Thursday 28 April 2022

Histria 61 BC, the tests

The DBA3 army lists offer a good starting point for both Roman and Dacian forces. For appearances, the Roman player may wish to substitute Gallic and Numidian units for Macedonian or Greek mercenaries with the remainder of the list working well. The Dacian force should represent a confederation of allied tribes and here the Bastarnae units form an ‘allied contingent’ for movement purposes. 

Hybrida is characterised as ‘inept’ and avoid placement on the front line. Placement with the cavalry to form a reserve group at the start of the game was a better option. During battle, cavalry may support the infantry in combat, but move independent of any infantry formations. Although a subtle condition, this should reflect the skittish nature of Hybrida, who had been caught earlier in the campaign in an ambush and barely avoided capture by fleeing with the cavalry.  

Two tests were done, one using the standard 12 a side game followed by a second test of two commands for each side. The difference in number of elements coupled with additional turns needed to reach a decision could have a different outcome. As you will read, the second game demonstrated an improvement with die casts balancing out and the extra number of turns providing a tighter game.


II/49 Marian Rome

Main group: 5 x legionnaires (4Bd), 2 x auxiliary foot (4Ax), 2 x javelinmen or slingers (Ps). Reserve group: 1 x General (Cv), 2 x auxiliary cavalry (Cv + LH). 

II/52 Dacian

Main group: 1 x General (Cv), 1 x horsemen (LH or Cv), 6 x warriors (3Wb), 1 x javelinmen (Ps). Allied contingent: 2 x Bastarnae (3Bd) + 1 x javelinmen (Ps). 


Test one (12 elements)

The Dacians advances slowly forward offering the Bastarnae time to close on the Roman left flank. Seeing the threat, Roman auxilia and cavalry realign their front to await the Bastarnae attack. With the left secure, the legion to continued their advance.

The lines clashed, the legionnaires on the left of centre successfully pushing the enemy back, but the situation immediately becomes desperate as the Roman centre is swept away leaving the Ligurian auxilia horribly exposed. Seeing their demise, Hybrida flees the battlefield, 5 – 1 for the Daci.

Test two (24 elements)

Both sides deployed in a similar manner and with double the number of elements present an imposing appearance.

Following a similar strategy, the Bastarnae clear the crest earlier than expected. This proved fortuitous as both Dacian columns and Bastarnae met the Roman line at the same moment.

This resulted slightly more Roman casualties, but reserve units from the second line quickly closed the gaps.

As the battle raged on, Roman resistance began to wane as new gaps appeared soaking up the remainder of the reserve infantry. As yet, the cavalry reserve remained uncommitted as disaster loomed on the Roman left.

The Bastarnae effectively crushed the auxilia and light horse on the left flank while Dacian warriors were breaking through the Roman centre, leaving Hybrida no option but to flee the field again; 8 – 2 for the Dacian.



Two tests reached a historical result, which is good. The question remains however, can the Romans actually win this battle. The answer is yes, but that solution is for another time.

Tuesday 26 April 2022

A Dacian Conflict with Rome

Information about the battle of Histria 61 BC is very thin. The passage from Roman History, written by Dio offers a start point and additional pieces to the puzzle were found at the website, History Files. The latter, listed the possible tribes that confronted Hybrida and the Digital Atlas of the Roman Empire was found useful in determining a possible battleground. Lastly, our picture of the battle would not complete without a brief biography of Hybrida, here we gain some insight to the general’s character, which may have played a role during the battle.   

From Dio’s Roman History, Book XXXVIII, 10

“In 72–71 BC Marcus Terentius Varro Lucullus became the first Roman commander to march against the Getae. This was done to strike at the western Pontic allies of Mithridates VI, but he had limited success. A decade later, a coalition of Scythians, Getae, Bastarnae and Greek colonists defeated C. Antonius Hybrida at Histria. This victory over the Romans allowed Burebista, the leader of this coalition, to dominate the region for a short period (60–50 BC)”. 

From TheHistory Files on the subject of the Bastarnae. 

“A varying mixture of Bastarnae, Dardanii, Scordisci, and Thracians have met each Roman campaign with a stubborn resistance. Following one particularly successful encounter for the Balkan tribes in this year, that unity is broken by the Thracian tribe of the Getae, who are known to Rome as the Dacians based upon their general geographical position. In 61 BC the Getae are part of a force that is led by the Bastarnae. Together they inflict a humiliating defeat upon the Roman army of the inept Gaius Antonius Hybrida (uncle to Mark Antony) outside a Greek colony at the mouths of the Danube, at the Battle of Histria. The entire Roman force is massacred, abruptly terminating Roman control of the region”. 

Searching a Geographic setting

“Situated on a peninsula, ancient Histria is about 5 kilometres (3 mi) east of the modern Romanian commune of Istria, on the Dobruja coast. The ancient seashore has since been transformed into the western shore of Sinoe Lake, as the Danube's silt deposits formed a shoal which closed off the ancient coastline. The current Sinoe Lake was at the time the open northern bay, while another bay on the southern shore served as the port. The acropolis with sanctuaries was established on the highest point of the coastal plain. The settlement itself, erected in the 6th century, was 1/2 mile (800 meters) to the west of the acropolis. The settlement had stone paved streets and was protected by strong wall. Water was collected along 12.5 mile (20 km) long aqueducts”. - Histria/Istria - Wiki 

With the Digital Atlas of the Roman Empire, we gain a better impression of the Danube delta and the surrounding area of Histria if both topographical and map option are used. Any Roman force approaching the colony of Histria would need to traverse a series of forested covered hills, all ideal locations for an ambuscade. This was not the first time Histria had faced barbarian incursions and searching a few of these added more detail as to the nature of the terrain in the region. 

Gaius Antonius Hybrida

Hybrida was elected consul in 63 BC alongside Cicero. His dealing with Cicero later gained him the governorship of Macedonia at the end of his term. Hybrida abused his rule as governor, robbing the provincials and invading the neighbouring barbaric lands of Moesia. The natives, in turn, defeated Hybrida on two separate occasions driving him out of their lands. Hybrida was replaced by Gaius Octavius as the governor of Macedonia in 59 BC and would be later prosecuted by Caesar and Crassus for mismanagement. He was found guilty and exiled to the island of Cephellenia. 

In this scenario, both armies form two groups with the Daci, as defender, placing their largest on the board first, followed by the Roman player placing both hist groups. The Bastarnae allies are now placed anywhere within the deployment area. Hybrida keeps close control over the reserve cavalry and are treated as an allied contingent for the scenario. – Wiki