Ariarathes of Kappadokia

One of my regular opponents had recently taken ownership of a new army – Ariarathid Kappadokian. Some DBA gaming on Friday evening provided him the perfect opportunity to take the field. For my part I quickly searched through possible historical opponents and in due course opted to use my Lysimachids. Given my lack of posts of late I thought a few photos and a brief summary was in order.

With a low aggression it was likely that the the Kappadokians would suffer an invasion by Lysimachus, yet it was not to be. Instead Ariarathes II invaded Lysimachos’ domains in the Spring of 299 BC at the head of an army comprising both mounted and foot in similar proportions. Lysimachos countered but with an army composed predominantly of infantry and with only a small mounted component.

Lysimachos deployed on a relatively open plain in a traditional deployment with his phalanx massed in the centre and his Thracians on the wings with his limited light horse massed on the right. However, Lysimachos had been negligent in his scouting and assumed he would be faced by hill tribesmen was somewhat taken back when Ariarathes instead deployed a considerable mounted force including a solid core of heavy cataphracts supported by light cavalry opposite his right flank. I really should check possible options for my opponents army!

Ariarathes moved with speed quickly committing his cavalry in a series of movements towards the Lysimachid right while attempting to pin the Greek phalanx with light infantry and a portion of light cavalry. Lysimachos recovering from his surprise undertook a series of reorganisations of his line. Eventually this would see his right extended and the gaps in the line occupied by the phalangites who progressively expanded their formations.

Above, the view of the battlefield with the Greeks on the left and the Kappadokians on the right. In the centre the Greek phalangites advance against Kappadokian light infantry.

Now Ariarathes hesitated and sensing his own left threatened ordered his mounted back. Lysimachos ordered his forces forward hoping to pin the retiring mounted against successive lines and eventually the rocky slopes of a rising hill to the Kappadokian left rear.

Lysimachos now trying to gain some advantage charged a body of Kappadokian light infantry at the head of his xystophoroi. Outflanked Lysimachos was pushed back but rallied his companions and charged again securing the breakthrough, above.

Charge and countercharge now followed all along the line until Ariarathes was wounded and carried from the field. With their commander wounded panic rippled through the Kappadokian army and its resolve dissipated. Lysimachos had gained a victory, despite his flawed deployment and having completely underestimated the Kappadokians.

Determined to seize the initiative Lysimachos later moved to invade the extremities of Kappadokia. For three months Lysimachos laid waste to portions of Kappadokia. Ariarathes having finally recovered from his wounds took the field in the autumn of 299 BC. Ariarathes advanced swiftly towards the Lysimachos, determined to arrest the threat to his kingdom and indeed his rule – Ariarathes was determined to be the invader. Lysimachos now fully aware of the threat to his infantry by Kappadokian cataphracts deployed his phalanx in shallower formations in a valley with a large town on his left and a series of hills on his right.

Above and below views of the battlefield with the Greeks on the left and the Kappadokians on the right. The basalt rock formations are hand made by the Kappadokian player.

With the Kappadokians constrained somewhat by a series of the steep basalt peaks Lysimachos ordered his army to advance quickly. With the phalangites in shallower formations and supported by his Thracians on the flanks Lysimachos had soon reduced Ariarathes’ options further. Unwilling to engage the Greek phalanx frontally Ariarathes ordered his light infantry to advance against the Greek right, though this was countered somewhat by Lysimachos at the head of his xystophoroi, below.

In due course Ariarathes’ advance by his left wing light troops would be supported by his cataphracts who wheeled as best they could against the Thracians. Simultaneously, Ariarathes ordered his infantry on the right flank to advance through the town and fall on the Greek left where his warriors and mercenaries had an advantage.

The cataphracts advanced and levelled their lancers for the charge.

The Thracians braced themselves and showing great determination for Lysimachos threw back many of the cataphracts. Only in the centre was the cataphract charge successful where Ariarathes, leading from the front, achieved a breakthrough. Yet before he could exploit this Lysimachos ordered forward a reserve of phalangites who soon reformed the line.

On the Greek left the Kappadokian warriors and mercenary hoplites simultaneously attacked and despite their denser formations and numeric advantages were thrown back by the Thracians and Greek light horse. Below, the Greek left pressed by Kappadokian foot including mercenary hoplites.

Demoralised by this reverse the Kappadokians here seemed unwilling to engage further.

Now the focus of the battle shifted to the centre where progressively the Greeks phalangites and supporting hoplites pressed the Kappadokian centre relentlessly while Ariarathes watched passively with his cataphracts unwilling to attack the Greeks opposite his front as he tried desperately to reinforce his centre.

The pressure on the Kappadokian centre was however too great. As dusk approached Ariarathes watched helplessly as his centre collapsed. Yet, making good his escape with the core of his army Ariarathes would clearly remain a thorn in the side of the Greek world.

In DBA terms both games were challenging for the commanders. The vagaries of the dice of course played a part. Several good PIP scores for the Kappadokian commander for example causing much consternation to the Lysimachos. Yet equally poor combat die rolls impacting several combats, particularly during the charge of the cataphracts in the second game. The Greeks were significantly out deployed and on the back foot in the first game. That they managed to recover somewhat continues to mystify me and I can, on reflection, only put this down to the dice gods.

The Greeks also had particularly difficult terrain choices due to the ability of the Kappadokians on one hand to dominate steep hills but who are equally able to deliver destructive attacks by cataphracts supported by light cavalry. This provided a quandary for the Greek player to either select an open battlefield or one more broken? Without doubt there are many more interesting interactions worth exploring between these two armies and others around Kappadokia.

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