By Rob Morgan
The tantalising mention of the Osprey Men-at-Arms title “Ancient Armies of the Middle East” ( No.109), reminded me of some interesting ancient ventures of my own. The Terry Wise account covers a number of armies and peoples. I liked the Sumerians, probably because they were such a one-off and strange bunch of warriors. In 6mm scale, I went to Irregular Miniatures — that was years ago — and built up a small and if I say so myself, attractive force of chariots and heavy spearmen. They fought each other and sometimes the Elamites from the same company. About as “ancient” as you can get, the Sumerians!
The Egyptians never really appealed to me — a flashy bunch, but that’s because I was already moving toward the sea and early warships, and if there was a series on building an Egyptian army in Airfix Magazine, then I missed it! My Phoenician fleet took priority.
Of course, these days, the bulk of the warriors featured in Terry’s well-timed volume — it was published in 1982 when interest in Ancients was, if I recall, at a high among wargamers — are available in 20/25mm from new and ambitious companies like Caesar Models, made in soft-ish plastic but nicely detailed. The company make delightful Libyan Biblicals, the Philistines, and Sherden, as well as “Sea Peoples” and a range of Assyrians, all most attractive and suitable for small encounters and raids, rather than formal battle arrays. The Philistines (Angus McBride, Terry’s artist for this volume, shows them at Plate D2) are stunning little figures, to my mind. The company make Hittites too, yes, and Egyptians, and a single box of warriors I’ve always been interested in.
Described as Arab Camel riders and Bedouin, Caesar makes a pack of oddly armed, accurate but odd, Arab foot soldiers. They’d do for auxiliaries, mercenaries and sundry allies of most of the other forces, or as small-scale raiders. You could even use them way down the centuries into Renaissance and medieval times. This pack contains two camels at full pelt, each with two riders armed with bows. These crop up as Plate H in the book, two mounted archers on a fleet footed camel, being sorted out by a well-harnessed Assyrian horse archer. Now for a raiding force a pair of camels isn’t enough, far from it!
Terry describes these camel men, short-bow armed, and clad only in a loin cloth as 7th Century BC, but they are typical of a great swathe of Biblical time. Most of the manufacturers who knock out these lads have a habit of calling them Midianites, which (speaking biblically) is quite wrong, as the men of Midian were involved with the early Israelites, and suffered at the hands of Gideon and his lads. The manufacturers could just as easily have called them Moabites or Ammonites, but these are Arabs, whatever some of the rules and lists say!
Peter Pig makes the best group of them around, and in 15mm, you’ll find them in Martin’s Conquerors & Kings range. Three packs, one of three double-mounted camels with two archers each (interchangeable by the way, so plenty of variety); a pack of four individual command camel riders, which are attractive and again can be changed around. There’s also a set of foot javelin men, and with very little effort some of these javelin hurlers can be converted into slingers. If you haunt a couple of the other range catalogues and lists, Mick Yarrow for instance, you’ll find a few loincloth wearers to add to the basic set.
Both Pig and Mick Yarrow make additional camels for captures and for transport and baggage if necessary.
These are useful figures on the table top, as auxiliaries and mercenaries for scouting and beating up the enemy’s soft spots; as self-employed raiders; and they can be used with or against almost any force you care to try. Egypt, Assyria and even Rome encountered fleeting camel raids. Not ones for direct assault or to serve in the line of battle, but very suitable for the swift flank attack or pursuit.
Painting is easy, look at the Osprey plate, no flash colours, but remember that the lighter the camel, the more expensive it is, a truth which has lingered in history. Camels can be anything from darkish grey, drab brown to the palest grey, almost ghost white.