Antigonid : Play misty for me: Kynoskephalai

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agesilaos
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Antigonid : Play misty for me: Kynoskephalai

Post by agesilaos »

Kynoskephalai

It may seem odd to begin a discussion of the capabilities and drill of Alexander the Great’s phalanx with a battle that occurred 126 years after his death but there is a good reason for doing so. Kynoskephalai has the advantage of having been written by a historian who also wrote on the formations and evolutions of the Macedonian phalanx, Polybios. Further we also have a parallel account based, in large part, upon this account by Titus Livius, which in turn allows us to evaluate his account of the other battles whose Polybian originals are lost, such as Magnesia and Pydna.

Also, Polybios has recorded some interesting details of the manoeuvres of Philip V’s army which are obscured in some translations and misinterpreted in modern accounts.

In his 1988 article ‘The Campaign and Battle of Cynoscephalae 197 BC’ (Journal of Hellenic Studies 108, pp 60-82) N G L Hammond details the strategic manoeuvres and identifies a battlefield which seems to fit the ancient descriptions and satisfy the supply requirements of both armies. This is available on JSTOR for ordinary members to read online and I recommend those interested sign up for the free access. I will assume his site is broadly correct not least because he surveyed the land in person and found what may well be related archaeology, possibly the remains of some Roman camps.
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The first thing to point out is that, whilst being quite a full battle description, Polybios does not detail every manoeuvre on both sides nor, even for either side. However, there enough clues to reconstruct these with a fair degree of likelihood.

The situation is fairly unusual as both sides had encamped close to each other but in ignorance of the other’s presence. Both sides then sent out light forces to hold the pass in Philip’s case and to reconnoitre the ground in Flaminius’. Philip even sent some of his phalanx out to forage. These are characterised as belonging to the left wing of the phalanx (since he took the peltasts and the right wing with him), this is an important point as the ancient way was to put the best troops on the right. It would follow that these were the raw troops whom Philip had levied in the emergency. Ultimately, this would be Philip’s undoing.

An affair of outpost ensued when both advance forces ran into each other and the advantage swayed as re-enforcements were sent in from the respective camps.

Polybios, ignores the time that it would take to get troops from the camps into formation and then into action. We need not follow his example.

We have good descriptions of Roman camps and can work out the time it would take to deploy from them. Hammond’s survey found that the camps at Kynoskephalai were smaller than those described in Polybios and Hyginus and suggested that by analogy with the well preserved camps about Masada that the one full one and its partially preserved neighbour would have held ¼ of a legion and that there would therefore have been sixteen of these scattered around the Thetideum. The problem here is that ¼ is not a natural division of a legion, it would represent 2 ½ of each maniple. It is more likely, in my opinion that each held two cohorts, ie two maniples each of hastati, principes and triarii along with the requisite cavalry and velites. This would allow each camp to have the exact mirror symmetry of a larger camp and the troops would be able to issue in an orderly fashion and re-assemble in an equally orderly manner.

Hammond gives the dimensions as 66 by 88 by 80 by 97 paces (N, E, S, W sides); the Romans used anthropomorphic measurements and their passus of two gradi was equal to 2 1/2 Roman feet. Camps were laid out according to square acti which is 120 pedes by 120 pedes or 48 by 48 paces. 480 men required two acti, which is roughly what we have here, which would mean that one cohort is all that could be encamped here; 120 hastati, 120 principes 60 triarii , 120 velites and 30 cavalry. This would mean that Flamininus had his men construct forty camps, rather than the sixteen suggested by Hammond, and the Aetolians and other allies on top of that. For this reason I think we have to reject the idea that what Hammond found is part of Flamininus camp system. (This website discusses aspects of the Roman army in much greater detail than would be appropriate here, http://garyb.0catch.com/site_map.html).

It has been calculated that it would take four legions and their cavalry 1 hour 27 minutes to leave camp if only one gate were used and 43 minutes if two were used.

The army would then have to form up; in ‘triplex acies’ four legions (two Allied, two Roman), stretch for 1200 divided by six (usual depth) times six feet (frontage according to Polybios) or three feet (modern assumed fighting frontage) per legion, either 2400 feet or 4800 feet. The depth of the formation would be 15 times six feet plus the intervals between the lines 90ft plus say 60 feet (two ten yard intervals). So the man, who has to march the furthest, has to march 2418 feet (on a three foot frontage). 3 mph is 264 feet per minute, so, from a central position it would take him about nine minutes to reach his station, this does not delay the extracastramentation at all, even on a six foot frontage, as he will be in position before the last man leaves the camp. So we can say that it would only take an hour and a half to deploy a full Consular army for battle from the camp.

Flamininus’ army did not deploy fully in one go, but we can use the calculations above to establish a timeline for the battle.

Philip V’s manoeuvres can also be roughly timed, but first let us just look at the proposed site of the battle.
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Map 2

Hammond places it on the western spur of the hills (H), but this ignores the fact that Philip’s advanced force was guarding the pass, presumably the route now taken by the main road (P); as they fell in on the right flank of the phalanx and that phalanx deployed ‘as soon as they reached the heights and filled the line from the left’ ie the right wing deployed first it is more likely that the battle site is to the east of the road (B).

We cannot, yet make a guess at the length of Philip’s approach march, but as he had the peltasts and the right half of the phalanx we can work out the length of his line-of-march and how long his deployment would take.

10,000 men four abreast, (column by tetrarchiai) at a six foot interval would stretch for 15,000 feet, and at sixteen deep on the same interval they have a frontage of 3,750 feet ; the rearmost section, then, have to move 18,750 feet once the first files begin deploying. We are told that Philip set off at the double so allowing them to move at 4mph (352 feet per minute) we can say that this phase would take about 55 minutes. To convert this into an eight deep fighting line, the even numbered soldiers in each file step diagonally to the left and the ranks close up. This is the reverse of how Aelian describes the normal method of doubling the depth, which is what Philip does to reverse this manoeuvre. It seems to me more likely that Philip would initially deploy at half depth in order to cover the ground and then return to standard depth, rather than reforming his line thirty-two deep, a depth adopted by Antiochos at Magnesia and condemned as unwieldy and useless, one might expect one of the sources to have commented on its equal failure in the earlier battle, or even its initial success.

We are also told that when Philip first reached the ridge the fighting was close to the Roman camp and that while he was still deploying the Romans broke his advanced force, yet they did not press their advantage, instead they withdrew their own advanced forces through the gaps between the maniples, which allowed Philip’s force to rally on the right flank of the phalanx, despite Poly bios’ statement that Flamininus had all of his troops in line at this time one would have to doubt that. For one thing the whole force would take an hour and a half to get out of camp and yet Flamininus is stated to have only begun deploying his legions once his advanced party had been driven off the ridge by Philip’s forces, almost the same time that Philip reached the ridge with his forces.

Flamininus was no military incompetent were all his forces in order when Philip started deploying he would surely have attacked at once and overwhelmed the Macedonians much earlier in the battle rather than delaying to allow a victorious force to withdraw through his lines and thus losing the initiative. I would suggest that Flamininus halted and took the advanced force into his lines in order to allow more of his men to get out of camp.

Philip’s phalanx would have been deployed an hour after reaching the ridge, this movement was incomplete when Flamininus attacked with his left wing; if we allow Flamininus forty minutes he could have almost deployed the two legions of his left flank, with the assembled force he would overwhelm Philip’s advance guard, but from his position the whole ridge would seem occupied and thus himself outnumbered three to one (if Philip’s 10,000 were eight deep and in standard intervals they would occupy 3750 feet, Flamininus’ two legions would present a frontage of 1200 (at 3ft)).

While Flamininus was allowing his men through his lines, Philip readjusted his line. Hammond and others suggest he made his right wing 32 deep but this seems unlikely. More likely he saw the left wing mounting the ridge and needed to make room for it to deploy. Closing to the right means a move of 1875 feet for the leftmost file, which at 3mph would take 7 minutes and would certainly be achievable before Flamininus could reach the ridge.

The concomitant of Philip doubling his depth and closing to the right was that Flamininus could now see a force roughly equal in frontage (which in turn implies that the Romans were formed on a three foot frontage per man. It would be now that he decided to attack with the fully formed left wing, since the right was not committed, the logical reason would be that it had not yet extricated itself from camp.

Philip seems to have made one further movement. Polybios clearly states that the phalanx was unable to face about (metabole) when Flamininus’ unnamed tribune launched the decisive blow against its rear. This is a mentioned side-effect of being in ‘synaspismos’ and Plutarch (Vit.Flam. 8) says
τὸ βάρος τοῦ συνασπισμοῦ
The weight of their interlocked shields
This could have been achieved by the same method as the previous halving of depth or by the insertion of the rear half files. Aelian would seem to imply that ‘insertion’ was used when moving from ‘pyknosis’ to ‘synaspismos’ . What seems certain is that the files did not simply close fully to the right as that would make the phalanx have a frontage of only 938ft which would leave it outflanked by the Roman line which had the flexibility to attack its flanks.

The weight of the phalanx attacking downhill was more than the Roman left could take and Flamininus left his losing wing and led his now formed right into the attack; Philip stuck with his winning right wing a la Alexander.

Unfortunately for the Macedonians Nikanor, known as ‘Jumbo’, had not led the left wing to the ridge but merely sent them on as they assembled from foraging. Polybios is clear that it was lack of leadership that left this wing in a confused and undeployed state, combined with the broken terrain. Two things jump out from this, that the lower hegemonate of the Macedonian army lacked the nouse and authority of the comparable officers of the roman army; here it was a tribune who won the battle decisively (slightly more senior than a pentekosiarch), at Pydna the initiative went as low as the centurions. Also, the Romans could leave camp, form up and attack with two legions before the left wing of the Macedonian phalanx could march 1200 yards.

That the Macedonians made errors is not in doubt but it was the adaptability of the Romans that won the battle.

Afterword
Polybios in his discussion of the phalanx states that the Romans fought on a six foot frontage and so that each legionary face ten pike points, yet in the above things work better if the Romans are on a three foot frontage. I think this can be reconciled if one bears in mind that in Book XII Polybios fails to realise that Alexander’s army at Issos did not enter combat at marching intervals; he was a practical soldier but not always alive to what was being said by his sources. Given that Philip may have adopted ‘synaspismos’ (a formation in which Antigonos Doson attacked uphill at Sellasia) a Roman on a three foot frontage would face ten pikes, since he does not report the move to ‘syaspismos’ it is possible that Polybios extrapolated from being told that there were two pike heads slamming into each scutum and, since he assumed the Macedonians were at a standard density he got the Roman frontage wrong. Almost heresy , since Polybios did observe the Roman army in the field. Mmmh…
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Re: Antigonid : Play misty for me: Kynoskephalai

Post by Xenophon »

A most interesting post - though one might wish it spread over several posts, and deal with each aspect in turn rather than as a whole! As it is , it will take some time to respond with comments.....
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Re: Antigonid : Play misty for me: Kynoskephalai

Post by agesilaos »

The trouble with spreading things out is that the innate urge to pursue interesting side arguments fractures the whole and frquently leads to things petering out before the final segment gets posted, we must have five threads in suspended animation as we speak! And even then I have edited it down :lol:

I don't think I noted the sources which are Polybios Book XVIII 20ff, Livy Book XXXIII. 7ff and Plutarch 'Life of Flamininus' 8, though I have concentrated on Polybios to keep things shorter. Polybios and Plutarch are available on Bill Thayer's excellent LacusCurtius site, Livy is available in Penguin as 'Rome and the Mediterrranean' and also on Perseus; the Penguin Polybios does not contain the description of the battle. Livius.org has a page on th ebattle which contains a link to a google earth stellite view of the field (Jona follows Hammond's location) together with some photos of the actual site and Plutarch's account. Hammond's article can be found on JSTOR.

Perhaps it would be better to reply to just one or two points, discuss them and then move on, that keeps the discussion tighter as in replying to multiple points some can get overlooked especially when two or more people raise separate points in separate posts and one leaves the arena for a while.

Anyway, I wait in anticipation... have to go and read up on Mithridates for the Archelaus thread
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Re: Antigonid : Play misty for me: Kynoskephalai

Post by Hypaspist »

I will follow this thread with great interest.

This is really a battle that the macedonians should have won. And could have. Incredible that lessons were not drawn from Pyrrhus engagements with the romans.
We know that Philip V made his stakes in a heavier, much more compact phalanx thus resulting in an unwieldy and cumbersome fighting force. In truth, it was the tribune who took some 20 maniples and fell in the rear of the macedonian left, who ruined it all for Philip V

Interesting though, Polybios in book XVIII says:
At first, as I have said, Philip, judging from the success of his own division, felt certain of a complete victory

Perhaps with a better commander...

In the words of Bret Harte:

If, of all words of tongue or pen
The saddest are 'it might have been'
More sad are these we daily see
'It is, but hadn't oúght to be.'


PS: Agesilaos, I really appreciate your taking the time to respond to the other questions in the Archelaus post Can't wait to read them :D







Perhaps with a better commander things would've ended differently...
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Re: Antigonid : Play misty for me: Kynoskephalai

Post by agesilaos »

I don't think you have quite grasped the point here. Philip's phalanx was no more cumbersome or heavy than that of Alexander, which is demonstrated well by the various evolutions of the right wing which he commanded. BUT as Polybios emphasises, the ground was not suitable which meant Philip was not ready for an engagement, neither was Flamininus, for he it was that was skulking in camp because of the weather. The Romans were able to deploy more quickly onto the field, and that is why they won, no one can beat the whole of a good army with half of one. The phalanx drove the Roman left back but did not break it, the Roman right came upon the Macedonian left before it was in battle order, hampered both by its poor command/control and the terrain, both factors which favoured the Romans organisation.

Once Philip succumbed to the optimism of the messages he was getting from his holding force he was doomed, defeat was inevitable so this was no close run thing. Alexander, I suspect would not have engaged on the say so of his light infantry or cavalry, he would have inspected the scene himself while the whole army gathered; then he would have discerned that all that had happened was that an affair of outposts was going his way, he would not have been drawn into giving battle with half the army on unfavourable ground, and would have moved off to his goal putting Flamininus under C3 stress. Nor would Alexander's lieutenants have acted as negligently as Nikanor.

All the same there was no force to cover the left flank, leaving that vulnerable to an Ilipian envelopment a slower defeat but just as final, I fear.
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Re: Antigonid : Play misty for me: Kynoskephalai

Post by Hypaspist »

Well, Sir Edward Creasy wrote:

1.
But it is clear that, under Alexander, the phalanx was not the cumbrous unwieldy body which it was at Cynoscephalae and Pydna. His men were veterans; and he could obtain from them an accuracy of movement and steadiness of evolution, such as probably the recruits of his father would only have floundered in attempting, and such as certainly were impracticable in the phalanx when handled by his successors: especially as under them it ceased to be a standing force, and became only a militia.
2. Well, Xenophon clearly stated that it was a close-run thing. Having read his arguments, I'm pretty inclined to agree. I'm curious about his response. Had the romans not wheeled about with the maniples...

3. I applaude you on your sound estimation of Alexander's hypothetical approach to this battle. Of course he would have inspected the scene for himself; and more importantly, knowing he faced the romans/having ascertained their tactics, he would certainly have re-arranged his army accordingly - just like Pyrrhus did. Alexander would've adapted. I think he would've salivated upon facing off against them.

Giving battle with half of the army on unfavorable ground... well, you said it. Perhaps this battle was over before it started...
And with regard to Nikanor; I doubt that Craterus, Perdiccas and co would've been as negligent...
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Re: Antigonid : Play misty for me: Kynoskephalai

Post by agesilaos »

On point 1, and I think even Xenophon and Paralus would both agree with me on this one, Creasy belongs to a rather antiquated way of looking at this period, the Classical Greeks were admirable, the Hellenistic ones barely Greek, and those of his own age the degenerate mongrels of Slav and Turk far removed from the likes of Perikles or Plato (and I have read this sentiment expressed in these terms in nineteenth century tomes). Modern scholarship has largely dispensed with the biases of the past and its lazy assumptions, focussing instead on the evidence of the sources. At Sellasia the Antigonid phalanx changed formation and attacked uphill successfully; something Alexander never asked of his phalanx; epigraphic evidence reveals a well organised system of recruitment and training in impressive detail which seems to point to a greater devolution of responsibility (though this failed in Philip's left that was because they were raw troops, old men and boys). In short the evidence does not indicate that the phalanx became more rigid, rigidity was its strength and Alexander's possessed all of the weaknesses of his progeny's.

Re point 2, despite the above Xenophon and I frequently look at things differently. The 20 maniples did not 'wheel', when a unit wheels it turns on one corner (and is quite difficult to execute and time consuming), this tribune aped Scipio's manouevre at Ilipia, he had the units face left and march in column to the Macedonian rear, quarter turn left and charge; the Roman system was not as focussed on having the best man in the front rank as the phalanx was (another point for the Latins), Flamininus had 3,000 of Scipio's veteran troops with him and I think it was probably these men (they formed the right wing which was the place of honour), they had learned a certain ruthlessness from facing Hannibal, which probably accounts for their 'no quarter' treatment of those Macedonians raising their sarissai in surrender, rather than ignorance of the customs of an enemy they had been fighting for three years.

3. Thank you.

Your codicil suggests that you are no longer inclined to the 'damned near run thing' theory; this does not mean that on the right terrain the Antigonid army could not have beaten the Consular army it faced, but that terrain was not plentiful and without getting across Flamininus' supply lines it is hard to see how Philip could force an encounter on his terms.
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Re: Antigonid : Play misty for me: Kynoskephalai

Post by Hypaspist »

Btw, I like your heading, `play Misty for me´. In fact, think I'm going to watch it tonight. :twisted:

1. Ha, ha.. knew you would almost certainly discount, if not disparage, ol' chap Creasy. :wink: You know, I had to throw something at you, I couldn't just lay about and do nothing, ha ha! Yeah, it was a stab in the dark, but nothing ventured nothing gained. I know I read somewhere that the phalanxes had gotten denser by the time of Cynoscephalae and Pydna, just can't remember where. It's one of those things that stick out in the back of your mind coupled with complete oblivion as to its provenance.
As an aside, my initial doubts concerning Creasy arose when he numbered the shield bearers as being 6000 strong??!

Further, it doesn't really ring that untrue to me, that Philip and Perseus both would feel overconfident in the employment of the phalanx and thus flesh it out. Knowing they faced such formidable foes as the romans, it stands to reason they'd want to invest as much as possible into making the phalanx even more tank-like to ensure running over the romans. I'm just riffing here, it's pure conjecture on my part, but like you said, there's really no evidence for it... :o

Philips left consisted of raw troops... old men and boys... don't know whether to cry or get mad... No wonder they all got slaughtered. :cry: I would love to see the romans who fell in their rear to try the same against Alexander's veterans. In fact, I don't think we would ever see such a thing; neither Alexander nor his commanders would have gotten caught with their pants down like that, moreover, they would most certainly have laid down some kind of contingency plan against foolishness such as that.


2. Well, dear Agesilaos, I'm not sure, just yet, as to what I am inclined to or not. (One could actually postulate that a significant portion of the battle was near-run. However, I wish the same could be said of the battle in overall.) I think I'll have to wait for Xeno's reply. I'm very glad to hear you say, though, that the antigonid phalanx could very well have won against the consular army. That is very reassuring. Being a junior `student´ in the company of greats such as yourself and Xenophon tends to make one humble and more careful with the pen lest it should be broken by more senior pens. I am very pleased to hear your optimism over a potential macedonian victory. Even so, your words bring great unrest. "it is hard to see how Philip could force an encounter on his terms."

Can I ask you, Agesilaos, what would you have done were you in Philips shoes... or sandals? Philip lost because he was being led by the nose onto uneven terrain, well he must've know about the terrain but felt perhaps he didn't have a choice.
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Re: Antigonid : Play misty for me: Kynoskephalai

Post by agesilaos »

First, I have to say that you should not fear putting your own opinions forward any older heads might present a different interpretation or point to further evidence but to say that my opinion is better than anyone else's just because I think it, would be a throwback to the days of Creasey, even when we get down to snarling and tearing lumps out of each other us old dogs know that such treatment would be outside pack law for pups. I am a firm believer in the levelling effect of ancient history, there is so little evidence that it is not impossible for everyone to have read it and to have something valid to say about it; I have probably read Arrian five or six times cover to cover, and not because I have not worked out whodidit (clearly Chares! :lol: Open question: why?), each time some detail jumps out to spark some line of enquiry and it is even better if someone else does the hard work and comes up with an idea to investigate. I feel sure that any 'senior pens' would say that they aim to encourage independant study and thought rather than a cultic following.

'Fleshing out' is not really an option, nor were the Romans considered 'formidable', tactically. Phalanx warfare had been going on for over a century with sarissai and its nuances were well understood by good generals, amongst whom I would rank Philip V, the interplay between weight/density and manouevrability was understood. In this battle Philip decided that he had to use his right to knock the Roman left out of the battle, had the left wing managed to form up his flank would have been covered making the tribune's move impossible, but in this calculation he neglected to factor in the greeness of that wing and probably did not realise that there was no one to supervise their deployment.

Once he was on the ridge with his men he had little option but to fight, the proximity of the romans meant that withdrawl would entail the abandonment of his camp and impedimenta, another defeat hard on the heels of the rout from the Aous Valley.

Philip definitely knew that the terrain was unfavourable, Polybios says so, I suspect he was told that his advance force had the Roman army on the run rather than the advanced detachment of lights and cavalry, I would have taken the trouble to inspect the scene myself and called the lights back and de-camping Flamininus would be unlikely to pursue with part of his forces and risk destruction in detail, strategically the Romans would have to be drawn away from there maritime supply lines and then encircled and forced to surrender before being released, it might then have been possible to convince Flamininus of the overwheening ambition of the Aetolians. There could not have been a military solution, Rome could not be defeated by one battle, the solution had to be political, but for that one needs leverage. Fabianism was the order of he day IMHO :D
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Re: Antigonid : Play misty for me: Kynoskephalai

Post by Hypaspist »

Thank you A.

I am encouraged by your words. It's just that I feel inferior to you guys, naturally. You've studied it for so much longer and know so much more. But I really feel that I've evolved since becoming a member here, and I feel that I've honed my skills as well in debating and presenting personal opinions. I mean, when debating (if you could call it debating :oops: ) with you and Xeno, one really gets chastened.

I'm afraid I'm gonna have to disagree with you again - are you certain that Roman warfare was not considered formidable? Take the battles of Pyrrhus, and Hannibal - surely they must've caused the Hellenes one or two headaches as to the abilities of the Romans?

Ahhh, the greenness and the void of supervision... Were those two holes plugged, who knows what might have happened...? How irritating.. :evil:

I like your way of thinking, the tactics. what do you think Alexander would've done? If we enter his personality traits into the equation, do you think he would've chosen prowess before sound council just so he could throw off the opponents? Or would he have gone down your path? I think he would've taken your path, or at least something similar... he would probably have undertaken some brilliant and absolutely unexpected scheme; in this case, presumably, a hybrid between caution and risk.
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Re: Antigonid : Play misty for me: Kynoskephalai

Post by agesilaos »

I do not think Alexander would have attempted a political solution, that would not be 'heroic' enough 8) I my Opinion he would have drawn Flamininus onto suitable ground for the phalanx to operate but have used it defensivelyto pin, if you'll pardon the pun, the Roman heavy foot, keeping the peltasts in reserve behind a strong cavalry wing and supporting the other flank with a weaker force, he would then strip the Aetolians and lights from the enemy left and swing the peltasts onto the Roman flank, before returning with the Macedonian horse to ensure maximum casualties, the elephants could be left to the Thracians as they were at Hydaspes. The following year two consular armies would descend and the kingdom would be destroyed. Philip V managed a better settlement after being defeated than Alexander would have obtained after a victory. But, of course, the Alexander of Macedonian expansion would not have sprung fully formed from Zeus' head and as a prince of a truncated kingdom his character would have been very different. :evil:
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Re: Antigonid : Play misty for me: Kynoskephalai

Post by Hypaspist »

That sounds like a reasonable scenario. And of course, we are actually discussing two Alexanders; one, the fledgling prince in Philips sandals, and two, the Macedonian imperialistic/expansionist super king. It gets difficult speculating... His character would most certainly have been different had he been in Philip's position. Let's say he would've been in his 20's upon the roman invasion. Probably, he would've beat the romans, and had to deal with them the following year. Btw, I really, really liked your proxy-tactics standing in for Alexander. It sounds like something he might've done, still, I feel he would've done it differently... with more genius, more brilliance, more panache... 8) But as I see it, there are two lines he could've taken...one, being the up-and-coming Alex, and two, being Alexander the Great, ta-da!!

Oh, Agesilaos, you forgot the shield bearers!! Once he engages them in the battle... ooh, my lord...
I have a strong feeling, Agesilaos - and just bear with me on this one - that if he faced off being Alexander the Great, he would've come up with an absolutely surprise scheme... I don't think he would have deployed the phalanx in the traditional order. I can't say how he would've done it, because I am no Alexander, only that it would 've been different. He would've studied the romans prior the battle, he would've known about the legions, their style, and had he existed post Hannibal and Pyrrhus, you could bet he would've housed aspirations to outshine them. Alex knew that the romans probably would expect him to deploy in the typical macedonian fashion, thus spurring him to alter it. Perhaps he would have interspersed the phalanx with shield bearers? Most certainly he would've kept strong reserves lest he should be outflanked.

Again, we have your comment on how, if defeated, rome would send two consular armies the following year. How would Alex have dealt with that? Again, which Alexander are we talking about? The fledgling prince? The super king? Don't be so sure he could not have come up with something to deflect a roman ascendence in either case... Knowing Alex, he would probably have taken on Rome... on their home tur(!!) somehow...some way... he could've made alliances...

History's showed us again and again that nothing is impossible...
agesilaos
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Re: Antigonid : Play misty for me: Kynoskephalai

Post by agesilaos »

History, actually teachs that some things are impossible; one should never expect success if attacking Moscow, for instance, blinding oneself to that leads to failure ; Marx was not far wrong when he said that History was doomed to repeat itself, the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce, (had he lived he would undoubtedly have added the third time on cable :lol: ).

But so much depends upon how one sees Alexander, personally I see him as much more under the influence of Parmenion and the old guard until Gaugamela or even Hydaspes; his father, no slouch militarily, declared that he had only found one general, Parmenion. I do not find the stories of his later poor judgement convincing; there is more Parmenion in those early battles than the sources betray. I think that Philotas actually had a point when he said that the victory at Issos was down to his father.

I am certain that Antigonid Macedonia, which was overcome by one consular army twice, was unlikely to defeat a power which could deploy fifteen times that force, even having lost two consular armies at Cannae. Even Alexander could not have fought the mathematics; there couldbe no strategic victory without diplomacy and Alexander only dispensed mercy, he could never have asked for it; hence, he would have failed too.
When you think about, it free-choice is the only possible option.
Hypaspist
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Re: Antigonid : Play misty for me: Kynoskephalai

Post by Hypaspist »

Interesting question for you agesilaos: do you think that Parmenio was in Scipio's class in terms of generalship?

15 times that force?! Really? I find that hard to believe, since during the Hannibalic war Rome's reserves of legionary manpower came under strain.
-Livy writes that 20 or more legions were in service every year from 214 to 206.
-Brunt estimates that there were never less than 60,000 legionaries in service between 215 and 207, with a peak of 80,000 in 212.

Granted, history's taught us many things as being impossible, but just as many on the other side of the coin as well... like Vietnam, Vo Nguyen Giap forced the us out of the country.. not a bad feat for a small third world country...
Alexander against mighty Rome... doomed? We've covered this in a former post, he he.. but interesting how it still shoots sparks in me... We can't say how Alexander would've fared. Would Alex have exercised diplomacy or brute force? Would he have rallied allies? Would he have made treaties with enemies of rome and joined cause? One thing is certain though... he would definitely have mulled it over in his head, brooding over it...

And, yes, history's prone to repeating itself - in both failure and success.

Can I ask you something? I know it's off-topic, and I would NEVER EVER dream of posting it here on this forum, it's just a little curious thought, though, and I've no one else to ask...
What do you think of Khalid ibn Walid? Is he overrated?
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Xenophon
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Re: Antigonid : Play misty for me: Kynoskephalai

Post by Xenophon »

Agesilaos wrote:
Perhaps it would be better to reply to just one or two points, discuss them and then move on, that keeps the discussion tighter.......
I’d certainly agree with this. My view on what happened in detail at Cynoscephalae is somewhat different to Agesilaos’ view, though I’d agree in broad terms. I’m still working on that response....
Meanwhile, a number of 20-20 hindsight comments have been made, and some are inaccurate and others based on misinterpretations.

Hypaspist wrote:
This is really a battle that the macedonians should have won. And could have. Incredible that lessons were not drawn from Pyrrhus engagements with the romans.
This battle was not the more typical “set piece” battle fought by mutual consent, but rather what is called an “encounter” battle, brought on by accident and not at the wish of either side, because such unplanned battles can go to either side due to circumstances beyond the control of the commanders - which is exactly what happened.

In Philip’s case, as Livy XXXIII.8 says : ” But as owing to the darkness[ due to lowlying cloud/mist] a battle was the last thing he had looked for on that day, and as a large number of men of all ranks had been sent out to forage, he was for a considerable time at a loss what to do..... the king, reluctant and hesitating, declared that the action had been begun rashly and that neither the time nor the place suited him, he was at last driven into bringing the whole of his forces into the field.”
And as for Flamininus: “The Roman commander did the same, more because no other course was open to him than because he wished to seize the opportunity of a battle.

Both sides knew that the unwanted battle could go either way....

In order to comprehend what happened, I think we should have an understanding of the campaign that was the prelude to the battle.
We should bear in mind the intentions of the parties. The Romans, advancing north, had intended to capture Pthiotic Thebes by betrayal [Polyb XVIII.18; Livy XXXIII.5], but Philip had thwarted this by his swift advance south. The armies met in the vicinity of Pherae, where inconclusive skirmishing demonstrated the unsuitability of the terrain for battle ( it was cultivated and populated and covered in groves, stone walls, fences, hedges and the like). Due to his rapid advance, Philip was now short of supplies, and the nearest area where there were plentiful grain supplies was around Scotusa. Consequently he headed west to revictual, marching to the north of the Cynoscephalae ridge. He would then continue west to the pass, “side-stepping” the Romans, where he would turn south and debouch onto the Pharsalus plain – an area much more suited to a major battle, and where he could march around the Roman flank and cut off their lines of communication, thus forcing a battle on his own terms..
Flamininus knew that this was Philip’s only realistic option, and he too headed west, but on the south side of the ridge, hoping to outmarch Philip and reach Scotusa first and destroy the corn [Polyb XVIII.19 ; Livy XXXIII.6]. After 2 days marching, Philip succeeded in getting there first and proceeded to gather supplies. Each army was still effectively screened from the other by the intervening high ridge. Philip’s intention was to reach the pass next day and head south through it onto the Pharsalus plain. Overnight there were very heavy thunderstorms, and come the dawn low-hanging clouds/thick mist and the soaking ground made progress all but impossible, but Philip, anxious not to lose time tried anyway.He didn’t get far before deciding to camp. In order not waste the rest of the day, he sent out foragers to continue gathering supplies. Since Philip was a competent General, he also sent on an advance force to picket the heights above the pass, thus securing it. [Polyb XVII.20.4-9; Livy XXXIII.6.] The pause to gather supplies had allowed the Romans south of the ridge to ‘catch up’, and Flamininus too was in reach of the pass. As with Philip, the weather prevented any further advance, and Flamininus didn’t even attempt to leave his camp. He sent a force of 10 turmae of cavalry ( the 300 cavalry of 1 Legion) and 1,000 velites forward to reconnoitre toward the pass. In the low visibility, the two advance forces literally blundered into each other .......

I’ll pause there, and save an account of the actual battle for my main response to Agesilaos’ original post, not least because this post is getting long..
For now, I’ll stick to the minor points I want to elucidate.
As for “lessons from Pyrrhus”, the Macedonians learned that these western barbarians were a formidable foe, capable of fighting a phalanx to a draw under the right circumstances, but the phalanx had not been beaten, and was still invincible – no barbarian army had ever, in over 200 years, beaten a Macedonian phalanx ( not quite true! ). Nor can I agree that Philip was a poor commander, not up to the standards of his predecessors. He was certainly competent, and had been successful in the past both as General and Admiral. Indeed, in the present campaign he had already beaten the Romans, as Livy tells us [XXXIII.4 ] :
Against the defeat sustained in the narrows at the Aous river he set the triple defeat inflicted at Atrax by the Macedonian phalanx upon the Romans......the Macedonian phalanx, on the other hand, had stood fast even then, and would always stand unconquered when regular battle was joined on level ground.” ( my emphasis)

I agree with Agesilaos that the phalanx was as good as it had ever been – certainly not “cumbersome”. Sir Edward Creasy and others have succumbed to this ‘myth’ from the hindsight of its defeat at the hands of the more flexible Romans – and this relative Roman flexibility was true to an extent. But we are comparing phalanxes, and Philip’s phalanx was no more cumbersome than Alexander’s.

Agesilaos wrote:
Once Philip succumbed to the optimism of the messages he was getting from his holding force he was doomed, defeat was inevitable so this was no close run thing. Alexander, I suspect would not have engaged on the say so of his light infantry or cavalry, he would have inspected the scene himself while the whole army gathered; then he would have discerned that all that had happened was that an affair of outposts was going his way, he would not have been drawn into giving battle with half the army on unfavourable ground, and would have moved off to his goal putting Flamininus under C3 stress. Nor would Alexander's lieutenants have acted as negligently as Nikanor.
I can’t agree with this at all. Philip did not “succumb” to, or be guided by, junior officers of his light troops, who were mere ‘barbarian’ allies at that; nor to his own Macedonian staff ( despite Polybius’ statement that these “provoked” him into giving battle.) In reality, he had no choice. He couldn’t simply leave these allies ‘in the lurch’ and stay snug in his camp while they were beaten and destroyed by the Romans – whose left wing Legions had joined the fray. Had he done so, those allies would likely have abandoned him, or even deserted to the Romans - understandably so.
Very sensibly, Philip did not await the return of his many foragers, but started to deploy his phalanx to support his light troops, now being forced to retreat uphill. He succeeded in taking the G.T.I. ( ground of tactical importance) – the ridge line summit – before the Romans. Should Philip, as Agesilaos suggests Alexander would have done, rushed off to his advance force to see for himself ? Hardly, for he wouldn’t have seen much, if anything, in the thick mist !! ( and nor would the hypothetical Alexander seen anything or learned much either. Even if Alexander could have seen what was happening, I can't imagine him shrugging and abandoning his troops to the Romans - that would have been cowardly. The 'heroic' Alexander would have been even more forced than Philip was to rescue his men).

By the time it started to clear, both sides had already escalated until all their light troops were engaged, and part of the Legions as well. It was certainly no longer “an affair of outposts”, if it ever had been, nor were things going Philip’s way. At this stage Philips’ forces were in danger of destruction – unless they were reinforced. Philip, recognising this priority, was engaged quite properly in arranging just that. One may note that Flamininus didn’t rush off to his advance troops either, but like Philip stayed with his main force to supervise what must have been a tricky deployment in the conditions.

I don’t understand why you categorise Nikanor as “negligent”. He had been given the difficult task of supervising the continuing deployment of the phalanx from camp, gathering in the foragers, organising them presumably into ‘ad hoc’ units, and sending all these forward as quickly as possible. He seems to have accomplished this admirably with no delay, especially given the conditions. He could not possibly know what was happening on the far side of the ridge – that the King would be “compelled to go to their assistance”[his light troops and cavalry; Polyb XVIII.24.6], or that the Roman right wing, led by elephants, would charge the left wing phalanx before it could fully deploy.

The reality was that all the participants were reacting to force of circumstance, with little choice in their actions.
Phew!! I’d best stop there, I think !


confused directional sense corrected! The armies moved west from Pherae ( not east)
Last edited by Xenophon on Tue May 13, 2014 1:50 am, edited 1 time in total.
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