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Seleukid: milky at Magnesia

Posted: Wed Jun 11, 2014 1:49 pm
by agesilaos
This is merely a notice of coming attractions the sources for which are Livy XXXVII 39ff ( ... Book_37#39 ) , and Appian 'Syrian Wars' 6ff ... 5B%A730%5D ought to provide links, the Latin and Greek can, as usual be found on Perseus.

Re: Seleukid: milky at Magnesia

Posted: Thu Jun 12, 2014 8:40 am
by Paralus
Oh deary me... Once more unto the breach good friends, once more / To close the phalanx up with half files we dread!

Re: Seleukid: milky at Magnesia

Posted: Thu Jun 19, 2014 7:11 pm
by agesilaos
The Battle Site

The site of the battle was identified by Kromayer as lying between the villages he called Tschaus-Oglu (Cavu-soglu) and Muteweli (Mutevelli) with Karagatschly (Karagacli) which lie around 27 degrees 34 minutes East and 38 degrees 58 minutes North

(Picture too big) :cry:

The plain is fairly flat and constricted between two rivers, the northernmost of which seems to have left its channel and now flows more to the north; the red line represents the approximate line of contact with the Romans coming from the left and Antiochos from the right.

The Forces
Livy, XXXVII 39 vii
7] Romana acies unius prope formae fuit et hominum et armorum genere. duae legiones Romanae, duae socium ac Latini nominis erant; quina milia et quadringenos singulae habebant.
The Roman battle-line was almost from one mould regarding both the men and their arms. There were two Roman legions and two from the Allies of Latin name; each having 5,400 men.
We might expect 2,000 Hastati and Principes, 600 Triarii and 600 velites which would leave 200 unaccounted for which probably belong in the velites, so 800 lights. Bar-Kochva in ‘The Seleucid Army’ Cambridge University Press (1976, paperback reprint 2011) reckons the Hastati at only 1500, which must be wrong as Livy and Polybios both tell us that when the legions were overstrength the triarii remained at 600; his version would have the velites at 1800. We know that Flamininus had 2,000 Hastati in his legions at Kynoskephalai, and Aemilius had the same at Pydna, most likely Domitius’ legions were similarly manned.
There were, therefore, 8,000 men in six ranks on a three foot interval making the Legions occupy 1333 1/3 yards.

The Roman left was held by a further 120 cavalry, four turmae; each turma was 30 men strong and may have fought five deep rather than the Hellenistic standard of eight. I base this purely on the organisation of the unit which had three decuriones which would imply three files of ten but Polybios clearly states that eight is as deep as cavalry can be useful, so six files of five on a six foot interval, each would occupy 36 feet or twelve yards. Each squadron requires its own frontage as an interval in order to turn unimpeded but this could equally be allowed for by each second unit forming a second line just as in the infantry. This would take up 108 yards, then. Total so far 1441 yards.

To the right of the legions there were 3,000 ‘caetrati’ which can mean peltasts; they are part of the battle line and will be in close order and eight deep as likely as not so a further 375 yards for a running total of 1816.

There was then a large body of cavalry 800 Pergamene and 2,200 Roman; there were eighty turmae with a consular (four legion) army, twenty Roman and sixty allied 2,200 comes to 73 1/3 turmae, so it may well be a round number for the remaining 77 which would occupy 924 yards and the Pergamenes, eight deep another 200 for a new total of 2940 yards.

Finally, there were 500 Cretans and 500 Tralleis, these were light infantry or psiloi, as is clear from their attack on the scythed chariots, why the translation posted makes them cavalry is beyond me, it is certainly not in the Latin. As psiloi they would have a notional depth of eight and interval of two yards so they would add 250 yards making the Roman line 3,190 yards long.

The red line measures 3,890 metres so this calculation does not seem far off, some of this extra 700 yards would be taken up by intervals but it is likely that the Romans did have an open flank; Domitius had offered battle three times previously and Antiochos had declined , he must have advanced to a weaker position, then in order to draw the cagey Seleukid from his camp and into battle.

Next the Seleukid deployment and controversy!!!

Re: Seleukid: milky at Magnesia

Posted: Thu Jun 19, 2014 10:11 pm
by Paralus
Probably better to use Perseus: ... apter%3D40

I also think that Livy has either confused his source or simply run-off at the quill in enumerating these lights as an extension of the line ('on the extreme flank...'). From the battle description these operate along with the cavalry (in support) in stopping the chariots. They were near certainly across the front of the right cavalry - a la Alexander's right at Gaugamela - for this express purpose as Appian implies.

Re: Seleukid: milky at Magnesia

Posted: Fri Jun 20, 2014 8:51 am
by agesilaos
A much better translation, thanks; I don't think the lights would be in front of the cavalry, which has four times there frontage which would leave them only two deep, they could have been behind the cavalry and used to support them as the Agrianoi supported the Companions at Graneikos.

Livy's slippery quill is apparent when we get to the Seleukid line so it it certainly not certain that the lights were on the flank, although they may have started there and then moved into action against the chariots.

Appian does say that the psiloi were intermingled with the whole of the cavalry Syrian Wars 31. But he also has the Allies behind The Romans and Eumenes behind these,
[31] Both marched out about the last watch, just before daylight. The ordering of the troops on either side was as follows. The Roman legionaries, to the number of 10,000, formed the left wing resting on the river. Behind these were 10,000 Italian allies, and both these divisions were in files in triple line of battle. Behind the Italians came the army of Eumenes and about 3000 Achæan peltasts. Thus stood the left, while on the right wing were the Roman and Italian cavalry and those of Eumenes, not more than 3000 in all. Mingled with all these were light-armed troops and bowmen, and around Domitius himself were four troops of horse. Altogether they were about 30,000 strong. Domitius took his station on the right wing and placed the consul in the centre. He gave the command of the left wing to Eumenes. Considering his African elephants of no use, being few in number and of small size, as those of Africa usually are (and the small ones are afraid of the larger), he placed them in the rear of all. Such was the Roman line of battle.
He then gives Eumenes command of the left when all his troops were on the right! Unless he has been confused by Polybios meaning the Seleukid left. Both our sources are giving us a faulty version of the original.

Re: Seleukid: milky at Magnesia

Posted: Sat Jun 21, 2014 12:40 am
by Paralus
One needs, of course, to read both accounts. Appian seems, at times, the more capricious in his transmission. Livy - correctly - places the scythed chariots in the front of the cavalry of Antiochos' left. Appian 'confirms' this (6.33) saying that these (and the dromedaries) "were mostly ranged against him [Eumenes]". Appian has the light troops "run about" (περιθέοντας) the chariots whilst Livy, with more detail, has them "rush out and shower weapons upon them from all sides at once" (37.41.9) with some cavalry troops in support. Both have slightly garbled their source methinks. Livy is the more reasonable and his retelling presumes the lights to be posted with the cavalry. Again, I'd suggest these troops were posted in the van of these cavalry units as Alexander had the Agrianians and javelin men at Gaugamela. The lights rush out and around the advancing chariots with the "troops of cavalry, not in mass-formation but as widely separated as possible" - a description which must be near a straight lift from Polybios. That they did this from where Livy's florid quill has them - on the extreme end of the line - does not make sense to me.

And now friends, once more unto the rugger. Australia to loose some attacking flair against the Les Blue and the English, having attempted the All Black game, to fall to the Blacks' sword once more....

Re: Seleukid: milky at Magnesia

Posted: Sat Jun 21, 2014 9:50 am
by agesilaos
Agreed, although my preference is not to have the lights out front but lurking as a nasty surprise, which smacks of familiarity with scythed chariots, and the appropriate counter measures; I would venture, then, that the cavalry in question are Pergamene lights, 1,000 psiloi to 800 horse seems a good ratio, and looser formation of the light horse compensates for moving the lights from the flank, leaving the total length broadly correct (we lose 250 yards for the psiloi but the horse increase from 200 yards and we can probably factor in additional intervals between the squadrons.

England have obliged, but it was to be expected; looking forward to the real World Cup next year.

Re: Seleukid: milky at Magnesia

Posted: Tue Jun 24, 2014 3:26 pm
by agesilaos
Moving on to the Seleukid dispositions, we have a full list in Livy but several problems arise which prevent us from taking it at face value. He gives a line consisting of an unspecified number of Kyrtaian slingers and Elymian bows, Mysian bows 2,500,an unstated number of Mixed psiloi , Tralleis and Cretans 3,000, Argyraspids probably 10,000, 16 elephants (in reserve), Agema 1000, Cataphracti 3,000, Gallo Grecians 1,500, Phalanx 16,000, Gallo-grecian 1,500, Kappadokians 2,000, Mixed Psiloi 2,700, Cataphracti 3000, Companions 1000, Tarantines in unknown strength, Gallo-grecian cav 2,500, Neoi Kretai 1000, Cariani and Cilicians 1,500, Tralleis 1500, Peltasts 4000, Kyrt Elym (as other wing), 16 els; of these there are 31,000 close order infantry (Argyraspids, phalanx, Gallo-grecians and Kappadokians) the phalanx was 32 deep and, given their identical armament it would be reasonable to assume the same of the argyraspids; they would occupy 26,000 /32 yards = 812. The Gallo-grecians (or Galatians) and the Kappadocians, might have been on a more open frontage, they used long slashing swords which required room to wield effectively and depth was not helpful, but Antiochos was guilty of deploying other troops to too great a depth so we cannot rule out his doing the same for these troops, allowing a depth of sixteen and an interval of five feet we arrive at an additional 520 yards to make 1332 yards.

There were also 6,000 cataphracts, 1,000 agema and 1,000 companions in the main battle line, assuming a depth of eight and an interval of two yards we have 2,000 more yards, or a total of 3,332 and we have yet to factor in the elephants which are stated to be in the intervals between each 1,600 man phalanx unit and a multitude of missile armed troops, yet the maximum available frontage was c.3,900yards, each elephant would need about seven yards; we are told there were two in each interval, of which there were nine in the phalanx, and Appian’s statement that there were twenty-two confirms that the flanks had elephants as well: 22 times seven is a further 154 yards, it is also likely that the Argyraspids were similarly supported and that the sixteen elephants on that wing were in their intervals adding another 112 yards bring the total to 3, 398 yards, leaving 500 yards or so for the Galatian cavalry and the flank guard of Tarantines. The remainder of lights must therefore have fought in front of the Phalanx, a fact confirmed by the battle narratives.

The number of these light troops is not certain; it seems to me that the Kyrtaian and Elymaian troops represent the elephant guard, possibly fifty per beast, so we can discount these from the skirmish screen. We then have, 2,500 Mysians, probably 2,700 mixed psiloi (given Antiochos’ almost symmetrical deployment), 3,000 Tralleis and Cretans, another 2,700 mixed psiloi, 1,000 neoi –cretans, 1,500 Carians and Cilicians and 1500 Tralleis with 4,000 peltasts to be taken into consideration; so almost 15,000 lights which would cover 3,700 yards at a two yard interval, eight deep.

Supplementary to these there were a number of scythed chariots deployed in front of a body of dromedary mounted troops which faced Eumenes on the Roman right.

Another thing which might give us pause is the separation of the king from the Royal Guard (the companions). It is possible that Livy has transposed the wings and there is a hint from Appian that this might well be the case. But we shall leave that for next time and the battle.

What has to be said here is that there is no evidence that the Seleucids adopted a formation of two sixteen deep phalanx blocks one in front of the other, as has been suggested elsewhere, both our sources state quite plainly that the line was thirty-two deep, nor is it possible that Polybios would not have mentioned the fact that Antiochos had formed a di-phalangia, in his criticism of Kallisthenes he suggests that just such a formation wold have been a better option as Alexander deployed from the Pass of the Pillar of Jonah towards Issos (despite his major gaff here it demonstrates that he understood this formation and could have named it.

Antiochos was criticised for deploying his phalanx on too constricted a front and placing his reliance on untried levies; points we shall develop next.

Re: Seleukid: milky at Magnesia

Posted: Sun Jun 29, 2014 6:17 pm
by agesilaos
The grand tactics of the two sides seem of quite a different order; the Romans lined up as usual as far as the infantry went but deployed a massive cavalry wing on the right alongside their Pergamene allies. We are told that the armies had drawn up for battle five or six times before Antiochos finally accepted battle, it might well be worth considering that this was a departure from the standard Roman deployment which had previously been symmetrical and that the change was Domitius’ grand tactical ploy. We can be reasonably sure that Antiochos deployed to face the formation he had previously encountered as we are told that neither army could see the other initially; the story of the Seleukids not being able to see one wing from the other is nonsense as the battlefields restricted flanks meant both lines were the same length.
MAGNES1.gif (40.35 KiB) Viewed 6194 times

This shows the actual deployment, but a more standard Roman set up might be
MAGNES2.gif (38.83 KiB) Viewed 6194 times
It is a further possibility that the Pergamene cavalry had originally formed up on the extreme right of the Roman line and was moved opposite the chariots in the final challenge (had Antiochos not accepted battle the plan was to storm his camp).

Accepting these notions for a moment we see that Antiochos was not being as revolutionary as has been claimed (by Bar-Kochva, for instance) . His right flank cavalry would be expecting to face the roman cavalry rather than the legion and ala that they did; the chariots would be notionally aimed at the peltasts (the type of troops against which they had had their only success, two centuries previously under Pharnabazos); and the massive phalanx would be looking to shatter the Roman legions leaving the Latins to the Galatians and Kappodokians, the whole Roman line having been softened up by the forward deployment of his missile men whose weapons outranged the Roman velites’.

The positioning of elephants within the phalanx has aroused many questions and Delbruck rejected the whole battle narrative as ‘a fantasy’ practically on the strength of this detail. Janke thought it demonstrated a purely defensive role for the phalanx, which is bizarre; elephants are not concrete strong-points. Nor is the answer that they would give the phalanx the same flexibility that the Italiote infantry had given Pyrrhos’ phalanx; the Italians were interspersed with every speira or 16 man frontage here the elephants were every 50 men nor can elephants move as flexibly as loose order foot (despite the lights accompanying them). Surely the answer lies in the Roman response to the elephants; advised as he was by Hannibal, he would be expecting them to form lanes to allow the charging elephants through, but these elephants were closely supported both by light missile troops and the phalanx, a neat conundrum for Domitius, to which he was never forced to respond.

As it happened, the weather drew the teeth of Antiochos’ missile screen and Eumenes attacked the chariots pre-emptively. At almost the same Antiochos launched an attack with his right and drove the allied ala and possibly the Roman legion back to their camp. In the meantime, according to Livy, Eumenes had driven the chariots back through the dromedaries and the lights supporting them, going on to strike the cataphracts as they were being pushed through and the rout spread to the phalanx in the centre and the army collapsed.

Appian has the Macedonian phalanx ‘open to accept the retreating lights and close again’ and then form a square which remains halted facing off the Roman feints until missiles madden the elephants within and the formation breaks. This could be taken as a contradiction but Appian stresses the experienced nature of these troops so it is possible that he is, in fact, talking about the Argyraspids.