Wednesday 30 August 2023

ProjectSeleukid - Seleukid captain: Seleukos son of Antiochos

The first of the captains to be painted for Project Seleukid. With the amount of purple he's wearing, the commander is obviously a royal kinsman - for our immediate focus on the battle of Magnesia (190 BC), he is to represent Seleukos, son of Antiochos III the Great, joint commander of the left wing with his cousin Antipater.

Seleukos was the second son of Antiochos the Great and his Pontic-born queen, Laodike. His elder brother, Antiochos, died in 193, and Seleukos was raised to the throne as co-regent in 192. During the Roman War, he carried out the Seleukid invasion of Pergamon and then held joint command of the left wing at Magnesia. The following year he was left in command of the Seleukid resistance to Roman conquest in Asia Minor. Following the Treaty of Apameia, Seleukos was left to rule the western portion of the Seleukid Empire while his father turned once more to the east. On Antiochos the Great's death in 187, Seleukos succeeded peacefully as Seleukos IV Philopator ('father-loving', or 'friend of his father') and continued to rule with a stable hand until his own death (read: possible murder) in 175 BC.

Both sculpts are from the 28mm Pyrrhic foot command pack from Aventine Miniatures. I wanted to try something a bit different on him and tried white armour for the first time. I'm quite pleased with the outcome and think he'll certainly stand out as a bit posh on the battlefield. 

I decided that I wanted to hand paint the banners for each of my commanders to make them really unique. For Seleukos' personal banner I went for the seated Apollo on the omphalos coin type. This type was almost ubiquitous as a Seleukid reverse on silver coinage from part-way through the reign of Antiochos I, until the iconographic reforms of Seleukos' little brother and successor  (and a personal favourite of mine) Antiochos IV Epiphanes. The banner is not perfect, but given Apollo is not quite 8mm tall, I'm pretty pleased.

Monday 28 August 2023

Getting back to Burrows & Badgers - Starting a new campaign with a treasure hunt (game 2.1)

Andrew and I started another wee Burrows & Badgers campaign this week. I ran my rogues again - the Dirty Paws - but with a new line-up: badger, polecat, bat, rat, and two stoats. Andrew ran a new retinue of royalists led by the beaver, Lord Knawsley, supported by a badger and five mice. We played the treasure hunt scenario from the core rules - my secondary objective was to push through and get off Andrew's side of the table, his aim was to crush my warband and take at least four of them out of action.

Sadly I was too shattered to take enough photos for a full narative, but first blood went to Hugo Hairtrigger, the crossbow-weilding rat rogue who got an early shot in on one of the royalist mice.

The two seconds met for a brief melee - Sgian the polecat rogue was actually gearing up to search for treasure, but that royal badger had other ideas. After one round of taking a beating, Sgian legged it and ran to get off the royalists table edge.

It was the mouse-nun Ivy who discovered the enourmous stash of treasure by the ruins.

Meanwhile, my two stoats spotted a lonely looking mouse and decided to keep him company - whether he wanted it or not. Poor Killy the mouse only lasted two turns before Brother Malachy and Edwin put the knife in.
Broc Snufflehunter went to 're-distribute' some of the treasure but fumbled his roll to climb down the ruins. While he clung there and inch from the ground, Ivy passed the treasure onto Lord Knawsley who then ran it to one of his other mousey minions and away it went off the table.

So a quick engagement with only one casualty - poor wee Killy - and neither side achieving their secondary objectives. In the aftermath, the royalists got loads of loot, hustled a slave-trader to get their hands on a hedgehog and also hires a new sparrow. Killy recovered without a scratch and earned enough experience to earn a new skill. The rogues scrounged together a little cash and also beat up a slave trader to free a squirrel who was happy to join the Dirty Paws for their next adventure.

Saturday 19 August 2023

ProjectSeleukid - Hellenistic Arab light infantry

For a number of circumstantial reasons, my next unit for the Seleukid project happens to be some Hellenised Arab light infantry. I never considered the inclusion of Arab light infantry in a Seleukid army to be objectionable, but it was recently drawn to my attention (via the comments left on this blog) that some folk find it problematic.

From the two known orders of battle, we know that 10,000 Arabs under their own commander were present at Raphia in 217 BC. There is no indication how they were equipped and the usual assumption is that they were tribal light infantry as they were deployed opposite (and bested by) Ptolemiac phalangites. At Magnesia in 190 BC, Arab camelry (the subject of a future post) are described in some detail. Arab infantry are not explicitly mentioned, but I have proposed that some of the unaccounted for 10,000+ troops may have included Arab infantry.

Antiochos III's army at Magnesia was hastily assembled, brought together from contingents across the empire from Iran to Ionia at a time or crisis. There is little reason why Levantine or Mesopotamian Arab auxiliaries might not have formed part of the army. In Greco-Roman sources, 'Arab' could be applied to any number of peoples from the Levant and Mesopotamia. The term was a malleable label that could be applied to groups who were considered to live in a similar lifestyle which today could be termed transhumant, or mixed settled-pastoral communities. The term Arab could be (and was) applied very widely for peoples from the Persian Gulf across to the Red Sea and north to include Nabataeans, Idumaeans, Ituraeans, and Emesenes, as well as proto-Palmyrenes from around Tadmor, across to Hatra and the test-dwelling Skenitai.

In later periods of Seleukid history, Arab dynasts and their forces continue to appear and allies and enemies of the Seleukids. Certainly, over time the losses of territory in both the West and East decreased recruitment potential and this manpower shortage seems to have been filled at least partially by the increased presence of Arab, Aramaean and Jewish contingents. in 145 BC, Alexander I was decapitated by an Arab prince, Zabdiel, in the service of Demetrios II and Ptolemy VI. I have published elsewhere the suggestion that Ituraean autonomy was granted by Antiochos IX in return for support in his struggle with Antiochos VIII.

For this unit I took inspiration from a blog post by Simon Millar from several years ago and opted for a more Hellenised group of Arabs, using Perry Mahdists as the basis, with some head-swaps using spares from Victrix sprues - along with the Victrix phalangite standard. This group have given up their round shields - still used in south-east Arabia at this stage - and well into late antiquity, and taken on the thureos - these ones ordered from 1st Corp. The palm tree unit identifier was a bit of a concession. I really wanted little scorpions, or little eagles, but couldn't find any small enough to fit the narrow thureoi. The palm tree, historically an emblem of the Phoenician city of Tyre, is a suitable enough symbol for a Levantine unit of any description. These are 15mm slide transfers from Veni Vidi Vici.

I vacillated a bit on skin tone as modern Arab skin tones vary quite a bit, but settled on trying to match Mahmud and Juma'a, both of whom are settled Bedouin I have had the privilege of working with over the years. 

Sunday 6 August 2023

ProjectSeleukid - Kilikian light infantry

Anyone who has spoken to me about my different archaeological interests for any length of time knows that I am rather partial to Kilikians (I've published a number of articles on the Tarkondimotid dynasty for a start). So when it was time to dip my toe in the water and get my end of ProjectSeleukid going, it was not a difficult decision to start with Kilikian light infantry.

These Taurus highlanders (admittedly only half of Kilikia was mountains - but the rest of it was fringed with mountains) appear in all three detailed breakdowns of the Seleukid army, at Raphia, Magnesia and Daphne, and parts of Kilikia remained within the Seleukid orbit from the 290s right down to the early 1st century BC.

Helpfully we have a couple of references to ancient Kilikian light infantry equipment. Unhelpfully, the most detailed account comes from Book 7 of Herodotus, two and a half centuries before Magnesia. Still, it provides a guide.

The [Pisidians] had little shields of raw ox-hide. Each man carried two wolf-hunter’s spears. They wore helmets of bronze, with the ears and horns of oxen represented in bronze, and crests in addition. Their legs were wrapped round with strips of purple stuff. In this country is a place of divination sacred to Ares. The Kabeleeans,​ who are Maionians, and are called Lasonians, had the same equipment as the Cilicians. When I come in my recording to the place of the Cilicians, I will say what it was. The Milyans had short spears and garments fastened by brooches. Some of them carried Lykian bows, and they wore caps of skin on their heads. The commander of all these was Badres son of Hystanes.
Herodotus 7.76-7

The Cilicians furnished a hundred ships. These, too, wore on their heads the helmets of their country, carrying bucklers of raw ox-hide for shields, and clad in woollen tunics. Each had two javelins and a sword fashioned almost the same as the single-edged swords of Egypt. These Cilicians were in old time called Hypachaians, and took the name they bear from Kilix a Phoenician, son of Agenor.​ The Pamphylians furnished thirty ships: they were armed like Greeks. These Pamphylians are descended from the Trojans of the dispersal who followed Amphilochos and Kalchas.
Herodotus 7.91

So, small round shields of ox-hide, helmets, javelins and swords - preferably single bladed. That is a good start. The "helmets of their country" line sounds distinctive, but there is no indication what makes them distinctive. At 7.76 Herodotus talks about the Pisidian helmets with horns and ears. Pisidia neighboured Kilikia to the west, and both populations appear to have been Luwian, so I was tempted to try to incorporate a horned helmet somewhere.

Speaking of the parade at Daphne a generation after Magnesia, Polybius has the following to say:

This same king [Antiochos IV] when he heard of the games celebrated in Macedonia by Aemilius Paullus the Roman general, ambitious of surpassing Paullus in magnificence sent out embassies and sacred missions to the towns to announce the games he was about to give at Daphne, so that people in Greece were very eager to visit Antioch then. The festival opened with a procession composed as follows: It was headed by five thousand men in the prime of life armed after the Roman fashion and wearing breastplates of chain-armour. Next came five thousand Mysians, and immediately behind them three thousand Cilicians armed in the manner of light infantry (euzonoi), wearing gold crowns. Next came three thousand Thracians and five thousand Gauls. They were followed by twenty thousand Macedonians of whom ten thousand bore golden shields, five thousand brazen shields and the rest silver shields.
Polybius 30.25.1-5

Not especially helpful, but it does confirm the role of light infantry as opposed to phalangites, thureophoroi, archers or slingers. Javelins, spears and pelta seem about right then. 

Angus McBride is about the only person to have attempted a reconstruction that I have come across. As his reconstruction is of parade day at Daphne, he has opted for a gold wreath rather than helmet, and a bronze-faced pelta. I don't know his reasoning for having a metal shield - it is plausible that there were developments since the Herodotean account, but this isn't something that appears in the historic records.

And thus we return to my 28mm interpretation. Starting with Victrix Greek peltasts, I replaced a few heads with later, Hellenistic, helmets from a phalangite sprue, and also replaced all shields with phalangite peltas, painted as ox-hide rather than bronze-faced. I gave the unit bulls horns, inspired by Herodotus' Pisidians, and kept chiton colours to muted variations of red and black.

For the fun, I also ordered a Greek priest reading a wee goat's entrails from 1st Corp. I removed the huge resin plinth and just kept the altar to represent some pre-battle divination.

Saturday 5 August 2023

Of Byzernians and beastlings - 10mm Fantastic Battles

Jim's Byzernians took on my beastling army of the Red King this week in a hard-fought, 1000 point game of Fantastic Battles.

The battlefield was constricted somewhat with terrain, including two large woods and a settlement that benefited neither of us so, as the defender, the Red King deployed his army of highland mice, squirrels, bunnies and other assorted beastlings in depth across the centre and right. 

The Byzernians launched an ambush across the abandoned left flank with a large unit of axe-wielding gallowglasses. The beastling army responded by redeploying their reserves to cover the wood, and advancing down into the valley on the opposite flank.

The gallowglass unit was pinned and surrounded in the woods, and ultimately abandoned by the rogue leading them, causing the unit to rout. 

In the centre and right, the beastlings were finding the going a bit tougher - everywhere the Byzernians out-matched them in melee and only the bog trolls were doing ok, hurling great boulders at the Byzernian galloping flamethrowers. The match between the Byzernian angel and the moohemoths went well for the Red King, but the battle was balancing on a knife edge.

In the woods, the beastling slingers carried on a shoot-out with the skirmishing Byzernian horsemen, but ultimately they achieved little other than luring their enemies into the difficult woodland terrain.

Having failed to break a small unit of skirmishing irregulars over three turns, the beastling chariotry in the centre were taking a real battering from the Byzernian elite cataphracts. Even the arrival of the shrew wyrd sister leading a company of moohemoths could not save them. The unit of shroomlings that she summoned tried their mindless best to help, but the Byzernian wizard's blink spell messed them about time and again.

With the scattering of the chariots, and a unit of beastling levy, both armies were sitting on breakpoints of 6/10 with multiple units with low Resolve. The beastlings threw everything they could at the Byzernian cataphracts in the centre, while everything else that could shoot, tried to do so.

In the end, the cataphracts broke, taking one unit of moohemoths with them. The bog trolls finally threw enough stones to scatter the galloping flamers, and the last levy unit, only two Resolve from breaking itself, finally broke the last Byzernian spear unit in the valley. The end result was Byzernia 11/10, Red King 7/10 (but only two Resolve away from being 10/10), so a very close-run victory indeed!

Tuesday 1 August 2023

ProjectSeleukid - the first 28mm units, phalangites and Galatians

While my work on Project Seleukid has, for the most part, been pretty theoretical to date, Andrew has been forging away at his usual pace and has already brought two units together, both Victrix kits. The first of these is one of the three phalanxes that we will need for our Magnesia order of battle. The following text has been lazily lifted from something I wrote back in 2014 when I was building my 6mm phalanx units. However, the points raised still stand, so worth repeating.

The centre of any Hellenistic monarch's battle line was generally composed of 'Macedonians'. That is to say, those fighting in the Macedonian fashion, equipped with small round pelte (shields) and wielding long pikes in both hands, fighting in a massed phalanx between 16 and 32 ranks deep.

For the Seleukids, you probably shouldn't let the pseudo-ethnic Macedonian title lead you astray. There is every reason to believe that a high proportion of men serving in the ranks of a third century Seleukid phalanx were, genetically speaking, very far from being Macedonians. We can assume that there was a core of Greco-Macedonian colonists (or rather their decendants) which was almost certainly supplemented by non-Greeks who had received a Greek education and training.

Alexander the Great had provided Macedonian training and Greek education to 30,000 epigonoi, non-Greek youths who were to form the basis of his future phalanx and Eumenes and Antigonos Monophthalmos are both recorded as having employed pantodapoi, phalangites of mixed origins during the late fourth century BC. There is no compelling reason why the Seleukids would not have found it expedient to do the same thing.

While indigenous contingents from all around the periphery of the empire are found in the Seleukid army, there is never a mention of native Syrians or Mesopotamians from the geographic centre. I'd wager that the proposition often put forward - that the Seleukids did not want to arm their oppressed indigenous serfs - is a pile of tripe. I accept that they may not have wanted the native Syrians to raise 'independent' units with a national identity (such as the Kyrtian slingers, Elymaiote archers or Kilikian and Lydian javelineers for example), but that is not to say that they would not employ the man power available in a way that created an effective core of heavy infantry while at the same time spreading all the joys of the government message about loyalty to the king.

Writing of Antiochos VI of Kommagede in the first centruy AD, Josephus states: "At this time Antiochos Epiphanes arrived with a large force of heavy infantry and a bodyguard of so-called Macedonians, all just out of their teens, tall and trained and equipped in the Macedonian manner - hence the title, though few of them bore much resemblance to that martial race!" It is clear that here a unit of non-Macedonians was trained to fight in the Macedonian manner and I suspect the same to be true about earlier Seleukid armies.

Regardless, there seems to have been two basic bodies of phalangites: the agyrispides (silver shields), and the katoikoi (colonists). The prevailing theory is that the best young men of any village, colony or city would head off to Apameia, the military headquarters in Syria, and be trained up as agyraspides - an elite body of pikemen and the core of the professional army. After their period of service was up, they would be replaced by other youths and head back home to form a trained reserve. Any army called up for a campaign would then have the active argyraspides who were permanently in arms, supported by reservist katoikoi, mobilised only for specific campaigns.

Andrew's second unit are an unruley bunch of nudie Galatians - more than are required for Magnesia, but that just allows other options for the future. By the 220s BC the Galatians had been in Anatolia for a couple of generations. There aren't too many records around their equipment around 190 BC other than the fact the Kappadokian contingent were equipped in a similar way - whatever that means. On the balance of probability I suspect they probably didn't dash into battle naked by then (think of the sunburn!), although Angus McBride famously depicted them like that in a depiction of the Ptolemaic army...