The Probable site of Kynoskephalae battlefield 197 BC

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The Probable site of Kynoskephalae battlefield 197 BC

Post by Xenophon » Sun Mar 08, 2015 5:40 am

As a spin-off from the Kynoskephalae thread ( all 15 pages!), as indicated, I shall write up here what I believe to be the likeliest site for the battle of Kynoskephalae between King Philip V of Macedon and the Romans under Titus Quinctius Flamininus.
The subject of just where this battle took place has not had a great deal of study focused on it, not least because in the past there were not even terribly good maps of Northern Greece and Albania ( ancient Macedon and Epirus) readily available. The last major study was by Nicholas Geoffrey Lemprière Hammond (15 November 1907 – 24 March 2001), who was a British scholar of the ancient Greek and Macedonian world, and who served as a spy and operative for the British Special Operations Executive (SOE) in German occupied Greece and Albania during World War II, and hence had a working knowledge of the geography of the region. He wrote a study on the subject of “The campaign and battle of Cynoscephalae in 197 BC” which appeared in the Journal of Hellenic studies in 1988, and was for its day a masterful analysis. I make no apology for making this the start point for this subject, and will refer to it frequently, rather than “re-invent the wheel”. For those with access, it is readily available on JSTOR and should be read before proceeding.
Unfortunately, Hammond’s choice of battle site does not fit many of the requirements of the Kynoskephalae battle field, as we shall see. Paralus, in the Kynoskephalae thread, mentioned an article he wrote for “Ancient Warfare” magazine, in which he essentially followed Hammond’s site, save that he moved the battle a few hundred metres east, and had it taking place in two adjacent valleys rather than Hammond’s two ridges, because he thought that there was some sort of watershed between the Roman Left and Right. Whilst I agree with him in this, that there was some sort of feature which split the Roman Left from Right, advancing up valleys overlooked by heights on three sides would be militarily inept ( as Philip II found to his cost when fighting the Phokians under Onomarchos in 353 BC – one of his very few defeats.)
It is also important to note that any consensus achieved can only be on a ‘balance of probability’ basis pending some archaeological research ( always difficult, even in respect of known battlefields)
For those without access to Hammond’s article, I’ll give a brief resume of the campaign situation leading up to Kynoskephalae. The terrain can be envisaged roughly as a triangle, with Larisa at its apex. This was Philip’s base at the commencement of the campaign. Down the right-hand [ Eastern] side was a major route into the Thessalian plain. This route passed south-east and crossed the East-West mountain range [the base of the triangle] via a pass at Pherae, some 40-45 km from Larisa. To the south of the pass Philip had a garrison covering it based at Pthiotic Thebes [not Boeotia!], and others in the area at Echinus, Larissa Cremaste, and Demetrias, his main base on the Gulf of Pagasae. At the other end of the base of the triangle, which was the Karadog mountain range, lay the other major route leading north from Pharsalus, via a pass at Palaepharsalus[ modern Krini or Krene] to Larisa, some 30 km or so to the north of the pass. The Romans, based to the south-west, would have to invade by one or other of these two major routes and passes. Poised at Larisa, Philip could swiftly head to either, depending on which route the Romans came by. The fertile Enipeus river paralleled the Karadag range to its south, and this was the natural route to the Eastern pass at Pherae for the Romans to take from their base in south-west Thessaly. Philip tried to deny this route to the Romans by a ‘scorched earth’ policy, evacuating the population and destroying the crops and buildings of five cities and many villages in the valley. Nevertheless, Philip received news that the Romans were at Pthiotic Thebes, approaching the eastern Pherae pass. He promptly marched down the south-east side of the triangle, some 38 km in one day, hoping to beat the Romans to the pass and secure it, denying them entry. Next day he resumed his march toward the Pherae pass, some 5-6km away, believing the Romans to still be in the vicinity of Pthiotic Thebes, some 15 km away to the south. To secure the pass, he sent on ahead his light forces in the pre-dawn darkness to seize the ridge which forms the head of the pass just south of Pherae. Towards dawn his main army started its march. At that moment he learned that his light forces had met enemy light forces at the ridge while it was still dark. He withdrew to his camp. [ note this action of securing the high ground overlooking a pass, for it will occur again]. Philip had failed to reach his intended objective, the vicinity of Phthiotic Thebes. It was a successful operation from Flamininus’ point of view. He had cut Philip off from the Macedonian garrisons at Phthiotic Thebes and Demetrias and also from the supplies accumulated there. He knew that the ground ahead was unfavourable for the Macedonian phalanx. His own supply lines from Xyniae were safe; and if the Roman fleet should anchor in the Pagasae Gulf, as it had done in 198 BC, a large force of marines could escort supplies to him from the supply-ships. Conversely, Philip had made a very serious miscalculation. Now he was cut off from the garrisons and the supplies of Phthiotic Thebes and Demetrias, he had lost contact with the southeastern sector of his defence line and he was faced by ground unsuitable for his phalanx. Worse still, he had come without adequate supplies in his haste to reach Pherae; for he had counted on making contact with Demetrias and Phthiotic Thebes to replenish. Next day there was fierce fighting between the forces of cavalry and light-armed infantry which each commander sent forward into the gap by Pherae, and the Aetolians were said [Polybius XVIII.9.11] to have distinguished themselves . The ground round Pherae was broken up by drystone walls, small enclosures and plantations, and it was unsuitable for any heavy infantry formation, whether Macedonian or Roman. Thus neither commander was prepared to bring on a major battle.Philip successfully barred the pass. Thwarted, Flamininus had little choice but to try for the 'western'pass on the other major route which ran north through Pharsalus, Palaepharsalus, Crannon and thence to Larissa. This pass lay some 38 km/24 miles or so to the west. Flamininus set off marching south of the Karadag range. Philip swiftly followed suit, knowing the Romans had little choice but to adopt this strategy, paralleling the Roman march north of the Karadag range. At the end of the first day, Philip had reached scotusa where he re-supplied his army, while the Romans stopped at Eretria. At the end of the second day, Philip was camped at ‘Melambium’, still in Scotussan territory on the way to Palaepharsalus. Flamininus was camped by a place called the ‘Thetideum’, south of the range in Pharsalan territory. Now the armies were unknowingly neck and neck, separated by the Karadag ridge, each unable to see the other, but having a rough idea where the other must be. There were storms overnight of the second day, making both armies tired and miserable. Both were within striking distance of Palaepharsalus and the pass at dawn of the third day, but in the aftermath of the storms, there was low cloud and thick mist, making visibility non-existent. Nevertheless, Philip broke camp and struggled westward, but was forced to abort and camp, by the weather conditions, and sent out troops to finish foraging for fodder. South of the range, Flamininus didn’t try to set out, but remained in camp. Both commanders, with the pass so temptingly close, were anxious to secure it, and both sent out strong forces to do so by once again seizing the Ground of Tactical Importance – the ridge heights which dominated the pass, just as they had at the eastern Pherae pass. When the two forces collided on the heights in the mist, the battle got under way ( see Kynoskephale thread for the actual battle.)
To get this thread underway, I will list what information can be gleaned from our sources (numbered, so the points can be referred to in subsequent posts by anyone wishing to contribute).
1. The first point, and one which has confused subsequent scholars, is whether the site was called ‘Kynoskephale’(singular)/The Dog Head or ‘Kynoskephalae’(plural)/ The Dog’s heads
2. The site of the respective camps. Philip had moved from “Melambium’ to an unknown site not far away but Flaminus was still encamped around the ‘Thetideum’. When Flamininus’ army deploys from camp he is ‘close to the hills’,[Pol XVIII.22.7] hence he camped on the level ground.
3. The ground is ‘very rough and broken’ and ‘attains a considerable height’.[Polybius XVIII.22.10]
4. The ridge, or ridges, run East-West. This ridge must be at least between 1,000 and 2,000 yards long
5. After ascending the ridge via the pass/hyperbolus, Philip’s phalanx deploys probably by sub-units /speirai 16x16, to the left along the summit of the ridge. In open order, they occupy 1,000-1,250 yards of frontage [ depending on exact numbers]
6. Flamininus’ advance force of about 1,000 infantry and 300 cavalry ‘proceed toward the pass going over the hills’[Pol XVIII.21.2]
7. Philip closes up to his right in double depth [i.e. close order, 16 deep, on a 500-625 yard frontage] and charges the Roman Left wing, on a similar frontage, pushing them back.
8. The Roman right, preceded by Numidian elephants, charges up the slope, scattering the Macedonian left who are still arriving on the ridge.
9. A Roman Tribune peels off 20 maniples ( probably the Triarii), marches along the ridge and charges down into the rear of Philip’s hitherto successful right. The Macedonians are completely routed.
Using Google Earth images, I will attach the proposed sites of Hammond and myself. Since this is now a long post, I will save commentary on the numbered points above, and how well the two proposed sites fit the criteria for subsequent posts. By posting the proposed sites, this will allow interested parties to check out the area via Google Earth.....
Attachments
Kynoskephalae probable site of battle 2.jpg
from south. Roman deployment in blue, divided by spur line. Philip's first position in red; second 'closed up' position in Magenta. Frontages to scale aprox.
Kynoskephalae probable site of battle 2.jpg (111.51 KiB) Viewed 8726 times
Kynoskephalae probable site of battle.jpg
Philip's position in red, closed up in Magenta.Note road north through Krini/Palaepharsalus on left
Kynoskephalae probable site of battle.jpg (113.08 KiB) Viewed 8726 times
Kynoskephalae general area with Hammond's location.jpg
Positions in Hammond's article marked. My proposed site some 3.5-4 km west
Kynoskephalae general area with Hammond's location.jpg (111.38 KiB) Viewed 8726 times
Last edited by Xenophon on Wed Nov 16, 2016 10:04 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: The Probable site of Kynoskephalae battlefield 197 BC

Post by Xenophon » Sun Mar 08, 2015 5:54 am

Some more views of the proposed probable battlefield.Note 'very rough and broken terrain' which 'attains a considerable height' [Pol XVIII.22.10] :
Attachments
Kynoskephale showing Roman right plus elephants in front and Aetolians advancing up slope..jpg
Kynoskephale showing Roman right plus elephants in front and Aetolians advancing up slope..jpg (126.06 KiB) Viewed 8725 times
Kynoskephale position from roughly Roman camp in foreground 'close to hills'. Blue line showing advance of Roman left up hill.jpg
Kynoskephale position from roughly Roman camp in foreground 'close to hills'. Blue line showing advance of Roman left up hill.jpg (112.35 KiB) Viewed 8725 times
Kynoskephalae looking down ridge from Philip's position (magenta line) to Roman left wing position (medium blue).jpg
Kynoskephalae looking down ridge from Philip's position (magenta line) to Roman left wing position (medium blue).jpg (120.33 KiB) Viewed 8725 times

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Re: The Probable site of Kynoskephalae battlefield 197 BC

Post by Xenophon » Fri Mar 13, 2015 1:51 am

I shall now address the numbered criteria gleaned from our sources, with a view to establishing which location best fits those criteria. Firstly, in his article, Hammond demolishes earlier proposed sites, those of Kromayer and Pritchett, both of whom placed the battle too far East, Pritchett in the vicinity of Scotussa, and Kromayer some 5 km further west, while Hammond opted for a site another 5 km still further west, above the village of Zoodohkos Pege. Scotussa is roughly 24 km/14.5 miles due west of Pherae, and Palaepharsalus roughly another 12.7 km/7.9 miles further west. The total distance was therefore of the order of 36.7 km/22.4 miles. Since we might consider 24-32 km/15-20 miles a typical day’s march for an ancient army ( and Philip had covered 38 km/23.5 miles from Larissa to Pherae in one day), it comes as no surprise that Philip reached Scotussa in one day, where he set about replenishing his supplies. Flamininus, of necessity starting later in the day once his reconnaissance forces had reported Philip’s departure west reached Eretria, a march of roughly 15 km.[Poly XVII.20.5].

1. The first point, and one which has confused subsequent scholars, is whether the site was called ‘Kynoskephale’(singular)/The Dog Head or ‘Kynoskephalae’(plural)/ The Dog’s heads

Polybius is our main source and at XVIII.22.10 “The aforesaid ridges are called ‘Dog-Heads’, and they are rough and broken and they attain a considerable height.” Plutarch [Flam VIII.2], Strabo[441] and Livy[XXXIII.7.5] follow suit, but Livy has Philip’s army come over ‘the ridge’(singular) , and again at 7.9 and 7.10 - as Hammond says, probably using a different source. Zonaras IV.16 has the opposing armies camped on either side of a ridge called Cynoscephale (singular).

Can we determine which is correct? When a feature is named after a familiar object due to a similarity in shape, it is usually a single feature e.g. Table mountain (Capetown) or Sugar Loaf mountain ( Rio de Janeiro), and today there are many Dog Head mountains worldwide – all single features. “Dog Head” mountains are characterised by a dome shape ( the skull), drawn out at one end by a spur – the ‘muzzle’ of the ‘Dog Head’. This is obviously not conclusive as to which is correct, of course. However, there is a very important clue from a contemporary source. Plutarch preserves an elegiac epigram by the poet Alcaeus, written at the time, mocking Philip, which begins:
Unwept and without graves are we, o traveller, who on this ridge(singular) of Thessaly lie dead....”[Gk “nwton”= ridge or back, as in hogs back]
On balance of probability therefore ‘kynoskephale/Dog Head’ (singular) is preferable, which fits the feature above Palaepharsalae ‘sniffing’ the place with its muzzle to the west, as seen in profile from either north or south ( see previous post images). On the other hand, there is nothing remotely resembling a ‘Dog Head’, or even ‘Dogs heads’ on Hammond’s site which is just undulating smooth farmland now, and likely pasture in 197 BC, and unlike the feature illustrated in my previous post, it is not “rough and broken”, nor does it attain “a considerable height” above the surrounding terrain. Hammond has the battle taking place across two spurs, whose dimensions do not fit the battlefield dimensions ( more anon).

2. The site of the respective camps. Philip had moved from an unknown ‘Melambium’ to another unknown site not far away but Flaminus was still encamped around the ‘Thetideion’. When Flamininus’ army deploys from camp he is ‘close to the hills’,[Pol XVIII.22.7] hence he camped on the level ground.

As the second day dawned, Philip was in the vicinity of Scotussa, some 14-16 kilometres/8-10 miles from the pass and Palaepharsalus. He should have easily reached there in less than a day, but did not. Flamininus at Eritrea was some 25 km/15.5 miles or so away, and should also have easily reached the objective. Hammond has Philip march a mere 6.6 km/4.1 miles ( to Chalkiades), and Flamininus some 20 km/12.5 miles ( to Hill 260). Given that the two armies were in a race to reach the pass, these are very short distances indeed for a day’s march. Hammond rationalises that Philip “probably started late.” having to load supply wagons, and probably dallied “to let his horse feed” and the grooms gather fodder. This however, does not explain why Flamininus was so dilatory.

If the battle took place at my suggested site ( which for convenience I shall call ‘the Kynoskephale feature’) Philip covered something like 14 km/8 miles or so – still a short day’s march, and so could still have been delayed setting off, while Flamininus covered 23-25 km/15 miles or so, closer to a normal day’s march, to camp around the Thetideion. With both sides slowed, it is likely that they were both delayed by the bad weather which by day 3 would make further advance impossible.

Whilst we have no idea where ‘Melambium’ was located, or Philip’s final camp not far away, there are clues in our sources as to where the Thetideion was, around which the Romans camped [Poly XVIII.20.6], as Hammond points out in his article. It was likely a shrine or similar , sacred to the Goddess Thetis, worshipped in Thessaly as a corn-goddess. Euripides in a play has Thetis “dwell in grassy plains bordering Phthia [Pharsalus] there and the Pharsalian town [Palaepharsalus]". Strabo 441 places it “near the Pharsali old and new”( i.e. between modern Krini and Pharsala). A check of Google Earth shows Pharsalus almost due south of the Kynoskephale feature and Palaepharsalae, and since the Roman deployment from camp was ‘close to the hills’[Poly XVIII.22.7] that would place the camp on the plain just to the south of the Kynoskephale feature. Hammond’s location at hill 260 fails because it is too far east, and is not on the plain/level ground. With the Roman camp in this location, Philip’s final camp on the third day would be opposite, on the northern side of the ridge. Both were tantalisingly close to the pass/Palaepharsalae.

3. The ground is ‘very rough and broken’ and ‘attains a considerable height’.[Polybius XVIII.22.10]

As is readily apparent from the Google Earth images, the Kynoskephale feature is indeed ‘very rough and broken’ and does indeed attain a considerable height above the surrounding terrain. Later, this broken ground on the ridgeline would hinder the deployment of Philip's left wing as it came up.[Polyb XVIII.25.6]. The ground between Hammond’s hill 260 ( where he places the Roman camp) and hill 362 ( the ridge line) rises gently over the 2 km or so in between, and could not be described as a ‘considerable height’ above the Roman position. Nor could it be described as ‘very rough and broken’, consisting of undulating crop fields now, and was then pasturage.

4. The ridge, or ridges, run East-West. This ridge must be at least between 1,000 and 2,000 yards long.

As can be seen from the images, the kynoskephale feature fits the bill admirably. Hammond’s battlefield, across the two spurs, is roughly 1,500 yards wide, but his battlefield is impossibly ‘long’ at over a mile – over 2,000 yards in fact - from ridge-line to Roman camp. In addition when the light troops and cavalry, after withdrawing through the phalanx, are sent to the right flank, they would have had to deploy on the next ridge to the west – spreading the battlefield over three ridges. Philip is said to have been able to see the light infantry battling “not far from the hostile camp”. The maximum distance one can see individuals at is around 400-600 yards. At half a mile[880 yards], only large bodies of troops are visible, not individuals. At 1200 yards, cavalry can be just distinguished from infantry. At 1,500 yards just a dark line can be seen – no formations, or order, made out - and beyond that only very large formations MAY be visible as a shadow on the face of a hillside, or detected by a dust cloud, or a glint of sunlight on arms. And this presumes perfect conditions – good clear line of sight, optimal lighting conditions etc. And of course conditions on that misty morning were far from good. Philip could not have seen the fighting over 2,000 yards away – almost 2 km, and this is proven by the photos accompanying Hammond’s article. Hammond seems to have been aware of this problem for his site, because he moved Philip’s deployment away from the crest, forward and downslope some 600 yards to a line at Kremaste, and he moves the Roman camp northward from level ground around half a mile into the foothills, to the area around hill 260 – and the two armies are still over 1,500 yards apart.

5. After ascending the ridge via a pass/’hyperbolus’, Philip’s phalanx deploys probably by sub-units /speirai 16x16 deep in open order, to the left along the summit of the ridge. In open order, they occupy 1,000-1,250 yards of frontage [ depending on exact numbers]

The reference to ‘the top of the pass/hyperbolus’ may be a reference to the main pass, but this seems unlikely for it would mean Philip had reached his main objective, and that is not what our sources say. While ‘hyperbolus’ can mean “place of passage, mountain-pass, crossing over, passage of mountains, etc.” ; here it probably refers to ‘the crossing over’ place i.e. the ridgeline, which again fits the Kynoskephale feature better than Hammond’s undulating ridgeline.

6. Flamininus’ advance force of about 1,000 infantry and 300 cavalry ‘proceed toward the pass going over the hills’[Pol XVIII.21.2]

On the morning of the third day, after a night of rain and violent storms, during which both sides will have been glad to be ‘sub papilio/under tents’, both armies arose in the pre-dawn to find very thick fog, such that people close by were not visible[Poly XVIII.20.7]. Philip, anxious to reach his objective, tried to march on, but in the dark and fog was forced to stop and re-camp. Flamininus wisely stayed put. Both sides, close to the main pass, were anxious to secure the dominating heights above the pass. Philip sent off a strong covering force of light infantry and cavalry “to occupy the summits” and Flamininus sent a force likewise "over the hills". The clash between these led to the battle. Polybius says the Roman force was ordered to ‘reconnoitre cautiously’, but this force, and the Macedonian one, were far too strong for just reconnaissance– and Polybius is likely to have mistaken the purpose. Moreover, there seems no point in trying to reconnoitre when you can’t see a thing because of fog ! More likely is that the respective forces were sent to secure the Ground of Tactical Importance – the heights dominating the pass and main route north to Larisa, just as they did at Pherae earlier [see Polyb XVIII.19.5]. Hammond’s site is many kilometres to the East, and is of no tactical importance whatever, and it is hard to imagine both armies spontaneously wanting to occupy a nondescript piece of the Karadag chain, let alone going to considerable efforts to do so.

It can thus be seen that Hammond’s site does not fit the terrain, as described in the sources, at all. Nor does it suit the tactical situation. Back in 1988, Hammond picked his site from a small-scale map (1:100,000), and did so on his main factor of water supply and available springs. ( His maps show springs all over the place). In fact, both armies were moving along river valleys, and if the wet weather is anything to go by, water supply was not a problem – quite the opposite in fact! He then went and walked his site on two occasions but did not consider other possible sites. He didn’t have the inestimable advantage of virtual aerial reconnaissance thanks to Google Earth, which has allowed the identification of a number of ancient battlefields with considerable certainty in recent years. Nevertheless, any student of this campaign owes a debt to Hammond’s work.
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Kynoskephale.  Close up of broken ground which hindered Philip's left wing deployment.jpg
close up of broken ground which hindered Philip's left wing deployment.
Kynoskephale. Close up of broken ground which hindered Philip's left wing deployment.jpg (127.5 KiB) Viewed 8692 times

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Re: The Probable site of Kynoskephalae battlefield 197 BC

Post by Xenophon » Sat Mar 21, 2015 7:50 am

I meant to mention earlier, but forgot, that the frontages shown for both armies are drawn to scale - Philip's initial deployment is the red line, his second one after closing up the magenta line, which as the Roman left wing ( medium blue line) approaches up the hillside, he charges and drives back. The Roman right wing ( dark blue line) will advance up the hill, and catch Philip's left wing ( not shown) before it can fully deploy on the ridgeline.

Note that the respective deployments fit this battlefield site perfectly.

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Re: The Probable site of Kynoskephalae battlefield 197 BC

Post by Xenophon » Mon Mar 23, 2015 6:01 am

The following attached maps really relate to my first post regarding the campaign, in which I followed Hammond. I did not have time to prepare them then, so they are added rather belatedly.

The first shows a close-up of the area of the campaign, and the strategic 'triangle' with the two possible invasion routes from Thessaly via the Eastern pass and road north at Pherae, and the western pass and road north at Palaepharsalus. Philip covered both routes from his forward base at Larissa, as related. ( His main base was in the Macedonian heartland much further north, some 45 miles/70 km by road, at Dium.)

The first map shows in close-up the border country where the campaign was fought. Note the following :

1. Road running S.E. in green from Larissa through the Pherae gap and on to Pthiotic Thebes, where Philip had a garrison ( and several others in the area as related above). Philip marched down this road some 38 km/23.5 miles in a single day, to camp some 4-5 km short of the crucial pass, and sent out an advanced force to seize the heights above the pass before dawn the next day, only to be confronted by the Romans doing the same. ( He could have 'forced marched' the extra distance and then dug his camp late, but this would have meant facing the Romans next day with his army exhausted.)

2. Road running S.W. in light blue from Larissa through Palepharsalus [modern Krini], about 20 miles/32 km, and then on to Pharsalus, also garrisoned by Philip. These two routes, essential for the transport of supplies by wagon were the 'gateways' for invasion into Macedon.

3. The significant towns - Larissa, Pthiotic Thebes, and Palaepharsalus are marked with red 'map pins' and their names underlined red (Palaepharsalus is obscured by lettering etc). Eretria, where the Romans camped at the end of the first day after their late start and a 15 km/9 mile march; and Scotussa to the north of which Philip camped after a 24 km/14.5 mile march, in the river Onchestus valley (where Philip re-victualled) are also underlined red

4. The southern ridge of the Karadag range, running E-W is marked in brown, from Pherae to Palaepharsalus.

5. The two major east-west rivers - the Enipeus to the south of the range, and the Onchestus north of the range have their names underlined blue. Each had an associated fertile river valley. ( but it will be recalled that Philip had carried out a 'scorched earth' policy in the southern Enipeus valley to deny the Romans supplies and forage.)

6.On the second map, Hammond's various features, and the probable real battle-site in my view, are shown by yellow map pins. The respective red/blue lines showing the deployments are just visible to the left of the words "Cynoscephalae battlefield probably."

The third map is the same as the first, but from a greater altitude, to show the area's relationship to the nearby East coast, so as to give the reader an idea of the exact location in Greece.
Attachments
Cynoscephalae strategic campaign map.jpg -close up of area. Hammond's sites removed for clarity.jpg
Yellow map pins showing Hammond's sites removed for clarity
Cynoscephalae strategic campaign map.jpg -close up of area. Hammond's sites removed for clarity.jpg (114.85 KiB) Viewed 8653 times
Cynoscephalae strategic campaign map.jpg -close up of area.jpg
showing border country Macedon Thessaly
Cynoscephalae strategic campaign map.jpg -close up of area.jpg (118.3 KiB) Viewed 8653 times
Cynoscephalae srategic campaign map.jpg
showing relationship to East coast
Cynoscephalae srategic campaign map.jpg (164.4 KiB) Viewed 8653 times

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Re: The Probable site of Kynoskephalae battlefield 197 BC

Post by agesilaos » Sat Mar 28, 2015 9:24 pm

I think you are wrong about the correct name of the battle, since not only do the sources use the plural 'kephalai' heads they also describe 'a range of hills' and later Greek morphology make the dipthong AI an eta E, Zonaras is a Byzantine epitomator and should not be preferred over Plutarch Livy and Polybios. That said, the name is strange, Kynos - dog singular - kephalai - heads plural, both nominative. There are also hills beyond the Krini feature so this is not a fatal flaw by any means.

My biggest problem with this suggestion is that both Philip and Flamininus will have had to cross the major route north to Larissa in order to reach it, which makes little sense. This route is that of the modern road passed Chalkiades and Zoodikos Pyrgi, which was still the main route in 1897 when the Turks advanced from Larissa to Pharsalos along it. One also has to consider the earlier battle between Pelopidas and Alexander of Pherai. Pelopidas advances from Pharsalos to meet Alexander advancing from Pherai at Kynoskephalai, which must lie between them and thus something to the east of Pharsalos rather than to the west as the Krini feature is.

As an aside, I agree that Polybios doesw say that Philip moved from Pherai first, but if he is trying to block a Roman move North via Pherai then by moving towards Skotussa he is uncovering the pass he has just dashed from Larissa to block. Do you not think it more likely that Flamininus, his army slowed by the elephants moved first? Philip then continues with his defensive strategy by marching to the next pass, despite Polybios he was not seeking a decisive battle, half the army were raw after all, he merely wanted to block Flamininus until the next season. Not what P says but...?

I think the site to the east of the main road is the one.
When you think about, it free-choice is the only possible option.

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Re: The Probable site of Kynoskephalae battlefield 197 BC

Post by Xenophon » Sun Mar 29, 2015 10:44 pm

Agesilaos wrote:
agesilaos wrote:I think you are wrong about the correct name of the battle, since not only do the sources use the plural 'kephalai' heads they also describe 'a range of hills' and later Greek morphology make the dipthong AI an eta E, Zonaras is a Byzantine epitomator and should not be preferred over Plutarch Livy and Polybios. That said, the name is strange, Kynos - dog singular - kephalai - heads plural, both nominative. There are also hills beyond the Krini feature so this is not a fatal flaw by any means.
To expand on the reasoning I gave above, it should be pointed out that 'kynoskephalae/dog heads'[plural] all stems from Polybius, who will have known that the two armies marched either side of a range of ridges ( though the battle obviously took place on just one, for both Polybius and Livy refer to 'the ridge' singular), and perhaps was a little confused and assumed the name extended to all, or many, of those ridges, hence he is somewhat vague about the actual battle site. Because of this, he therefore confusingly speaks of the battle taking place on 'the hills' and 'the summits' but has Philip's phalanx ascend 'the slope'[singular] and the left wing surmounting 'the ridge'[singular] and the Roman pursuit reaching 'the crest of the ridge'[singular] We should remember that he had no Google Earth, no map even, and would have had to rely on descriptions which ultimately were verbal ones of participants. Plutarch draws on Polybius, as does Livy, though Livy also seems to have had other [Roman] sources as well( such as Valerius Antias and Claudius to whom he refers). As referred to above, he uses the plural at [XXXIII.7.5] (the Roman advance force) "came to the guarded hills", at 7.9 he has the Macedonians on the "highest of a number of hills"[i.e. one hill] and at 7.12 when Macedonian reinforcements arrive, the Romans are driven off "the ridge"[singular] and at 8.8 Philip's right wing phalanx reached "the ridge"[singular] and "the ridge" and "the hill" again at 9.11 etc. I don't think Zonaras, who uses the singular 'kynoskephale'/dog head is any way a necessarily inferior source. Like the others, he is drawing on earlier material including some which has not survived. But even accepting Polybius over Zonaras, the balance of probability is that it was a single feature ( every other 'Dog Head' feature in the world is).

The clincher for me is that our oldest and only contemporary source, the poet Alcaeus speaks of "the ridge"/[Gk “nwton”= ridge or back, as in hogs back], which fits the classic 'hogs back' ridge of my suggested site perfectly.

Apart from the fact that it would be unusual to have a single name for two sets of hills separated by a pass, none of the ridges/hills to the West of the Palaepharsalus/Krini pass remotely resemble a 'Dog Head' type feature from any angle that I can see, whereas the single hill to the east of Palaepharsalus clearly resembles a dog head, and is very visible as such, whether approaching along the ancient road from either north or south. If you mean the chain of hills running east from the suggested site, see the explanation above - that Polybius thought the name plural because it might refer to several ridges.
My biggest problem with this suggestion is that both Philip and Flamininus will have had to cross the major route north to Larissa in order to reach it, which makes little sense. This route is that of the modern road passed Chalkiades and Zoodikos Pyrgi, which was still the main route in 1897 when the Turks advanced from Larissa to Pharsalos along it. One also has to consider the earlier battle between Pelopidas and Alexander of Pherai. Pelopidas advances from Pharsalos to meet Alexander advancing from Pherai at Kynoskephalai, which must lie between them and thus something to the east of Pharsalos rather than to the west as the Krini feature is.
I think you have been led astray by your posted map here. In your initial post on the 'Kynoskephalae' thread you said "I will assume his[Hammond's] 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." and then went on to show that this archaeology cannot relate to Flamininus. ( with which I agree). Hammond in fact chose his site from a rather poor 1:100,000 small scale map, purely on the basis of it having a spring ‘zoodokhos pege/life giving spring’ and even he says that the site is a “tentative assumption”, and as I have demonstrated, this site does not fit the facts as we know them at all, and whilst he briefly examined his site twice, he did not even consider anywhere else – understandable given constraints on his time, no decent maps, nor aerial reconnaissance or the inestimable advantage of Google Earth. It is also apparent he had doubts himself, for though Hatzopoulos claimed to see "Dog Heads" hills, Hammond did not.

You then decided this site, to the west of the modern road, could not be correct (and we agree the site had to be to the east of the major route north to Larissa), and plumped for a site east of that modern road, roughly where Kromayer placed it, at Mezil Magoula, which cannot be correct because the topography cannot be made to fit ( see Hammond p.76). Ironically the same applies to Hammond's site.

However, the ancient route does NOT follow the modern one, but ran north from Pharsalus, through the pass at Palaepharsalus/Krini and thence via Crannon to Larissa, as shown on the maps (light blue line) on my post of March 23, as proven by J.D. Morgan in 1983, and followed by Hammond (see p.66). The later Roman road also followed this route. Once this is realised, your objection to both Hammond’s and my site melts away. I suspect you were misled because the map you posted shows only the modern road, and not the ancient route.

As to the earlier battle involving Pelopidas in 364 BC, the two armies met at the ‘Thetideion’ [Plut. Pelopidas XXXI.1], where Flamininus later camped, and which was on the plain south of the ridge-line, and lay between Pharsalus and Palaepharsalus, as Hammond noted, which means it was close to my ‘Kynoskephale’ feature, as explained above. Pelopidas would almost certainly have marched north up the ancient road toward Palaepharsalus, with Alexander approaching from the east from Pherae, likely using the same route as Flamininus did later, south of the ridgeline.
As an aside, I agree that Polybios does say that Philip moved from Pherai first, but if he is trying to block a Roman move North via Pherai then by moving towards Skotussa he is uncovering the pass he has just dashed from Larissa to block. Do you not think it more likely that Flamininus, his army slowed by the elephants moved first? Philip then continues with his defensive strategy by marching to the next pass, despite Polybios he was not seeking a decisive battle, half the army were raw after all, he merely wanted to block Flamininus until the next season. Not what P says but...?
As I indicated I would, I followed Hammond’s account of the campaign without comment for the purpose of establishing the geographical location, and did not launch into a Strategic/Tactical digression, or rehash any matters from the ‘Kynoskephalae thread.

Still, it is an interesting aside, and as it happens, one where I am pleased to say that I entirely agree with you. :D

There can be no doubt that Philip stood on the strategic defensive from the attacks of the much more powerful Rome. ( I wrote an article called “Macedon’s last Hurrah” in “Ancient Warfare” magazine, issue IV.6 2010 in which I described the vast discrepancies between the resources of the respective foes , for interested readers.) In the two previous campaigning seasons, the Romans had tried to ‘break in’ to Macedon via the most direct route from their territory – the western passes in Illyria, but two separate Consuls, first Sulpicious in 199, and then his successor Villius in 198, had failed against Philip’s defensive strategy of blocking those passes and routes.

Flamininus tried a different approach by invading Greece and preparing to attack from the south via Thessaly, and Aetolia and Achaea had both, for their own reasons, become Roman allies. That Philip was following this same defensive strategy in 197 BC is evident from the fact that he placed himself at a forward base at Larissa ( see my maps) from where he covered both major routes north into Macedon through the Pherae pass to the east and the Palaepharsalus pass to the west. Further proof, if any were needed, is that in going back into winter quarters at the end of 198, Philip razed his own territory south of the Karadag ‘wall’ in the fertile Enipeus valley, removing the population and destroying all the crops and some five cities and countless villages. This ‘scorched earth’ policy would deny the advancing Romans supplies. The fact that Philip garrisoned Pharsalus and Pthiotic Thebes as ‘bastions’ to the ‘gates’, so as to block both major routes, is yet further proof. If the Romans stopped to besiege either, that would waste most of the campaigning season, and might thwart them altogether.

Philip clearly had no intentions whatever of moving south into Thessaly to fight a 'decisive battle' with the Romans. Far too risky, for losing meant the loss of the war, and winning just meant facing a new Roman army next season.

( A small digression for the general reader: Logistics, that is supplies, was a more important factor than Tactics or Generalship in war then as now. Large armies consumed vast amounts of water, food, forage and firewood daily. An army could travel quickly ‘light’, carrying a few day’s supplies, or move cross- country, supplied by pack animals and light two wheeled carts, but then had to descend into a ‘land of milk and honey’ that could support tens of thousands of these locust-like invaders, or else rely on a supply train of heavy transport that could shift big loads, such as barges or heavy four wheeled wagons. Hence the importance of major waterways and river valleys and major roads. Because of the weight, wagons needed good roads, and also could not move up steep inclines. This is why the two ‘gates’ into Macedon were of such Strategic importance.)

Flamininus had his own plans. He would try and surprise Philip by attacking the less obvious, and furthest away pass at Pherae, marching via the Enipeus valley depite its devastation, for he could be resupplied from his fleet in the Pagasaean gulf, as well as from his base at Xyniae. He reckoned on Thebes being betrayed to him, but in the event this did not happen and worse still Philip had arrived at Pherae after marching 38 km/23 miles from Larissa in a single day, “in good time” to block the ‘gate/pass’ at Pherae. Contrary to Hammond, who says that Flamininus had carried out a “brilliant operation” and held the initiative, he had in fact failed in both his objects – capturing Thebes and accessing Macedon via the pass. He was now in a bind, unable to go forward, and with the road blocked at Thebes behind him. He really had no alternative but to try the other pass as soon as possible, especially as his chance at glory would end with his ‘consular year’. So Agesilaos is certainly correct in suggesting that it was the Romans who headed west first, and the Macedonians who followed to cover them, and this must be the case.

Polybius does not in fact say that Philip headed west first, but rather that Flamininus “put his army in motion at the same time.” i.e. they set off simultaneously. True, he says Philip headed west to Scotussa to procure supplies, and that Flamininus intended to destroy the crops in the area of Scotussa before Philip could get there. This however is Polybius ‘rationalising’ the move west, and incidently once again showing a lack of military knowledge and understanding, and he must be wrong. Given his intention of ‘guarding’ the Pherae gate, Philip was hardly likely to abandon it a couple of days after racing to get there, as Agesilaos says. Moreover, Polybius’ suggestion that he moved to the Scotussa region for supply reasons simply cannot be true, because his major base at Larissa was just 38km/23 miles away up a major road, and ox-drawn wagons would cover this in two days, so that tons of supplies ( a typical wagon load might be 1-2 tonnes, depending on conditions and wagon type) would be arriving just as Philip headed west !! Polybius is also obviously wrong about Flamininus’ intentions too, since he didn’t cross the range into Scotussan territory to ravage it, but stayed to the south, racing for the Palaepharsalus pass. Philip too was racing for the pass, and now out of reach of his supply-trains, was forced to forage in the Scotussa district, no doubt much to the dismay of his subjects, the inhabitants. Furthermore, if Philip headed west first, Flamininus could have just walked through the now unguarded ‘gate’ of the Pherae pass!

It must have been Flamininus then, who started the race west to Palaepharsalus, with Philip covering him close behind, since it was obvious that this is what Flamininus had to do, contra Polybius.
I think the site to the east of the main road is the one.
Indeed it is....the one I have shown. The ‘modern’ road you have in mind didn’t exist then, and the ‘ancient’ road ran from Pharsalus to Palaepharsalus/modern Krini as shown in the images and maps I have posted, and hence north via Crannon to Larissa, as Hammond acknowledged.

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Re: The Probable site of Kynoskephalae battlefield 197 BC

Post by agesilaos » Tue Mar 31, 2015 6:22 pm

Hope you will forgive a long hiatus in replying, Xenophon, I do disagree still but am marshalling the evidence; on principle, however I would concede that were there no route via Zoodikos Pyrge and Chalkiades in ancient times your feature near Krini would be a good fit. Obviously I have to digest this

American Journal of Archaeology, Vol. 87, No. 1 (Jan., 1983)
contains: Palaepharsalus-The Battle and the Town
John D. Morgan
pp. 23-54 (36 pages)

Available free on JSTOR.

You may like to peruse Decourt, (1990), ‘La vallee de l’Enipeus en Thessalie; etudesde topographie et geographie antique’ Bulletin de Correspondence Hellenique, Supplement XXI, I had the whole thing up when I should have been doing something else but have yet to retrieve it at home! I will post the URL when I crack it. I will also be looking at the evidence of the various early tourists to Greece so far, Edward Dodwell’s, ‘A Classical and Topographical Tour through Greece during the years 1801, 1805 and 1806’ published 1819, Henry Holland, ‘Travels in the Ionian Isles, Albania, Thessaly, Macedonia,etc.’ 1812 and Louis-Auguste Felix , 'Voyage Militaires dans l’Empire Ottoman’, phew, they knew how to write a title in those days :lol:
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Re: The Probable site of Kynoskephalae battlefield 197 BC

Post by agesilaos » Thu Apr 02, 2015 6:54 am

http://cefael.efa.gr/detail.php?ce=j6ap ... e_number=0

This link will take you to Descourt's extensive study p92ff treat First Kynoskephalai, and other actions chronologically, there are maps at the end.
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Re: The Probable site of Kynoskephalae battlefield 197 BC

Post by sean_m » Thu Apr 02, 2015 6:28 pm

Is there anything on towns and roads in the Barrington Atlas to help? They have small-scale maps, and I would take their reconstruction of Late Hellenistic Thessaly pretty seriously.

One day I would like to look more closely at the route of Cyrus the Younger, both the question of which route he took (because many of the cities and passes which Xenophon mentions are not securely known today) and of why he took that route and not another. But Ionia-across-the-sea is a terra incognita.
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Re: The Probable site of Kynoskephalae battlefield 197 BC

Post by agesilaos » Fri Apr 03, 2015 8:09 am

They have no roads marked since the roads were tracks rather than the metalled constructions we would call a road; at least, that is what the notes to them say, they are online. I think they will follow Descourt's identifications as I found his monograph in their bibliography.

The latest edition of Greece and Rome has

HOW MANY MILES TO BABYLON? MAPS, GUIDES, ROADS, AND RIVERS IN THE EXPEDITIONS OF XENOPHON AND ALEXANDER
Richard Stoneman
Greece & Rome , Volume 62 , Issue 01 , April 2015, pp 60 - 74

Which is available if you have an academic membership to Cambridge Journals Online and maybe through JSTOR.
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Re: The Probable site of Kynoskephalae battlefield 197 BC

Post by Paralus » Fri Apr 03, 2015 1:35 pm

Descourt would seem to identify the 'Thetideon' as near enough to modern Dasolofos. He would then place the battle, as far as I can ascertain not having bothered to translate the French (why'd I give up French in high school?), adjacent to modern Thetidio. This perhaps based on the campaign of Pelopidas (more below).

The name of the "feature" is consistent in the Greek sources. The major accounts all utilise the plural (κεφαλὰς) rather than the singular (κεφαλή):
Plut. Pelop. 32.2
At the place called Cynoscephalae, steep and lofty hills jut out into the midst of the plain, and both leaders set out to occupy these with their infantry.

Plut. Flam. 8.1
The parties sent out on either side for purposes of ambush and reconnaissance encountered one another in a very short time and went to fighting near what are called the Cynoscephalae, or Dog's Heads. These are the sharp tops of hills lying close together alongside one another, and got their name from a resemblance in their shape.

Plb. 18.22.9
For these hills, which are called Cynoscephalae, are rough, precipitous, and of considerable height.
Polybios consistently describes the "feature" as being hills (plural), having Philip send a force to occupy "the summit of the intervening hills" (20.10) for example. Putarch, too, is consistent in describing this as a set of hills. Livy also renders the name as Kynoskephalai and describes it as hills (tumulos - accusative plural). The evidence is that Kynoskephalai is as described: a set of hills, close to one another, protruding into the plain (of the Enipeus) rather than a single hill of whichever breadth.

The road via Krene and that via Pherae are unarguably the main routes from southern Thessaly north and visa versa. Both the battle of 364 and that of 197 were fought at the same place (or very near enough). While it is a possibility that Philip thought only of blocking each of these routes, no such imperative existed for either Pelopidas or Alexander of Pherai in 364. Alexander marches west from Pherai to meet Pelopidas who marches from Pharsalos to meet him. There is no tactical imperative to block an ingress to Macedonia for either combatant or for either to be ustilising such a pass north. Nor does there seem to be any requirement for either to occupy the hill above Krene - particularly Pelopidas marching from Pharsalos.

I do not believe that Philip was only fighting a defensive action; that he meant to block access into Macedonia by plugging these passes. He could not continue such with any hope of a positive outcome. He had watched as the Romans had detached former allies and realised that he needed to act. He may well have dreamed of emulating his famous namesake until it became obvious he could not move past Pherai. He moved west towards Skotoussa and was in search of ground suitable to his forces. That Flamininus followed afterwards is surely indicated by his having only reached Pthiotic Eretrea on the first day. Philip wanted decent ground to the west and I believe that to be in the Enipeus plain a touch west of modern Vamvakou. Here he would roll the dice on a decisive battle. If he won he'd dictate terms to the Romanising Greeks and likely win back allies. It is the Hellenistic commanders' outlook. That the Romans might send another army is likely. Just as likely is that Rome would send another consul to command the Roman forces in Greece after Flamininus' term expired.

The "strategic triangle" is seductive. For all that, Philip assembled and drilled an army which I believe he intended to use in defeating the Roman consul rather than in a stalling game of blocking routes into Macedonia.
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Re: The Probable site of Kynoskephalae battlefield 197 BC

Post by Paralus » Sat Apr 04, 2015 4:10 am

Xenophon wrote:As to the earlier battle involving Pelopidas in 364 BC, the two armies met at the ‘Thetideion’ [Plut. Pelopidas XXXI.1], where Flamininus later camped, and which was on the plain south of the ridge-line, and lay between Pharsalus and Palaepharsalus, as Hammond noted, which means it was close to my ‘Kynoskephale’ feature, as explained above. Pelopidas would almost certainly have marched north up the ancient road toward Palaepharsalus, with Alexander approaching from the east from Pherae, likely using the same route as Flamininus did later, south of the ridgeline.
In relation to this (and my post above), Plutarch says that Alexander marched to Thetis from Pherai in order to meet Pelopidas. This does not mean the battle took place about the 'Thetideion'. Indeed Plutarch is clear that the action took place at Kynoskephalai and the battle was one for the heights of Kynoskephalai - the "hills". Plutarch writes that it was Alexander who "got possession of the hills first". Wherever one places the Thetideion, it is adjacent to "the hills" and the ridge that runs east-west along these "sharp tops of hills lying close together alongside one another". The battle of 364 certainly took place for the heights of Kynoskephalai and thus the same battleground as 197.

Again, with Alexander marching west from Pherai and Pelopidas from Pharsalos, there can scarcely be a need for Pelopidas to rush to occupy a pass into Macedonia or for Alexander to occupy same. Alexander had been active in Thessaly, Phthiotis and adjacent Magnesia. He'd made no move north to Macedonia. I can see no need for either combatant to consider the hill near to modern Krini of the utmost strategic importance.
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Re: The Probable site of Kynoskephalae battlefield 197 BC

Post by sean_m » Sat Apr 04, 2015 12:31 pm

agesilaos wrote:They have no roads marked since the roads were tracks rather than the metalled constructions we would call a road; at least, that is what the notes to them say, they are online. I think they will follow Descourt's identifications as I found his monograph in their bibliography.
They often give roads, but not on the map of Thessaly alas. Judging by that model of "road," I suspect that they did not chose a Canadian to research that map!

The only atlas which I have to hand is the Historischer Atlas der antiken Welt and that stresses political, cultural, and linguistic data over cities and elevations and watercourses.
agesilaos wrote:The latest edition of Greece and Rome has

HOW MANY MILES TO BABYLON? MAPS, GUIDES, ROADS, AND RIVERS IN THE EXPEDITIONS OF XENOPHON AND ALEXANDER
Richard Stoneman
Greece & Rome , Volume 62 , Issue 01 , April 2015, pp 60 - 74

Which is available if you have an academic membership to Cambridge Journals Online and maybe through JSTOR.
Thanks, I will have to see if I can get that article.
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Re: The Probable site of Kynoskephalae battlefield 197 BC

Post by Efstathios » Sun Apr 05, 2015 9:30 pm

According to a brief research that i made, the locals say that the mountain Karantao (Mavrovouni) was Kynoskephalae, which is south of Larisa and next to the village Myra. However i haven't read everything that was posted, so i don't know if it has been mentioned. I will do further research and post my findings.
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