Battle of Gela (405 BC)
Having laid waste the Greek cities Selinous, Himera and Akragas on Sicily, the Carthaginian Himilkon lead his army of 45,000 Africans, Iberians and Campanians to Gela, where he encamped them on the heights of Apollo overlooking the city. The Geloans elected to stand seige behind their walls and sent pleas for help to Syracuse. By day, the Carthaginian sappers worked to breach the walls. By night, Geloan women and children worked alongside the men to repair the damage, while small sorties laid ambushes outside the walls for Carthaginian foragers.
Dionysios of Syracuse answered the Geloan call for help, raising an army of 31,000 comprised of his own 1,000 man guard, 10,000 Siciliots, 10,000 Italiots, and 10,000 Syracusans (including 1,000 cavalry), Sikeliots and assorted mercenaries. Moving by land and by sea, they encamped at a short distance from the city and supported the 5,000 man Geloan garrison with harrasing raids by land and sea aimed at the Punic supply line. When this failed to provoke a general battle, Dionysios carefully laid his own plans for a decisive attack.
Splitting his army into three divisions, Dionysios planned a three pronged attack which required careful coordination and the cooperation of the Geloan garrison. On the right wing, 11,000 Syracusan and Sikeliot troops were to move north around the city to attack the Carthaginian left. On the left, 10,000 Italiots were embarked on 50 Syracusan triremes with instructions to land opposite the Carthaginian right flank. The balance of Dionysios' army was to pass through the city, joined on route by the Geloan garrison, and sortie through the Akragas Gate to fall on the main Carthaginian camp, destroying their seige equipment as they advanced. The movements were timed to occur at the morning twilight, so that in addition to surprise, the Carthaginians would also have to contend with the "dazzle" caused by the rising sun.
At first everything worked well for the Syracusans. Syracusan marines and Italiots landed successfully and drove the Carthagians back into their camp. Then to the north, the Syracusan and Sikeliots fell on the other Carthaginian flank before it could organize enough to resist. However, Dionysios had not given his main force enough time to pass through the crowded streets of the city and across the valley to support his successes on either flank. Himilkon was able to send reinforcements first to the south and then to the north, and with hard fighting was able to drive back the attackers. The battle was over before Dionysios's main force could even engage.
Despite inflicting as many loses as he had suffered, Dionysios lost heart and abandoned Gela and the less defensible Kamarina to the Carthaginians. He retired all the way to Syracuse, where news of the defeat prompted political rivals to speculate that Dionysious had colluded with Himilkon, whose victories over Syracuse's Greek rivals also served to raise Syracuse's stature among the remaining Greek cities o Sicily.
This historical scenario provides an interesting playtest opportunity for the new DBA 2.0 rules in that it features both transit via a prominently placed BUA and a littoral landing.
The river Gattano is described as a rivulet and should be treated as paltry. The Hill of Apollo is a substantial terrain feature, rising 60 feet above sea level, but should be treated as a gentle hill. The city of Gela should be treated as a normal BUA although its depiction is somewhat larger than prescribed in DBA 2.0. The watercourse depicted is the Libyan Sea.
Carthaginians deploy first. Himilkon and at least three elements must be deployed on the Hill of Apollo along with the camp/logistical element. The balance of the Carthaginian force can be deployed anywhere forward of the hill in the indicated deployment zone.
The Syracusans deploy second. In a historical scenario, the army should be divided into three equal divisions. The first division, including the Syracusan LH, should be deployed on the plain to the right of Gela (no farther forward than the edge of Gela nearest the Carthaginian forces). The General Dionysios and his division are deployed in column at the entrance to Gela and must transit the BUA before they can join the battle. The third wing is deployed on boats and may conduct a littoral landing (as per DBA 2.0 rules) anywhere along the coast line. Since they enjoyed surprise, the Syracusans may move first.
The Syracusan wings fought as independent detachments and hence should not suffer an out of command penalty while Dionysios and his command transit the city.
Gela serves as the Syracusan camp.
This scenario is based on James DeVoto, "Dionysios and Himilkon at Gela," Ancient History Bulletin (14.1-2, 2000).
Last Update: Feb. 10, 2001
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