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Eumenes versus Antigonus I: Antigonus’ plan to advance in oblique order is upset when Peithon, commanding the light cavalry on his refused left flank, suddenly charges ahead to engage Eumenes’ powerful cavalry right wing. How will Antigonus adapt to these unexpected circumstances? Also known as the Battle of Paraetacene.
This is not a battle that will ever make a list of decisive battles that changed history. Pietrykowski writes that the battle “demonstrated little except the deadly effectiveness of the Macedonian phalanx” (2009: 101). In fact, this would be consistently demonstrated until its defeat to the Roman legion at the Battle of Pydna in 168 BC. Neither side really won the battle although Eumenes came closer to defeating Antigonus than vice versa, holding the initiative for longer and inflicting significantly more casualties. The battle still had potential to be decisive and affect history’s path; if Eumenes had anticipated the danger of the gap between his advancing center and stationary left, and then pushed his advantage, he may have won a great victory and changed the course of the Diadochi Wars. He of course did not and so the battle remains a skirmish in the greater course of events.
This battle illustrates the potential risks of attacking in oblique order. Due to Antigonus’ subordinate’s rash action, Eumenes was able to engage and defeat Antigonus’ weakest parts of his army before his strongest parts could enter the battle. This must have been frustrating for Antigonus as he had explicitly told Peithon his role as commander of the refused left wing (Pietrykowski, 2009: 95). Peithon’s misinterpretation of Antigonus’ halt perhaps illustrates some of the challenges in command, control, and communication during ancient battles, rather than his incompetence. Antigonus for his part adapted well to the unexpected, changing circumstances of his subordinate’s deviation from the plan, patiently waiting to see how Peithon’s actions would play out, and then exploiting those circumstances to salvage a costly draw instead of a clear defeat. Eumenes was also surprised by the boldness of the Antigonid light cavalry and their skilled hit-and-run attacks, and reacted well to changing circumstances, first by transferring light cavalry from his left to restore his strong right wing, and then calling back his pursuing cavalry to (no easy task in any era) to ensure Antigonus’ counter-attack went no further. Of course, Eumenes may have won a clear victory if he had maintained a general reserve to react to any unexpected situation in the first place.
I animated this battle to show the risks of advancing in oblique order to show up on the Tactics Tutorial page. I also find the Wars of the Diadochi very intriguing in terms of the politics and tactics of such diverse armies.
– Jonathan Webb
Billows, Richard A. Antigonos the One-Eyed and the Creation of the Hellenistic State. Berkely: University of California Press, 1990.
Davis, Paul K. 100 Decisive Battles from Ancient Times to the Present. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999.
Dupuy, Trevor N. The Harper Encyclopedia of Military History: From 3500 BC to the Present, Fourth Edition. New York: HarperCollins, 1991.
Montagu, John Drogo. Greek and Roman Warfare: Battles, Tactics and Trickery. London: Greenhill, 2006.
Pietrykowski, Joseph. Great Battles of the Hellenistic World. Barnsley: Pen & Sword, 2009.
Antigonid cavalry: http://www.dbaol.com/armies/army_38a_figure_1.htm
Antigonid heavy infantry: http://www.dbaol.com/armies/army_38a_figure_1.htm
Antigonid light infantry: http://www.dbaol.com/armies/army_38a_figure_1.htm
Antigonid war elephant: http://www.dbaol.com/armies/army_38a_figure_1.htm
Antigonus I: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Antigone_le_Borgne_(pi%C3%A8ce).jpg
Eumenid cavalry: http://www.dbaol.com/armies/army_38b_figure_1.htm
Eumenid heavy infantry: http://www.dbaol.com/armies/army_38b_figure_1.htm
Eumenid light infantry: http://www.dbaol.com/armies/army_38b_figure_1.htm
Eumenid war elephant: http://www.dbaol.com/armies/army_38b_figure_1.htm
Map of the world: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_map_projections
Map of Western Asia: https://forum.paradoxplaza.com/forum/index.php?threads/diadochi-wars-year-by-year.346500/page-2
If you enjoyed the Battle of Paraitakene 317 BC battle animation, you may also enjoy these other battle animations:
Battle of Ipsus 301 BC, another battle fought by Antigonus in the Wars of the Diadochi:
Battle of Leuctra 371 BC, another battle featuring an attack in oblique order:
Battle of Arsuf 1191, another battle in which a subordinate disobeyed a commander’s orders:
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