Thursday, 21 March 2013

Heraclea: 280BC (The Main Battle)

Epirotes vs Romans

Played out this just recently at the club in Goulburn, with the help of a few others. Stayed over night again as usual and enjoyed some local Thai cuisine on the Saturday night with a few of the guys..... a good bit of nosh the night before battle is a must.

Historical Background:
“While his colleague…, was engaged in Etruria, the consul Publius Laevinus had in the Spring of 280BC again invaded Lucania with the usual consular army of twenty thousand men, and devastated it. Pyrrhus advanced to meet him. On the rolling plain between Heraclea and Pandosia, on the Siris, the Roman Legion first measured its strength against the Grecian Phalanx. Pyrrhus had the slightly superior force. “
“When the king came in sight of the Roman camp, and from across the Siris observed its orderliness…he could not conceal his surprise. He saw that they were not barbarians but a disciplined army to fight, one indeed whose organization was superior to his own. Nor was his surprise quickly lessened; for no sooner did the Romans perceive the approach of the enemy than they filed from their camp with their usual promptness and perfect order, pushed some light troops, sustained by a column of horse through the river ford, smartly attacked the van of Pyrrhus’ army, which was holding the ford, and drove it in on the main body. Startled at this audacious advance and sudden check, Pyrrhus galloped to the front with his three thousand cavalry, and although thrown from his horse, at which for a moment his army was somewhat abashed, soon reestablished the matter along his own front. The Roman van held the fords and enabled the legions to cross, when they deployed into line….”
“The two lines of heavy foot met; the ponderous Phalanx struck its fearful blow, but failed to pierce the legion; it met a foe as it had never encountered. In vain did the sarissa of the Epirots force back the Roman line; as often did the legionaries arrest its onset with their own fierce charge and greater front. The fall, in the fray of Megacles, one of Pyrrhus’ general officers, with whom the king is stated by Plutarch to have exchanged armor-for what purpose is not clear-for the second time threatened the destruction of the phalanx from sheer demoralization at the supposed death of its leader, while the Romans were correspondingly cheered, and Laevinus felt sure of victory; but Pyrrhus, with bared face, rode through the ranks, and to see him revived their courage. The phalanx recovered and once more moved to the attack. The lines clashed again and again. Seven times the Roman charge broke on the phalangial masses…The one could not break the other, nor could this tear its foe asunder…”
“Finally Pyrrhus, unable to make headway, brought to the front his elephants, until now held in reserve. The Roman horse was at this time, seriously, and as Laevinus imagined successfully, threatening Pyrrhus’ flank. Appalled by the aspect of these huge creatures, which none had yet beheld, and which now suddenly appeared behind a roll of ground…the horse fell back in confusion and broke through the line of the legion in its panic. Pyrrhus launched his Thessalian cavalry upon the cohorts, which completed the defeat. The Roman forces fled across the river, but managed to hold the fords against the king’s pursuit, According to Dionysius fifteen thousand Roman legionaries lay dead or wounded upon the field; Hieronymus says seven thousand; two thousand were captured.
Pyrrhus had suffered equally. Dionysius gives thirteen thousand as his casualties; Hieronymus only four thousand killed. But the smaller figure was a terrible loss….Pyrrhus visited the field thus won. He saw that all the dead Romans lay with faces to the foe. “One more such victory and I am lost” quoth he, according to Roman legend.”
(The above was from T.A. Dodge’s 1891 masterwork Hannibal p.110-113)

 The Romans and their "orderly" camp

Cavalry Engagement on the Roman left is finely won by them, after first blood going to Pyrrhus.
Pyrrhic phalanx closes in

Some of the elephants manage to get in.......but Pyrrhus and his centre looses momentum falling back and giving way. Pyrrhic centre collapses and it's all over.
This is the map we used for the set up and deployment, once more courtesy of Command and Colours Ancients.


  1. Greate looking game !

    Very nice ideea to use the C&C scenarios.

    Best regards Michael

    1. Yes the C&C scenarios seem to work well, we've done quiet a few historical fights now using the same method. A little bit of twigging here and there at times, but they certainly make the job very easy to transfer onto the table.

  2. Wow, this looks impressive!

  3. Very nice AAR, though unfortunately, Pyrrhus lost. Damn Romans

  4. Great battle report. Those are some fantastic looking figures (I love those elephants!).

  5. Looks like a great game.


  6. Fantastic looking game, great pictures and minis...a very nice map too!

  7. Thanks all, really enjoying these C&C inspired matches.