Flaminius’ Legions

My first 15mm Ancients army was a Polybian Roman army assembled for DBA 1.0 back in 1990. At the time DBA was relatively popular in my local town but having to relocate and keen for opponents I reluctantly expanded the army to DBM size. With my local opponents at the time more interested in competition games, and my dislike for non-historical games or at least those between armies of too great a time difference, my Romans were dispatched to the back of the cupboard.

Eventually some interest in DBA locally allowed me to pull the Polybian Romans out of storage and to repainted sufficient for standard DBA purposes. While I had plans at some stage to repaint the other figures the remainder languished in storage while other projects took precedence.

For the last three years at Conquest we have had a Big Battle tournament and this year I found myself pondering options. Several armies were considered but the decision was finally made when it became clear that Mark would likely be bringing Carthaginians. The Polybian Romans needed to be reformed. Over the coming weeks evenings were spent cleaning, priming, painting and basing the Romans until finally the legions of Rome could take the field. Most of the miniatures were well over 20 years old, and some almost 30. Fittingly on the morning of Conquest’s BBDBA tournament they deployed facing Mark’s Carthaginians. Now to their first outing in their reformed state…

Having first eluded an ambush along near Lake Trasimene, Gaius Flaminius had now successfully combined his army with another under Gnaeus Servilius Geminus and together they advanced on the Carthaginian invader. Flaminius’ scouts had been active and with Hannibal’s army near the coast the legions advanced to offer battle. On his left was the coast while on his right an area of marsh promised to negate, to some extent the Punic superiority in mounted. In between a small hamlet and a steep hill, with rocky slopes, broke up the field.

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The Romans had two strong wings, that on the right under Flaminius contained the majority of Roman and allied cavalry while that on the left, under Servilius, fewer. However, Servilius wing was supplemented by some Italian extraordinary fighting in more traditional styles. In the centre the legions under Porcius Licinus were devoid of mounted with even Licinus opting to fight on foot. In all three sectors the hastati & principles, comprising Romans and Italians fighting in Roman style, were supported by triarii & velites.

Above, the Romans on the left and the Carthaginians on the right. An area of marsh is visible in the right foreground and in the distance a steep rocky hill. In the extreme distance another marsh and finally the coast are visible.

The battle opened with a general advance by the Punic host. Gallic mercenaries moved rapidly forward to secure the rocky slopes opposite the Roman left. Yet more dramatic movements occurred against the Roman right where the massed Punic horse wheeled and advanced. Hannibal clearly hoping to expand the Punic line while light troops moved to dominate the marsh on the Punic left. Countering, Flaminius ordered forward his right. The hastati, principles and triarii moved forward, supported by the cavalry who now expanded the Roman right

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Above, Flaminius’ flank with a portion of his cavalry and the infantry of the wing advancing. The triarii are deployed forward in an untraditional deployment. Below, another view this time illustrating the Roman centre, under Licinus, as well as the infantry of the right flank. Opposite Carthaginian foot of the centre are visible.

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Reacting to the advancing Roman right the Punic mounted started to retire reforming on the Punic foot of the centre. The Roman advance continued, soon the respective centres were locked in combat.

Flaminius’s plans was relatively simple. Using the terrain and his mounted he hoped to neutralise the Punic mounted and then with the hastati & principle of all the wings bring his heavy infantry against the Punic foot. His multiple lines would, he hoped, provide adequate reserves to plug gaps and exploit the Punic line as it began to break. Unfortunately, this meant the Roman left under Servilius would need to fight a desperate delaying action.

Soon in the centre the Romans started to gain the advantage. Yet the Carthaginians fought with determination and many Romans fell as well. The resulting gaps in both lines were plugged by reserves. Below, both Punic and Romans lines are suffering casualties.

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Turning to the left Servilius’ flank the delaying action was working, due in part to the lack of determination by the Punic commander. Having successfully secured the steep and rocky slopes his ability to command his wing was compromised. Eventually however the Gallic mercenaries poured down the slopes only to be held by valiant Roman velites.

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The velites fought valiantly allowing Servilius on the Roman left flank to bring forward his Italian reserves and bolster the line, which can be seen below. Servilius, had already committed many of his hastati to the assault on the Punic centre.

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Returning to the centre the fighting had continued unabated. A Roman breakthrough seemed imminent with Carthaginian casualties reaching critical levels. Yet the Punic centre maintained its cohesion, mostly as a result of additional mounted filling the widening gaps.

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Even the last valiant attacks led by Porcius Licinus at the front of his legions failed to cripple the Punic lines. Now, as dusk wrapped its arms around the battlefield Gaius Flaminius accepted that the might of Rome had failed to destroy the invader, and worse robbed him of victory. Still he took heart that his reformed legions had fought well.

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9 thoughts on “Flaminius’ Legions

  1. Great write up. I chose to draw a veil over this battle in my report. Having said that, those Campanian spearmen were great for not dying while overlapped in at least two combats. It kind of made up for that pesky psiloi slowing up the warbands.
    Polybians against Carthaginians is a great fight, one I’ve tried repeatedly against Nick, and only won once (with some accidental rule interpretations). Perhaps if I get my veteran spear painted it will make all the difference…

    1. It was a great game Mark, I thoroughly enjoyed it.

      Perhaps those veterans are needed, but even without them the Carthaginians did well over the course of the day.

  2. Great report and nice looking figures. I have a fondness for the Polybians. Deceptively simple, yet the cavalry and velites still allow you to do some interesting things

      1. Just reading him at the moment actually! Great reading. His asides and digs at other historians are quite amusing. I get the feeling he must have been quite prickly and opinionated

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