The Sipahi were the main cavalry element in Ottoman armies of the 16th century. Some served in the professional standing army of the sultan, but the majority formed a major part of the Provincial Army. In a semi-feudal arrangement they received land for service, and helped police the Empire when not engaged on campaign. When called to war, they generally protected the flanks and rear of the army when on the march, and formed up on both wings of the army before battle. If everything went to plan, then the enemy would have been coaxed into attacking the infantry in the centre of the Ottoman position, who would then damage and disorganise them with fire before the sipahi would close in from both flanks to fully defeat them. Since they generally had the last word on the battlefield, they were the ones that sealed the victory or made the last effort to avoid defeat, and were always a crucial element of the army. At their peak, in the last quarter of the 16th century, they numbered about 83,500, but from the early part of the next century they went into decline and became less important. This set, along with the corresponding Set 1, represents them for the first time in this hobby.
The sipahi were clothed and armoured according to their ability to pay, and what was expected was partly based on the size of their land-holding. This varied greatly, but all the figures in this set wear full armour, which suggests these are either amongst the richest of the Provincial troops or else they are in one of the best of the Household regiments. All have a full suit of mail with plate or lamellar armour on the chest and back. Two also have a circular device on the chest, which is fine. Helmets are nice and varied, but all look appropriate and are nicely done.
Every man carries a bow and arrows, and two are using this very important weapon. The rest have drawn swords, and in one case an axe, but all the weaponry is good. All but one also carry a round shield, which was typical.
There are just two horse poses in the set – the same two as those in Set 1. With only two poses, having one at the gallop and one walking makes a lot of sense, though we would have liked a little more choice here. More importantly, both animals are fully armoured, perhaps based on an Ottoman armour still to be seen today in Florence. This means we can be sure it is correct, which it is, but normally it would be covered by a cloth rather than visible as here, and certainly many sipahi had no such armour. Given the heavy armour the men wear, the horses are easier to understand, though this set focuses entirely on the heaviest of the sipahi and ignores the lighter examples of such men.
A more obvious problem is many of the men sit very badly on the horses, having legs which mean they cannot be forced down to touch the saddle without some trimming. While the detail on the men is very pleasing, they are in some cases awash with flash which will mean a lot of time needed to clean them up, and one of the horses on each sprue also suffers very badly from it. The human poses are somewhat flat, with weapons held directly over the mid-point of the body as is seen so often in this hobby, though as choices of pose these are reasonable.
Although the lack of more lightly dressed men means this set is not representative of all sipahi, it does make a good job of depicting the heavier elements with their fascinating and exotic armour. The exposed and very sophisticated horse armour is even less typical then the men, particularly once horse armour generally went into decline from the mid 16th century, and it could be argued that set up like this such animals were seldom if ever seen on the battlefield. However the considerable amount of flash is also a disappointment here, so this is a set with some very nice aspects and some elements that really should have been done much better.