Battle of Ipsus, 301 BC

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Antigonus I & Demetrius 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 of the Allied army under Seleucus and Lysimachus. Demetrius chases the opposing Allied cavalry away but can he return in time to hit the Allied infantry phalanx’s rear? Also known as the Battle of Ipsos.

ipsus preview 1

Significance

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.

Analysis

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 by assaulting the obstacles in front of them but used them as a psychological weapon, eroding 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 is possible that Antigonus, at the age of eighty-one, was intent on dying in battle while preserving his bloodline, hence his battle plan.

ipsus preview 2

Notes

One will notice that my animation used to veer greatly from the popular conception of this battle in which Seleucus blocks the return of Demetrius with his reserve of elephants. Bar-Kochva writes a convincing analysis as to why these 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. You will notice in my recent upgrade of this animation, I decided to add in Seleucus’ deployment of elephants with the intent of blocking Demetrius’ return to the battlefield, which does not end up happening. Bar-Kochva’s logic is still valid, but it does not seem feasible that the Allied infantry phalanx could undertake a forward passage of lines through the war elephants if they were still close to the enemy. It is more likely they were withdrawn in some way.

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.

Pietrykowski, Joseph. Great Battles of the Hellenistic World. Barnsley: Pen & Sword, 2009.

Tarn, W.W. Antigonos Gonatas. Chicago: Argonaut, 1969.

Warry, John. Warfare in the Classical World. London: Salamander, 1980.

Images

Allied cavalry: http://www.twcenter.net/forums/showthread.php?t=189820

Allied chariot: http://jyte.com/cl/id-like-to-spend-a-half-of-my-existence-dallying-about-to-suddenly-experience-a-flash-of-inexplicable-inspiration-that-motivates-me-to-establish-my-raison-detre-2

Allied infantry: http://www.dbaol.com/armies/army_41a_figure_1.htm

Allied war elephant: http://joseph_berrigan.tripod.com/ancientbabylon/id36.html

Antigonid cavalry: http://eoa.wikia.com/wiki/Antigonid_Army

Antigonid infantry: http://www.dbaol.com/armies/army_38a_figure_1.htm

Antigonid war elephant: http://joseph_berrigan.tripod.com/ancientbabylon/id36.html

Antigonus I: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Antigone_le_Borgne_(pi%C3%A8ce).jpg

Demetrius I: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demetrius_I_of_Macedon

Lysimachus: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lysimachus

Map of the world: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_map_projections

Map of Western Asia: http://www.ancient.eu/image/581/

Seleucus I: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seleucus_I_Nicator

 

If you enjoyed the Battle of Ipsus 301 BC battle animation, you may also enjoy these other battle animations:

Battle of Paraitakene 317 BC, another battle featuring Antigonus I during the Diadochi Wars:

paraitakene preview 1

Battle of Raphia 217 BC, another battle featuring the Seleucids, phalanxes, and war elephants:

raphia preview 1

Battle of Mohi Heath 1241, another battle in which sustained missile fire is used to wear down an isolated enemy force:

mohi heath preview 1Thank you for visiting The Art of Battle: Animated Battle Maps.

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