|View of the table|
|Ptolemy's army - caltrops clearly visible on right flank|
|Demetrius' army with elephants on left flank|
|Lycian and Pamphylian spearmen with Antigonid pike|
|Antigonids advance to the right|
|Kardakes as Lycian and Pamphylian spearmen|
|Armies advance in the centre|
Last Sunday at the Vikings Club in Lanyon, Garry (Mithridates) and I played a Hail Caesar re-fight of the Battle of Gaza 312 BC, from the Third War of the Diadochi. Diodorus Siculus describes the battle in Book 19 (81-85) of The Library of History:
Below is Garry's report of our game:
We'd planned a re-fight of the Battle of Gaza, 312 BC, between Ptolemy - assisted by the fugitive Satrap from Babylon, Seleucus - and the son of Antigonus One-Eyed, Demetrius.
Despite hesitations by his advisers, the 'rash' Demetrius decided on battle, convinced his 43 elephants would make up for the disparity in numbers with Ptolemy's force. Ptolemy had marched from Egypt, encouraged by Seleucus, with his army composed of 18,000 phalangites (some Egyptian), 3,000 light troops and 4,000 cavalry. Demetrius fielded 11,000 phalangites, 2,500 light troops, 4,400 cavalry and 43 elephants. Ptolemy was wary of the elephants and had constructed anti-elephant obstacles made of nail studded planks held together with sturdy chains.
We followed the historical deployment - cavalry on the wings of respective phalanxes, Demetrius (Mike) deployed his elephants in the centre and on the left wing, supported by light troops. Ptolemy (Garry) placed the 'caltrops' on his right to block the elephants. We decided caltrops would cause casualties to any troops crossing them and had a 50% chance of inducing disorder. They could be carried by light troops and re-positioned, taking 2 moves. In the event the obstacles were more of a hindrance than a help as they blocked their own cavalry as well as the enemy!
Mike had the advantage during the game - his troops took full advantage of moving fast (ie, obeying orders) and was able to echelon rapidly to the right flank/centre, outmanoeuvring the clumsy Ptolemaics. He sacrificed his elephants but in so doing held up the bulk of Ptolemy's army, not helped by the slowness of the Egyptian cavalry to swing around their caltops. The Antigonids won the cavalry battle on their right and were swinging in behind the Ptolemaic centre. On the left cavalry honours were even.
At this stage dusk was falling and it was decided to call a halt - the outlook for Ptolemy was grim as 2 phalanxes had broken and others flanked - likely to go down like nine pins (phalanxes do not manoeuvre well) very soon. It seemed unlikely Seleucus would be restored to his former glory as Satrap in Babylon. Historically he did return to Babylon and established the Seleucid Empire, which later fought the Romans and survived until the mid-1st century BC.
As usual Hail Caesar provided an entertaining game, the Rules add an element of chance which on the day eluded the Ptolemaics but could just as easily swung the other way. Ptolemy assumed his larger phalanx would win and underestimated the aggressive tactics of the rash Demetrius - fortune did favour the bold!
|Cavalry charge home on the Antigonid right flank|
|Demetrius' elephants suffered heavily this was the sole survivor|
|Ptolemy's cavalry are driven back|
|The pike close on the Antigonid right flank|
|View of the centre|
|Companions fight on the Antigonid left flank|
|Another Antigonid elephant and escort are broken|
|Companions on both side break or are driven back|