From the beginning the Janissaries were intended to be an elite force within the Ottoman Empire, and so they proved for most of their history, until their bloody demise in 1826. Recruited mostly from slaves and prisoners, they were originally the Sultan's personal guard and his greatest asset in time of war.
This set is marked as seventeenth century, but in truth the Janissary costume was remarkably little changed between the fifteenth and eighteenth centuries, so these figures are usable for a very long period. Their costume is the classic look, with long flowing robes (often tucked into the belt to aid movement) and baggy trousers, but their most distinctive feature is the Börk hat which most wear. Officers and specialists have different costume, all of which is accurately portrayed here. Early Janissaries were infantry archers, but they quickly adopted firearms, and most of the infantrymen here are correctly armed with muskets, although one still has a bow which was a mostly ceremonial weapon by this time.
The top three rows show the ordinary infantrymen in a variety of poses, most of which are fairly standard and perfectly OK. We liked the crawling pose and the man climbing a ladder, though these will be of less appeal to wargamers, but the man with a short pike is not a particularly good choice as Janissaries rarely used them. The bottom two rows show some of the more interesting figures, beginning with the middle three figures on the fourth row, all of whom are officers. The first is a senior NCO and is armed with a long-bladed axe, while next to him is a senior officer holding a horse-hair tug or banner. Both have much more elaborate clothing than the men, particularly the headdress, which indicated their rank. The third man is a commanding officer, and has the best quality clothing, trimmed with expensive fur. Beside him is an important member of the Janissaries, a saka or water-carrier. He carries a large animal-skin canteen, and he would also have tended to the wounded.
The first figure on the final row is clearly a child. This is a boy in training for the life of a Janissary, and here he is learning to use a musket. He correctly wears a fairly simple costume, and would not have taken part in battle at this early age. The next three figures represent the Mehterhane military band that every Janissary regiment had. The drummer (with his kettle-drum), clarinet player and conductor all wear a simpler uniform than the fighting men, in contrast to the elaborate uniforms European armies gave to their musicians. As can be seen, the kettle-drum has extra plastic between two of the legs as the mould could not reach this area. All three men are very nicely sculpted, with the clarinet player in particularly being a fine model for a very difficult pose. The conductor holds up a çevgân, which had small bells on it (not included on this model), so it contributed to the music as well as keeping time.
The final figure is the traditional Orion joker, and in this case it is an officer peering through binoculars (which had not been invented in the seventeenth century). Joker figures are clearly just meant to be fun, but they could present possibilities for conversion into something useful, although that is hardly possible in this case. Note that this figure is only included in a limited number of sets.
As we would expect from Orion, the figures are excellently sculpted with plenty of good detail. More surprisingly there was a good deal of flash on them - not an annoying ridge right round the seam, but several larger areas which certainly require trimming. Yet another interesting and unusual subject from this manufacturer, and something of a treat for the eye.