The Achaemenid or Persian Empire lasted from 550 to 330 BCE and two of its kings went by the name Xerxes. The second only ruled for a few weeks before being murdered, so this set refers to the first, 'the Great', who ruled from 485 to 465 BCE. During that time he and his army dealt with several revolts and launched an invasion of the Greek states which included the famous victory at Thermopylae (the box picture being from the film '300').
Large empires such as that of Xerxes can field armies that are a rich blend of contingents from all their possessions, with very different costumes, weaponry and fighting styles. This certainly seems to have been the case with Xerxes' attack on the Greek city states, although information is far from abundant and the main source, Herodotus, must be handled with care. The figures in this set are certainly a diverse bunch, with some identified as 'Minor Asian' and others as 'Assyrian-Babylonian', while yet others are apparently 'Immortals'. Persian infantry wore a tunic over trousers and a cloth tiara, and were mostly armed with bow and sometimes a spear, plus a short sword/dagger. None of the figures in this set really answer that description well, which means that the only actually Persian figures in this set are the Immortals. This is likely to be far from the actual makeup of the army. A surprising number of these figures are wearing visible body armour, which would seem to have been very rare for the time (apart from mercenary Greek hoplites of course). This all makes assessing accuracy very difficult, but we were not comfortable with several of the figures, although it is not impossible to dismiss or accept some appearance with any certainty.
The first two figures in the top row are identified as Immortals. These were the elite of Xerxes army, and here they have been depicted in the long Achaemenid robe with which they can still be seen pictured in glazed tiles that survive to our own day. Sadly however by the time of Xerxes such costume was already considered traditional and quite unsuitable for battle, and both the Immortals and the rest of the Persians wore the normal Median dress described above. The long robe was court and ceremonial dress, so such fighting poses should not have seen so clothed in this set.
It is a great deal easier to consider the standard of production of these figures, which is pretty poor. As can be seen there is an abundance of flash, with some figures such as Xerxes himself (last figure in bottom row) being as bad as anything yet made. The figures also have a strong tendency to hold weapons and arms close to their body, which makes them easy to sculpt and mould but extremely flat and unconvincing. The basic human proportions are surprisingly varied, with some being tall and thin while others are the reverse. The one separate weapon is shown in the bottom row, but the ring hand for it is much too small. The few shields seen above are all separate, and all have no means of fixing except for gluing directly onto the arm. For the large spara shield (last figure in top row - something like the medieval pavise), the area of contact is tiny and we sliced part of the hand off to obtain an adequate gluing surface.
The main problem with this set is it seems intent of representing many different national contingents in Xerxes' army rather than providing a set of figures that can be placed together to form a credible model of that army. By assuming that all ethnic Persians were Immortals it omits a large part of the actual army, and to dress these Immortals in a costume not seen on the battlefield for decades merely compounds the error. The poor production values only make matters worse, leaving us with a set that has little appeal even for those with an interest in the period. Hardly the ideal set to take advantage of any renewed interest in the period engendered by Hollywood.