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620429.  Thu Oct 01, 2009 4:34 am Reply with quote

Today is the (attested) 2340th anniversary of the Battle of Gaugamela, Alexander the Great's celebrated victory over the might of the Persian Empire. I will look for a good graphic representation of the course of the battle but none I've seen so far make much of Alexander's main problem and consequently why it was such a tremendous victory - the Persian chariots and elephants, for which the Macedonians had no equivalent units. The Persian numerical advantage of probably about 2:1 was another factor.

At the centre, where King Darius was to be found, the relatives of the king were arranged, along with the Persian Applebearers, the Indians, the "Carian deportees" and the Mardian archers; behind them, in a hollow, were the Babylonians [under the leadership of Mazaeus], the Red Sea contingents and the Sittacenians. Out in front on the left wing, opposite Alexander's right wing, stood the Sacaean horsemen [commanded by Bessus], around 1,000 Bactrians, and 100 scythed chariots. The elephants and 50 scythed chariots stood close to Darius' own royal squadron. At the front of the right wing stood the Armenian and Cappadocian horsemen, with another 50 scythed chariots. The Greek mercenaries were placed on either side of Darius and his Persian followers, directly opposite the Macedonian phalanx, since only they could possibly be a match for the phalanx.

Arrianus Anabasis 3.11.5ff

There is little detail in historical accounts of the battle itself so it is a matter for military historians to try to piece together the events on the dusty plain near the 'Camel's hump' hill but most are agreed that Alexander angled his line rather than literally squaring-off against his opponent to allow the elephants in particular an alternative route from the field rather than running into a phalanx. A phalanx, as you probably know, is rather like a porcupine with a man directing each spike and elephants, being intelligent creatures, will avoid running into one if they can.

By convention units with a diagonal line are cavalry, the broad blue arrow is Alexander's personal retinue who were also cavalry - elite cavalry it's safe to say.

What exactly had become of the chariots and the elephants they were presumably trying to herd towards the Macedonian line? If you put chariots on the elephants flanks it gives them fewer options other than 'move straight forward and bash your way through anything that stops you getting away from the battle' but did they too find the gap in Alexander's line but then fail to return to the battle? It seemingly could have gone woefully wrong for Alexander if either the chariots/elephants or the subsequent cavalry penetration through the gap had simply turned round and attacked his line from the rear. Elephants are unlikely to do this but what of the chariots and later the cavalry? Was this fog of war or a desire to get away from any truly dangerous situation and busy themselves attacking the baggage train? The baggage trains of the victors often seem to get involved at major victories eg Agincourt and certainly one account I've read of Salamanca. Aaaaaaanyway - the elephants might have simply exited to the Macedonian left and scrapped their accompanying chariots in the process, no-one really knows; what we do know is that this moment of personal bravery was the point at which Alexander's Greatness becomes evident.

624089.  Sat Oct 10, 2009 2:47 pm Reply with quote

Didn't Hannibal do something similar? When he was fighting the Romans over Carthage? Maybe I have my facts wrong. I wasn't paying much attention in class.

624165.  Sat Oct 10, 2009 10:12 pm Reply with quote

You're thinking of Cannae I guess. Hannibals formation at Cannae is often described as an arc but I would suggest that a wedge where the central portion is a feint is a better description. The centre of the Carthaginian wedge started to fall back and the Romans persued them but the Carthaginians were in a controlled withdrawl and stopped once they had formed a funnel into which the Romans obligingly pressed leaving them vulnerable to attacks on three sides. The Carthaginian cavalry completed the humiliation by encircling them entirely. The Romans lost somewhere between 50,000 and 80,000 men - virtually their entire force with very few of that total being taken as prisoners - and the Carthaginians about 8000.

624947.  Mon Oct 12, 2009 6:09 pm Reply with quote

I've just noticed there's an error in the labelling of the above battle map. As Wiki puts it

[Hannibal] placed his Iberians, Gauls and Celtiberians in the middle, alternating the ethnic composition across the front line. Hannibal's infantry from Punic Africa was positioned on the wings at the very edge of his infantry line. These infantry were expertly battle-hardened, remained cohesive, and would attack the Roman flanks.

625539.  Wed Oct 14, 2009 10:44 am Reply with quote

I was actually referring to the use of elephants, but I'm glad you brought up the formation. I had forgotten about that. Thank you for correcting me on which battle that was.

625542.  Wed Oct 14, 2009 10:51 am Reply with quote

Well it was Hannibal who had the elephants (although they were all dead by the time of Cannae) but Scipio Africanus did come up with the inventively named Scipio's Defence as an anti-elephant tactic. I've mentioned it on these pages before I think so I'll try to post a link rather than go over it again.

I didn't go into much detail but I mentioned it in post 32835. I'll see if I can find a battle map of Zama (202 BCE Scipio vs Hannibal on Carthaginian soil, Carthaginians have elephants but the battle is a substantial, and final, defeat for the Carthaginians). Scipio's Defence consists of leaving channels through the Roman formation which he revealed at the last minute by having his light infantry screen melt away - well, more or less, that was the essence of the plan anyway and to a large extent it worked.

There is a simple animation available but it might be a bit big - I'll try it and if it's too large I'll replace it with the link.

Yeah, way too big.

626107.  Thu Oct 15, 2009 3:56 pm Reply with quote

I knew I should have paid more attention in class, but we went over so much material in so little time, it was hard to remember anything after needing it for the test. Probably the only reason I remember any of this is because I found it interesting. If you have any more information, or links, I would love to have it!

626136.  Thu Oct 15, 2009 4:33 pm Reply with quote

There are loads of links from the Wiki article to other Wiki articles and they themselves are all referenced but my knowledge of the Punic Wars is already wearing pretty thin tbh. I saw a TV documentary on Cannae fairly recently which put an emphasis on the Battle of Annihilation (of which Cannae is the classic example) and I guess there is more to be understood from viewing Cannae and Zama (aka Zamua) from this viewpoint. Although in truth the final destruction of Carthage by the Romans came in the Third Punic War some 70 years later the terms for peace which the Romans imposed after Zama meant that Carthage was never again going to be a power in the Mediterranean. Cato the Elder was the greatest proponant of the Third Punic War although reporting of the famous gerund "Carthago delenda est" comes to us via the Greek from Plutarchos (Plutarch)* which was then back translated into Latin at a later date.

The Battle of Annihilation is generally considered to be the desired goal of any land commander but that's because land commanders generally think that only annihilation guarantees victory. In modern conventional warfare I would regard this approach as unnecessarily bloody - I'll admit to being slightly worried that the recent announcements of increased troop deployments to Afghanistan (President Obama has indicated that 50,000 more US troops will be deployed) are indicative of a mindset where a) victory is attainable entirely by military superiority and b) that in the abscence of new ideas throwing large numbers of highly trained troops at the problem will address the issue. I'd just like to point out that this is exactly what the Romans thought prior to Cannae. The ideas of Quintus Fabius Maximus Verrucosus 'Cunctator' (ca. 280 BC–203 BC) may be of interest to you, especially with regard to whom in the modern scenario is fulfilling which of the historical parallels - the fact that the allied forces can re-supply a foreign invasion force enables them to take the Roman role but is this wise? Might it not merely create a target rich environment as was the case at Cannae? Anyway I hope there are enough directions there to be going on with that at least one of them is interesting to you. ("the American Fabius")

* not exclusively in fact, see the Wiki article on Carthago delenda est

Last edited by Celebaelin on Sun Dec 09, 2012 7:03 am; edited 2 times in total

628269.  Wed Oct 21, 2009 11:06 am Reply with quote

Thank you! I will look into those over the weekend.

628278.  Wed Oct 21, 2009 11:33 am Reply with quote

Celebaelin wrote:
although reporting of the famous gerund "Carthago delenda est"

Loath as I am to pick you up on such a fantastically trivial inexactitude, I nonetheless couldn't quite bring myself to refrain from pointing out that "delenda" is, in this particular context, not in fact a gerund, but rather a gerundive. Being used, here, as a gerundive of obligation.

628573.  Thu Oct 22, 2009 10:06 am Reply with quote

I knew that. By which I mean I knew that once, during the life of the thread that begins at post 38009. Though I still don't understand the difference between a gerund and a gerundive.

628576.  Thu Oct 22, 2009 10:27 am Reply with quote

Nobody does, Celeb. In fact, we have all spent years trying to forget that the blasted things even exist. Though, from my Molesworthian grasp of the Classics I can remember two things. Firstly, that Cato ma was always banging on about Carthage and was thus a confounded bore. And, secondly, that a gerundive is a passive adjective (but only because I had to write it out a hundred times).

As for the difference between a gerund and a gerundive, this is as far as my understanding ever went.

628600.  Thu Oct 22, 2009 11:41 am Reply with quote

Worth a LOL, I think!

But yes, you have it about right. A verb used as a noun is a gerund - in English the form of the gerund is identical to that of the present participle, but in Latin it isn't.

A gerundive is a verb used as a passive adjective. It's usual to say that English doesn't have the gerundive, although this has been challenged in recent years by Jean Branford, the compiler of the Oxford Dictionary of South African English.

Dr Branford gives as an example "reading matter". "Reading matter" is matter which gets read, so she argues that "reading" is a gerundive here. Conversely, "writing paper" is paper for writing upon, not paper which gets written, so she considers "writing" to be but a gerund here.

628713.  Thu Oct 22, 2009 3:40 pm Reply with quote

That's very interesting! I love talking about grammar. I had never heard of a gerundive until now.

628774.  Fri Oct 23, 2009 3:00 am Reply with quote

Sadly suze's bold attempt to explain the difference between a gerund and a gerundive suffers from one serious drawback - namely that I am somewhat hard of understanding in this matter. The first time I read her post I thought 'OK, that seems clear enough' but then I made the mistake of spending a bit of time trying to establish in my own mind the difference between 'reading matter' and 'writing paper' as parts of speech. Needless to say I came up short, it seems to hinge on the passive nature of reading compared to the active nature of writing. So in 'baking tray' is baking a gerundive and in 'hiking boots' hiking then a gerund? I was also very tempted to write this post a la Molesworth, in fact given the number of typos I made writing this I may have become infected and choice might not enter into it.

'Reality' sa Molesworth 2 'is so unspeakably sordid it make me shudder.'

Double French last thing on Monday and double Science after first break on Saturday - poor Molesworth! I feel really strange looking at that timetable, I can just about remember what it's like to be 11 again now - it's not at all pleasant (double French = *sinking feeling in pit of stomach*).


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