Friday, March 23, 2007

Mantinea – 418 BC

Spartans vs. Argives (and Athenians)

A scenario for Warhammer Ancient Battles.

Strategic situation

In 421 B.C. Athens and Sparta (along with their allies) had been fighting the second phase of the Peloponnesian War for 10 years. They had both suffered disasters in this phase of the war. Athens was ravaged by plague and eventually lost one of its most gifted leaders, Pericles, to the disease. Sparta had over 100 of its elite Spartiates surrender at Sphacteria and held captive by Athens as trophies. This had a great psychological impact on the supposedly fearless Spartans. Both Athens and Sparta had recently lost dynamic and successful generals in Cleon and Brasidas. All of these events helped lead to the peace of Nicias which was supposed to last 50 years between Athens and Sparta, but was never observed by their allies, and was quickly broken.

Open hostilities began again in 419 as Argos came to the end of a peace treaty with Sparta, and with Athenian help, began attacking Spartan allies. Sparta along with its allies such as Boiotia and Corinth opposed these attacks and a series of almost battles and a lot of maneuvering took place. The young King Agis of Sparta was severely criticized for not bringing the Argives to battle when he had the chance and was given a 10 man board of advisors.

In 418, the Argives and there allies turned the city of Orchomenos to their side and moved farther south to Mantinea. The Spartans had no choice but respond to these aggressive moves against their valued allies the Tegeans who were now being threatened.

When the allied Spartan army arrived at Mantinea the Argive army deployed on a steep hill in a superior defensive position. King Agis, desperate to avoid the criticism he received early for failing to fight the Argives, charged his army up the hill. Luckily he was convinced to halt the attack, possibly by one of his 10 advisors (just in time, they are said to have gotten within a stones throw of the Argive line) and just narrowly avoided a military disaster. The Spartans moved south, hoping to use nature in an effort to force the Argives into battle. The Tegeans, fighting on the side of the Spartans, explained that they could divert water flows in the area and this would flood their enemy’s land during the rainy season.

Meanwhile, the Argives were actually seeking a fight with the Spartans and had come down from their defensive position on the hillside. As the Spartans marched north again they ran into the Argive army, drawn up and ready for battle, which caught the Spartans by surprise. It is a strong testament to the organization of the army fighting for King Agis that he was able to deploy them into a battle line quickly and efficiently with the enemy so near.

The forces

The forces below are meant to be representative of the two armies that met on the field for the battle of Mantinea. I was working roughly off of a 1 figure = 35 soldiers scale, but again, it was a very rough ratio. In reality, the Spartan army should outnumber the Argives, but I felt that could lead to a very poor game within Warhammer Ancient Battles (since the Spartans are represented as such dominant hoplites). I’ve chosen to represent only an elite core of king Agis’s army as “Spartan” hoplites while leaving the rest of the Laconians as generic hoplites. Again, this was to try and keep the scenario balanced.

The Argive alliance has larger phalanxes but is lacking the punch of the Spartan hoplites. The elite Argive 1,000 are given veteran hoplite stats and are stubborn. The Argives are also outclassed in cavalry (one of the few times Spartan cavalry had the advantage) and must be wary of their flanks.

[#’s] pertain to the corresponding deployment map.

Spartans and allies

(From the Armies of Antiquity Ancient Greek list)

King Agis of Sparta – Placed with [6] or [7]

1 Army General

Hand Weapon; Thrusting Spear; Light Armor; Large Shield; General; Spartan General

Sciritae – [2]

20 Hoplites

Leader; Musician; Hand Weapon; Thrusting Spear; Large Shield; Greek Phalanx

Freed Helots (Brasdians etc…) – [3]

24 Hoplites

Leader; Musician; Hand Weapon; Thrusting Spear; Large Shield; Greek Phalanx

Laconian Hoplites – [4]

24 Hoplites

Leader; Musician; Hand Weapon; Thrusting Spear; Large Shield; Greek Phalanx

Laconian Hoplites – [5]

24 Hoplites

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

Spartiates – [6]

24 Spartans

Leader; Musician; Hand Weapon; Thrusting Spear; Light Armor; Large Shield; Drilled; Stubborn; Greek Phalanx

Hippeis – [7]

24 Spartans

Leader; Musician; Hand Weapon; Thrusting Spear; Light Armor; Large Shield; Drilled; Stubborn; Greek Phalanx

Arcadians – [8]

32 Hoplites

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

Tegeans – [9]

32 Hoplites

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

Spartan Cavalry – [1]

8 Greek Heavy Cavalry

Leader; Musician; Hand Weapon; Thrusting Spear; Heavy Armor

Spartan Cavalry – [2]

8 Greek Heavy Cavalry

Leader; Musician; Hand Weapon; Thrusting Spear; Heavy Armor

Light Troops

12 Skirmishers

Hand Weapon; Javelins; Skirmishers

12 Skirmishers

Hand Weapon; Javelins; Skirmishers

12 Skirmishers

Hand Weapon; Javelins; Skirmishers

12 Skirmishers

Hand Weapon; Sling; Skirmishers

12 Skirmishers

Hand Weapon; Sling; Skirmishers


Argives and allies

(From the Armies of Antiquity Ancient Greek list)

Leader of the allied Argive alliance

1 Army General

Hand Weapon; Thrusting Spear; Light Armor; Large Shield; General

Mantineans – [11]

32 Hoplites

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

Arcadians – [12]

32 Hoplites

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

Elite Argives – [13]

28 Hoplites (+1 WS, +1 I, +1 LD)

Leader; Musician; Hand Weapon; Thrusting Spear; Light Armor; Large Shield; Greek Phalanx, Stubborn

Argives – [14]

32 Hoplites

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

Argives – [15]

32 Hoplites

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

Orneaens – [16]

24 Hoplites

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

Cleonaens – [17]

24 Hoplites

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

Athenians – [18]

28 Hoplites

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

Athenian Cavalry – [19]

8 Greek Heavy Cavalry

Leader; Musician; Hand Weapon; Thrusting Spear

Light Troops

12 Skirmishers

Hand Weapon; Javelins; Skirmishers

12 Skirmishers

Hand Weapon; Javelins; Skirmishers

12 Skirmishers

Hand Weapon; Javelins; Skirmishers

12 Skirmishers

Hand Weapon; Composite Bow; Skirmishers

12 Skirmishers

Hand Weapon; Sling; Skirmishers

The battle as a game

Use the pitched battle scenario and the setup detailed in the map above. Light troops can be deployed along the front line as well as the flanks. The Argive side gets first turn representing the Spartans still deploying into their battle line. Can be played to army break point or 7-8 turns, whichever you decide (it is a game after all). You don’t have to play with a turn limit and can slug it out to your hearts content if you prefer.

Terrain

Terrain should be relatively flat with possible two small hills on the sides of the battlefield. There should be forest behind the Spartan deployment zone (since they had just emerged from it when they spotted the Argives).

The Historical Battle

King Agis, in an attempt to combat the natural movement of a hoplite combat overlapping on the right and being overlapped on the left, shifted a portion of his line to the left. This opened up a substantial gap in the Spartan line which he attempted to fill by ordering Spartan commanders from the right to move into the gap from their positions. The Spartan commanders refused (most likely due to the proximity of the enemy, as well as the inexperience of their king) and when the two lines met, the elite Argives swarmed into the gap.

The Spartan army was cut into two, with the Scirtae and Brasdians on the left surrounded and routed back to the baggage. At the same time, the Spartan center and right, pushed back and surrounded their opposition and isolated the Athenians. The battle had now broken into two separate parts, with the Spartan left being pursued by the Argive right, and the Spartan right pursuing the Argive left. King Agis, realizing the trouble his left wing was in turned a large portion of his forces to help, allowing much of the Argive left to escape, but encircling the and defeating the previously victorious Argive right.

Meanwhile the Mantineans and their allies and the picked body of the Argives ceased to press the enemy, and seeing their friends defeated and the Lacedaemonians in full advance upon them, took to flight. Many of the Mantineans perished; but the bulk of the picked body of the Argives made good their escape. The flight and retreat, however, were neither hurried nor long; the Lacedaemonians fighting long and stubbornly until the rout of their enemy, but that once effected, pursuing for a short time and not far.

-Thucydides

In the end, the Argives side lost about 1,100 men while the Spartans are said to have lost about 300. Winning such a large land battle helped restore the Spartans reputation in that respect (some of which had been lost due to Sphacteria). The battle also once again settled the rivalry between Argos and Sparta for control of the Peloponnese.

Thank you for taking the time to read this, and comments are always welcome. Look through the rest of the blog for additional battles as well as pictures of my growing Greek army.

1 comment:

El Grego said...

A nice blog... I just found it, and you are making me think about hoplite minis again!


Greg