Saturday, December 26, 2009

One Hump or Two?

Dressing the Dromedary Detachment

Strictly speaking, I shouldn't really have a camel corps but there they were in the old Garrison catalogue and I've always had a secret thing for camels so when I discovered that they were available again, I indulged. Its been more than a year now since I glued them to their sticks and primed and started on them, then ground to a halt. Nothing stalls my painting like not being able to figure out out "I" want the figures to look like. Oh a simple matter for a young fellow, schooled to do what he's told, check your Osprey, order the right code from the right manufacturer and bin them if they don't match. Even easier for those who don't care, right 1 stand of camels. here are some old Ghaznavid camels, that'll do.  So here's what has been staring at me.

A Garrison unarmoured camel rider with bow, spear and shield, wearing an ankle length robe with long sleeved over tunic and a 3 lappet cap. But who are these guys? During Xerxes great invasion, Arab levies appear and most books and miniatures depict them as 1/2 naked, bareheaded savages with 2 archers perched upon their ride. Now whether or not any arab levies would have dressed up a bit when leaving the desert to campaign in the far northern reaches of Anatolian, its unlikely that there would have been Arab levies in a Persian army before the fall of Babylon.

Camels are, of course, not unknown on the steppes of Asia as witness the common name of Bactrian Camel.  A little early for a Bactrian contingent perhaps, but a bigger problem is that these, while smallish do appear to be dromedaries. I considered claiming that the blanket & saddle covered both humps but even I didn't buy it.

Now, as I said, I shouldn't really have camel's at all and I'm not talking about adhering to Army Lists. At the battle of Thymbra, which still lays in the future if you remember,  Cyrus will take advantage of the Lydian cavalry's never having encountered camels by dismounting pack camels in front of his infantry. The Lydian cavalry is thrown into disorder and Cyrus wins the day. I might field a unit of dismounted pack camels one day. They should probably be Bactrians but kneeling Dromedaries is what I have.

Garrison Scythian archer with Ral Partha kneeling camel.
BUT, that still doesn't solve the matter at hand, now that I have my camel corps, how should I paint it? Several volunteers popped off their group stick and some individual experimentation took place to see what felt right while I pondered the possibilities. First the hats, arabs of the day are usually shown bareheaded and several of the caps had not cast quite right. A few strokes of a knife were sufficient to produce acceptable long hair. That's easy, I also have a thing for 3 lappet caps, so a mix perhaps. Long white robes sound quite Arab-ish and possibly the edge of the over tunic could be disguised but while one test figure had possibilities, it just didn't 'feel' right. Well, these guys aren't levies straight from the desert and they don't look like conscripted pack animal drovers so what about a small contingent of free lance mercenary Arabs? The officers have perhaps adopted some facets of Median dress assuming they aren't Medes themselves. The rank and file, while not going all the way,  might have spent some of their hard earned pay on new clothes, bought local as they wandered abroad. Slowly a picture and a unit character emerges.
The camel corps experiments with various new clothes.
So there we are, the makings of my camel corps. I just need to finish up the 5 prototypes then get at the 2nd batch, aiming for an over all look of individuals with something in common. After all, Cyrus had to get the idea of using camels from somewhere!


  1. Back in days gone by I ordered some nice 20mm camels. This happened at the time of the 20mm/25mm changeover, so I got 25mm ones. For some reason I painted them sort of pinkish, never liked it. They are now being replaced with 20mm versions, but for some reason the 20mm camel riders are ones I haven't actually got. Still, 'ordinary' 20mm cavalry figures on camels do just as well. One unit is about half painted - but has been for a year or so!

    One of my conversions was to make generic cavalry archers that are also going to appear on camels as Arabs. Haven't started them yet.


  2. I like the fabric choices on the archers. I'm looking at getting started with a Greek/Persian project (in 1/72 scale plastic) this year, and striking a balance between looking good and keeping the painting moving along at a reasonable speed will be the issue.