MAGNESIA ad Sipylum (2)

The Roman Times
The ides of march 190 BC

Rome defeated decisively!

From our correspondent in Asia minor.

A few days ago 4 Roman legions were completely annihilated in Magnesia. Complete Roman command captured. This might mean the end of the Roman influence in the east.

Largest loss of soldiers since Cannae.

The Romans were confident they could win this war based on earlier experiences with the Seleucids, but it turned out a disaster.

The Seleucid left wing, commanded by Antiochus himself, was slow to start. This wing was mainly made out of cavalry units, most of them clad in heavy armour, called cataphracts. But once this heavy force got started, they were unstoppable, and the enveloped the Romans easily. The camp reserve that had reinforced this weak Roman wing were no match for the Seleucids. Our African elephants feared the much larger Indian elephants and fled the field.

At first it looked as if Eumenus was able to outsmart the Seleucids. He quickly scared the scythed chariots away. The son of Antiochus commanded the Seleucid right. Many thought of him a lesser general. But he managed to hold the Pergamese advance by missile fire only. And he stroke at the right moment, overrunning the fear stricken cavalry of Eumenes, leaving him without an army running of the battlefield.

At first the Romans thought they had the advantage, and the vanguard of the Seleucid army, mostly made up out of light troops and skirmishers, were driven back fast enough. But out of the dust clouds the fleeing skirmishers left behind them, the elephants appeared. And there were many. They hindered the movement of the Romans, and when they finally had dealt with the Elephants (our very well drilled boys opened lanes to let them through), another danger appeared.  Behind the elephants thousands upon thousands of phalangites advanced. They alone outnumbered the Romans, but it was said that these phalanx were made out of hastily gathered levy troops. Antiochus had lost about 10,000 phalanx troops last year in Greece. But then disaster struck. The Seleucid cataphracts and cavalry in wedge formations had surrounded the Roman army.

A striking detail were the hesitating Galatians, that made part of the Seleucid war effect. It seemed that they were the only ones that feared the Romans, and they refused to take part in the earlier stages of the battle, lingering behind the lines. Only in the end they took part in the battle. It is said that the Romans have tried to bride them into not fighting. Antiochus is planning a punitive expedition into the land of the Galatians, telling the media that he was not pleased at all with their behaviour.

Only a few of the Romans managed to escape to tell the tale. Military experts had predicted that the Romans would be able to turn the elephants back into the Seleucid phalanx, and that the experienced Eumenes would be able to deal with the Seleucids. They had also thought Antiochus would not be able to keep his army together this well. These eastern potentates are notorious for pursuing small enemy units of the battlefield, loosing eye for the main battle. One military advisor told us that there were just too many of them, how badly trained, not even Scipio Africanus would have been able to win this war for the Romans.

Seleucid negotiators handled an ultimatum to the Roman senate today, demanding the complete evacuation of Greece, Illyria and Macedon, disallowing elephants in the Roman army as of now, and seriously restricting the amount of foot soldiers the Romans may train. Eumenes was killed by the Pergamese aristocracy, and his successor has opened the gates for the Seleucids.

An in-depth story on page 5 after the Olympian sports page.

The Scenario & Background

Based upon the scenario by Jeff Jonas WAB supplement "successors".

We played this battle on the 9th of august 2006 at a Société de La Grande Armée game day in Hoek van Holland, Netherlands. With us were Karel van den Arend, Rik Mol, Richard Hopman and Dennis Klinkenberg.

Quite an impressive view of the battlefield
(620 Seleucids on the left, 330 Romans on the right)

The Setup

Indian Elephants with calf from Rik

The Romans were taken from the HatPW supplement and Pergamum from the Successor supplement

The Seleucid army was taken from the Successor supplement.

The armies were designed on a 1:50 scale, so we ended up with 950 models on the table. The Seleucids were outnumbering the Romans by 2:1. Some special rules were introduced by Jeff Jonas for this scenario to balance the forces, like rules for the fog of war, indecisive units, and easily panicked troops.


A Battle report

We played this scenario here is the result.

Birdview of the battlefield
Richard (seleucids left), Karel (Pergamon), Dennis, (Romans)

The Plans
The Seleucids were counting on their majority, and possibility to outflank the Romans with heavy cavalry and elephants.

The Seleucids had a great diversity of troops to mention a few:
- Arab dromedaries
- Scythed chariots
- Pisidians, Pamphylians & Lykians,  Trallians, Cretans
- Anatolian Hillmen, Carians & Cilicians,  Mysians
- Tarentine cavalry
- Galatians
- Hetairoi Cavalry
- Cataphracts
- Indian elephants
- Seleucid phalanx (Katoikoi)
- Argyraspides
- Dahae horse archers

The Romans knew they had to crush the phalanx before the flanks were able to get into their flanks. Hurry!

4 Roman legions (velites, Hastati, Principes and Triarii) were joined by thureophoroi and Greek cavalry from Pergamum. Also Macedonian volunteers and African elephants were present.


The Skirmish combat
The Seleucid skirmish screen was very large, and had a lot of missile power. The scenario from Jeff cuts down the effectiveness of the missile arms, but the Pergamese cavalry suffered a lot from the firepower. It was a nice view, seeing all those different nations in the skirmish line of the Seleucid army.
The Roman velites were mean a ever. They made mincemeat out of the Seleucid skirmishers.

The Seleucid staff is arguing about the next move.

The Roman Right
The Pergamese on the right could not get through alive the very large Seleucid flank. But they managed to hold up this flank for much longer than experted.
The Seleucids had trouble moving because everyone was hindering everyone. There were just too many soldiers on the table. But wehn the skirmish troops had fled the table, the real power of this flank emerged. Cataphracts, a wedge, scythed chariots and camels were able to finally end the Pergamese advance. But could they envelop the Roman flank in time?

      Cataphracts from Rik

The Centre
In the centre the Seleucid levy phalanx held back. They were too afraid to face the professional Roman soldiers, and they had orders to wait for the flank to win.
Due to scenario rules all of the Galatians did not want to move at all for quite a long time. Luckily for the Seleucids, they wanted to stay were they were anyway.
The Romans advanced as quick as possible.
The Seleucids let go of their elephants, both because they are unreliable and to slow the Roman advance.
When the Romans were finally in place to crush the Seleucid centre, all was depending on the flanks. The one that would win would win the battle. It seemed that the Pergamese had held back the Seleucids on the Roman right long enough. It was up to the Roman left flank.

Most of the 950 models (=over a thousand hours of painting!)

The Roman left
But there was no Roman left flank. The 3 turmea the Romans had to guard this flank was reinforced by the camp guard, Macedonians and African elephants. But these troops were not too enthusiastic to fight and die for the glory of Rome...
Though the Seleucids had trouble getting on the move here (because of scenario rules), when they finally went for the kill, they did to "en masse". And they ran over the Roman left flank with ease.

Anatolians sack a Roman settlement after the battle
(Amazon miniatures)

The result
Even before the centre battle could commence if was clear that the Romans were to be overrun. They handed in the towel.
When we played the scenario previously, things went quite like it went historically with scythed chariots taking the whole Seleucid left with them in a mad flight. This time the Seleucids were able to win here.
The previous time the Romans were also able to turn the cataphracts on their left with a combined combat with hastati and an elephant. This time the elephant ran instead of the cataphracts.
But all players agreed that it was a very nice battle and much fun to play.

Many thanks to the players of the club Société de La Grande Armée.

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