The Road to Magnesia

The defeat of the Seleucid fleet at the Battle of Myonessus in September 190 BC opened the way for the invasion of Asia Minor by the Romans under Lucius Cornelius Scipio. Soon after the landing Antiochus dispatched his trusted general Zeuxis to engage the Roman invaders while he assembled the main army.

Aware that only a portion of the Seleucid army was advancing on him Lucius Cornelius dispatched Gnaeus Domitius Ahenobarbus to deal with it. The two armies converged in late October. Zeuxis deployed on what was a relatively open plain resting his left on a steep and rocky slope with his army extending to the right. The infantry of the phalanx, some 8,000 in number, were massed in two blocks interspersed by around 2,000 Galatians. To the right of the phalanx elephants, scythed chariots and cavalry extended the Seleucid line. Opposite the Romans deployed in their usual manner.

As the two armies moved forward Lucius Cornelius began to expand his line transferring his reserves to each flank. His strategy clearly focused on a double envelopment of the now shorter Seleucid line. Despite this Zeuxis pressed forward against the enemy centre. Soon the deep formations of phalangites and Galatians were locked in combat with the Roman hastati and principes. The Roman centre soon began to buckle under Seleucid pressure.

On the Seleucid right cataphracts and scythed chariots advanced, pressing the Roman line further. While much importance was placed on the success of the scythed chariots their attacks proved a failure.

Above the Scythed Chariots advance, while below they crash into the Roman lines.

Yet, as the fighting on the flanks slackened that in the centre intensified. As the phalangites and elephants pushed their opponents back the Galatians surged forward breaking portions of the Roman line. Now with no Roman reserve, it having reinforced the Roman flanks, the Galatians overwhelmed the flanks of those Romans engaged frontally by the phalangites. Seleucid success was complete.

Shocked by the defeat Lucius Cornelius reinforced Gnaeus Domitius and ordered him to engage the Seleucids once again. Advancing down the coast it was not long before the forces clashed.

Zeuxis, buoyed by his recent success, again prepared for battle. The coastline was separated from the mountains on the Seleucid right buy a large plain, though broken by a rocky hill near the coast. Unable to deploy his phalangites here Zeuxis deployed his thureophoroi and Galatians on the slopes while deploying his phalangites, pachyderms and mounted to the right.

He reasoned that his lighter troops deployed on the slopes were well able to pin much of the Roman infantry while his phalangites and superior mounted would shatter the Roman left.

The Romans again deployed their infantry traditionally while massing their cavalry on the more open left.

As was to be expected the Romans opened the battle with velites intent on frustrating the Seleucid elephants. Yet, as some velites pressed rashly forward they were ridden down by a body of Seleucid cataphracts. Zeuxis sensed victory.

Yet his hopes were soon tested. His plan called for his cataphracts to be reformed after their initial charge. He had calculated incorrectly as Roman triarii, and unforeseen cavalry swept forward catching the disordered cataphracts. Shaken they fled in panic at this determined counterattack.

Undeterred Zeuxis reinforced his line and pressed forward with his right. Elephants and phalangites were soon engaged, the pachyderms advancing ever further forward. Seleucid scythed chariots were now unleashed. Yet again instead of breaking the enemy to their front the machines failed to achieve a breakthrough.

Now with his elephants surrounded and his only reserve that of his own companions Zeuxis charged forward, determined to secure a final victory.

Above and below the moment of decision on the Seleucid right flank.

Alas, his massed heavy cavalry were neutralised by the numerically superior Roman cavalry and soon Zeuxis, previously so confident of victory, now watched as his army collapsed.

With Roman victory achieved and his army concentrated, Lucius Cornelius Scipio prepared to advance on the road to Magnesia. That critical battle still lays ahead.

These two battles formed the second pair of battles from our themed Seleucid weekend which, like the other battles, proved both entertaining and challenging. The Seleucids are mostly from Tin Soldier’s 15mm range supplemented by Xyston. My opponent’s Romans are mostly from Essex Miniatures supplemented by a scattering of Museum Miniatures to provide figure variety.

Campaigning with Seleucus Nicator

The shifting alliances of Alexander’s Successors are best described as complex. However, with the recent defeat of the Antigonids it was now that Lysimachus and Seleucus fought the brief yet critical campaign in 300 BC. It comprised two great battles.

The first battle was in the Spring of 300 BC when the cunning Lysimachus moved rapidly against the Seleucids. Seleucus offered battle on an open plain where he deployed traditionally. His mounted were mostly concentrated on his right while extending his phalanx with contingents of pachyderms which he reasoned would otherwise be countered too easily by his enemies Thracians. Yet soon after deploying Seleucus was faced with the reality that the cunning Lysimachus had weighted his deployment against the Seleucid right. Further, he now advanced generally in echelon with his left leading and his right withdrawn.

Above the Seleucid right is overlapped by the advancing Lysimachid left. Seleucid light cavalry, not shown, provided a degree of protection.

Simultaneously Lysimachid light infantry are thrown forward to slow the Seleucid centre. Yet, these were unsupported and countered. Now the Seleucid centre advanced. Below, the Lysimachid centre comes under pressure as the Seleucid elephants press forward.

The battle now hung in the balance as Seleucus sought advantage in the centre while fighting a delaying action on his right. However, with his line under pressure Seleucus ordered forward his companions who, with great valour, drove back the treacherous Greek. Yet these manoeuvres had created a hole in the Seleucid line which Lysimachus was able to exploit. Soon the Seleucid right collapsed with Seleucus himself narrowly escaping death. Lysimachus had secured a decisive victory.

Yet, Seleucus was not deterred. By the Summer of 300 BC Seleucus, having reformed his army, struck at Lysimachus. This time Lysimachus was caught relatively unprepared and as the Seleucid host advanced Lysimachus deployed his army with his right resting on the walled town Colophon.

Effectively ignoring Colophon and it’s high walls Seleucus massed his elephants and phalanx in the centre and his mounted on his right before ordering an advance.

Above, the Seleucids advance with a number of pachyderms supported by phalangites. Below, a view from behind the Lysimachid lines.

Lysimachus now dithered first moving his companions near the walls of the city in one of his overly complex plans. Finally he realised the threat posed by unfolding disaster that would soon envelope his left. Yet, repositioning his xystophori was almost impossible and while he desperately tried first his left and then his centre would collapse.

Above, a view of the centre, while below the Lysimachid left is about to collapse.

With this stunning victory Seleucus had bought the campaign of 300 BC to an end. Yet victory can be fleeting and even as this campaign season is complete we can be sure Lysimachus will be plotting his revenge and another campaign will not be far away.

As to the miniatures the Seleucids are mostly 15mm miniatures from Tin Soldier’s ranges. The Lysimachid forces in contrast are from Essex Miniatures. The battles form part of a four game series fought between myself and my son during a weekend visit.

Chariots at War

There is something about chariots, perhaps it is the models or perhaps the stirring images they create on the battlefield. Either way when one of my regular opponents suggested a preference for earlier armies, and the opportunity to use his chariot centred armies, who was I to disagree. Therefore last Tuesday the scene was set for two DBA games using armies from the Chariot Period. Unfortunately my armies are limited in this period so the battles would not between historical opponents. Despite this with both sides using chariots they were both visually interesting. First to take the field would be Early Carthaginians who would clash with my opponent’s Mycenaeans.

The Carthaginian commander, advancing along the coast deployed his army opposite the enemy who blocked his advance. The Punic commander now deployed his outnumbered heavy chariots in the centre and extended his line with his heavy foot. A proportion of his lighter troops and a small contingent of citizens were retained on aboard ships to his left as a reserve.

As the enemy advanced, complete with a great number of heavy chariots and dense ranks of infantry with long spears, a prearranged signal was given and the naval contingent disembarked its landing force behind the enemy flank. While light troops advanced boldly on to a rocky hill, from where they threatened the Mycenaean right, a body of 1000 citizens began a slow advance towards the enemy camp.

The battle was however to be decided in the open plains. The Punic commander focused his attacks on the Mycenaean flanks. On the left, in a surprise situation his heavy foot where driven back. While on the right light troops and cavalry, after at first being thrown back, finally gained some success. Yet the Mycenaean host continued to advance.

Above the battle on the Carthaginian left flank where the heavy Punic foot were pushed back by the Mycenaeans. Below, the Carthaginian right where finally the Punic horse drove in the Mycenaean flank, despite heavy losses to the supporting Carthaginian light troops.

The Mycenaean chariots and massed foot achieved several breakthroughs but Punic resolve stiffened and on the Mycenaean left casualties mounted. A final Mycenaean push looked likely to succeed. That was until the Mycenaean troops began to falter, which soon turned to rout. Their resolve was shattered when they learnt their camp had been sacked by the enemy, curtesy of the 1000 Punic foot who had pushed every inward after their landing. The Carthaginians had it seemed achieved victory by the narrowness of margins.

Now to our second game which involved Hittites and Later Hebrew. Again not historical opponents, but somewhat closer.

The Hebrew found themselves defending against a Hittite invasion. Aware of the large number of Hittite chariots and a preponderance of Hittite heavy infantry the Hebrew commander opted to offer battle on a field broken up by a series of steep rocky hills. Here he hoped his lightly equipped warriors would be able to dominate the terrain and then strike at the slower enemy.

The Hittites deployment was weighted to their right where the hills provided less of a hinderance to their heavy chariots and infantry armed with long spears. The infantry and chariots were generally drawn up interspersed with the chariots forward. The Hebrew in contrast had their own chariots to the rear of the infantry.

Then with the armies deployed the Hebrew centre almost immediately moved forward with skirmishers thrown dangerously forward on to a hill near the Hittite centre left which was progressively reinforced.

Above the battle is underway with the Hebrew infantry securing a hill and reinforcing it. Below a view of the Hittite centre and right. The Hittite light chariots are formed on a road.

Frustrated with this aggression the Hittite commander ordered the advance of his levy to begin the process of securing the hill. Simultaneously his light chariots began their flanking manouvre against the Hebrew left. If successful the chariots would eventually be well placed to overrun the Hebrew camp.

The fighting in the centre was however the focus. With the Hittite levies and Hebrew skirmishers locked in combat the fighting would slowly draw in additional forces to left and right, as can be seen below.

Soon a breakthrough by the Hebrew skirmishers, whose motivation and abilities in the rocky terrain was achieved, as can be seen below. However, this situation was neutralised by a cunning Hittite redeployment.

Now, attempting to prevent the Hebrew left from reinforcing the fighting in the centre several Hittite chariots advanced forward. Isolated they were overwhelmed by Yahweh’s warriors who now poured down from the rocky hills on the left. With the situation deteriorating the last hope for the Hittites was a final push against the relatively undefended Hebrew camp. Alas, again the Hittite chariots were meet by more Hebrew warriors who again poured down from the hills overwhelming the last light chariots and demoralising the Hittites.

In the end two very challenging and extremely enjoyable games. It was great to get the chariots out. What’s not to like about these earlier armies.

Te Kawau Strikes North

The following summary outlines a recent engagement between two Māori iwi (tribes) using DBA and my 15mm miniatures. Both armies are of course defined under list IV/12e.

Tension had been building for many years between the rival iwi the Ngāti Whātua and their northern neighbour the Ngā Puhi. In the summer finally tensions reached breaking point following a raid on a one of the hapū (sub tribe) of Ngāti Whātua. Te Kawau seeking utu (revenge) assembled a large taua (war party) of some 1200 toa (warriors) with which he would seek revenge on the Ngā Puhi. The advance north was initially uneventful. The majority of the taua moved north on foot but one hapū moved by sea in a number of waka taua and the double hulled waka hunua.

As the sun reached its highest point in the day Te Kawau ordered his warriors to deploy. Opposite him the rangatira (chief) Murupaenga had deployed the Ngā Puhi warriors. Constrained by a large wood on his left and a swamp on his right Murupaenga dispositions were both complex and deep. Te Kawau’s dispositions were less complex. His extreme left was marked by the 200 warriors at sea who were now poised to land. The majority however formed from near the sea, marked by an abandoned Ngā Puhi unfortified village, and stretched out towards the right. Te Kawau held back selected groups to act as reserves.

Now Te Kawau, tall and cutting a striking figure in his parrot feathered clock, stepped forward and in a loud voice chanted his battle song. The opposing armies listened in profound silence to this bold and commanding oratory.

His warriors suitably motivated Te Kawau decided to act quickly. At the arranged signal the waka beached on his left, allowing the warriors to disembark and from where they threatened the Ngā Puhi right. Elsewhere Te Kawau’s warriors advanced. Equipped with a range of weapons including the taiaha (long-handled fighting staff) and short weapons such as a patu (club) tucked into a belt, the advancing warriors cut a chilling site.

The first clash occurred on the Ngāti Whātua left where the recently landed warriors attacked with great boldness, despite being outnumbered. Te Kawau planned to pin the enemy in or near to the swamps where his enemy would be at a disadvantaged. Soon more Ngāti Whātua toa extended the line attempting to drive the enemy back at 45 degrees causing confusion in the Ngā Puhi ranks.

Above, the Ngāti Whātua warriors who have landed from their waka press their enemy, while below more Ngāti Whātua to advance to press the Ngā Puhi centre.

Increasingly the battle become general as further Ngāti Whātua warriors were committed. Below, the Ngāti Whātua centre and right. The stands with four figures per base represent a major chief and his bodyguard. They are still treated as 3Bd.

The fighting swirled back and forth with individual toa welding their longer taiaha or their patu to gain every advantage possible. Increasingly groups of warriors became isolated and were pushed back. In so doing the victors pressed forward exposing their own flanks.

Above, a view from the sea illustrating the confusing battle near the sea. On the left is a large swamp while on the right the abandoned village.

Despite initial success Ngāti Whātua casualties were mounting. Te Kawau undeterred pressed forward with his right. Again the fighting surged back and forth as one group gained an advantage. The enemy line began to crack and sensing victory a final push was launched in the centre.

Above, Te Kawau (centre and in the distance) has pressed forward and created a hole in the Ngā Puhi line which threatens to expose the Ngā Puhi rangatira Murupaenga (left).

Yet, it was Te Kawau who would be robbed of victory. His left, which you will recall has been fighting outnumbered for some time (above), was beginning to be overcome. Finally, it was overwhelmed. The courageous warriors of Ngāti Whātua were forced back, until they broke. As they broke all hope of utu was lost.

It has been a while since I’ve deployed my Māori on the table, and then usually using the later DBR rules. Many readers would expect a relatively linear battle given that each army comprises 12 stands of 3Bd. This is in fact not the case. Our battle swung back and forth continually in what can only be described as a very confusing engagement. The final result was a narrow 4-3 win to the Ngā Puhi iwi.