The box for this set refers to the Battle of Raphia, in 217 BCE, the background to which is described in our review of the first set of Ptolemaic infantry here. About the best ancient source we have for this period, Polybius, makes the claim that as an emergency reaction to the threat to the Egyptian domain, the new Egyptian king Ptolemy IV Philopator caused thousands of native Egyptians to be trained and organised as phalangists, much like the Macedonian troops he and the other Hellenistic kingdoms already had. Whether this was a sudden emergency measure or part of a longer reform is debated, but the fact is that by the time of Raphia, the Ptolemaic army could indeed field around 20,000 new phalangists described as ‘Egyptian’ rather than Macedonian or Greek. However, we must treat such sources with care, and labels such as these do not necessarily describe the ethnicity of the men involved, though there is no doubt that the campaign did change the balance of the forces of Egypt, and in an area where the phalanx could be very effective, the extra troops that Ptolemy brought to the battle may well have been the deciding factor in his victory.
Ptolemy won the battle with his phalanx, so it is no surprise that Linear-A have provided a second set to depict such men. In many ways the first and second set are similar, as both provide eight poses holding the pike at various angles, which goes a long way to depict the classic look of a phalanx, with the front ranks lowering theirs horizontally while the rear ranks held theirs at an angle, or upright, supposedly to deflect missiles, but also to lend weight to the push and to potentially replace casualties in the leading ranks. In addition of course, some might not be in battle at all, particularly the last two poses, who could be resting or on parade. All the men hold their pike and shield in the correct manner, so all the poses are fine, and while eight is not a lot to depict such a large formation particularly naturally, various other sets of phalanx troops from the same company can be used to mix things up and produce better results.
Many of the elements seen in the first set are repeated here, and include the forms of clothing and armour that were common amongst Macedonian troops of the period. The top row, with lowered pike, represent the front ranks, and naturally they have the most extensive armour. Both have helmets of correct design, and one has a solid muscle cuirass while the other looks to have mail or lamellar armour in the form of a classical Greek corselet, with pteruges round the loins. Both have greaves on at least the leading leg, which makes perfect sense, and both wear sandals, although barefoot would also have been acceptable.
Those in the ranks further back are gradually less and less well armoured, wearing an assortment of body protection made of mail or quilted fabric, or perhaps stiffened linen. One wears a helmet of Macedonian shape, but most of the rest wear caps that are very Egyptian in appearance. While there is scant evidence for how such men appeared, it seems very reasonable that some would have retained elements of their traditional dress such as this, even though they have been trained and armed in the Macedonian style. These ranks are mostly barefoot, and none wear greaves, so again a reasonable assumption given their being further back from the thick of the action. In short then, nothing here seems out of place for such men, with the caps suggesting the Egyptian nature of many of these figures.
The pikes they hold are much the same as in companion sets. Each is about 62mm in length (4.5 metres), which might be a fair bit less than the generally accepted norm (about 6 metres), but it is hard to be sure if this is incorrect, and certainly they do look long and fairly slender – they look the part. The pike heads and base are nicely done, so they look good. All the men carry a round shield too, about 9mm (65 cm) in diameter and quite flat. This is a good size, and since they had to hold the pike as well as carry the shield, it had to be reasonably flat like this. All the men also carry a sidearm, a sword of either kopis or straight design.
Another consistent factor of this range is the standard of sculpting, which again is very good with nice detail and quite natural poses. A few of the legs have rather strange ridges coming out of them, suggesting the method of sculpting has not completely hidden the frame on which the figure is formed, which looks odd but is not readily apparent at a glance. There is also a fair amount of flash in many places, so quite a lot of cleaning up will be necessary, and as usual with such sets, stuffing the sprue in the box causes the pikes to be noticeably bent, requiring them to be immersed in hot water or steam to get them to return to their natural, straight form.
Prior to the Fourth Syrian War, Ptolemy’s native Egyptians seem mainly to have served him in the navy or marines, so their appearance at Raphia in a phalanx is a major change in the makeup of Egyptian armies. Depicting such men in a second set like this is therefore a really useful addition to the coverage of this campaign, and of the following years, and Linear-A’s ongoing commitment to covering their subjects in great detail is once more to be applauded. With the aid of other sets of phalanx troops, the modeller can now build a very decent phalanx of the period, mixing and matching poses and style of dress to achieve an increasingly realistic look. Anyone looking to recreate Raphia will certainly need some of these new Egyptian troops, and they should look splendid indeed on the tabletop.