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The Battle of Dara – 530AD   Leave a comment

The only known image of Belisarius from the period

In the late 5th and early 6th centuries, there began a general ambition by the Byzantine hierarchy to restore the Empire’s territory back to the height of the Roman Empire from where it had evolved. Consequently a series of campaigns began across Italy, North Africa, the Balkans, and the Middle East, to rebuild the former glory.  It should be noted that at this point in history, the enemies faced by the Byzantines were far more numerous and better organised than those that Rome had first faced centuries earlier. These were now the evolved enemies that had defeated Rome just 100-150 years earlier.

Through the military commanders there began to appear one who seemed more able and gifted at strategy than some others, that being Flavius Belisarius.  He had been born around 500 AD in modern day Bulgaria, then part of the Byzantine Empire, and after joining the army as a young man, had risen through the ranks and performed sufficiently to be noticed first by Emperor Justin and then by Emperor Justinian, to be asked to create a new unit of elite Royal bodyguard cavalry. This developed into a force of over 7,000 men, and soon Belisarius was given field command of entire armies and the title Magister Militum.

However, long before Belisiarius and even before the Byzantine Empire, the Sassanid Persians had been a regular thorn in the side of the Romans on their eastern frontier. The Sassanids had attempted to relive the art, culture and territorial grandness of their ancestors, the Achaemenid Persians. Centuries of conflict between Rome and the Sassanids had worn down both the financial and material ability to keep up hostilities. By the time the Byzantines faced the Sassanids it was common for both sides to pay off the other for periods of peace, as well as raid each other to “collect” needed funds in the way of booty. It was during one such period of raiding then peace that the Byzantine Emperor Anastasius took the advice of his generals to build a forward base in Persian territory at Dara (sometimes called Daras). By the time the Persians were in the position to intervene the fortification had been constructed and garrisoned.

A few years later, a dispute between Byzantine Emperor Justin and the ageing Persian Emperor Kavadh caused a declaration of war by the Sassanids and they invaded Byzantine territories that buffered up to the Caucasus Mountains such as Iberia and Lazica. The Byzantines responded by invading Sassanid territory further south, but with mixed results., although things were looking better until Emperor Justin died.  The new Emperor Justinian looked to shore up the frontier and sent Belisarius with reinforcements to secure and hold the fortress at Dara.

The Sassanids, although considered by many wargamers as a mainly cavalry army, had learnt from Rome and the Byzantines, the art of siege warfare and the use of siege engines. This made them a dangerous enemy, more than most cavalry based armies of the period, so as they approached Dara in 530AD, Belisarius knew he had to defeat them in the field before they could deploy a siege line around the fortress.

Despite being outnumbered hugely; 40,000 Sassanids to 25,000 Byzantines and allies, Belisarius rode out his army to meet the Persians in the field outside the city.

Suggested initial set up for the Battle of Dara

ORDERS OF BATTLE – using a figure ratio approx 1:100 and suggested base numbers for MeG/ADLG/DBM style rules

Sassanid Persian Army

Perozes – Commander-in-Chief – Veteran, experienced, competent leader

Front rank left to right

Clibanarii (5,000 men) – 50 figures – 5 bases – heavy cavalry, experienced, veteran, bow

Light cavalry (1,000 men) – 10 figures – 2 bases – skirmish order light cavalry, no armour, trained., veteran, bow

Levy infantry (6,000 men) – 60 figures – 10 bases – close order infantry, light armour, trained, “levy” morale, 1/2 spear & shield, 1/2 bow

Clibanarii (5,000 men) – 50 figures – 5 bases – heavy cavalry, experienced, veteran, bow

Light cavalry (1,000 men) – 10 figures – 2 bases – skirmish order light cavalry, no armour, trained., veteran, bow

Second rank left to right

Clibanarii (5,000 men) – 50 figures – 5 bases – heavy cavalry, experienced, veteran, bow

Levy infantry (6,000 men) – 60 figures – 10 bases – close order infantry, light armour, trained, “levy” morale,  spear & shield

Clibanarii (5,000 men) – 50 figures – 5 bases – heavy cavalry, experienced, veteran, bow

Rear rank

Guard Cataphracts (6,000 men) – 60 figures – 6 bases – heavy cavalry, armoured, elite, veteran, lance, impact cavalry

 

Byzantine Army

Belisarius – Commander-in-Chief – Veteran, excellent tactician, strategist, inspirational leader

From left to right

Herul Cavalry (300 men) – 3 figures – 1 base – Medium cavalry, experienced. veteran, light armour, spear, shield

Hunnic Light Cavalry (3,500 men) – 35 figures – 4 bases – Light cavalry, open order, experienced, veteran, light armour, bow

Kavallarioi Cavalry (2,500 men) – 25 figures – 3 bases – Heavy cavalry, experienced, veteran, armour, bow

Skoutatoi Infantry (10,000 men) – 100 figures – 10 bases – Heavy infantry, experienced, average morale, medium armour 3/4 spear, shield, sword, 1/4 bow (or depending on rules, all with spear but with a “support” factor to represent the archers)

Sunicas Boukellerioi (600 men) – 6 figures – 1 base – Heavy cavalry, experienced , veteran, armour, lance, bow

Belisarius Guard Boukellerioi (1000 men) – 10 figures – 2 base – Heavy cavalry, experienced , elite, armour, lance, bow

Simmas Kavallarioi Cavalry (600 men) – 6 figures – 1 bases – Heavy cavalry, experienced, veteran, armour, bow

Kavallarioi Cavalry (5,000 men) – 50 figures – 5 bases – Heavy cavalry, experienced, veteran, armour, bow

 

WARGAMING NOTES

The battlefield is open and flat with the exception of a hill on the left side of the Byzantine lines, the hill is “low” and passable. The Byzantines also dug a long ditch in front of their lines as shown on the map, with the centre protruding. This can be represented by a wall or fence if needs be. It is passable, but should leave troops crossing it “disorganised” or “disrupted” for one game turn after passing it.

LURKIO 15mm Sassanid commander, Perozes, readies for battle

THE BATTLE AS IT HAPPENED

Dara was a big battle, and a long one. The two armies formed up and faced each other for three days before fighting properly started. The first two days saw  “champions” challenge each other in single combat and a few skirmishers exchange arrows with little results, but on day three (which our suggested set up map represents) the combat began.

It is also a prime example of Belisarius’s military skill, fighting as he preferred, from a defensive position. Over the previous century the Byzantines had dominated their battles with the use of highly effective and mobile cavalry, who were used to overrun, overwhelm, ambush and ride down the enemy. The Byzantine’s response to this tactic was to increase their own cavalry arm, but even still the Sassanids had the definite advantage. So to help counter this unpredictable mobile threat, Belisarius ordered the construction of a long ditch in front of his lines, designed to extend forward in the centre for a tactical reason and in anticipation of how the Sassanids would attack. The ditch was not impassable, but designed to slow down and disorganise troops as they crossed it.

On day three, both armies formed up ready for battle once again, but the Sassanids did not begin an immediate attack. They sat and waited, knowing that the Byzantines normally ate before noon. They hoped by denying them the ability to eat because of being in battle lines would make them weaker if attacked by the Persians, who normally ate much later in the day. So it was in the afternoon when the Persians began their attack, and fortunately for Belisarius it was as he had predicted and hoped for when he had the ditches constructed and his army deployed.

As the afternoon began, the Persians made a general advance along their entire front to within bow shot distance and both armies exchanged volleys of arrows, but he numerical superiority of the Persians was countered by the fact they were firing into the wind, which dulled the effect of their shooting. Once the supply of arrows was exhausted the Persian right wing advanced to contact. Their tactic, as Belisarius had predicted, was going to be to defeat the Byzantine cavalry first, then once they had fled the field, surround and destroy the unsupported infantry in the centre.  As the Sassanid cavalry closed on the Byzantines they were slowed by having to cross the defensive ditch, but even so they were soon pushing back the Byzantine left wing. But just before the Byzantine and Hun cavalry broke, the Heruls who had been concealed by the hill, galloped over the top and charged down the side into the Sassanid flank. At the same time the cavalry Sunicas, who had been concealed from the Sassanids by the massed infantry in front of them, suddenly launched a charge into the other Sassanid flank. Pityaxes men, now surrounded on three sides, began to falter and then broke and fled back to the safety of their own infantry. leaving 3,000 dead behind them.

Frustrated, Perozes brought his Guard Cataphracts over to his left flank to support the two Clibanarii units of Baresmanas and then ordered an attack on that wing. Belisarius and his officers spotted the move, and brought the remnants Sunicas’s cavalry and the Heruls along the back of their lines in readiness to bolster the defence. Once again the Sassanid charge was slowed by having to cross the ditch, but as they recovered on the other side they began to push back the Byzantine cavalry of John and Cyril. Belisarius employed a similar tactic as before, allowing the Persians to pass his centre troops before unleashing his hidden cavalry reserve in their flank, with Simmas and Sunicas getting behind the Persian lines while he personally led his Guard cavalry into the side of the formation. Once again the Sassanids were being attacked on three sides simultaneously and began to waver. Sunicas personally killed Baresmanas in the melee, and 5,000 other Persians were killed in the fighting too.  After witnessing the Persian right wing defeated and retreat, and now the left wing almost destroyed too, the levy infantry in the centre threw down their weapons and ran for their lives. The Byzantines made a full advance and pursued the fleeing Persians, cutting down all they could catch before Belisarius called a halt. The Persians had a reputation of being able to rally and recover in defeat and he didn’t want his victorious army suddenly caught in the disarray of a pursuit and defeated in a battle they had just won.

The war would continue, but for now Belisarius had saved the fortress city of Dara.

Although not used at Dara, a Sassanid elephant, one of their favourite troop types. (LURKIO 15mm)

 

WARGAMING OPTIONS

Due to the large numbers of men fighting at Dara, we would suggest a “bases” set of rules where you can scale things down as far as you want if you don’t have mountains of figures.  So the likes of Mortem et Gloriam, ADLG, DBM, etc would be our suggested choice.

For figures, several suppliers make figures in various scales for these two armies, though bizarrely, quite a few only produce either one of the other. One of the exceptions to this, and in our opinion the best range for these forces is LURKIO FIGURINES who produce a full range of Sassanid Persians, Early Byzantines, Huns and figures suitable for Heruls too! They can also be bulked up with plastic figures made by The Plastic Soldier Company, who use the Lurkio sculptures to create plastic box sets of Sassanids and Huns. All of these can be found on our website, as well as 10mm Sassanids by Pendraken.

On a personal note, both these armies are great fun to play, either in an historical context as in this battle, or in the club/competition circuits against random opponents. My second ever wargames army was a Sassanid Persian army, and even as an inexperienced 14 year old gamer, it never let me down against all sorts of enemies. Early Byzantines are often overlooked by gamers, who tend to go for later Byzantine armies with the Varangian Guard and other elite units to play with, but it was the early Byzantines, the armies of Belisarius and Justinian etc that brought the Byzantine Empire to its height, and the closest it would ever come to the ancestral glory of Rome.

Happy gaming.

The Byzantine Empire at it’s greatest in 555AD

 

 

 

Posted 13/01/2022 by The Little Corporal in Ancients, The Dark Ages

The First Battle of Tapae – 87 AD   Leave a comment

Victrix 28mm Dacians launch their attack

At the beginning of 86AD, the Dacian King Duras ordered his men across the Danube to attack the Roman province of Moesia, (what is now present day Bulgaria), catching the Romans completely by surprise and wiping out the Roman V Legion. The emporer Domitian, enraged by this intrusion into the Empire, gathered forces together and personally led the IV, I and II Legions into Moesia and reestablished Rome’s authority. He then looked to invade Dacia itself and bring “the barbarians” under Roman rule, however before this was attempted Domitian returned to Rome and left the expedition under the command of Cornelius Fuscus, Prefect of the Praetorian Guard. Keeping one Legion in Moesia, Fuscus marched the other two into Dacia (modern day Romania) where to attack the heartland of the Dacian tribes he had to march through “The Iron Gates”, a natural pass between forested mountain ranges leading into Transylvania.

Here the Dacians waited in readiness to face the might of Rome.

Suggested initial set up for the First Battle of Tapae 87AD

ORDERS OF BATTLE – Using a 1;50 figure ratio

ROMAN ARMY

Cornelius Fuscus – Commander-in-Chief – veteran, elite, over confident

2 Sub-Generals – veteran, experienced, over confident

Units as per map, right to left

Auxiliary Archers (800 men) – 16 figures – open order, lightly armoured infantry, experienced, trained, steady, bow

Legionaries (4200 men) – 84 figures – close order heavy infantry, armour, large shield, experienced, veteran, disciplined, pilum and sword

Cavalry (600 men) – 12 figures – close order heavy cavalry, armour, experienced, trained, steady, shield, spear, sword

Legionaries (4200 men) – 84 figures – close order heavy infantry, armour, large shield, experienced, veteran, disciplined, pilum and sword

Cavalry (600 men) – 12 figures – close order heavy cavalry, armour, experienced, trained, steady, shield, spear, sword

Artillery (several heavy stone throwers and crew) – 1 model and crew – lightly armoured crew, experienced, veteran, well trained

Auxiliary Infantry (1200 men) – 24 figures – open order, lightly armoured infantry, experienced, trained, steady, spear, javelins and shield

DACIAN ARMY

At the mouth of the pass

King Decebalus – Commander-in-Chief – veteran, elite, inspirational leader

Flaxmen (1200 men) – 24 figures – open order infantry, warriors, experienced, veteran, ferocious fighters, flax (two handed cutting weapon)

Warriors (1200 men) – 24 figures – open order infantry, warriors, experienced, veteran, ferocious fighters, spear, sword, shield

Warriors (1200 men) – 24 figures – open order infantry, warriors, experienced, veteran, ferocious fighters, spear, sword, shield

Dacian Cavalry (500 men) – 10 figures – open order light cavalry, warriors, experienced, veteran, ferocious fighters, spear, javelins, shield

At top of map (r to l)

Sub- General – Sub-Commander – veteran, elite, ferocious warrior

Archers (1000 men) – 20 figures – open order, light infantry, veteran, trained, bow

Sarmatian Heavy Cavalry (600 men) – 12 figures – close order heavy cavalry, light body armour, lance, bow

Warriors (2000 men) – 40 figures – open order infantry, warriors, experienced, veteran, ferocious fighters, spear, sword, shield

Warriors (2000 men) – 40 figures – open order infantry, warriors, experienced, veteran, ferocious fighters, spear, sword, shield

Flaxmen (2000 men) – 40 figures – open order infantry, warriors, experienced, veteran, ferocious fighters, flax (two handed cutting weapon)

Sarmatian Cataphracts (600 men) – 12 figures – close order extra heavy fully armoured cavalry, horse armour, lance, bow

At bottom of map (r to l)

Sub- General – Sub-Commander – veteran, elite, ferocious warrior

Archers (1000 men) – 20 figures – open order, light infantry, veteran, trained, bow

Sarmatian Cataphracts (600 men) – 12 figures – close order extra heavy fully armoured cavalry, horse armour, lance, bow

Bastarnae Allied Infantry (2000 men) – 40 figures – open order infantry, warriors, experienced, veteran, fanatical fighters, flax (two handed cutting weapon)

Warriors (2000 men) – 40 figures – open order infantry, warriors, experienced, veteran, ferocious fighters, spear, sword, shield

Warriors (2000 men) – 40 figures – open order infantry, warriors, experienced, veteran, ferocious fighters, spear, sword, shield

Bastarnae Allied Cavalry (300 men) – 6 figures – open order lightly armoured cavalry, veteran, fanatical fighters, javelins, shield

THE BATTLE AS IT HAPPENED

Due to the outcome and period of the battle reliable sources are near impossible to find to give an accurate description of what exactly happened, however the better sources to agree on certain events.

As the Romans marched through the Iron Gates pass, the Dacians prepared an ambush towards its end. King Decebalus positioned himself at the end of the pass with a small force, with the intention of tricking the Romans to advance to make contact. As they neared the Dacian force ahead of them, the ambush was sprung. The archers on both sides of the pass emerged from the dense woods and showered the Romans with hail of arrows, immediately followed by the Dacian forces pouring over the ridges and charging down on to the Romans below. The Bastarnae and Dacian Flaxmen carved into the Roman legionaries with their deadly and fearsome flax weapons, while the Sarmatian cavalry completely destroyed their Roman counterparts.

The Roman infantry attempted to make a stand, but without cavalry support they soon began to get lose their cohesion as both the Dacian warriors and now the Sarmatian cavalry repeatedly charged into their ranks. In the chaos of battle Fuscus was killed, causing even more disorder and soon almost two entire legions lay massacred. The only Romans who were deliberately captured rather than killed were the artillery crews, who were rounded up and forced to train the Dacians how to use use their new captured “toys”; to which they would make good use of in future battles against Rome.

So important was The Iron Gates pass, it would be the site of three more battles between these enemies in the coming years. Not all with the same outcome as this first one.

WARGAMING THE BATTLE

Due to the scant records of this battle, we have chosen forces for each side as we believe they would likely to have been, but feel free to make slight alterations.

Bastarnae Allies charge out the woods – image Victrix Ltd

Posted 13/09/2021 by The Little Corporal in Ancients

The Battle of Raphia – 22nd June 217BC   Leave a comment

Over 175 elephants fought at Raphia

Following the death of Alexander the Great , his Empire broke up into several kingdoms, initially ruled by his generals. As time passed these new nations became more diverse and hostile towards each other. Two of the largest of these kingdoms was the Seleucid Empire which covered most of modern day Iran and Iraq, and the Ptolemaic Egyptian Empire which extended around from Egypt to modern day Israel, Syria and Southern Turkey. These two empires clashed and soon found Syria and Palestine to be their war zone. In 217BC Antiochus III, the Seleucid Emperor invaded and overran Ptolemaic Palestine, prompting Ptolemy IV to raise an army and counter-attack. Both armies relied heavily on foreign mercenaries, but despite this diversity they were in many ways very similar, still fighting largely in the phalanx method that had been mastered by Alexander over 100 years earlier.

The two armies met at Raphia near modern day Gaza, on a large flat and featureless plain, both forces being huge; 70,000 vs 65,000 men.

Initial deployment at the Battle of Raphia

ORDERS OF BATTLE

Using a figure ratio of 1 to 100 – halve these numbers (except elephants) for 1 to 200 if needs be.

SELEUCID ARMY

Antiochus III – Commander in Chief – veteran, good tactician

Heavy Agema Cavalry (2000 men) – 20 figures – Extra heavy cavalry, barded hoses, cataphract armour, lance, veteran, superior morale

Light cavaly (2000 men) – 20 figures – Open order cavalry, javelins, shield, trained, steady

Greek Mercenaries (5000 men) – 50 figures – Medium infantry, pike, shield, trained, steady

Elephants (60 animals) – 3 models – unarmed driver, tower with 3 crew armed 1 bow, 1 pike, 1 javelins, trained, unpredictable

Elephant escorts (1200 men) – 12 figures – open order skirmishers, bow, trained, steady

Macedonian Phalangites (20,000 men) – 200 figures – close order, light armour, pike, shield, trained, steady

Macedonian Argyraspids (10,000 men) – 100 figures – close order, light armour pike, shield, veteran, elite

Arab Infantry (10,000 men) – 100 figures – open order, no armour, javelins, poor quality morale

Cissians, Medes & Carmanians (5,000 men) – 50 figures – open order, no armour, javelins, shield, steady

Cardacian & Lydians (1500 men) – 15 figures – open order, no armour, javelins, shield, steady

Heavy cavalry (2000 men) – 20 figures – light armour, lance, trained, steady

Elephants (40 animals) – 2 models – unarmed driver, tower with 3 crew armed 1 bow, 1 pike, 1 javelins, trained, unpredictable

Elephant escorts (800 men) – 8 figures – open order skirmishers, bow, trained, steady

PTOLEMAIC ARMY

Ptolemy IV – Commander in Chief – veteran, good tactician

Heavy cavalry (3,000 men) – 30 figures – light armour, lance, veteran, trained

Royal Guard (3,000 men) – 30 figures – close order infantry, light armour, pike, shield, veteran, elite

Libyan Peltasts (3,000 men) – 30 figures – open order infantry, spear, javelins, shield, trained, steady

Elephants (40 animals) – 2 models – unarmed driver, tower with 2 crew armed 1 bow, 1 pike, trained, unpredictable

Elephant escorts (800 men) – 8 figures – open order skirmishers, bow, trained, steady

Macedonian Phalangites (25,000 men) – 250 figures – close order, light armour, pike, shield, trained, steady

Egyptian Phalangites (10,000 men) – 100 figures – close order, light armour, pike, shield, trained, poor morale

Greek Mercenaries (8,000 men) – 80 figures – medium infantry, pike, shield, trained, steady

Galatians (2,000 men) – 20 figures – medium infantry, javelins, shield, steady

Thracians (2,000 men) – 20 figures – medium infantry, 2 handed sword, javelins, shield, steady

Heavy cavalry ( 2,000 men) – 20 figures – light armour, lance. trained, steady

Elephants (40 animals) – 2 models – unarmed driver, tower with 2 crew armed 1 bow, 1 pike, trained, unpredictable

Elephant escorts (800 men) – 8 figures – open order skirmishers, bow, trained, steady

clash of pikemen

THE BATTLE AS IT HAPPENED

The 60 elephants on the Seleucid right flank, engaged and easily beat the 40 elephants of the Ptolemaic army, forcing them back onto their own men and routing the infantry on that flank. Antiochus personally led the cavalry on that wing and chased the Ptolemaic cavalry off the field too. On the opposite wing it was Ptolemy who was winning the upper hand, his cavalry outflanked the Seleucid cavalry and his Greek mercenaries beat the Arab, Medes and other allied troops.

Only the centre phalanxes now remained and both sides advanced into contact, ater hard fighting the Ptolemaic army began to win the fight, encouraged by Ptolemy personally while Antiochus was still away from the battle pursing the cavalry from the initial flank success. When he returned he found his army in rout from the battle and Ptolemy victorious.

Ptolemy lost 1500 infantry and 700 cavalry, Antiochus lost 10,000 infantry, 300 cavalry and a further 4,000 taken prisoner.

WARGAMING NOTES

This is an especially large battle for the Ancient period and with the addition of sub-commanders would lend itself to a multi player game to give it more pace.

Although the battle description sounds quite decisive, in reality it could have easily gone either way, and that also applies to wargaming the battle; eveything to is to play for.

Posted 13/09/2021 by The Little Corporal in Ancients

The Battle of Krimisos 341BC   Leave a comment

Greek troops of the period

The Corinthian general, Timoleon, had been invited by the people of Syracuse to come to Sicily and restore democracy in the city-state, which had been governed by a succession of Greek tyrants. After restoring order in the city, Timoleon began looking to western Sicily and to try and rid the island of its Carthaginian occupants as well. This started with the liberation of several smaller Greek towns and cities on the island and then successive raids into Carthaginian territory, but his actions provoked an unexpected response when the Carthaginian generals Asdrubal and Hamilcar assembled an army of 70,000 men with troops sent especially from Carthage to conquer Sicily completely.

When news of this invasion force reached Syracuse, the population went into a panic and several hundred of Timoleon’s soldiers deserted. Despite this, he gathered together an army as best he could and with less than 10,000 infantry and 1,000 cavalry he marched westward to meet the Carthaginians. Timoleon knew that to cross into central Sicily the Carthaginians would need to cross the Krimisos river (modern day Freddo river), and that there were very limited crossing points, and having identified which point the Carthaginians were approaching, he deployed his army in readiness.

He chose a hill which overlooked the crossing point and a vast plan below, a Spring mist was in the air on the morning of the battle, which shrouded the entire hillside and the Syracuse army. Totally unaware of their presence due to poor scouting, the Carthaginians proceeded to cross the river right in front of Timoleon’s men who stood in perfect silence listening to the marching army below. Eventually the hot Sicilian sun burnt the morning mist away and both armies came into view.

Suggested set-up for the start of the Battle of Krimisos 341BC

ORDERS OF BATTLE

Using 1 to 50 scale

SYRACUSAN ARMY

Timoleon – Commander in Chief – excellent tactician, veteran, elite

Light Cavalry (600 men) – 12 figures – unarmoured, open order cavalry, javelins, disciplined, steady, veterans

Heavy Cavalry (400 men) – 8 figures – unarmoured, close order cavalry, javelins, disciplined, steady, veterans

Skirmishers (800 men) – 16 figures – open order infantry, javelins, disciplined, steady, experienced

Syracusan Hoplites (2000 men) – 40 figures – light armour, close order, long spear, large shield phalanx, trained, average

Greek Mercenary Hoplites (2000 men) – 40 figures – light armour, close order, long spear, large shield, phalanx, disciplined, steady, veterans

Greek Mercenary Bodyguard Hoplites (2000 men) – 40 figures – heavy armour, close order, long spear, large shield, phalanx, disciplined, elite, veterans

Syracusan Hoplites (1500 men) – 30 figures – light armour, close order, long spear, large shield phalanx, trained, average

Skirmishers (600 men) – 12 figures – open order infantry, javelins, disciplined, steady, experienced

Slingers (300 men) – 6 figures – open order infantry, slings, disciplined, steady, experienced

Cretan Archers (600 men) – 12 figures – open order infantry, bows, disciplined, steady, elite, excellent shots, veteran

 

CARTHAGINIAN ARMY

Asdrubal – Commander in Chief – experienced, veteran, rash

Hamilcar – Sub-Commander – experienced, veteran, good

Chariots (200 vehicles) – 4 models – 4 horse heavy chariots, unarmed driver and two crew with javelins, disciplined, steady experienced

Sacred Band (2500 men) – 50 figures – armoured, close order infantry. long spear, shield, disciplined, elite, veterans

Citizen Infantry (3000 men) – 60 figures – light armour, close order infantry, long spear, shield, trained, steady

Sicilian Hoplites (3000 men) – 60 figures – light armour, close order infantry, long spear, shield, phalanx, trained, poor

Light Infantry (2000 men) – 50 figures – unarmoured, open order infantry, javelins, shield, trained, average

Campanian Cavalry (1000 men) – 25 figures – light armour, open order cavalry, javelins, disciplined, trained, steady

Sicilian Cavalry (1000 men) – 25 figures – unarmoured, open order cavalry, javelins, trained, poor

Libyan Spearmen (2000 men) – 50 figures – light armour, close order infantry, long spear, shield, trained, steady

ADDITIONAL WARGAMING NOTES

The Carthaginian Army was on the march at right angles to the hill when the mist cleared, so should be initially deployed in marching columns, facing across the table width, with large gaps between each unit. The river is fordable, however it’s geography made it slow to negotiate, so any troops crossing should be heavily penalised on movement and arrive “disorganised” on the opposite bank.

Historically there were several other Carthaginian units following this column, but because of the terrain, and battle ahead of them, they did not arrive on the battlefield or take part at all, we have therefore left these out of the Orders Of Battle.

THE BATTLE AS IT HAPPENED

As the mist began to clear, the Syracuse army which had been stood silently on the hill, could see the previously just heard Carthaginians strung out in an open marching column in front of them. Noting the Carthaginian army was effectively cut in two by the river, Timoleon decided to strike. His cavalry charged down the hill to prevent the enemy from being able to form up in battle lines properly while his infantry marched in order down the slopes to attack. The Carthaginian chariots, leading the march column, turned about and galloped towards the Syracusan cavalry in an attempt to break up their formations but the cavalry evaded their charge and moved to attack the flank near the river ford, while the Syracusan light infantry assaulted the chariots and forced them to flee.

The Syracusan and Greek Hoplites now hit into the still disorganised Carthaginian ranks and with the exception of the Scared Band, broke them to a rout, the Syracuse cavalry in hot pursuit, cutting down the panicked men.

Greek cavalry pursue the fleeing Carthaginians

The Carthaginians yet to cross the river, watched in horror at the site of their comrades being beaten and decided to abandoned the crossing and turned to run also.

Suddenly a violent thunderstorm erupted, making the rout even more difficult, with both slippery mud underfoot and the river becoming swollen and faster moving.

The light skirmishers took over the pursuit to the river, where many Carthaginians drowned. The Syracuse and Greek Hoplites though turned their attention to the Scared Band, which had stood firm, and continued to do so. Totally surrounded, they fought and died to the last man.

Despite being hugely outnumbered, Timoleon had won the day, the Carthaginians had lost over 10,000 men dead, including the entire Sacred Band, and another 5,000 men had been captured.

In the following years there were several more battles between Syracuse and the Carthaginians, the latter often being supported by the Greek tyrants wanting control of the city-state again. Timoleon though kept the city safe, and eventually a peace was agreed with both sides occupying opposite sides of the island. Timoleon went on to be made the new ruler of Syracuse and the city-state enjoyed a new era of peace and prosperity until his death, when once again power struggles would ignite war.

 

Posted 13/09/2021 by The Little Corporal in Ancients

The Battle of Mons Graupius – 83AD   Leave a comment

Since 43AD when the Romans invaded Britain they had been gradually securing and colonising more and more of the country. By the 80’s it was largely the north of Britannia (modern day Scotland, Cumbria and Northumberland) that remained unconquered. The Governor of Britain, Gnaeus Julius Agricola (pictured left) decided to launch a northern offensive to try and bring “Roman Rule” to the entire province and from 79AD began campaigning in the lowlands of Scotland, before then making a major offensive up the north east coast, his men marching while a fleet of supply ships sailed in support along the coastline for a constant resupply of provisions, men and arms.

The exact location of the battle remains uncertain to this day, but it is generally believed to be in the far north east of Scotland. Agricola chose his forces carefully, using mainly Auxiliary infantry rather than the usual Legionaries. Auxiliary infantry were generally slightly lighter equipped, so could be more maneuverable over the rugged Highland terrain, but also they were recruited from the provinces rather than Rome itself, which gave Agricola troops more familiar with the harsher weather of northern Britannia, Batavians and Tungrians making up the majority of his men.

In contrast, the Caledonians (the Celtic people who lived in Scotland) were masters at fast movement and managing to thrive in the wilds of the Highlands. Traditionally living in tribal settlements which they relocated as and when the need arose, several of these tribes came together to form a Caledonian Confederacy led by Calgacus in the face of a common enemy, Rome. In total they were able to muster almost 30,000 warriors at Mons Graupius, and army more than twice the size of Agricola’s expedition force.

Initial Deployment at Mons Graupius

ORDERS OF BATTLE working on a scale of 1 to 50 men as this was a large battle

ROMAN ARMY

Agricola – Commander in Chief – excellent tactician

Auxiliary Infantry (8000 men) 160 figures – Open Order Heavy infantry, well trained, steady, veterans, spear, sword, large shield

Equites Alares (2 x 1500 men) 2 x 30 figures – Heavy cavalry, well trained, solid, veterans, javelins and shield

Reserves

Legionary Infantry (3000 men) 60 figures – Close Order Heavy Infantry, well trained, solid, veterans, heavy throwing weapon, sword, large shield

Equites Alares (2 x 500 men) 2 x 10 figures – Heavy cavalry, well trained, solid, veterans, javelins and shield

CALEDONIAN ARMY

Calgacus – Commander in Chief – fanatic warrior

Chariots – (400 vehicles) 8 models – light 2 horse chariot, 1 unarmed driver & 1 warrior with javelins and shield, fast, impetuous, veterans

Skirmishers (2000 men) 40 figures – light infantry, javelins, shield

Cavalry – mixed with skirmishers (2000 men) 40 figures – light cavalry, impetuous, javelins and shield

Cavalry – on flanks (2 x 1000 men) 2 x 20 figures – light cavalry, impetuous, javelins and shield

Warriors (20000 men) 400 figures – Open Order Medium Infantry, javelins, long sword, shield

ADDITIONAL WARGAMING NOTES

Due to the size of these armies you should add several sub-commanders to both forces as per your preferred rules allow.

The battlefield should be a central large flat plain with a gentle slope behind Roman lines and a large hill, steeper hill behind the Caledonians, a stream runs across the Roman front which is easily crossed with minimal disruption to infantry, but a more onerous disruption for the chariots. Woods are dense where marked on the map.

 

THE BATTLE AS IT HAPPENED

Agricola deployed his Auxiliary Infantry to his front behind the stream to offer some protection from the chariots, He protected his wings with cavalry and finally deployed his smaller legionary units to guard the camp with a small cavalry reserve. It must have been a frightening sight to see the Caledonian army gather underneath the shadows of Bennachie mountain, the sloping ground allowing the Romans to appreciate the full scale of the force they were facing.

The Caledonians gather beneath Bennachie

The battle began with the Caledonian chariots zigzagging in front of the Roman lines exchanging missile fire with the front franks. Agricola then ordered his cavalry forward on the wings, these superior cavalry quite quickly routed the Caledonian cavalry off the field and made the skirmishers fall back in amongst the ranks of their warriors for protection. The Roman Auxiliary infantry then began to advance which prompted the Caledonian warriors to charge down the slopes to meet them. The mass of foot soldiers, causing the chariots to scatter or be trapped within the melee which broke out.

Romans and Caledonians clash

The better armed and more disciplined Romans began to cut through the charging Celts, who were more used to fighting as individuals rather than in coordination with each other. The rear ranks of warriors tried to move out to the wings in an attempt to outflank the Romans, but found the Roman cavalry, having disposed of the Celtic cavalry, now outflanked their position. Panic began to set in the Caledonian ranks and their troops began to run, seeking the protection of the dense woods behind. The Romans in pursuit, cut down hundreds of men before they reached the safety of the treeline. Once in the woods, the lightly equipped Celts could escape the heavier Romans who now were victors of the battle. Agricola claimed 360 Roman soldiers killed, to over 10,000 Caledonians.

Scotland was never conquered by the Romans. Soon after Agricola’s victory Roman attention was turned to threats on their eastern frontiers, depleting forces in Britannia. Later attempts by the Romans found the Caledonians impossible to defeat. Unlike the Britons in England with permanent fortified settlements and seats of power that the Romans captured and destroyed, the Caledonians were used to temporary settlements, and simply kept literally “upping sticks and moving” away from the Roman threat whilst maintaining communities and their seats of power. Without towns, cities or forts to capture, the Romans never quite got to grips with how to win a war against them.

Posted 13/09/2021 by The Little Corporal in Ancients