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Set 72137

Byzantine Light Cavalry Set 1

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All figures are supplied unpainted    (Numbers of each pose in brackets)
Date Released 2024
Contents 12 figures and 12 horses
Poses 6 poses, 6 horse poses
Material Plastic (Medium Consistency)
Colours Brown
Average Height 24.5 mm (= 1.77 m)


The Roman Empire was a remarkably long-lasting institution, existing between 27 BCE and 1453, but the sheer size of it made it very difficult to govern as it reached its peak, and a series of divisions, particularly that of 395, split the empire into the Western and Eastern parts. The Western Empire would fall in the 5th century, but the Eastern one would continue for more than a thousand years, although at no time was it ever called the Byzantine Empire, either by outsiders or by the Romans themselves. That name was invented in the 16th century, after it had disappeared, but as might be supposed, such a long history meant that the Roman armed forces underwent many changes. One of the most significant of these was the rise in importance of cavalry, since the early empire had relied almost exclusively on heavy infantry, and while the heavy cavalry would be the elite of the Roman army, the light cavalry would always be a very significant element.

There is a good deal of evidence for the appearance of Eastern Roman cavalry, and what is most striking is the diversity of that look. This was partly thanks to the very long time period being considered, and also partly thanks to the many origins of those that served, who would have retained some characteristics of their homeland. In addition, the appearance of any man would also depend on his means, and also on personal choice in such matters as amount of armour, so there is much room for flexibility when considering the authenticity of these figures. All these figures wear the same basic costume of long-sleeved tunic, trousers and boots or shoes, and all wear conical helmets of several designs. For most that is the limit of the protection that they wear, but the first figure in our second row also wears a padded, quilted corselet, from the shoulders of which are visible strips of materials generally described as pteruges.

As can be seen, two men are using the bow, although another three poses also have this weapon to hand. Two of these have a sword raised, either straight or curved, and the third holds a spear or lance. The last man in the top row has a sword and knife of course, but is otherwise only armed with some javelins. These are all reasonable weapons for such troops, although we suspect that the bow might have seen more use than the sword. Most carry a shield, which is round in most cases, although one man carries the almond-shaped form, which was a smaller version of the infantry kite shield that first appeared in the 11th century. Although some sources speak of small round shields carried by some archers, all those in this set are reasonable, so there are no issues with accuracy here.

While the accuracy may be good, the quality of production is not. Taking the men first, all the poses are quite flat, so both swords are being held directly across the man’s head, the spear is also completely flat to the front of the man, which makes no real sense as a pose, and the man holding the javelin is doing so with it slightly behind his head, which is a terrible pose with an arm that cannot physically do what this one is doing (without breaking an elbow or wrist). Speaking of anatomically impossible poses, all have their feet sticking out away from their horse, and four are at 90 degrees to it, which is again anatomically impossible even if it were desirable. All those that hold a shield are of course doing so with it pressed tightly against the body, with no room for the arm, adding to the two-dimensional look of these men. The detail is not too bad, given that this is not especially demanding on such a subject, but what is really bad is the way these men sit on their horses. Basically, they don’t. All have their knee-length tunic falling to their knees as if they were standing up, so none can even approach touching the saddle that they are supposed to be sitting on. The sculptor has tried to compensate for this by shaving something off the top of all the horses' backs, which makes them look very silly when unmounted, but in any case the effect is still terrible, with the men’s knees in line with the horse’s back, and looks nothing like a man riding a horse. It is a fundamental error, but the worst is yet to come.

While RedBox horses are been quite variable in quality, and not always particularly good, these are in our view about the worst they have so far made. The anatomy is very poor, and the poses are mostly completely unrealistic. Anyone who could imagine that the last horse in the bottom row could be crossing his legs like a human clearly has never set eyes on such an animal (yes, our picture does not make it clear, but this horse is crossing one leg over the other)! The horse with both right legs on the ground and both left in the air is almost as terrible, and the horse that is touching its belly with one hoof is laughable. If horses could hire lawyers, the makers of these models would be in big trouble. To make matters worse, the fit between man and horse is also very bad. As can be seen, the shape of the men’s legs are not conducive to a decent fit with the animals, and in fact all are either too far apart or too close together (or the horses are too fat or thin – take your pick). All will require gluing to stay mounted, and none look at all realistic when put together. None of the horses have any evidence of a saddle of any kind, and even the bits of random greenery added to help the plastic flow don’t look particularly realistic.

That this set is accurate is about the only thing positive to say about it, although the arrows are nice and slim, and we liked the random hit marks on the shields. Apart from the single figure with the almond-style shield, the only element of this set that really dates it is that all are wearing stirrups, which first came into use by the Romans in the last quarter of the 6th century. The actual look of such troops could vary enormously as we have said, but most of what we find here could serve, more or less, for any period during the history of the Eastern Empire. On the negative side, the sculpting of the men is poor, the horses terrible, and the poses are flat and lazy. There is some excess plastic in places such as between shield and man, but amazingly flash is minimal, so the mould-making is very good and deserves a far better product than this one. This is one of the poorest cavalry sets we have seen in a very long time, so despite the real need for cavalry figures for the Eastern Empire we cannot recommend this one at all.


Historical Accuracy 10
Pose Quality 5
Pose Number 8
Sculpting 4
Mould 9

Further Reading
"Armies and Enemies of the Crusades 1096-1291" - Wargames Research Group - Ian Heath - 9780904417081
"Armies of the Dark Ages 600-1066" - Wargames Research Group - Ian Heath - 9780904417159
"Byzantine Armies 1118-1461 AD" - Osprey (Men-at-Arms Series No.287) - Ian Heath - 9781855323476
"Byzantine Armies 886-1118" - Osprey (Men-at-Arms Series No.89) - Ian Heath - 9780850453065
"Byzantine Cavalryman c.900-1204" - Osprey (Warrior Series No.139) - Timothy Dawson - 9781846034046
"Romano Byzantine Armies 4th-9th Centuries" - Osprey (Men-at-Arms Series No.247) - David Nicolle - 9781855322240

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