The Seljuks came, like so many peoples before them, from central Asia, and by the mid 11th century they had established an empire which at its height stretched from Anatolia to the Hindu Kush. However this empire was frequently riven by internal power struggles and many of the territories would fall in and out of effective Seljuk authority over the years, giving it a complex and troubled history before its final destruction by the Mongols in the 13th century. During this period however the Seljuks battled not only Mongols but also Arabs, Byzantines and European crusaders as well as each other.
As with any such people the Seljuks were greatly influenced by their near neighbours, and were particularly appreciative of Persian culture. However the particularly Turkish costume characteristics were a long coat, loose clothing and an array of tall helmets often surrounded by a turban. This is the basic pattern for these figures, although in variety they can have few equals as no two men are dressed alike. One surprising feature is that all these figures have armour of various types (mostly lamellar), including one with a face-covering aventail and another with a fine full-face visor. While armour was certainly much used we would have liked to have seen some (particularly those using the bow) with no apparent armour as not all would have been able to afford such a luxury - a mix as portrayed on the box artwork would have been much better. The tall helmets, often with a turban or plume, are a good selection for such troops, and several of the men clearly display the three plaits of hair that were another feature of these people. Two of the poses have the fur-trimmed kalaftah helmet with metal front plate which is another well attested feature.
Bearing their origin in mind it should come as no surprise that the heart of the Seljuk army was the horse-archer. As can be seen a third of these figures are engaged in using their bow, with several others also carrying such a weapon, although we were a little surprised that so many do not have one. When not using the bow Seljuks used the sword, spear or mace - all of which are to be seen here, and although it is rather a large example even the axe is a valid weapon. On the other arm these men would normally have carried a round shield, as most do here, although the kite-shaped examples are clearly influenced by Europe and could easily be battlefield booty. Several of the shields, none of which are separate pieces, have deep raised patterns on them which rather restricts a customer’s choice of design even if they are authentic.
Clearly the set is a mixture of horse archers and 'heavy' cavalry. All the human poses are reasonable if nothing particularly interesting, although the archers are probably the best.
The horses also display a considerable amount of variety, and all are broadly OK. Most have the mishadda collar, often with the horse-hair plume hanging from it, although we would have liked to have seen some of the horses have their tails knotted, which was a fairly common fashion at the time. Saddlery in general looks fine, although it should be noted that by the end of the Seljuk period many horses could have had housings and even armour. The horse poses are the usual mixture of good and bad from Strelets, but we were again disappointed to see no standing or walking poses. While these men could certainly shoot from a moving animal they would normally choose to use their bows from a standing horse for obvious reasons, so some such poses should have been included. Also two of the horse poses are supplied with a peg, but the set includes nothing to place on this peg (the horses are the same as in other sets where such accessories are supplied), so the peg should be removed.
The usual Strelets style and sculpting standard is to be seen here, with an unsophisticated but adequate look to the figures. One figure has a ring hand into which either a separate spear or sword can be fitted, and both this fit and that between riders and horses have been well engineered. Once again there is no flash or other moulding problems on these figures.
Although the Turks were as prone to foreign influence as any people of the time these figures do seem to capture the look and feel of these exotic warriors nicely. Seljuk armies often included non-Turkish elements, and on occasion Turkish soldiers would fight alongside their neighbours, so this set brings yet another interesting element to the complicated but rich and bloody tapestry of military activity that was the Middle East in the medieval period.