DBA Resources

Army Notes

Thracian (700BC-46AD)
(DBA I/48)

By Dan Higdon

"First of all the Thracians, like beasts of prey long held behind bars, charged so vigourously with a great shout upon the Roman right wing, the Italian cavalry, that this people, courageous by nature and through experience in war, was thrown into confusion...", Livy XLII, 59

"The Thracians were an Indo-European people who occupied the area between northern Greece and southern Russia beginning in the 7th millennia BC. They shared the same language and culture, although the former had no written form, and they never achieved a national conciousness." -- Christopher Webber, Thrace and the Thracians

The Thracians are perhaps best known for introducing the use of Peltasts to the Greek world. A peltast carried a shield and helmet for protection, and fought with javelin and sword in loose order formations, emphasizing mobility over shock power. Thracians were also famed for their cavalary, as they had exceptionally fine horses, and employed the advanced light horse tactics of the Skythians.

Thracian men traditionally wore their hair in top-knots, and their pointed "alokepsis" hat was designed around this practice, as was the "Thracian" helmet pattern later popular throughout the ancient world. Thracians also wore long, colorful cloaks called "Zeira", which were brightly decorated with geometric patterns.

The Thracians were known to be hard drinking and hard fighting people, having little fear of death. Many of them worshipped Dionysius, Ares, Artemis (Bendix), Zalmoxis, and Hermes. Most Thracians believed in an afterlife and the herogod, the "Thracian Horseman". This all-seeing, all-hearing hero god embodied all that was brave and good, and was believed to keep the forces of evil at bay from his kingdom in the underworld.

Composition

The Thracian list includes the following element types:

3Cv General's element comprised of well outfitted Thracian nobles. These nobles often had fine bronze armor imported from Greece. Early Thracian cavalry wore Chalcidian helmets if they wore helmets at all, only later exchanging them for the "Thracian" helmets often seen in pictures. Later Thracian nobles wore more advanced composite scale armor, similar to the Skythians.
2LH

The majority of Thracian cavalry was unarmoured javelin-armed light cavalry. These troops fought primarily with javelins, but could charge in the wedge formation used by the Skythians to some effect.

Later cavalry would carry the Pelta, and by the time of Alexander, some would carry the Thureos and wear open faces helmets, like the Thracian and Boeotian helmets. There is evidence that later light horse carried long swords and sarissae (lances), making them more dangerous opponents to formed foot troops.

Light horse riders would wear traditional Thracian garb: alokepsis, zeira, and boots.

3Aux

These are the Peltasts and Thureophoroi which make up the bulk of the Thracian army. Fighting in loose order and using melee weapons when necessary, they were very effective in broken terrain, but unable to stand up to heavy formed troops in the open.

Their primary weapons were the javelin (of which they traditionally carried 2), and some sort of melee weapon. This weapon could be anything from a stabbing spear to a falx, to the "rhomphaia", which was a sort of battle scythe unique to the Thracians.

Before 300BC, these soldiers would carry the crescent shaped Pelta, and wore no helmets. Later, the Pelta was exchanged for the sturdier Thureos: a thick, oval shield believed to have been copied from Celtic designs. They also adopted the "Thracian" helmet some time in the 4th Century BC.

2Ps

These could be javelin men, slingers, or (very rarely) archers. In early Thracian armies, the javelin men would be visually almost indistinguishable from Peltasts. They may have carried more javelins than a peltast, and wore either an alokepsis hat or went bare headed. Later javelin troops differed little in appearance, but may have adopted the Thureos shield.

Slingers were often the poorest troops, and dressed in little more than their tunics, which would be an earth tone in color.

Archers were very rare in the Thracian army, but were not unheard of.

Terrain Notes

As a Hilly terrain type, the DBA Thracian army must deploy 1-2 compulsory Steep Hills. River, Woods, BUA, Road are Optional, so 2-3 of these features must be present, with the constraint that no more than one each of BUA and River is allowed, and no more that 2 each of the other features.

Since the Thracians tended to build their walled cities and fortresses on the tops of hills, it seems natural to make any BUA be on top of one of the steep hills. As per the rules, this means that the BUA defenders do not get a bonus for defending the hill, but the hill itself is considered bad going, so anyone trying to attack the BUA will have difficulty.

Tactics

Be fast when your opponent is slow, be nimble where he is clumsy, etc. The ability to change up to 1/4 of your army from LH to Aux gives you flexibility, and your low aggression factor often allows you to build a battlefield that is advantageous.

As with most Auxilia heavy armies, the best tactic is to be the defender, and set up plenty of bad going terrain. In bad going, Auxilia is among the most powerful elements available, able to go toe to toe with even blades, and besting all other troops. Choose to field all 9xAux, and let the LH have the day off, unless you need them to bust up some Spear, Pike, or Knight units.

If you need to fight in open terrain, or against other armies that like bad going, do not despare. Field all 3 LH units, and let some of your Auxilia stay home with their wives and children. The LH can destroy Spear and Pike if they can beat them, and are fast enough to threaten the flanks of blade units. Use your single cavalry general carefully, and avoid the temptation to throw him into combat too soon. With some good terrain usage, you can give any Hoplite army a bad time.

When fighting mounted armies, remember that your Psiloi can support up to 3 Auxilia at once, even in bad going, so you can fight cavalry on even terms in the open. Knights can still kill you without a double, but remember that your LH can do the same to them. Remember, with decent terrain on your side, and a bold battle plan, you can be victorious.

Enemies

Book I

  • 30c, Dark Age and Geometric Greek, 724BC-650BC
  • 41, Phrygian, 800BC-676BC
  • 43ab, Kimmerian, Skythian, or Early Hu, 750BC-50AD
  • 47, Illyrian, 700BC-10AD
  • 48, Thracian, 700BC-46AD
  • 50, Lydian, 687BC-546BC
  • 52efg, Early Hoplite Greek, Athenian (668-541BC, 540-450BC), Asiatic Greek (668-541BC)
  • 54, Early Macedonian, 650-335BC
  • 60a, Early Achaemenid Persian, 550-420BC
  • 63, Paionian, 512-284BC
  • Book II

  • 5bi, Later Hoplite Greek, 450-275BC, Athenian, Others
  • 11, Gallic, 400BC-50AD
  • 12, Alexandrian Macedonian, 355-320BC
  • 15, Alexandrian Imperial, 328-320BC
  • 17, Lysimachid, 320-281BC
  • 18a, Macedonian Early Successor, 320-260BC, Antipatros
  • 19abc, Seleucid, 320-167BC
  • 24, Early Roxolani Sarmatian, 310BC-100AD
  • 30a, Galatian, 280-273BC
  • 33, Polybian Roman, 275-105BC
  • 35, Later Macedonian, 260-148BC
  • 49, Marian Roman, 105-25BC
  • 56, Early Imperial Roman, 25BC-197AD
  • Allies

    Later Hoplite Greek - Others (II/5i) or Early Imperial Roman (II/56)

    Other Resources

    Thrace and The Thracians (a.k.a. The Threskourion): This site really has all you could ever want to know about Thracians, from culture to weaponry.


    | Top of Page | Army Notes | DBA Resources |


    Thanks to Dan Higdon for contributing this essay. Comments, questions or suggested additions to this page can be sent to Chris Brantley, IamFanaticus@gmail.com.

    Last Updated: August 3, 2001