Thursday 16 November 2023

Rome invade Parthia

After Carrhae, relations between Rome and Parthia remained tense a century later. The rivalry to control and influence Armenia provoked a number of inconclusive campaigns. The campaign of 58 to 63 AD ended with Armenia demonstrating nominal allegiance to Rome, but ruled by a Parthian dynasty. This changed when Trajan invaded Armenia, annexing it as a Roman province and killing its Parthian ruler, Parthamasiris. Trajan further demonstrated Rome’s dominance of the region by invading Parthia to eventually capture the capital of Ctesiphon,

Our test matches take place during this period, with a confrontation occurring along the banks of the Euphrates bordered by an expanse of flat countryside dotted with rocky features. Both commands are of 24 elements with Parthia conscripting city militia and mercenaries to meet the Roman invaders.

Game one

Awaiting the arrival of Rome, Parthia placed its cataphract, forming two groups, and positioned its horse archers to both flanks.

Rome formed its battle line with the Euphrates River securing the right flank and positioned auxilia and cavalry on the exposed left.

Moving steadily forward, the Parthian cavalry and city militia marched against the smaller Roman line while horse archers encircled the open flank.

Militia archers could make little impression on the Roman line, Charging cataphract did break through, but breaches in the line were quickly filled by reserve units, stabilising the front.

Sensing the Parthian attack faltering, Rome counter attacked, catching exposed flanks and isolated units. The quickly mounting casualties forced the Parthian to withdraw from the field. A victory for Rome 9 – 5.

Game two

A subsequent battle, Parthia altered its deployment and gathered all its cataphract to create one powerful group.

To counter the threat, Rome deployed in a concave formation, with legionnaires, artillery, archers and equites at its base and the auxilia were placed at its tips, to deal with horse archers and militia archers.

As expected, the Parthian centre moved quickly against the Roman position to reduce the effectiveness of artillery and archer fire.

To Parthia’s dismay, Roman artillery and bowmen proved effective, necessitating time to redress its line before continuing the attack. Both Parthian flanks were now engaged with their separate battles with Rome giving little ground.

Despite the losses to its flanks, the Parthian cataphract struck home creating breaches in the Roman line.

The battle intensified as Parthian heavies surrounded the Roman general, reserve troops rushed to save their general and turned the situation around.

After the dust settled, Parthia had too few troops to renew its attack and had lost its general in the conflict. Assuming command, the Parthian subordinate-general called for a retreat. A second victory for Rome, 10 + Gen. – 5.



In game one, the Parthian assault on the Roman flank was countered by auxilia. One group of Parthian cataphract were shattered by effective fire of artillery and archers. The cataphract that did charge home could make little impression against the Roman line. Game over.

Game two, the concave deployment by Rome, forced Parthia to suffer the disruption of its flanks by Roman archers and artillery for an extra turn. The loss of the Parthian general in turn 3, could have turned critical for the Parthian, however, the sub-general was nearby to continue the battle.

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