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Syracuse 410-210 BC

By Stephen Montague

Time line | Enemies | Allies | Army list | Painting guide | Tactics |

Syracuse was a colony of Corinth; it was the most important Greek colony on Sicily. Syracuse kept its links with Greece throughout the period covered. As a result Greece mercenaries were widely used and generals from Greece were also a feature of Syracuse's forces.

During this period there were four main causes of wars. Carthaginian expansion, Roman expansion, rivalry with other colonies and civil wars. The last was usually as a result of the first two. The reason for that was that to organize their defence the citizens would appoint a dictator to run things. These would often stage a coup and become tyrants. The Citizens would then stage a rebellion to try and restore democracy. Notable tyrants were Agathokles, Dionysios and Hieron.

Until the end of the first Punic war however Syracuse spent most of its time fighting off Carthaginian expansion in Sicily.

Syracuse also imported Greek generals; the most famous was Timoleon who helped rid Syracuse of Dionysios the second and then defeat Carthage and was most notable for not becoming a tyrant afterwards. Another Greek general invited to Sicily to defend the Greeks from the Carthaginians was Pyrrhus who was there from 277 to 275 BC. See Army info on Pyrrhus.

During the first Punic war Syracuse supported Carthage at first but quickly change allegiance to Rome. During the second Punic war they supported Carthage and ended up being besieged and captured by the Romans.

Despite all this activity at home Syracuse also sent forces abroad during the period covered. They sent forces into southern Italy in 386 and 300 BC, North Africa in 310 BC and Illyria in 385 BC. The first of these was an attempt to try and expand into southern Italy. The second was during a war with the Carthaginians and the war was being taken to the Carthaginians. The third was an attempt to aid Illyria in their war with Eperios.

Time line

406 Dionysios comes to power
399 Artillery invented by engineers working for Dionysios
397 Dionysios I captures Motya from Carthage
386 Dionysios I Invades southern Italy
385 Troops sent to aid Illyria
367 Dionysios I dies
366 Dionysios II Inherits
357 Dion overthrows Dionysios II
354 Dion assassinated
346 Dionysios II recovers Syracuse
345/4 Syracuse revolts and appeals to Corinth for help. They send Timoleon who forces Dionysios to surrender
341 Timoleon defeats the Carthaginians at Crimisus
334 Timoleon dies
317 Agathokles becomes tyrant
311 Agathokles is defeated by the Carthaginians at Licata and besieged in Syracuse
310 Agathokles takes an army to north Africa even though Syracuse is still besieged by Carthage
309 The other Greek colonies in Sicily combine against Syracuse
308 Agathokles murders his ally Ophellas and takes over his army
307 Agathokles returns to Syracuse
300 Agathokles intervenes in southern Italy
289 Agathokles Dies
288 Mamertines (a group of Campanian mercenaries turned bandits) occupy Messana
277 Pyrrhus arrives in Sicily
275 Pyrrhus returns to Italy
269 Hieron becomes Tyrant
264 First Punic war starts. Syracuse allies with Carthage against Rome and the Mamertines.


Syracuse changes alliance to Rome
241 End of first Punic war. Carthage driven from Sicily by Rome
219 Start of second Punic war
215 Syracuse allies with Carthage against Rome
212 Syracuse captured and sacked by Rome


Enemies of Syracuse include the Etruscan League (I/57b), Early Carthaginians (I/61b), Later Hoplite Greeks -- Athenians (II5b), Italiot Greeks (II5g) and Siciliot Greeks (II5h), Pyrrhic (II/27b), Later Carthaginians (II/32) and Polybian Rome (II/33).

This list presents something of a puzzle. Pyrrhus didn't fight Syracuse during his time in Sicily as far as I am aware, so the inclusion of his army is odd. Note for civil wars I would use this list for the tyrant and the Siciliot list for the citizens.


Potential Big Battle allies for Syracuse include Later Carthaginian (II/32), Early Libyan (I/7c), or either Kyrenean Greek (I/56b) or Numidian/Early Moorish (II/40) representing Agathokles invasion of North Africa in 310-307 BC.

Army List

The Syracusan army is composed of the following element types:

3Cav Greek cavalry
2LH Greek light cavalry
4Sp Syracusan or mercenary hoplites
4Aux Can be depicted as follows:
  • Mercenary Greek Peltasts who may have first appeared in this army when Thracian peltasts were first hired in 390 BC;
  • Theureophroi appeared during the third century BC, after 275 BC according to DBM list. These replaced Peltasts; or
  • Campanian or Samnites from southern Italy
3Aux Can be depicted as:
  • Ligurians from Northern Italy;
  • Sikels who were natives from the interior of Sicily; or
  • Spanish mercenaries. Spanish troops at first may have been Celtiberians. So during Dionysios reign you may wish to replace Spanish Ax with Celtiberian 1x3Wb. Whether they were Celtiberians or not the first Spanish Mercenaries appeared in Syracuse army about 396 BC.
3Wb Mercenary Gauls
Art Bolt shooters
2Ps Archers, slingers or javelinmen

Other Notes

Celts seem to have first appeared in Syracuse army during the 370s BC

The period 310 to 307 BC covers Agathokles invasion of Africa; it therefore could not have the following: Spanish, Ligurians, Sikels, artillery or any mounted troops.

Painting guide

Hoplites: White Armour, bronze helmets and grieves. Tunics white, red, brown, grey, black, green, yellow possibly with a coloured band at the edge. Shields were bronze but could be painted all would be decorated.

Peltasts: Bronze helmets. Tunic as above. Shield crescent shaped or round. Made out of wicker and sometimes left uncovered, most would be covered. Could be covered with goat, sheepskin or polished bronze and decorated. Patterns include simple faces or stars.

Theureophroi: As peltast but with larger oval Celtic style shields.

Archers and slingers: Tunic without sleeves, possibly white for the archers but more likely the usual tunic colours. Some slingers and archers will have small round shield.

Javalinmen: As archers and slingers but poorer so tunics in grey's, brown's and off white. All carried small round or crescent shaped shields.

Greek heavy cavalry: Bronze armour and helmet. Tunics in the usual colours but given that these represented the richer citizen's white would be more likely. Shields were only adopted for cavalry use in the third century BC these would be Hoplite style round shields.

Greek light cavalry: May have bronze helmet a hat or be bare headed. Wears the sleeveless tunic. Adopted shields at same time as heavies.

Campanians and Samnites: They wore short tunics (the ancient version of miniskirts) the basic colour of which is usually red or white but could also be red-brown, ochre, light grey or blue-grey. The tunics were decorated along the hems, sleeves, neck and across the shoulders or could have patterned fabric. The colours used for this were as for the tunic base colour plus black, yellow and blue. Bronze helmets and belts were worn, the helmets having crests and feathers. The richer warriors would have a bronze plate protecting their chest. This could be round, square, square with fake muscles or made of three discs arranged in a triangle. Bronze grieves could also be worn. A variety of shields were used ranging from large round Hoplite style ones, smaller round ones, oval ones and a one that looks like a medieval kite shield with the top flattened. These would be painted and bore decorations.

Ligurians: They wore long sleeved tunics with a broad leather belt and a cloak. These were probably fairly plain for the ordinary warriors but more varied for the richer ones. Their shields were Gallic style but chopped of at the top and bottom. Archaic conical helmets may have been worn.

Celts, Celtiberians and Spanish: See notes on Painting Carthaginians.


As at least half your army will be spears, these will dictate the tactics for your whole army. I therefore make no apology in concentrating upon them.

Since this army has an aggression raring of 2 (except for Agathokles invasion of Africa when it is 4) they will chose terrain about as often as their opponents do. Their terrain type is Littoral so a large water feature is needed.

Since spears dictate your tactics the terrain choice will depend on the type of enemy you are facing. If these have more mounted troops than you your likely to be vulnerable to outflanking. Therefore you should choose bad terrain and place it at the edges of the table to provide you with suitable places to cover your flanks and anchor your spears. If your opponent is mostly infantry go for open terrain so you can use your spears to effect. One final note on terrain, if by bad luck you end up with your waterway along your base edge move away from it fast so you don't end up pinned against it. Nothing destroys units faster than trying to flee or recoil into the water.

Since your spears are the backbone of your army the rest of your army should be used to ensure they can do their job. This basically means covering the spears flanks and breaking up any dangerous enemy groups. Spears are very tough and reliable, however they do have several weaknesses, namely bad terrain, Knights and Warband.

Bad terrain should be avoided. If this is not possible use your other troops to clear a path through it so the spears can go through to where they can fight effectively.

Knights can destroy spears by simply getting a higher combat total. Spears therefore need to keep their total higher. To do this they can deploy in two ranks or have rear support from Psi (note one Psi element can support up to three spear elements). If you do this then in a straight fight the spears will win most times and have an equal chance of destroying the knights as they have of being destroyed. Do I need to say that you should avoid giving the knights any advantages i.e. don't let them get up hill and don't let yourself be out flanked.

Warband are the biggest threat to spears. You can't increase your strength by using support, but they can and they destroy you by getting a higher combat total. Even worse they can use a second rank to gain a combat modifier they will be just as strong as you so they then only need to make a higher dice roll to destroy your spears. If you are facing a warband based army I would hide your spears behind the other elements of your army and use them to break up the warband. It is also worth noting that warband are vulnerable to cavalry so use your cavalry on them. If you only face historical opponents then you won't need to worry about warband or knights, as, with the exception of later Carthaginians they will only have one or two elements of these types at the most. Carthage has three Warband, which is enough to be worrying but not enough to be a major threat.

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My thanks to Stephen Montague for this essay. Comments, questions or suggested additions to this page can be sent to Chris Brantley, IamFanaticus@gmail.com.

Last Updated: Oct. 15, 2001