Saturday 6 February 2016

The Battle of Issus - a test game.

“This should not have happened.”

As defender, the position behind the Pinarus seemed a strong one with the Sea of Issus on the left flank and the foothills of securing the right flank. One minor drawback, troops of the right flank were too far away to deploy behind the Pinarus, however the river did wind its way close to the centre command making it possible to defend the river bank on the first turn. The deployment of the left flank did not reach the sea but kept close contact with the centre command, here the seven units of cavalry would be sufficient to cover the open expanse.

Anullinus noting the small numbers on the usurper’s left deployed his central command opposite them and a near equal sized command opposite Niger. All the cavalry excepting the Contarii were grouped together forming a mobile reserve.

Seeing the buildup of strength opposite the right and centre positions, the opening moves were spent shifting troops eastward and those positioned on foothills would now redeploy behind the Pinarus. This was a bit of a race to reach the river first.

The first attempt by Anullinus to cross the Pinarus discovered its banks were steeper than thought. This posed less of a problem for the dice gods were extremely kind; crossing as individual units they still gave the impression of a huge wave moving forward.

After the game Anullinus (Jan) shared his strategy with me. Leading with the strong left flank (CinC) these would cross the Pinarus first drawing off troops from the central position. The mobile reserve would be set in where needed.

That seemed like a sound plan as some blade and auxilia were able to cross the Pinarus before an adequate defense on the right could be set up by Niger. Nonetheless, these were contained and pushed back as Jan commented later; the battle seemed more like the landing at Normandy.

Cavalry reserves from Niger’s central command were moved up to support the right and after several turns, the command of Anullinus became demoralized.

Further along the line, the central command of Niger held the Pinarus position beating back every attempt to cross. In desperation the mobile reserve (6 x Cv) sought a crossing point further downstream and found this held by one lone auxilia. These held their ground and moving a unit of cavalry to their support on the following bound killed their general (oops).

To top off the setback, Niger was able to sack the Imperial camp (oh dear).

I shared the actual account of the battle according to Cassius Dio including the thunderstorm that the troops of Niger saw as an omen from the Gods. The more we talked about the events being set in a scenario I realized this would game would be better placed in a small campaign with a narrative.

1.     Severus with the bulk of the army besieged Byzantium, Niger’s capitol.
2.     Sealing off Byzantium from Asia Minor, Severus crossed the Sea of Marmara.
3.     Battle of Cyzicus, Niger is defeated.
4.     Battle of Nicaea, Niger is again defeated.
5.     Severus resumes the siege of Byzantium while sending Tiberius Candidus in pursuit of Niger.
6.     Niger defends the Cilician Gates.
7.     Time is now spent raising frontier troops.
8.     Egypt now supports Severus as do other cities and some military units.

9.     Leaving to consolidate his situation, Niger confronts Anullinus at Issus. 

This approach has much potential as a small campaign.

Friday 5 February 2016

Battle of Issus 194 AD - the background.

The Battle of Issus was the third and final engagement between the forces of Septimius Severus and the usurper Pescennius Niger. In the year 193 AD, Pescennius Niger then governor of Syria claimed the title of emperor and rallied the eastern legions to support his claim.

Septimius Severus with the support of the Danube Legions entered Rome and secured his position there. Gathering a force from the Danube provinces he crossed the Dardanelles to meet Niger at Cyzicus and again at Nicaea. Twice defeated, Niger withdrew intact to the Taurus Mountains. Holding the forces of Severus at bay in the Taurus, Niger realized his situation was tenuous as support for his claim to the throne was slowly eroding; a number of cities in the east changed their loyalties, Egypt declared for Severus and the IV Ferrata deserted to the Severan camp. 

Niger departed the Taurus position to consolidate what remained of his power base at Antioch. Near Antioch, on the field were Alexander defeated Darius III, Niger met Cornelius Anullinus at Issus (May 194 AD).

The Armies
 We know that S. Severus had gathered 16 legions to campaign against Niger’s Syrian legions totaling no more than six. From Cassius Dio we learn that one legion had declared for Severus and defected during the spring of 194 and that Severus was occupied with the siege of Byzantium.

For our test game, we have given the Middle Imperial Romans of Anullinus three standard commands and modified those of Niger’s army by reducing number of blade and filling the difference with auxilia and mounted troops. The final composition of forces is listed below.   

Commander Cornelius Anullinus
9 x Cv, 3 x LH, 12 x Bd, 12 x Aux.  

Commander Pescennius Niger
7 x Cv, 5 x LH, 9 x Bd, 15 x Aux.

The Battlefield.
The coordinates of the battlefield given at Wiki show a relatively flat area within the modern city of Dörtyol. An outnumbered Niger may well have remembered Alexander’s victory at Issus and sought a similar position behind the Pinarus River. In such a position his left flank would rest on the Gulf of Issus while the right flank could make use of the higher ground against the troops of Anullinus. 

See for photos of the battle area. 

The terrain set up will mirror the battlefield of 333 BC. Niger's position is south of the Pinarus River with Anullinus deploying on the opposite bank.

Frank Martini. Cartographer, Department of History, United States Military Academy - Ancient Warfare Atlas Index at The Department of History, United States 

Wednesday 3 February 2016

The Tervingi

The Tervingi are mentioned in Phil Barker’s Armies and Enemies of Rome book as a Gothic people living west of the Dniester River and having close ties with the Greutungi; both of which are listed in DBA 3.0 as II/65 and II/67 respectively. The Tervingi are for the most part warriors who fought on foot in dense masses with a small number of mounted nobles.

The Hunnic invasions of the third and fourth century AD, forced the Tervingi moved to the Danube basin along with other tribes fleeing the eastern menace. These two Tervingi commands are a mix of Old Glory Visigoths, German and Dacian infantry as are the mounted figures. They are described as wearing fawn coloured clothing with a trimmed hem but not cuffs and their shields are covered with simple designs or plain leather.

Draco standards made from Milliput will be added later to the command stands and smaller versions to one or two infantry elements.   

II/65 Tervingi
1 x General (Cv), 1 x Cavalry (Cv), 8 x Warriors (4Wb), 2 x archers (Ps).

Tervingi 1

Tervingi 2

The Tervingi make interesting opponents as their time period overlap the Middle and Late Imperial Rome periods. For big battle conflicts, the Tervingi use as allies the Carpi (Dacia), for which I have three commands to select from and the Greutungi which are half mounted (3Kn) and half archers (Ps). These will make an interesting army when I return to this project.