Category Archives: Ancient

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 Zeuxis aimed to lure the Kappadokians from their withdrawn position by advancing then, almost at the time of contact, retiring drawing the Kappadokians back into the open plain.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.

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…

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.