Wednesday, January 31, 2007

The battle of Ephesus

Ephesus – 499 BC

Persians vs. allied Greek force

Scenario for Warhammer Ancient Battles

Strategic situation

Aristagoras, Greek tyrant of the Ionian city-state of Miletus, borrowed large sums of money from the Persian government in order to finance a campaign against the island of Naxos. When the expedition was a failure, he found himself in a pretty bad situation. The campaign had sapped his resources and his lack of success at annexing Naxos had rendered him unable to pay back the angry Persians (it also left many of his promises to the satrap Artaphernes unfulfilled).

In order to escape the situation, Aristagoras incited rebellion in his home city-state Miletus which quickly spread to the other cities of Ionia.

While the rebellion quickly ousted the Persian run governments throughout Ionia, Aristagoras knew the Achaemenid Empire would be sending a large force to quell the revolt soon. He traveled to mainland Greece attempting to drum up support from the powerful city-states there. It seems he acted as sort of snake oil salesman, making promises and offering money he did not yet have. Athens and Eretria offered support and sent a small fleet of ships (along with soldiers) to aid in the revolt but other city-states refused (notably Sparta).

The Eretrian and Athenian fleet landed just outside of Ephesos and joined up with the Ionians. The combined force marched on Sardis and sacked the city. The Satrap Artaphernes held the citadel with his remaining men but the Greeks burned the rest of the city. Whether this destruction in Sardis was deliberate is unknown. Herodotus says “the houses in Sardis were mostly built of reeds, and even those of them which were of brick had their roofs thatched with reeds: of these houses one was set on fire by a soldier, and forthwith the fire going on from house to house began to spread over the whole town.”

So with Sardis suitably ravaged, the Greeks made there way back to the coast (probably weighed down with all the wonderful items gained by sacking a city). Artaphernes received reinforcements and set off after the departing rebels catching up to them just outside of Ephesus.

The forces

There is very little information on the specific orders of battle for the two sides so we’ve had to plan using fairly generic armies. Also, to drive home the small nature of this combat, the forces have been kept below 1500 pts.

Perisan Forces

(AOA Achaemenid Persians)

The Persian army has a core contingent of eastern armed infantry. Artaphernes leads the army and is mounted as a position of honor. The levy represents hastily raised local troops from around Sardis. Persian infantry represents the Satraps own garrison troops, as well as reinforcements sent by the Achaemenid Empire. Persian Cavalry represents the well armed and armored (at least for the period) unit from Sardis. All that remains is a smattering of skirmishers and light horse, that round out the force.

Army General - Artaphernes

-Hand Weapon; Thrusting Spear; Composite Bow; Light Armor; Warhorse; General

24 Persian Infantry

-Front Rank - Leader; Standard; Musician; Thrusting Spear; Spara

-Second Rank - Thrusting Spear; Composite Bow

-Additional ranks - Composite Bow

24 Persian Infantry

-Front Rank - Leader; Standard; Musician; Thrusting Spear; Spara

-Second Rank - Thrusting Spear; Composite Bow

-Additional ranks - Composite Bow

32 Levy Infantry

-Front Rank - Leader; Standard; Musician; Thrusting Spear; Spara

-Second Rank - Thrusting Spear; Composite Bow

-Additional ranks - Composite Bow

32 Levy Infantry

-Front Rank - Leader; Standard; Musician; Thrusting Spear; Spara

-Second Rank - Thrusting Spear; Composite Bow

-Additional ranks - Composite Bow

8 Persian Cavalry

-Leader; Standard; Musician; Hand Weapon; Javelins; Light Armor

8 Skirmish Cavalry

-Leader; Hand Weapon; Composite Bow; Javelins; Skirmishers; Parthian Shot; Levies

12 Skirmishers

-Composite Bow; Skirmishers; Levies

12 Skirmishers

-Javelin & Shield; Skirmishers; Levies

Total – 112 Infantry, 24 Skirmishers, 16 Cavalry

Greek Forces

(AOA ancient Greek list)

The army is comprised of a core of Greek hoplites supported by a number of skirmishers. The 3 phalanxes represent the different factions fighting at Ephesus, although they probably shouldn’t be of equal size, I’ve kept them this way for simplicity. An alternate version could use a large phalanx of Ionians, with a smaller phalanx of Athenians and a much smaller unit of Eretrians. The heavy armor is the full hoplite panoply of bronze cuirass, greaves and helmet, while the light armor represents the linen cuirass. The skirmishers represent the slaves, youths and other lightly armed followers of a Greek army that cannot afford to be in the hoplite class.

D6 Oracles

Army General - Aristagoras

-Hand Weapon; Thrusting Spear; Heavy Armor; Large Shield; General

24 Ionian Hoplites

-Leader; Hand Weapon; Thrusting Spear; Heavy Armor; Large Shield; Greek Phalanx

24 Athenian Hoplites

-Leader; Hand Weapon; Thrusting Spear; Light Armor; Large Shield; Greek Phalanx

24 Eretrian Hoplites

-Leader (Eualkides); Hand Weapon; Thrusting Spear; Light Armor; Large Shield; Greek Phalanx

12 Skirmishers

-Hand Weapon; Javelins; Skirmishers

12 Skirmishers

-Hand Weapon; Javelins; Skirmishers

12 Skirmishers

-Hand Weapon; Sling; Skirmishers

Total – 72 Hoplites, 36 Skirmishers

The battle as a game

Use the Pitched Battle scenario from the main Warhammer Ancient Battles rulebook. Units in Skirmish formation do get a free normal move before the start of the battle. The game should last 6-7 turns or can be played till army break point.

The Greek side deploys first (as they were caught by the Persians returning to Ephesus) and the players dice off for first turn.


Terrain should be sparse with a limited amount of rough ground, trees or vegetation kept to the sides of the table.

The Historical Battle

“but they (the Persians) followed closely in their (the Ionians rebels) track and came up with them at Ephesos: and the Ionians stood indeed against them in array, but when they joined battle they had very much the worse; and besides other persons of note whom the Persians slaughtered, there fell also Eualkides commander of the Eretrians, a man who had won wreaths in contests of the games and who was much celebrated by Simonides of Keos: and those of them who survived the battle dispersed to their various cities.”


The Persians seemed to have caught the Ionians on the return leg to their ships and forced battle upon them. With the Greeks probably loaded with loot (from a good sacking), and with the Persian cavalry following them, it’s no surprise they were forced to battle.

Details are scarce for the battle itself, really only mentioning a notable fatality and the fact that the Persians beat the Greeks like a rented mule. After the battle the Athenians and Eretrians returned to the mainland leaving the Ionian cities to fend for themselves.

The Athenians and Eretrians part in the revolt (and especially the sacking of Sardis) led to the punitive expedition of Darius and the battle of Marathon in 490 B.C. (as well as a whole other heaping helping of trouble between the Achaemenid Empire and the Greek mainland). Whether the clash of cultures during the Greek and Persian wars would have taken place without Aristagoras convincing the Athenians and Eretrians to help is an interesting idea. Was the Persian Empire interested in expanding father West through Greece meaning that the conflict was inevitable? And would the Greeks have fought the Persians so fiercely and often (eventually culminating in the campaign of Alexander) if there had never been the invasion of Xerxes?

1 comment:


Warfare is a fascinating subject. Despite the dubious morality of using violence to achieve personal or political aims. It remains that conflict has been used to do just that throughout recorded history.

Your article is very well done, a good read.