Battle of Pydna, 168 BC animated battle map
Lucius Aemilius Paullus versus Perseus: The professional legionnaires of a Roman army directly confront the stiff phalanx of a Macedonian army. Which infantry will reign supreme in this battle and the ancient era? Click on images below to view PowerPoint presentation. | Legend |
This battle marked the final contest between the legion and phalanx. The legion’s victory helped Rome become the dominant power in the Near East and control the Mediterranean Sea. By defeating Macedon, Rome also gained access to the knowledge and culture of Greece, which Romans benefited from “more than they could ever know” (Davis, 1999: 55).
Tactically, the decisive factor in this battle was the legion’s superiority over the phalanx though Fuller points out that Perseus made a mistake when he did not simply reform the disrupted phalanx under cover of lighter troops before continuing its advance (1954: 166). Inherently though, the legion was less susceptible to losing cohesion through friction in terms of anticipated and unanticipated developments during battle. The Roman legions were better organized to respond to events of a battle, such as breaking down into smaller units to infiltrate gaps in the enemy line. By exploiting these gaps and advancing along the axis of least resistance, the Roman legionnaires were able to cut through the phalanx from within. Despite his victory, even years later Paullus spoke of the terror of confronting the phalanx (Montagu, 2006: 225).
The Roman use of war elephants was also a supporting factor in victory, ironic given the fact that Greek armies typically used war elephants against the Romans, as Pyrrhus utilized effectively in 280 BC. For any observers of military history, it always comes as a surprise when war elephants do not prove more harm than good to the side employing them. This is obviously not always the case and Scullard proposes that by deploying only small numbers of war elephants, the Romans were able to train them more extensively and maintain control (1974: 184).
The timeline of this animation is somewhat deceiving. The Roman war elephants routed the Macedonian left wing in the beginning of the battle but this event is only depicted during the fourth animation sequence. My explanation is that a whirlwind of events occurred during this short hour-long battle and the duel between legion and phalanx required proper detail.
I had intended this animation to serve as an experiment for a somewhat new format which incorporated game footage from the Total War gaming series. The battle was chosen because it featured very visual events that the game engine could easily replicate, such as an elephant charge, phalanx becoming disordered etc. Unfortunately, this experiment would be no more than a tease and would mean a significant increase in time and coordination in the production of animations, a process that has become increasingly lengthier as I seek to improve accuracy and detail through more extensive research.
- Jonathan Webb
Davis, Paul K. 100 Decisive Battles from Ancient Times to the Present. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999.
Dougherty, Martin J. “Pydna, 168 BC.” In Battles of the Ancient World 1300 BC – AD 451, 120-129.London: Amber, 2007.
Fuller, J.F.C. The A Military History of the Western World Vol. 1. New York: Funk & Wagnalls, 1954.
Hammond, N.G.L. and F.W. Walbank. A History of Macedonia Vol. 3. Oxford: Clarendon, 1988.
Matyszak, Philip. Roman Conquests: Macedon and Greece. Barnsley: Pen & Sword, 2009.
Montagu, John Drogo. Greek and Roman Warfare: Battles, Tactics and Trickery. London: Greenhill, 2006.
Scullard, H.H. The Elephant in the Greek and Roman World. London: Thames & Hudson, 1974.
Lucius Aemilius Paullus: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lucius_Aemilius_Paullus_Macedonicus
Macedonian cavalry: http://www.dbaol.com/armies/army_49_figure_1.htm
Macedonian other infantry: http://www.dbaol.com/armies/army_49_figure_1.htm
Macedonian phalanx: http://scottthong.wordpress.com/2007/05/21/the-macedonian-phalanx/
Roman cavalry: http://www.dbaol.com/armies/army_46b_figure_1.htm
Roman legionnaires: http://www.dbaol.com/armies/army_46b_figure_1.htm
Roman other infantry: http://www.dbaol.com/armies/army_47_figure_1.htm
Roman war elephant: http://www.coolminiornot.com/213290
Tags: 100s BC, Ancient Era, cavalry, envelopment of a single flank, infantry, land, Lucius Aemilius Paullus, Macedonians, modern day Greece, penetration of the center, Perseus, Romans, Season 8, Southern Europe, Third Macedonian War, war elephant
Weider History Group