The Wars of Alexander's Successors 323 281 BC. Volume 2 by Bob Bennett;Mike Roberts;

The Wars of Alexander's Successors 323 281 BC. Volume 2 by Bob Bennett;Mike Roberts;

Author:Bob Bennett;Mike Roberts;
Language: eng
Format: epub
Tags: Ancient history: to c 500 CE
Publisher: Casemate Publishers & Book Distributors, LLC
Published: 2019-08-15T00:00:00+00:00

Aspects of this are difficult to interpret. Eumenes’ ploy makes sense in that he would have initially, as in the earlier Battle of Paraetacene, deployed his strongest wing on the right and also his strongest infantry units on the right of the phalanx, the usual place of honour (because it was usually the most dangerous side with the unshielded side exposed). But, when he was certain Antigonus was emphasizing his other wing he responded. However, at Gaza it seems Ptolemy had, against tradition, decided to make his main thrust from his left and only when he realized Demetrius was making his attack on the other flank did he adjust. It is possible he assumed that Demetrius would conform to tradition and lead from the right wing and so Ptolemy had intended to oppose him with his best men on his left.

The question that is begged was why on these particular occasions the parties readjusted but on others they did not. Presumably one factor was that they were able to do so. Before Gabene the armies approached each other from 8 miles away giving time for redeployment to occur and at Gaza, again, some time was available before the fighting began. But at Paraetacene, shortly before Gabene, it was a more confused affair brought on by Antigonus’ advance guard catching up with Eumenes which would not have allowed time for such a total redeployment. Clearly the tradition of the most prestigious units fighting on the right of the line was hallowed over centuries but it was far from an unbreakable rule. It had been breached by Epaminondas at Leuctra in 371 BC when he had brought the Sacred Band and his Boeotians to his left side, to ensure they would face the Spartans themselves, the strongest of his enemies. Even Philip, at Chaeronea in 338 BC, had posted the Companion cavalry under Alexander on his left to strike the fatal blow against the same Sacred Band, this time in the traditional place of honour on the right of the allied Greek line. Surprisingly Alexander had always conformed to the convention; in his four major battles he led the Companions on the right wing and the foot guards or hypaspists stood on the right hand side of the central phalanx. His Successors were more flexible but still, in most cases, conformed to what undoubtedly was expected by most of the troops. This is understandable and to change it willy-nilly might affect morale amongst extremely competitive warriors who valued reputation and worth almost as much as victory and loot. It is likely that if they did arrange their units in non-traditional fashion there would have been good reason for it.

That these officers of Alexander and their offspring were not always hidebound by tradition is equally shown here in that Demetrius was quite prepared to lead from the left, putting his best troops there as opposed to the traditional place of honour on the right. There seems no particular reason for this; the battle took place on an open plain, so terrain played no part in his decision making.


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