Thursday 11 November 2021

Rebellion in Armenia

Armenia had always strived to maintain friendly relations with Rome and Valarsh of Armenia, despite his brother being the ruler of Parthia, was no exception. That changed when Caracalla, who succeeded his father Septimius Severus, invited Valarsh and his sons to Rome in 214 AD. Upon their arrival in Rome, there followed a similar result as did the King of Osrhoene, all were imprisoned. This brought about a revolt in Armenia prompting Caracalla to undertake a brutal reprisal.   

Recommended reading

Vahan M. Kurkjian, A History of Armenia


Standard list for both Middle Imperial Roman (II/64b) and the Armenian (II/28b) were used for both battles. The initial encounter brought the vanguard of each army in combat, involving eight elements each. This escalated to e second battle expanding the single command to 24 elements each.   

II/64b Middle Imperial Roman

1 x General (Cv), 1 x cavalry (Cv), 1 x horse archer (LH), 4 x legionnaires (4Bd), 3 x auxiliaries (4Ax), 1 x auxiliaries (4Ax) or archers (4Bw or Ps), 1 x cataphract (3Kn) or legionnaires (4Bd) or lanciarii (3Bd) or bolt-shooters (Art). 

II/28b Armenia 300 BC – 244 AD

1 x General (4Kn), 1 x cataphracts (4Kn), 4 x horse archers (LH), 4 x javelinmen (3Ax), 2 x archers (Ps). 


A Brief Encounter

Both armies sent advance guards to probe the presence and strength of each other’s force and before sunset dust clouds could be seen marking the other’s approach. Noting the dispersal of the Armenian, the Roman commander pushed his columns forward to attack the horse archers. Hillmen could be seen scampering along the crest of the adjacent hills, but this did little to impede the rapid advance by the Roman cavalry. The cavalry action was brief and brutal, sending the Armenian force in full flight. From the captured prisoners, the location and strength of the Armenian rebels was known.

Game notes

As an alternative to bludgeoning one another to reach the 1/3 casualties, another method was devised to determine a successful reconnaissance; casualties (prisoners) and the approach of nightfall. The first side to reach a total pip score of 24 would break off the confrontation, leaving both sides returning to the main body. Success is guaranteed to either side inflicting more casualties than the enemy, thereby increasing the likely hood of gathering prisoners to reveal information. 


The Decisive Battle

Caracalla deployed the legions and auxiliary in two lines, placing all the cavalry in a third; the spacing between the legions would allow the supporting cavalry to charge through while the auxilia protected the flanks. The enemy, making use of their mobility, extended their line beyond that of the Roman left.  

At the onset of battle, the rebels dominated the action on the hill eventually forcing the auxilia back. Nonetheless, the auxilia were relentless in defending their tiny portion resulting in the rebel right wing struggling to capture the ground at the end of the battle.

The centre quickly developed into a whirlpool of death, legionnaires surrounded beat back enemy cavalry and on the initiative of the subordinate commander, the reserve cavalry threw their weight into the battle.

Roman casualties steadily mounted bringing it close to a breaking point, then the course of battle changed when the rebel commander succumb to severe wounds. Fortunately for the rebels, the subordinate commander counter charged the Roman equites to recover the army standard. The cauldron was heating up in centre.

Late to the battle, few would notice Caracalla, escorted by the Praetorian cavalry and guard, shuffling forward. 

As though a veil were lifted from the scene, the rebel centre was no more. Victory however, had come at a high cost, nearly half the auxilia and the First Parthica were destroyed, but the rebels had been beaten (8-7) losing both commanders and a host of lesser nobles.

Historical note.

Having suppressed the revolt in Armenia, 215/216, Caracalla would continue his war and campaign against the Parthian, limiting the operation to Northern Mesopotamia and the pro-Parthian Kingdom of Adiabene, 217. However, caught with his pants down, he was assassinated on 8 April 217 and shortly thereafter, the Parthian would fight Rome in a three-day battle near Nisibis forcing Rome’s new emperor Macrinus to bring the war to an end.

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