WAB Macedonian Phalanx vs. Roman Legion

by Jeff Jonas

Peter Connolly captures the action as the phalanx pins and pushes back the Romans on the level ground.  In the foreground, a maniple has exploited a gap in the arrayed pikes of the white shield phalanx.

I'm often asked questions such as this: 

Guy asks about Romans:  "The challenge there is the reliance on FBIGO, just to get those deadly pila attacks. Also there's a bit of history missing - if the Legion was so poor why was it almost universally imitated? "

Unfortunately, my answer is contained in the Warhammer Ancient Battles Successor supplement.. but since that project is in stasis until Warhammer Historical Wargames is ready to release it, I am left to just "wing it" here on the Old website.


Roman legions vs. Macedonian phalanx

So why is the Roman legion weak in Warhammer Ancient Battles?..... Well that's a very long answer.

Suffice to say that the different Roman armies have different strengths and weaknesses.  The strongest Roman army against WAB pike phalanxes is the Manipular Roman army from Hannibal and Punic Wars.  The combination of supporting lines and other rules allows the Romans (especially the so-called reformed Polybian legions) to stand toe to toe with a phalanx, as long as the supports hold up.   The two weakest Roman WAB armies vs. the phalanx are the Spartacus Late Republic lists and the Early Imperial Roman list from the rulebook.  These are hampered by the fact that they cannot easily escape the phalanx once they have come to grips with it, and because they do not have the support rules of the Manipular legions since they can be worn down through attrition.   Also, since there are no period specific army lists for these Roman opponents, the Romans suffer from having to compete with the Alexander the Great list, or the very unbalanced Armies of Antiquities Alex and Successors list.  Both these armies have a bit easier time against the Pontic, and very late Successor armies of the Ptolemaics, and Syrian remnants of the Seleucid empire.

Romans generally fare best when they can reset and keep the pila (heavy throwing spear) factor revolving.  The pila attacks will eventually wear down a phalanx, but often the smaller Roman units are broken first.  If a Roman unit hangs around and allows itself to fight with one rank against the pikes two ranks of roll first pikemen, they will lose time and time again.  The best tactic for all legions is to understand how 'drilled' units can FBIGO, and disengage for free. This allows units to pair up and keep continuous pressure on a portion of the phalanx.  Rotating units allows each attack to strike with two ranks each round.

This all seems like a paradox. After all wasn't it the Roman legions that destroyed the phalanx everytime they met? Wasn't the pilum the uber weapon that broke open phalanxes like sardine cans?  Wasn't the legion "better" than the phalanx?  So what's going on here in WAB where phalanxes often roll right over unsupported Roman veterans?   The popular notion is really untrue, on good ground with flanks supported all ancient commentators tend to agree that the phalanx is unstoppable.... but the nuances are there to be found in their commentaries.  Once the flanks are turned the situation is desperate for the phalanx, and the phalanx must present a solid unbroken front, these are the places that Romans attacked the phalanx and brought the battle's term into their favor. Often in WAB players fight the phalanx on its terms, they lose then they cry that the phalanx is too strong.  The next section describes successes and failures of legions vs. phalanxes in the hopes that players will glean the facts that will enhance their game play.....


"Aemilius the consul, who had never seen a phalanx until this occasion in the war with Perseus, often confessed afterwards to certain persons in Rome that he
had never seen anything more terrible and dreadful than a Macedonian phalanx, and this although he had witnessed and directed as many battles as any man."



It seems the popular mythology promotes the idea that the Roman legionary threw his pilum and this caused gaps which he could then exploit and break into the phalanx. In reality this is rarely described, in fact more often than not the pila thrown into a phalanx are described as totally ineffective. So illustrations like the above are a bit fanciful, as more often than not Romans could not penetrate to sword length, unless the phalanx was in distress.


Roman legions always beat the Macedonian phalanx:

This is not true.  In almost every instance where the Roman legion was actually in combat with a deployed enemy pike phalanx it either gave ground, was defeated, or just maintained a tenuous hold.  In most battles the Macedonian phalanx armies were defeated by having one or both flanks completely caved in, a situation no army can usually survive.

Here's a brief rundown of what happened in the battles:

Wars with Pyrrhus:
: first known battle between Macedonian phalanx and Roman legions.  Romans hold the phalanx, and actually turn a flank, but Pyrrhus' elephants rout the Roman cavalry and the Roman army is beaten.

Asculum: The Roman legions hug the tree line on hills to disrupt the phalanx on the first day. Pyrrhus' fights on the flanks and does not commit the phalanx to unsuitable ground, the battle is drawn.  The next day Pyrrhus maneuvers his army in such a way to force the Romans out of the hills and marshes. On more open ground, the Romans suffer a heavy defeat, worse than Heraclea, and almost vote for peace, but a Carthaginian alliance against Pyrrhus materializes and they gut it out.

Maleventum/Beneventum: Roman Legions defeat an Epirote surprise attack, then join battle in the plains.  The Romans at one point are pushed back to walls of their camp by the phalanx and elephants, but a Roman reserve emerges from the side of the camp and panics the elephants, this reverses their fortune, and causes a sharp defeat for Pyrrhus.

First Macedonian War:
No major actions

Second Macedonian War:
Siege of Atrax: A phalanx has its flanks covered as it defends a breach. No amount of Roman effort can dent their line at all.  Javelins (pila) are described as having no effect. Eventually a Roman tower almost collapses on the Roman attackers and they leave the phalanx alone. Flamininus is forced to retreat and gives up the siege.

Cynoscephalae: Romans and Macedonians meet in the fog between a range of hills. The Roman left wing is pushed back down the slope to its camp by the Macedonian phalanx.  The Roman right wing  attacks with elephants and routs the undeployed Macedonian left wing phalanx (apparently the left wing commander was unaware a battle was happening).  The Romans split off maniples from their victorious wing and rout the engaged phalanx by attacking from behind and the flank.   The phalanx collapses and runs.

Third Macedonian War:
Kallinikus hill skirmish: In rough ground a cavalry and light infantry battle turns into a serious action. The Romans are heavily defeated, but Perseus does not allow the phalanx to intervene.  The demoralized Romans are caught with their backs to the Peneus river, Pyrrhus lets them off the hook and they retire unmolested across the river. Peace attempts fail.

Pydna: After an early skirmish turns into a general deployment late in the afternoon, the Macedonian guard phalanx surges ahead.  A cohort of Pelignii (Alae) are covering the skirmishers and hold firm to allow the rest of the army to set its positions.  The Paelignii are overrun even after their standard bearer throws their standard into the midst of the phalanx to get them to hold, but they are routed with heavy losses.

The rest of the Macedonian phalanx deploys and rolls up over the river into some rolling ground where the legions are deployed.  The maniples fall back against the push of the phalanx.  On the flanks the Macedonians are not prepared for the Roman assulat by their allied Pergamene heavy cavalry and elephants (despite an anti-elephant unit). Both flanks cave in as the phalanx engages the legions.  As the Romans retire the ground gets more broken and the phalanx is less cohesive.  Aemilius Paulus orders the maniples to "act independently" and they start to break into gaps in the phalanx line.   These counter-attacks halt the phalanx advance, at the same time the Roman victorious flanks roll up both wings of the phalanx.  Perseus does nothing with his reserves and apparently rides off.  The phalanx is penetrated in front and with no firm flanks is cut to pieces. Units lift their pikes to signal surrender, but the Romans just cut them down in place.  The Macedonian army is massacred. The Macedonian guards may have fought to the last man rather than surrender.

Syrian War:
: Antiochus III holds the pass with a phalanx and some elephants and missile troops on the hills.  The Romans make no impact on the phalanx at all. The Romans send a detachment to march around the pass which catches Antiochus off guard and his army routs when the Romans turn up in the rear.

Magnesia: Antiochus puts elephants in-between gaps of his phalanx.  The Romans are defeated on their left but their Pergamene cavalry rout the Seleucid forces to their right.  The legions do not engage the phalanx but hold them in place while their light troops snipe away at the elephants.  Eventually the phalanx is surrounded and forms a square.   The elephants panic and run through their own troops.  The Romans mop up the totally disordered and surrounded phalanx.

Pontic battles:
: Sulla maneuvers onto hills and channels the Pontic army into his outnumbered army.   The Pontic brazen shields hold the Romans in one sector.  A phalanx bolstered by slaves holds in another sector but is out flanked and eventually war machines fire into the rear ranks while the phalanx is held in place.  Eventually a panic starts and the whole Pontic army is routed.

"..As I said before, it is impossible to confront a charge of the phalanx, so long
as it retains its proper formation and strength."



Antigonid phalangite and Roman legionary.


Roman legions were copied, doesn't that mean they were better?

“Also there's a bit of history missing - if the Legion was so poor why was it almost universally imitated?”


These are the reasons I'd list as to why they were imitated:

1) Because the Romans beat the major powers of their day. Defeated enemies decided that the new arms were an important factor. (Why do all modern armies have Panzer Grenadiers?)

2) Roman legions were much better at strategic action (detachments of legions could easily operate independently from the main army).  Most of the Macedonian defeat is directly related to detachments of legions being able to infiltrate and break through forces holding the key mountain passes.  The phalanx couldn't be at every pass, but it seemed that a  legion acting under a proconsul or legate could defeat th kind of natural obstacle which often held up Hellenistic armies.

3) Legions could react on a grand tactical basis faster than a phalanx. Cynoscephalae is the classic illustration of this.  The victorious legion was able to send a detachment over to help the other wing, with ad hoc organization under command of an anonymous Tribune, because it was made up of easily detachable maniples.  The 20 maniples were just lucky to arrive unopposed in the rear of the engaged enemy.   Enemies came to realize that the phalanx could not adjust to the threat everywhere on the battlefield, because it needed and continuous front. Clumps of maniples, or cohorts could react and move independently.

The unknown tribune

4) In almost every other aspect of soldiering the legionary style was envied.  In siege work, in camp making, marching, and even skirmishing, the Roman equipment was superior. 

5) Roman legionaries were trained, Hellenistic armies still stuck to the idea that if you hand a dude a spear he knows how to use it.  The front rankers are old and they knew what to do, the further back in the ranks the phalanx got mushier.  Part of the Roman revolution in Hellenistic armies was the notion that they would actually have to train and drill their troops. It's shocking to us now, how novel a concept that is. Mithridates of Pontus had Romans train and drill his Asian cohorts and these became better than average legions. Alexander and Philips' Macedonians were drilled and trained too... go figure they conquered the known world. 

6) Rome almost always had more men than their enemies, and if defeated sent more armies. Hellenistic armies were destroyed usually after one loss, all their seasoned troops killed.At Pydna commentators lament that old men and sixteen year old boys made up parts of the phalanx, their loss assured that Macedonia would be crippled forever. Rome almost always achieved uncontested naval superiority and could land, supply and reinforce anywhere it wanted.  For example Magnesia happened only after the Seleucid fleet was systematically eradicated. 

7) Rome's Hellenistic enemies never were able to achieve the coordinated combined arms cooperation that Pyrrhus or Alexander achieved.  In WAB, players often have an easier time coordinating their armies- often because they are better generals than Antiochus or Perseus and don't allow themselves to get hoodwinked.  This means that the phalanx often controls the tempo, because the phalanx player makes sure he controls his flanks, either through use of terrain or the table edge.  For example against the Roman Republic's supported maniples it is key for the Macedonian player to shorten the table, if he can force the Roman army to bend, then it is easier to crack the support rules.  A player that assures that his phalanx can fight supported in WAB will generally win frontally against all comers even legions and this is a historically valid result. 

8) WAB has no disruption rules for broken terrain for formed troops, especially phalanxes.   Either terrain is totally disruptive (woods, broken ground, and rivers) and nobody goes in there, or it is free and clear. Even so, would a phalanx player faced with Romans deployed on disruptive ground be stupid like Perseus? Or smart like Pyrrhus? See below.

That's the rub... at Pydna the Roman commander retreated until he felt the ground favored his troops then allowed them to fight. In WAB, game tables are too narrow to allow such maneuvers unless in special scenarios.  Often in WAB, in my experience, Roman players are too aggressive against phalanxes anyway, and often because of that they lose. I have no sympathy for those who do not understand the turn sequence and the value of drilled troops.


"When the Macedonians, in close array, stretched out before them their long spears against the target fence, and which was formed by the close position of their antagonists’ shields, and when the Romans, after discharging their javelins without effect, drew their swords, these could neither press on to a closer combat, nor cut off the heads of the spears; and if they did cut or break off any, the shaft being sharp at the part where it was broken, filled up its place among the points of those which were unbroken, in a kind of palisade."


Angus McBride's somewhat stodgy view of Pydna, some rather dull looking heavy armored legions and some very short Macedonian sarissas!


Rules suggestions?

One way to make the phalanx less powerful against Romans (and others) is to make any phalanx (including Greeks and Carthaginians) have a chance to lose some of its benefits if it moves on or fights on a slope of any kind, or areas designated as lightly broken terrain.  The result should be randomized otherwise players will simply avoid the issue entirely.  I suggest making a phalanx on such terrain have to roll equal to or less than its initiative when it moves over or fights in such terrain.  The unit is denoted as ‘disrupted’ and loses the -1 to hit benefit to frontal combat.  This would address two issues, the phalanx will have to think about sitting on hills at deployment, and they will think harder before entering terrain that can disrupt them.   Romans can pull them into sketchy terrain with pursuit rolls.  A disrupted phalanx must reform to clear itself of disruption, unless it is completely out of the onerous terrain at the start of its turn, in which case it reverts to undisrupted status.

This is not the perfect solution but if added to an Asculum, Cynoscephalae, Pydna, or Pontic scenario can give the Romans a bit of an edge (although the Manipular rules often counter the phalanx now, making it a dangerous thing to attack supported maniples).

This is something I’d love to add to the Successors as an actual rule, but since it is an ‘across the board’ change to phalanxes I reckon I will just pass it on as an optional rule.


Playtests of WAB Successor armies vs. Republican Roman armies



"They, therefore, do not lower them, but hold them with the points inclined upwards over the shoulders of
the ranks in front of them, to shield the heads of the whole phalanx; for the sarissae are so closely serried, that they repel missiles which have
carried over the front ranks and might fall upon the heads of those in the rear."


The archetypical phalanx illustration, shown here to reveal just how practical it was to sweep missiles out of the air with the back ranks.


The following passages contain some of the key accounts of phalanx vs. legion actions.   I have wanted to post them for my own reference for some time from various online sources.

Plutarch on Asculum

21. 5 Consequently, Pyrrhus found himself obliged to fight another battle, and after recuperating his army he marched to the city of Asculum, where he engaged the Romans. Here, however, he was forced into regions where his cavalry could not operate, and upon a river with swift current and wooded banks, so that his elephants could not charge and engage the enemy's legions. Therefore, after many had been wounded and slain, for the time being the struggle was ended by the coming of night.
6 But on the next day, designing to fight the battle on level ground, and to bring his elephants to bear upon the ranks of the enemy, Pyrrhus occupied the unfavourable parts of the field with a detachment of his troops; then he put great numbers of slingers and led his forces to the attack in dense array and with a mighty impetus. So the Romans, having no opportunity for sidelong shifts and counter-movements, as on the previous day, were obliged to engage on level ground and front to front; and being anxious to repulse the enemy's phalanx before their elephants came up, they fought fiercely with their swords against the Macedonian spears, reckless of their lives and thinking only of wounding and slaying, while caring naught for what they suffered.
7 After a long time, however, as we are told, they began to be driven back at the point where Pyrrhus himself was pressing hard upon his opponents; but the greatest havoc was wrought by the furious strength of the elephants, since the valour of the Romans was of no avail in fighting them, but they felt that they must yield before them as before an onrushing billow or a crashing earthquake, and not stand their ground only to die in vain, or suffer all that is most grievous without doing any good at all.
8 After a short flight the Romans reached their camp, with a loss of six thousand men, according to Hieronymus, who also says that on the side of Pyrrhus, according to the king's own commentaries, thirty-five hundred and five were killed.
9 Dionysius, however, makes no mention of two battles at Asculum, nor of an admitted defeat of the Romans, but says that the two armies fought once for all until sunset and then at last separated; Pyrrhus, he says, was wounded in the arm by a javelin, and also had his baggage plundered by the Daunians; and there fell, on the side of Pyrrhus and on that of the Romans, over fifteen thousand men.
The two armies separated; and we are told that Pyrrhus said to one who was congratulating him on his victory, "If we are victorious in one more battle with the Romans, we shall be utterly ruined."
10 For he had lost a great part of the forces with which he came, and all his friends and generals except a few; moreover, he had no others whom he could summon from home, and he saw that his allies in Italy were becoming indifferent, while the army of the Romans, as if from a fountain gushing forth indoors, was easily and speedily filled up again, and they did not lose courage in defeat, nay, their wrath gave them all the more vigour and determination for the war.


Plutarch on Beneventum

25 But the power of the Samnites had been shattered, and their spirits were broken, in consequence of many defeats at the hands of the Romans. They also cherished considerable resentment against Pyrrhus because of his expedition to Sicily; hence not many of them came to join him. Pyrrhus, however, divided his army into two parts, sent one of them into Lucania to attack the other consul, that he might not come to the help of his colleague,
2 and led the other part himself against Manius Curius, who was safely encamped near the city of Beneventum and was awaiting assistance from Lucania; in part also it was because his soothsayers had dissuaded him with unfavourable omens and sacrifices that he kept quiet. Pyrrhus, accordingly, hastening to attack this consul before the other one came up, took his best men and his most warlike elephants and set out by night against his camp.
3 But since he took a long circuit through a densely wooded country, his lights did not hold out, and his soldiers lost their way and straggled. This caused delay, so that the night passed, and at daybreak he was in full view of the enemy as he advanced upon them from the heights, and caused much tumult and agitation among them.
Manius, however, since the sacrifices were propitious and the crisis forced action upon him, led his forces out and attacked the foremost of the enemy, and after routing these, put their whole army to flight, so that many of them fell and some of their elephants were left behind and captured.
4 This victory brought Manius down into the plain to give battle; here, after an engagement in the open, he routed the enemy at some points, but at one was overwhelmed by the elephants and driven back upon his camp, where he was obliged to call upon the guards, who were standing on the parapets in great numbers, all in arms, and full of fresh vigour.
5 Down they came from their strong places, and hurling their javelins at the elephants compelled them to wheel about and run back through the ranks of their own men, thus causing disorder and confusion there. This gave the victory to the Romans, and at the same time the advantage also in the struggle for supremacy. For having acquired high courage and power and a reputation for invincibility from their valour in these struggles, they at once got control of Italy, and soon afterwards of Sicily.

26 Thus Pyrrhus was excluded from his hopes of Italy and Sicily, after squandering six years' time in his wars there, and after being worsted in his undertakings, but he kept his brave spirit unconquered in the midst of his defeats; and men believed that in military experience, personal prowess, and daring, he was by far the first of the kings of his time, but that what he won by his exploits he lost by indulging in vain hopes, since through passionate desire for what he had not he always failed to establish securely what he had.
2 For this reason Antigonus used to liken him to a player with dice who makes many fine throws but does not understand how to use them when they are made.

Polybius on the phalanx
The Histories, Book XVIII, Chapters 28-32:
In my sixth book I made a promise, still unfulfilled, of taking a fitting opportunity of drawing a comparison between the arms of the Romans and
Macedonians, and their respective system of tactics, and pointing out how they differ for better or worse from each other. I will now endeavor by a
reference to actual facts to fulfil that promise. For since in former times the Macedonian tactics proved themselves by experience capable of conquering
those of Asia and Greece; while the Roman tactics sufficed to conquer the nations of Africa and all those of Western Europe; and since in our own day
there have been numerous opportunities of comparing the men as well as their tactics, it will be, I think, a useful and worthy task to investigate their
differences, and discover why it is that the Romans conquer and carry off the palm from their enemies in the operations of war: that we may not put it
all down to Fortune, and congratulate them on their good luck, as the thoughtless of mankind do; but, from a knowledge of the true causes, may
give their leaders the tribute of praise and admiration which they deserve.
Now as to the battles which the Romans fought with Hannibal and the defeats which they sustained in them, I need say no more. It was not owing to their
arms or their tactics, but to the skill and genius of Hannibal that they met with those defeats: and that I made quite clear in my account of the battles
themselves. And my contention is supported by two facts. First, by the conclusion of the war: for as soon as the Romans got a general of ability
comparable with that of Hannibal, victory was not long in following their banners. Secondly, Hannibal himself, being dissatisfied with the original
arms of his men, and having immediately after his first victory furnished his troops with the arms of the Romans, continued to employ them thenceforth
to the end. Pyrrhus, again, availed himself not only of the arms, but also of the troops of Italy, placing a maniple of Italians and a company of his
own phalanx alternately, in his battles against the Romans. Yet even this did not enable him to win; the battles were somehow or another always indecisive.
It was necessary to speak first on these points, to anticipate any instances which might seem to make against my theory. I will now return to my comparison.
Many considerations may easily convince us that, if only the phalanx has its proper formation and strength, nothing can resist it face to face or
withstand its charge. For as a man in close order of battle occupies a space of three feet; and as the length of the sarissae are sixteen cubits
according to the original design, which has been reduced in practice to fourteen; and as of these fourteen four must be deducted, to allow for the
weight in front; it follows clearly that each hoplite will have ten cubits of his sarissa projecting beyond his body, when he lowers it with both
hands, as he advances against the enemy: hence, too, though the men of the second, third, and fourth rank will have their sarissae projecting farther
beyond the front rank than the men of the fifth, yet even these last will have two cubits of their sarissae beyond the front rank; if only the phalanx
is properly formed and the men close up properly both flank and rear, like the description in Homer:
So buckler pressed on buckler; helm on helm; And man on man; and waving horse-hair plumes In polished head-piece mingled, as they swayed In order: in such serried rank they stood. [Iliad, 13.131]
And if my description is true and exact, it is clear that in front of each man of the front rank there will be five sarissae projecting to distances
varying by a descending scale of two cubits.
With this point in our minds, it will not be difficult to imagine what the appearance and strength of the whole phalanx is likely to be, when, with
lowered sarissae, it advances to the charge sixteen deep. Of these sixteen ranks, all above the fifth are unable to reach with their sarissae far
enough to take actual part in the fighting. They, therefore, do not lower them, but hold them with the points inclined upwards over the shoulders of
the ranks in front of them, to shield the heads of the whole phalanx; for the sarissae are so closely serried, that they repel missiles which have
carried over the front ranks and might fall upon the heads of those in the rear. These rear ranks, however, during an advance, press forward those in
front by the weight of their bodies; and thus make the charge very forcible, and at the same time render it impossible for the front ranks to face about.
Such is the arrangement, general and detailed of the phalanx. It remains now to compare with it the peculiarities and distinctive features of the Roman
arms and tactics. Now, a Roman soldier in full armor also requires a space of three square feet. But as their method of fighting admits of individual
motion for each man---because he defends his body with a shield, which he moves about to any point from which a blow is coming, and because he uses
his sword both for cutting and stabbing---it is evident that each man must have a clear space, and an interval of at least three feet both on flank and
rear if he is to do his duty with any effect. The result of this will be that each Roman soldier will face two of the front rank of a phalanx, so
that he has to encounter and fight against ten spears, which one man cannot find time even to cut away, when once the two lines are engaged, nor force
his way through easily---seeing that the Roman front ranks are not supported by the rear ranks, either by way of adding weight to their charge, or vigor
to the use of their swords. Therefore, it may readily be understood that, as I said before, it is impossible to confront a charge of the phalanx, so long
as it retains its proper formation and strength.
Why is it then that the Romans conquer? And what is it that brings disaster on those who employ the phalanx? Why, just because war is full of
uncertainties both as to time and place; whereas there is but one time and one kind of ground in which a phalanx can fully work. If, then, there were
anything to compel the enemy to accommodate himself to the time and place of the phalanx, when about to fight a general engagement, it would be but
natural to expect that those who employed the phalanx would always carry off the victory. But if the enemy finds it possible, and even easy, to avoid its
attack, what becomes of its formidable character? Again, no one denies that for its employment it is indispensable to have a country flat, bare, and
without such impediments as ditches, cavities, depressions, steep banks, or beds of rivers: for all such obstacles are sufficient to hinder and
dislocate this particular formation. And that it is, I may say, impossible, or at any rate exceedingly rare to find a piece of country of twenty stades,
or sometimes of even greater extent, without any such obstacles, every one will also admit. However, let us suppose that such a district has been
found. If the enemy decline to come down into it, but traverse the country sacking the towns and territories of the allies, what use will the phalanx
be? For if it remains on the ground suited to itself, it will not only fail to benefit its friends, but will be incapable even of preserving itself; for
the carriage of provisions will be easily stopped by the enemy, seeing that they are in undisputed possession of the country: while if it quits its
proper ground, from the wish to strike a blow, it will be an easy prey to the enemy. Nay, if a general does descend into the plain, and yet does not
risk his whole army upon one charge of the phalanx or upon one chance, but maneuvers for a time to avoid coming to close quarters in the engagement, it
is easy to learn what will be the result from what the Romans are now actually doing.
For no speculation is any longer required to test the accuracy of what I am now saying: that can be done by referring to accomplished facts. The Romans
do not, then, attempt to extend their front to equal that of a phalanx, and then charge directly upon it with their whole force: but some of their
divisions are kept in reserve, while others join battle with the enemy at close quarters. Now, whether the phalanx in its charge drives its opponents
from their ground, or is itself driven back, in either case its peculiar order is dislocated; for whether in following the retiring, or flying from
the advancing enemy, they quit the rest of their forces: and when this takes place, the enemy's reserves can occupy the space thus left, and the ground
which the phalanx had just before been holding, and so no longer charge them face to face, but fall upon them on their flank and rear. If, then, it is
easy to take precautions against the opportunities and peculiar advantages of the phalanx, but impossible to do so in the case of its disadvantages,
must it not follow that in practice the difference between these two systems is enormous? Of course, those generals who employ the phalanx must march
over ground of every description, must pitch camps, occupy points of advantage, besiege, and be besieged, and meet with unexpected appearances of
the enemy: for all these are part and parcel of war, and have an important and sometimes decisive influence on the ultimate victory. And in all these
cases the Macedonian phalanx is difficult, and sometimes impossible, to handle, because the men cannot act either in squads or separately.
The Roman order on the other hand is flexible: for every Roman, once armed and on the field, is equally well-equipped for every place, time, or
appearance of the enemy. He is, moreover, quite ready and needs to make no change, whether he is required to fight in the main body, or in a
detachment, or in a single maniple, or even by himself. Therefore, as the individual members of the Roman force are so much more serviceable, their
plans are also much more often attended by success than those of others.
I thought it necessary to discuss this subject at some length, because at the actual time of the occurrence many Greeks supposed when the Macedonians
were beaten that it was incredible; and many will afterwards be at a loss to account for the inferiority of the phalanx to the Roman system of arming.


Plutarch on Flamininus at Cynoscephalae

But on the morrow, as day came on, after a soft and rainy night, the clouds changing into a mist filled all the plain with thick darkness; and a dense
foggy air descending, by the time it was full day, from the adjacent mountains into the ground betwixt the two camps, concealed them from each
other's view. The parties sent out on either side, some for ambuscade, some for discovery, falling in upon one another quickly after they were thus
detached, began the fight at what are called the Cynos Cephalae, a number of sharp tops of hills that stand close to one another, and have the name from
some resemblance in their shape. Now many vicissitudes and changes happening, as may well be expected, in such an uneven field of battle,
sometimes hot pursuit, and sometimes as rapid a flight, the generals on both sides kept sending in succors from the main bodies, as they saw their men
pressed or giving ground, till at length the heavens clearing up, let them see what was going on, upon which the whole armies engaged.

Philip, who was in the right wing, from the advantage of the higher ground which he had, threw on the Romans the whole weight of his phalanx, with a force which they
were unable to sustain; the dense array of spears, and the pressure of the compact mass overpowering them. But the king's left wing being broken up by
the hilliness of the place, Titus observing it, and cherishing little or no hopes on that side where his own gave ground, makes in all haste to the
other, and there charges in upon the Macedonians; who, in consequence of the inequality and roughness of the ground, could not keep their phalanx entire,
nor line their ranks to any great depth (which is the great point of their strength), but were forced to fight man for man under heavy and unwieldy
armour. For the Macedonian phalanx is like some single powerful animal, irresistible so long as it is embodied into one, and keeps its order, shield
touching shield, all as in a piece; but if it be once broken, not only is the joint force lost, but the individual soldiers also who composed it lose
each one his own single strength, because of the nature of their armour; and because each of them is strong, rather, as he makes a part of the whole,
than in himself.

When these were routed, some gave chase to the flyers, others charged the flanks of those Macedonians who were still fighting, so
that the conquering wing, also, was quickly disordered, took to flight, and threw down its arms. There were then slain no less than eight thousand, and
about five thousand were taken prisoners; and the Aetolians were blamed as having been the main occasion that Philip himself got safe off. For whilst
the Romans were in pursuit, they fell to ravaging and plundering the camp, and did it so completely, that when the others returned, they found no booty
in it.


Livy on the siege of Atrax

[32.17]... In the mean time, the consul found the siege of Atrax more tedious than he had imagined, the enemy making an unexpected resistance. He had supposed that the whole of the trouble would be in demolishing the wall, and that if he could once open a passage for his soldiers into the city, the consequence would then be, the flight and slaughter of the enemy, as usually happens on the capture of towns. But when, on a breach being made in the wall by the rams, and when the soldiers, by mounting over the ruins, had entered the place, this proved only the beginning, as it were, of an unusual and fresh labor.

For the Macedonians in garrison, who were both chosen men and many in number, supposing that they would be entitled to extraordinary honor if they should maintain the defense of the city by means of arms and courage, rather than by the help of walls, formed themselves in a phalanx, strengthening their line by an uncommon number of files in depth. These, when they saw the Romans entering by the breaches, drove them back, so that they were entangled among the rubbish, and with difficulty could effect a retreat.

This gave the consul great uneasiness; for he considered such a disgrace, not merely as it retarded the reduction of a single city, but as likely to affect materially the whole process of the war, which in general depends much on the influence of events in themselves unimportant. Having therefore cleared the ground about the half ruined wall, he brought up a tower of extraordinary height, consisting of many stories, and which carried a great number of soldiers. He likewise sent up the cohorts in strong bodies, one after another, to force their way, if possible, through the wedge of the Macedonians, which is called a phalanx. But in such a confined space, (for the wall was thrown down to no great extent,) the enemy had the advantage, both in the kind of weapons which they used, and in the manner of fighting.
When the Macedonians, in close array, stretched out before them their long spears against the target fence, and which was formed by the close position of their antagonists’ shields, and when the Romans, after discharging their javelins without effect, drew their swords, these could neither press on to a closer combat, nor cut off the heads of the spears; and if they did cut or break off any, the shaft being sharp at the part where it was broken, filled up its place among the points of those which were unbroken, in a kind of palisade. Besides this, the parts of the wall still standing covered safely the flanks of the Macedonians, who were not obliged, either in retreating or in advancing to an attack, to pass through a long space, which generally occasions disorder in the ranks. An accidental circumstance also helped to confirm their courage: for as the tower was moved along a bank not sufficiently compacted, one of the wheels sinking into a rut, made the tower lean in such a manner that it appeared to the enemy as if falling, and threw the soldiers posted on it into consternation and affright.

Livy on Cynoscephalae

[33.4]Against the three defeats sustained by the Macedonian phalanx at the Aous he set the repulse of the Romans at Atrax. On the former occasion, when they failed to maintain their hold on the pass leading into Epirus, he pointed out that the fault lay, first, with those who had been careless in their outpost duties and then in the behavior of the light infantry and the mercenaries in the actual battle. But the Macedonian phalanx stood its ground, and on favorable ground and in a fair field would always remain unbeaten. The phalanx consisted of 16,000 men, the flower of the military strength of his dominions. There were in addition 2000 caetrati, whom they call " peltasts," and contingents of the same strength were furnished by the Thracians and by the Trallians, an Illyrian tribe. Besides these there were about 1500 hired troops drawn from various nationalities. and a body of cavalry numbering 2000 troopers. With this force the king awaited his enemies. The Roman army was almost equal in numbers, in cavalry alone were they superior, owing to the accession of the Aetolians.

[33.7]Eager to press on, Philip was not in the least deterred by the clouds which had descended to the earth after the rain, and he ordered the standard-bearers to march out. But so thick a fog had blotted out the daylight that the standard-bearers could not see their way, nor could the men see their standards. Misled by the confused shouts, the column was thrown into as great disorder as if it had lost its way in a night march. When they had surmounted the range of hills called Cynoscephalae, where they left a strong force of infantry and cavalry in occupation, they formed their camp. The Roman general was still in camp at Thetideum; he sent out, however, ten squadrons of cavalry and a thousand velites to reconnoiter and warned them to be on their guard against an ambuscade, which owing to the darkened daylight might not be detected even in open country. When they reached the heights where the enemy were posted both sides stood stock-still as though paralyzed by mutual fear. As soon as their alarm at the unexpected sight subsided they sent messages to their generals in camp and did not hesitate any longer to engage. The action was begun by the advanced patrols, and then as the supports came up the fighting became general. The Romans were by no means a match for their opponents, and they sent message after message to their general to inform him that they were being overpowered. A reinforcement of 500 cavalry and 2000 infantry, mostly Aetolians, under two military tribunes, was hastily dispatched and restored the battle, which was going against the Romans. This turn of fortune threw the Macedonians into difficulties and they sent to their king for help. But as owing to the darkness a battle was the last thing he had looked for on that day, and as a large number of men of all ranks had been sent out to forage, he was for a considerable time at a loss what to do. The messages became more and more importunate, and as the fog had now cleared away and revealed the situation of the Macedonians who had been driven to the topmost height and were finding more safety in their position than in their arms, Philip felt that he ought to risk a general and decisive engagement rather than let a part of his force be lost through want of support. Accordingly he sent Athenagoras, the commander of the mercenaries, with the whole of the foreign contingent, except the Thracians, and also the Macedonian and Thessalian cavalry. Their appearance resulted in the Romans being dislodged from the hill and compelled to retreat to lower ground. That they were not driven in disorderly flight was mainly owing to the Aetolian cavalry, which at that time was the best in Greece, though in infantry they were inferior to their neighbors.

[33.8]This affair was reported to the king as a more important success than the facts warranted. Messenger after messenger ran back from the field shouting that the Romans were in flight, and though the king, reluctant and hesitating, declared that the action had been begun rashly and that neither the time nor the place suited him, he was at last driven into bringing the whole of his forces into the field. The Roman commander did the same, more because no other course was open to him than because he wished to seize the opportunity of a battle. He posted the elephants in front of his right wing, which he kept in reserve; the left, with the whole of the light infantry, he led in person against the enemy. As they advanced he reminded them that they were going to fight with the same Macedonians as those whom in spite of the difficult ground they had driven out of the pass leading into Epirus, protected though they were by the mountains and the river, and had thoroughly defeated; the same as those whom they had vanquished under P. Sulpicius when they tried to stop their march on Eordaea. The kingdom of Macedonia, he declared, stood by its prestige, not by its strength, and even its prestige had at last disappeared. By this time he had come up to his detachments who were standing at the bottom of the valley. They at once renewed the fight and by a fierce attack compelled the enemy to give ground. Philip with his caetrati and the infantry of his right wing, the finest body in his army, which they call "the phalanx," went at the enemy almost at a run; Nicanor, one of his courtiers, was ordered to follow at once with the rest of his force. As soon as he reached the top of the hill and saw a few of the enemy's bodies and weapons lying about, he concluded that there had been a battle there and that the Romans had been repulsed, and when he further saw that fighting was going on near the enemy's camp he was in a state of great exultation. Soon, however, when his men came back in flight and it was his turn to be alarmed, he was for a few moments anxiously debating whether he ought not to recall his troops to camp. Then, as the enemy were approaching, and especially as his own men were being cut down as they fled and could not be saved unless they were defended by fresh troops, and also as retreat was no longer safe, he found himself compelled to take the supreme risk, though half his force had not yet come up. The cavalry and light infantry who had been in action he stationed on his right; the caetrati and the men of the phalanx were ordered to lay aside their spears, the length of which only embarrassed them, and make use of their swords. To prevent his line from being quickly broken he halved the front and gave twice the depth to the files, so that the depth might be greater than the width. He also ordered the ranks to close up so that man might be in touch with man and arms with arms.

[33.9]After the Roman troops who had been engaged had retired through the intervals between the leading maniples, Quinctius ordered the trumpets to sound the advance. Seldom, it is said, has such a battle-shout been raised at the beginning of an action, for both armies happened to shout at the same moment, not only those actually engaged, but even the Roman reserves and the Macedonians who were just then appearing on the field. On the right the king, aided mainly by the higher ground on which he was fighting, had the advantage. On the left, where that part of the phalanx which formed the rear was only just coming up, all was confusion and disorder. The center stood and looked on as though it were watching a fight in which it had no concern. The newly-arrived part of the phalanx, in column instead of in line of battle, in marching rather than in fighting formation, had hardly reached the crest of the hill. Though Quinctius saw that his men were giving ground on the left he sent the elephants against these unformed troops and followed up with a charge, rightly judging that the rout of a part would involve the rest. The result was not long in doubt; the Macedonians in front, terrified by the animals, instantly turned tail, and when these were repulsed the rest followed them. One of the military tribunes, seeing the position, suddenly made up his mind what to do, and leaving that part of his line which was undoubtedly winning, wheeled round with twenty maniples and attacked the enemy's right from behind. No army when attacked in the rear can fail to be shaken, but the inevitable confusion was increased by the inability of the Macedonian phalanx, a heavy and immobile formation, to face round on a new front. To make matters worse, they were at a serious disadvantage from the ground, for in following their repulsed enemy down the hill they had left the height for the enemy to make use of in his enveloping movement. Assailed on both sides they lost heavily, and in a short time they flung away their arms and took to flight.

[33.10]With a small body of horse and foot Philip occupied the highest point on the hills in order to see what fortune his left wing had met with. When he became aware of their disorderly flight and saw the Roman standards and arms flashing on all the hills he too left the field. Quinctius, who was pressing on the retiring foe, saw the Macedonians suddenly holding their spears upright, and as he was doubtful as to what they intended by this unfamiliar maneuver he held up the pursuit for a few minutes. On learning that it was the Macedonian signal of surrender, he made up his mind to spare them. The soldiers, however, unaware that the enemy were no longer resisting and ignorant of their general's intention, commenced an attack upon them, and when those in front had been cut down the rest scattered in flight. Philip himself rode off at a hard gallop in the direction of Tempe and drew rein at Gomphi, where he remained for a day to pick up any survivors from the battle. The Romans broke into the hostile camp in hopes of plunder, but they found that it had to a large extent been cleared out by the Aetolians. 8000 of the enemy perished that day; 5000 were made prisoners. Of the victors about 700 fell. If we are to believe Valerius, who is given to boundless exaggeration, 40,000 of the enemy were killed and - here his invention is not so wild - 5700 made prisoners and 249 standards captured. Claudius too writes that 32,000 of the enemy were killed and 4300 made prisoners. We have taken the smaller number, not because it is the smaller, but because we have followed Polybius, who is no untrustworthy authority on Roman history especially when the scene of it is in Greece.

[33.11]After collecting together the fugitives who had been scattered in the various stages of the battle and had followed him in his flight, Philip dispatched men to burn his papers at Larissa, that they might not fall into the enemy's hands, and then retreated into Macedonia. Quinctius sold some of the prisoners and a part of the booty and gave the rest to the soldiers, after which he proceeded to Larissa, not knowing for certain in what direction the king had gone or what movements he was contemplating. Whilst he was there a herald arrived from the king ostensibly to ask for an armistice for the purpose of burying those who had fallen in the battle, but really to ask for permission to open negotiations for peace. Both requests were granted by the Roman general, who also sent a message to the king bidding him not to lose heart. This gave great offence to the Aetolians, who were intensely mortified and said that the commander had been changed by his victory. Before the battle, so they alleged, he used to consult his allies on all matters great and small, but now they were excluded from all his counsels; he was acting solely on his own judgment. He was looking out for an opportunity of ingratiating himself personally with Philip so that after the Aetolians had borne the whole burden of the hardships and sufferings of the war the Roman might secure for himself all the credit and advantages of peace. As a matter of fact Quinctius certainly did show the Aetolians less consideration, but they were quite ignorant of his reason for treating them with neglect. They believed that he was looking for bribes from Philip, though he was a man who never yielded to the temptation of money; but it was not without good reason that he was disgusted with the Aetolians for their insatiable appetite for plunder and their arrogance in claiming for themselves the credit of the victory, a piece of vanity which offended all men's ears. Besides, if Philip were out of the way and the kingdom of Macedonia hopelessly crushed he recognized that the Aetolians must be regarded as the dominant power in Greece. Dictated by these considerations his conduct was deliberately designed to humiliate and belittle them in the eyes of Greece.


Livy describes a skirmish

[33.18]In every direction alike Philip's fortunes were sinking. Just at this time the Rhodians determined to win back from him the district on the mainland known as Peraea, which had been held by their forefathers. An expedition was dispatched under the command of Pausistratus, consisting of 1300 Achaean infantry and about 1800 miscellaneous troops drawn from various nations - Gauls and Pisuetae; Nisuetae, Tamians and Trahi from Africa, and Laudicenes from Asia. With this force Pausistratus seized Tendeba, an extremely advantageous position situated in the territory of Stratonice, the king's troops who had held it being unaware of his advance. Here he was joined by a body of 1000 Achaean infantry and 400 cavalry specially raised for this campaign. They were commanded by Theoxenus. Dinocrates, one of the king's lieutenants, marched to Tendeba with a view of recovering the place, and from there to Astragon, another fortified position in the same district. All the scattered garrisons were recalled, and with these and a contingent of Thessalians from Stratonice itself he went on to Abanda where the enemy lay. The Rhodians were quite ready for battle, and as the camps lay near one another they at once took the field. Dinocrates posted his 500 Macedonians on his right and the Agrianians on his left, and formed his center from the troops of the various garrisons, mostly Carians, whilst the flanks were covered by the Macedonian horse and the Cretan and Thracian irregulars. The Rhodians had the Achaeans on their right and a picked force of mercenaries on their left; the center was held by a mixed force drawn from several nationalities; their cavalry and such light infantry as they had protected their flanks.

On that day the two armies only stood on the banks of the stream, which was then running low, and after discharging a few missiles at each other returned to camp. The following day they were marshaled in the same order, and the action which followed was a much more keenly contested one than might have been expected from the numbers engaged. There were not more than 3000 infantry and about 100 cavalry on each side, but they were fairly matched not only in numbers and equipment, but also in courage and tenacity. The battle was begun by the Achaeans, who crossed the rivulet and attacked the Agrianians, and they were followed by the whole line, who went over the brook at the double. For a long time the struggle remained doubtful, till the Achaeans, who numbered . . ., compelled the 400 to give ground. With the enemy's left pushed back, they concentrated their attack on his right. As long as the Macedonian ranks were unbroken and the phalanx kept its close formation they could not be moved, but when their left was exposed and they tried to bring their spears round to face the enemy who were making a flank attack, they at once got into confusion and fell foul of one another, then they turned and at last, flinging away their arms, broke into headlong flight. The fugitives made for Bargyliae, and Dinocrates also fled thither. The Rhodians kept up the pursuit for the remainder of the day and then returned to camp. Had they gone on to Stratonice straight from the battle-field the city would in all probability have been taken, but they lost the chance of doing this by wasting their time in recovering the fortified posts and villages in Peraea. During this interval those in command at Stratonice regained their courage, and before long Dinocrates with the survivors from the battle entered the place. The city was subsequently besieged and assaulted, but all to no purpose, nor could it be secured until some years later, when it was made over to the Rhodians by Antiochus. These incidents occurred almost simultaneously in Thessaly, Achaia and Asia.

Livy on the Third Macedonian War, Perseus' army

[42.51]This council was held at Pella, the capital of Macedonia. "Let us then," said Perseus, "wage war with the help of the gods, since thus you decide." Written orders were despatched to all his generals and he assembled the whole of his forces at Citium, a town in Macedonia. After sacrificing in regal style one hundred victims to Minerva, whom they call Alcidemos, he set out for Citium, accompanied by a number of court nobles and his bodyguard. The whole of the army, both Macedonians and auxiliaries, were assembled there. The camp was fixed in front of the city and he drew up all his soldiers in the plain. The total number of those who bore arms was 43,000, nearly half of whom formed the phalanx; Hippias of Beroea was in command. Out of the whole force of caetrati, 2000 men in the prime of strength and manhood were selected to form a body known as the "agema," their commanders were Leonnatus and Thrasippus. Antiphilus of Edessa was in command of the rest of the caetrati, numbering about 3000 men. The Paeonians and the contingents from Paroria and Parstrymonia, places in the lowlands of Thrace, and the Agrianes, including some Thracian immigrants, made up a force of about 3000. They had been armed and mustered by Didas the Paeonian, the murderer of the young Demetrius. There were also 2000 Gauls under Asclepiodotus, a native of Heraclea in Sintice. Three thousand "free" Thracians had their own leader, and about the same number of Cretans followed their own generals, Susus of Phalasarna and Syllus of Gnossus. Leonides the Lacedaemonian was at the head of a mixed force of Greeks. He was said to be of royal blood, and after his letter to Perseus had been seized, had been sentenced to banishment in a full council of the Achaeans. The Aetolians and Boeotians, who, all told, did not amount to more than 500 men, were under the command of Lyco, an Achaean. Out of these contingents drawn from so many people and tribes, a force of about 12,000 men was formed. Perseus had collected 3000 cavalry out of the whole of Macedonia. Cotys, the son of Suthis and king of the Odrysae, had come in with a picked force of 1000 horse and about the same number of infantry. Thus the total number of the army was 39,000 infantry and 4000 cavalry. It was generally admitted that, next to the army which Alexander the Great had led into Asia, no Macedonian king had ever possessed so large a force.

Livy on the Third Macedonian War, Perseus' victory over the Romans

[42.57]The consul and the king both held councils of war at the same time, to decide where to commence operations. The Macedonians had grown bolder after they found that the enemy allowed them to ravage the Pheraean country without offering any resistance, and they thought they ought to go straight up to the Roman camp and give their enemy no room for further delay. The Romans, on the other hand, felt that their inactivity was damaging their prestige with their allies, and they were particularly disgusted at no help having been given to the Pheraeans. Whilst they were deliberating what steps to take - Eumenes and Attalus were both present - a messenger came in hot haste to say that the enemy were approaching in great force. The council at once broke up and the signal was given for the soldiers to arm. A hundred cavalry and the same number of slingers were in the meanwhile sent forward to reconnoitre. It was about the fourth hour of the day, and when he was little more than a mile distant from the Roman camp, Perseus ordered the infantry to halt whilst he himself rode forward with the cavalry and light infantry; Cotys also and the commanders of the other auxiliaries rode forward with him. They were within half a mile of the camp when they caught sight of the enemy cavalry. There were two troops, largely made up of Gauls, under Cassignatus, and about 150 light infantry, partly Mysian, partly Cretan. The king halted, uncertain as to the enemy's strength. Then he sent on from the main body two squadrons of Thracian and two of Macedonian horse, together with two Cretan and two Thracian cohorts. As the two sides were equal in point of numbers, and no fresh troops came up on either side, the engagement ended in a drawn battle. About thirty of Eumenes' men were killed, amongst them Cassignatus, the Gaulish commander. Perseus then took his force back to Sycurium. The next day the king marched them to the same spot, and at the same hour. This time they were followed by water carts, for on their twelve miles' march they were without water and smothered in dust; it was quite clear that if they had to fight as soon as they came in view of the enemy, they would do so whilst suffering from thirst. The Romans retired their outposts within their lines and remained quiet, whereupon the king's troops returned to camp. They did this for several days, hoping that the Roman cavalry would attack their rear during their withdrawal, whilst they were at a considerable distance from their own camp) then the king's troops, who were superior in cavalry and light infantry, would turn and face the enemy wherever they were.

[42.58]As he had not succeeded in his attempt to draw the Romans, the king moved his camp to within a distance of five miles from the enemy. At dawn the infantry were drawn up on the same ground as before and the whole of the cavalry and light infantry marched towards the Roman camp. The sight of a cloud of dust, larger and nearer than usual, created some excitement amongst the Romans. At first the news was hardly credited because on all previous occasions the enemy had never appeared before the fourth hour of the day, and now it was sunrise. When all doubt was dispelled by the many shouts and men running from the gates there was great confusion. The military tribunes, the officers of the allied troops and the centurions hurried to the headquarters tent; the soldiers ran to their own tents. Perseus had drawn up his men less than a mile and a half from the Roman lines round a hill called Callinicus. Cotys commanded the left wing with the whole of his native troops, the light infantry being disposed between the ranks of the cavalry. On the right were the Macedonian cavalry, the Cretans being intermixed with them in the same way. This body was under the command of Midon of Beroea; the supreme command of the whole cavalry force was in the hands of Meno of Antigonea. Flanking the two wings were the king's cavalry and a mixed body of auxiliaries drawn from different nationalities. Patrocles and Didas were in charge of these troops. In the centre of the whole line was the king surrounded by the "agema" and the troops of the "sacred" cavalry. In front of these he posted the slingers and javelin men, 400 in all, under the command of Ion and Neoptolemus. The consul formed his infantry into line inside the rampart, and sent out the whole of the cavalry and light infantry; they were drawn up in front of the rampart. The right wing was commanded by the consul's brother Caius, and comprised the whole of the Italian cavalry with the velites interspersed among them. On the left M. Valerius Laevinus had the cavalry and light infantry from the various cities in Greece. The centre was held by Quintus Mucius with a picked body of volunteer cavalry. On their front were posted 200 Gaulish troopers and 300 Cyrtians from the auxiliary troops brought by Eumenes; 400 Thessalian cavalry were drawn up a short distance beyond the Roman left. Attalus and Eumenes took ground with the whole of their force in the rear between the hindmost rank and the rampart.

[42.59]In this formation the two armies, almost equally matched in the numbers of their cavalry and light infantry, engaged. The battle was begun by the slingers and javelin men, who were in front of the whole line. First of all the Thracians, like wild beasts kept in cages and suddenly released, set up a deafening roar and charged the Italian cavalry on the right wing with such fury that, in spite of their experience of war and their native fearlessness, they threw them into disorder. The infantry on both sides snapped the lances of the cavalry with their swords, cut at the legs of the horses and stabbed them in the flanks. Perseus, charging the centre, dislodged the Greeks at the first onslaught, and pressed heavily upon them as they fell back. The Thessalian cavalry had been in reserve, a little distance from the extreme left, outside the fighting and simply watching it, but when the day began to go against them they were of the greatest use. For by slowly retiring, and keeping their ranks unbroken, they formed a junction with Eumenes' troops, and so afforded a safe retreat within their united ranks to the allied cavalry as they fled in disorder. As the enemy slackened in the pursuit they even ventured to advance and protected many of the fugitives whom they met. The king's troops, separated by the pursuit in all directions, did not venture to come to close quarters with men who were keeping their formation and advancing in a steady line. The king, victorious in this cavalry action, shouted to his men that if they gave him a little more help the war would be over, and very opportunely for his own encouragement and that of his men, the phalanx appeared on the scene. Hippias and Leonnatus, hearing of the success of the cavalry, had hastily brought it up on their own initiative, that they might take their part in an action so daringly begun. The king was hovering between hope and fear at attempting so great a task, when Euander the Cretan, who had been his instrument in the attempt upon Eumenes' life at Delphi, ran up to him. He had seen the massed infantry advancing with their standards, and he solemnly warned the king not to be so elated by his good fortune as to stake everything upon a chance which there was no necessity for him to risk. If he would be contented with what he had gained and kept quiet for the day he would have peace with honour, or if he preferred war, he would have very many allies who would follow his fortunes. The king was more inclined to this course, so after thanking Euander for his advice, he ordered the standards to be reversed, the infantry to march back to camp and the "retire" to be sounded for the cavalry.

[42.60]On that day there fell on the side of the Romans 200 cavalry and not less than 2000 infantry; about 600 were made prisoners. Out of the king's army 20 cavalry and 40 infantry were killed. On their return to camp the victors were all in high spirits, but the Thracians surpassed all in the insolence of their joy. They returned to camp singing and carrying the heads of their enemies fixed on their spears. Amongst the Romans there was not only grief at their defeat, but a fear lest the enemy should make a sudden attack on the camp. Eumenes urged the consul to transfer the camp to the opposite bank of the Peneus, that they might have the protection of the river until the shaken soldiers could recover their morale. The consul felt bitterly the disgrace of admitting that he was afraid, but yielding to reason, he took the troops across in the dead of night and entrenched himself on the further bank. The next day the king marched up to provoke his enemy to battle. When he noticed their camp safely fixed across the river he owned that he was wrong in not pressing upon his foe the day before, but still more so in remaining inactive through the night, for had he sent only his light infantry against the enemy during the confusion caused by the passage of the river, their force would to a large extent have been wiped out. Now that their camp was in a safe position the Romans were relieved from the danger of an immediate attack, but they were much depressed, especially at their loss of prestige. In the council at the headquarters tent, each in turn threw the blame on the Aetolians, it was with them that the panic and flight began, and the rest of the Greek contingents followed the example of the Aetolians. Five Aetolian officers, said to have been the first who were seen to turn their backs on the enemy, were sent to Rome. The Thessalians were commended before the whole army and their leaders were rewarded for their bravery.

[42.61]The spoils taken from the fallen were brought to the king. These he gave to his soldiers; to some splendid armour, to others horses, and to some prisoners. There were over 1500 shields, the cuirasses and coats of mail numbered more than 1000, the helmets, swords, and missiles of all kinds were much more numerous. The value of these gifts, ample and welcome as they were, was enhanced by the speech which the king made to his army. "You have pronounced," he said, "upon the issue of the war. The best part of the Roman army, their cavalry, who used to boast that they were invincible, have been routed by you. Their cavalry are the flower of their youth, the nursery of their senate, the men whose fathers are chosen as consuls, from whom their commanders are selected; these are the men whose spoils we have now distributed amongst you. And no less a victory have you won over their infantry, those legions who, withdrawn from your reach in a nocturnal flight, filled the river with confusion and disorder like shipwrecked men swimming for their lives. The passage of the Peneus will be easier for us, the pursuers, than it was for them in their haste to get away, and as soon as we have crossed we shall attack their camp, which we should have taken today if they had not fled. Or if they are willing to fight in the open field, look for the same result in an infantry battle which you have seen in the cavalry action." Those who had taken part in the victory and were carrying the enemy's spoils on their shoulders listened eagerly to the recital of their exploits and formed their hopes of the future from what had already happened. The infantry, too, especially the men of the phalanx, were fired by the glory which their comrades had won, and looked forward to the opportunity of doing their king signal service and winning equal glory from their vanquished foe. The soldiers were dismissed, and the next day he marched away and fixed his camp at Mopselus. This is a hill situated at the entrance of the Vale of Tempe and commands a wide view of the plain of Larisa.

[42.62]The Romans without quitting the river moved their camp into a safer position. Whilst they were there Misagenes the Numidian came in with 1000 cavalry, the same number of infantry and 22 elephants. The king was holding a council to decide upon the future conduct of the war, and as his exultation over his victory had cooled down, some of his friends ventured to give him advice. They argued that it would be better for him to take advantage of his good fortune by securing an honourable peace than to buoy himself up with idle hopes and so expose himself to chances that might be irrevocable. To set a measure to one's prosperity and not to place too much confidence in the smiling fortune of the hour is the part of a wise man who has achieved a deserved success. Let him send men to the consul with powers to make fresh proposals for peace on the same terms on which his father Philip had accepted peace from the victorious T. Quinctius. There could be no grander close to the war than the late memorable battle and no surer grounds for hopes of a lasting peace than those which would make the Romans, disheartened as they were by their defeat, ready to come to terms. If the Romans should then, with their inbred stubbornness, reject fair terms, gods and men would alike bear witness to the moderation of Perseus and the invincible arrogance of the Romans.

The king never disliked advice of this character, and this policy was approved by the majority of the council. The deputation to the consul were received in audience in a full council. They asked for peace, and promised that Perseus would give the Romans the amount of tribute which had been agreed upon with his father. Such were their instructions. In the discussion which followed on their withdrawal Roman firmness won the day. It was the custom in those days to wear the look of prosperity in adverse circumstances, and to curb and restrain the feelings in a time of prosperity. The reply decided upon was that peace would be granted only on the condition that the king placed himself entirely in the hands of the senate and allowed it the unrestricted right of determining his future and that of Macedonia. When the report of the deputation became known, those who were unacquainted with the Roman character regarded it as an astounding exhibition of obstinacy and any further allusion to peace was generally forbidden. Those, they said, who spurn the peace now offered will soon come to ask for it. It was this very obstinacy that Perseus was afraid of; he looked upon it as due to a confidence in their strength, and on the chance of being able to purchase peace at a price, persisted in his attempts to bribe the consul by constantly increasing the sum offered. As the consul adhered to his first reply Perseus despaired of peace and returned to Sycurium, prepared to face the hazards of war once more.

[42.63]The news of the battle spread through Greece, and in the way it was received the hopes and sympathies of men were disclosed. Not only the open supporters of Macedonia, but most of those who were under the greatest obligations to Rome, some having experienced the violence and tyranny of Perseus, were delighted at hearing it for no other reason than that morbid eagerness which a mob watching gymnastic contests displays in favour of the weaker and more disreputable competitor. In Boeotia meanwhile Lucretius was pressing the siege of Haliartus with the utmost vigour. Although the besieged neither had nor hoped for any outside help beyond the troops from Coronea who had entered the walls at the beginning of the siege, they kept up their resistance more by courage and resolution than by actual strength. They frequently made sorties against the siege works and when a battering-ram was brought up they at one time . . . at another they forced it to the ground by lowering a mass of lead upon it. If they were unable to divert the blows they replaced the old wall by a new one which they hastily built up with the stones of the fallen wall. As the progress of the siege works was too slow, the praetor ordered the scaling-ladders to be distributed among the maniples as he intended to deliver a simultaneous assault all round the walls. His numbers, he considered, would suffice for this, as there would be no advantage in attacking that side of the city which was surrounded by a swamp, nor would it be possible to do so. At a point where two towers and the wall between them had been battered down he brought up a picked force of 2000 men in order that while he was forcing his way through the breach, and the defenders were massing together to oppose him, some portion of the walls might be left unmanned and so successfully scaled. The townsmen were not slow in preparing to meet him. On the ground covered by the ruins of the wall they heaped up faggots of brushwood, and standing on these with burning torches in their hands they were preparing to set the mass on fire in order that, shut off from the enemy by the conflagration, they might have time to throw up another wall inside. They were accidentally prevented from executing this plan. Such a heavy shower of rain suddenly fell that it was hardly possible to kindle the brushwood, and when it was alight the fire was extinguished. A passage was effected by dragging the smoking faggots out of the way, and as all had turned their attention to defending this one spot, the walls were scaled in many places. In the first confusion of the captured city the old men and boys whom they chanced to meet were killed. The combatants took shelter in the citadel, and as all hope was now lost they surrendered, and were sold as slaves. There were about 2500 of them. The adornments of the city, the statues and paintings and all the valuable plunder were placed on shipboard and the place was razed to its foundations. From there the army marched to Thebes, which was captured without any fighting, and the consul handed the city over to the refugees and the Roman party. The households and property of the other party, who had worked in the interests of the king and were Macedonian sympathisers, were sold.


Livy on the Third Macedonian War, Perseus' lack of decisiveness

42.65]The distance he had to march annoyed the king and he advanced his camp to Mopselus. The Romans, having cut all the standing corn round Crannon, moved into the district of Phalanna. The king learnt from a deserter that the Romans were dispersed over the country, cutting the corn, without any remaining on guard. He started off with 1000 cavalry and 2000 Thracian and Cretan light infantry. Marching with the utmost possible speed he attacked the Romans when they were least expecting it. Nearly 1000 carts most of them loaded, were captured with their teams, and also 600 prisoners taken. He gave the plunder to the Cretans to escort back to their camp. Then he recalled the cavalry and the rest of the infantry, who were everywhere slaughtering the enemy, and led them against the nearest detachment who were on guard, thinking to overwhelm them without much trouble. A military tribune, L. Pomponius, was in command of the detachment and withdrew his men, who were dismayed by the sudden appearance of the enemy, to a hill near by, to serve as a defensive position since he was inferior in numbers and strength. Here he made his soldiers close up in a circular formation, with their shields touching one another, so that they might be protected from the arrows and javelins.

Perseus surrounded the hill with his troops and ordered one body to attempt the ascent of the hill and come to close quarters with the enemy, whilst the others discharged their missiles from a distance. The Romans were in very great danger, for they could not fight in close order against those who were struggling up the hill, and if they left their ranks and ran forward they were exposed to the javelins and arrows. They suffered mainly from the cestrosphendons, a novel kind of weapon invented during the war. It consisted of a pointed iron head two palms long, fastened to a shaft made of pinewood, nine inches long and as thick as a man's finger. Round the shaft three feathers were fastened as in the case of arrows, and the sling was held by two thongs, one shorter than the other. When the missile was poised in the centre of the sling, the slinger whirled it round with great force and it flew out like a leaden bullet. Many of the soldiers were wounded by these and by missiles of all kinds, and they were becoming so exhausted that they were hardly capable of holding their weapons. Seeing this, the king urged them to surrender and pledged his word for their safety and promised to reward them. Not a single man had any thought of surrender. They had made up their minds to die, when an unlooked-for gleam of hope appeared. Some of the foragers, who had fled to the camp, informed the consul that the detachment on guard was surrounded. Alarmed for the safety of so many fellow-citizens - there were about 800, all Romans - he sallied forth from the camp with a force of cavalry and infantry, including the new reinforcement of Numidian horse and foot, as well as the elephants. The order was given to the military tribunes to follow with the legionaries. Bringing up the velites to stiffen the auxiliary light infantry, he went forward to the hill. Eumenes, Attalus and Misagenes, the Numidian leader, rode by his side.

[42.66]As soon as they caught sight of the leading files of their comrades, the spirits of the Romans revived from the depths of despair. Perseus should have made up his mind after capturing and killing several of the foragers to content himself with this chance success, and not wasted time in beleaguering the detachment. Or if he did attempt that he ought to have left the field while he could do so safely, as he knew he had no heavy infantry with him. Elated with his success he waited till the enemy appeared, and then sent a hurried message to bring up the phalanx. It was too late to do this now. The phalanx, hastily brought into action and disarranged by the speed of its advance, had to meet troops in proper formation and ready for battle. The consul, who was first on the ground, at once engaged the enemy. For a short time the Macedonians held their own, but they were completely outmatched, and with a loss of 300 infantry and 24 of the select cavalry of the "sacred cohort," including their commander Antimachus, they attempted to leave the field. But there was almost more turmoil on their return march than in the battle itself. The phalanx, called up so hurriedly, marched off with equal haste, but where the road narrowed they met the troop of prisoners and the carts loaded with corn, and were brought to a standstill. There was great excitement and uproar; no one would wait until the troops of the phalanx could make their way through; the soldiers threw the carts over the cliff, the only way of clearing the road, and the animals were lashed till they charged madly among the crowd. Hardly had they got clear of the column of prisoners when they met the king and his discomfited cavalry, who shouted to them to face about and march back. This created a commotion almost as great as the crash of a falling house; if the enemy had continued the pursuit and ventured into the pass, there might have been a terrible disaster. The consul, satisfied with this slight success, recalled the detachment from the hill and returned to camp. According to some authorities, a great battle was fought that day, 8000 of the enemy slain, amongst them two of the king's generals, Sopater and Antipater, 2800 made prisoners, and 27 military standards captured. Nor was the victory a bloodless one. Above 4300 fell in the consul's army, and 5 standards belonging to the left wing lost.

[42.67]This day revived the spirits of the Romans and depressed Perseus, so much so that after staying a few days longer at Mopselus, mainly to see to the burial of the men he had lost, he placed a sufficiently strong garrison in Gonnus and withdrew his troops into Macedonia.


Livy on the Third Macedonian War, Pydna

[44.40] When he (Aemilius Paulus)  had finished there was silence; some (of his Roman troops) had been brought round to his view; others were afraid of giving needless offence by criticizing the neglect of an opportunity which, to whatever it might be due, could not be remedied. Even on this day neither the consul nor the king was prepared to engage. The king would not be able to attack them as they were yesterday, wearied with their march, deploying hurriedly into line and not in battle order; the consul held back because neither wood nor fodder had been brought into the newly-formed camp, and a large proportion of his troops had left the camp to collect these from the fields near. Against the intention of both commanders Fortune, who overrides the plans of men, brought about a conflict. There was a river, not a large one, near the enemy's camp from which both the Romans and the Macedonians drew their water, protected by detachments stationed on either bank. On the Roman side were two cohorts, Marrucinians and Paelignians, and two squadrons of Samnite horse under the command of M. Sergius Silus. Another body was stationed in front of the camp under C. Cluvius; these consisted of Firman, Vestinian and Cremensian troops, and two squadrons of cavalry from Placentia and Aeserna. Whilst all was quiet at the river, neither side offering any provocation, a mule broke loose about three o'clock in the afternoon from the men in charge and escaped to the opposite bank. Three soldiers went after it through the water, which was up to their knees. Two Thracians were dragging the beast out of the river back to their own bank, when they were followed by some Romans, who killed one of them, recaptured the mule, and went back to their posts. There were 800 Thracians guarding the enemy's bank. A few of these, enraged at seeing a comrade killed before their eyes, ran across the river in pursuit of those who slew him; then more joined in and at last the whole body, and with them the . . .


[44.41] . . led them into battle. His men were deeply impressed by reverence for his authority, the reputation he had acquired, and, above all, his age, for though more than sixty years old, he took upon himself to a large extent the duties and dangers which are usually the lot of younger men. The interval between the
"caetrati"* and the divisions of the phalanx was filled up by the legion, and thus the enemy's line was interrupted. The "caetrati" were in their rear; the legion were fronting the shieldmen of the phalanx, who were known as the "chalcaspides." L. Albinus, an ex-consul, was ordered to lead the second legion against the phalanx of "leucaspides"; these formed the center of the enemy's line. On the Roman right, where the battle had begun, close to the river, he brought up the elephants and the cohorts of allied troops. It was here that the Macedonians first gave ground. For just as most new devices amongst men seem valuable as far as words go, but when they are put to a practical test and have to be acted upon they fail to produce results, so it was with the elephants; those of the Macedonians were of no use whatever. The contingents of the Latin allies followed up the charge of the elephants and repulsed the left wing. The second legion which had been sent against the center broke up the phalanx. The most probable explanation of the victory is that several separate engagements were going on all over the field, which first shook the phalanx out of its formation and then broke it up. As long as it was compact, its front bristling with leveled spears, its strength was irresistible. If by attacking them at various points you compel them to bring round their spears, which owing to their length and weight are cumbersome and unwieldy, they become a confused and involved mass, but if any sudden and tumultuous attack is made on their flank or rear, they go to pieces like a falling house. In this way they were forced to meet the repeated charges of small bodies of Roman troops with their front dislocated in many places, and wherever there were gaps the Romans worked their way amongst their ranks. If the whole line had made a general charge against the phalanx while still unbroken, as the Paeligni did at the beginning of the action against the "caetrati," they would have spitted themselves upon their spears and have been powerless against their massed attack.

[44.42] The (Macedonian) infantry were being slaughtered all over the field; only those who threw away their arms were able to make good their escape. The cavalry, on the other hand, quitted the field with hardly any loss, the king himself being the first to flee. He was already on his way to Pella with his "sacred" cavalry, and Cotys and the Odrysaeans were following at his heels. The rest of the Macedonian horse also got away with their ranks unbroken, because the infantry were between them and the enemy, and the latter were so fully occupied in massacring the infantry that they forgot to pursue the cavalry. For a long time the slaughter of the phalanx went on in front, flank and rear. At last those who had escaped out of the hands of the enemy threw away their arms and fled to the shore; some even went into the water and, stretching out their hands in supplication to the men in the fleet, implored them to save their lives. When they saw boats from all the ships rowing to the place where they were they thought that they were coming to take them up as prisoners rather than slay them, and they waded further into the water, some even swimming. But when they found that they were being killed by the men in the boats, those who could swim back to land met with a more wretched fate, for the elephants, forced by their drivers to the water's edge, trampled on them and crushed them to death as they came out. It is universally admitted that never had so many Macedonians been killed by the Romans in a single battle. As many as 20,000 men perished; 6000 who had fled to Pydna fell into the enemy's hands, and 5000 were made prisoners in their flight. Of the victors not more than 100 fell, and of these the majority were Paelignians; the wounded were much more numerous. If the battle had begun earlier and there had been sufficient daylight for the victors to continue the pursuit, the whole force would have been wiped out. As it was, the approach of night shielded the fugitives and made the Romans chary of following them over unknown country.

(*Note: Livy labels the Antigonid guard phalanx as "caetrati" which usually refers to buckler armed skirmishers.  This is because the unit was called "peltasts" by Greek historians. This may be due to them having smaller shields, or their role was both as skirmishers and formed troops similar to Alexander's hypaspists, or simply this could be an old title that had nothing to due with their equipment.  Nevertheless at Pydna and Cynoscephalae the peltast/caetrati/guards fought as pikemen.)


Plutarch on Aemilius Paulus at Pydna

18 Towards evening, Aemilius himself, as some say, devised a scheme for making the enemy begin the attack, and the Romans, pursuing a horse which they had driven forth without a bridle, came into collision with them, and the pursuit of this horse brought on a battle;
2 others say that Thracians, under the command of Alexander, set upon Roman beasts of burden that were bringing in forage, and that against these a sharp sally was made by seven hundred Ligurians, whereupon reinforcements were sent to either party, and thus the engagement became general.
3 So then Aemilius, like a pilot, judging from the surging commotion in the armies the greatness of the coming storm, came forth from his tent and went along in front of his legionary troops encouraging them,
4 and Nasica, after riding out to the skirmishers, saw that the whole force of the enemy was all but at close quarters.

5 First the Thracians advanced, whose appearance, Nasica says, was most terrible,— men of lofty stature, clad in tunics which showed black beneath the white and gleaming armour of their shields and greaves, and tossing high on their right shoulders battle-axes with heavy iron heads.
6 Next to the Thracians, the mercenaries advanced to the attack; their equipment was of every variety, and Paeonians were mingled with them.
7 Next to these came a third division, picked men, the flower of the Macedonians themselves for youthful strength and valour, gleaming with gilded armour and fresh scarlet coats.
8 As these took their places in the line, they were illumined by the phalanx-lines of the Bronze-shields which issued from the camp behind them and filled the plain with the gleam of iron and the glitter of bronze, the hills, too, with the tumultuous shouts of their cheering.
9 And with such boldness and swiftness did they advance that the first to be slain fell only two furlongs from the Roman camp.

19 As the attack began, Aemilius came up and found that the Macedonian battalions had already planted the tips of their long spears in the shields of the Romans, who were thus prevented from reaching them with their swords.
2 And when he saw that the rest of the Macedonian troops also were drawing their shields from their shoulders round in front of them, and with long spears set at one level were withstanding his Roman troops, and saw too the strength of their interlocked shields and the fierceness of their onset, amazement and fear took possession of him, and he felt that he had never seen a sight more fearful; often in after times he used to speak of his emotions at that time and of what he saw.
3 But then, showing to his soldiers a glad and cheerful countenance, he rode past them without helmet or breastplate.
4 The king of the Macedonians, on the other hand, according to Polybius, as soon as the battle began, played the coward and rode back to the city, under pretence of sacrificing to Heracles, a god who does not accept cowardly sacrifices from cowards, nor accomplish their unnatural prayers.
5 For it is not in the nature of things that he who makes no shot should hit the mark exactly, or that he who does not hold his ground should win the day, or, in a word, that he who does nothing should be successful in what he does, or that a wicked man should be prosperous.
6 But the god listened to the prayers of Aemilius, who kept wielding his spear as he prayed for might and victory, and fought as he invited the god to fight with him.
7 However, a certain Poseidonius, who says he lived in those times and took part in those actions, and who has written a history of Perseus in several books, says it was not out of cowardice, nor with the excuse of the sacrifice, that the king went away, but because on the day before the battle a horse had kicked him on the leg.
8 He says further that in the battle, although he was in a wretched plight, and although his friends tried to deter him, the king ordered a pack-horse to be brought to him, mounted it, and joined his troops in the phalanx without a breastplate;
9 and that among the missiles of every sort which were flying on all sides, a javelin made entirely of iron smote him, not touching him with its point, indeed, but coursing along his left side with an oblique stroke, and the force of its passage was such that it tore his tunic and made a dark red bruise upon his flesh, the mark of which remained for a long time.
10 This, then, is what Poseidonius says in defence of Perseus.

20 The Romans, when they attacked the Macedonian phalanx, were unable to force a passage, and Salvius, the commander of the Pelignians, snatched the standard of his company and hurled it in among the enemy.
2 Then the Pelignians, since among the Italians it is an unnatural and flagrant thing to abandon a standard, rushed on towards the place where it was, and dreadful losses were inflicted and suffered on both sides.
3 For the Romans tried to thrust aside the long spears of their enemies with their swords, or to crowd them back with their shields, or to seize and put them by with their very hands;
4 while the Macedonians, holding them firmly advanced with both hands, and piercing those who fell upon them, armour and all, since neither shield nor breastplate could resist the force of the Macedonian long spear, hurled headlong back the Pelignians and Marrucinians, who, with no consideration but with animal fury rushed upon the strokes that met them, and a certain death.
5 When the first line had thus been cut to pieces, those arrayed behind them were beaten back; and though there was no flight, still they retired towards the mountain called Olocrus,
6 so that even Aemilius, as Poseidonius tells us, when he saw it, rent his garments. For this part of his army was retreating, and the rest of the Romans were turning aside from the phalanx, which gave them no access to it, but confronted them as it were with a dense barricade of long spears, and was everywhere unassailable.
7 But the ground was uneven, and the line of battle so long that shields could not be kept continuously locked together, and Aemilius therefore saw that the Macedonian phalanx was getting many clefts and intervals in it, as is natural when armies are large and the efforts of the combatants are diversified; portions of it were hard pressed, and other portions were dashing forward.
8 Thereupon he came up swiftly, and dividing up his cohorts, ordered them to plunge quickly into the interstices and empty spaces in the enemy's line and thus come to close quarters, not fighting a single battle against them all, but many separate and successive battles.
9 These instructions being given by Aemilius to his officers, and by his officers to the soldiers, as soon as they got between the ranks of the enemy and separated them, they attacked some of them in the flank where their armour did not shield them,
10 and cut off others by falling upon their rear, and the strength and general efficiency of the phalanx was lost when it was thus broken up; and now that the Macedonians engaged man to man or in small detachments, they could only hack with their small daggers against the firm and
long shields of the Romans, and oppose light wicker targets to their swords, which, such was their weight and momentum, penetrated through all their armour to their bodies. They therefore made a poor resistance and at last were routed.

21 But the struggle between them was fierce. Here, too, Marcus, the son of Cato and the son-in-law of Aemilius, while displaying all possible prowess, lost his sword.
2 Since he was a young man of the most generous education and owed to a great father proofs of great valour, he thought life not worth the living if he abandoned such spoil of his own person to the enemy, and ran along the ranks telling every friend and companion whom he saw of his mishap and begging them for aid.
3 These made a goodly number of brave men, and making their way with one impulse through the rest, they put themselves under his head and fell upon the enemy.
4 With a great struggle, much slaughter, and many wounds, they drove them from the ground, and when they had won a free and empty place, they set themselves to looking for the sword.
5 And when at last it was found hidden among great heaps of armour and fallen bodies, they were filled with exceeding joy, and raising songs of triumph fell yet more impetuously upon those of the enemy who still held together.
6 Finally, the three thousand picked men of the Macedonians, who remained in order and kept on fighting, were all cut to pieces; and of the rest, who took to flight, the slaughter was great, so that the plain and the lower slopes of the hills were covered with dead bodies, and the waters of the river Leucus were still mingled with blood when the Romans crossed it on the day after the battle.
7 For it is said that over twenty-five thousand of their enemies were slain; while of the Romans there fell, according to Poseidonius, a hundred, according to Nasica, eighty.

22 And this greatest of all struggles was most speedily decided; for the Romans began fighting at three o'clock in the afternoon, and were victorious within an hour; the rest of the day they spent in the pursuit, which they kept up for as many as a hundred and twenty furlongs, so that it was already late in the evening when they returned.
2 All the rest were met by their servants with torches and conducted with joyful shouts to their tents, which were ablaze with light and adorned with wreaths of ivy and laurel; but Aemilius their general was a prey to great sorrow.
3 For the two sons who were serving under him, the younger was nowhere to be found, and Aemilius loved him especially, and saw that he was by nature more prone to excellence than any of his brothers. 4 But he was of a passionate and ambitious spirit, and was still hardly more than a boy in years, and his father concluded that he had certainly perished, when, for lack of experience, he had become entangled among the enemy as they fought.
5 The whole army learned of the distress and anguish of their general, and springing up from their suppers, ran about with torches, many to the tent of Aemilius, and many in front of the ramparts, searching among the numerous dead bodies.
6 Dejection reigned in the camp, and the plain was filled with the cries of men calling out the name of Scipio. For from the very outset he had been admired by everybody, since, beyond any other one of his family, he had a nature adapted for leadership in war and public service.
7 Well, then, when it was already late and he was almost despaired of, he came in from the pursuit with two or three comrades, covered with the blood of the enemies he had slain, having been, like a young hound of noble breed, carried away by the uncontrollable pleasure of the victory.
8 This was that Scipio who, in after times, destroyed Carthage and Numantia, and became by far the most noble and influential Roman of his day.
9 Thus Fortune, postponing to another season her jealous displeasure at the great success of Aemilius, restored to him then in all completeness his pleasure in his victory.17

23 But Perseus was away in flight from Pydna to Pella, since practically all his horsemen came safely off from the battle.
2 But when his footmen overtook his horsemen, and, abusing them as cowards and traitors, tried to push them from their horses and fell to beating them, the king, afraid of the tumult, turned his horse out of the road, drew his purple robe round and held it in front of him, that he might not be conspicuous, and carried his diadem in his hands.
3 And in order that he might also converse with his companions as he walked, he dismounted from his horse and led him along.
4 But of these companions, one pretended that he must fasten a shoe that had become loose, another that he must water his horse, another that he himself wanted water to drink, and so they gradually lagged behind and ran away, because they had more fear of his cruelty than of the enemy.
5 For he was lacerated by his misfortunes, and sought to turn the responsibility for his defeat away from himself and upon everybody else.
6 He entered Pella during the night, and when Euctus and Eulaeus, his treasurers, came to meet him, and, what with their censure for what had happened and their unseasonably bold speeches and counsels, enraged him, he slew them, smiting both of them himself with his small-sword. After this no one remained with him except Evander the Cretan, Archedamus the Aetolian, and Neon the Boeotian.
7 Of his soldiers, only the Cretans followed after him, not through good will, but because they were as devoted to his riches as bees to their honeycombs.
8 For he was carrying along vast treasures, and had handed out from them for distribution among the Cretans drinking cups and mixing bowls and other furniture of gold and silver to a value of fifty talents.
9 He arrived at Amphipolis first, and then from there at Galepsus, and now that his fear had abated a little, he relapsed into that congenital and oldest disease of his, namely, parsimony, and lamented to his friends that through ignorance he had suffered some of the gold plate of Alexander the Great to fall into the hands of the Cretans, and with tearful supplications he besought those who had it to exchange it for money.
10 Now those that understood him accurately did not fail to see that he was playing the Cretan against Cretans; but those who listened to him, and gave back the plate, were cheated.
11 For he did not pay them the money he had promised, but after craftily getting thirty talents from his friends, which his enemies were to get soon afterwards, he sailed across with them to
Samothrace, where he took refuge as a suppliant in the temple of the Dioscuri.

Appian on Magnesia

The Macedonian phalanx, which had been stationed between the two bodies of horse in a narrow space in the form of a square, when denuded of cavalry on either side, had opened to receive the light-armed troops, who had been skirmishing in front, and closed again. Thus crowded together, Domitius easily enclosed them with his numerous light cavalry. Having no opportunity to charge or even to deploy their dense mass, they began to suffer severely; and they were indignant that military experience availed them nothing, exposed as they were on all sides to the weapons of the enemy. Nevertheless, they presented their thick-set pikes on all four sides. They challenged the Romans to close combat and preserved at all times the appearance of being about to charge. Yet they did not advance, because they were foot-soldiers and heavily armed, and saw that the enemy were mounted. Most of all they feared to relax their close formation lest they might not readily bring it together again. The Romans did not come to close quarters nor approach them because they feared the discipline, the solidity, and the desperation of this veteran corps; but circled around them and assailed them with javelins and arrows, none of which missed their mark in the dense mass, who could neither turn the missiles aside nor dodge them. After suffering severely in this way they yielded to necessity and fell back step by step, but with a bold front, in perfect order and still formidable to the Romans. The latter kept their distance and continued to circle around and wound them, until the elephants inside the Macedonian phalanx became excited and unmanageable. Then the phalanx broke into disorderly flight.


Appian on the defeat of the Pontic army

[42] When they had taken position opposite each other Archelaus repeatedly led out his forces and offered battle. Sulla hesitated on account of the nature of the ground and the numbers of the enemy. When Archelaus moved toward Chalcis Sulla followed him closely, watching for a favorable time and place. When he saw the enemy encamped in a rocky region near Chśronea, where there was no chance of escape for the vanquished, he took possession of a broad plain near by and drew up his forces in such a way that he could compel Archelaus to fight whether he wanted to or not, and where the slope of the plain favored the Romans either in advancing or retreating. Archelaus was hedged in by rocks which, in a battle, would not allow his whole army to act in concert, as he could not bring them together by reason of the unevenness of the ground; and if they were routed their flight would be impeded by the rocks. Relying for these reasons on his advantage of position Sulla moved forward in such a way that the enemy's superiority of numbers should not be of any service to him. Archelaus did not dream of coming to an engagement at that time, for which reason he had been careless in choosing the place for his camp. Now that the Romans were advancing he perceived sorrowfully and too late the badness of his position, and he sent forward a detachment of horse to prevent the movement. The detachment was put to flight and shattered among the rocks. He next charged with sixty chariots, hoping to sever and break in pieces the formation of the legions by the shock. The Romans opened their ranks and the chariots were carried through by their own momentum to the rear, and before they could turn back they were surrounded and destroyed by the javelins of the rear guard.

[43] Although Archelaus might have fought safely from his fortified camp, where the crags would perhaps have defended him, he hastily led out his vast multitude of men who had not expected to fight here, and drew them up, in a place that had proved much too narrow, because Sulla was already approaching. He first made a powerful charge with his horse, cut the Roman formation in two, and, by reason of the smallness of their numbers, completely surrounded both parts. The Romans turned their faces to the enemy on all sides and fought bravely. The divisions of Galba and Hortensius suffered most since Archelaus led the battle against them in person, and the barbarians fighting under the eye of the commander were spurred by emulation to the highest pitch of valor. But Sulla moved to their aid with a large body of horse and Archelaus, feeling sure that it was Sulla who was approaching, for he saw the standards of the commander-in-chief, and a greater cloud of dust arising, released his grasp and began to resume his first position. Sulla, leading the best part of his horse and picking up two new cohorts that had been placed in reserve, struck the enemy before they had executed their manœuvre and formed a solid front. He threw them into confusion, put them to flight, and pursued them. While victory was dawning on that side, Murena, who commanded the left wing, was not idle. Chiding his soldiers for their remissness he, too, dashed upon the enemy valiantly and put them to flight.

[44] When Archelaus' two wings gave way the centre no longer held its ground, but took to promiscuous flight. Then everything that Sulla had foreseen befell the enemy. Not having room to turn around, or an open country for flight, they were driven by their pursuers among the rocks. Some of them rushed into the hands of the Romans. Others with more wisdom fled toward their own camp. Archelaus placed himself in front of them and barred the entrance, and ordered them to turn and face the enemy, thus betraying the greatest inexperience of the exigencies of war. They obeyed him with alacrity, but as they no longer had either generals to lead, or officers to align them, or standards to show where they belonged, but were scattered in disorderly rout, and had no room either to fly or to fight, the pursuit having brought them into their very narrowest place, they were killed without resistance, some by the enemy, upon whom they could not retaliate, and others by their own friends in the jam and confusion. Again they fled toward the gates of the camp, around which they became congested. They up braided the gate-keepers. They appealed to them in the name of their country's gods and their common relationship, and reproached them that they were slaughtered not so much by the swords of the enemy as by the indifference of their friends. Finally Archelaus, after more delay than was necessary, opened the gates and received the disorganized runaways. When the Romans observed this they gave a great cheer, burst into the camp with the fugitives, and made their victory complete.

[45] Archelaus and the rest, who made their escape singly, came together at Chalcis. Not more than 10,000 of the 120,000 remained. The Roman loss was only fifteen, and two of these turned up afterward. Such was the result of the battle of Chśronea between Sulla and Archelaus, the general of Mithridates, to which the sagacity of Sulla and the blundering of Archelaus contributed in equal measure. Sulla captured a large number of prisoners and a great quantity of arms and spoils, the useless part of which he put in a heap. Then he girded himself according to the Roman custom and burned it as a sacrifice to the gods of war. After giving his army a short rest he hastened with his best troops after Archelaus, but as the Romans had no ships the latter sailed securely among the islands and ravaged the coasts. He landed at Zacynthus and laid siege to it, but being attacked in the night by a party of Romans who were sojourning there he reembarked in a hurry and returned to Chalcis more like a robber than a warrior.


Plutarch on Sulla's victory over the Pontic army

16... As Sulla drew near to Chaeroneia, the tribune who had been stationed in the city, with his men in full armour, came to meet him, carrying a wreath of laurel.
6 After Sulla had accepted this, greeted the soldiers, and animated them for the coming danger, two men of Chaeroneia accosted him, HomoloÔchus and Anaxidamus, and engaged to cut off the troops in possession of Thurium if he would give them a few soldiers; for there was a path out of sight of the Barbarians, leading from the so-called Petrachus along past the Museum to that part of Thurium which was over their heads, and by taking this path it would not be difficult, they said, to fall upon them and either stone them to death from above, or force them into the plain.
7 After Gabinius had borne testimony to the men's courage and fidelity, Sulla ordered them to make the attempt, while he himself proceeded to form his line of battle, and to dispose his cavalry on either wing, taking command of them himself, and assigning the left to Murena. His lieutenants, Galba and Hortensius, with cohorts of reserves, stationed themselves on the heights in the rear, to guard against attacks on the flanks. For the enemy were observed to be making their wing flexible and light for evolution with large bodies of horse and light infantry, purposing to extend it and envelop the Romans.

18 Meanwhile the Chaeroneians, over whom Ericius had been placed in command by Sulla, made their way unnoticed around Thurium and then showed themselves suddenly, producing great confusion and rout among the Barbarians, and slaughter at one another's hands for the most part. For they did not hold their ground, but rushed down the steeps, falling upon their own spears and crowding one another down the precipices, while their enemies pressed upon them from above and smote their exposed bodies, so that three thousand of them fell on Thurium.
2 Of the fugitives, some were met by Murena, who had already formed his array, and were cut off and slain; others pushed their way towards the camp of their friends, and falling pell-mell upon their lines, filled the greater part of them with terror and confusion, and inflicted a delay upon their generals which was especially harmful to them. For Sulla promptly charged upon them while they were in confusion, and by abridging the space between the armies with the speed of his approach, robbed the scythe-bearing chariots of their efficiency.
3 For these are of most avail after a long course, which gives them velocity and impetus for breaking through an opposing line but short starts are ineffectual and feeble, as in the case of missiles which do not get full propulsion. And this proved to be true now in the case of Barbarians. The first of their chariots were driven along feebly and engaged sluggishly, so that the Romans, after repulsing them, clapped their hands and laughed and called for more, as they are wont to do at the races in the circus.
4 Thereupon the infantry forces engaged, the Barbarians holding their pikes before them at full length, and endeavouring, by locking their shields together, to keep their line of battle intact; while the Romans threw down their javelins, drew their swords, and sought to dash the pikes aside, that they might get at their enemies as soon as possible, in the fury that possessed them.
5 For they saw drawn up in front of the enemy fifteen thousand slaves, whom the king's generals had set free by proclamation in the cities and enrolled among the men-at-arms. And a certain Roman centurion is reported to have said that it was only at the Saturnalia, so far as he knew, that slaves participated in the general license.
6 These men, however, owing to the depth and density of their array, and the unnatural courage with which they held their ground, were only slowly repulsed by the Roman men-at-arms; but at last the fiery bolts and the javelins which the Romans in the rear ranks plied unsparingly, threw them into confusion and drove them back.

19 ArchelaŁs now extended his right wing to envelop Sulla's line, whereupon Hortensius sent his cohorts against him on a quick run, intending to attack his flank. But ArchelaŁs wheeled swiftly against him his two thousand horsemen, and Hortensius, forced aside by superior numbers, was keeping close to the hills, separating himself little by little from the main line, and getting surrounded by the enemy. 2 When Sulla learned of this, he came swiftly to his aid from the right wing, which was not yet engaged. But ArchelaŁs, guessing the truth from the dust raised by Sulla's troops, gave Hortensius the go-by, and wheeling, set off for the right wing whence Sulla had come, thinking to surprise it without a commander. At the same time Murena also was attacked by Taxiles with his Bronze-shields, so that when shouts were borne to his ears from both places, and reŽchoed by the surrounding hills, Sulla halted, and was at a loss to know in which of the two directions he ought to betake himself.
3 But having decided to resume his own post, he sent Hortensius with four cohorts to help Murena, while he himself, bidding the fifth cohort to follow, hastened to the right wing. This of itself had already engaged ArchelaŁs on equal terms, but when Sulla appeared, they drove the enemy back at all points, obtained the mastery, and pursued them to the river and Mount Acontium in a headlong flight.
4 Sulla, however, did not neglect Murena in his peril, but set out to aid the forces in that quarter; he saw, however, that they were victorious, and then joined in the pursuit. Many of the Barbarians, then, were slain in the plain, but most were cut to pieces as they rushed for their entrenchments, so that only ten thousand out of so many myriads made their escape into Chalcis. But Sulla says he missed only fourteen of his soldiers, and that afterwards, towards evening, two of these came in.
5 He therefore inscribed upon his trophies the names of Mars, Victory and Venus, in the belief that his success in the war was due no less to good fortune than to military skill and strength. This trophy of the battle in the plain stands on the spot where the troops of ArchelaŁs first gave way, by the brook Molus, but there is another planted on the crest of Thurium, to commemorate the envelopment of the Barbarians there, and it indicates in Greek letters that HomoloÔchus and Anaxidamus were the heroes of the exploit.
6 The festival in honour of this victory was celebrated by Sulla in Thebes, where he prepared a stage near the fountain of Oedipus. But the judges were Greeks invited from the other cities, since towards the Thebans he was irreconcilably hostile. He also took away half of their territory and consecrated it to Pythian Apollo and Olympian Zeus, giving orders that from its revenues the moneys should be paid back to the gods which he had taken from them.



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