Long before the Punic Wars, the Iberian Peninsula was home to its native peoples and various trading settlements established by the Phoenicians and Greeks, but by the 6th century BCE much of the south was under the influence of Carthage, and this was to grow stronger over the following centuries. After the First Roman War, the Barcids conquered much of this territory for Carthage, and it became the springboard for the invasion of Italy by Hannibal in 218 BCE. Naturally he included large numbers of Iberians in his army, but the Iberians already had a long tradition of military excellence, and had served as mercenaries in many parts of the Mediterranean for well over a century, including in the armies of Carthage.
Much like any other society of the time, the basic dress of the Iberians was a simple belted tunic, which in this case was rather shorter than seen elsewhere. Long sleeves were known but short sleeves or no sleeves were the norm, and in particularly cold weather a cloak might be added, which could be wrapped around the body if required. When they went to war their costume did not change, and so this is the dress we find on these figures, which is fine. If they could afford it then some would have worn extra protection, and this could take many forms, which these figures illustrate nicely. Some have a simple pectoral plate on the chest and back, others have a larger scale plate front and back, and some wear a mail corselet. One figure even has a sort of mail cape, and a couple are wearing greaves on both legs, which are sometimes said to be more typical of Celt-Iberians, but this is not a set rule, so nothing here specifically distinguishes between Iberians and Celt-Iberians. Many pictures of the time show unusual helmets, but it is hard to know if these were metal or something more organic like sinew or leather. Happily, some of these figures wear typical examples, and one man has a helmet apparently covered in scales (for which there is contemporary evidence), while another has a much more impressive, crested example in the style of the Greeks, with which the Iberians were very familiar. Everything here matches period paintings and modern understanding of their look, and the wide variety of different appearances is very pleasing and doubtless typical of such men.
Modern historians love to categorise everything, and you will hear them talk of two types of infantry - scutati or heavies, and caetrati or light infantry. We are always somewhat sceptical of such neat categorisations, but these terms relate to the two main types of shields that were carried. The larger scutum shield was typical of the Celts, oval in shape, and there are three of these on each sprue. Two are separate, for the two figures that need them (the first in each of our rows), and we have given one to the first man in our top row, but on reflection we think he should have the smaller round caetra, a buckler-type shield, since his weaponry and appearance suggest a lighter warrior. As can be seen, just such a shield is also provided, so the choice is there. Most of the rest carry the buckler, which is reasonable, although such men could certainly stand up to the massed infantry of an enemy. This is because they were armed with a very good sword, the falcata, which made the Iberians famous. This beautiful, curved sword is well modelled here, and the ‘heavy’ infantrymen have been given a straight sword, again in Celtic style, which would influence Roman swords in the future. The man with the horn holds a spear, and another in the top row also has one, but this one has flames coming from beneath the head – a practice that was known but probably limited to when the spear was thrown rather than held as if duelling as here. Some of the sword scabbards have a second, small blade attached to them, as is known to have happened, and some have no scabbard at all, which is also thought to be correct.
We gave the first man the larger shield because it was attached to his base, but whether that is appropriate or not, the shield fits nicely on the hand, which has the boss already in place, fitting through the hole in the shield. The others are the same, so these work quite well, and it means they are all held in the correct manner, with the bar parallel to the longer side. That is the limit of the assembly required in this set, but the sculpting generally is pretty good. The detail is nice and clear, and even the mail has been done with a good texture rather than attempting the impossible and sculpting each ring. The proportions are realistic except that the figures are really quite flat, both in pose and in the basic depth of each body. The entire sprue, when viewed from the edge, is only about 6 millimetres deep, and while the separate shields help to mitigate that feature, it is still rather obvious when the figures are cut off. The bases are really thin and minimal – good enough in ideal circumstances, but far from stable on anything but a perfectly flat and smooth surface. Then of course there is the flash, which pretty much speaks for itself in our photos. It is all over the place, including in the holes in the shields, so while it is thin it will still take much time to clean these figures up completely. The second spearman in the top row has extra plastic behind his spear, but otherwise the flat poses avoid this problem.
The poses are weighted toward the light infantrymen, which is probably a fair reflection of the proportions available at most times, and the variety of weapons and forms of protection have already been noted. Where the shield is part of the figure it tends to be held well away from the body, which is a common fault with many such sets, and the poses are certainly flat, but the set does offer some reasonable advancing and melee options, so apart from our reservations about the man holding the flaming spear we have no complaints about the choice of poses.
The set has been well researched, and many contemporary images find their echo in some of these figures. The man with a horn to his lips is one such example, and we liked the man holding an enemy’s severed head, which was common practice. Although the set is perfectly accurate, for the reasons stated we did not find the figures particularly appealing, and this is almost entirely down to their flatness. Flash can be removed, but not much can be done about the lack of depth of the figures, which for us at least is a problem. However this set does offer some interesting and useful figures for an important element of ancient warfare, particularly for the Carthaginian Army at the time of the second Roman War.