In many societies both before and since, the noble horseman was seen as the elite warrior, and the bulk of the infantry as little more than arrow-fodder, and this seems to have been the case in the Sassanian Empire (224 to 651). The general infantry, as modelled in this set, formed the majority of most Sassanian armies, yet have a reputation (which is still widely reported) of being of very little military value. They were conscripted peasants, given a cheap spear and shield but virtually no training or reward, and thrust into whatever campaign was then being planned. Not surprisingly therefore their effectiveness was probably not good, and it is reported that for the most part they were used as guards for the rear and as a labour force, with the cavalry, and especially the heavy cavalry, being the heart of the army. These much maligned troops may not have been any sort of a military ideal, but they were fielded in large numbers nonetheless and on occasion did have to fight, while their worth was particularly appreciated during sieges. A story that on one occasion they were chained together by their own commander to stop them fleeing may well be a mistranslation, but they were a large part of any Sassanian army, and now they have been portrayed in 1/72 scale plastic.
These men, collectively known as the Paighan, went to war in their ordinary peasants clothing and were given no armour. Ordinary dress of the time was a simple long-sleeved coat, generally open at the front and with one side crossed over the other and held with a belt. Long trousers and boots plus a cap of some sort completed the picture, and that is what we find on all these figures. In fact all these wear the larger and characteristic headgear which was made of pressed felt or hardened leather, which is quite authentic but probably not universal as suggested here. Nevertheless the simple costume is properly done. Six of the eight poses carry a spear, with the other two holding their dagger/sword, while all hold their rectangular shield made of cane with a leather facing. Like the costume this is all accurate and a fair reflection of how such men would appear, although it is likely that on occasion other weapons, particularly agricultural implements pressed into service as weaponry, would also have been carried.
To what extent these men were capable of keeping neat formations and performing complex manoeuvres in the field is not known for sure today (some detractors described them as more of a mob keeping very close together for mutual support and comfort). All the poses here are an assortment of men apparently mostly in close-quarter combat. The first two figures in the second row have separate spears that are placed in ring hands, but otherwise all the weapons, and all the shields, come as part of the man. This inevitably means some compromise on a natural stance, but all the spearmen here are pretty well done given that limitation, although the penultimate figure in the bottom row does follow the common tendency to hold his spear directly over his head. Nevertheless all the poses are very usable and do the job well enough.
The sculpting is good, and while there is little call for detail here the faces are fine and the clothing looks quite natural. The separate spears fit the ring hands easily, and there is virtually no flash, although inevitably there is a little excess plastic where the spears cross bodies or shields.
In this case having eight poses is not too bad as there was little variety of weaponry or clothing, and since all the poses are useful this feels like a set that depicts its subject pretty well. Good sculpting and good production values add up to a very creditable set. Such men would not have been able to match the well-organised Roman heavy infantry that they often faced, but their presence in a Sassanian army is essential, and the lack of changes in clothing or weaponry mean they are suitable for virtually the entire four centuries and more of the Empire.