The Waving Flag: 15 mm Arab Black Guard (Essex)

Sunday 30 July 2023

15 mm Arab Black Guard (Essex)

This is another mini-project using figures from my "Phalanx hobby haul".  It only involves 16 figures but this post is longer than usual.   There are some simple conversions to discuss, and some research into the Guard and early Umayyad flags to summarise.

Historical Background
The Black Guard is described by Ian Heath in the venerable "Armies of the Dark Ages" as follows:

"Khumarawayh, son of Ahmad ibn Tulun (who had as many as 45,000 Negro ghulams in his employ at his death in 884 - almost twice as many as he had white ghulams), maintained a unit of 1,000 Sudanese guardsmen ..."

Heath recounts the following 11th century description:

"[They wore] black coats and black turbans ... a black sea spreading over the face of the earth, because of the blackness of their skin and of their clothes. With the glitter of their shields, of the chasing on their swords, and of the helmets under their turbans, they made a really splendid sight."

Arab Guards in ADLG
These are intended for an early Andalusian Arab army (133) where they will be Umayyad elite heavy spearmen, used to strengthen the main battle line.  As with the Daylami only two units are allowed making them an ideal mini-project.

At a stretch, they could also be used as Aghlabid Guards in North Africa (132) and Abbasid (134) Abna.  For the latter I'll have to change the, very inappropriate, Umayyad banners (or just pretend).

Figure conversion & painting notes
The figures are a right old mixture.  There's most of a pack of AEA9 Arab: Command, a full pack of AEA11 Arab: Spearmen and one figure from AEA13 Arab: Hadjis Two Handed Swordsmen. All are from Essex Miniatures.  For extra variety I added two figures left over from my Forged in Battle heavy spearmen.

The figures aren't ideal; they don't have visible helmets and the faces and beards didn't look right.  To hide the faces I added veils with Milliput.  This gave them a distinctly North African look and added to their dramatic appearance.

To add more variety I removed the shield decorations from some spearmen with a diamond file.  This was much easier than I thought it would be.

One of the spearmen had a miscast blade so I cut away all of the spear. and replaced it with a brass rod spear long enough to take a large (14 mm) flag.  Unfortunately, I couldn't save the fingers of the hand holding the spear and I had to remodel them with Milliput.  I couldn't manage to scupt the fingers but the painted ones look fine.

During painting, I decided to blacken the shields (purely for artistic effect) and used a very dark skin tone rather than my usual tanned skin mix.

Finding a suitable flag took a while as the dynastic changes in al-Andalus over the centuries of Muslim rule took a bit of untangling.  The best website I could find for flags was the Flags Of The World page on Morocco.

What seems to be clear is that in the early Islamic empires flags were single colour, unadorned pieces of material (often silk).  Each dynasty chose a different colour: white (Umayyad), black (Abbasid), green (Fatimids) and red (post Fatimid rulers).

The Almoravids (1062-1125) initiated the practice of adding koranic inscriptions to their plain white flags.  During this period the Almohads also used different coloured flags (white, yellow & red) to identify different commands within the army.

Finally, there's the famous Satrany (chequered banner) of Morocco & al-Andalus.

As I'm aiming for the early Umayyad period I settled on a plain white flag for the main standard and white streamers for the smaller standard bearers.


List of all the project posts

1 comment :

Carl said...

Lovely summary Martin.
But I do like the reference to "With the glitter of their shields" for the early period. ;)

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