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.

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