The heart of most imperial Roman armies was the heavy infantry, with cavalry playing a much smaller role. Much of that cavalry was auxilia – raised from subject peoples who often had traditional skills in horsemanship. Their role may have been small, but it was nevertheless vital as they scouted and protected the flanks of the army.
The principal weapons of auxilia cavalry were the javelin and light spear. They also had a sword, longer than that of the infantry, but this was more commonly used when the other weapons were lost or broken, or when required to fight dismounted. Therefore we were a little disappointed to find so many swordsmen in this set. Three of the poses have ring hands into which separate spears can be placed, but this still means no more than a third of the poses are so armed, with the majority waving their swords. Separate swords are also provided, which at least gives some choice, but more ring hand figures would have been preferable. The man with his spear across his throat is rather an awkward pose, while the man holding his shield high is hard to explain, unless he is defending himself from missile attack. Most of the rest and simply holding their swords at various positions, which is reasonable, although at least one pose slashing down at some dismounted foe would also have been a nice idea.
All the men are dressed more or less identically, in a fairly standard costume for auxilia. Their helmets include cheek pieces that cover the ears – a common cavalry characteristic – although they have a surprisingly pronounced neck protector for mounted men. All seem to wear mail armour, some of which has short sleeves and some scalloped edging at the bottom. This is quite OK, although this was always worn over a tunic and usually a padded garment, which should appear a little below the bottom of the mail but does not. For comfort the men wear breeches to the knees and either sandals or boots (detail is unclear in this area). The officer wears rather stylised scale armour and a more ornate helmet with a crest, which is appropriate.
All the horse poses are good, which is always a bonus, and there is a pleasing mixture of stances, so not all the horses are at the gallop. The Roman four-horned saddle has been done about as well as a two-piece mould will allow, which is to say not perfectly but not too bad, and the various harnesses all look authentic.
These figures have the usual Strelets sculpting, with reasonable but unrefined detail. For example the scale armour of the officer is only a handful of rows deep, so at this scale a more general representation of scales might have been a better choice. All the shields are separate, and all fit quite well on long pegs on the appropriate hand. Separate weapons also fit the ring hands, with a small amount of enlarging required in some cases. The men fit their mounts pretty well, and there is minimal extra plastic around the seam of the mould.
We would have liked to have seen some men with javelins rather than swords, but these are reasonable if basic figures which are nicely presented and quite easy to construct. It is particularly gratifying to see a good range of properly done horse poses too, so with only a few reservations this is a useable set which matches the legionnaire sets from the same company well.