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Great Battles #10 - Pharsalus 48bc (caesar Vs Pompey)

Discussion in 'Military History' started by Austerlitz, Oct 28, 2016.

  1. Austerlitz

    Austerlitz Extraordinary Historian THINKER

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    PHARSALUS 48 BC - FALL OF THE REPUBLIC

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    Roman Republic 49 BC.Rome rules the western world.Gaius julius caesar,rome's most famous general, has just completed conquest of gaul,and now seeks a consulship-in-absentia from the roman senate,as his term as governor has expired-so he can return to rome without being prosecuted by his many jealous enemies in the senate for unlawful activities during his tenure.They are backed by Pompey the great,before caesar the most famous roman general and one time ally and son-in law of caesar,now 58, older than caesar.

    During the last decade the 3 most powerful Roman politicians ,Pompey,Crassus and Caesar had come to an informal agreement to divide up the empire into respective spheres of influence and support each other to thwart the senate,called the three headed monster or the first triumvirate.Caesar got Gaul and Illyria,Pompey got Spain and Crassus rich Syria(they would back each other and rig election ,and set up their proxy consuls each year)However Crassus is killed on campaign against parthia at carrhae,and julia ,caesar's daughter and pompey's wife dies at childbirth-severing the ties between the two.

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    (Left to Right - Caesar,Crassus,Pompey)

    ''Pompey would accept no equal and Caesar no superior"

    An increasingly jealous pompey backs the senators,led by the rhetoric of cato, the senate gives caesar an ultimatum to return to rome as a private citizen,and on caesar refusing outlaws him as public enemy.
    Knowing legal prosecution and perhaps assasination awaits him,if he went to rome alone-caesar responds by crossing the Rubicon river-the boundary beyond which no roman general was allowed to take his troops and marching on Rome with his fanatically loyal legions.Its civil war,and in caesar's own words-

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    ''Alea Iacta Est ''(The die is cast)

    Caesar's attack,his initial marching force being just 1 legion(~5000 men) catches the republicans completely off guard and creates panic in rome.Caesar heads straight for rome,while being reinforced by more legions and brushes aside resistance.
    Pompey and the senate abandon Italy for greece with as many troops as they can embark at brundisium-as pompey understands that their mobilization is far from complete and the available hastily raised levies would be useless against caesar's veteran army.They intend to reach greece and rebuild their force (by collecting all the legions deployed in the eastern provinces),and recieving aid from all the eastern client kings -most of which owe their positions to pompey's earlier conquests.They barely escape caesar's pursuing force which besieged brundisium but was unable to prevent the pompeian fleet evacuating the republicans and their forces at the last moment.

    ILERDA CAMPAIGN :

    Caesar consolidates his position in italy,calls a rump senate of loyalists then heads towards spain-where pompey's subordinates,afrainius,petreius and governor varro have 7 legions between them.
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    aesar links up with his initial advance force under his subordinate fabius and then moves against the pompeians who are camped with 5 legions under afrainius and petrieus.Varro is in the spanish interior with 2 more.

    Shortly after, Caesar arriving, active operations were at once begun by moving the camp close up to the enemy's so as to restrict the movement of his foragers. In order to cut Afranius off from the bridge at Ilerda, Caesar attempted to occupy a ridge which lay between the camps, but the XIV. legion was driven back. Counter-attacking with the IX. legion he drove a large party of the enemy into Ilerda and then tried to assault this city by forcing his way up a ravine,but was beaten back with losses.

    Two days after this battle, which reflected no great credit on Caesar, his bridges over the Sicoris were swept away by a flood, and his communications with Gaul severed; worse still, his convoys could no longer reach him. Learning that he was expecting a large convoy, Afranius crossed the bridge at Ilerda with three legions and all his cavalry and attacked it. The attack, however, failed, and Caesar building a boat bridge 22 miles north of his camp enabled his convoy to cross, and his cavalry to attack Afranius's foragers.

    In order further to restrict his enemy, by running the river into a number of artificial channels he created a ford near his camp which forced the Pompeians to transport two legions over the Sicoris to protect their communications, and then, on June 23, still holding the bridge they crossed their whole army over to the left bank, and set out towards the Ebro. Caesar having now dis lodged his enemy, his next step was not to defeat him but to force him to surrender. Not only would this save him casualties but augment his army, as all prisoners would be incorporated in it. He wished to gain his object by manoeuvring rather than by fighting. Sending his Gallic cavalry over the ford, these nimble horsemen greatly impeded the enemy's march, and gained time for Caesar to cross his infantry.

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    The manoeuvres now carried out were remarkable, and are shown on the plan.
    (I) Caesar rapidly followed Afranius and forced him to form front;
    (2) Afranius retired skirmishing, Caesar following;
    (3) Afranius de cided to retire on Octogesa, Caesar pretending to withdraw, and Afranius made towards the defile;
    (4) Caesar counter-marched and cut him off from the defile;
    (5) Afranius reverted to retire ment on Octogesa; Afranius was now strategically beaten, and Caesar could have annihilated him but refused to do so;
    (6) Afranius made for the Sicoris to obtain water ;
    (7) Caesar headed him off ;
    (8) Afranius attempted to regain Ilerda, but was forced to surrender on July 2.

    Pompey lost his best legions without scarcely a fight,which led Caesar to quip he had defeated An army without a leader,now it remained to deal with the leader without an army.Soon varro and his mere 2 legions surrender too.Caesar pardons the commanders ,but afarianius and petrius break word and join pompey with whatever forces they can gather in greece.

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    (Maneuvering in Greece -Expand view)
    FACEOFF IN GREECE :

    Having only assembled half the needed sailing ships Caesar decided to take 7 available legions across, and to then have the ships travel back to Brindisi and transport the remaining legions once they had arrived at Brindisi. Travel across the Adriatic Sea to Greece would ordinarily be tricky, but was made more so given that it was winter but the sea was treacherous enough to deter the war galleys of Pompey's fleet, commanded by Caesar's former junior consul Bibulus, at Corfu. As it was winter Bibulus was unprepared and Caesar was able to sail through the blockade easily in an astonishing move which would have appeared suicidal to others and form a beachhead at Epirus with the first half of his army. Bibulus however was able to block Caesar's attempt to sail his reinforcements stuck at Brindisi. Bibulus died while conducting this blockade and no overall naval commander was appointed by Pompey. Libo attempted to make the blockade more secure by seizing the island off Brindisi preventing Caesar's reinforcements from sailing anywhere. However, Libo could not sustain this position because of a lack of water.

    Caesar's blunder had put him in the worst possible position any army could find itself in. His army had no way to resupply from Rome due to the naval blockade, he couldn't resupply locally as Greece was pro-Pompey and closed their gates to Caesar, and his army was only at half strength. So dire was his situation that he made several attempts to discuss peace with Pompey but was refused at every channel. Realizing he was going to have to fight his way out, he attempted another winter blockade run back to Italy to lead his remaining forces to Greece. His luck was not with him and the rough seas and storms forced him back. Marc Antony after several attempts evaded Libo's blockade and managed to land at Nympheum with four more legions. It was now a race against time as both Caesar and Pompey rushed to meet Antony. Although Pompey reached Antony first Caesar was right on his heels and Pompey prudently moved his forces to Dyrrachium to prevent becoming caught between the two forces.

    Caesar now with 11 legions sent one to southern greece secure supplies and the province and 2 other legions under Calvinus to intercept Metellus scipio who was about to arrive from syria with 2 legions to join pompey.

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    BATTLE OF DYRRACHIUM :

    Dyrrachium was a strong defensive position for Pompey. His back was guarded by the sea, and at his front there were hills that commanded the immediate area. This made an assault on the position nearly impossible.Caesar instead decided to revisit his tactics at Alesia and ordered his engineers to build walls and fortifications to pin Pompey against the sea. Pompey responded with walls and fortifications of his own to prevent any further advance. Between these two fortifications a no man's land was created which saw constant skirmishes with little or no gain. Caesar held the outlying farmland but it had been picked clean and Pompey, with the sea at his back, was able to be resupplied by ship. However, as the siege wore on, their positions began to change. Pompey found it difficult with the limited land he controlled to create enough fodder for his horses, and other supplies such as fresh water became more and more difficult to maintain. The autumn harvest was approaching and soon Caesar would have enough food to prolong his position. This caused Pompey to become desperate to break out of the siege. By mid summer, though, Pompey had a fortunate stroke of luck. Two Gallic auxiliaries were caught stealing the pay from legionaries, but managed to escape to Pompey. With these two men on his side, Pompey was able to discover the weakest point in Caesar's wall.A section to the south of the lines hadn't yet been completed and it was the only viable target for attack.

    Pompey mounted an attack of six legions against Caesar's line where it joined the sea and where the Legio IX was stationed. Pompey also sent some auxiliaries and light infantry to attack by sea. Heavily outnumbering the Caesarian troops, the Pompeian troops broke through the weakened fortifications, causing the Ninth to pull back from the onslaught with heavy losses. Caesar swiftly reinforced the breach with 4,000 men, which is twelve cohorts under Antony and then counterattacked, re-securing part of the wall and pushing Pompey's disordered forces back. Although Caesar's counterattack was initially successful, Pompey's forces were simply too numerous. Some days earlier Pompey had occupied a small camp that had been abandoned by Caesar, and enlarged the defences. Caesar responded by sending 33 cohorts to attack this position. Although the attack was initially successful, the Caesarian troops were outnumbered 2-1 and Pompey's troops fought hard. Pompey sent a large force of infantry and 3,000 cavalry to outflank Caesar's right wing. Caesar first ordered his troops on the right to stand firm, but then saw the danger of being outflanked. He ordered a retreat which soon became a panicked and disordered rout. The counterattack on Pompey's camp disintegrated completely. At first Caesar personally tried to stem the retreat, but the fleeing troops did not stop until they reached their own camps. After the failure of the counterattack and considering the losses incurred, Caesar resolved to give up attempting to besiege Pompey and to change the entire strategy of the campaign - he had lost the strategic initiative.

    Pompey ordered a halt, believing that Caesar had been decisively beaten, and also suspecting a trap. According to Plutarch, Caesar remarked on that decision saying, "Today the victory had been the enemy's, had there been any one among them to gain it.''

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    WARRIOR : CENTURION MARCUS CASSIUS SCAEVA

    The story of dyrrachium would be incomplete without the tale of Centurion Marcus Cassius Scaeva -who finds a rare mention in Caesar's own commentaries.A veteran of the Gallic wars he had been promoted to centurion there by caesar in person for valour.Scaeva's cohort of 480 men was tasked with holding a gate in a timber and mud fort when they came under attack from a whole Pompeiian legion of over 5000 legionaries.Scaeva steadied his men and personally led them in this unequal contest.

    Scaeva is said to have fought with fanatical ferocity - he held his ground even as his century fled in the face of a determined assault.Initially holding the gate then fighting on the slope of the rampart his helmet was shattered by repeated blows ,his brow cut,he was wounded in all his limbs by javelins,struck in the thigh by a sword cut,his shield was pierced with 120 arrows!An arrow blinded him on his left eye and his face was awash with blood.He didn't stop even here,in an inhuman feat he pulled the arrow out of his eye socket threw it into the ground and kept fighting.He kept hacking and stabbing like a man possesed crushing enemy skulls with arock when his sword tip was blunted from the carnage.Eventually he grew weak from the loss of blood and collapsed,as to 2 pompeians approached him asking him to yield Scaeva suddenly found strength,slashing one in the throat and hacking anothers shoulder off.His awestruck century watching this demonic effort by one man rallied to him and carried him to the rear,the Pompeiians equally awestruck didn't interfere.The gate held.As the caesarian army was in rout scaeva and his cohort held the line against impossible odds.

    Miraculously he survived
    the battle and Caesar in awe awarded him 200 years worth of bonus pay,promotion and the survivors of his cohort double pay for life.His shield,resembling a porcupine was paraded before the caesarian army.Though he missed pharsalus as he was in recovery he fought in caesar's last battles and after his assasination joined his heir and eventual emperor Octavian in his rise to power in the roman civil wars first against caesar's assasins and then against antony.Scaeva remained a legend in the roman army long after his death ,as evidenced by cohorts in the imperial age naming themselves with the honorific Scaeva.

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    FROM DYRRACHIUM TO PHARSALUS :

    Caesar withdrew towards Thessaly,with Pompey eventually giving up the chase and tries to destroy calvinus's isolated contingent,calvinus escaped just in time to join caesar.Meanwhile scipio joins Pompey.Pompey now follows Caesar into Thessaly who had sacked the town of gomphi on his way doing much to restore the morale of his hard pressed army.Pompey intended to grind down caesar through fabian warfare harassing his supplies,but here certain factors lead him to abandoning this strategy.

    1.The corn harvest was approaching and caesar's supply situation would dramatically improve.
    2.His soldiers heartened by victory wanted a battle soon,and pompey wished to keep their new found confidence.
    3.Finally and most importantly,unlike Caesar who was unquestioned as commander,Pompey was only first amongst equals having been elected by the senators who accompanied him.The prominent senators and officers believe caesar a beaten man and clamour for a direct engagement to finish him off and return to rome.Reluctantly pompey gives in after some senators mocked him as Agamemnon,King of Kings accusing him of enjoying total power and refusing to surrender it-(the reason for delay) with the words

    'I still wanted to wear Caesar down, but you yourselves have invited this contest'

    After several days standoff at Pharsalus,with Pompey on his camp on high ground enticing caesar to come to him at a disadvantage and Caesar on the plains offering battle and no side accepting,Pompey broke camp and deployed his army on the plains for battle.Caesar,elated by the news accepted immediately.

    NEXT: OPPOSING ARMIES
     
    Last edited: Oct 29, 2016
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  2. Austerlitz

    Austerlitz Extraordinary Historian THINKER

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    THE ROMAN ARMY IN THE AGE OF CAESAR

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    THE MARIAN REFORMS :

    We have observed in detail the evolution the roman army from a warband to a semi professional citizen militia organized into the manipular triplex acies legion tactical system during Hannibal's times in the mid republic here -
    http://indiandefence.com/threads/great-battles-4-cannae-216-bc-hannibal-in-italy.56526/
    Posts 3,4,5,6 show the developments in detail.Now we will see the impact of what has been called the Marian Reforms on the roman army of the late republic -its transition from a citizen militia to a professional force being completed.

    Until the last decade of the 2nd century BC, the eligibility requirements to become a Roman soldier in the service of the Republic were very strict:
    • He had to be a member of the tax paying class
    • He had to own property worth 3500 sesterces in value.
    • He had to supply his own armaments.
    In particular, that produced a division among Roman census classes in which four standardized unit types (based on how much money the soldier could spend on his own arms and armor) comprised each legion:velites,hastati,principe,triarii and the equites.The causes that triggered the reforms reflected Rome's transformation from a city state to an empire with fur flung military responsibilities and the huge influx of wealth from new conquests.Initially legions would be raised for small terms then disbanded next year and the men could return to their farms,this was not feasible with the need to garrison far away conquests which heavily burdened the small propertied class that supplied the bulk of the citizen militia of the pre-marian legions.

    Especially since the end of the Punic Wars and conquests in the east, the small landowning classes had dwindled to dangerous numbers. Wealthy senatorial aristocrats and equestrian elite land owners bought up small farms from struggling families and worked them with vast numbers of imported slaves. The jobless and landless mobs in Rome swelled out of control.The jugurthan war in Numidia followed by the initial catastrophic defeats to the germanic cimbri and teuton invaders led to a manpower crisis similar to that faced against Hannibal and meant by the time Gaius Marius(statue top) came to power as Consul, the typical Roman recruiting base was literally non-existant. There simply weren't enough landowners available who weren't already fighting the Germanics or Jugurtha to field a new army.

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    (Legionary century charge and Testudo)

    RISE OF THE PROFESSIONAL ARMY AND WARLORDISM :


    The foremost of the Marian reforms was the inclusion of the Roman landless masses, the Capite Censi(head count) men who had no property to be assessed in the census. Instead, they were "counted by the head". The men were now among the ranks of those who could be recruited even though they owned no significant property. Because the poor citizens could not afford to purchase their own weapons and armor, Marius arranged for the state to supply them with arms. He thus offered the disenfranchised masses permanent employment for pay as professional soldiers and the opportunity to gain spoils on campaign. With little hope of gaining status in other ways, the masses flocked to join Marius in his new army. The professional soldiers were recruited for an enlistment term of 16 years.To symbolize this transition to a permanent force each legion was given an Aquila or Eagle standard by Marius which became the symbol of the legions of Rome.(and has been emulated by nearly every continental european empire thereafter,directly or indirectly)

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    Marius himself did not understand possibly the enormous socio-political implications of this.Besides gaining an army, Marius gained something else: the extreme personal loyalty of the Roman head count. The recruiting of the masses would change the entire relationship between citizens, generals, the Senate and Roman institutional ideology. Prior to Marius, the armies may have been loyal to a general, but were fighting in theory for the survival or expansion of the state, including their own lands. After Marius, they fought for their General, provided they liked him, and for the plunder and glory he could provide.The extreme loyalty to generals rather than state would lead to open rebellion -warlordism under generals like Sulla ,Marius himself,Pompey and finally Caesar.Civil war, military political power and eventually the crowning of emperors were to follow.

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    The first and most obvious result was the improvement in the military capability of the army. A general, when war threatened the Republic, no longer hastily had to recruit a citizen army, train it to fight and obey military commands and discipline and then march it off to do battle, raw and un-blooded. That was instrumental in the growth and success of the Roman military machine and resulted in the continued success of the Romans on the battlefield.

    >
    Another benefit of the reforms was the settlement of retired legionaries in conquered land. That helped to integrate the region into a province and "Romanise" its citizens, reducing unrest and revolt against Roman rule.

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    ORGANIZATIONAL CHANGES :


    Marius during his unprecedented tenure as consul 5 succesive times to deal with the Cimbri threat made permanent organizational changes to the roman legions.Most importantly, he mostly replaced the maniple structure which consisted of four distinct legionary units (velite, hastati, principe, triarii) Each used different weapons, served different purposes tactically.

    >Marius did away with the different types of infantry and standardized the entire infantry of the legion on the heavy principe armed with pilum,gladius short sword,scutum shield and mail shirt.They were equipped from the state treasury.The equites were no longer used as battle cavalry,their performance had always been mediocre at best.But a detatchment of 120 horsemen was added to each legion as a scouting,escort and dispatch duty force.

    >Within Marius's lifetime the Italian allies which hitherto provided half of rome's manpower revolted in the Social war.The war was ended after heavy fighting through an emergency reconciliatory measure passed in the senate which gave roman citizenship to all Italians - in effect there were no allied legions anymore.They were all Roman legions and they were standardized on the Marian model with a single heavy infantry soldier -the Legionary based on the previous principe.

    >The light infantry and cavalry to supply the legions were recruited exclusively from Auxillaries in the conquered areas.Romans had the pick of their choice - Balearic and Rhodian slingers,cretan archers,Syrian archersThessalian and Thracian cavalry (after caesar gallic and germanic) , Numidian light cavalry etc.This freed up the romans to devote the citizen soldiers entirely to the job of acting as heavy infantry -the roman speciality.

    >The biggest organizational change was the substitution of the 160 man maniple(originally 120 man during the hannibalic era,later increased to 160 ) with the Cohort of 480 men as the basic tactical unit.This was brought about by the requirements of the time.The maniple was a formation made of 2 centuries of 80 men each.The new cohort was composed of 3 former maniples -a total of 6 centuries.Marius divided his legion into 10 cohorts.The cohort had been in use occasionally as an ad hoc formation from the hannibalic war,but marius institutionalized it as the standard basic tactical unit.The roman maniple had been sufficient to defeat the phalanx based armies of the greeks .

    However the tactics of the Germanic and Celtic tribes, the latter armed with a long two-edged sword designed for slashing, was to stake everything upon a vigorous onslaught at the start of the battle, beating down the shields of the opposition and breaking into their formation. This was a terrifying thing, and at times could swiftly sweep away an opponent - especially a nervous one - but if it was halted the tribesmen would tend to lose their enthusiasm and retreat quickly. To meet this brutal method of attack, where the perpetrators believed that fighting power increased in proportion to the size of the mass, the formation in three fixed battle lines of maniples was unsuited. The units themselves were fairly small and shallow, and an attack strongly pressed home might easily overcome their resistance.The small size of the maniple was a major weakness against such a style of fighting, and Marius decided to strengthen his front line of defence by increasing the size of the individual units.

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    >Every century comprised of 10 contubernium - the lowest tactical unit of 8 men.Each century was led by a centurion who acted as the NCOs of the ancient world.The most senior centurion of the legion led the first cohort on the right of the first line(this was double strength cohort with the best men as its one side was unshielded)

    >The cohorts still deployed in the well known roman Aces Triplex triple line checkerboard formation with 4 cohorts on the front line and 3 on the rear lines.Troop rotation in battle was carried out through rotation of individual centuries or in case of heavy fighting indivdiual filtering.(see details of this in link of last thread).The fighting method remained same as earlier with a volley of pilum to kill an opponent or disable his shield and disrupt the enmy front line then close close combat with shield and gladius.From the the protection of his shield a legionary employed what has been called the punch and thrust routine.(details link),but veteran professional men of permanent legions were naturally better at this butcher's work at close range.

    >To improve logistics ,the way soldier's kits and baggage were carried was completely adjusted. From this point on, the legionary would carry their entire standard package including weapons, armor, food, tents, supplies and tools. The "Marius' Mules" allowed bulky, slow and cumbersome baggage trains to be shortened, making the infantry faster and more efficient.This improved the strategic mobility of the roman legions which caesar was to employ with maximum effect in his gallic wars.

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    NEXT : OPPOSING ARMIES
     
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  3. Austerlitz

    Austerlitz Extraordinary Historian THINKER

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    OPPOSING ARMIES

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    Late roman republican marian legionaries.As an irony of civil war,both sides possesed exactly similar types of heavy infantry.The roman marian legionary was armoured in ring mail,armed with a oval scutum shield for protection and a gladius short sword for close range thrusting.He had 2 heavy javelins called pilum,for throwing before closing with the short sword.Pilum was a deadly weapon,its iron shank bent on contact with an enemy shield-so if it didn't kill an enemy it would then make his shield useless.The pilum could also be used as a medium spear to ward off cavalry.

    CAESAR'S ARMY :
    Commander- Gaius Julius Caesar
    Second-in-Command - Marc antony.
    Strength - 9 understrength veteran Legions(22,000 legionaries),1000 germanic auxillary cavalry.


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    (Germanic auxillary cavalry and a roman veteran legionary)

    Outnumbered 2 to 1 in infantry and 7 to 1 in cavalry,caesar's crack veteran gallic legions were his greatest strength.Just emerged from a gruelling decade long campaign in gaul where they fought a dozen or so pitched battles are counted among the greatest infantry of all time.Disciplined,fanatical and experienced.Caesar also began the process of recruiting fierce germanic auxillary cavalry during his campaign in gaul with great success and they followed him to Pharsalus.

    THE REPUBLICAN ARMY :
    Commanders - Pompey the great
    Second in command - Titus labienus.
    Strength - 12 legions[44,000 legionaries]+4200 auxillaries,7000 cavalry.


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    The pompeian army was much larger than caesar's forces.However the force was not battle experienced apart from the action at dyrrhachium.Only 2 legions were really battle hardened.
    Pompey had a massive cavalry advantage 7000 to caesar's 1000.Led by Titus labienus,caesar's former second in command and most trusted aide in his gallic campaigns had left caesar. About 1000 of this cavalry force was labienus's own ,rest were allied contingents and thus despite being excellent eastern horsemen not as disciplined or trained to work together.
    Pompey also possesed large numbers of eastern light infantry and archers provided by his eastern client rulers which were excellent in their role but if caught in the open or in close combat were liable to be massacred.

    NEXT : BATTLE OF PHARSALUS
     
  4. Austerlitz

    Austerlitz Extraordinary Historian THINKER

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    BATTLE OF PHARSALUS

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    The battlefield is a flat plain with one flank of both armies anchored by the enipus river with hills at the back.Caesarians in red,pompeians in blue.Pompey offers battle goaded by his companions-and caesar is happy to accept it.

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    Pompey deploys his 12 legions an unusual 10 man deep-closely packed.He seeks to absorb the infantry charge of the veteran caesarian legionaries by weight of mass.He also instructs his legionaries,not to go ahead and meet the caesarian infantry charge with their own-but to stay and recieve it.Hoping the caesarian legionaries will be winded by running the double distance at the charge if the pompeians do the unexpected and not come out to meet them.Lentulus commands the left,scipio centre and ahenobarbus right.Pompey is left.
    Pompey also bolsters his left with a composite force of archers and 600 cavalry to prevent any outflanking move.

    Caesar deploys 9 legions stretched out to match length of pompey's formation in standrad three line formationlike pompey ,but only 6 men deep. Antony commands the left,calvinus centre and Sulla right.Caesar is positioned right.At his extreme right of the infantry line is the Legendary Legio X-the tenth legion.On the extreme caesarian left are two understrength legions,having suffered at dyrhachium.Cesar orders them to act as one.

    Pompey's main trump card is the 6000 strong cavalry force under labienus,outnumbering caesar 6:1.Pompey seeks to pin down caesar's legions with his,then rout the opposing cavalry his his superior one and hit the legions from the rear in a classic hammer and anvil maneuvre..This huge cavalry mass is supported by light archers and skitrmishers to the rear.

    Facing this is a meagre of 1000 caesarian cavalry.But caesar notices pompey massing his cavalry and archers and appreciates his intentions immediately.He takes several cohorts from his third line and creates an adhoc fourth line(2000-3000 men) behind his cavalry.This redeployment remains hidden due to the cavalry screen and the men are instructed by caesar to remain in kneeling position.

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    1.Battle begins with a infantry charge.The caesarian first 2 lines charge forward to clash with the pompeians.To their surprise the pompeians do not advance to meet them.Then in a frightening display of their discipline -caesar's veterans led by their centurions stop of their own accord and catch their breath(without any orders from their commanders)before resuming the charge.

    2.Pompey's closely packed masses- succeed in absorbing the charge as pompey feeds all his infantry in to contain the assault.

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    3.Labienus makes his move - 6000 republican cavalry thunder forward sweeping aside their numerically inferior caesarian mounted counterparts.The caesarian cavalry withdraw after brief resistance.

    4. As labienus moves to regroup his disorganized cavalry and charge into the rear of the caesarian infantry,suddenly out of nowhere caesar's fourth line charges forward holding their riveted pilum like a spear and acting on caesar's instructions not to throw them but jab with them at the horsemen's eyes and faces.(''these pretty dancers will not last long with the steel shining in their eyes'').

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    1.Taken completely by surprise and in a disorganized state by this caesarian infantry attack,coming on like a charging phalanx with bristling spears,and the caesarians inflicting horrific wounds by poking at the faces of the horsemen-the pompeian cavalry panics and routs and flees for safety in the hills.The lack of discipline in the allied cavalry contingents mean they join the rout without most of them even taking part in the battle.

    2.The exposed archers and light infantry are massacred by the now advancing caesarian 4rth line and the returning caesarian cavalry.

    3.The 4rth line,fall like a hammer on the pompeian left flank-now open and exposed.The caesarian cavalry joins them.

    4.Seeing the pompeian flank under attack,with perfect timing caesar releases his third line to join the frontal assault.

    5.Pompey understands the game is undone,and leaves the battlefield.Most officers follow suit.
    Pompeian left wing routs under double pressure and flees to the camp,caesarians pursue.Ahenobarbus is killed.
    Whole pompeian army now crumbles and flees towards camp.Caesarians pursue and manage to assault and take camp.They massacre all auxillaries guarding the camp.Remaining pompeian survivors flee towards the hill,but are hunted down by caesar and forced to surrender.

    [​IMG]

    LOSSES :
    Caesar suffered perhaps 200-1200 killed.Pompeians 6000 legionaries and 10,000 auxillaries killed.Bulk of the rest(~20,000) surrendered.

    AFTERMATH -


    Pompey fled to egypt but was assasinated.The republicans regrouped and fought on in africa and spain,but were eventually defeated by caesar.Pharsalus turned the civil war-and paved the way for the end of the roman republic.Caesar himself would not live long to enjoy his triumph in the civil war- assasination would be his end.

    BATTLE ANALYSIS :

    This battle can be viewed as both an example of a succesful single flank envelopment,and a failure of the same.

    [​IMG]

    Reasons for pompeian defeat and caesar's success.

    1] Unity of Command -
    'A battle avoided can't be lost'.The republicans didn't need to engage caesar and his veterans in open combat,they threw away the advanatge they had gained.This primarily happened due to the interference of senators and officers,that diminished pompey's authority.On the other hand,caesarians acted as one unit-commanded by caesar.

    2]Flexibility -
    Pompey just didn't have a plan B.Despite superior numbers he didn't keep a reserve to deal with contingencies,while caesar wonderfully improvised with a fourth line on observing pompey's move.

    3]Surprise
    -
    Caesar's 4rth line achieved total tactical surprise with their attack.

    4]Discipline-
    The veterans of caesar were far more battle hardened and their discipline shone through,allowing them to easily take on twice their number and totally negating pompey's plan to wind them out charging-in a superb display of initiative and discipline.

    5]Deception -
    Pompey made no attempts to hide his intentions,caesar however kept his redeployment well hidden allowing him the advantage of surprise.

    6]Security -
    Caesar shielded his weakness with his strength,the principle of security.Pompey with his huge numbers didn't bother with reserves.

    7]Wrong choice of battlefield -

    The choice of battlefield for pompey was wrong.One flank being secured by the river,it made pompey's cavalry attack totally predictable .As the other flank was closed-caesar always knew the attack was going to come on his right flank.
    Also the compressed nature of the battlefield didn't allow pompey to stretch his lines and outflank caesar's line with his superior numbers.
    On a open field,pompey could have stretched caesar's forces to the limit using his numbers.And also 2 open flanks would have further stretched caesar's limited forces as he would have to create 2 4rth lines-withdrawing even more troops as the cavalry could attack on both flanks.

    [​IMG]
    (Death of Crastinus)

    ''Cry 'Havoc'! and let slip the dogs of war'' - caesar

    WARRIOR - CENTURION GAIUS CRASTINUS

    Crastinus,a legionary of Caesar's dreaded 10th legion had been handpicked by caesar on the legion's formation as a junior centurion.Crastinus fought throughout Caesar's Gallic campaigns, and was present at the Battle of Alesia, where he witnessed the surrender of the Gallic chieftain Vercingetorix .Early in the war, Crastinus commanded his unit as it repelled an attempted crossing of a river by the Helvetii. Crastinus, whom Caesar considered to be amongst his best soldiers, was promoted by Caesar to the rank of Primus pilus or "First File" Centurion. This rank was one of exceptional prestige, since centurions of this rank commanded the first (primus), and most important, century in a legion. With this rank, Crastinus also would have outranked all other centurions in his legion, as it was the highest possible rank of any enlisted Roman soldier.

    He died at Pharsalus , playing a vital role as he led a forlorn hope party of volunteers on a mad charge in the opening attack against Pompey's line from Caesar's right wing. As reported by Caesar in the Commentaries he incited his comrades saying "Follow me, my old comrades, and give your general true service. Only this battle remains; when it's over he will regain his dignity and we our freedom."
    Then he turned to Caesar and said "Today, general, I shall earn your gratitude alive or dead".The front ranks of Pompey's line was composed of veterans called Evocatii(re-enlisted for 5 yrs after completing their 16 yr service),Crastinus broke through them and was deep into the Pompeian line when he was killed by an enemy legionary thrusting a gladius in his mouth. Appianus reports that after the battle Caesar himself said to be in Crastinus' debt, tributed him heroic rites and erecting an altar.

    [​IMG]

    Sources -
    Osprey Campaign - Pharsalus
    Osprey Battle orders - Legions of the Civil Wars
    Osprey Elite -Roman Battle Tactics
    Warfare in the Classical world -
    Greece and Rome at War - Peter connolly


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    Wolfpack and sangos like this.
  5. sangos

    sangos Lt. Colonel ELITE MEMBER

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    wow where is this content sourced from!?

    Btw Caesar and Pompey were te fearsome triumverate with Marcus Crassus. Guess Crassus's death broke the deal between them.
     
  6. Austerlitz

    Austerlitz Extraordinary Historian THINKER

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    Sources given in last post.Pictures are from the internet and a few from books.
    The maps i drew myself.
    Yeah i mentioned triumvirate in the first post.
     

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