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Battle of Ipsus, 301 BC animated battle map

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Antigonus I & Demtrius I versus Seleucus I & Lysimachus: An Antigonid army under Antigonus and his son, Demetrius, seeks to avoid direct confrontation with the vast war elephant force within an Allied army under Seleucus and Lysimachus. Demetrius chases the opposing Allied cavalry away but can he return in time to smash the Allied infantry phalanx? Click on images below to view PowerPoint presentation. | Legend |
Whether Alexander the Great actually stated his empire should belong to the strongest of his successors, implying an epic survival of the fittest, is unclear. However, if he had imagined a quick, decisive contest to determine who would rule his empire, he was sadly mistaken. The only decisive contest during the Wars of the Diadochi was Ipsus and it only further weakened Alexander’s great empire.
Seleucus proved himself to be a patient and able tactician in this battle. He methodically pinned down Antigonid forces with a feigned retreat on his left and an attritional war elephant battle on his right. He then carefully reduced the Antigonid infantry phalanx; he did not waste his war elephants and ruin his army’s morale by flailing them against the obstacles in front of them but eroded the enemy’s morale with harassment and an imposing wall of beasts. Antigonus failed to neutralize the Allied war elephants or use them to his advantage by panicking them and disrupting their own lines. On a more psychological level it appears that Antigonus, at the age of eighty-one, was intent on dying in battle while preserving his bloodline.
One will notice that my animation veers greatly from the popular conception of this battle in which Seleucus blocks the return of Demetrius with his reserve of elephants. However, Bar-Kochva writes a convincing analysis as to why previous accounts are faulty (1976: 105-110) which I decided to publicize. His main criticisms are that it would have taken a lot of elephants to block Demetrius’ return (108) and that Demetrius as a commander was not stupid and rash enough to just over-pursue enemy cavalry when he knew his father’s battle plan (109-10). Common knowledge of the harassment tactics horse-archers use also contributes to the theory that Seleucus laid a trap for Demetrius which explains why he took his time to wear down the Antigonid infantry. 
The movement of the horse-archers in the animation mimics a maneuver known as the Cantabrian circle.
– Jonathan Webb
Works Consulted
Bar-Kochva, Bezalel. The Seleucid Army: Organization and Tactics in the Great Campaigns. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1976.
Cary, Max. A History of the Greek World from 323 to 146 BC. London: Meuthen, 1932.
Davis, Paul K. 100 Decisive Battles from Ancient Times to the Present. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999.
Tarn, W.W. Antigonos Gonatas. Chicago: Argonaut, 1969.
Warry, John. Warfare in the Classical World. London: Salamander, 1980.

Allied cavalry:
Allied chariot:
Allied infantry:
Allied war elephant:

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  1. 4 Comments to “Battle of Ipsus, 301 BC animated battle map”

  2. You should update your legend to include the X.

    By Mike on Dec 3, 2011 at 5:55 pm

  3. Where are the chariots you mention in the Strength’s slide?

    By Mike on Dec 3, 2011 at 6:01 pm

  4. That was a VERY underestimated battle. Anyhow, I’m surprised the Antigonids lost.

    By Keaton on Jun 13, 2014 at 11:27 pm

  5. Dude. i love your work. They are so concise, simple and to the point.please do more animations on Ancient battles on top of the ones already here. (Alexander, Hannibal, Cyrus The Great, Ramses II, Thutmoses III etc).

    By migan on Jul 8, 2014 at 4:37 pm

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