The story in a nutshell
Manojius's valiant attempt to stop Mohanius was crushed today in a dazzling display of cavalry tactics . The older and wiser Mohanius out thought and outfought young Manojius to inflict a crushing defeat on the last army that stood between Mohanius and the city of Rome.Manojius escaped capture but rumors say that he has sailed to China with his surviving legions. Mohanius continues his relentless march on Rome at the head of an army which has never known defeat...
The Battle Ground
And so it began...
After being surprised by Mohanius in Numidia, where he managed a draw against Mohanius' ragtag Numidian militia , Manojius departed post haste to Italy with the intention of strengthening defenses in anticipation of Mohanius' invasion. No sooner had he landed in Italy and retired to his tent with a nubile and willing Numidian dancing girl than he was rudely interrupted by his scouts who reported that Mohanius had landed close on his heels and was even now in camp on the beach just a few miles away.A livid Manojius marched his whole army over to the beach and went into a huddle with his legates to decide on a strategy.Mohanius meanwhile was slumped in a drunken stupor , leaving such trifling matters as strategy for the morrow.
The battle was fought on a beach flanked on one side by the sea and the only terrain feature of any significance was a small fishing village. Manojius had occupied this village as soon as he arrived on the field, and as shall be seen, this village was to play a significant part in the battle plans of both commanders.
Games people plan: What Manojius thought
"The fishing village is the key to the whole position" said Manojius , "whoever holds the village will win the battle. I am sure that the old fool will try to take it , and then try to turn our flank .We must stop him from doing so. All Roman civil war battles come down to a push and shove between legions and we ought to win that battle because our legions have more men than Mohanius' legions. His whole army hasn't landed yet and we must defeat him while his army is under strength."
"I agree general " said Nitius, Manojius' trusted legate , "but our scouts have reported that he has an allied contingent of a nationality unknown to us 'strange white clad barbarians ' they said , were aiding Mohanius."
"Bah! White clad barbarians indeed , If I know Mohanius it's probably his harem floating around his camp! Disgraceful that a Roman behave thus in front of his men. I think it is a hoax, but just in case he has brought some Numidian riff raff along with him, let's give him a surprise. Nitius ,you shall be in command of all our cavalry. you can guard the left flank and if his Numidian light horse tries any tricks massacre them."
"Ave Manojius, No band of ragtag skirmishers will get past my cavalry, we'll ride them down like the vermin they are. But I have a bad feeling. Mohanius won't be foolish enough to ask Numidians to engage Roman cavalry. He has something up his sleeve. I am also worried about the other flank sir,the village .... how do we defend it? Mohanius will certainly expect an ambush there. It is the only place on the field where troops can hide..."
"Ah but you see dear Nitius, I want him to expect an ambush there. what he will expect is an ambush by roman legionaries. What I intend to do is to ask our Gallic ally Somputrix to lie in ambush there. Somputrix hates Mohanius , because his protege Ramius defeated his father Somatix at Montpellier..."
Seeing the dubious expression on Nitius' face, Manojius continued " I know , I know I don't think much of Somputrix either, but frankly all I am hoping for is that they inflict a few casualties on the legion attempting to take the village and disorder them before our legions wades in...As I said ,in a legion vs legion crunch we'll win for sure..."
"ok " said Nitius " so you plan to defend the village on the beach with one legion and the Gauls and punch through the attackers while the other legion holds the center and the cavalry guards the left flank"
"Yes Nitius, both our legions will charge Mohanius legions as soon as they come within range. Our weight of numbers will push them back. And on the right we'll use the Gauls as a suicide squad to weaken his legiuons further before we hit home... Your job is to guard the left flank and prevent it from being turned by Mohanius' cavalry."
"Yes sir" said Nitius, "looks like a good plan to me. I'll find Somputrix and give him his orders". But as he walked out of the tent Nitius couldn't wholly shake his premonition of disaster.
Games people plan: What Mohanius planned
Mohanius' legate Fictius Pius was surprised to find Mohanius up at dawn bright eyed and showing no signs of a hangover. He was peering over the map and humming a few scales in the dorian mode when they assembled in the command tent.
"well Fictius," he said " a nice day for a battle Let's give Young Manojius a few whacks on the head and then we'll go to Rome, eh?"
"Sir, shouldn't we wait for the rest of the army to arrive? Our legions are seriously under strength and the auxiliaries haven't arrived yet" said Fictius Pius "Our scouts see no signs of an ambush in the village ,sir, so taking it ought to be easy , but if the legions fight toe to toe then its in the hands of the Gods...."
Mohanius grinned " Oh the ambush will be there Fictius. I know Manojius , He was a centurion in my army long ago and I know him well. He won't be able to resist..."
"So how do we take the village sir "
"we don't Fictius. What will we do with a puny village? Waste of good men!"
Fictius blinked. "we don't? So you plan to turn their left flank then ? "
" well we'll try . But I am not sure we'll succeed. Nitius will be commanding the cavalry there, I'd guess ,and he's a good general. I've asked our ally Syed pasha to attack Manojius' left flank with his Arab army but I doubt if they'll break through. I want to immobilize Nitius and prevent him from coming to Manojius aid while we destroy Manojius' center ."
"His center sir? " gasped Fictius " but he'll have his strongest legion there, perhaps even two legions."
"Indeed" grinned Mohanius "I expect him to put one legion in ambush in the village but since he has only two legions, I'm not sure he'll do that. He'll probably put his auxiliaries and skirmishers in the village , put two legions in the center and cavalry on his left.Of course he may come up with some other plan so we ought to be ready Come here Fictius," he beckoned towards the map. "Manojius has two strong legions with their full complement of auxiliaries and skirmishers , We have two legions too but they are under strength and our auxiliaries haven't arrived yet. So we can't afford a toe to toe slug fest with Manojius' legions. We have to concentrate our forces on one of the legions and destroy it while our cavalry and the Arabs delay the other legion and their cavalry.we'll refuse to go anywhere near the village . Instead we can make a few threatening motions now and then to keep the ambushers on their toes."
"I intend to fight the battle in 3 distinct phases. In the first phase, the Arabs and our light cavalry will charge at full gallop towards the roman troops. The Arabs will open a full fledged fight with whoever is on Manojius' left flank while our light cavalry will harass Manojius' legions.Our legions will stay close to camp , Ask the men to sit down and watch the battle"
"I will lead the heavy cavalry . As soon as I decide where to strike , I'll send word to you. March with *both* our legions and fall on the targeted legion which will hopefully have been softened up a bit by the time you arrive .If nothing else they'll have been constantly under attack by our skirmishers till you arrive whereas our men ought to be rested and relaxed.. Mean while I'll use the cavalry either to soften up the target further, delay Manojius' other legion or go To Pasha's aid if Nitius breaks through .This will be the second phase.
As soon as you arrive with your legions I'll get the cavalry out of your way and you can go toe to toe with the hopefully weakened legion while I strike elsewhere with the cavalry and take advantage of any gaps you or Pasha create. this will be the third phase.
"Is that clear Fictius?"
"Yes sir!" beamed Fictius " It'll be a good battle ."
"You youngsters are too blood thirsty for me" said Mohanius, shaking his head, but his grin matched that of Fictius.
Face of the Enemy
The morning saw both armies arrayed for battle facing each other across a stretch of empty beach. The weather was fine and the wind sweeping in out of the sea was cool and pleasant.The sea was calm and the waves whispered gently against the beach.Both armies were in a good mood and ready to fight though in Manojius' ranks a few grizzled veterans muttered and shook their heads. Manojius had the Gauls lying in ambush inside the village with a full legion ready to move up and support them as and when they attacked. Another full strength legion held the center ,again classically deployed with auxiliaries and psiloi in the front and triarii holding the rear The left, farthest away from the sea was occupied by Nitius and his cavalry.
Mohanius refused the flank nearest to the sea and had a company of Syrian horse archers on the left.To their right Mohanius himself led the elite Roman cavalry. To his right, two legions sat down on the ground exchanging jokes with their general,and munching late breakfasts . To their right, in column of march were Syed Pasha's Arab warriors, light cavalry and archers , all a little discomfited by the cool breeze but ready for battle nonetheless.
Operation Desert Hoax: The Charge of the valiant
Mohanius was the first to move. A casual wave of his hand sent Pasha's Arabs into a charge towards the Roman cavalry who were still gaping open mouthed at this weird collection of fierce tribesmen and cavalry.Their headdresses flying back from their brows and shouting eerie war cries in their native language , the Arab light cavalry flew like the wind across the beach and towards Nitius's Roman cavalry. The archers and fierce warbands ran full tilt after their light cavalry in their eagerness to come to grips with the Romans.
After initiating the Arab attack on his right , Mohanius waved the Syrian horse archers forward on his left. They had been given the responsibility of slowing or ideally, halting the march of Manojius' legions.as soon as these were on their way,Mohanius led his cavalry at a gallop toward the center of the opposing legions, without sparing a thought for his two legions still sitting on the ground placing bets on which attack column would strike the Polybians first.
Manojius was bewildered.There were three attack columns heading directly toward his army ,on his left(The Arabs), the center (Mohanius' cavalry) and on his right (the Syrians).Which was the real attack? Mohanius didn't seem to have any interest in the fishing village where his Gallic ambush waited. Trust the old man to adopt unorthodox tactics.Well, nothing to worry about . Nitius' cavalry would deal with the outlandish barbarians and he could trust his legions to stand up to cavalry charge or two or three flights of arrows from the Syrians. Mohanius legions were not even moving. Blast his whole battle plan hinged on starting a slug fest as soon as possible.
Thinking thus, Manojius ordered his army to begin a general advance.Since the whole army had to maintain the line the advance was slow and ponderous but Manojius was quite satisfied with it. Once we start moving , thought Manojius , nothing stops my boys.
On the left Nitius recovered from his surprise and prepared to meet the charge of the Arab light cavalry. An inherently more perceptive man than Manojius , Nitius could appreciate the predicament better. It was his guess that Mohanius would attack the center or the right and wanted to swing over and help the legions. Two factors caused him to stay where he was. One was the Arab cavalry advancing at a full gallop toward him and were almost in charging range and the second was Manojius' explicit orders to hold the left flank. he was not unduly worried though. He was confident that his heavily armored and trained cavalry would make mince meat of the unarmored Arab light cavalry and then he would destroy the Arab infantry and THEN he would swing right and flank Mohanius' cavalry. "Cavalry" he roared "prepare to charge". the Polybian cavalry formed line and calmly waited for the Arabs to come in range.
But Syed Pasha was not fool enough to charge into that waiting Roman cavalry line . just as the Roman cavalry began its charge, the Arab light cavalry veered right as one unit and rode onto the flank of the romans forcing a few of the Roman cavalry to turn to the right to keep the enemy to the front.
Nitius gasped. One moment there had been a huge mass of light horse in front of him and in the next, they were gone and almost immediately his charge ground to a halt. Raising himself in his saddle he waved frantically to the riders on his left to turn to the left to prevent the Arabs from turning his flank.
As he fought to get his horse under control , he saw a flight of arrows thud into his unit and a few horses went down. he glance forward to see the Arab archers forming into line and calmly notching their bows again. Even further behind the tribesmen were forming into a line as well and were yelling at the archers to get out of the way.
Nitius was a good general and appreciated the gravity of the situation . if the Arabs could fully form their battle line their archers would pick off his horse men one by one while the light cavalry engaged in hit and run tactics . he briefly debated whether to attack the light cavalry or the archers first and made up his mind. he didn't have the time to order a formal charge. Yelling "For Manojius and the Republic" he started a solitary charge into the ranks of the Arab archers . Inspired by their commander the Roman cavalry broke into a full blown charge at the waiting Arabs who were aiming point blank at the oncoming romans. To give the Arabs credit, they didn't waver. However their volley of arrows accomplished little against the heavily armoured Roman cavalry and when the charge struck home the line of Archers disintegrated, but not before disordering the Roman cavalry's line, so that Nitius had to stop and try to reorder the line.
Syed Pasha was horrified. His archers had been blown aside like so much chaff and the roman cavalry was readying for another charge at the tribesmen.
But he needn't have worried. When they saw their archers die, many of whom were the tribesmen's sons and brothers, the tribesmen went berserk. They whooped their blood curdling war cries and impetuously charged the Roman cavalry which was trying to regroup. Nitius was pulled from his horse and had to fight a desperate hand to hand battle to stay alive,. By the time he got another horse , the situation was totally out of control with the Roman cavalry engaged in a desperate struggle with the howling Arabs who were fighting berserk, ignoring casualties and wounds and had so thoroughly intermingled with the cavalry men that the whole line degenerated into bloody chaos.
Mohanius had achieved his first aim. As long as the Arab tribesmen kept fighting, Nitius was immobilized!
The Horse Archers of Syria
Manojius could see little of this. He and his legions were marching slowly but steadily forward when the Syrians came charging out of the horizon.They rode the auxiliaries down , most of whom ran to safety behind the legions shield wall. As the legions raised their shields, the Syrians turned and rode parallel to the oncoming legions firing arrow after arrow into the ranks.As the legions advanced they fell back but in a few minutes the rain of arrows changed from a nuisance to a menace. Intent on keeping line the legionaries couldn't use their shields effectively and soon with every arrow released a man fell , only to be trampled by the steadily advancing line.
Minute after minute the legions marched. Minute after minute legionaries fell while the Syrians danced away on their fleet horses and always there were more arrows. Manojius had five horses killed under him and finally had to dismount and join his legionaries' lines.
While this was going on Mohanius had formed his cavalry into a line just behind the Syrians, and waited patiently for the Polybian line to come to them.
Manojius' legions were quietly but efficiently being decimated by the rain of arrows. the legionaries died quietly and even the Syrians were silent now and the only sounds were of marching feet of Manojius' legions , the hoof beats of the Syrian horses and the hiss of descending arrows.Almost as fast as the gaps in the line were filled by the men behind, more arrows thudded into flesh and. As the legions drew level with the village the losses grew so horrendous that the legion's march ground to a halt and the legionaries crouched behind their shields in abject misery and looked pleadingly at their general.
Manojius looked at his legions and was horrified. The proud legion was visibly shrinking before his eyes as the Syrians charged and fired, retreated then charged again.
And beyond the Syrians Manojius could now see Mohanius' elite cavalry, patiently waiting for their turn . Manojius looked at the sharp lance tips of Mohanius' cavalry glinting in the sunlight and membered a day long ago when the sun had glinted exactly thus on the same lances, long ago, when Mohanius' cavalry had charged the Carthaginian army of Manubal and destroyed it.then he had taken heart from the sight of that cavalry. Now he looked at the cavalry and his heart sank. By the time he reached the cavalry , his men would be utterly demoralized and totally incapable of facing up to a charge . In a voice filled with despair Manojius ordered "Form Tetsudo!" and the remaining legionaries relievedly formed Tetsudos (?) and the legions came to complete halt."At least now" thought Manojius "we can't be decimated by their arrows." The trouble was they couldn't do anything else either....The whole of the Polybian line had come to a complete halt.
Death of a Legion
Mohanius was jubilant. He had expected the Syrians to wreak some minor damage on Manojius' legions but this was absolutely phenomenal. He had been forced to adopt a Numidian army to fight off Manojius' troops in numidia and he had gained a healthy respect for the hit and run tactics.
Somputrix the Gaul, watching from the safety of the village was appalled! So this was the mighty Mohanius. Didn't look like much, just an old man sitting quietly on a big black horse, taking a swig from a wine jug once in a while, but those eyes were everywhere. The thought of leaving the safety of the village and going out into the open turned his blood to ice water. A look behind confirmed that his men shared his sentiments entirely. And yet Somputrix tried. When a messenger rode a lathered horse into the village , carrying a message from Manojius asking them to attack, Somputrix gathered his remaining men (a good number had fled, appalled at the butchery of the Polybians) and got ready to charge.
Meanwhile, however, Mohanius's had summoned Fictius and his two legions of elite troops who were now lining up behind Mohanius' cavalry as Fictius rode over to confer with Mohanius.
Fictius gaped in wonder at the Tetsudo formation of Manojius' troops with the Syrians now shooting ineffectually into the shield wall and asked in a whisper "How did you manage that?". Mohanius said grimly "Not I Fictius . Horse Archers - the scourge of an infantry army . Now let's finish this battle "
"Shall I charge with my legions?" asked Fictius?
"No my boy, I don't think that will be necessary Let's have a few words with the commander of the horse archers" Mohanius said " But before that let's deal with our Gallic friends peering out of the village. Why don't you ask the legions to advance towards the village?"
Somputrix the Gaul, along with his men had stepped out of the village when he saw two Roman legions in glittering armour marching towards him. His "charge" order came out in a strangled whisper ... His men were petrified. Fictius was quick to seize the chance. He pointed his sword at the quaking Gauls and yelled "Chaaaaargeee"! The legion broke into a trot and then a full run. The Gauls took one look and ran for their lives while Fictius, tears of mirth streaming down his face , stopped his legions and reordered them into line. Now mohanius was ready to play a few tricks of his own...
Meanwhile Manojius was feeling a bit more confident His men were feeling more confident now and he gave orders to form line. The legionaries obeyed slowly throwing apprehensive glances at the distant cavalry when the Syrian horse archers came back into action.
Only this time they didn't gallop as before. They trotted slowly onto the field, like Regular cavalry.
In spite of Manojius' orders the legion's march slowed and halted. As the exhausted legionaries watched,, the commander of the Syrians raised his sword and the Syrians drew their swords.
For one moment the battlefield was totally quiet.
When the sword dropped , 2000 SYRIANS CHARGED MANOJIUS' LEGIONS YELLING AT THE TOP OF THEIR VOICES. Even Manojius was stunned. " this is a hoax " he yelled "They are horse archers.they can't charge legions they only shoot STAND damn you STAND!!!"
But some of his legionaries had had enough, wounded, demoralized and thoroughly exhausted, the sight of 2000 Syrians charging sapped whatever morale they had and three cohorts ran for their lives. Manojius quickly plugged the gap with elite skirmishers but when the Syrians slammed home, they routed. into the gaps in the line the Syrians poured a rain of death and destruction and soon the entire command broke and fled in confusion with the jubilant Syrians chasing down the fleeing infantrymen and riddling them with arrows. Manojius' command was slain practically to the last man but Manojius himself was led away by his slave whispering dazedly "this can't be happening...This can't happen..."
Sound the Retreat
On the other side of the battlefield Nitius was faring badly as well. the Arabs refused to retreat , no matter how many of them were cut down and had worked themselves into a berserker frenzy. In spite of the valiant efforts of Nitius his cavalry was slowly beaten back by the savagery of the tribesmen and Nitius had to watch helplessly as his units routed. Manojius had sent a few units of elite spearmen to stiffen Nitius' infantry, but Pasha's light cavalry had ambushed them . While Pasha's light cavalry could make little headway against the resolute spearmen, when Nitius' s command routed , the Arabs surrounded the spearmen on all sides. After a vicious battle in which neither side asked or gave quarter the spearmen perished to the last man. Nitius was too occupied in extracting as much of his precious cavalry alive from the field to render them any aid taking advantage of the Arab's focus on the spearmen , he glanced over the field to see Manojius ' command streaming from the field. Nitius was puzzled . In the distance he could see Mohanius' cavalry and legions standing idle on the battle field ,not having drawn their weapons while his army was in tatters.
He was smart enough to see that he had no chance of victory now and weeping with rag and despair he sounded the retreat. A jubilant Fictius could scarcely contain himself.He galloped up to Mohanius and said " the road to Rome lies open O Mohanius". "A nasty business when countrymen have to fight each other" he sighed , his face suddenly sombre, "and all because of the idiots in the senate. Once I win they'll pay.... Oh how they'll pay...."
Fictius looked at his commander's face and the cruelty in his eyes.
Epilogue: Man missing
Manojius disappeared , never to be seen again in Rome. Rumors say that he invaded China, trounced the Chinese armies sent to oppose him and founded an empire...
A Tetsudo or "Tortoise" is a typical Roman Fighting formation used against missile fire. A Tetsudo was formed when a group of soldiers covered themselves under shields, held to the front by front rank men, to the left or right by men on the edges and above the head by men in the center. Although useful against missile fire, a tetsudo limited mobility and rendered the unit ineffective against mounted charges.
Mohanius says that...
- Bows are practically useless against mounted, in the open. How DOES one use these darned things anyway?
- Warbands can take on cavalry and should eventually win...
- Light Horse can kill blades! but can't be killed :-) (Even Psiloi vs Blades look good)
- Immobilising or eliminating the cavalry is a significanyt step towards destroying a Roman army.
- Keeping significant portions of the army immobile and spending alll the pips on a few commands (like the cavalry/light horse in this battle) is a worthy tactic (as long as the General is mobile) and the advancing units don't get surrounded.
- The key to victory is being able to anticipate the opponent's moves/deployment and /or having a flexible plan in mind.
Manojius says that...
- Polybian Romans cannot afford to be stopped dead in their tracks by light troops.
- If they do, they'll be dead before they know!
- Cavalry should clear the route of advance of enemy light troops, flanks can be protected by terrain and/or light troops.
- For Romans, splitting and attaching the available cavalry to different commands can be more useful than keeping them as a separate command.
- Refusing a flank and attacking else where has to be tried out. Often, the forces tend to be thinly spread out owing to a lengthy front.
- Say your prayers well everyday!