Saturday 18 August 2012

Polemos SPQR Q&A Part 3: Army Lists and a Scenario

Being now in the business of increasing the size of my own PM: SPQR armies, I have been looking at my own army lists and spotting a few infelicities and typographical errors, so I thought I may as well record them here.

On the other hand, no-one has pointed them out yet, so have either ignored the lists or made their own up, or assumed we cannot count….


P57 Numidian Army list: For some reason the composition table and the random troop type table have got swapped around. I suppose the correction is obvious, but I thought I had better mention it.

P59 Dacian Army list: The total number of bases listed in the composition table is 19. The extra base should be a Dacian light horse.

P59 Dacian Army list: The Youth (skirmisher) bases are interchangeable with Archer bases. So you can have either 4 youth, or 4 archers, or two of each, of whatever, totalling 4 bases.

P60 Pontic Army list: The total number of bases listed is 24. This is because you can have either 4 bases of pike or 4 bases of imitation legionaries, but not both. Nor, in this case, can you mix and match.

As this seems a bit short for one of my normal posts (do I hear distant cheering?), I thought I would add another scenario below. No pretty maps, though, sorry, but some ideas for scenarios.

The original manuscript for PM: SPQR actually had loads (well, nine) scenarios picked up from my various reading, of which only two, Charonea 86 BC and Mons Graupius 83 AD made the final cut.

Below, then, is a scenario for Nicopolis, fought during 48 BC between the revived Pontic state and a fairly scratch force of Romans and hangers on. The small army sizes total 20 bases. The large actually attempt to represent the forces on the field to Polemos: SPQR scale. The medium sized armies are, of course, somewhere between the two. The formatting of the tables has, of course, gone bonkers,  because blogs do not seem to render either columns or HTML tables very well.

Nicopolis 48 BC

Mithradates’ Crimean kingdom was, with the blessing of the Romans, inherited by Pharnaces, the son of one of Mithradates’ concubines. During the civil war, Pharnaces resolved to attempt the recapture Pontus. He had a small army of Bosporan Greeks and some Scythians.

Initially sucessful, he met with Domitus Calvinus, one of Caesar’s generals with a scratch force. This consisted of XXXVI legion with two Galatian legions led by Deiotarus the Galatian tetrarch and another raw legion raised from Roman citizens of Pontus. Domitus sent to Cilicia and Cappadocia for auxiliaries and had about 200 cavalry. Numbers are largely unknown, but we can speculate about 4000 legionaries in legion XXXVI, 9000 in the two Galatian legions and 5000 in the raw Pontic legion. We do not know how many Cilician auxilliaries were raised, but could guess at about 4000. Possible armies are below:

                                       Small  Medium  Large
Legionaries                        4          6            8
Imitation legionaries           12         20          28
Tribal foot (Cilicians)          2          3            4
Skirmishers (Cilicians)         2          3            4
Cavalry                              1          2            2

Even less is known about Pharnaces’ forces. His cavalry greatly outnumbered Domitus’, and his frontage was three legions wide, as this matched Domitus’ deployment. Presumably they consisted of imitation legionaries and thureophoroi. Later, at Zela, Pharnaces deployed scythed chariots, so it may not be unreasonable to include a few here, although their employment usually caused some comment in accounts. The numbers are speculative, to say the least. Possible armies are below.

                                     Small Medium Large
Imitation legionaries        12         20        28
Thureophoroi                 4           6          8
Skirmishers                    2           3          4
Cavalry                          2           4          6
Scythian light horse         2           4          6

The Pontic army deployed in three or four lines, and dug trenches between the wings and centre, with the cavalry outside. Pharnaces was aware of the fact that Caesar was in trouble in Alexandria and had ordered Domitus to send reinforcement. Pharnaces therefore believed that he could afford to wait. Domitus, on the other hand, felt he could not disengage successfully unless he defeated Pharnaces. Domitus formed up with legion XXXVI on the right, the Pontic legion on the left and the Galatians in the centre on a narrow frontage. The fighting was fierce and Legion XXXVI broke the Pontic left and attacked the centre. The Galatian legions, however fled quickly and the Pontic legion was disordered by the trench and overwhelmed. This left the XXXVI legion isolated and surrounded. However, they drew off to high ground and Pharnaces did not further attack them as the battle was won. Domitus rallied the remains of his army and withdrew.

Pharnaces carried on conquering Pontus and living the life of an eastern despot. The next year, Caesar himself marched against him and utterly defeated Pharnaces at Zela. Pharnaces rallied a few and withdrew to the Bosporous. He was killed fighting against a revolt.

Webster, J., The Battle of Nicopolis 48 BC, Miniature Wargaming, October 1999, p 7-8.
Duggan, A., He Died Old: Mithradates Eupator, King of Pontus, London: NEL, 1976.
Caesar, J., The Alexandrian War, The Civil War, London, Penguin, 1967.

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