Sunday, 8 February 2015

Anapus River 415 BC

The Battle of Anapus River 415 BC took place on the Island of Sicily between the invading Athenians and the Syracusan forces. This is a new development in the dungeon as the growing Ancient/Greek collection has finally reached the point where a almost passable representation of real battles can be staged. So with the help of Steve's four units of hoplites playing as the local Syracusans the battle was set.
Initial deployment Athenians on the left
Athenians use initiative to push forward
It is worth outlining a couple of key points in the battle before running through what happened. The Athenians were generally regarded as a more professional army and therefore had better quality troops including mercenaries. The Syracusans were late for battle as they had expected to attack and the Athenians caught them on the hop, we represented this by two units being placed in the rear and with the limited manoeuvrability of the phalanx at this time it would be hard to get them into line in time. We also gave the Athenians first turn. The picture above shows the difference in depth of line as the Athenians were only 8 deep whilst the Syracusans were able to set up 16 deep. The sources say a key event in the battle occurred when a thunderstorm shook the morale of the Syracusans for fun we represented this by pulling tokens which meant that on one random turn the Syracusans would have to take all morale tests at minus one. As it turned out the storm came early in the battle so had little effect. Finally the river at this time (October) was easily crossable so we allowed it to be crossed at any point with only a DL test for each phalanx to check if they became disrupted. I have placed extra sand bars in the river to represent this

Skirmishers attempt to hold back the advance

As in the real battle the Athenians decided to push forward as quickly as possible under the strong leadership of their General Nicias. Their left flank is covered by skirmishers as their line advanced out of the cover provided by some low hills and cliffs. They had positioned themselves between the hills and the marshy area close to the sea (shown at the bottom of these pictures) to avoid any outflanking. The Syracusans pushed their skirmish line forward to delay the advance and give them time hopefully to deploy there late arriving units.
Athenians crossing the Anapus
This was only going to be at best a slowing tactic as the Athenian formed infantry pushed on. First contact was on the Athenian left flank where they had positioned some of their best Mercenary troops these can be seen in the distance clashing with Syracusan Citizen hoplites. Things began to hot up with each advancing phalanx picking a suitable target. (we played with Clash of Empires and one of the reasons I like the rule set is when infantry blocks get to grips they don't just crumble but push and shove before finally falling apart, this feels quite realistic ?) Pictures below and right show the two battle lines coming together in several places. As in the real battle it looked like the Athenian left would push the Syracusans out of the way but after an initial upset they rallied.

Athenians across the River

In the far distance the Geloan reserve cavalry can be seen attempting to force the flank but they are thrown back by Athenian archers positioned for just such an event. (the Athenians had no cavalry during this part of the invasion). Eventually the higher quality of the mercenary troops began to tell and the Syracusan right flank became seriously fragile. However, it certainly wasn't all going the Athenian way as Syracusan militia Hoplites can be seen pushing right through in the centre and across the Anapus itself. The whole battle began to break up into individual fights between opposing units.


Syracusan militia push through in the centre
The largest such battle can be seen here in the centre of the picture. This eventually broke up into two separate fights but only after Nicias had rushed to give the Athenians a boost from his leadership. The battle was pretty much balanced at this stage with the Syracusan reserves now getting into the action and the thin Athenian line starting to look very shaky !

In the balance ?
In this picture you can see the Athenian skirmishers running down from the hills to bolster the rear centre as the Syracusan militia break through. There were now really two  key fights one on each flank which would decide the day. If the Athenian mercenaries could hold on the left a second phalanx would have time to turn and come back into the fight and in the foreground the Argive and Mantinean troops(Athenian Allies) need to push through on the Athenian right flank. Despite heavy losses the mercenaries held, again only with the active support of Nicias himself to keep them steady.

The final picture shows pretty much the end of the battle. From the foreground backwards the Athenian Allies pushing the Syracusan left back. Some did rally after this but we judged the battle to be a marginal Athenian victory at this stage. In the middle ground the Syracusan militia who had pushed across the river are now being held by the rallied Athenians supported by their skirmishers who have attacked in the flank.

The Syracusans pull back

In the distance the remaining mercenaries hold their ground whilst the second mercenary phalanx turns back into the battle. (The troops in the far right corner are actually dead !)

A really great battle with two unequal armies providing a close fight surprisingly true to the real events. Well worth the effort and preparation. We are now looking forward to our next.

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