Cretan Greek (800-68)
DBA Variant Army List

By Stefanos Skarmintzos

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The army list starts after the Doreans subjugated the Minoans in Crete and continues until Crete was annexed by the Roman Empire in 68 B.C.

The Doric Cretans organized their city states along very strict lines. It is said the Lykourgos used them as a model to reform Spartan society. The men slept at home but used to eat at common mess halls. The boys lived at home they reached 17 years. Then they entered the "agelae" and they were taught the basics of reading and music At 18 they were "abducted" by older mentors for a period of three months. During that period they were taught to survive in the open, the use of the bow, and light infantry tactics.

On Crete, two rival confederations arose around the cities of Knossos and Lyktos. Just like on the mainland, the Cretan city-states were in a state of constant civil war. According to Diodorus, the eastern Cretan city states were also in conflict with the Phoenicians and later with the Cypriots. The losers and those fed up with the situation frequently migrated to other Greek city states, often renting out their services as mercenary bowmen. Among the most famous exploits of Cretan mercenaries were with Xenophon¹s 10000 that held their own against the Persians.

Initially each of the Successors tried to control the island because of its strategic location. Each of the Cretan cities supported the campaigns of their Successor allies with mercenary contingents. The eastern cities initially put themselves under the protection of the Seleucids and later under Eumenes of Pergamon. Ptolemaic Egypt intervened in 267 and 261 BC, but was unable to unify the Cretan cities. The western states allied themselves with the Aetolian league and then with Phillip 5th of Macedon, who sent an army of pacification in 220 BC. Crete sided with Philip against the Romans in the Macedonian Wars of 214-196 BC.

The worst civil wars occurred during the Hellenistic period. The cities of Knossos, Cydonia and Gortyna struggled to assert their dominance. The Romans sent ambassadors in 184, 180 and 174 BC in unsuccessful attempts to negotiate peace. The decline of Hellenistic authority under pressure of Roman expansion coupled with the constant civil war destroyed the social fabric of the island, which became a notorious refuge for adventurers and outlaws. At that time bad behavior was called "Cretan Way"! Cilician pirates found refuge in the island and the locals soon joined them in plundering even the ships of mighty Rome. With piracy growing to epidemic proportions, Rhodes sent an invading army in 154 BC, which was heavily defeated. Enouraged by Mithradates VI of Pontus, Crete and Cilician pirates pillaged Roman shipping throughout hte Mediterranean.

In 74 BC, the Roman Senate dispatched an army and fleet under Marcus Antonius (father of the famous Mark Antony) to suppress the pirates on Crete. The invasion was poorly managed and Antonius suffered a humilitating defeat, with many Romans captured and sold into slavery. The continuing war with Mithradates and the slave revolt of Spartacus, however, occupied Roman attention and prevented an immediate response.

With the death of Mithradates in 68 BC, the Senate ordered Crete to release its Roman prisoners and submit its leaders to Roman justice. Crete rejected the demand and the Senate dispatched the Proconsul Quintus Caecilius Metellus with three legions to enforce their edict. The Cretans under Lasthenes and Panares fought unsuccessfully against Metellus, who attacked the Cretan towns and cities, razing Lyktos to the ground, and conducting a harsh campaign against the Cretan populace. Unable to stand up to the Romans in open battle, the Cretans dispersed to fight as partisans. Metellus responded to the guerrilla war with unparallel savagery. Only the pro-Roman city of Gortyn was spared devastation. Meanwhile, Pompey had arrived on the scene with a Senate imperium to fight piracy throughout the eastern Mediterraean. The Cretans saw their opportunity and negotiated a surrender to Pompey to obtain more favorable treatment. Metellus was dismissed by Pompey, but later returned to complete the pacification of Crete, for which he earned the cognomen "Creticus."


Aggression 2. When fighting Cypriot or Cyrenaician Greeks, Cretans should be the Invader.

Allies and Enemies

Enemies: Geometric Greek, Cretan Greek, Libyan, Early & later Hoplite Greek, Cypriot and Phoenician , Cyrenean Greek, Hellenistic Greek, Successors Armies, Polybian Roman. Hellenistic armies attacking Cretans must fight without Elephants

Allies: Early & Later Hoplite Greek, Hellenistic Greek, Ptolemaic, Pergamen, Later Macedonian. Hellenistic allied elements cannot include Elephantry.

The Variant List

The Cretan Greek list differs from Greek mainland hoplite lists, which employ Cretan archers as psiloi. On Crete, archers fought in the line of battle instead of as skirmishers, and hence are classed as bow elements.

Early List 800-200 BC Later List 200-68 BC Description
1x 2Lh or 4Sp (Gen) 1x 2Lh or 3Cv (Gen) General on horse or with hoplite phalanx. With appearance of the hoplite phalanx, cavalry fell from grace and Cretan ponies were not suitable for heavy horse formations. But in later years, better horses would have been imported and/or mercenary horsemen hired hence the Cv upgrade
2x 3Bw 2x 3Bw Cretan archers with bow. Some carry javelins and small shields and others wear Greek-style armor. In the later list, Cretan archers are armed with bows, javelins, small shields and helmets
6x 4Sp 4x 4Sp or 4Pk Civic or Mercenary hoplites. Pike in the later list represent converted civic hoplites or allies.
2x 2Ps 2x 2Ps Javeliners or Slingers supporting the ranks as skirmishers or used for setting ambushes.
1x 3Bw or 3Ax 2x 3Bw or 3Ax More Cretan archers or Cretan/mercenary peltasts.
1x 3Wb Cilician Pirates


Encyclopedia "Papyros La Roux"
Osprey Books "The Ancient Greeks" and "The Spartan Army"
Polybios "Histories"
Plutarch "Parallel Lives"

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Thanks to Stefanos Skarmintzos for submitting this variant list.
Comments or suggested additions are welcomeChris Brantley.

Last Updated: 21 June 2005