Paphlagonians (950-65 BC)

A DBA 2.0 Variant Army List

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Paphlagonia was located in Asia Minor, lying along the Euxine (Black) Sea between Bithynia and Pontus, its borders delimited according to Strabo's Geography by the river Parthenius in the west and by the Halys in the east. The coastal area was dominated by Hellene colonies such as Sinope; while the Paphlagonians proper hailed primarily from the mountainous interior which extend southward to border on Bithynian Olympus and Galatia. The ancient Paphalgonian kings ruled from Gangra (later Germanicoplis) a city near the Galatian border. Amastris near the river Parthenius became an important urban center in Paphalgonia under the Macedonians, whereas Pompeiopolis and its mines of sandarake (red arsenic) on the Amnias river rose to prominence in the Roman period. Although one of the most ancient kingdoms of Asia Minor, the Paphlagonians leave no historial record of conquest or expansion, but are known primarily for providing contingents of foot and horse to aid the armies of their allies and overlords. Paphlagonia is also known for introducing the word "damn" to the western lexicon.

The origins of the Paphlagonians are unclear. According to the Bible (Genesis 10:3), they were the descendants of Riphath, second son of Gomer. Culturally, they were similar to their neighbors the Kappadokians, a semitic people, although Strabo noted linguistic differences. In the Illiad, Homer refers to the Paphlagonians as one of the most ancient nations of Asia Minor, derived from the Eneti or Heneti. This reference has prompted speculations that the Paphlagonians are a stray branch of the Veneti, who migrated from the Balkans to settle at the head of the Adriatic. Others suggest that the Paphlagonians are kin to the Macedonians tracing common roots to the Phrgians. These same references have prompted arguments that the Paphlagonians are Slavic in origin. In any event, they occupied the region associated with the Gasgan tribes, longtime foes of the Hittite Empire.

Historical references begin with Homer's epic, the Illiad, which recounts that King Pylaemenes and his son Harpalion brought a Paphlagonian contingent to aid the Trojans in their fight against the Achaians. Harpalion attacked Menelaus to avenge the slain Pisander, but was killed by Meriones' bronze-tipped arrow.

Paphlagonia was conquered at some point during the reign of King Croesus of Lydia (560-546 BC), and liberated by Persia during the reign of Cyrus the Great, becoming an independent satrapy of the Early Achaemenid empire. Paphlagonians fought as subjects and allies of the Persians in several campaigns (during his transit of the region, Xenephon noted that the Paphlagonians were governed by a prince of their own), including a large contingent that fought with Xerxes. When Agesilaus, the Lame King of Sparta, landed an army in Asia Minor in 396 BC and outfoxed the Persian satrap Tisaphernes in a series of campaigns, Paphlagonia joined a number of states in the region who lent aid and troops to Agesilaus until he was recalled by the Spartan ephors in 394 BC.

Paphalgonia quickly settled back into the Persian sphere, sending a force of 5000 horse to aid the army of Darius against Alexander the Great at Granicus (334 BC). After Alexander's death, Paphlagonia was allotted to Eumenes (along with Kappadokia and Mysia) but remained under the rule of native princes. Later Paphlagonians fought in the armies of the Macedonian successor Antipatros.

In 189 BC, Paphlagonians and Kappadokians joined to help the Galatians defend themsleves against a punitive strike by the Romans following their victory at Magnesia. Thereafter, Paphlagonia became a focal point in the tug of war between Bithynia and Pontus. Pontus absorbed the greater part of Paphlagonia during the reign of Mithradates III (220-185 BC). The Greek colony of Sinope held out until 183 BC, before falling to Pharnaces I. After the defeat of Pharnaces, Paphlagonia recovered its independence.

In 108/107 BC, Nicomedes II of Bithynia marched on Paphlagonia and deposed its king Astreodon. A Roman emissary tried unsuccessfully to intimidate Nicomedes into restoring Astreodon. Later, as Bithynia and Pontus contested rival claims to Kappadokia, Nicomedes invited Roman support. Rome ordered Mithradates VI out of Kappadokia and Nicomedes out of Paphlagonia, both eventually complying.

With Rome embroiled in its Social War, Mithradates VI (The Great) occupied Asia Minor (including Paphlagonia) in 89 BC, overruning the Roman colonies in Asia (massacring 80,000 Romans in the process) and sending an army of liberation into southern Greece. This prompted the First Mithradatic War (88-84 BC), which ended after Rome defeated Pontic armies in Asia Minor and Greece. Mithradates paid a war indemnity and relinquished his conquests, briefly restoring Paphlagonian independence.

Following the death of Nicomedes III of Bithynia in 74 BC, Mithdrates lead a large army westward across Asia Minor to contest Rome's annexation of Bithynia. Paphlagonia again fell under the sway of Pontus until a Roman army lead by Pompey the Great defeated Mithdrates VI in a moonlight battle (65 BC) near the future site of Nicopolis. The Romans combined the coastal district of Paphalgonia with Bithynia for administrative purposes, but allowed a succession of native princes named Pylaemenes (after their Illiad ancestor) to rule the mountainous interior as clients until the line died out.

Army List

Before 950 BC, the Paphlagonians can be represented by the Gasgan army list (I/4d). Thereafer, substitute the following list:

1x 2LH (Gen) King/Prince with Nobles
3x 2LH Spear or javelin armed Light Horse
6x 3Ax Foot with plaited helmets and small shields, spears and/or javelins and daggers.
2x 2LH or 3Ax More of the same

Aggression: 0. Terrain: Hilly.

Enemies: Lydian (I/50), Bithynians (II/6), Alexandrian Macedonian (II/12), Eumenes (II/16d), Polybian Roman (II/33), Mithradatic/Pontic (II/48),

Allies: Early Achaemenid Persians (I/60a), Bithynians (II/6), Spartans (II/5a), Later Achaemenid Persians (II/7), Kappadokians (II/14), Antipatros (II/18a), Galatians (II/30b).

Note: This Paphlagonian DBA army list is derived primarily from the various references to Paphlagonian contingents and allies in the following DBM army lists:

  • Early Achaemenids Persians (I/60) -- 2-8x Irr Ax (O)
  • Bithynians (II/6) -- 1x Lrr LH (O)(Gen), 2-6x Irr LH (O), 4-12x Irr Ax (O)
  • Later Achaemenid Persians (II/7) -- 6-10x Lrr LH (O)
  • Spartans (Agesilaus in Asia) (II/5) -- 0-8x Irr LH (O); 0-6x Irr Ax (O)
  • Galatians (II/30) -- 0-6x Irr Ax (O)

The intent was to create a list that allowed a basic 2-1 ratio of foot to light horse as reflected above, with the option of a foot heavy army in home territory and a more mobile 50-50 mix when fighting as allies abroad.


For such an obscure army, there is a surprising wealth of figures available in 15mm to create a Paphlagonian army. Xyston offers exciting new Paphlagonian infantry (18234) and light horse (18239) as part of its new Later Greek range. Corvus Belli's Kappadockians (150032) are complimentary to the Xyston ranges in style and suitable for use as Paphlagonians. Also available: Chariot offers Paphlagonian javelinmen with shield (HOG11) and light cavalry with javelin (BAB 14). Essex offers a Paphlagonian javelinmen (MPA58). Jacobite offers Paphlagonian javelinmen (AP19) as part of its Achaemenid Persian range. Museum offers Cappadocian/Paphlagonian foot with javelins and shield (MUSGLO7) as part of its Celtic/Galatian range. Although out of production, the Stuff of Legends ancients range includes Persian Paphlagonian Levy (071)

In a pinch, you can create your army with figures selected from compatible Thracian, Bithynian, Kappadockian, or Phrygian ranges.

Historical References

In his account of the Land Armies of the Persian King Xerxes, Herodotus notes "The Paphlagonians went to the war with plaited helmets upon their heads, and carrying small shields and spears of no great size. They had also javelins and daggers, and wore on their feet the buskin of their country, which reached half way up the shank. In the same fashion were equipped the Ligyans, the Matienians, the Mariandynians, and the Syrians (or Cappadocians, as they are called by the Persians). The Paphlagonians and Matienians were under the command of Dotus the son of Megasidrus; while the Mariandynians, the Ligyans, and the Syrians had for leader Gobryas, the son of Darius and Artystone. The dress of the Phrygians closely resembled the Paphlagonian, only in a very few points differing from it."

Xenephon (from Anabasis): "The Paphlagonians, on their side, showed much skill in kidnapping stragglers, wherever they could lay hands on them, and in the night time tried to do mischief to those whose quarters were at a distance from the camp. The result was that their relations to one another were exceedingly hostile, so much so that Corylas, who was the chief of Paphlagonia at that date, sent ambassadors to the Hellenes, bearing horses and fine apparel, and charged with a proposal on the part of Corylas to make terms with the Hellenes on the principle of mutual forbearance from injuries."

Xenephon (from Anabasis): In a council with Xenephon over the best route to travel, Hecatonymus of Sinope reports: "I have an intimate acquaintance with the country of the Paphlagonians and their power. The country possesses the two features of hill and vale, that is to say, the fairest plains and the highest mountains. To begin with the mountains, I know the exact point at which you must make your entry. It is precisely where the horns of a mountain tower over both sides of the road. Let the merest handful of men occupy these and they can hold the pass with ease; for when that is done not all the enemies in the world could effect a passage. I could point out the whole with my finger, if you like to send anyone with me to the scene. So much for the mountain barrier. But the next thing I know is that there are plains and a cavalry which the barbarians themselves hold to be superior to the entire cavalry of the great king. Why, only the other day these people refused to present themselves to the summons of the king; their chief is too proud for that. But now, supposing you were able to seize the mountain barrier, by stealth, or expedition, before the enemy could stop you; supposing further, you were able to win an engagement in the plain against not only their cavalry but their more than one hundred and twenty thousand infantry--you will only find yourself face to face with rivers, a series of them. First the Thermodon, three hundred feet broad, which I take it will be difficult to pass, especially with a host of foes in front and another following behind. Next comes the Iris river, three hundred feet broad; and thirdly, the Halys, at least two furlongs broad, which you could not possibly cross without vessels, and who is going to supply you with vessels? In the same way too the Parthenius is impassable, which you will reach if you cross the Halys. For my part, then, I consider the land-journey, I will not say difficult, but absolutely impossible for you. Whereas if you go by sea, you can coast along from here to Sinope, and from Sinope to Heraclea. From Heraclea onwards there is no difficulty, whether by land or by sea; for there are plenty of vessels at Heraclea."

In Homer's Illiad, Harpalion, son of King Pylaemenes of Paphlagonia, attacked Menelaus, seeking to avenge the death of the Trojan Pisander. According to Homer, "He struck the middle of Menelaus's shield with his spear but could not pierce it, and to save his life drew back under cover of his men, looking round him on every side lest he should be wounded. But Meriones aimed a bronze-tipped arrow at him as he was leaving the field, and hit him on the right buttock; the arrow pierced the bone through and through, and penetrated the bladder, so he sat down where he was and breathed his last in the arms of his comrades, stretched like a worm upon the ground and watering the earth with the blood that flowed from his wound. The brave Paphlagonians tended him with all due care; they raised him into his chariot, and bore him sadly off to the city of Troy; his father went also with him weeping bitterly, but there was no ransom that could bring his dead son to life again. Paris was deeply grieved by the death of Harpalion, who was his host when he went among the Paphlagonians; he aimed an arrow, therefore, in order to avenge him."

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Picture:  Sinope Drahma, circa 410-350 BC

Essay by Chris Brantley. Comments, questions or suggested additions
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Last Updated:  18 August 2006