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The Battle of Cynoscephalae, 197 BC

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Poll Question: Would the Macedonians win if they were led by a better commander?
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Molossos View Drop Down
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  Quote Molossos Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Topic: The Battle of Cynoscephalae, 197 BC
    Posted: 09-Mar-2005 at 22:56

The Battle of Cynoscephalae in Thessaly marked the gradual decadence of the once mighty Macedonia since it was a decisive blow to the military system of the Successors of Alexander.

Titus Flaminius crushed king Philip V but his victory was won mainly thanks to the personal initiative of a Roman tribune who took advantage of a gap in the Macedonian formation while the Romans were being pushed back.

In order to answer to the poll I would highly recommend this link that contains the battle plan: www.roman-empire.net/army/cynoscephalae.html

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  Quote Belisarius Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 10-Mar-2005 at 14:33
It is a popular myth that the legions were overwhelmingly superior to the phalanx armies of the Macedonians and Greeks. The reason why the phalanxes of the Macedonians and the Seleucids failed against the armies of Rome was that cavalry was not used extensively. Alexander used his phalanx to pressure the enemy or for defensive purposes while his cavalry attacked where holes in the enemy's formation formed. A large part of his army was cavalry. However, for some reason the diadochi thought it would be a better idea if they used armies numbering 20,000 or more made entirely out of phalanx spearmen.
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  Quote eaglecap Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 10-Mar-2005 at 15:29
Originally posted by Molossos

The Battle of Cynoscephalae in Thessaly marked the gradual decadence of the once mighty Macedonia since it was a decisive blow to the military system of the Successors of Alexander.


Titus Flaminius crushed king Philip V but his victory was won mainly thanks to the personal initiative of a Roman tribune who took advantage of a gap in the Macedonian formation while the Romans were being pushed back.


In order to answer to the poll I would highly recommend this link that contains the battle plan: www.roman-empire.net/army/cynoscephalae.html

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I would have to research this battle to answer the question, but I know the use of the phalanx was not very effective towards the Celtic tribes in Gaul.

During Rome's earlier wars with the Celtic tribes, in the fourth century B.C., the Romans discovered that the use of the Phalanx was of little use against these barbarians because of the uneven terrain. The Greeks perfected the phalanx in the seventh century B.C. as a method of infantry attack. The battle took place on a level plain and each general deployed his army in a close formation across his front with rows that ranged from five hundred to sixteen hundred men deep. In this formation the soldiers, wearing armor and welding a sword or a spear, advanced on foot creating a literal wall of shields. The Romans discontinued the use of the phalanx and reorganized their armies into legions made up of 6,000 men. They further divided their troops, according to their function and experience, and over time they increased the flexibility of the troops by breaking up the units to ten cohorts per legion and then three maniples to a cohort. When Caesar took command of his legions this organization provided him the flexibility to fight on any terrain and it allowed him to deploy his infantry into large or small units in different directions and for different missions. Caesar had become an expert in legionary tactics before the Gallic Wars, but this encounter with the Helvetii was the first pitched battle of his career. 8
     In contrast to the well-disciplined Roman legions the Celts knew little of discipline and every man was for himself and they tended to fight for their own individual glory. They had no tactical organization other than their own tribal group and they made few preparations. The Celts often made headlong assaults in a rough phalangial order but they quickly became exhausted and disoriented. The lack of organization would often shatter their courage.9 Caesar commented that only the first charge of a Celtic force was of any note and after that it was easy for his troops to defeat them in battle. The average Celtic warrior fought without armor although body armor and chain mail was also used, especially amongst the wealthier warriors. Instead of short swords they used long swords that were designed for cutting and slashing instead of thrusting like the Roman short sword. A common custom amongst these tribes was to make themselves look more fierce by spiking their hair with lime and shouting curses at their enemies to evoke fear.10
7a Ramon, Jimenez, Caesar Against the Celts (New Yorkarpedon, 1996, 53 (added later)

7b Wells, Peter, The Barbarians Speak (Oxfordrinceton University press, 1999), 73
8 Ramon, Jimenez, Caesar Against the Celts (New Yorkarpedon, 1996), 53
9 fuller, J.F.C., Julius Caesar; man, soldier and Tyrant (New York: De Capo Press, 1965), 99
10 Ramon, Jimenez, Caesar Against the Celts (New Yorkarpedon, 1996), 56
11 Meier, Christian, Caesar (New York: Basic Books, 1982), 237

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  Quote Guests Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 10-Mar-2005 at 15:30

The Seleucids field a large cavalry force at Magnesia:

6000 cataphracts

2000 Royal Guard

1200 Dahaeans (Scythians)

2500 Galatians

500 Tarentines

12200 out of a force of some 68.000 men including 26.000 phalangites. All of the diadochi understod the value of cavalry however neither the Macedonians nor the Ptolemaics had the land necessary to raise and sustain large numbers of cavalry, hence the increased importance of the phalanx. Pyrrhos' tactics were quite 'Alexandrian' in their approach.

 

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