With so many sets of soldiers and warriors now in production, the challenge for many manufacturers is to come up with something new, and that is something Caesar have often provided, not least with their impressive array of ancient subjects. Several sets of Egyptian infantry and chariots have already been made, so this set is essentially a command set, which is often used to also provide some extra figures more loosely related to the subject, as here.
Egyptian pharaohs often lead their armies into battle personally, and with the establishment of the New Kingdom following the expulsion of the Hyksos, this lead would be from a chariot. Ancient records of campaigns inevitably praise and probably exaggerate the achievement of the pharaoh, but they do seem to have lead from the front, and placed themselves in harm's way, so a good heroic figure of a pharaoh in his chariot would be a natural addition to many a New Kingdom army.
We begin with the chariot itself. This is the same model as appeared in the earlier set of chariots, and this seems perfectly reasonable, since as far as can be judged the pharaoh's chariot was different only in the quality and expense of decoration, which can be added with paint on this model. The basic style is sound, being the classic light design that developed from an even lighter design around the start of the 14th century BCE, with the six-spoked wheels being the most obvious feature. The horse team are different to those in the earlier set, being rather more handsomely decorated but still wearing the fabric trappings which we would expect. Everything here is of the correct size and design, and accurate too, although we found the famously sometimes bendy Caesar plastic made this easy to clip together model a bit more troublesome than it should have been.
Two holes drilled into the floor of the chariot accommodate the driver and pharaoh figures seen in our top row. The driver is fine, but the boss's costume rewards a much closer look. He wears the war crown (cheperesh) with the uraeus (serpent decoration) on the brow, although the sculptor has slightly misunderstood this feature and sculpted it to one side rather than centrally. This crown is always shown as blue, which many modern sources interpret as blue leather, although blue was also an Egyptian artistic convention for silver metal, and some reconstructions show this covered in silver discs. The sculptor here has given the crown a dimpled texture, which could pass for either at a pinch. The pharaoh also wears a corselet with scale armour and the wide collar of nobility and royalty, which is fine. His chest is covered in symbolic wings of Horus, the hawk god, mainly for spiritual protection, although the pharaoh was also the embodiment of Horus on Earth while he lived. However these 'wings' do not extend round the back, whereas at least one modern reconstruction says they should. His kilt, plain but with a highly decorated front panel, should also have a 'tail' (sometimes described as that of a lion or bull) at the back, which this figure lacks. It seems clear the designer did not find a rear view of this fabulous costume. Despite such details, this is a wonderful figure which showcases the superb sculpting quality of all the figures in this and most other Caesar sets.
The third figure in the top row is a runner - runners literally ran alongside the chariots, despatching fallen enemies and otherwise supporting the chariots in any way they could. We lamented the lack of such a running figure in the first set of chariots, and although there is only one such pose in this set, this is what we had in mind at that time and it is nice to see him here. The next figure is a standard-bearer, holding a standard of an ostrich plume which we are told is often associated with the chariotry. Finally a few extra weapons to add value to the set.
Lions were important animals in ancient Egypt. They appear frequently in the panoply of Egyptian deities, and were associated both with destruction and protection. However they were also associated with rule, and for this reason many pharaohs associated themselves with this animal, which of course was also seen as strong and the dominant animal in its kingdom. Pharaohs also enjoyed hunting the real animal, and it is quite easy to imagine one being kept as a pet or part of a personal zoo. However using them in battle seems like a real stretch, and we could find no evidence that this ever happened. We did find lurid Victorian and later prints showing this, but that is to amuse the masses, and after all, would you want to be the guy charged with keeping it under control when the enemy approached? A plate by Angus McBride shows just such a 'pet' lion, which is presumably why one appears in this set, and it is believed that one was taken on the Qadesh campaign, but despite the harness and rigid (if short) lead we find it hard to imagine such an animal in such a situation, but full marks for being colourful Caesar!
Caesar could have expanded what would otherwise have been quite a small set with some court figures, but instead they chose to include some assorted peasant figures, and very nice they are too. We always like to see such civilians, which are rare enough, and while they are clearly nothing to do with any battle, they make some excellent extras - the mother carrying a baby and also a pot is particularly charming.
As always everything is really well produced, with lovely detail and no flash anywhere. The flexible moulds that ensure no flat poses have never been better used than with the lion which, despite being a quadruped, has been posed very naturally without any need for extra plastic between legs etc.
This is a set of contrasts. We have a lion apparently leaping on its prey, and also a woman carefully carrying her child. We have the mighty pharaoh, bow in hand, ready to run down and destroy his enemies, and also simple peasants carrying baskets and platters of food. It all makes for something rather more engaging than most sets, and the whole thing works really well. The quality of the production is superb, and the subject matter neatly brackets both the very top and bottom of Egyptian society to produce a very fine set of figures which, apart from some small details of the pharaoh's costume, gets nothing but praise from this reviewer.