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"Libyan Pike at Raphia 217?" Topic

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Uesugi Kenshin Supporting Member of TMP23 Jan 2020 10:16 a.m. PST

So I read a great article in Ancient Warfare magazine about the battle of Raphia.

Two of the "eye openers" about the Ptolemaic Army OOB asserted by the author were the following:

The 8,000 Mercenary Greeks and the 3,000 Libyans were trained in the "Macedonian Fashion", ie as Philangites.

The Greeks didn't come as a surprise to me seeing as Ptolemy had already levied and trained 20,000 Egyptians as pikemen.

I was slightly more surprised by the Libyans. Since this battle was concurrent with the 2nd Punic War I assumed the Libyan contingent would be consistent with their Carthaginian counterparts (ie a mix of Heavy and Skirmish infantry).

Just wondering if this was news to anyone else and how you may have modled the Libyans in past games.


JJartist23 Jan 2020 11:22 a.m. PST

The "Libyans" were from Kyrene so probably already equipped as phalangites. The Greeks are less clearly phalangites IMO. But then that begs whether they were armored thureophoroi or, shudder, the last hoplites?

I tend to believe that since the Asiatic levy was placed opposite them the Greeks were thureophoroi, maybe some armored.
Placing the Asiatic levies opposite a pike phalanx would be criminally stupid. As it was, the Asiatic and Arab troops seemed to have put up a less than stellar resistance.

Modeling the Kyrenians seems easy enough, just use regular phalangites, since they would have been equipped by the state. If one feels fancy then add a shield design of the Silphium plants that made Kyrene a prize.


tabletopwargamer23 Jan 2020 11:24 a.m. PST

As there was no such place as Libya its anyone's guess who those people really were or how they fought.

Uesugi Kenshin Supporting Member of TMP23 Jan 2020 12:00 p.m. PST

Thanks Jj. I too had the Greeks figured as Thureophoroi prior to reading the article.

The trouble with putting the Arabs opposite the Greeks may have come down to the fact that they didn't have anyone better fill that space at the time. Ptolemy's pikes greatly outnumber the Seleucids, with or without the Greeks and Libyans added in.

John Edmundson23 Jan 2020 12:47 p.m. PST

At that time Kyrene was under direct Ptolemaic control. So I've assumed that they are standard Pike equipped infantry. The Greeks I assumed were Pike as well.- I think they would have been described as thureophoroi if that were the case, but it is certainly plausible.


GurKhan23 Jan 2020 2:44 p.m. PST

I tend to disagree with Jeff in both cases.

I think it very unlikely that the Libyan infantry were from Kyrene. Polybios (V.65) calls them "Libyans", which is more an ethnic than a geographic term: I doubt that Kyrenean Greeks, despite living in "Libya" (which to the Greeks meant either the entire African continent, or else that bit of it north of the Sahara), would be called "Libyans". As a contrast, the cavalry in the same army-list are called "from Libya", "tous apo Libues", a strictly geographic description: these _might_ have been Kyrenean Greeks, or even military settlers if the cleruch-system was extended into the nearer parts of Libya, like the "local" cavalry they were brigaded with. So the Libyan infantry "armed in the Macedonian fashion" were like the Egyptian phalanx in that they were non-Greeks trained up in Hellenistic style.

On the other hand, that the Greek mercenaries are specifically said to have been "trained together" with the phalanx, which is an unusual thing to point out in a context like this, makes it seem likely to me that they were being trained in the same manoeuvres because they were armed and formed in the same way. It didn't matter if they'd been thureophoroi beforehand, because Ptolemy's officers "assign[ed] to each division its appropriate arms, taking no account of what they had borne before" 5.64).

As for who was placed opposite whom, Polybios gives no indication that either general was able to respond to the other side's deployment in this way; they both marched out of camp and formed up more or less simultaneously, and it doesn't sound as if either tried (or had time?) to vary their pre-planned formation.

Personal logo BigRedBat Sponsoring Member of TMP23 Jan 2020 3:10 p.m. PST

So from further west than Kyrene, Duncan?

GurKhan24 Jan 2020 9:32 a.m. PST

Not necessarily further west, no. Perhaps, for instance, they might have been drawn from the Adyrmachidae, whom both Herodotos and pseudo-Skylax describe as the first of the Libyan peoples, on the border of Egypt and probably under Egyptian rule. Or perhaps people like the Nasamones, due south of Kyrene.

Just that the Kyreneans are Greeks – link – and the "Libyans" aren't.

Uesugi Kenshin Supporting Member of TMP24 Jan 2020 10:16 a.m. PST

Gurkhan, do you suppose there is a reason that the Egyptian troops are designated by their battlefield roll (ie pike) but the Greeks and Libyans are denoted by their ethnicity or location of recruitment? Or did the author not know about their specific armament possibly?

GurKhan24 Jan 2020 2:03 p.m. PST

Polybios describes the Libyans as "armed in the Macedonian style" (5.65.8) and the Egyptians as "phalangites" (5.65.9) – so no, the Libyans are not described _only_ by ethnicity. I don't see any real difference between the two descriptions.

Uesugi Kenshin Supporting Member of TMP24 Jan 2020 2:30 p.m. PST

Gotcha. Thnx.

JJartist24 Jan 2020 5:37 p.m. PST

"I tend to disagree with Jeff in both cases."

At least I goaded Duncan into offering up such compelling arguments, and received the deserved rebuff.

I reckon what I was thinking when I wrote, was that the Libyans were possibly from around Kyrene. So I was speaking regionally instead of ethnically.

The other issue the gamer will want to resolve is if these are phalangites, then it seems that they would be state supplied, so gear and uniforms may have been standard.

When folks mention Libyan pike phalanx, then I wax nostalgic about all the rancor of the late Peter Connolly's mail clad phalangite art causing the collective gaming world's head to explode twenty years ago.

Always great to smacked down when it leads to the truth.

Swampster25 Jan 2020 2:45 a.m. PST

" I wax nostalgic about all the rancor of the late Peter Connolly's mail clad phalangite art causing the collective gaming world's head to explode twenty years ago."
I hope this doesn't make anyone feel old, but the mail-clad phalangite was in Connolly's book "Hannibal and the Enemies of Rome" _forty_ years ago :(

Personal logo BigRedBat Sponsoring Member of TMP25 Jan 2020 2:54 a.m. PST

LOL how the years fly past!

JJartist25 Jan 2020 10:22 a.m. PST

LOL-- yes but in Connelly's first book "Hannibal and the Enemies of Rome" 1978, the image is listed as a "Carthaginian pikeman from Hannibal's army"…
and then in the revisionist version in "Greece and Rome at War" 1981 the same image is listed as a "Late Hellenistic pikeman wearing typical equipment."

Heads exploded in the WAB Forums twenty years ago. I still like the look of the Libyan phalangite though-- as a cool miniature/unit-- we are all caught in the conceit of how our miniature armies are supposed to look.

(Note how I artfully deflect from Duncan's smackdown about my disinformation, I blame senility now that youngster Swampster reminds me of the terrible strain of years :)


MartinDG26 Jan 2020 3:40 a.m. PST

As Jeff says; I for one still have a unit equipped like the picture, because they look so good!

DukeWacoan Supporting Member of TMP Fezian28 Jan 2020 1:20 p.m. PST

My Ptolemaic Libyans are shown here -


After a lot of back and forth, I used basic phalangite poses as are shown.

I used normal length sarissa for the Libyans and other Phalangites, but shorter (scaled to 12') for the "Peltasts".

The Egyptians are effectively the same poses as the Libyans in my OOB, but with 6 ranks instead of 4.

Uesugi Kenshin Supporting Member of TMP28 Jan 2020 5:48 p.m. PST

As an aside, GMT Games rates the Ptolemaic Greeks as armored Hoplites and the Libyans as Light Cavalry.

And every wargame scenario I've seen has the Greeks as Hoplites and the Libyans as Light Infantry.

So no one should feel smacked down for sharing in their opinion.

JJartist28 Jan 2020 6:15 p.m. PST

"So no one should feel smacked down for sharing in their opinion."

Getting smacked down by Duncan is most pleasant- it reinforces that I am an enthusiast, and he is an authority.

@DukeWacoan 's Raphia army is superb looking, I love folks that put on big Raphia games, and that is the best feedback I get from keeping the website alive!

(At least on that old map I made, the Greeks are simply labeled generically, but I need to update that scenario :)

DukeWacoan Supporting Member of TMP Fezian28 Jan 2020 9:02 p.m. PST

I very closely followed the GMT GBoH in terms of ratings, using Simple GBoH as the rules converted to minis. Cannot advocate trying them for minis enough. Smooth, simple and fast. And our results have been very historical in 5 full games played to conclusion.

Uesugi Kenshin Supporting Member of TMP28 Jan 2020 10:34 p.m. PST

I used both SPQR and Alexander to flesh out some holes or confirm my numbers in my Orbats. Not the least of which were Heraclea, Praetekinae, & Raphia.

Now….about those 10,000 Arabs…

DukeWacoan Supporting Member of TMP Fezian11 Feb 2020 12:13 p.m. PST

I think the "Arabs" were from the Palestine area.

I used a mix of Crusader "Numidian" Bows, Javelins and Bows. I figured them as a motley looking unit that has both limited Javelin and Archer Missile capability, but fight as formed Lights. While I mainly used Numidian figures, I painted as figures from the Palestine area with some Greek shield symbols. That seems to be what "Arab" meant. You could also use Maccabees figs.

Uesugi Kenshin Supporting Member of TMP11 Feb 2020 3:15 p.m. PST

Most often I've seen pre-Islamic ranges used Duke (I think Essex has some).

However the nicest idea I've seen so far was where someone had used Sassanid Infantry including Javelins, Spears, Bows & Slings. They were painted in pretty drab colors.

It was a nice departure from what I've usually seen for this periods Arabs & Nabateans.

GurKhan12 Feb 2020 2:24 a.m. PST

Note that Polybios (V.79.8, 82.12) says "the Arabs and neighbouring tribes", so you could justify some variation in appearance and equipment between the different nationalities.

"After garrisoning Atabyrium also, he advanced and took Pella, Camus, and Gephrus. The consequence of this series of successes was that the Arab tribes in the neighbourhood, inciting each other to this step, unanimously adhered to him" (V.70-71)

Atabyrium is probably ( link ) on Mount Tabor and Pella is in the Jordan valley, so we are indeed looing at northern Palestine rather than Nabataea or peninsular Arabia.

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