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"Julius Caesar and his Hellenistic army?" Topic


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Comments or corrections?

Frank the Arkie03 Jul 2024 7:34 p.m. PST

You'll find an intriguing passage in Suetonius, Lives of the Caesars (I'm looking at Catharine Edwards' translation in the Oxford World's Classics series). On page 4, after Caesar gets his revenge on his former pirate kidnappers, Suetonius tells us that "Mithridates was laying waste some neighboring regions…." Not wanting to be idle at this time of peril, Caesar "crossed over from Rhodes (which he had finally reached) to Asia. Having secured some auxiliaries and driven the king's prefect from the province," Caesar shored up Rome's alliances with wavering local states.

That's all I've been able to find about this incident in the primary sources at my disposal. I don't pretend to be an expert here. This authority states that this incident happened about 73 BC (see page 334): PDF link

The thought of gaming local "auxiliaries" commanded by Caesar against Mithridatic forces (in all their glorious variety) is fascinating.

Here's my question: what would Caesar's force likely be composed of?

(1) Are any Roman units involved, or are these all Hellenistic "auxiliaries" from Asia Minor?

(2) Would the lion's share of these "auxiliaries" be peltast/thureophoroi types, perhaps from coastal cities like Ephesus or Miletus? Would a phalanx stand (or unit) be entirely out of place?

(3) Could you include Cretan archers or "reformed" pirates? What would skirmishers look like in Asia Minor at this time?

(4) Would the cavalry be Tarentine-like?

My guess is that Ceasar's "auxiliaries" are predominantly, if not entirely, Hellenistic types with minimal or no Roman troops.

Let your imagination run wild – I'm interested in any and all input. Thanks!

lionheartrjc03 Jul 2024 10:25 p.m. PST

Great topic! My favourite period of history.

Mithridates had previously arranged the massacre of all Italians in Asia Minor so these troops would I believe be militia organised by the local cities, possibly led by local leaders, Italians or Romans. You might have a cohort of Romans from the legions brought over to fight Mithridates.
These auxilaries might be thureophoroi (however they were equipped!) or "armed in the Roman manner" (as the sources describe it) which I presume means equipped with throwing weapons and a sword. A hellenistic pike phalanx isn't likely.
There was probably no difference between a mercenary and a pirate! Plenty of Cretans were both is my guess.
Skirmishers would look like most skirmishers did throughout this period, wearing a tunic and lightly equipped with slings or javelins.
Very little cavalry would also be my guess, anyone with a horse would probably be an officer. Maybe a small group consisting of the sons of the local aristocrats.

Whatever you put together, it will be hard for anyone to prove you entirely wrong!

rustymusket04 Jul 2024 6:21 a.m. PST

Please keep us posted.

Frank the Arkie10 Jul 2024 6:55 p.m. PST

Lionheartrjc, thanks for the thoughts – you make sense to me. I could see a unit or two of Romans, and the rest local auxiliaries. Should make for a challenging contest against various Pontics.

The source seems to indicate some haste on Caesar's part, so I guess its not likely that he'd have mercenary or allied cavalry from someplace like Gaul.

Rustymusket, will do – I have a lot of painting to go!

DBS30312 Jul 2024 1:50 a.m. PST

Not confined to Caesar – quite a few Republican armies in the more eastern bits of the Med were probably more local than we might imagine, large Roman forces only being shipped over for major, preplanned campaigns.

IIRC, there is also evidence even during the early principate of city militias being active. Not talking about client states, well known for providing allied contingents. There is at least one engineering inscription (I think from a canal) which seems to indicate Antiochene militia working alongside legionnaries during the Flavian period.

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