The Seleucid Armies Part I


Battle of Gabiene, artwork by J. Shumate. Battle of Gabiene (316 BCE; located in modern-day Iran) was a second great battle (after Paraitakene) between two of Alexander the Great’s successors and ended the Asian part of the Second Diadoch War. It had been fought between Eumenes of Cardia, representing the forces loyal to the Macedonian dynasty, and Antigonus One-Eye, who was determined to establish his own power.


When Alexander died, he had no obvious heir to inherit his empire. When his generals crowded around his deathbed and asked to whom he left his empire, all he said was, “The strongest”; though prophetic, this was not much help. A civil war was about to begin that ultimately would decide the question. Alexander’s generals and their descendants would fight for nearly five decades to control all or part of Alexander’s empire. During this time, the nature of Greek warfare changed significantly. Three major battles, Paraitakene (317), Gabiene (316), and Ipsus (301), demonstrated how dramatically military operations had evolved from the old Macedonian army created by Philip and perfected by Alexander, and especially from the old polis armies of the fifth and fourth centuries.

In the summer of 317, Antigonus Monophthalmos (“The One-Eyed”) and his army moved south from Media; Eumenes in Persia moved north toward Antigonus. The armies encamped barely a mile from each other, but they were separated by a river and a ravine, which neither army wished to cross. For five days, the two armies sat tight, living off the land until the neighborhood had been exhausted. Antigonus decided on a retreat into Gabiene, which possessed unplundered territory with which to support his men. Deserters, though, went to Eumenes and told him of Antigonus’s plans to evacuate, so Eumenes decided on a ruse; he paid mercenaries in his camp to pretend to defect to Antigonus and to tell Antigonus that Eumenes was going to launch a surprise night assault against his camp. Believing the defectors, Antigonus waited for the expected attack rather than have his men begin the march toward Gabiene. Instead, it was Eumenes who got away first and moved quickly to Gabiene. Realizing he had been tricked, Antigonus chased after Eumenes with his cavalry while the rest of his army, commanded by Pithon, followed as quickly as it could. Antigonus’s cavalry eventually caught up to Eumenes on the plain of Paraitakene, and Eumenes prepared for battle. Fortunately for Antigonus, the rest of his army appeared in the nick of time to form a battleline.

The two armies that fought at Paraitakene in December 317 were now highly diversified. In the past, there was the heavy infantry phalanx, sometimes with cavalry support on the wings. Now, there were highly specialized units on both sides of the field, including both the heavy infantry of the phalanx and lightly armed troops that used bows and arrows, javelins, and slings, among other weapons. There were both heavy and light cavalry. There were numerous elite units, including the veteran argyraspides, or “Silver Shields,” and the various cavalry guards.

Newest of all was the incorporation of elephants into the battles of the Epigoni. There had been 15 elephants in the Persian army at Gaugamela, but they had played no role in the fighting. It was not until India and the Battle of the Hydaspes in 326 that the Macedonians had seen elephants in action. Drivers called mahouts rode the elephants into battle. Horses that had not previously trained with the elephants would not go near them. Elephants were often very difficult to control; they panicked in battle and would then either flee or trample their own men. When Alexander was in India (327-324), he received a large number of elephants as gifts from the various princes he had conquered or who had submitted willingly. By the time he was back in Babylon in 324-323, he had a squadron of 200 elephants fully incorporated into his army. After his death, his successors did everything they could to secure elephants for their armies. The successors also imported new elephants from India. Eumenes received 120 elephants brought from India by Eudamus, a Macedonian left there by Alexander in 324 who now returned to the west to sell his elephants to the highest bidder; Eumenes paid 200 talents. Antigonus had 65 elephants.

Another dramatic change was not just the diversity of unit types but the diversity of ethnic groups now fighting in the “Macedonian” armies. The Macedonian army under Philip was mostly Macedonian, with some auxiliary contingents. At Gaugamela, roughly two-thirds of Alexander’s soldiers were Macedonian or Greek. The two “Macedonian” armies fighting at Parataikene had far different ratios. According to the sources, Eumenes had 44,300 men, of whom only 7,800 were Macedonian, roughly 18 percent. Antigonus’s army of 38,600 had 9,300 Macedonians, or 24 percent. Neither army had a significant number of Greeks fighting either as allies or as mercenaries. Macedonian or Greek “patriotism” was no longer a primary motivation for these soldiers, since all the commanders were Macedonian; money was now more important. To some extent, these armies were similar to the Persian army; instead of a core of Persians controlling a large army of many different ethnic groups, it was now a core of Macedonians doing the same thing. The list of units involved in the fighting is similar to those that fought for Xerxes at Platea or Darius III at Issus and Gaugamela. In Antigonus’s army were Medians, Parthians, Tarentines, Phrygians, Lydians, Thracians, Pamphylians, and various mercenaries. Eumenes’ army included Mesopotamians, Arachosians, Paropanisadai, Thracians, and Persians.

The actual battlelines were as follows. In Eumenes’ army, Eumenes was on the right along with the elite cavalry including the hetairoi (Companion Cavalry) and the agema (guard) units. On the left were the allied and mercenary cavalry. Altogether there were 6,300 cavalry. In the center was the elite infantry, specifically the 3,000 Silver Shields, by now the best of the Macedonian infantry. Mercenaries and Persian light infantry filled out the line. In front of the line were Eumenes’ 125 elephants acting as a screen to deter enemy infantry and cavalry attacks; the elephants were protected by light infantry.

On the opposite side were the forces of Antigonus. He was on the right with his best heavy cavalry, including the elite unit of the agema; also on the right was Demetrios, son of Antigonus, who was later known as “Poliocertes” (Besieger of Cities), fighting in his first major battle at the age of 21. On the left was the light cavalry. In the center were various mercenaries, and Pamphylian and Lydian hoplites; next to the right wing was Antigonus’s Macedonian phalanx. His 65 elephants were also placed in front of his battleline.

Antigonus and Eumenes had very similar plans of battle. Both men wanted to use their heavy cavalry on the right to crash through their enemy’s weaker left wing and then move to attack the hoplite phalanxes in the rear, where they were most vulnerable. Antigonus ordered his left to hang back and to avoid coming to grips with Eumenes’ superior force, but it disobeyed and immediately charged forward. Antigonus’s left wing was quickly defeated and was driven west off the battlefield by Eumenes. Meanwhile Eumenes’ center, anchored by the Silver Shields, was pushing steadily forward; Antigonus’s hoplites were unable to hold their ground against the hardened veterans and began to break and flee toward the safety of the hills. With both his left wing and his center in full retreat, defeat seemed imminent for Antigonus, until, literally at the last possible moment, he saw an opportunity. When the infantry of Eumenes in the center had moved over to the attack, it had become detached from Eumenes’ left wing, opening a gap. Antigonus seized his last chance and led a charge of his heavy cavalry, which not only defeated the light cavalry on Eumenes’ left wing but also made it through the gaps. Antigonus then wheeled westward to attack the phalanx in Eumenes’ center from behind. These units, especially the Silver Shields, were veteran units, and, whereas most hoplites faced with an attack from the rear would have broken and fled, these units were able to simply turn around to defend against Antigonus’s charge. However, Antigonus’s charge saved his army because Eumenes’ victorious right-wing cavalry and phalanx in the center were not able to follow up on their victories and destroy Antigonus’s left and center. Instead, these units, granted a respite by Antigonus’s charge, were able to regroup along the western hills that bordered the battlefield. Eumenes’ chance for a decisive victory was lost. Darkness brought an end to the fighting. Antigonus’s losses far surpassed those of Eumenes, but he and his army had survived to fight another day. Eumenes had been forced by his men to abandon the battlefield after nightfall and instead retreated to their camp where they had their supplies, property, and, most important, their wives and families. Antigonus therefore took possession of the field, despite his losses. In the traditional truce that followed, Antigonus promised to hand over Eumenes’ dead on the second day after the battle. Instead, Antigonus quickly buried his own dead so that Eumenes would not learn the extent of his losses, and that night he and his army marched away from the battlefield at high speed, trying to put as much distance as possible between his army and Eumenes’. Antigonus moved to Gabiene, and, when Eumenes realized that Antigonus was gone, he buried his own dead and followed. Both armies were distributed in winter quarters to wait for the start of the campaigning season and better weather.


The Seleucid Armies Part II


The battle at Gabiene in 316 took place much earlier in the year than anyone expected. Antigonus realized that Eumenes’ army was scattered around the province. He believed that a sudden march direct for Eumenes through difficult desert terrain in the dead of winter would catch Eumenes by surprise and without most of his troops. Antigonus ordered his men to carry the necessary food and water since they would find neither on their march, and, to conceal his movements, he ordered them not to light fires that might alert the local inhabitants, who might then inform Eumenes of the presence of a large army. Unfortunately, the January nights were so cold that Antigonus’s men could not resist lighting fires to keep warm. They were indeed spotted by the locals, who informed Eumenes that a large army was coming across the plain. Eumenes was indeed caught by surprise; most of his army was some distance away. To fool Antigonus, Eumenes constructed a camp that from a distance looked large enough to hold his whole army, and he ordered the men he had with him to light enough fires to make it appear that all his soldiers were present. The ruse worked; Antigonus believed that his maneuver had failed to surprise his enemy and that further forced marches would not be beneficial; instead, he stopped and rested his men, allowing Eumenes enough time to bring up his entire army from their various winter quarters.

The Battle of Gabiene took place in January 316. Eumenes’ army numbered 36,000 infantry, 6,000 cavalry, and 114 elephants. Antigonus’s army, which was much reduced because of the losses at Paraitakene, now numbered 22,000 infantry, and 9,000 cavalry, more than 7,000 fewer men than he had in 317. He also had 65 elephants. Eumenes had changed his plan of battle. He wanted to ensure that Antigonus and his heavy cavalry did not snatch away his victory at literally the last minute. This time Eumenes was on the left wing with his heavy cavalry units. He decided his left would hold Antigonus’s right while his phalanx in the center, again anchored by the incomparable Silver Shields, would win the battle by crushing Antigonus’s infantry. As at Parataikene, Eumenes would use his elephants, supported by light infantry, as a screen to protect his forces while providing the time for the phalanx to break the enemy line.

The battle began with the two lines of elephants meeting head-on in the middle of the battlefield, kicking up huge clouds of dust on the desert floor. This gave Antigonus an idea; on the spur of the moment, he ordered his light cavalry on his left wing to move quickly southeast and then back to the southwest, looping far beyond the eastern edge of the battlefield. Hidden by distance and dust, they were able to move far behind Eumenes’ line to attack his lightly defended camp. All Eumenes’ baggage and the families of his soldiers were taken back to the camp of Antigonus. Though the battle would continue, this was actually the decisive moment that would bring the war between Eumenes and Antigonus to end. Meanwhile, Antigonus’s heavy cavalry on the right had maneuvered around the screen of elephants, which were not very effective once horses and men had become used to their presence. Antigonus’s cavalry charged straight for the units commanded by Eumenes. Eumenes’ Persian cavalry saw the dust and the oncoming cavalry and fled. Eumenes efforts to stop this flight failed; once again, Antigonus was able to get behind Eumens’ line. Eumenes’ phalanx had again been victorious, forcing Antigonus’s infantry to flee to the north. To some extent, the Battle of Paraitakene now repeated itself: Eumenes’ infantry were forced to turn around and face the cavalry, which had charged from the left wing and had come up from behind after the infantry had moved forward to the attack. At the same time, Antigonus and his cavalry blocked Eumenes and his cavalry from returning to the battlefield. Again the infantry veterans were able to do this without breaking and running; the Silver Shields simply formed a square to defy all comers. This allowed Antigonus’s infantry to escape. So the battle seemingly ended in a draw, with Eumenes’ infantry victorious in the center but his cavalry unable to prevent a victory by Antigonus’s heavy cavalry on the right aided by his light cavalry on the left.

However, even though the battle technically was a tie, the seizure of Eumenes’ camp meant that it would instead be a decisive victory for Antigonus. When the Silver Shields discovered that their baggage and their families had been captured by Antigonus, they decided they no longer wished to fight. They mutinied, a common occurrence during these wars, and placed Eumenes under arrest. They then made contact with Antigonus and agreed to join his army and hand over Eumenes in exchange for the return of their property and their families. Antigonus agreed, and Eumenes was executed, ending the war. This victory helped make Antigonus, by the end of 315, the most powerful of the Macedonian leaders; he controlled not only Anatolia and Syria but also all of the eastern satrapies to the borders of India.
“Battle of the Kings
Fearing the power and ambition of Antigonus, the other Macedonian leaders joined together to stop him. 4 In 302, they established the “Alliance of the Four Kings,” consisting of Cassander, Lysimachus, Ptolemy, and Seleucus. It was decided that Cassander would attempt to hold Antigonus’s son Demetrios in Greece, while Lysimachus would take his army and some troops loaned by Cassander to Anatolia, Antigonus’s stronghold, where he would be joined by Seleucus, who would move northwest across the Taurus Mountains. At the same time, Ptolemy would launch an attack from Egypt into Syria. If all went well, Lysimachus, Seleucus, and Ptolemy would converge on Anatolia, forcing Antigonus into a decisive battle. In 302, the attacks began. Lysimachus spent the better part of the year attempting to detach various regions of Anatolia from Antigonus’s control. Antigonus had been at Antigoneia in northern Syria, holding a festival to commemorate the establishment of this city as his new capital. He canceled the festival and marched west with his army, confident of victory: “He boasted that he would scatter the alliance the kings had formed with a single stone and a single shout, as easily as one scares away a flock of birds.”

He wished to confront Lysimachus before a junction with the other kings could be affected. Throughout 302, the two armies maneuvered around Anatolia, and Lysimachus was almost trapped at Dorylaion. A providential rainstorm provided the cover for a daring night escape north to Heraclea, where he went into winter quarters. Lysimachus had succeeded in delaying Antigonus while the army of Seleucus was mustered and had been moved into Cappadocia, where it would spend the winter. Antigonus attempted to force Seleucus back to the east by sending a small force to capture Seleucus’s capital at Babylon. Though the force was successful, Seleucus remained in Cappadocia. Antigonus, realizing he would need help against Lysimachus and Seleucus in 301, recalled Demetrios from Greece. Demetrios sailed with his army and wintered at Ephesus. By the winter of 302-301, four armies were in Anatolia awaiting the coming campaign season: Antigonus at Dorylaion, Demetrios to the west at Ephesus, Lysimachus with not only his own troops but also soldiers sent by Cassander at Heraclea, and his ally Seleucus in eastern Anatolia. Ptolemy had offered moral support but little else; his invasion of Syria ended quickly when he heard the false news that Lysimachus had been defeated. When the weather improved in the spring of 301, Lysimachus moved south to effect a junction with Seleucus along the old Persian Royal Road at Ankyra. They planned to move west and attack Antigonus’s lands in Lydia, Ionia, and Phrygia to provoke a decisive battle. Demetrios joined Antigonus at Dorylaion, and their combined armies quickly moved south to block Seleucus’s and Lysimachus’s road to the west. The armies confronted each other on the road between Ankyra and Sardis at a place called Ipsus.

In this “Battle of the Kings,” Antigonus and Demetrios had 70,000 infantry, 10,000 cavalry, and 75 elephants; they were confronted by the combined armies of Seleucus and Lysimachus, which numbered 64,000 infantry and 10,500 cavalry. Most important, they also had 480 elephants, the gift of the Indian raj Chandragupta Maurya to Seleucus in 305.7 Antigonus’s army was lined up facing north, with the light cavalry on the left, the phalanx in the center led by Antigonus himself even though he was now 81 years old and so overweight he needed help to get on his horse, and the heavy cavalry on the right led by Demetrios. His elephants were stationed in front of both wings as screens to protect the cavalry. His line was slightly in echelon, a modified version of Leuctra and Gaugamela, as Antigonus wanted to keep his weaker left wing as far from the enemy as possible while his center would be used to hold the enemy infantry. Both the left and the center would, it was hoped, buy time for the heavy cavalry under Demetrios on the right wing to not only defeat the enemy left but also to wheel around and attack the enemy line from the rear. On the other side of the battlefield, the army of Seleucus and Lysimachus faced south. The heavy cavalry was on the right wing led by Lysimachus. Seleucus commanded the infantry in the center, while his 23-year-old son Antiochus commanded the cavalry on the left. Though the infantry and cavalry were roughly equal, Seleucus did have a huge numerical advantage in elephants. He used these to great effect. A screen of 100 elephants under the command of Lysimachus was placed in front of the line as protection against the enemy. The rest, under the command of Seleucus, were placed behind the line with the support of cavalry units. When the battle began, there was first a fierce struggle between the elephants. Meanwhile, Demetrios’s heavy cavalry had maneuvered through the enemy elephant screen and had charged into the left wing of Antiochus. Antiochus’s cavalry could not stop Demetrios’s charge and fled northwest off the battlefield. At this moment, Demetrios was supposed to quickly wheel west and hit Seleucus’s line from behind. Unfortunately, Demetrios and his men were carried away by their victory, and, rather the follow the plan, they continued right off the battlefield in an attempt to chase down and destroy the enemy left. Antiochus’s panic and retreat may have been real, or it is possible that his actions were part of a prearranged plan designed to drag Demetrios from the battlefield. Whatever the case, Demetrios and his men were now in hot pursuit, and Seleucus moved quickly to ensure that they would not return to affect the battle. The elephants and the cavalry that Seleucus had stationed behind his men now formed a line to block the return of Demetrios. The plan worked; when Demetrios and his men finally checked their pursuit of Antiochus, Seleucus’s line of nearly 400 elephants and supporting cavalry prevented Demetrios’s return to the battlefield. This provided the necessary time for the rest of Seleucus’s men to go into action. The right, led by Lysimachus, defeated the opposing left, and the infantry in the center had come to grips with the enemy infantry. The decisive moment of the battle came when Seleucus ordered his light cavalry and archers to move quickly east and then turn back to the west in an outflanking maneuver that allowed them to attack Antigonus’s infantry from the sides and from behind. This was possible only because Demetrios’s cavalry was now gone, exposing the right side of the phalanx to attack. Antigonus and his infantry were now suddenly surrounded by Lysimachus’s heavy cavalry, the enemy infantry, and the light cavalry and archers. Under this pressure, Antigonus’s infantry units collapsed, either surrendering or fleeing.

Then, as great numbers of the enemy bore down on Antigonus, one of his soldiers shouted, “They are coming for you your highness,” and Antigonus replied, “Of course, where else would they be going? But do not worry Demetrios will come to our rescue.”

To the last moment Antigonus kept looking for his son, expecting him to return to save him and to save the day. Demetrios, though, was prevented from returning, and “the enemy overwhelmed Antigonus with a cloud of javelins and he fell.”

Demetrios did manage to escape from the battlefield with 5,000 infantry and 4,000 cavalry and, after numerous adventures, eventually ended up in Athens. With the death of Antigonus, the last hope of unifying Alexander’s old empire died, as well. Instead, from this point on, the various leaders would be fighting to control only parts of Alexander’s kingdom.

It would take 25 more years of fighting, but by 276, the final division of Alexander’s old empire was complete. Where there had been one empire, there were now three Hellenistic Kingdoms. Ptolemy and his descendants ruled Egypt; Seleucus, who eliminated Lysimachus in 281, and his descendants ruled the Seleucid Empire, by far the biggest of the three; and Antigonus, the son of Demetrios, and his descendants eventually ruled in Macedonia and Greece after the demise of Cassander’s line. These three kingdoms would dominate the eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East for more than a century until the coming of Rome.





When Batu, son of JOCHI and grandson of CHINGGIS KHAN, established his gold-hung ORDO (palace-tent) along the lower Volga, he followed Mongol precedents and required all Russian rulers personally to attend his court to inherit their thrones. From then on “going to the (Golden) Horde” (a word derived from the variant pronunciation horda of ordo) became a regular part of the Russian princes’ lives. Before 1259 several princes even made the vast journey to Mongolia itself, including Iaroslav (1190–1246), who died there, poisoned, his entourage believed. These audiences demanded delicate negotiation of religious and communal boundaries. The Russian clerics viewed common Mongol foods such as marmots and KOUMISS as unclean, a prohibition reflected in the chronicles’ excoriation of the “impure” and “accursed raw-eating Tatars.” Another issue was the ceremony of purification by fire with its attendant religious ceremonies, required of all those received in audience by the khan. In 1245 Daniel of Halych (d. 1264) performed the purification and drank fermented mare’s milk at Batu’s ordo without incident, but Michael of Chernihiv in 1246 refused the purification and was martyred. Such incidents soon became rare as the Jochid lords and the Russian princes adjusted to each other.

Daniel of Halych and Iaroslav’s son Alexander (1220–63) illustrate two of the possible responses to the Mongol conquest. Daniel toyed first with the idea of allying with Hungary and Poland and converting to Catholicism. Then he allied with still-pagan Lithuania. In the end, abandoned by all, he fled as the Mongols invaded Lithuania and destroyed the Russian fortifications in Halych and Volyn (1259–60). By contrast, Alexander Nevskii fought the Swedes (1240) and Teutonic Knights (1242) while at the same time winning the grand ducal throne from his brother Andrew in 1251 by submission to the Mongols.

From 1270 on the northern Russian princes appealed to the Mongol basqaqs (overseers) and troops to assist their particular ambitions. By the 1280s the emergence of the Jochid prince NOQAI west of the Dnieper as a challenger to the khan on the Volga encouraged a bloody rivalry between Alexander Nevskii’s sons Dmitrii (r. 1276–94) and Andrew (r. 1281–1304) for the position of grand prince. Four times between 1281 and 1293 armies from the khan plundered Suzdalia on behalf of Andrew, while Noqai’s armies backed Dmitrii. A similarly protracted feud broke out from 1278 to 1294 between brothers claiming the ducal throne of Rostov as well.

Eventually, many princes developed close relations with the Mongols, spending years at a time “at the Horde” and participating in the Horde’s wars. Several Russian princes received Mongol princesses as wives; even after the Horde’s Islamization the brides were always baptized before marriage. Following Mongol precedents, the khans granted complete tax exemption to the Orthodox Church and all its estates. In the church liturgy prayers for the “czar” (king/emperor) on the steppe replaced those for the “czar” in Byzantium. By the 1280s the khans also began to use the church hierarchs, particularly the metropolitan (who after 1240 resided at Vladimir in the northeast) and the bishop of Saray, as mediators between hostile princes. While the princes soon accepted Mongol rule as inevitable, Russian popular assemblies (veche) could still react unpredictably to Tatar envoys and/or troops entering Russian cities, rising up in Novgorod (1258), in several cities of Suzdalia (1262), in Rostov (1289), and in Tver’ (1327).

Numerous Russians also lived within the GOLDEN HORDE territories, in Saray and other cities on the Volga and on the steppe. Russian captives, along with Hungarians, OSSETES, and others, served in the ordos of their masters; many escaped and lived as bandits. Life on the steppe was hard for Christians, since the ban on eating Mongol food created a difficult choice between being a Christian and staying alive. Russians also served as levies in the Horde’s armies, and some appear to have reached high positions; in 1327 one Fedorchuk commanded the army dispatched by ÖZBEG KHAN (1313–41) to suppress the rebellion in Tver’. In the YUAN DYNASTY Russians taken captive during the first conquest to the east were even formed into a guards units in DAIDU (modern Beijing) in 1330.

While the Mongols worked through client rulers, they also established independent organs of rule. Basqaqs were appointed as supervisors to all the major cities and princes, with the “great basqaq” (veliki baskak) assigned to the grand prince of Vladimir. The Mongols conducted three censuses in the Russian lands: one in 1245–46 in the south and two in 1255–59 and 1273–74 covering the east and north. On the basis of this census, Russian households were enrolled in the DECIMAL ORGANIZATION and divided (exclusive of Novgorod) into 46 tümens, each nominally 10,000 households. As elsewhere in the MONGOL EMPIRE, subjects of the church were not included in the census. Servants directly attached to the Mongol ordos and postroad personnel were exempt from other taxes. The district of Tula, for example, was assigned to Taidula Khatun, wife of Özbeg.

At first the Mongols treated the Russians much like Siberian peoples, demanding furs, including sable and polar bear skins, from every person counted in the census. This demand for skins intensified the northern fur trade. By 1257 urban customs tax, or tamga (Mongolian, tamagha), and the iam (Mongolian, JAM), or postroad taxes, were also organized. Passing envoys and falconers were also free to levy contributions. The Mongols entrusted collection to tax farmers, at first Muslim merchants but later the princes themselves. In either case tax farming led in Russia, as elsewhere, to bidding wars between rival farmers for the right to collect the tax. People flocked to tax-exempt patrons, especially the Orthodox Church, but also ironically to the tax-exempt ORTOQ merchants who served as tax farmers. In 1284, for example, controversy arose when two cities near Kursk built by the Muslim basqaq (overseer) and tax farmer Ahmad drained population from the neighboring cities.


Khmer War Elephants


Khmerian war elephant in action. The crew consists of two men – or maybe the driver was deemed too insignificant to be depicted. It is hard to tell which of the two riders is of higher rank: the one with a javelin and shield on the elephant’s neck or the archer in the howdah. In Southeast Asia noble warriors traditionally fought sitting in front, and his rich armour and helmet also probably speak in favour of the first warrior. (Relief carvings, Angkor Thom, Cambodia, late 12th-early 13th centuries, after D. Nicolle)

Khmer elephants are depicted with a driver, armed with spear and shield, and a single archer or sometimes spearman. Those ridden by generals (identified by being shown enlarged) are accompanied by one or more parasol carriers on foot. Neither these nor elephants being shown in the background of infantry combats, Cham elephants are all crewed by a driver, a javelin-thrower, and a parasol bearer at the rear.

The artillery was Chinese-type “double crossbows” man-handled on wheels or mounted (or possibly only transported) on elephants Khmer troops in Cambodia placed double-bow crossbows on elephants. Several surviving images of the late 12th through to early 13th centuries show that it was not an experimental device. The idea of multiple crossbows was undoubtedly borrowed from China, where similar powerful installations comprising two to three bows were common at the siege and defence of fortresses. Nevertheless, only the Khmers put these crossbows on elephants’ backs.



Medieval Japanese Warrior Values


Muromachi samurai (1538)


Nanban [“Southern barbarian trade” i.e European] ships arriving for trade in Japan. 16th century painting.

The medieval warrior values similar to those described in detail below were perhaps first summarized in the Chikubasho (Bamboo stilt anthology), a Muromachi-period volume providing moral instruction for samurai. Completed in 1383 by an Ashikaga deputy shogun (kanrei) named Shiba Yoshimasa (1350–1410), the text outlined explicit rules to guide the behavior of the military class. At the same time, this work also stressed the importance of cultivating both the martial arts and the traditional four scholarly accomplishments first identified with Confucius’s ideal gentleman: games of strategy, scholarship through skilled calligraphic copies of the classical texts, music, and painting. In advocating the “dual way” of both military abilities and cultural pursuits, Chikubasho identified the balance of cultural and martial knowledge sought by the warrior class. At the same time, this early warrior manual laid foundations for samurai of limited regional authority and humble origins to achieve social, economic, and political prominence previously available only to the cultivated aristocracy.

First and foremost, the samurai was a professional soldier, and thus was expected to perform martial duties at the request of his lord in exchange for remuneration in the form of land, subvassals who worked samurai fields and served in his military unit, and other tangible rewards, such as protection. The lord-vassal relationship was the primary factor that determined a warrior’s role and socioeconomic status. Since a samurai provided service to his lord by means of achievement in combat, in both military encounters and civilian life, warriors were expected to exhibit discipline and fortitude even off the battlefield. For example, a well-known Edo-period anecdote relates the deep disgrace samurai would experience at betraying hunger through the rumbling of an empty stomach, or even by acknowledging such a basic need. Upholding such stringent ideals of honor and restraint helped to ensure that warriors were constantly prepared for battle as well as other forms of adversity, while cultivating a sense of group pride and integrity lacking in nonmilitary circles.

Warriors were expected to cultivate other exemplary traits, such as loyalty, prudence, and stability, along with military leadership. Such appropriate samurai attributes were first expounded in literary sources dating to the medieval period. Literary sources highlighted samurai devotion, such as the vow to commit seppuku (ritual suicide by disembowelment; also known as hara-kiri) if faced with disgrace, especially when confronting certain enemy triumph. Willingness to follow one’s lord in death (junshi) was a related act of ultimate loyalty. Samurai demonstrated such values when imperial forces defeated the Hojo clan in 1333, and thousands of loyal warriors emulated the fate of their Hojo masters by performing ritual disembowelment, an event recorded in the Taiheiki (Chronicle of the great peace), completed by 1374.

Despite the picture of duty painted in historical accounts like the Taiheiki, loyalty was not an absolute for the military retainer throughout the medieval and early modern periods. In principle, a samurai might owe allegiance to a lord through his obligation to uphold loyalty and duty, but such a debt might also derive from material benefits, such as financial support and other rewards, offered to a warrior by a daimyo. Although traditionally the Japanese military class has been characterized as selfless and disinterested in personal gain, in reality warriors put their own needs ahead of those of their lords at various times. Certainly samurai were not immune to the allure of improving their socioeconomic position. Military units often fought on behalf of a distant lord, and even lofty moral principles could not prevent samurai bands from enjoying the spoils of warfare directly, rather than being satisfied with token parcels offered by their lords when redistribution of conquered lands occurred.

Theoretically, Bushido principles required that samurai were chivalrous champions of the weak and the disadvantaged, and protectors of the vanquished. However, since samurai had been trained to fight until capture or casualties occurred, they were often ruthless in pursuing their objectives. From the early medieval era, both the law and widespread precedents worked to prevent warriors from pursuing private interests through violent means. In the Kamakura period, legally, samurai were granted authority only to chastise lawbreakers on behalf of a superior ruler. Many incidents occurred during the medieval era in which warriors usurped ruling authority, took advantage of disorder and military power, or simply extended their responsibilities in order to achieve personal gains. Thus, many samurai failed to consistently demonstrate honorable behavior and loyalty as extolled in Bushido principles. Eventually, the civil order established by the Tokugawa shogunate eliminated samurai incentives to pursue personal gain through military prowess.

Other warrior values attest to connections between learning, lineage, social status, and righteous administration first introduced to Japan from China, along with centralized government, during the Asuka period (552–645). Long seen as the purview of the ruling class, knowledge and education became central samurai ideals during the Muromachi era as Japan experienced renewed Chinese cultural influence. As in ancient China, learned samurai were expected to be familiar with standard Chinese texts, and to master related skills such as calligraphy, poetry, and principles of strategy. Once the Ashikaga shogunate was established in Kyoto, the residence of Japan’s imperial family for nearly 1,100 years and a city distinguished by its aristocratic elegance and refinement, military rulers and other members of the warrior classes sought to establish their cultural acumen as well as the right to govern the nobility. The prominent influence of Chinese culture in the Muromachi age also contributed to the growing sense that a military figure should demonstrate characteristics typical of the superior gentleman, a moral and cultural ideal first identified by the Chinese sage Confucius (Kongfuzi), ca. 551–479 B.C.E.


Siberia and the Mongol Empire

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The demand for falcons and furs from the “Peoples of the Forest” brought Mongol conquerors north to the Arctic.

The peoples of the Mongolian steppe had long maintained intimate relations with the peoples of the Siberian taiga (forest). They called those in the forest “People of the Forest” (Oi-yin Irged), but this term covered a wide range of peoples, many of whom were little different from the steppe Mongol people. The BARGA (Barghu), east of Lake Baikal, were like the Mongols except for keeping reindeer. Others, such as the “Forest” Uriyangkhai, lived in wigwams of birchbark, detested sheep, excelled in sledding, skiing, and reindeer herding, and tried to have as little as possible to do with the steppe Mongols. While the tribes around LAKE BAIKAL were Mongolic speaking, those to the west spoke Turkic, Samoyedic, or Kettic (Paleo-Siberian) languages.

In 1207 CHINGGIS KHAN (Genghis, 1206–27) sent his eldest son, JOCHI, to subjugate the forest tribes from the Barga east of the Baikal to the Bashkirs (Bashkort) near the Urals. He then organized the Siberians into three tümens, or 10,000 households. Chief Qutuqa Beki of the OIRATS, dwelling in the Shishigt valley, surrendered, and Chinggis made him a myriarch (commander of a tümen) and gave his daughter Checheyiken to Qutuqa’s son. The Yenisey Kyrgyz of Khakassia (ancestors of the modern Khakas and of uncertain relation to the Kyrgyz of modern Kyrgyzstan) also surrendered and were numbered as a tümen. Chinggis gave the Telengit and Tölös along the Irtysh River (ancestors of the modern Altay nationality) to an old companion, Qorchi, of the Baarin clan. Together with Qorchi’s original three Ba’arin 1,000s, this made Qorchi commander of a third Siberian tümen. Other peoples, such as the BARGA, Tumad, BURIATS, and Khori in the east, the Keshtimi in the center, and the Bashkirs to the west, were organized in separate 1,000s.

For tribute, gerfalcons and furs were the chief things the Mongols valued in Siberia, although Kyrgyz horses were also famous. Since gerfalcons nested only near the Arctic Ocean, the Mongols and their tributaries made regular expeditions all the way to the northern shores of Siberia. The Mongol khans did not regard this tribute as enough, however, and regularly demanded labor service and harem girls from the forest peoples. A Tumad rebellion broke out in 1217, when Chinggis Khan allowed Qorchi to seize 30 Tumad maidens. Dense forest and narrow mountain paths covered their territory along the Angara, and the Tumads captured Qutuqa Beki and killed Boroghul, one of Chinggis Khan’s “four steeds,” before Dörbei the Fierce of the Dörbed clan smashed them and freed Qutuqa Beki.

Despite the cold, Chinggis Khan settled a successful colony of Chinese craftsmen and farmers at Kem-Kemchik in the Tuvan basin. As the empire broke up in 1260, the Yenisey Kyrgyz and the colony at Kem-Kemchik became objects of contention between QUBILAI KHAN (1260–94) of the Mongol YUAN DYNASTY and his enemies. In 1262 ARIQ-BÖKE, cut off by Qubilai’s blockade, tried to use the colony at Kem-Kemchik as his base. After Ariq- Böke’s defeat Qubilai Khan sent a Chinese official, Liu Haoli, with a new batch of colonists to serve as judge of the Kyrgyz and Tuvan basin areas in 1270. From 1275 on, however, QAIDU KHAN, another rival, occupied central Siberia. In 1293 Qubilai’s Qipchaq general TUTUGH reoccupied the Kyrgyz lands, severing one of Qaidu’s important supply bases. From then on the Yuan controlled central Siberia.

Western Siberia came under the eastern, or BLUE HORDE, of the GOLDEN HORDE. Ruled by the descendants of Jochi’s eldest son, Hordu, this area was isolated and conservative. In the swamps of western Siberia, dogsled JAM (post) stations were set up to facilitate collection of tribute in sable, ermine, black fox, and other furs. With the breakup of the by-then Islamic and Turkish-speaking Golden Horde late in the 14th century, a Siberian khanate was formed with its center at Tyumen’ (from Mongol tümen, 10,000). The non-Chinggisid Taybughid dynasty (probably KEREYID in origin) vied for rule with the descendants of Shiban, Jochi’s fifth son, until Russian Cossacks drove out the last Shibanid khan, Kuchum, in 1582. Qorchi’s Baarin tümen, moving south to the Tianshan Mountains and assimilating nomads from the Blue Horde, formed the nucleus of the modern Kyrgyz of Kyrgzstan. Even today, the Kyrgyz’s dominant clan, the Taghai, is named after Qorchi’s son.

Further reading: Allen Frank, The Siberian Chronicles and the Taybughid Biys of Sibi’r (Bloomington, Indiana University, 1994).

Major General Sir (John) Frederick Maurice, (1841–1912)

A member of the Ashanti Ring, Major General Sir (John) Frederick Maurice was a highly talented but controversial military intellectual, theorist, historian, editor, and educator. He was also Field Marshal Viscount Garnet J. Wolseley’s “lifelong friend, apologist and amanuensis” (Preston 1967, p. 244).

Maurice, born on 24 May 1841, was the eldest son of the social reformer Frederick Denison Maurice. He was educated at the Royal Military College, Sandhurst, and commissioned in the Royal Artillery in 1862. After postings in England, Scotland, and Ireland, Maurice entered the Staff College in 1870. While in attendance and in the wake of the Franco- Prussian War (1870–1871), he learned the Second Duke of Wellington was sponsoring an essay contest on “The System of Field Manoeuvres Best Adapted for Enabling Our Troops to Meet a Continental Army,” with £100 for first prize. Maurice won the essay contest, defeating another entrant— Wolseley — whom he quoted in his treatise.

Maurice’s essay had no real impact on the British Army, but it helped his career. Wolseley selected Maurice, then serving as an instructor in tactics at Sandhurst, to be his private secretary on the 1873–1874 Ashanti expedition. As a result, Maurice became a trusted member of the Ashanti Ring and later wrote The Ashantee War: A Popular Narrative.

After serving in Canada (1875–1877) Maurice returned to England and a posting in the Intelligence Department. When Wolseley was sent from Cyprus to South Africa in 1879 to command the forces during the latter phases of the Zulu War, he took Maurice with him as intelligence officer. During the subsequent campaign to capture Sekukuni, Maurice demonstrated gallantry on the battlefield and was shot in the chest.

After recovering, Maurice served as a brigade major in Cork. Wolseley again summoned him to the staff of the British expeditionary force sent to Egypt in 1882. Maurice became the official historian of this campaign and The Military History of the Campaign of 1882 in Egypt was published in 1887. This study was criticized for being too favorable to Wolseley. Maurice also served on Wolseley’s staff during the 1884–1885 Gordon Relief Expedition.

In 1885, Wolseley, returning to his position as adjutant-general, appointed Maurice professor of military art and history at the Staff College. He accepted the position reluctantly, but he became a superb teacher. He oriented his rigorous and stimulating military history courses so the student would “improve his judgement as to what ought to be done under the varied conditions of actual war” (Bond 1972, p. 136). Maurice was also Wolseley’s most articulate advocate of a British, rather than an Indian-based, strategy of imperial defense. Maurice was a prolific author and lecturer, although prone to be absentminded and argumentative.

Maurice was succeeded at the Staff College in 1892 by Lieutenant Colonel (later Colonel) G. F. R. Henderson, and was posted to successive artillery commands at Aldershot, Colchester, and Woolwich. Although Maurice retired in 1902, he succeeded the ailing Henderson as official historian of the Second Boer War. Frequently considered “the second pen of Sir Garnet,” Maurice died in 1912.

References: Beckett (1992); Bond (1972); Fergusson (1984); Luvaas (1964); Maurice (1872); Maurice (1887); Maurice and Arthur (1924); Maxwell (1985); Preston (1967); Spiers (1992)

Madras Army


The 1st Madras Pioneers, c. 1890


The Queen’s Own Madras Sappers and Miners, Review Order 1896.

The Madras Army, established by the East India Company, was one of the three presidency armies in India. The other two armies were the Bengal Army and the Bombay Army, and all three were abolished in 1895 and replaced by a single Indian Army.

There were European companies in the Madras Army from an early period, and it is known that there were three in 1742 and seven in 1748, when they were formed into a single regiment. In 1824, the Madras Army consisted of two European infantry battalions , fifty-two Madras Native Infantry battalions, three irregular infantry battalions, three light cavalry regiments, one European and one native artillery brigade, three battalions (of four companies each) of foot artillery, and two pioneer corps.

The Madras Army soldiers showed exceptional discipline and loyalty throughout the Indian Mutiny, and unlike the other two presidency armies, no Madras Army units mutinied. This fidelity can probably be attributed to the recruiting methods the Madras and Bombay Armies shared. While the soldiers of these two armies were generally of a lower caste (and physically shorter) , they were more concerned with gaining respect through their own merit and efforts, and much less interested in caste and class practices and traditions. This attitude also made Madras and Bombay Army soldiers more disciplined.

The post-mutiny army reorganization had little impact on the Madras Army, other than the renumbering of units.

The strength of the Madras Army in 1876 totaled 47,144 officers and men, broken down into 33,968 Indian Army officers and other ranks and 13,176 British Army officers and men. The Madras Army was the second largest of the three presidency armies.

References: Beaumont (1977); Haythornthwaite (1995); Heathcote (1974); Hervey (1988); Mason (1974); Mason (1985);Wolseley (1878); Yong (2002)