Battle of Thymbra, 546 BC
By Jonathan Webb
(Ensure you hit F5 or View Show)
Cyrus the Great versus Croesus: A Lydian army under Croesus tries to engulf a Persian army under Cyrus, who fields a secret weapon. Will this secret weapon prove decisive?
Typically the villains in Western sources, it is important to consider that there is hardly an “evil” villain in history. The foundations of the Persian Empire were laid in victory at this battle, won by one of history’s greatest and most honourable conquerors. After Cyrus the Great came Alexander the Great, who emulated the great Persian conqueror, from his generous post-victory strategies to his march routes to invade the east.
It is difficult to criticize commanders’ battle management for such an ancient battle because it hardly existed; a vague battle plan was drawn up and subordinates would follow the plan but act upon their own initiative when conditions inevitably changed. Battle preparations therefore become key and Cyrus’ were superior to Croesus. Croesus failed to properly survey Cyrus’ dispositions, underestimating the strong Persian shock force to the rear, and then launched a bold attack with his entire force. Cyrus meanwhile allowed his first line to engage before personally leading his second line reserve to decide the battle.
I decided to animate this battle when I realized I had only posted battles where the Persians and their successors lose whether it is to Miltiades, Alexander, Belisarius or Khalid. While these commanders were top-notch, I was afraid this type of repetitive imagery of losses might make the Persians appear to be the nameless henchmen that are always defeated in comic books and action movies.
I was not particularly pleased with the final product of this animation, which is common for ancient battles with few sources. Rather than include details that may be frivolous and unverifiable, I was forced to focus on essential themes which characterized the battle: camels forcing the Lydian cavalry to dismount and the excessive depth of the Egyptian phalanx (Xenophon, c. 400 BC: 6.3.20) according to Croesus’ battle plan. Xenophon mentions how gaps between the Lydian wings and center developed as the wings enveloped the Persian box (c. 400 BC: 7.1.6-8) which Davis states were exploited by Cyrus who sent his cavalry through them (1999: 7). However, this is not explicitly mentioned by Xenophon or Herodotus and Persian cavalry did not need to pour through these gaps for them to be problematic; Xenophon likely mentioned them to illustrate the Lydian wings and center were not cooperating.
- Jonathan Webb
Clothier, Stephen. Greek Perspectives on Cyrus and his Conquests. Hamilton: McMaster University, 1997.
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.
Farrokh, Kaveh. Shadows in the Desert: Ancient Persia at War. Oxford: Osprey, 2007.
Herodotus. The Histories. Translated by Aubrey de Selincourt. New York: Penguin, 2003.
Lamb, Harold. Cyrus the Great. London: Hale, 1961.
Xenophon. Cyropaedia. Translated by Maurice Ashley. London: 1728.
Cyrus the Great: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cyrus_the_Great
Egyptian infantry: http://www.twcenter.net/forums/showthread.php?t=61303
Lydian cavalry: http://www.riseofpersia.com/forums/viewtopic.php?f=15&t=619&view=previous
Map of the Middle East: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cyrus_the_Great
Map of the world: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_map_projections
Persian cavalry: http://www.twcenter.net/forums/showthread.php?t=66603
Persian infantry: http://www.twcenter.net/forums/showthread.php?t=40239
Tags: 500s BC, Ancient Era, camel cavalry, cavalry, chariot, Croesus, Cyrus the Great, envelopment of a single flank, envelopment of both flanks, infantry, land, Lydians, modern day Turkey, Persians, Season 6, Western Asia
Weider History Group