Hellenistic/Diadochi/Greek Wars 322–146 BCE

■ PARAETAKENA (PARAECENE), 317 BCE

A battle in Media during the War of the Successors between the Macedonian forces of Eumenes of Cardia and Antigonus Monopthlamus. Eumenes anticipated Antigonus’s river crossing, inflicting casualties, but failing to stop his rival’s advance.

■ GABIENE, 316 BCE

Final battle in Media between Eumenes of Cardia and Antigonus Monopthalmus. After Antigonus captured Eumenes’ supplies, Macedonian elite forces, the Argyraspids, betrayed Eumenes to Antigonus, who rid himself of a formidable rival by executing him.

■ GAZA, 312 BCE

Decisive strategic defeat for Antigonus Monopthalmus by the combined armies of Ptolemy and Seleucus. Antigonus’s son, Demetrius, lost a large-scale battle near the city, costing his father control of Syria and hope of conquering Egypt.

■ SALAMIS (CYPRUS), 308 BCE

Demetrius Poliorcetes with 118 warships held 60 ships of Ptolemy blockaded at their Cyprian base with just 10 vessels, defeating 140 relieving Egyptian galleys at sea with the remainder. Demetrius’s victorious left rolled up the Egyptian centre.

■ SALAMIS (CYPRUS), 306 BCE

Successful Antigonid storming of Ptolemy’s Cyprian naval base by Demetrius Poliorcetes. Demetrius employed sea-borne catapults and a moving multi-storey siege tower against the Egyptian defenders. The capture of Salamis much improved the Antigonid position in the Mediterranean.

■ SIEGE OF RHODES, 305–304 BCE

An epic siege in which Demetrius Poliorcetes and his siege train failed to reduce the island democracy’s capital. Demetrius’s monster terrestrial and naval siege engines met equivalent responses from the defenders, supplied by the Antigonids’ rivals.

■ IPSOS, 304 BCE

Catastrophic defeat of the Antigonid Empire in Asia, leading to the death of Antigonus Monophthalmus and Demetrius Poliorcetes’ retreat to the islands and port cities of the eastern Mediterranean. The battle took place in eastern Central Asia Minor near where Lysimachus, ruler of Thrace, successfully eluded Antigonus’s army in a southward march. Lysimachus rendezvoused with Seleucus, who had ceded Alexander’s conquest in India to obtain 480 elephants, which he had transported at tremendous expense across Persia. The two allies combined 64,000 foot, 10,500 cavalry and 120 chariots to move against Antigonus’s 70,000 infantry, 10,000 cavalry and 75 elephants. Demetrius’s initial charge with the cavalry succeeded, but Demetrius was unable to prevent the allied infantry and elephants from crushing his father’s infantry and body in the resulting disaster. Their success in this battle prompted the popularity of elephants in Hellenistic warfare.

■ THERMOPYLAE, 279 BCE

A Greek confederation failed to hold the pass against the Gauls under Brennus seeking to move into and plunder the cities of Greece. After a repulse, the Gauls bypassed the defenders, who evacuated by sea.

■ CORUPEDION, 281 BCE

Decisive defeat in late summer of Lysimachus, 80, by Seleucus, 77, invading Thrace from Asia Minor. In this final battle between Alexander’s former generals, the armies fought in western Asia Minor. Lysimachus perished in the fighting.

■ ANDROS, 246 BCE

Naval victory off the Greek coast by the Macedonian fleet of Antigonus Gonatus over the Egyptian squadron of Ptolemy II. Antigonus, 73, employed some of the largest vessels ever in combat in the ancient world.

■ LAMIA, 1ST AND 2ND BATTLES, 209 BCE

Two battles lost by the Aetolians under Pyrrhias attempting to defend their capital against Philip V of Macedon’s advance southwards. Support from Attalus of Pergamon and a thousand Roman marines did not prevent the defeats.

■ MANTINEA, 207 BCE

The battle of Mantinea was caused by an attack by Machanidas, the tyrant of Sparta, against Philopoemen and the Achaean League, mustering in the nearby city. Machinadas’s catapults scattered the Achaean mercenaries, but Philopoemen, rallying his forces on better ground, defeated and killed Machanidas.

■ CHIOS, 201 BCE

Large fleet action between the navies of Philip V of Macedon and the Rhodians and Attalus of Pergamon. The Macedonians recovered from initial reverses, but Philip had to abandon his effort to capture neighbouring Samos.

■ LADE, 201 BCE

Naval defeat by Philip V of Macedon of the Rhodian fleet as it sought to prevent his conquest of Rhodian possessions on the mainland opposite the island. The Rhodians afterwards appealed to Rome for aid.

■ CORINTH, 198 BCE

Unsuccessful siege of Philip V’s southernmost fortress in Greece by the younger Flamininus and the fleets of Attalus of Pergamon and Rhodes. A naval bombardment breached the Macedonian defences, but a phalanx in the breach held.

■ AOUS, 198 BCE

Philip V’s fortified position preventing a juncture of Flamininus’s army with Rome’s Aetolian allies to the south. Flamininus found a local guide to take the Romans behind and above Philip’s lines, successfully routing the Macedonians.

■ CYNOSCEPHALAE, 197 BCE

Cynescephalae was the decisive battle of the Second Macedonian War, the set-piece clash of the Macedonian phalanx with the Roman manipular legion. Reinforced by veterans returning from Carthage, Flamininus took two legions in pursuit of Philip V’s full strength, consolidated in Thessaly for battle. Roman skirmishers and allied cavalry moving up one side of a ridge encountered their Macedonian counterparts, prompting Flamininus to launch an all-out assault before the Macedonian formations were fully ready for battle. Philip’s consolidated forces on the right formed a deep phalanx. This formation crested the ridge and drove down upon the legionaries, the long pikes of the Macedonians still proving effective in pushing the legionaries back. Flamininus took his elephants and unengaged right, rolling up the disorganized Macedonians opposite while the last line of the retreating legion took the Macedonians in flank, completing the rout with heavy casualties.

■ GYTHEUM, 194 BCE

City of the Achaean League besieged by Nabis, tyrant of Sparta. Philopoemen and the League moved before the Romans could effectively intervene, striking against Nabis by land and sea. The Achaeans lost at sea to Nabis’s blockading squadron when a recommissioned war memorial foundered, and Gytheum fell. The Achaeans then destroyed Nabis’s disorganized forces in a night attack and besieged Sparta, while Roman marines captured Gytheum and imposed a peace.

■ THERMOPYLAE II, 191 BCE

Antiochus III, with 14,000 infantry and 500 cavalry, held the historic pass against Roman forces seeking to evict the Seleucids from Greece. Cato the Censor led a detachment around an unguarded trail, causing a disastrous rout.

■ PYDNA (THIRD MACEDONIAN WAR), 172–167 BCE

Philip V’s heir Perseus’s efforts to restore Macedonian prestige in Greece led to friction and conflict with the Achaean League and Eumenes of Pergamon, both of whom were successful in drawing Rome’s attention back to the tense situation in the Balkans. Upon Rome’s declaration of hostilities, Perseus retreated behind the safety of his borders and prolonged the war with defensive campaigning. The strategy was a sensible one, which strained Rome’s alliances and supply streams. Perseus moved his forces into a strong position near his capital at Pydna and awaited Aemelius Paulus’s attack.

Two rivers protected the Macedonian flanks on the ridge where the phalanx awaited; Paulus accordingly was reluctant to engage. For unknown reasons Perseus’s phalanx charged down the hill into the Roman line, unsupported by their cavalry. A sacrificial stand by the Achaeans apparently created enough disorder for the Roman legionaries to cut their way in and utterly destroy the Macedonian army and empire.

■ CALLICINUS, 171 BCE

Opening engagement of the Third Macedonian War. Perseus had 39,000 infantry and 4000 cavalry, while the Roman army of Licinius consisted of two legions containing 12,000 largely inexperienced Italian troops. Perseus forced the Romans to retreat.

■ PYDNA, 148 BCE

One Andriscus, claiming Perseus as his father, seized control of Macedonia in 149. After defeating a legion under Juventius Thalna, two legions under Caecilius Metellus crushed Andriscus near the capital of Pydna. Rome then annexed Macedonia.

■ CORINTH, 146 BCE

Site of the Achaean League’s last effort against Roman domination of Greece; the army of Consul L. Mummius obliterated the League’s final levy and levelled the ancient and prosperous city, selling its inhabitants into slavery.

With morale restored, Pyrrhus deployed his war elephants, which the Romans had never before encountered. The Roman cavalry was routed and the infantry severely disordered by this assault. The Roman force was saved from complete disaster by the tendency of wounded elephants to run amok, disrupting their own side’s formations.

The Roman force disengaged and the Greeks were able to advance almost as far as Rome itself. However, both sides had taken very heavy losses and Pyrrhus was not confident of victory if he assaulted the city. His force pulled back and wintered in Tarentum.

■ ASCULUM, 279 BCE

After first encountering Greek war elephants at Heraclea, the Romans had developed anti-elephant tactics. On the first day of the battle of Asculum, the wooded and hilly terrain impeded the elephants and cavalry, resulting in a bloody but inconclusive clash between infantry forces. An aggressive redeployment by the Greeks forced the Romans to fight in terrain better suited to the use of elephants and the dense phalanx of the Greeks. A flank attack by the Greek elephants broke the Roman cavalry and caused a hurried withdrawal, giving the Greeks possession of the battlefield. Heavy losses on the winning side led to the concept of the ‘Pyrrhic Victory’.

■ SYRACUSE, C.279 BCE

To prevent King Pyrrhus from using Syracuse as a base for operations on Sicily, Carthaginian forces allied to Rome besieged the city. Pyrrhus landed Eryx and Panormus, then marched to break the siege of Syracuse.

■ CORINTH, 265 BCE

After two years of indecisive campaigning, the Greek coalition against Macedon had made some minor progress. The coalition suffered a severe defeat at Corinth, after which the war went very much against them.

■ MACEDONIA, 263 BCE

The Greek coalition against Macedonia collapsed with the fall of Athens to Macedonian troops and a peace treaty with Sparta. This cemented Macedonian control over Greece, though Egypt continued to interfere in Greek affairs.

■ INVASION OF SYRIA, 263 BCE

Entering into alliance with Seleucid Persia, Macedonian troops campaigned into Syria with the intention of driving Egyptian forces out of the Aegean region. Macedonian interest in the region waned as troubles grew on the northern borders.

■ COS, 258 BCE

The Egyptian and Macedonian fleets met off Cos in a clash that decisively weakened Egyptian naval power. Details are sketchy, and the date has been disputed by several historians. An alternate date of 255 BCE has been suggested.

■ ANDROS, 245 BCE

Continued naval clashes between Egypt and Macedon led to a battle off Andros in 245 or 246 BCE. Egyptian power in the Cyclades island group was broken as a result of this defeat.

■ ANCYRA, 236 BCE

Having been installed as regent in Asia Minor, Antiochus Hierax rebelled against his brother Seleucus II of Persia. Seleucus was decisively defeated in a clash at Ancyra, making a hasty retreat across the River Taurus.

■ RAPHIA, 217 BCE

After a period of skirmishing, the Egyptian and Seleucid armies clashed, with the Egyptian flanks soon broken. The phalangites of both armies fought on for some time, with the Egyptians finally emerging victorious.

■ INVASION OF PARTHIA, 209 BCE

After the failure of a first expedition by Seleucus II to retake Parthia from the Parni, a second campaign under Antiochus III brought the region under Seleucid control as a vassal state.

■ ARIUS, 209 BCE

A force of Parthian cavalry attempted to halt the Seleucid advance at the river Arius. The Seleucid advance guard, composed mainly of elite troops, crossed the river at night and surprised the Parthians in their camp.

■ WAR OF ANTIOCHUS, III 208–06 BCE

After securing his northern frontier by reducing Parthia to a vassal state, Antiochus III marched eastward, forcing a peace settlement upon the rebellious province of Bactria. He then forayed into India where he was gifted with war elephants.

■ PANIUM, 198 BCE

Having seized Syria and Palestine, the Seleucids held it for a short time before they were driven out by additional forces from Egypt. Antiochus launched a new campaign to regain control of the province, culminating in the battle of Panium. The Seleucids’ chief advantage was their use of cataphract cavalry, which defeated and drove off the Egyptian cavalry on the flanks, then attacked the rear of the enemy’s main infantry body.

■ EURYMEDON, 190 BCE

With the Seleucid intervention in Greece defeated by a Roman army at Thermopylae, Antiochus III was forced to abandon the campaign. Roman forces then went on the offensive, making control of the Aegean vital to both sides. The Seleucid fleet was commanded by the Carthaginian Hannibal, who was in exile at the Seleucid court. Hannibal’s fleet suffered a heavy defeat at the hands of a combined Roman–Rhodian force.

■ MYONESSUS, 190 BCE

Soon after the battle at Eurymedon, the Seleucid fleet was again defeated by a roughly equal-sized force of Roman and Rhodian ships. The superior experience of the Rhodians, and their use of fire-ships, were critical factors.

■ MAGNESIA, 190 BCE

With the Roman army on the offensive and keen to seek a decisive battle before winter set in, Antiochus set up a fortified camp and awaited their arrival. The Roman formation was conventional, in three lines with the Roman legions in the centre and allied forces holding the flanks. The Roman force had some war elephants but these were African beasts, outmatched by the Indian elephants of the Seleucid force in both numbers and physical power.

The Seleucid cavalry broke its opposite numbers on the Roman left flank, but pursued them rather than turning on the Roman centre. The Seleucid left flank was broken soon afterwards. In the centre, the two infantry forces were evenly matched until a force of elephants mixed into the Seleucid formation were routed and the pike-armed infantry became disordered. The Seleucid force was then driven from the field.

■ WADI HARAMIA, 167 BCE

Rising in revolt against Seleucid rule, Jewish forces under Judas Maccabeus established themselves in the mountains near Samaria, from where a force was sent against them. This was ambushed and overwhelmingly defeated.

■ BETH HORON, 166 BCE

A Seleucid force under the command of the general Seron was sent to locate and destroy the Maccabean rebels. This force was surprised at the Pass of Beth Horon and resoundingly defeated.

■ EMMAUS, 166 BCE

While Seleucid troops were in the field searching for his camp, Judas Maccabeus led an audacious attack against the Seleucids’ base at Emmaus. His force then harassed the Seleucids during their subsequent retreat.

■ BETH ZUR, 164 BCE

Facing a Seleucid army under Lysias, governor of Syria, the Maccabean forces resorted to guerrilla tactics to wear down the enemy. Once the Seleucids were weakened, they were attacked and defeated at Beth Zur.

■ BETH ZACHARIAH, 162 BCE

After capturing and ritually cleansing the temple at Jerusalem, the Maccabees were faced with a new army under Lysias. The Jews attempted to fight a set-piece field battle and were defeated by the better-equipped Seleucids.

■ ADASA, 161 BCE

The newly appointed governor of Judah, Nicanor, led a renewed attempt to crush the Maccabean revolt. Encountering the Jews at Adasa, near Beth-Horon, the Seleucids attacked but were defeated. This bought the revolt a brief respite.

■ ELASA, 160 BCE

Facing a vastly larger Seleucid force, Judas Maccabeus launched an attack against the bodyguard of their commander, routing it. His force was then overwhelmed by the remainder of the Seleucid army, and Judas was killed.

■ ANTIOCH, 145 BCE

The diminished Seleucid kingdom in Syria was attacked by forces backed by the Ptolemaic dynasty in Egypt. The Seleucids were defeated, though Pharaoh Ptolemy VI was killed in the fighting.

■ ECBATANA, 129 BCE

Antiochus VII led a campaign into Parthia to revive the fortunes of the declining Seleucid Empire. His force was overwhelmingly defeated at Ecbatana, bringing Seleucid ambitions in Parthia to an end.

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