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Vercingetorix Commius 80,000 men in Alesia 100,000-250,000 men in relief army
Battle of Alesia Background:
Arriving in Gaul in 58 BC, Julius Caesar began a series of campaigns to pacify the region and bring it under Roman control. Over the next four years he systematically defeated several Gallic tribes and gained nominal control over the area. In the winter of 54-53 BC, a revolt destroyed the Fourteenth Legion. Deprived of around a quarter of his troops, Caesar was unable to receive reinforcements from Rome due to the political intrigues caused by the collapse of the First Triumvirate. Campaigning relentlessly, he succeeded in reconquering Gaul. Though defeated, the revolt had led to an upsurge in nationalism among the Gauls and the realization that the tribes must unite if they wished to defeat the Romans. In 52 BC, the Gallic leaders met at Bibracte and declared that Vercingetorix of the Averni would lead the united Gallic army. Launching a wave of violence across Gaul, Roman soldiers, settlers, and merchants were killed in large numbers. Initially unaware of the violence, Caesar learned of it while in winter quarters in Cisalpine Gaul. Mobilizing his army, Caesar moved across the snow-covered Alps to strike at the Gauls.
Gallic Victory and Retreat:
Clearing the mountains, Caesar dispatched Titus Labienus north with four legions to attack the Senones and the Parisii. Caesar retained five legions and his allied Germanic cavalry for the pursuit of Vercingetorix. After winning a series of minor victories, Caesar was defeated by the Gauls at Gergovia when his men failed to execute his battle plan. Temporarily falling back, Caesar continued to attack the Gauls over the next few weeks through a series of cavalry raids. Not believing the time was right to risk battle with Caesar, Vercingetorix withdrew to the walled Mandubii town of Alesia.
Situated on a hill and surrounded by river valleys, Alesia offered a strong defensive position. Arriving with his army, Caesar declined to launch a frontal assault and instead decided to lay siege to the town. As the entirety of Vercingetorix's army was within the walls along with the town's population, Caesar expected the siege to be brief. To ensure that Alesia was fully cut off from aid, he ordered his men to construct and encircling set of fortifications known as a circumvallation. Featuring an elaborate set of walls, ditches, watchtowers, and traps, the circumvallation ran approximately eleven miles. Understanding Caesar's intentions, Vercingetorix launched several cavalry attacks with the goal of preventing completion of the circumvallation. These were largely beaten off though a small force of Gallic cavalry was able to escape. The fortifications were completed in around three weeks. Concerned that the escaped cavalry would return with a relief army, Caesar began construction on a second set of works which faced out. Known as a contravallation, this thirteen-mile fortification was identical in design to the inner ring facing Alesia.
Occupying the space between the walls, Caesar hoped to end the siege before aid could arrive. Within Alesia, conditions quickly deteriorated as food became scarce. Hoping to alleviate the crisis, the Mandubii sent out their women and children with the hope that Caesar would open his lines and allow them to leave. Such a breach would also allow for an attempt by the army to break out. Caesar refused and the women and children were left in limbo between his walls and those of the town. Lacking food, they began to starve further lowering the morale of the town's defenders.
The Final Battles:
In late September, Vercingetorix faced a crisis with supplies nearly exhausted and part of his army debating surrender. His cause was soon bolstered by the arrival of a relief army under the command of Commius. On September 30, Commius launched an assault on Caesar's outer walls while Vercingetorix attacked from the inside. Both efforts were defeated as the Romans held. The next day the Gauls attacked again, this time under the cover of darkness. While Commius was able to breach the Roman lines, the gap was soon closed by cavalry led by Mark Antony and Gaius Trebonius. On the inside, Vercingetorix also attacked but the element of surprise was lost due to the need to fill in Roman trenches before moving forward. As a result, the assault was defeated. Beaten in their early efforts, the Gauls planned a third strike for October 2 against a weak point in Caesar's lines where natural obstacles had prevented construction of a continuous wall. Moving forward, 60,000 men led by Vercassivellaunus struck the weak point while Vercingetorix pressured the entire inner line. Issuing orders to simply hold the line, Caesar rode through his men to inspire them. Breaking through, Vercassivellaunus' men pressed the Romans. Under extreme pressure on all fronts, Caesar shifted troops to deal with threats as they emerged. Dispatching Labienus' cavalry to help seal the breach, Caesar led a number of counterattacks against Vercingetorix's troops along the inner wall. Though this area was holding, Labienus' men were reaching a breaking point. Rallying thirteen cohorts (approx. 6,000 men), Caesar personally led them out of the Roman lines to attack the Gallic rear. Spurred on by their leader's personal bravery, Labienus' men held as Caesar attacked. Caught between two forces, the Gauls soon broke and began fleeing. Pursued by the Romans, they were cut down in large numbers. With the relief army routed and his own men unable to break out, Vercingetorix surrendered the next day and presented his arms to the victorious Caesar.
As with most battle from this period, precise casualties around not known and many contemporary sources inflate the numbers for political purposes. With that in mind, Romans losses were around 12,800 killed and wounded, while the Gauls may have suffered up to 250,000 killed and wounded as well as 40,000 captured. The victory at Alesia effectively ended organized resistance to Roman rule in Gaul. A great personal success for Caesar, the Roman Senate declared twenty days of thanksgiving for the victory but refused him the a triumphal parade through Rome. As a result, political tensions in Rome continued to build which ultimately led to a civil war. This climaxed in Caesar's favor at the Battle of Pharsalus.
The Battle of the Trebia occurred during the early stages of the Second Punic War (218-201 BC).
Armies & Commanders:
Hannibal 20,000 infantry, 10,000 cavalry
Rome Tiberius Sempronius Longus
36,000 infantry, 4,000 cavalry
Carthage defeated Rome on December 18, 218 BC
Battle of the Trebia Overview:
With the outbreak of the Second Punic War, Carthaginian forces under Hannibal successfully moved against the Roman city of Saguntum in Iberia. Completing this campaign, he began planning to cross the Alps to invade northern Italy. Moving forward in the spring of 218 BC, Hannibal was able to sweep aside those native tribes that attempted to block his path and entered the mountains. Battling harsh weather and rough terrain, Carthaginian forces succeeded in crossing the Alps, but lost a significant part of this numbers in the process. Surprising the Romans by appearing in the Po Valley, Hannibal was able to earn the support of rebelling Gallic tribes in the area. Moving quickly, Roman consul Publius Cornelius Scipio attempted to block Hannibal at Ticinus in November 218 BC. Defeated and wounded in the action, Scipio was forced to fall back to Placentia and cede the plain of Lombardy to the Carthaginians. Though Hannibal's victory was minor, it had significant political repercussions as it led to additional Gauls and Ligurians joining his forces which raised his army's numbers to around 40,000. Concerned by Scipio's defeat, the Romans ordered Consul Tiberius Sempronius Longus to reinforce the position at Placentia. Alerted to Sempronius' approach, Hannibal sought to destroy the second Roman army before it could unite with Scipio, but was unable to do so as his supply situation dictated that he assault Clastidium. Reaching Scipio's camp near the banks of the Trebia River, Sempronius assumed command of the combined force. A rash and impetuous leader, Sempronius began making plans to engage Hannibal in open battle before the more senior Scipio recovered and resumed command. Aware of the personality differences between the two Roman commanders, Hannibal sought to fight Sempronius rather the wilier Scipio. Establishing a camp across the Trebia from the Romans, Hannibal detached 2,000 men, led by his brother Mago, under the cover of darkness on December 17/18. Sending them to the south, they concealed themselves in streambeds and swamps on the flanks of the two armies. The following morning, Hannibal ordered elements of his cavalry to cross
the Trebia and harass the Romans. Once engaged they were to retreat and lure the Romans to a point where Mago's men could launch an ambush. Ordering his own cavalry to attack the approaching Carthaginian horsemen, Sempronius raised his entire army and sent it forward against Hannibal's camp. Seeing this, Hannibal quickly formed his army with infantry in the center and cavalry and war elephants on the flanks. Sempronius approached in the standard Roman formation with three lines of infantry in the center and cavalry on the flanks. In addition, velite skirmishers were deployed forward. As the two armies collided, the velites were thrown back and the heavy infantry engaged. On the flanks, the Carthaginian cavalry, making use of their greater numbers, slowly pushed back their Roman counterparts. As pressure on the Roman cavalry grew, the flanks of the infantry became unprotected and open to attack. Sending forward his war elephants against the Roman left, Hannibal next ordered his cavalry to attack the exposed flanks of the Roman infantry. With the Roman lines wavering, Mago's men sprang from their concealed position and attacked Sempronius' rear. Nearly surrounded, the Roman army collapsed and began fleeing back across the river.
As the Roman army broke, thousands were cut down or trampled as they attempted to escape to safety. Only the center of Sempronius' infantry, which had fought well, was able to retire to Placentia in good order. As with many battles in this period, precise casualties are not known. Sources indicate that Carthaginian losses were light, while the Romans may have suffered up to 20,000 killed, wounded, and captured. The victory at Trebia was Hannibal's first great triumph in Italy and would be followed by others at Lake Transimene (217 BC) and Cannae (216 BC). Despite these stunning victories, Hannibal was never able to completely defeat Rome, and was ultimately recalled to Carthage to aid in protecting the city from a Roman army. In the resulting battle at Zama (202 BC), he was beaten and Carthage was forced to make peace.
The Battle of Cannae took place during the Second Punic War (218-210 BC) between Rome and Carthage.
The battle occurred on August 2, 216 BC at Cannae in southeast Italy.
Commanders & Armies:
Hannibal 40,000 heavy infantry, 6,000 light infantry, 8,000 cavalry
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Gaius Terentius Varro Lucius Aemilius Paullus 87,000 men
After the start of the Second Punic War, the Carthaginian general Hannibal boldly crossed the Alps and invaded Italy. Winning battles at Trebia (218 BC) and Lake Trasimene (217 BC), Hannibal moved south plundering the countryside and working to make Rome's allies defect to Carthage's side. In the spring of 216 BC, Hannibal seized the Roman supply depot at Cannae in southeast Italy. With Hannibal sitting astride Rome's supply lines, the Roman Senate called for action. Assembling a massive army of nearly 87,000 men, the Consuls Gaius Terentius Varro and Lucius Aemilius Paullus advanced to face the Carthaginians. The two armies met along the banks of the Aufidus River on July 31 and began skirmishing. On August 2, Varro and Paullus formed up their army for battle with their infantry densely packed in the center and the cavalry on the wings. The Consuls planned to use the infantry to quickly break the Carthaginian lines. Opposite, Hannibal placed his cavalry and most veteran infantry on the wings and his lighter infantry in the center. As the two sides advanced, Hannibal's center moved forward, causing their line to bow in a crescent shape. On the Hannibal's left, his cavalry charged forward and routed the Roman horse. To the right, Hannibal's cavalry was engaged with that of Rome's allies. Having destroyed their opposite number on the left, the Carthaginian cavalry rode behind the Roman army and assaulted the allied cavalry from the rear. Under attack from two directions, the allied cavalry fled the field. As the infantry began to engage, Hannibal had his center slowly retreat, while ordering the infantry on the wings to hold their position. The tightly packed Roman infantry continued to advance after the retreating Carthaginians, unaware of the trap that was about to be sprung. As the Romans were drawn in, Hannibal ordered the infantry on his wings to turn and attack the Roman flanks. This was coupled with a massive assault on the Roman rear by the Carthaginian cavalry, which completely surrounded the Consuls' army. Trapped, the Romans became so compressed that many did not have space to raise their weapons. To speed the victory, Hannibal ordered his men to cut the hamstrings of each Roman and then move on to the next, commenting that the lamed could be slaughtered later at the Carthaginian's leisure. The fighting continued until evening with approximately 600 Romans dying per minute.
Casualties & Impact:
Various accounts of the Battle of Cannae show that 50,000-70,000 of the Romans, with 3,500-4,500 taken prisoner. It is known that approximately 14,000 were able to cut their way out and reach the town of Canusium. Hannibal's army suffered around 6,000 killed and 10,000 wounded. Though encouraged by his officers to march on Rome, Hannibal resisted as he lacked the equipment and supplies for a major siege. While victorious at Cannae, Hannibal would ultimately be defeated at the Battle of Zama (202 BC), and Carthage would lose the Second Punic War.
The Battle of Zama was the deciding engagement in the Second Punic War (218-201 BC) between Carthage and Rome.
Armies & Commanders:
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Hannibal approx. 50,000 infantry 4,000 cavalry 80 elephants
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Scipio Africanus 34,000 infantry 3,000 cavalry 6,000 Numidian cavalry
The fighting at Zama occurred in late October 202 BC.
Battle of Zama Overview:
In 204 BC, after fourteen years of war, Roman troops landed in North Africa with the goal of directly attacking Carthage. Led by Scipio Africanus, they succeeded in defeating Carthaginian forces led by Hasdrubal Gisco and their Numidian allies commanded by Syphax at Utica and Great Plains (203 BC). With their situation precarious, the Carthaginian leadership sued for peace with Scipio. This offered accepted by the Romans who offered moderate terms. While the treaty was being debated in Rome, Carthaginian forces captured a Roman supply fleet in the Gulf of Tunes. This success, along with the return of Hannibal and his veterans from Italy, led to change of heart on the part of the Carthaginian senate. Emboldened, they elected to continue the conflict and Hannibal set about enlarging his army. Marching out with a total force of around 54,000 men and 80 elephants, Hannibal encountered Scipio near Zama Regia. Forming his men in three lines, Hannibal placed his mercenaries in first line, his new recruits and levies in the second, and his Italian veterans in the third. These men were supported by the elephants to the front and Numidian and Carthaginian cavalry on the flanks. To counter Hannibal's army, Scipio deployed his 43,000 men in a similar formation consisting of three lines, with Roman and Numidian cavalry on the flanks. Aware that Hannibal's elephants could be devastating on the attack, Scipio devised a new way to counter them. Though tough and strong, the elephants could not turn when they charged. Using this knowledge, he formed his infantry in separate units with gaps in between. These were filled with velites (light troops) which could move to allow the elephants to pass through. It was his goal to allow the elephants to charge through these gaps thus minimizing the damage they could inflict. As anticipated, Hannibal opened the battle by ordering his elephants to charge the Roman lines. Moving forward, they were engaged by the Roman velites who drew them through the gaps in the Roman lines and out of the battle. With Hannibal's elephants neutralized, Scipio sent forward his cavalry. Attacking on both wings, the Roman and Numidian horsemen overwhelmed their opposition and pursued them from the field. Though displeased by his cavalry's departure, Scipio began advancing his infantry. This was met by an advance from Hannibal. While Hannibal's mercenaries defeated the first Roman assaults, his men slowly began to be pushed back by Scipio's troops. As the first and second lines gave way,
Hannibal's veteran's stood firm forcing the other Carthaginian troops to move outward to the flanks as they retreated. Extending his line to avoid being outflanked, Scipio pressed the attack against Hannibal's best troops. With the battle surging back and forth, the Roman cavalry rallied and returned to the field. Charging the rear of Hannibal's position, the cavalry caused his lines to break. Pinned between two forces, the Carthaginians were routed and driven from the field.
As with many battles in this period, exact casualties are not known. Some sources claim that Hannibal's casualties numbered 20,000 killed, 11,000 wounded, and 15,000 taken prisoner, while the Romans lost around 1,500 and 5,000 wounded. Regardless of casualties, the defeat at Zama led to Carthage renewing its calls for peace. These were accepted by Rome, however the terms were harsher than those offered a year earlier. In addition to losing the majority of its empire, a substancial war indemnity was imposed and Carthage was effectively destroyed as a power.
The Battle of Pydna was part of the Third Macedonian War.
The Battle of Pydna is believed to have been fought on June 22, 168 BC.
Armies & Commanders:
Lucius Aemilius Paulus Macedonicus 38,000 men
Perseus of Macedon 44,000 men
Battle of Pydna Summary:
In 171 BC, after several inflammatory acts on the part of King Perseus of Macedon, the Roman Republic declared war. During the conflict's opening days, Rome won a series of minor victories as Perseus refused to commit the bulk of his forces in battle. Later that year, he reversed this trend and defeated the Romans at the Battle of Callicinus. After the Romans refused a peace initiative from Perseus, the war settled into a stalemate as they were unable to find an effective way to invade Macedon. Establishing himself in a strong position near the River Elpeus, Perseus awaited the Romans' next move. In 168 BC, Lucius Aemilius Paulus began moving against Perseus. Recognizing the strength of the Macedonian position, he dispatched 8,350 men under Publius Cornelius Scipio Nasica with orders
to march towards the coast. A feint intended to mislead Perseus, Scipio's men turned south and crossed the mountains in an effort to attack the Macedonian rear. Alerted to this by a Roman deserter, Perseus sent a 12,000-man blocking force under Milo to oppose Scipio. In the battle that followed, Milo was defeated and Perseus was forced to move his army north to the village of Katerini, just south of Pydna. Reuniting, the Romans pursued the enemy and found them on June 21 formed for battle on a plain near the village. With his men tired from the march, Paulus declined to give battle and made camp in the nearby foothills of Mount Olocrus. The next morning Paulus deployed his men with his two legions in the center and other allied infantry on the flanks. His cavalry was posted on the wings at each end of the line. Perseus formed his men in a similar fashion with his phalanx in the center, light infantry on the flanks, and cavalry on the wings. Perseus personally commanded the cavalry on the right. Around 3:00 PM, the Macedonians advanced. The Romans, unable to cut through the long spears and tight formation of the phalanx, were pushed back. As the battle moved into the uneven terrain of the foothills, the Macedonian formation began to break down allowing the Roman legionaries to exploit the gaps. Surging into the Macedonian lines and fighting at close quarters, the Romans' swords proved devastating against the lightly armed phalangites. As the Macedonian formation began to collapse, the Romans struck hard routing the enemy. With his men wavering, Perseus elected to flee the field having not committed his cavalry. He was later accused of cowardice by those Macedonians who survived the battle. On the field, his elite 3,000-strong Guard fought to the death. All told, the battle lasted less than an hour.
Like many battles from this period, exact casualties for the Battle of Pydna are not known. Sources indicate that the Macedonians lost around 25,000, while Roman casualties were over 1,000. While the Battle of Pydna did not end the Third Macedonian War, it effectively broke the back of Macedonian power. Shortly after the battle, Perseus surrendered to Paulus and was taken to Rome as a prisoner. Following the war, Macedon effectively ceased to exist as an independent nation and became a client state of Rome. The battle is also seen as a triumph of the legion's tactical flexibility over the more rigid phalanx.
THE THIRD MACEDONIAN WAR and THE BATTLE OF PYDNA (168 BC)
THE GREAT CONFLICT WHICH DETERMINED THE FATE OF ANCIENT GREECE John Foss
View of site of the Battle of Pydna from the ridge at Nea Efessus Mount Olympus can be seen in the background Visitors to Greece may be aware of the history of Athens and the "Golden Era" of Pericles. It was here that European civilisation can be said to have been born. Here was the cradle of democracy. Here thrived the architects, philosophers, lawmakers and artists of the first great city of the West. Though these visitors may acknowledge the myths of the Gods of Olympus, not many of them give a thought to the history of Pieria. Yet one of the more decisive battles in Greek history, the battle of Pydna (168 BC) took place on and around the fields of modern day Katerini. This was the battle that ended Macedonian control of Greece, allowing the Balkans to become part of the Roman Empire. From the end of the second Macedonian War (196 BC) onwards the Romans took an active part in Greek political disputes. Even though the Greeks were divided into many states, they realized the danger that this presented, and so the majority of them were in favour of the war, which then took on an intensely nationalistic character. The government was principally oligarchic, and many of the Macedonian ruling families favoured the Romans, thinking that they would keep their privileges, land and influence if the Romans were to come to power. However, somewhat surprisingly, the popular masses put their fighting spirit behind Perseas, the new King of Macedonia. This may have been because he appealed directly to them, and they felt that their lot would be better under his rule. They were probably right. The Romans under the command of Aimilios Pavlos had been steadily advancing Northwards from Athens, and were now in control of the country as far as Larissa, a town 80 kms. to the South of Katerini. Between Larissa and Katerini lies the valley of Tempe. The army succeeded in passing through this natural obstacle without difficulty, however when they reached the Enipeas river, which flows from Litochoro to the sea, they were confronted by Perseas’ army, and retreated. There are shades of the battle of Thermopylae here, for a traitor is believed to have "sold the pass", and shown Emilios Pavlos the way round the back of Olympus, along its Western slopes. The Roman army was a substantial one, numbering some 40,000, well-trained and well-prepared for battle.
They had elephants, the tanks of their day, and they moved through modern day Kokkinopilo and down the mountainside to Petra. The topography has changed somewhat over the past two thousand years. The rivers followed a different course, further to the south, and the sea came much further inland than today. Moving the Elephants through the mountains and down the steep pass to Petra was a massive task. This was achieved by means of wooden platforms which were slid down the mountain tracks. When the army reached the plains below they moved along the ridge of hills which today joins Kondiarotissa and Nea Efessus. There is some argument over the site of the battle itself, two or three alternatives being suggested. Pydna is a seaside village, which must have been the main harbour for the region 2000 years ago. St. Paul is reported to have sailed from there after his visit to the area, when the Romans were pursuing him. This visit led to his "letter to the Thessalonians". One putative site is in the area of the village of "Nea Efessus", on the outskirts of Katerini. It is situated at the end of a line of hills dividing the plain into two segments, with Katerini to the North, and Larissa and the valley of Tempe to the South. If you visit the site and climb the hill to the church and beyond, you have a fine view to both North and South. Try and conjure up in your imagination the scene of 2,200 years ago – the soldiers expectant before the battle, the horses affected by their excitement, and the massive elephants lined up ready for combat. They were in fact to prove one of the decisive factors in the battle. On June 22nd the two opponents arrayed themselves in battle order on either side of the River Lefkos. The Romans had made sacrifices to their Gods before the battle, and in the first instance these had suggested a discouraging outcome, however Aimilios Pavlos instructed his priests to try again. On the second attempt they received more encouraging signs, so he said that although they might find the fighting heavy going at the outset, he was confident they would win in the end. The battle began when a stray horse wandered into the river and both sides tried to capture it. Fighting broke out, and the order to charge was given at noon, when 800 Thracians under the command of Alexander clashed with 3,000 Roman infantry and 120 of their cavalry. The two opponents immediately received reinforcements. When Perseas saw that the Greeks were in fine form because the battle was going well for them, he ordered a general attack. His forces were arrayed as follows: the cavalry were to the right, beside them were the allied light infantry troops and a 3,000-man officer corps. In the center was the phalanx with two flanks: the right flank had soldiers carrying silver shields, and the left copper shields. To the left of the phalanx was another officer corps of cavalry, a 3,000 detachment supported by groups of Thracians and Paiones. The troops armed with the "Sarisa" – the 6 to 7 meter long wooden pikes – were deployed in the centre, the first four rows holding it in a horizontal position, those behind at an angle.
The Roman troops on the other side of the Lefkos River had their cavalry on the left with allied troops alongside them. The javelin throwers were centrally placed at the front of the troops, while behind them were three rows of Legionnaires. The allied Roman forces were placed on their right. Just beyond that point were 120 horsemen, 22 elephants and the
corps of the other allied forces. The Romans were armed with swords, which were obviously much shorter than the Sarisa, and shields, however this was to prove to their advantage in the end. Aimilios Pavlos, who had been situated on a hill above the battleground, noticed that the Macedonian troops had trouble manipulating the Sarisa over undulating ground and he successfully manouvered his opponents into attacking uphill, where they were at a disadvantage. In all, between 41,000 and 42,000 Greeks were mobilized against slightly more than 42,000 Romans. As the first Greek legions began crossing the river, the General commanding the Roman forces, Aimilios Pavlos, ordered the attack. He inspired his troops by circulating among them without helmet or breastplate. The first Greek forces to emerge from the river attacked the first Roman units. These consisted mainly of Italian allies. They battled bravely, sacrificing many of their men, however they failed to stop the invincible Macedonian Phalanx. In order to counteract the pressure of the Greek left flank, Aimilios Pavlos sent 22 elephants under his command into battle, with the greater portion of his allied cavalry. The forces, especially the elephants, played a defining part in stopping the Greek advance, as Perseas’ specially trained men couldn’t complete their mission. After that, Aimilios turned to face the phalanx. His attempt failed because the long Macedonian javelins hit the Roman soldiers directly in the face. However, It seems that Perseas and his generals were not following the progress of the battle very closely. Perseas was apparently wounded, though not seriously, and left the scene of the battle, returning to Pydna, which was where the army was based. The Macedonian cavalry on the left flank followed, but the Roman navy, which was lying along the shore, killed many of them. On the other hand, Aimilios was fully in command, and he ordered his legions to proceed towards the rough terrain of the mountain, and in so doing, drew the Macedonian phalanx in that direction.
Macedonian Phalanx with Sarissa The Greek phalanx, moving upwards, attacked the roman force. The Romans were retreating, while continually replacing and changing their 3 rows. Because of the roughness of the soil and the length of the front, the phalanx was forced to divide and so, finally, some gaps appeared among the ranks. These divisions destroyed their cohesion and therefore their strength. Aimilios Pavlos, realising this, ordered his forces to penetrate
the gaps of the phalanx, fighting at close quarters with the Macedonians where his troops, with their shorter and more mobile swords, would be at an advantage. Perseas had failed to see this danger, which was thus to prove his downfall. In spite of the vagueness of the differing sources, it seems that the Roman general used a cavalry of 4,080 horsemen on his left flank to break through the Greek phalanx. This vigorous attack was launched against the Macedonian phalanx, which was now well scattered, and the reorganized legions attacked the Macedonian central point. At this point in the battle Lefkios Postumios Alvinos, the officer in charge of the second legion, attacked the right phalanx, while the General himself, as head of the first legion, attacked the center. Here he brought his elephants into play. With this charge the Romans easily broke through the Greek lines, owing to the elevation of the ground, the lack of coordination of the Greeks, the heavier weaponry of the Romans and also the fact that they were better trained. So that is how the Macedonians were defeated, though they fought bravely till the end. The only Macedonian forces left intact were those on the Greek right flank, some 12,000 – 13,000 in all, who had not taken part in the battle. The Greek forces suffered heavy losses. There were more than 20,000 dead, while a further 11,000 were taken captive. The Roman forces lost fewer men, though many more than the Romans themselves had reported. (Nasikas 80 or Poseidonios 100) It is of interest to examine some aspects of the battle in greater detail. Firstly, for the Romans to be forced to retreat after the first attack can only have meant that they had many dead soldiers. The phalanx soldiers struck at the face of the enemy, therefore there was no room for mere wounds. In a similar battle at Kinos Kefales when the battle tactics of the Macedonian phalanx was of much the same nature, the Romans were left with 700 dead. Logically speaking, one may conclude that in this much more aggressive attack, and with the substantially larger forces involved at Pydna, the corresponding number of Romans killed must have been much greater. Quite apart from anything else, they had been forced to retreat. If there were 700 dead at Kinos Kefales, with the number of fighting men more than double at Pydna, there must have been at least 1,400 – 1,500 dead in this battle. Everything points to there having been huge Roman losses. The battle however, was not just the initial skirmishes. There were other furious clashes when the Macedonian phalanx was broken through. The battle-wise Macedonians, of course, did not just "sit on their hands" but fought hard. The course of the battle raises many questions, one of the most critical concerning the half hearted efforts of the better Macedonian cavalry, which allowed the opposition to scatter the phalanx without apparent difficulty. Later, at a crucial moment, when the battle was going badly, the cavalry failed to intervene to restore the balance. Such intervention at this point would even have justified its sacrifice. Perseas has been held responsible for this mistake by some sources, who present him as being defeated before the battle had begun, (see above) and suggest that there were many occasions during its course when he could have won. It is possible that the catastrophic negligence of the Macedonian cavalry, lay in political motives. The cavalrymen were the sons of the Macedonian aristocratic families, who had become displeased with Perseas because of his political approach favouring the masses. The concentration of so many infantry forces, made up of the ordinary people, gives some clue
to Perseas’ feelings towards the masses. This might have been the correct military tactic to fight the Romans, but it brought the King into conflict with those of his own class. Perseas was an ill-tempered person, and this in all probability led to a conspiracy, which revealed itself during the critical phase of the dramatic conflict. The war with the Romans had taken on an intensely political dimension as well as an ethnic nature. The Oligarchs of the Greek states, as well as the Macedonian Aristocrats, sided with the Romans in order to save their fortunes and their privileges. In so doing, they aimed to preserve their benefits as a nation. On the other hand, the masses of poor people stood and fought to the end, which is the reason for the huge number of dead. This point of view is reinforced by the fact that the cavalrymen abandoned their King, in order to reorganise the remaining forces and find new ones, probably mercenaries. Perseas was betrayed by the ruling class of his country, and was left to be defeated, with disastrous consequences for his country, if not for the entire nation. A short while later he was betrayed again, and taken captive by the victor Aimilio Pavlo. The battle of Pydna was highly significant because it meant the defeat of Macedonia, the most important Greek State left unconquered by Rome. This left the way open for the total subjection of Greece to Rome, then considered the undisputed "ruler of the world". The third Macedonian War was the decisive conflict between the Greeks and the Romans. When the Greeks realised the tragic road they had been following, they joined in the fight with a common purpose, a fight that had taken on a clearly nationalistic character. However, they failed. They could not succeed in uniting the broad confederation of forces (Greeks, Hellenic, and even barbarian) that would be needed to compete with the enormous might of the Roman Empire.
The Battle of Philippi was part of the War of the Second Triumvirate (44-42 BC).
Fought on two separate dates, the Battle of Philippi took place on October 3 and 23, 42 BC.
Armies & Commanders:
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Octavian Mark Antony 19 legions, 33,000 cavalry, over 100,000 total
Brutus & Cassius
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Marcus Junius Brutus Gaius Cassius Longinus 17 legions, 17,000 cavalry, approximately 100,000 men
Following the assassination of Julius Caesar, two of the principle conspirators, Marcus Junius Brutus and Gaius Cassius Longinus fled Rome and took control of the eastern provinces. There they raised a large army consisting of the eastern legions and levies from local kingdoms allied to Rome. To counter this, the members of the Second Triumvirate in Rome, Octavian, Mark Antony, and Marcus Aemilius Lepidus, raised their own army to defeat the conspirators and avenge Caesar's death. Leaving Lepidus in Rome, Octavian and Antony marched east into Macedonia seeking the enemy. As they moved forward, they dispatched Norbanus and Saxa ahead with eight legions to search for the conspirator's army. Moving along the Via Egnatia, the two passed through the town of Philippi and assumed a defensive position in a mountain pass to the east. Moving west, Brutus and Cassius wished to avoid a general engagement, preferring to operate on the defensive. After flanking Norbanus and Saxa out of their position and forcing them to retreat, the conspirators dug in to the west of Philippi, with their line anchored on a marsh to the south and steep hills to the north. Aware that Antony and Octavian were approaching, the conspirators fortified their position, which straddled the Via Egnatia, and placed Brutus' troops to the north of the road and Cassius' to the south. The Triumvirate's forces soon arrived and Antony arrayed his men opposite Cassius, while Octavian faced Brutus. Eager to begin the fighting, Antony tried several times to bring about a general battle, but Cassius and Brutus would not advance from behind their defenses. Seeking to break the deadlock, Antony began building a causeway through the marshes in an effort to turn Cassius' right flank. Quickly understanding the enemy's intentions, Cassius began building a transverse dam and pushed part of his forces south in an effort to cut off Antony's men in the marshes. This effort brought about the First Battle of Philippi on October 3, 42 BC. Attacking Cassius' line near where the fortifications met the marsh, Antony's men swarmed over the wall. Driving through Cassius' men, Antony's troops put them to rout and seized their camp. To the north, Brutus' men, seeing the battle in the south, attacked Octavian's forces. Catching them off guard, Brutus' men drove them from their camp, forcing Octavian to hide in a nearby swamp. As they moved through Octavian's camp, Brutus' men paused to plunder the tents allowing the enemy to reform and avoid a rout. Unable to see Brutus' success, Cassius fell back with his men. Believing that they had both been defeated, he committed suicide. As the dust settled, both sides withdrew to their lines with their spoils. Robbed of his best strategic mind, Brutus decided to attempt to hold his position with the goal of wearing down the enemy. Over the next three weeks, Antony began pushing south and east through the marshes forcing Brutus to extend his lines. While Brutus wished to continue delaying battle, his commanders and allies became restless and forced the issue. Surging forward on October 23, Brutus' men met Octavian and Antony's in battle. Fighting at close-quarters, the battle proved very bloody as the Triumvirate's forces succeeded in repelling Brutus' attack. As his men began retreating, Octavian's army captured their camp. Deprived of a place to make a stand, Brutus ultimately committed suicide and his army was routed.
Aftermath & Impact:
The casualties for the First Battle of Philippi were approximately 9,000 killed and wounded for Cassius and 18,000 for Octavian. Casualties are not known for the second battle on October 23. With the death of Cassius and Brutus, the Second Triumvirate essentially ended resistance to their
rule and succeeded in avenging the death of Julius Caesar. The battle marked the highpoint of Antony's career as a military leader, as his power would slowly erode until his ultimate defeat by Octavian at the Battle of Actium in 31 BC.
The Battle of Adrianople was part of the Gothic War.
The armies clashed on August 9, 378.
Armies & Commanders:
Eastern Roman Empire
Emperor Valens approx. 15,000-30,000 men
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Fritigern Saphrax Alatheus approx. 20,000-50,000 men
Battle of Adrianople Summary:
After being displaced by the invading Huns, the Goths approached the Eastern Roman Empire in 376, with the goal of obtaining land within its borders. Believing that the Goths would be peaceful allies for the empire, Emperor Valens granted their request and designated them foederati. Crossing the Danube, the Goths settled but encountered problems from the local Roman commanders. These quickly boiled over and led to open warfare between the Empire and its new residents. Turning to the Western Roman Empire, Valens asked for assistance from Emperor Gratian. Troops were sent and the war continued for two years without a clear victor. Seeking to end the conflict, Valens elected to take personal control of Roman forces in Thrace. Arriving at Constantinople on May 30, 378, he reorganized his forces and dispatched Sebastianus to Adrianople with 2,000 men. Encountering small detachments of Gothic troops, he was able to win a string of minor victories. During this period, Gratian was forced to recall much of his army to deal with a threat from the Alamanni. After defeating them near Argentaria, he marched them east to Pannonia. Seeking a victory of his own, Valens advanced to Adrianople with his main army and joined with Sebastianus. On August 6, the emperor was alerted that a force of Goths was moving towards the city. He was also received word from Gratian that his army was on the march and asking that battle be deferred until his men arrived. After refusing peace emissaries from the Gothic leader Fritigern on August 8, Valens elected to ignore his commanders' advice to wait for Gratian and prepared to depart Adrianople to seek battle. The next morning, the army marched out from the city and headed north.
Around 2:30 PM, after moving through rough terrain for seven hours, the Romans finally located the Goth's camp. Forming for battle, Valens believed that he had numerical superiority. This was largely due to the absence of the Gothic cavalry which was occupying better pasture land some distance away. Situated on top of a hill, the Goths had formed a lager (wagon circle) for protection. Upon seeing the Romans approach the Gothic infantry deployed to a position in front of the lager. Advancing with his infantry in the center and light cavalry on the wings, Valens prepared to attack. The beginning of the engagement was delayed as Fritigern, trying to buy time to allow his cavalry to return, burned the field in front of the Romans and attempted to negotiate for the exchange of hostages. Finally the battle commenced when a detachment of Romans attacked without orders. Moving forward, Valens assaulted the Gothic infantry, but made little progress. On the left, his men had more success and had nearly reached the lager when the Gothic cavalry arrived on the field. Sweeping onto the field the Gothic heavy cavalry quickly defeated the Roman horse and began assaulting the flanks of Valens' infantry. Nearly surrounding the Romans, the Gothic cavalry inflicted heavy casualties. With the situation deteriorating, Valens was abandoned by his guards. Falling back to the base of a hill, the Romans became trapped and unable to maneuver effectively. The fighting continued until sunset, with the Goths slaughtering the Romans. At some point in the fighting Valens was struck down and killed.
Casualties for the Battle of Adrianople are not known, however records indicate that only about a third of the Roman army escaped back to the city. Having destroyed the Eastern Roman Empire's main field army, the Goths were free to sweep through the Balkans attacking targets at their leisure. The defeat at Adrianople marked a shift in Roman military thinking as its traditional legions were shown to be vulnerable to heavy cavalry. As a result, the Eastern Roman Empire began shifting towards cavalry as its principal offensive unit. This change ultimately led to the development of the cataphracts utilized by the Byzantine Empire.
The Battle of Milvian Bridge was part of the Wars of Constantine.
Constantine defeated Maxentius on October 28, 312.
Armies & Commanders:
Emperor Constantine I approximately 100,000 men
Emperor Maxentius approximately 75,000-120,000 men
In the power struggle that began following the collapse of the Tetrarchy around 309, Constantine consolidated his position in Britain, Gaul, the Germanic provinces, and Spain. Believing himself to be the rightful emperor of the Western Roman Empire, he assembled his army and prepared for an invasion of Italy in 312. To the south, Maxentius, who occupied Rome, sought to advance his own claim to the title. To support his efforts, he was able to draw upon the resources of Italy, Corsica, Sardinia, Sicily, and the African provinces. Advancing south, Constantine conquered northern Italy after crushing Maxentian armies at Turin and Verona. Showing compassion to the citizens of the region, they soon began to support his cause and his army swelled to near 100,000 (90,000+ infantry, 8,000 cavalry). As he neared Rome, it was expected that Maxentius would stay within the city walls and force him to lay siege. This strategy had worked in the past for Maxentius when he faced invasion from the forces of Severus (307) and Galerius (308). In fact, siege preparations had already been made, with large amounts of food already brought into the city. Instead, Maxentius opted to give battle and advanced his army to the Tiber River near the Milvian Bridge outside of Rome. This decision is largely believed to have been based on favorable omens and the fact that the battle would occur on the anniversary of his ascension to the throne. On October 27, the night before the battle, Constantine claimed to have had a vision which instructed him fight under the protection of the Christian God. In this vision a cross appeared in the sky and he heard in Latin, "in this sign, you will conquer." The author Lactantius states that following the vision's instructions, Constantine ordered his men to paint the Christians' symbol (either a Latin cross or the Labarum) upon their shields. Advancing over the Milvian Bridge, Maxentius ordered it destroyed so that it could not be used by the enemy. He then ordered a pontoon bridge constructed for his own army's use. On October 28, Constantine's forces arrived on the battlefield. Attacking, his troops slowly pushed back Maxentius' men until their backs were at the river. Seeing that the day was lost, Maxentius decided to retreat and renew the battle closer to Rome. As his army withdrew, it clogged the pontoon bridge, its only avenue of retreat, ultimately causing it to collapse. Those trapped on the north bank were either captured or slaughtered by Constantine's men. With Maxentius' army split and decimated, the battle came to a close. Maxentius' body was found in the river, where he had drowned in an attempt to swim across.
While casualties for the Battle of the Milvian Bridge are not known, it is believed that Maxentius' army suffered badly. With his rival dead, Constantine was free to consolidate his hold over the Western Roman Empire. He expanded his reign to include the entire Roman Empire after defeating Licinius during the civil war of 324. Constantine's vision prior to the battle is believed to have inspired his ultimate conversion to Christianity.
Date & Conflict:
The Battle of Munda was part of Julius Caesar's Civil War (49 BC-45 BC) and took place on March 17, 45 BC.
Armies & Commanders:
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Gaius Julius Caesar Marcus Agrippa 40,000 men
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Titus Labienus Publius Attius Varus Gnaeus Pompeius 70,000 men
Battle of Munda Overview:
In the wake of their defeats at Pharsalus (48 BC) and Thapsus (46 BC), the Optimates and supporters of the late Pompey the Great were contained in Hispania (modern Spain) by Julius Caesar. In Hispania, Gnaeus and Sextus Pompeius, Pompey's sons, worked with General Titus Labienus to raise a new army. Moving quickly, they subjugated much of Hispania Ulterior and the colonies of Italica and Corduba. Outnumbered, Caesar's generals in the region, Quintus Fabius Maximus and Quintus Pedius, elected to avoid battle and requested assistance from Rome. Answering their call, Caesar marched west with several legions, including the veteran X Equestris and V Alaudae. Arriving in early December, Caesar was able to surprise local Optimate forces and quickly relieved Ulipia. Pressing on to Corduba, he found that that he was not able to take the city which was guarded by troops under Sextus Pompeius. Though he outnumbered Caesar, Gnaeus was advised by Labienus to avoid a major battle and instead compelled Caesar to embark upon a winter campaign. Gnaeus' attitude began to change following the loss of Ategua. The capture of the city by Caesar badly shook the confidence of Gnaeus' native troops and some began to defect. Unable to continue delaying battle, Gnaeus and Labienus formed their army of thirteen legions and 6,000 cavalry on a gentle hill approximately four miles from the town of Munda on March 17. Arriving on the field with eight legions and 8,000 cavalry, Caesar unsuccessfully attempted to trick the Optimates into moving off the hill. Having failed, Caesar ordered his men forward in a frontal assault. Clashing, the two armies battled for several hours without an advantage being gained. Moving to the right wing, Caesar personally took command of X Legion and drove it forward. In heavy fighting, it began to push back the enemy. Seeing this, Gnaeus moved a legion from his own right to reinforce his failing left. This weakening of the Optimate right allowed Caesar's cavalry to gain a decisive advantage. Storming forward, they were able to drive back Gnaeus' men. With Gnaeus' line under extreme pressure, one of Caesar's allies, King Bogud of Mauritania, moved around the enemy's rear with cavalry to attack the Optimate camp. In an effort to block this, Labienus led the Optimate cavalry back towards their camp. This maneuver was misinterpreted by Gnaeus' legions who believed that Labienus' men were retreating. Beginning their own retreat, the legions soon crumbled and were routed by Caesar's men.
The Optimate army effectively ceased to exist after the battle and all thirteen standards of Gnaeus' legions were taken by Caesar's men. Casualties for the Optimate army are estimated at around 30,000 as opposed to only 1,000 for Caesar. Following the battle, Caesar's commanders reclaimed all of Hispania and no further military challenges were mounted by the Optimates. Returning to Rome, Caesar became dictator for life until his murder the following year.
The Battle of Chalons was fought during the Hunnic Invasions of Gaul.
The traditional date for the Battle of Chalons is June 20, 451. Some sources indicate that it may have been fought on September 20, 451.
Armies & Commanders:
Attila the Hun 30,000-50,000 men
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Flavius Aetius Theodoric I 30,000-50,000 men
Battle of Chalons Summary:
In the years preceding 450, Roman control over Gaul and its other outlying provinces had grown weak. That year, Honoria, the sister, of Emperor Valentinian III, offered her hand in marriage to Attila the Hun with the promise that she would deliver half the Western Roman Empire as her dowry. Long a thorn in her brother's side, Honoria had earlier been married to Senator Herculanus in an effort to minimize her scheming. Accepting Honoria's offer, Attila demanded that Valentinian deliver her to him. This was promptly refused and Attila began preparing for war. Attila's war planning was also encouraged by the Vandal king Gaiseric who wished to wage war on the Visigoths. Marching across the Rhine in early 451, Attila was joined by the Gepids and Ostrogoths. Through the first parts of the campaign, Attila's men sacked town after town including Strasbourg, Metz, Cologne, Amiens, and Reims. As they approached Aurelianum (Orleans), the city's inhabitants closed the gates forcing Attila to lay siege. In northern Italy, Magister militum Flavius Aetius began mustering forces to resist Attila's advance. Moving into southern Gaul, Aetius found himself with a small force consisting primarily of auxiliaries. Seeking aid from Theodoric I, king of the Visigoths, he was initially rebuffed. Turning to Avitus, a powerful local magnate, Aetius finally was able to find assistance. Working with
Avitus, Aetius succeeded in convincing Theodoric to join the cause as well as several other local tribes. Moving north, Aetius sought to intercept Attila near Aurelianum. Word of Aetius' approach reached Attila as his men were breaching the city's walls. Forced to abandon the attack or be trapped in the city, Attila began retreating northeast in search of favorable terrain to make a stand. Reaching the Catalaunian Fields, he halted, turned, and prepared to give battle. On June 19, as the Romans approached, a group of Attila's Gepids fought a large skirmish with some of Aetius' Franks. Despite foreboding predictions from his seers, Attila gave the order to form for battle the next day. Moving from their fortified camp, they marched towards a ridge that crossed the fields. Playing for time, Attila did not give the order to advance until late in the day with the goal of allowing his men to retreat after nightfall if defeated. Pressing forward they moved up the right side of the ridge with the Huns in the center and the Gepids and Ostrogoths on the right and left respectively. Aetius' men climbed the left slope of the ridge with his Romans on the left, the Alans in the center, and Theodoric's Visigoths on the right. With the armies in place, the Huns advanced to take the top of the ridge. Moving quickly, Aetius' men reached the crest first. Taking the top of the ridge, they repulsed Attila's assault and sent his men reeling back in disorder. Seeing an opportunity, Theodoric's Visigoths surged forward attacking the retreating Hunnic forces. As he struggled to reorganize his men, Attila's own household unit was attacked forcing him to fall back to his fortified camp. Pursuing, Aetius' men compelled the rest of the Hunnic forces to follow their leader, though Theodoric was killed in the fighting. With Theodoric dead, his son, Thorismund, assumed command of the Visigoths. With nightfall the fighting ended. The next morning, Attila prepared for the expected Roman attack. In the Roman camp, Thorismund advocated assaulting the Huns, but was dissuaded by Aetius. Realizing that Attila had been defeated and his advance stopped, Aetius began to assess the political situation. He realized that if the Huns were completely destroyed, that the Visigoths would likely end their alliance with Rome and would become a threat. To prevent this, he suggested that Thorismund immediately return to the Visigoth capital at Tolosa to claim his father's throne before one of his brothers seized it. Thorismund agreed and departed with his men. Aetius used similar tactics to dismiss his other Frankish allies before withdrawaling with his Roman troops. Initially believing the Roman withdrawal to be a ruse, Attila waited several days before breaking camp and retreating back across the Rhine.
Like many battles in this time period, precise casualties for the Battle of Chalons are not known. An extremely bloody battle, Chalons ended Attila's 451 campaign in Gaul and damaged his reputation as an invincible conqueror. The following year he returned to assert his claim to Honoria's hand and ravaged northern Italy. Advancing down the peninsula, he did not depart until speaking with Pope Leo I. The victory at Chalons was one of the last significant victories achieved by the Western Roman Empire.
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