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 

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