The chariot was the focal point of the army for the Hittites as for many other cultures of the time, and the basic Hittite battle tactic was to charge the enemy with their chariots, throwing them into a confusion which would allow the infantry to finish them off. At Kadesh, the battle mentioned on the box, this tactic worked very well, but a lack of effective follow up after the charge squandered the chance of victory.
Much of what little we know about Hittite chariotry comes from Egyptian sources, and these suggest a variety of vehicle designs as might be expected of an empire like that of the Hittites, which drew troops from their conquered provinces as well as their homeland. However it seems that unlike the Egyptians, who used their chariots mostly as mobile firing platforms, many Hittite chariots were heavier, and intended to make physical contact with the enemy, hopefully smashing them with the force of the charge. To achieve this their chariots were bigger, accommodating a crew of at least three, and more solidly built. Such a chariot seems to be the subject of this set. To be strong enough to carry three crew it is thought the axle of these chariots ran under the centre of the cab, yet on this model the axle is at the rear, like the lighter examples of Egypt. A further problem area is the wheels, which have eight spokes. Hittite chariots are depicted with six spokes (where the depiction is clear), so while we cannot be certain that eight-spoke wheels were not employed by the Hittites they would seem to be at best atypical of their chariotry. In all other respects the chariot seems reasonable, although there are experts who believe the cab was rounded rather than square like this model.
It is thought that the usual crew for such a vehicle would be:
- An unarmoured and unarmed charioteer, whose purpose was to drive the vehicle.
- A shield-bearer, also capable of using a spear if necessary
- A spearman or similar warrior, often well armoured
The first figure in our picture is clearly the charioteer, and the second, who also carries a spear in a ring hand, makes a good shield-bearer. The third figure is a heavily armoured spearman, with a common three-quarter length tunic of lamellar armour and a crested helmet. The fourth man is an unarmoured version (an almost identical pose to one in the corresponding Caesar Infantry set). All these men have one peg underfoot with which to fix them to the chariot, which has several holes in the floor for the purpose, and all are appropriate for such a role. Assuming you have three men to a chariot there is some scope for variety here (plus a lot more if infantry figures are adapted). In a nice touch, Caesar have provided an empty base so that whichever of the four figures is not used in this way can be used as a free-standing infantryman instead. The final figure is basically another warrior, an accompaniment to the chariot or a further pose for the infantry. All the poses are very good, with the charioteer deserving particular attention as he is leaning well forward, making him seem very natural for his task.
Some chariot horses wore armour, and those in this set have scale armour on the body and fabric with metal studs for the head, which is perfectly reasonable. The horses attach to the vehicle via a peg that goes into their back, but on our example we found these to be somewhat twisted, making it difficult to place the horses level. As the plastic used is the traditional soft and non-poseable variety this was a problem, but may not be true of all copies of this set. One horse has a strategic tuft of grass on one leg which seems to serve no purpose but does no harm either.
The sculpting as always is excellent, with good detail on the figures and sharp crisp parts for the chariot which go together well apart from the problem with the horses that we have already mentioned. As we have come to expect there is no flash to deal with here.
Certainties are almost impossible to come by concerning the ancient world, but sources claim the Hittites had 3,500 or more chariots at Kadesh, possibly making up half their total force. While some may have been light, with the axle at the rear, these would only have had two crewmen, so we felt the rear positioning of the axle on this model was of doubtful accuracy, although experts do not agree on this. Equally the eight spoke wheels are uncertain and should have been made with six spokes, which matches what few images we do have of these vehicles. Also, while the Hittites were mainly concerned with closing with the enemy, they did still use bows, so we were disappointed to see no evidence for this in this set. This product finally delivers the last major element for one of the best-known battles of the ancient world, but it would seem Caesar have relied on a small number of controversial sources for their research, and have for once delivered something that is more doubtful in terms of accuracy, which is a real shame.