Category Archives: Ancient

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.

Seleucid Adventures

Some years ago I purchased a number of figures to allow me to build several Successor armies, including Seleucids. While many of the armies were built the Seleucids remained incomplete. The months soon turned into years, I am sure many of you know the story. However, over the last few weeks I have plugged away at some of the more specialty stands. Finally, my Seleucids, or a least one of the sub-lists, could take the field. Last Friday they had their first outing…

Zeuxis satrap of Lydia and faithful general of Antichos the Great advanced in the Spring of 201 BC against the unruly Kappadokians in Asia Minor. The mounted of Zeuxis’ army comprised several squadrons of agema and cataphracts, some 1200 in total. The infantry were a more an eclectic mix. The main component was of course the heavy infantry of the phalanx, some three taxeis or 6000 men. This was supported by contingents of thureophoroi, Galatian mercenaries and asiatic light infantry. Finally 50 scythed chariots and 25 pachyderms completed Zeuxis invasion force.

After having a number of cities layed waste by the advancing Seleucids the Kappadokians finally offered battle. The Kappadokian commander deployed his army amongst a series of rocky hills and wooded areas, an area well suited to his army and not at all Seleucids. While his infantry were clearly set to dominate selected areas of rocky slopes the Kappadokian heavy lancers were massed on the right centre and the cavalry, a mix of light and heavy, deployed on the right flank.

Zeuxis deployed in the open plain. His left comprising the phalanx and his heavy cavalry opposite the Kappadokian lancers while the remaining portions of his army, his centre right and right wing, deployed in front of a long ridge that separated much of the two armies.

Details of the resulting battle are unfortunately lost to history, our historian providing just a handful of words on which we can base our record. We do know however that the Seleucid right rapidly advanced to pin the Kappadokian warriors who were relatively quickly ensconced on the long rocky high ground. Here both contingents faced each other for the duration of the battle with minimal manoeuvring.

On the Seleucid left the combatants was far more active. Zeuxis aimed to lure the Kappadokians from their withdrawn position by advancing then, almost at the time of contact, retiring drawing the Kappadokians back into the open plain.

Above and below the Seleucids advance into a narrow gap against a very thin Kappadokian force. The Kappadokian light horse on the left have moved rapidly from the Kappadokian left flank to a central position.

Below, the general situation.

After advancing and just prior to the expected clash, Zeuxis issued the order and his heavy cavalry and a portion of his phalanx retired. The site was too much for the Kappadokians who now charged. Below, the Kappadokian cavalry surge forward.

The battle then became confusing and our sources quiet on the detail. Certainly neither army gained a clear immediate advantage. Kappadokian lancers tried repeatedly to break the Seleucid lines but were repeatedly thrown back. Seleucid cunning resulted in several overly enthusiastic Kappadokian units being cut down. A Kappadokian flanking movement against the extrem Seleucid left was neutralised by Seleucid cataphracts and came to nothing. Instead the fighting continued in the narrow area of good going bordered by a wooded area on one side and the long rocky hill on the other.

Yet casualties slowly mounted and after an epic struggle Zeuxis was forced to retire his phalanx in particular eventually suffering crippling casualties. Yet the Kappadokians were little better exhausted watched the Seleucids retire from the field. No doubt they would return.

Another excellent game and for me a great opportunity to field a new army, even if the outcome was not as Antichos the Great would have wanted…

Rise of the Celts

It was several years ago I purchased some Corvus Belli Gauls but unfortunately they have sat in the lead mountain for far too long. However, over recent weeks I have finally progressed their painting and last Friday evening they their first outing. Deployed against them were my opponent’s equally new Kappadokians.

The Gallic host comprised both horse and chariots in limited numbers. Instead the bulk of the army comprised warriors on foot (4Wb) who were supported by a number of Gaesati (3Wb). After trekking long distances the Gauls found their enemy in the wilds of Asia Minor in a land famous for its horses, its fruit orchards and its worship of the mother goddess Ma, or so the histories would tell us. The armies deployed, the Gauls on an open plain the Kappadokians restricted somewhat by steep and rocky hills.

An initial advance along a road by over zealous Kappadokian cavalry against the Gallic right inspired a dramatic counter by the Gauls. The Gaesati moved swiftly towards the enemy horse while Celtic chariots and horse swarmed forward on the flanks of the Celtic mercenaries. The Kappadokian horse seemed likely to be overwhelmed.

Above and below the battle on the Gallic right.

Yet the gods of war turned and soon the Gauls were fighting for their own survival many cut down. Yet here the fickle gods intervened again, the remaining Celtic horse on the right now throwing back attackers repeatedly despite being outnumbered three to one.

Below, the Gallic horse on the right hotly engaged by overwhelming numbers. The battle is about to involve more troops as the centres are progressively engaged.

As the main battle lines clashed the Kappadokian general at the head of 1000 lancers pressed the Celtic chariots opposite opening eventually a hole in the Gallic line.

Yet the determined Celtic charioteers, under the Gallic commander, harried their advance at every turn darting forward and back their warriors fighting with great expertise from their chariots. Each side of the now fully engaged commanders, the armies were progressively to be engaged in deadly combat. Slowly in a series of progressive combats the Gallic foot, beating their shields with swords and spears, moved forward.

The pendulum of battle swung back & forth for some time with casualties mounting in both armies. The melee was both general and confusing. But slowly the Gallic heavy infantry were gaining the advantage.

Desperately seeking a breakthrough a further body of by Kappadokian lancers, riding partly armoured horses, crashed into another body of naked Gaesati. Determined to stand these mercenaries from Transalpine Gaul braced for the charge. When it came the Gaesati repulsed their attackers. Reforming the Kappadokian lancers charged again. Now broken up their formation disordered the Galatians cut them down without quarter.

Above, the general situation in the final moments of the battle. Below, the Gaesati repulse the enemy lancers.

The loss of the lancers was too great and demoralised from heavy losses the Kappadokians broke, their warriors fleeing for the hills. As they broke the Gallic warriors themselves exhausted focus on looting the dead and dying. The Gaesati, heroes of the battle, could be seen gathering Kappadokian heads to impale on stakes in celebration of their victory.

Some Kappadokian sources may well report that the Gauls only achieved a narrow victory. However, undisputed by all, was it had been an extremely enjoyable encounter and a fine game using two well presented armies. For the Gauls it was a great introduction to the DBA battlefield.