the shield each man carries, which is attached to the left forearm, thus protecting the man whilst allowing him to use both hands for the pike.
If the tactical formation of an Epirote army was much like that of Macedonia, then the look of their warriors was likely to be equally similar. Indeed many Macedonians fought in Epirote armies, so these figures could easily pass as either, or indeed as many of the other foreigners and mercenaries that took up the sarissa for Pyrrhus. There is a pleasing mixture of armour on show here, including a muscle cuirass, some corselets that could be stiffened linen or perhaps metallic, and a range of helmets, all of which are likely to have been reasonably common during the advertised period (280 to 275 BCE). The front-row man with the large crest also has a sash wound round his waist, which suggests he is an officer. The front row men wear greaves, as do some of the others, but by the time you get to the back row poses there is no armour of any sort to be seen apart from a helmet. All of this makes perfect sense and looks good for the period.
The problem with such figures in the past has been creating a realistic pike. Those here are perhaps slightly thicker than they should be, but that means they can be made reasonably strong despite being of a considerable length. The soft plastic helps, but each of these pikes is 69 mm long, which scales up to almost five metres. While there is some talk of pikes six metres or more, it is also thought that perhaps the Epirotes used a shorter pike than the Macedonians. In any event we were impressed once more by these pikes, which to us seem to be of a good length, and plenty long enough for most needs. They have good heads and butts, but as they are crammed into the box they first appear badly bent, and immersion in boiling water or vapour is required to get them straight again. Once done the result is good, which then allows you to enjoy the really well-detailed sculpting of the figures. The detail is nicely picked out, and although the figures are slightly less slim than the very best on the market, this is hardly noticeable, and all the poses look well-balanced and attractive. Unfortunately there is quite a lot of flash, particularly around some of the pikes, but once cleaned off these are good-looking figures.
It is worth noting the shields in this set, which are all fairly flat and about 8 mm in diameter. Some sources suggest that the usual shield size for such men was about 72 to 75 cm, and it was deeply dished, in contrast to the 58 cm equivalent we find here. As so often, there is no absolute certainty on this, and to our eye at least we thought the shields looked OK. None have any sort of design engraved on them, leaving the painter to choose from the many possibilities.
Ideally a phalanx would be 16 ranks deep, so the poses in this set will allow you to depict all the ranks, but with little variety of appearance or pose. However as Linear-A are making several sets of such men, all of which looked broadly similar, by mixing and matching such sets you can create a really impressive body of men with good natural variety, making the whole thing look pretty realistic. Linear-A are certainly to be congratulated on their existing and future coverage of the Hellenistic World in the third century BCE, and a big part of that is their success in depicting the all-important pikemen of various armies of the time. This set is a part of that story, and a great first set for the legendary King Pyrrhus.