Category Archives: Ancient

Galatian Incursions

Friday evening found a selection of armies converging on my temporary gaming room for an evening of DBA. As it turned out a Galatian theme developed.

Our first battle of the evening found the Galatians (Ben) migrating into the provinces of Asia Minor and clashed with the Kappadokians (Andrew). The Kappadokians had suffered a series of defeats recently so were keen to turn the tables on the most recent invader.

The two armies deployed and it was soon apparent the Galatians were advancing in the centre and right. This rapid advance by the Galatian centre was countered by a thrust against the Galatian left flank through various rocky paths over an area of basalt peaks. Below, the Galatians prepare to engage the Kappadokian centre which is already scattered. Visible in the Galatian line is a Scythed Chariot.

As both armies manoeuvred they slowly became more disjointed with the likely result the struggle would be prolonged. However, a sudden series of attacks were launched by the Kappadokians with great elan and surprisingly the Galatian morale shattered as each attack was driven home with devastating results. The Galatians fled suffering a devastating 4-1 loss for their invasion.

Discouraged but desperate for loot the Galatians (Ben) moved west towards Greece. From here they moved south along the coast towards an army assembled by Ptolemy Keraunos (Keith). Keraunos, deploying first, placed himself in the centre of the phalanx astride one of his several elephants with the intention of smashing his way through the Galatian line. However, as the Galatans deployed he became increasingly concerned about his right flank. Seemingly oblivious to potential threats he undertook to expand his right by a series of complex manoeuvres. The Galatian left, comprising mounted, surged forward. Macedonian casualties were immediate with a portion of the phalanx breaking at first contact under the Galatian mounted onslaught. However, slowly Keraunos gained the advantage and the Galatian left was driven back.

Above an below the armies engaged. The Greek left is held by Greek mercenary peltasts (3Ax) who would fight valiantly for some time against Galatian armoured warriors (4Bd) and naked warriors (4Wb). Below, the Greek right and a portion of the centre driving back the Galatian left and centre.

Elsewhere the fighting was both intense and certainly confusing with Greek sources unclear of all events. However, slowly the Galatians gained the advantage. Keraunos himself meanwhile, at the head of his pachyderms, pressed forward driving the Galatians to his front back. Though Keraunos fought valiantly his army finally collapsed with a 4-2 victory to the Galatians.

While the Galatians focused on their plunder Ptolemy Keraunos (Keith) reformed his army and move to counter another threat, this time by Antigonus Gonatas (Andrew). Gonatas had taken the opportunity to bolster his smaller phalanx with a number of Galatians, Greece was flush with mercenaries after all! Now both commanders deployed with their phalangites in the centre. Keraunos again deployed his elephants between the taxis in a commanding position on one beast. Gonatas meanwhile deployed on his left wing with his cavalry opposite Ptolemy’s mounted. On the opposite flank both commanders deployed their thureophoroi and other mercenaries, Ptolemy’s left flank resting on an small village.

Above, Ptolemy Keraunos army on the right foreground while in the distance Gonatas’s army can be seen. In the top right a Greek fleet is visible, this fleet failed to intervene in the battle, no doubt more focussed on supplying the army, or providing morale support!

Gonatas advanced with his right leading. But it was here that he miscalculated and found his thureophoroi engaged by a portion of Keraunos phalanx. Now both commanders rushed to reinforce the battle with reserves and eventually portions of their centre.

Above and below views of the centre and Ptolemy’s left where portions of the centre of both armies are being committed, creating a gap. Below, heavy casualties have befallen the Ptolemy left taxis visible here. Yet the survivors repeatedly drove back the Galatians who themselves had suffered heavy casualties. Likewise Ptolemy’s peltasts (3Ax) fought the Gonatas taxi to a standstill – amazingly.

Meanwhile on Keraunos right flank the cavalry of both armies were now involved in deadly combat, with Keraunos reinforcing his mounted with phalangites deployed in open order. Simultaneously Ptolemy engaged Gonatas’ centre with phalanx and his elephants who desperately attempted to secure the breakthrough.

The battle was particularly confusing with first one commander then the other commander securing a small but fragile advantage, only to watch as these hard earned gains slip away.

Above, Ptolemy in the forefront of the fighting tries to turn a portion of Gonatas’ line.

Finally Gonatas, his own army near exhaustion, gained a final advantage and Keraunos’ army broke. Yet, too exhausted to seize any real advantage, the price of a 4-3 victory, Gonatas breathed easy realising that his own army had only just survived this desperate battle for domination of Greece and Macedonia.

Another outstanding evening of gaming and one that drew in the Galatians in some form into each battle. No doubt they will return as will their Greek opponents…

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Celtiberian Intrigues

The intrigues of the Celtiberians were of course at the root of the Second Celtiberian War. In particular the powerful city of Segeda which was intent on building a circuit of walls seven kilometres long. The Celtiberian tribe of Belli had agreed previously to the treaties at the end of the First Celtiberian Wars and clearly was now in breach. Rome forbade the building of the wall, demanded tribute and the provision of a contingent for the Roman army in accordance with the stipulations of treaty. The Segedans replied that the treaty forbade the construction of new towns, but did not forbid the fortification of existing ones. The situation was clearly unacceptable to Rome.

Early in 153 BC Quintus Fabius Nobilitor arrived in Hispania and began his campaign against the Celtiberians who were now in full revolt. As Nobilitor advanced on the city of Segeda, the people fled taking refuge with the surrounding tribes who tried to mediate in the dispute. Nobilitor however required complete surrender and therefore battle seemed inescapable.

Soon a great Celtiberian host, some 20,000 strong, was assembled and deployed across a series of steep and rocky hills overlooking an open plain. The commander of the Celtiberian army was a Segedan called Carus. But Nobilitor was alerted to his past military skills and knew only too well that Carus was a enemy not to be underestimated. Carus’ dispositions were simple but effective. His centre comprised warriors with renowned fighting capabilities. Half would be positioned on the narrow flat plain between two ridges while others extending into the larger of two advanced rocky hills bordering the open plain where the Romans and their allied legions were formed. On each flank, and within the confines of the hills were massed formations of Celtiberian light infantry. Finally, a small body of Iberian light cavalry were positioned on the right while a reserve of heavy cavalry under the direct control of Carus were positioned in the centre.

Above, the general situation. In the right distance the Celtiberians have yet to secure the second hill overlooking the plain. Below, a view of a portion of the Celtiberian line.

Quintus Fabius Nobilitor for his part formed up in a reasonably traditional deployment with his hastati and principes in the centre with his triarii in reserve. His allied legions were on the left but they were now all fighting in the same style as the Romans themselves, so were all but indistinguishable. Each flank was protected by cavalry as well as velites. Numerically Nobilitor had a small advantage, in numbers as the Celtiberians fought in more open formations, which enabled them to move more quickly especially across difficult ground. Nobilitor was confident that if the Celtiberians could be lured from the high ground his troops would have the advantage.

However, it was soon apparent to Nobilitor that his deployment was flawed and with the barbarian line extending past his own he moved to extend his line by moving triarii towards each wing. This significantly reduced his reserves.

Simultaneously, he ordered elements of his left wing to advance against the extreme Celtiberian right. Soon battle was joined here and the Celtiberian light horse were quickly overwhelmed by the Italian mounted cavalry fighting in denser formations.

Below, battle is joined against the Celtiberian left by the Roman left. From left to right are Italian cavalry, velites and triarii.

Now aware that his Roman opponent was unlikely to foolishly advance into the steep rocky hills, and alarmed by the events on his right wing, Carus now ordered a general advance of his centre and left. The Celtiberian foot moved rapidly forward and fell upon the ranks of the hastati and principes. Desperate fighting developed along the lines as the Celtiberians gaining ground in parts while being pushed back in others.

Above and below the Celtiberians abandon their positions on the hills to attack the Roman lines.

It is worth noting that the Celtiberian left flank extended some distance left of the Roman right flank but throughout the battle this apparent advantage was not pressed, in part by the echeloned triarii and velites.

However, while the Roman right was not assailed disaster was soon to unfold in the centre where a section of hastati broke after a determined attack by Celtiberian infantry. Quintus Fabius Nobilitor acted quickly and ordered his cavalry forward to bolster the line and break the now isolated Celtiberian infantry. Clearly, they were at his mercy. Despite his personal bravery and his determined Roman cavalry the Celtiberians held, repulsing his attacks twice. Yet no sooner had he halted one breakthrough another section, just to his left, also broke.

Meanwhile on the Roman centre left a determined attack by hastati and principes was gaining ground and here the Celtiberians were quickly losing the advantage. With disaster likely the Celtiberian commander now committed his own reserve and moved his mounted to plug the failing line. Yet it was it was Carus who was to collapse, outflanked by advancing Italian troops Celtiberian cavalry collapsed and Carus was killed in the headlong rout. Nobilitor, now sensing victory, prepared to destroy the now leaderless Celtiberian host.

Yet, for some strange reason Celtiberian resolve stiffened and in several places their warriors surged forward. Most dramatically was in the centre where Nobilitor, defender of Rome, was attacked from front and flank by warriors. Despite displaying great bravery Quintus Fabius Nobilitor was cut down and with his loss Roman resolve collapsed. Yet, Celtiberian casualties had been great and without the their commander the Celtiberians failed to pursue. The Roman province was therefore not immediately impacted. Indeed, it would be only matter of time before another Roman army would be dispatched to put an end to the Celtiberian intrigues…

It had been some time since my Romans had faced Robin’s Celtiberians and as I suspected the game was well balanced. The interactions of 3Bd and 4Bd were especially intriguing and created some opportunities for both players, though not all could be exploited.

Finally for those considering the generals, cities and situation mentioned here – they are historical. The battle itself is fictional though historically Quintus Fabius Nobilitor did suffer a major defeat by Carus.

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.

Epeirot Adventures

Because of the size of DBA games, and that you can more easily build armies in historical pairs, it is relatively straightforward to link several battles together to form a linear or narrative campaign. Over the last couple of weeks, as time has allowed, my son and I traced the campaigns of Pyrrhus of Epirus in Italy and Sicily using his and my own armies.

As way of a refresher Pyrrhus entered Southern Italy in 280 BC with an Epeirot army to support Tarentum against the growing power of Rome. Pyrrhus then fought the battles of Heraclea (280 BC) and Asculum (279 BC) where he secured a very costly victory. By 277 BC Pyrrhus had quit Italy and was campaigning in Sicily where he hoped to carve out a new kingdom. But as the campaign against the Carthaginians stalled he departed for Italy once again. Then in 275 BC Pyrrhus faced the Romans at Beneventum, but was defeated in battle. Unable to overcome Rome he finally departed to continue his wars elsewhere.

Pyrrhus, King of Epeiros 297 to 272 BC

For our purposes we decided on five battles with the first two or three against the Romans. These would decide the conquest of Italy. If the first two were defeats, or costly victories for the Epeirots, Pyrrhus would move to Sicily for two more battles before returning to Italy for a final battle. If however the first two battles against the Romans were victories Pyrrhus would fight a third battle against the Romans potentially securing his Italian conquests before moving to Sicily.

The army of Pyrrhus would be represented by the standard DBA list (II/28b). Pyrrhus would select a smaller phalanx and supplement his army with Italiot and Sicilian hoplites. While not perfectly historic the Romans would be represented by the Polybian list (II/33) in all three battles, this would at least allow Joel to use his own Romans which would of course fight with great determination. The Carthaginians would be represented by the Early Carthaginian list (I/61b) and in both battles the Carthaginian player selected to field heavy chariots, though less chariots and more cavalry may have been more realistic.

In the first battle in 280 BC near Heraclea Pyrrhus deployed his army with a strong centre and his elephants on the immediate left of the phalanx and his left extended further by a significant portion of his mounted. While Pyrrhus and his companions formed on the right he ordered a swift attack on the left in an attempt to destroy the Roman right before it was fully deployed. Unfortunately before the Epeirot line engaged the Roman right the Romans had completed their deployment and fought back with great determination. The resulting battle hung in the balance for some time. However, despite heavy Epeirot casualties the Roman army eventually collapsed and Pyrrhus secured a narrow victory.

Below, the Epeirot left and centre advance on the Romans. The Epeirot cavalry have just achieved a breakthrough and will soon exploit the situation.

In the second battle of the campaign, at Asculum in 279 BC Pyrrhus deployed with his companions and elephants in the centre flanked by phalangites while the rest of his army extended both flanks. He now aimed to simply cut his way through the Roman centre with the combination of Epeirot phalangites, pachyderms and Epeirot heavy cavalry. The Romans, having selected the battlefield countered with heavy reserves in the centre. In this battle however the Romans were unable to stop Pyrrhus. As dusk settled the Romans had suffered complete collapse of their army and as those few survivors fled north Rome was overtaken by panic. Pyrrhus now marched on Rome his conquest almost complete.

Above and below the forces at Asculum. Above the phalanx is seen advancing with Pyrrhus in support while below the refused Epeirot left wing with Italiot hoplites protecting a portion of the phalanx.

Rome was now galvanised into action and assembled another army and offered battle in 278 BC. Again Rome selected the battlefield and a now desperate and frustrated consul determined to offer battle near Fregellae, resting his left flank on the walled town. Constrained by woods on his left and right Pyrrhus struggled to fully deploy, especially on his right. Below, the general situation with Fregellae on the right.

Undeterred Pyrrhus advanced and progressively attempted to expand his right. It was against the Epeirot right that the weight of the Roman attack came and soon Pyrrhus himself was in the thick of the fighting. His first attack was to drive off the Roman infantry attempting to envelop the Epeirot phalanx, seen below.

Unfortunately Pyrrhus’ luck was not to hold. The first disaster was the loss of a portion of his phalanx engaged from the front and enveloped from the flank.

Pyrrhus now attempted to stabilise the situation and led his heavy cavalry in another charge. Unfortunately the attack was beaten back and worse Pyrrhus was wounded. The combination was too much and the Epeirot army retired from the field defeated. Above and below, the defining moments of the battle.

Clearly the casualties were becoming too great and in the late 278 BC Pyrrhus, having recovered from his wounds, departed for Sicily. As in Italy his arrival in was warmly received by his allies, and with concern by his enemies.

The first major battle occurred in early 277 BC near Agrigentum. Pyrrhus, his army reinforced and bolstered by Sicilian mercenaries, faced the Carthaginians on the coast. The Punic commander had selected an open battlefield ideal for heavy chariots and Punic foot. To counter the Carthaginian deployment Pyrrhus’ left rested on the coast and his infantry extended to the right. Again, Pyrrhus deployed towards the centre and between the phalanx. His right was extended by his massed elephants and cavalry interspersed by Sicilian auxilia.

The advance of both armies was swift and despite some attempts to adjust to the Epeirot deployment the Carthaginian chariots crashed into the Epeirot phalanx and pachyderms with unsurprising results. Meanwhile, other parts of the Epeirot phalanx, supported by Pyrrhus, pressed ever forward against the heavy Punic foot.

The fighting was desperate, as can be seen above, but the Carthaginian army was unable to withstand the Epeirot veterans. As night fell the Carthaginian army abandoned the field.

The ensuing months resulted in several great cities surrendering to Pyrrhus. However, as he advanced on Eryx, the last Carthaginian stronghold on the island in 276 BC, the Carthaginians having been reinforced offered open battle.

Again, the Punic army was deployed along the coast where it was supplied by the fleet and the terrain was open. The Carthaginian commander this time deployed more traditionally his mounted massed on the left and his heavy infantry extending to the right where a wood provided some protection from a move against the Punic right. Pyrrhus massed his mounted on his right opposite the Punic mounted and likewise extended his centre and left with his heavy infantry and the extreme left with his light troops. Again the armies advanced and soon both would be locked in combat. Punic light troops, originally to be used on the Punic right for an attack against the Epeirot left, were hastily moved to counter the Punic elephants but failed to adequately redeploy.

Above, the Epeirot army advances while the Carthaginian commander attempts to redeploy a number of slingers to his left. Below the advancing Epeirot phalanx, elephants and Pyrrhus heavy cavalry.

Instead, of the pachyderms being engaged with light troops it was the Gallic cavalry who skirmished against the Epeirot elephants while heavy chariots and Numidian light horse attempted to delay the advancing Greeks, as can be seen below.

But it was too much for the Punic host and the advancing phalangites, encouraged by Pyrrhus, pressed ever forward until the Punic army collapsed.

Thus ended our Epeirot adventures. Pyrrhic hopes of an Italian Kingdom looked initially likely to be achieved. That is until their devastating defeat at Fregellae in 278 BC. However, Pyrrhus’ campaign in Sicily was completely successful. With the Carthaginians utterly defeated there was nothing to prevent his establishment of a lasting kingdom on this rich island – other than a few rebellious locals and the rising power of his two new neighbours…