The Oscans is the term usually used to denote the tribes, principally the Samnites, who lived in central and southern Italy before and during the period of Roman dominance. They fought each other and their neighbours, and latterly that included the growing state of Rome of course, though many were also to be found in the ranks of the Roman army at one time or another, so these figures have many uses, most notably in the Punic Wars.
There was no one style of costume for these men, coming as they did from different tribes with different influences, but the figures here are a fair representation of this large and diverse group. The costume is mostly a tunic either with armour or without, and a helmet, usually of Attic style, decorated with plumes, feathers etc. Many of the armoured infantry wear a cuirass with three discs on each plate, a Samnite characteristic, though muscle cuirasses are also in evidence. The mixture of greaves and various kinds of footwear all seem to match our limited knowledge of these warriors, and are quite accurately depicted in this set.
It is thought that the most common Oscan weapon was the javelin, and many are shown here along with the much less common sword, which resembles the kopis and suggests Greek influence. Shields are in various shapes and sizes, but are all thought to be correct. There is even one apparently made of wicker, a variety common in Lucanian art, though it is believed that the shield was raised rather than flat as here. One man holds a standard, a cockerel (bronze) on a tall pedestal, an example of which has been uncovered. However the pole is very thick, which is unlikely and would make holding it difficult.
The 14 poses are a good and lively selection, and include a fallen man and a horn-blower. One of the nicest is the dramatic one of a man throwing his javelin (second row, first figure), though this figures suffers from a strangely small base and is very easily knocked over. The kneeling figure seems to have been copied from a statue made at Taras about 280 BCE, yet despite this pedigree we were not too keen on what seems a rather awkward stance.
The quality of the figures is not up to the highest standards. Some detail is missing, and that includes whole parts of spears (second row, second figure is missing part of spear). Apart from one man (bottom row, first figure) who has a ring hand and a separate javelin, all weapons and shields are moulded with the figure. This forces the sculptor into some compromises which means many of the figures are quite flat in appearance and on occasions items such as shields seem to defy gravity. Most notably, the raised weapon is often touching the helmet, which is not realistic. The ring hand needs to be considerably enlarged to accept the separate javelin, though this can be achieved without great difficulty. The figures are mostly free of flash.
This is not the first set of Oscans to be produced, but it does provide a lot more poses and some speciality figures such as the musician and standard-bearer. Though well researched, the set is far from the most beautiful to grace the hobby in recent years, but should still prove useful.