Empire: 290 BC – 281 BC

With a few changes to the campaign mechanics we have completed another turn from our ongoing Empire Campaign, this time covering the years 290 BC to 281 BC. Dramatic events unfold in Italia, the Gauls become active and the Successors continue their relentless wars.

The year of 290 BC, and those immediately following, were dramatic for Rome. Increasing Gallic pressure had been brewing in Cisalpina and in 290 BC a large Gallic host moved south threatening those cities that fell under Rome’s protection. To defeat this threat Manius Curius Dentatus marched north and confronted the Gallic host. Caught by the rapid Roman advances the Gauls were not fully deployed from their camp when Dentatus drew up his army. The Roman consul placed the majority of his horse on his left, supported by his Italian allies while a portion of his legions extending his centre. Echeloned back was his right comprising the remaining Roman foot.

Aware the Gauls had not fully deployed on the left, due to a wooded area, Dentatus advanced rapidly in an effort to restrict the Gauls further. Above, the Romans advance against the Gallic host whose right is restricted by woods reducing the deployment of their cavalry.

The fighting centred mostly against the Gallic right and centre. The Roman legions, and their Italian allies, fought with great determination. Despite suffering heavy casualties the Romans soundly defeated the Gallic host, with most casualties falling on the dismounted warriors. The threat to Rome itself had been averted.

Following the assassination of Alexander V of Macedonia Pyrrhus managed to secure the Macedonian throne at the head of his Epirot army. Having consolidated his position he lost no time in moving south and securing Graecia. It was Athens now, rather than Sparta, that assembled an alliance of city states to oppose the Macedonian army that in the spring of 288 BC that threatened to extinguish Greek independence. The Athenian general Clinias, a conservative, favoured the use of hoplites and ensured the army assembled contained many citizens. Seeking a more open battlefield he selected the plain east of Thebes to confront Pyrrhus in pitched battle. The Greek right outflanked the Macedonian left though their own left was constrained by a large wood and risked turning by Macedonian light troops. While the Greeks advanced forward Pyrrhus undertook a series of complex wheels of his phalanx to maximise his advantage against the Greek left, but in so doing weakened his centre. Clinias seized the advantage and pressed forward.

Above, the weak Macedonian centre is clearly visible.

Unfortunately Clinias’ aggressive advance resulted in his horse, positioned on his right being charged by the Macedonian mounted led by Pyrrhus. Decimated by the attack the Greek cavalry routed. Undeterred Clinias, leading by example, pressed the Macedonian centre. Several times the Macedonian centre looked likely to collapse, yet each time it held. While his centre held Pyrrhus focussed his attentions of his left taxis which were supported by xystophoroi. Subjected to a brutal series of attacks the Greek right broke and with it Greek resolve.

For some years Seleucus had focussed his army in the east content to watch the Antigonids and Ptolemy wrestle for control of Syria. With Ptolemy, and his son Ptolemy II, now firmly in control of Syria, and aware his own capital was threatened by future Ptolemaic expansion, Seleucus gathered a large army and sought battle against the ageing Ptolemy in Syria. The two armies finally faced each other in late autumn of 286 BC across the plain of Panaes. Seleucus’ intended the battlefield to be featureless and therefore ideal for his elephants and scythed chariots. However, the season was late and recent rains had turned many cultivated areas to mud restricting the battlefield further.

With Ptolemy Soter in Alexandria the army was commanded by Ptolemy II, who remained confident. With his peltasts concentrated on his left he advanced his phalanx in the centre and his xystophoroi on the right supported by light infantry. Seleucus, now hesitated and Ptolemy launched a number of xystophoroi forward on the extreme right. Below, the Ptolemaic forces are on the left and Seleucid on the right.

However, Seleucus resolve returned and he countered. Sacrificing depth for width he extended a portion of his phalangites which were in turn engaged and broken by Ptolemy at the head of a large body of xystophoroi. Pursuing too far they were themselves caught by redeploying scythed chariots with disastrous results. Ptolemy wounded was carried from the battlefield while his reserves tried desperately to restore the situation. The battle continued for some time with determination being shown by Ptolemy’s veterans. However, robbed of their commander slowly Seleucus gained the advantage. While Ptolemy II would escape to Alexandria, where he would recover, his army and Syria was lost. Ptolemaic losses would continue when finally Ptolemy Soter died in the Spring of 282 BC, aged 84.

Carthage, having failed in its expansion into Magna Graecia, looked elsewhere to expand its influence. A combination of trade, military action and colonisation had established an strong base in Southern Iberia. Carthage now looked to expanded along the coast of Gallia. By 287 BC it had gained, by alliance with several Greek colonies, a fragile influence along the coast. Now Carthage’s resolve stiffened. Punic control was to be expanded by military means. Therefore the Punic general Malchus was dispatched inland at the head of a strong army. A series of ruthless acts by Malchus had, by 285 BC, resulted in a confederation of tribes assembling a large army in opposition.

Battle was joined in late spring when the two armies drew up opposite. A steep and rocky hill dominated the centre of the battlefield. This was seized early by Gallic light troops while the majority of Gallic foot advanced in support. To their flanks Gallic chariots and cavalry extended the front. Unusually Malchus formed in two lines. His Punic foot, hoplons locked, formed the second line while his heavy chariots, Spanish cavalry and Numidian light horse formed the first line. Malchus contempt for the Gallic horse and dismounted warriors was clear.

Yet, the Gauls were not deterred. Several thousand advanced rapidly down a road behind the dominating high ground to hurl themselves against the Punic right flank.

Unfortunately details of the battle are largely lost, instead only general fragments remain. The Gallic flanking manoeuvre delivered with great determination, shown above, was held. This was in part due to reinforcement by Gallic chariots was prevented by Punic light troops who challenged the Gallic position on the high ground. In due course however the main lines clashed and slowly the Carthaginians gained an advantage. However, Punic losses were crippling. When the Gallic forces finally collapsed in rout Carthaginian resolve was shaken. Malchus and his army returned to Iberia. Their resolve to secure Gallia was, at least for now, lost.

With Pyhrrus distracted by campaigning in Greece Demetrius crossed the Hellespont again to reassert Antigonid authority in Thrace in 283 BC. The usurper, if you are to believe Antigonid historians, rushing back north and assembled a force to defend his claim. Demetrius moved rapidly to attack the assembling force.

Pyrrhus deployed on open ground with his left flank anchored on a large wood. The Antigonid battle line was anchored, on its left flank, against a broken range of steep hills. Pyrrhus reorganised his battle line to move light troops to oppose the Antigonid elephant corp, then began a cautious advance. The appearance of psiloi supported by heavier mercenary infantry on the hills threatening Pyrrhus’ right flank led to protracted skirmishing on the heights. The enthusiastic insertion of Pyrrhic heavy cavalry into the fight led to the temporary capture of the heights.

Eventually the Antigonid main battle line moved forward, led on their left flank by the elephant corp, in the lee of the hills. Battle was joined along the entire front. The recently recruited allied hoplites, presumably following Pyrrhus’s recent successes in Greece, suffered the brunt of the Antigonid assault. Tarantine light cavalry having found a route through the mountainous terrain found themselves directly engaged against Pyrrhus and his companions. Supported by foot skirmishers descending from the heights, now secured by Antigonid mercenary troops, the usurper fell wounded to a Tarantine javelin. The remaining Macedonian phalanx surrendered and were enrolled by Demetrius.

Despite her victory against the Cisalpinan Gauls Rome remained apprehensive of further Gallic invasions from the north. As such in 281 BC the consul Quintus Marcius Philippus was dispatched north into Cisalpina. His army numbered 20,000 foot along with supporting cavalry. On the day of the battle Philippus drew up the army with his Italian allies on his left, their extreme left resting on a wood. His mounted were massed on the right where they were opposite the Gallic mounted.

The Gallic horse and chariots, who outnumbering the Romans, moved aggressively against the Roman right. However, as they advanced they created a significant gap between them and the Gallic foot. Philippus countered and supporting his mounted with Roman infantry. This manoeuvre however exposed the Roman foot to attack by the Gallic foot who advanced with determination. However, Roman resolve was evident and progressively the Romans over came the Gauls. Unlike the Carthaginians in Gallia, Philippus had gained a great victory and secured Cisalpina for Rome.

At the end of the decade the various states control the following provinces, the first province being the home province:

  • Carthage: Africa, Numidia, Iberia, Sicilia
  • Rome: Italia, Magna Graecia, Cisalpina
  • Macedonia: Macedonia, Greece
  • Antigonids: Asia, Pontus, Thracia
  • Seleucids: Mesopotamia, Persia, Parthia, Armenia, Syria
  • Ptolemaic: Aegyptus

Independent states currently comprise: Gallia; Illyria; Bactria & India.

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