Saturday, 28 January 2012

Sellasia 222BC. Woe to Achaia.

The latest in our series of WAB re-fights saw the combined might of Macedon and the Achaian League (me) take on a resurgent Sparta ( Paul) at the pass of Sellasia. Historically Kleomenes III of Sparta fortified two hills either side of the road near Sellasia with his phalangites and blocked the pass with his light troops and cavalry; Antigonus Doson then assaulted both hills with his phalangites and light troops and used his cavalry and remaining light troops in the centre. Due to lack of space and time considerations we chose to re-fight the cavalry battle in the centre and the assault on the Spartan left flank on the Evas Hill.

Initial Spartan deployment looked like this:

In the foreground on the Evas hill are two levy phalanxes supported by a bolt thrower and a unit of slingers; beyond them a unit of Cretan archers, three units of thureophoroi and two units of Tarentine cavalry form the centre and beyond them the right wing comprises a hoplite phalanx and anothe runit of thureophoroi.

The Macedonian battle line was set up like this:

Two phalanxes supported by Illyrian peltasts and Cretan archers are prepared to assault the Evas Hill, the centre consists a unit of thureophoroi, a wedge of Achaian Xystophoroi, two units of Greek cavalry and the Antigonid Companions. The left wing comprises a unit of thorakites, rhomphia armed Thracians and a Galatian warband.

Initial moves were fairly simple as both sides threw their centres forward and the Macedonian phalangites began a slow advance over rough ground toward the Evas Hill. The first casualties were sustained by the Illyrians under a hail of stones from the slingers on the hill.

The first combat occurs in the centre as the Tarentine mercenary cavalry charges the Antigonid Companions and Greek Cavalry. The furthest Tarentines are routed and ridden to destruction by their Greek opponents, their brethren however are held in a stalemate by the Companions.
On the far flank both sides infantry close up cautiously through the open woodland.

Aftermath of the cavalry combat, the Greek cavalry break through the Spartan centre

At this point in the proceedings the young Philopoimen leads the Achaian Xystophoroi into the fray to break once and for all the Spartan centre and win everlasting fame and glory. Unfortunately for him his Tarentine opponents led by the indomitable Pelopidas are less than obliging and the fight dissolves into a bloody slog.
Beyond them under the trees the Achaian thorakite are smashed in a single round of combat by the hoplites, while the Thracians are broken by the thureophoroi.
The overall situation at this point
So far, so good for Macedonian ambition. Despite losing the infantry combat on their left flank it appears that smashing the Spartan centre with their cavalry and rolling up the battle line is a mere formality. However the Tarentine cavalry in the centre continue to stymy their opponents for another three rounds of combat freeing up two units  thureophoroi to pin down the greek cavalry loose in their rear and the third unit of thureophoroi to counter attack across the stream supported by the archers.

The right flank attack up the hill proceeds slowly although the Illyrians offer a glimmer of hope as they begin to chase off the slingers who up to now have held the upper hand by virtue of their accurate shooting.

It is now that the disaster strikes for the Achaian League, Philopoimen is mortally wounded in combat with Pelopidas and his Xystophoroi are routed and slain to a man by their outnumbered Tarentine opponents, the centre of the battle line is smashed apart and the battle lost. The Achaian thureophoroi yield to their mercenary counterparts and the Macedonian phalanx forms hollow square and begins a slow retreat off the field covered by the Cretan archers.

Overall a good little battle this one. Despite not being able to fight the whole action there was sufficient drama and moments of tension in what we were able to do to make up for it.
The cavalry melee in the centre was the pivotal point in the action and the  main hope of either side for a quick victory. If the Macedonian Companions/ Achaian Xystophoroi had succeeded in routing their Tarentine opponents there would have been three units of cavalry loose in the Spartan rear which would have effectively won the battle for me as Paul hadn't any cavalry reserves. As it was the fight wore on long enough to allow Paul to begin to move his victorious infantry over from the far side of the table to threaten my left rear making things damned ticklish and when his cavalry won that fight against all odds it was curtains for me. Admittedly  Macedonian phalanx was still intact but lacking any support it was only a matter of time before disaster would overtake it.


  1. Great looking set up really like the cavalry wedge!

  2. Many thanks Willie, its a shame it was all show and no go today.
    Cheers HGA

  3. Great report, love this period. Whenever I see these reports they always inspire me to pick up the brush. Keep em coming.

  4. HGA: I missed this aweswome post; see you even got Jeff Jonas giving approval. Best, Dean

  5. Good Evening Dean. Yes I was quite chuffed about that it doesn't happen every day, almost made up for another lamentable performance on my part.
    Regards HGA.