Carthaginian armies were mostly made up of allies and mercenaries, and that applied to the army Hannibal took over the Alps in 218 BCE. While the elephants tend to get most of the attention, the cavalry was a very important element in the army, and Hannibal set out for Italy with about 12,000. This was made up mostly of Iberians, Numidians and Celts, and would prove decisive in several actions against Rome’s armies, most notably at Cannae in 216 BCE. However this set from Linear-A contains none of them. Instead it contains native Carthaginian and Liby-Phoenician cavalry, mostly heavy, which probably accompanied Hannibal in quite small numbers as a bodyguard and elite strike force.
The box helpfully labels every figure, so we know exactly what is being depicted here. Figures one to three in our top row are Liby-Phoenicians, and figures one to three in our second row are native Carthaginians. The last figure in rows one and two are mercenaries (including a Greek), while the standard-bearer and commander in the third row are also Carthaginian citizens. Finally we have a dismounted pair of an Iberian swordsman being assisted by a Carthaginian heavy cavalryman holding a spear.
The term Liby-Phoenician originally referred to the Phoenician settlers in North Africa, but later came to encompass those of mixed Phoenician/Libyan ancestry and even native Libyans who had embraced Phoenician culture and civilisation. In general the ranks of the Carthaginian citizen cavalry were filled by the nobility and wealthier sons of the city, and would consequently have been well supplied with armour and good quality weaponry. The look of the Liby-Phoenicians would have been little different, but in any event everyone here is well wrapped up in cloaks and furs, keeping warm but also effectively showing little of their costume. What can be seen in both these groups looks perfectly authentic however, and the same goes for the two mercenaries, one of whom wears a Phrygian helmet. The standard-bearer and commander are also well protected against the cold, but aspects like the commander’s fine helmet look good. The standard has the usual sun and crescent moon design known to have been a Carthaginian device, but whether any had the large fringe shown on this model is unknown, though cannot be discounted. The dismounted cavalryman is similarly equipped and looks fine, as does the Spanish swordsman.
The poses are very much ‘on the march’ as there are no drawn weapons and no–one is apparently in combat. Most are just sitting and looking forward, and one particularly nice pose is taking a drink. In this passive array however one pose does stick out, and that is the last man in the top row, for he holds his shield against the back of his head for some reason. You might imagine this would be to protect him from missiles, or perhaps the wind, rain or falling rocks, or even conceivably attack from above (like the Connelly painting), yet the rest of him does not appear to be in a fight, nor even in distress, as his sword is still sheathed and he is in a relaxed pose with a straight back. The foot pair of a man aiding another with an arm around his body is a nice touch, and doubtless the difficult crossing would have seen many instances where men had to help each other like this. The right arm of the cavalryman cannot be seen, so must be underneath the fur worn by the infantryman, but for some reason the foot soldier also carries a bag with arrows and a bow in its case, the latter being outside of the fur. We were not at all sure why this man also has a bow, but it looks rather awkward in this arrangement.
The horses are the same as those to be found in the Linear-A set Etruscan Cavalry, and rather obviously are all very much at the gallop, which is completely at odds with the unhurried, relaxed poses of the men. Linear-A say they will make future sets with horses on the march that can be used here, which is good, but we still think customers are entitled to expect appropriate horses here rather than have to rely on future sets – certainly you wouldn’t choose to take a drink on any of these animals! The saddles and cloths look reasonable however, even the pelt on one, although the poses of the animals themselves are not as realistic as we would like.
There is plenty of detail on these figures, but at times this is a bit chunky, so for example sword scabbards are rather fat. Hands and faces are good rather than great, and occasionally things just seem to go astray such as the mess at the top of the spear on the first pictured figure. At first glance the sprue is a mess of flash, and while much of this is not on the figures, there is still a good deal that is, particularly on their legs and all over the dismounted pair. To get the men to sit properly on the horses requires a lot of careful trimming, although the result is satisfactory. For some reason however the horses are completely flash-free.
For us the main problem with this set is the mismatch between the relaxed men and the charging horses. The infantryman carrying a bow (a rare weapon for Spanish infantry of the time) and the cavalryman holding his shield behind his head are both curiosities we felt we could do without, and the slightly chunky sculpting and plenty of flash were certainly drawbacks too. However the sculptor has done well in portraying men battling against the cold, trying to wrap up warm, and we have no issues with accuracy, although as relatively few such men actually accompanied Hannibal on his epic journey this is a very small step towards depicting this particular historic trek.