The Akinci were largely Turcoman light cavalry, and when attached to an Ottoman army they performed the classic light cavalry functions such as protecting flanks, gathering information and disrupting enemy activities. In the years before the start of our period (i.e. before the 16th century), they dominated the Ottoman forces, and were widely used on the edges of the Empire – particularly in the West – both as a police force and for conducting and resisting raids to and from neighbouring territory. When used in conjunction with an organised Ottoman army, their raids into enemy territory were designed to disrupt their preparations and gain information useful to the main force. When it came to battle they were used to screen the whole army, attempting to goad the opposition into attacking them and drawing them onto the main army, and of course to attack a vulnerable enemy unit if the opportunity presented itself. When the Ottomans established a standing army the Akinci remained auxiliaries, rarely paid but usually compensated by the promise of plunder. During the 16th century, though there had been perhaps 50,000 of them at the start, they declined in importance compared to the growing sipahi cavalry, and in 1595, after a number of devastating setbacks culminating in the battle of Giurgiu, they were officially disbanded.
With their nomad origins it is no surprise that such men started out as mounted archers, though they were also adept in the use of the rope, scimitar and spear. This, the first of two sets on the subject from RedBox, concentrates on the spearmen, of which there are five poses here. The poses largely speak for themselves, with the spear being held in a variety of ways including one man with it couched under the arm as if in a charge. This figure, like the rest, comes as a single piece, and has been nicely done, though the compromise is the spear is significantly to his side rather than straight ahead. The middle figure in the second row holds his spear well out from his body, which seems to us a fairly unusual circumstance, but the poses are mostly fine, though it should be observed that most are clearly not in direct combat. The last man on the top row, while carrying a spear, is using his traditional bow. Unfortunately this is not a good pose because although he is ready to lose his arrow he is pointing it directly to his left side, yet looking straight ahead. Finally the set includes a man with a long-barrelled firearm, which is an interesting inclusion. The acceptance of firearms such as this was often quite slow, and the bow still had many advantages for these men, so it is hard to know to what extent matchlocks were carried and used from the saddle.
As light cavalry with nomadic origins you would not expect any metal armour here, although those carrying a spear such as these would find more value in armour than a pure archer. In fact two of these poses have armour, specifically a metal helmet and mail coif, and one also has a mail hauberk. For the rest clothing is typically Turkish with perhaps some Balkan elements, and everything here looks authentic. All bar the man with the matchlock also carry a round shield, which again makes more sense for such close-quarter troops, since this set concentrates on the heavier elements of the Akinci.
The horses are the same as those in the sets of Stradioti , and we did not like them there, so the same comments apply this time. The animals look quite thin and not well done, but more importantly some of the poses are horrible and far from lifelike. At least there is a good range of poses, from standing to a full gallop, but these are really poor animals. In the absence of good evidence for saddles and other furniture we cannot comment on those we find here, but the horses are much the weakest element of this set.
The sculpting of these figures is very pleasing, with nice detail and good proportions throughout (just the riders, of course). Generally the figures are not flat and look good, and they have little flash on them, though the horses suffer more from this. Sadly several of the riders fit really badly into the saddles, so some effort is required to achieve a decent fit, but otherwise the sculpting is good.
Although the importance of the Akinci declined as that of the Sipahis grew, these remained an important element of the Ottoman military potential, although their greatest value was as irregulars, and were sometimes seen as largely useless in a pitched battle. Even when they were officially disbanded in 1595, the Ottomans naturally continued to use light horsemen, and raids by such men continued to be a major feature of life on the peripheral Ottoman holdings throughout our period. By itself this set is not a fair representation of these men, but it was probably never intended to be, as it concentrates on the more heavily armed men, leaving Set 2 to cover the more typical types. Seen in conjunction with the second set it does provide some attractive and useful poses, and while the fit between man and horse is an issue, the men themselves are very nicely done. The horses, which are also in Set 2, fail to impress, but we liked these figures and welcome such an important set for the early history of the Ottoman Empire.