This army list covers the first group of the many steppe nomad horse riding cultures we meet in DBA. It includes the Cimmerians, Scythians in Europe and Asia (including the Dahae, Saka, Chorasmians and Massagetae) and the various tribes who pestered the Chinese, known as the Hu. They ranged from Iran to Bulgaria to the Chinese border. Among their successes they defeated an army led by Cyrus the Great, wiped out an army sent by Alexander the Great, ravaged Asia Minor, and extracted tribute from Egypt. These are the people whose arrival the prophet Jeremiah asserted was a sign of God’s wrath at the worship of foreign gods: “Behold, I am bringing against you a nation from afar, O house of Israel, declares the Lord. It is an enduring nation; it is an ancient nation, a nation whose language you do not know, nor can you understand what they say. Their quiver is like an open tomb; they are all mighty warriors. They shall eat up your harvest and your food; they shall eat up your sons and your daughters; they shall eat up your flocks and your herds; they shall eat up your vines and your fig trees; your fortified cities in which you trust they shall beat down with the sword.”
The general’s element can be either a light horse, a cavalry, or, in I/43b a knight. These classifications reflect different levels of equipment but I’m happy to use my cavalry as I/43b’s knight as they have half-armoured horses. These are Donnington figures apart from the LH general who is from Falcon UK Figures. I really like the complex scale armour, decorated shields, and fancy modified Greek helmets. I’m not sure what nationality the Donnington horses are really meant to represent – the Falcon horse tack is better for the Scythians.
I haven’t painted the three optional infantry elements yet, so for me the rest of the army is eleven more horse archers. These are mostly Donnington figures, but there are three elements of Museum Miniatures ones. The Donnington ‘new era’ horses are a little large for Steppe ponies, but not as big as, say, Essex horses. For once the smaller variety of Museum Miniatures horses (their Normans, for example, have normal sized horses) are a perfect size. But Scythian burial mounds usually contain a bigger horse and a few little steppe ponies so you can take your pick. The Donnington figures are a little well fed, but they are accurate and they have a good variety of poses available. They were designed for their old style horses and won’t fit the new era ones without a fight. Before I painted them I put a the end of a pair of plyers (closed) between their legs and opened them. That nearly worked except the leg with the bow case naturally bent less than the other. The Museum figures are not modelled with the gorytoscombined bow-case and quiver that was unique to the Scythians, but other ‘Scythian’ cultures like the Parthians do not seem to have had them. I have some other Museum figures that I didn’t paint for this army, one that I was particularly tempted to include is wearing a helmet decorated with embossed ram’s horns, which was manufactured in Northern Italy.
For a camp I have a Baueda yurt, and a Donnington pack horse with a couple of Museum sheep.
The Osprey book on the Scythians is a really good read, full of folk-history, and it has Angus MacBride’s moody and inspiring illustrations. They liked a bit of bling, those Scythians. In painting the horses I read that horses found in Scythian burial mounds seem to be devoid of white markings. Otherwise for the cavalry and general elements I painted the horses as Akhal Tekes. I took the horse colours for the LH elements from a segment of Martin Clunes’ Horsepower documentary which you can find on YouTube, where he visits Kazakhstan. Worth watching to see what a 6’2 man looks like on a steppe pony, if for nothing else.
This is another of the DBA lists that could do with a bit of love. The Massagetae, who defeated Cyrus, are the most in need of a sub-list with more cavalry and a Mountain Indian contingent including elephants.