Saturday, 28 November 2009

Phyrus at the Gates of Rome - Battle for the Outer Gates (1)

Campaign Situation: 

The Greek general Phyrus challenged Rome to battle in sight of their capitol city. Despite even or better odds the Legions of Rome refused and retreated within the city perimeter leaving their politicians to parley with other Italian States for assistance. The Generals little more than poor politicians themselves concentrated on looking after their own interests while the poor citizens were left to panic.

Smoke from sacrificial offerings floated over the city. Food became in short supply but nevertheless Rome's Generals would not face the Greeks in the open field of battle to relieve the siege. Phyrus was left with the unsavory option of taking the battle to Rome without most of his cavalry and elephant armada, making the attacking force being weaker than the defenders. Rome was content to hunker down seeing no siege-train sufficient to threaten her walls and was quietly confident knowing that a powerful litigation had been sent out (to of all people the Samnites) for assistance.

However Phyrus is not content to read history, he writes it. As he heard the news of Roman (nay Samnite) reinforcements and judging them to be of dubious battlefield worth he saw the hand of opportunity extend. As the Samnites advanced the Romans unwittingly tested the metal of the Greek blockade. Roman politician generals found themselves committing their army to an unplanned battle in support of a minor relief operation to sneak food into the city. The Romans deployed in a long and thin line in good going with the Samnite Auxillia hugging their right flank in closed difficult going. Impartial observers would say later that is was noncommittal disposition without any intention to fight in a frontal battle (perhaps remembering past Roman treacheries) with the Greeks, but rather ride with the outcome of the main bodies.

The Tactical Battle:

The Roman command (actually split into two) is shown below. The middle of the Roman line being pumped full of Superior Triari spearmen. The Roman cavalry and Samnite allies are off to the left side of this picture on the Roman Right. 

Looking from the Roman left the Legions extended their line to a secure river flank

By contrast Phyrus concentrated his forces in a solid box formation in front of the Roman line troops with the intent to destroy their main command and decide the battle before the Roman flanking forces could intervene effectively and make their numbers tell. The left side of the Greek formation was a small command of cavalry and auxillia whose function was to delay for a long as possible the right hand side Roman and Samnite forces from affecting the decision point of the battle: Legion (Blades and Superior Spear) v Knights/Elephants and The Phalanx. In DBMM terms these troops could kill the Legion and it was important to be fighting with them as soon as possible and for as long as possible.

Looking at the Greek box from their left hand side:

The Greek Center, elephants. A lot would depend upon their performance.

Looking down the line from the Greek right flank, the Phalanx looks particularly impressive. Note the lights to the front of the Greek main line to deter any Roman specials (flaming pigs and anti-elephant war wagons) versus the Elephants, Knights and Phalanx. The Greek right ended in a column of superior Auxillia, paradoxically many from the same Samnite origin as per those found on the Roman side. This war has produced some strange bedfellows.

Next: Battle commences

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