The Battle of Pydna
168 BC

Polybian Roman vs.
Later Macedonian

By Stefanos Skarmintzos

> Battles > DBA Resources > Fanaticus

The Macedonian king Perseus suceeded his father Philip through intrigue after disposing of his bother. To gain popularity he annulled debts and advocated land redistribution.  He married the daughter of the Odryssian king, making alliance with the Thraceans. That made him very popular among the indebted farmers of Greece who were reduced to serfdom of oligarchic parties who were supported by the Romans. He also made an armed visit to Delphi to propagandise his cause. Naturally worried about his behaviour, the Romans declared war on him under the pretext of aiding their Aetolian allies. Perseus was a populist politician but a very bad general. He squandered all his advantages and allowed the Romans to invade Thessaly.

Emboldened by the success of his light troops in Kallinikon, he decided to offer battle in the plain of Pydna in ground suitable for his pikemen.   The Romans had 38,000 men, of which 33,400 were infantry, including two legions.  The Macedonians 44,000 soldiers, of which 21,000 were phalangites.  The cavalry numbers were roughly equal, at about 4,000 each.

The battle was fought late in the day and initially the phalanx drove off the legions.  The Romans fought tenaciously until they were driven to the slopes of Olympus where the broken ground allowed the maniples to exploit the openings in the phalanx and slaughter the pikemen.

Perseus promptly fled along with his Thracian allies.  Without an army, he later had to surrender to the Romans, who dragged him to a triumph in Rome before finally executing him. The way was now open for conquering the rest of Greece.

The battle even today is used for heated arguments about the battle systems used by the opponents but most arguments usually omit the presence of the elephants that must have given the Romans advantage against cavalry in one of the flanks. There is the possibility that the Romans managed to gain the upper hand in the wings and then rolled Perseus' flanks. It is a fact that at that time Roman generals were as a rule better than their opponents.

The Armies

This is a 15 element battle. The three extra elements are reliable allies, which deploy and fight normally as part of the main command.

Polybian Roman (II/33) - 1x3Cv(Gen), 1x3Cv, 6x4Bd, 2x4Sp, 2x2Ps, plus Aitolian ally (1xEL, 1xKn/Cv, 1xAux)

Later Macedonian (Modified) 1x3Cv(Gen), 1x3Cv, 1x2LH, 4x4Pk, 2x4Aux/Sp, 1x4Aux, 2x2Ps, plus Thracian ally (1xCV, 1xAux 1xPs)

Deployment

The Roman is the Attacker and deploys first on the high ground

The Macedonian deployed in front of the town of Pydna


View from Pydna towards Mt. Olympus

Game Map (ASCII)

===============Roman Baseline====================
F F F F f # # h h h h h h h h # c H H H H H H # #
# f f f f # f h h h h h h h h f # # f f f f # # h
h # # # # # h f . h h h h . . h # # # # # # # # h
. h # # # h f . . h h h . . . . h # h # h # h h .
. . h h h . . . # . . . . . . . . h h h h h h . .
. . . . . . . # . . . . . . . . . h h , . . . . .
. . f . . f . . . . . . . . . . f . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . s s s s
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . s s s . . . .
. . . . . . . . . . . . . s s s s s . . . . . . h
. . . . . . . . . . s . s . . . . . . . . . . h h
. . . s s s . s . s . s . . . . . . . . . . . . h
. s s . . . s . s . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
s . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . f
s s . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . f .
. . s . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . f .
. . . s s . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. o o . . s . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . s s . . PYDNA . . . . . . . . . . . .
==============Greek Baseline=====================


SCALE: The space between each dot/letter is one inch.

TERRAIN KEY:

.=Good Going (Good Going)
#=Rough/Broken Ground (Bad Going)
h=Gentle Hill (Good Going)
H=Steep Hill (Impassable)
c=Cliff (Impassable)
f=Light Wood (Bad Going)
F=Heavy Wood (Impassable)
s=Stream
r=River
PYNDA=Built up area.

Terrain Notes

Impassable terrain is Mount Olympus. The Macedonian camp is the town of PydnaBroken ground is the mountain edges of Olympus, which are at a higher elevation than the plain.

Special Rules

The Macedonian spears option represent the volunteers who went to Perseus because of his
populist proclamations.

If Perseus is killed, all Macedonian cavalry flee the field and count as lost in determining Roman victory points.

Victory Conditions

Normal DBA.

Background Resources

Plutrach "Parallel lives"

Polybius' Histories.

Special thanks to Jona Ledering for his site www.livy.org.
 


> Top of Page > Battles > DBA Resources > Fanaticus


Last Update:  4 Oct. 2005

Thanks to SS for contributing this scenario.
Comments and feedback welcome and can be sent to Chris Brantley.