There can be few more colourful or exotic subjects for military miniatures than the armies of Islam during the medieval period. Most people in Europe would know something of the Crusades, and the best known figure in Western societies is, ironically, not one of the Christians but Salah al-Din al-Ayyubi, popularly known as Saladin. However these figures and the corresponding crusaders are labelled as 11th Century, the century before Saladin.
There is very little information on the look of the armies of Islam during this period, with most sources being highly stylised art that is almost impossible to interpret with certainty. The term 'Saracens' in fact covers the many different armies of Islam that fought the crusaders, and the look and equipment of these varied considerably. Many of these armies also employed large mercenary contingents, whose appearance would be that of their home territory, so the look of any given army could vary within a short time span as different bodies of troops were hired. Furthermore, this set claims to cover the Moorish armies, who again would have a characteristic look.
All that uncertainty can give a manufacturer problems when researching figures, but also makes it very difficult to criticise the results. Therefore such a set can only be assessed on whether it appears to follow the current view of how such men probably appeared, and whether it gives a good impression of its subject.
With these Saracens Italeri do indeed seem to have produced an authentic looking set which seems to capture something of the enormously diverse and often beautiful appearance of these men. The figures are armed with spears, swords, maces, bows and axes. Many carry shields, which are all round, as most were in Muslim armies of the time. In all cases these shields are moulded on the man rather than being separate, which is a relief to all.
The figures display an enormous variety of helmets, turbans, mail armour and robes. In many Muslim societies, men of wealth often took great pride in displaying that wealth in fine clothing, so many warriors went into battle with armour covered by richly decorated robes - a real challenge if these are to be painted!
In general the armies of Islam used camels to carry baggage, but a few units also rode them toward battle although never actually in combat unless surprised. Nevertheless it is nice to see camels here alongside the horses, although their riders should not be in combative poses like these figures. The poses of the horses seem a little strange, with all being largely stationary except for one leg, which is outstretched as if at the gallop. The camel poses are no better, with some quite unnatural leg arrangements meaning they are neither walking nor running, while they are no taller at the shoulder than the horses, which does not seem correct.
As with many other sets, our principal gripe is the mixing of mounted and dismounted troops. Separate sets would have been preferable, but probably not feasible. Still the figures we do get are very well detailed and with little flash. The set seems unnecessarily short on figures, with the sprue having large amounts of empty space that could easily have been utilised to provide more dismounted figures. Consequently value for money is not as good as it could have been.