GAUGAMELA (331 BC)
A DBA Giant Battle Scenario
By Chris Brantley and Keith Finn
> Battles > DBA Resources > Fanaticus
After his victory at Issus in 333
BC, Alexander occupied the Mediterraranean coast as far as Egypt and than
gathered his army, advancing from Syria along the Persian Royal Road, crossing
the Euphrates and Tigris rivers into the old Assyrian heart of the Persian
empire. Darius had selected a flat plain about sixty miles west of the town of
Arbela (modern Arbil/Erbil/Irbil) as a battlefield, and collected a large army.
There are numerous, conflicting
and occasionally fantastical estimates of the size of Dariusí army at
Gaugamela. According to Arrian, Darius fielded 40,000 cavalry and 1,000,000
infantry. Diodorus Siculus rounds it down to 1,000,000 million even,
but including 200,000 cavalry. Plutarch also refers to a million in arms,
without characterizing foot or mounted. On the low end, Curtius Rufus reports
45,000 cavalry and 200,000 infantry. Specialist troops referred to in various
accounts include the Persian Apple Bearers or Immortals (10,000 strong), 200
scythed chariots, 15 Indian elephants, 1000 Bactrians and 2000 Greek mercenary
hoplites. Modern estimates of Dariusí army range from a low of 50,000 (by
Delbruck) to approximately 100,000 (by Warry, Engels and Green).
According to Arrian, Alexanderís
army consisted of his Macedonians with Thracian allies and Greek mercenary
contingents from the Corinthian League, numbering 7000 cavalry and 40,000
Darius placed himself in the
center, with his Horse Guards and Immortals, Carians, Indian horse, Greek
Mercenaries and Mardian archers. Darius' right wing was
commanded by Mazaeus, with his elite horsemen from Cappadocia and Armenia,
supported by subject horse from Syria, Media, Mesopotamia, Parthia, Sacia,
Tapuria, Hyrcania, Albania, and Sacesinia. His left wing was commanded by
Bessus, and included a large contingent of war chariots supported by Bactrians,
with Persian, Dahae, Arachosian Susian, Cadusian and Scythian horse in reserve.
The unreliable hordes of levy peltasts were presumably posted in a reserve line
behind the main army.
Here is how Arrian
Anabasis 3.11.5ff] describes the Persian deployments:
At the centre, where King Darius was to be found, the relatives of the
king were arranged, along with the Persian Applebearers, the Indians, the "Carian
deportees" and the Mardian archers; behind them, in a hollow, were the
Babylonians [under the leadership of Mazaeus], the Red Sea contingents and
the Sittacenians. Out in front on the left wing, opposite Alexander's right
wing, stood the Sacaean horsemen [commanded by Bessus], around 1,000
Bactrians, and 100 scythed chariots. The elephants and 50 scythed chariots
stood close to Darius' own royal squadron. At the front of the right wing
stood the Armenian and Cappadocian horsemen, with another 50 scythed
chariots. The Greek mercenaries were placed on either side of Darius and his
Persian followers, directly opposite the Macedonian phalanx, since only they
could possibly be a match for the phalanx.
Against this host, Alexander
deployed his army into two wings. Alexander took direct command of the right
wing, including his Companion horse, the Paionian and Macedonian light cavalry,
and Agrian and Macedonian archers positioned to help cover the right flank of
the Parmenionís phalanx. Parmenion commanded the left flank, with the Greek
phalanx deployed in two lines, with his Macedonians at the fore. The second
line of the phalanx, comprised of Greek mercenaries, was tasked to cover
Parmenionís exposed left flank against the overlapping Persian horse. Cretan
archers were deployed with Thessalian, Greek and Thracian horse to cover the
center gap between the two wings. Purportedly, Alexanderís battleplan was
to hold with Parmenionís left wing and attack on the right, but targeting Darius
and the Persian center. Each end of Alexanderís battleline was echeloned back
to draw the Persian horse on the wings away from their center.
The battle began with the
charge of the Persian scythed chariots of the left. Some were intercepted by
Agrianian skirmishers, and the balance were received by the Greek phalanx, which
had been trained to open their lines, creating lanes for the charging horses,
who were then speared from the flanks along with their hapless drivers. The
Persians then launched their cavalry on the wings, seeking to overlap and
envelop Alexanderís shorter battleline. The cavalry battle raged back and
forth, with Alexander feeding in mounted reserves on both wings, allowing the
Persian horse to advance further and further around his right flank.
Satisfied that Bessusís horse
would not be able to interfere with his attack on Darius's center, Alexander
launched his redeployed Companions, a large contingent of peltasts and
supporting battalions of the phalanx like a giant wedge at the gap between the
commands of Darius and Bessus. Darius sent his Persian cavalry reserves to
blunt the Companion's attack, but they were held back by the missiles of the
peltasts. Having gained the flank of Dariusí main line of battle, Alexanderís
Companions turned left and drove down the disintegrating line toward the Great
Kingís command position. The Companions overwhelmed Dariusí Royal Guard and
his Greek mercenaries, at which point Darius left the field and the remaining
troops of the Persian center began to retire, followed by the Persian left wing
With Alexander poised to
follow in pursuit, messages arrived from Parmenion that the left wing was hard
pressed and nearly overwhelmed. Meanwhile, Persian and Indian horse had broken
through the gap in the Macedonian center, but of instead of taking the phalanx
in the rear, the horsemen went on to loot the Greek camp and attempted to rescue
the captured Queen Mother Sisybambis (who declined to be rescued). Alexanderís
Companions arrived to stabilize the situation, but the winded Companions
suffered heavily in the melee with the retiring Indian horsemen. Mazaeus began
to withdraw the Persian right wing, which fell into disorder under close pursuit
by the Thessalian and other Greek cavalry.
After the battle, Parmenion
rounded up the Persian baggage train, while Alexander and his bodyguard mounted
an unsuccessful pursuit of Darius, who escaped along with a small force of
Bactrian cavalry, remnants of his Royal Guard and 2000 Greek mercenaries.
Darius planned to raise a new army among his eastern satrapies, but was later
murdered by Bessus, who was captured and killed by Alexander as punishment for
his treachery. The Eastern Satraps pledged loyalty to Alexander, who declared
himself the new King of Kings.
This battle pits Alexandrian Macedonians (DBA II/12) vs. Later Achaemenid
Persians (II/7), and is presented as a DBA Giant Battle scenario, but can be
easily adapted for Big Battle or even regular DBA gameplay.
The Giant Battle army composition is based on the breakdowns provided by Phil
Barker in version 1.0 of the De Bellis Antiquitatis rules, who uses the scale of
1 element = 500 open, 1000 loose or 1500 close formation troops.
Alexander (40 elements): 2x 3Kn (Companions), 2x 3Cv (Thessalians),
2x 3Cv (Greek/Mercenaries), 1x 2Lh (Prodromoi), 1x 2Lh (Paeonian), 1x 2Lh (Odrysian),
3x 4Ax (Hypapists), 12x 4Pk (Phalanx), 2x 2Ps (Archers), 4x 2Ps (Agrianians and
Thracians), 6x 4Sp (Greeks), 2x 4Ax (peltasts), 2x 3Ax (Thracians).
(Note: these should be organized into two commands, lead by
Alexander (Kn/Gen) and Parmenion (Pk/Gen).)
Darius (52 elements): 4x SCh, 26x 3Cv, 12x 2Lh, 2x 4Sp (Greeks),
1x 4Bw (Guard), 3x 4Ax (Kardakes), 1x 3Ax (Carians), 2x 3Bw (Mardians), 1xEl..
Barker's OOB omits "...the hordes of Persian levy infantry who took no part in
(Note: these should be organized into three commands, lead by
Darius, Bessus and
Mazaeus, each depicted as a Cv/Gen. Darius' command must include the
Greek spear, the guard archers, the Kardakes and Carians, at least one
element of Mardian bow, and the Elephant..)
Big Battle Option:
- Alexander (36 elements in two commands): 1x 3Kn(Gen),1x Pk
(Gen), 2x 3Kn, 3x 3Cv, 3x 3Lh, 3x 4Ax, 17x 4Pk, 3x 2Ps, 3x 4Sp
- Darius (36 elements in three commands): 1x LCh(Gen), 2x
Cv(Gen), 6x 3Cv, 6x 2Lh, 3x Sch, 6x 2Ps, 6x 4Sp, 5x 3Ax (plus 1x El).
Since the deployments were planned in advance of the battle, ideally,
deployment should be done with a screen or on a hand-drawn map so that neither
side is influenced by the deployments of the other. Alternatively, the Persian
deploys all commands first followed by the Macedonians. Persian's attack
Battlefield Terrain Notes
The battle is fought on a 60 x 30 terrain board,
depicting a sandy plain. To facilitate his chariots and horsemen, Darius
had the plain smoothed and cleared of excess brush for an estimated width of
over 4000 yards. Some historians suggest the battle was named for the
appearance of a nearby hill, resembling a camels hump, which translates into the
name Gaugamela, but there is no indication the hill played any role in the
battle. So for purposes of our battle, the field can be depicted as
entirely flat good going.
If desired, a low range of
foothills and a river can be deployed in the Macedonian rear with an Assyrian
canal (Persian right) and patches of rough bad going (Persian left) placed at
the extreme edges of the board to help delineate the cleared battlefield plain.
As per Big Battle DBA.
Anabasis of Alexander
is probably the most reliable western resource on Alexander's battles.
From Osprey, see
Greek & Persian Wars 500-323 BC (Men-at-Arms 69),
Alexander 334-323 BC (Campaign 7).
Army of Alexander the Great (Men-at-Arms 148), and/or the Special Edition
Alexander the Great: His Armies and Campaigns 334-323 BC.
> Top > Battles > DBA Resources > Fanaticus
18 August 2015
Questions, comments, suggestions welcome.
Send them to Chris Brantley, IamFanaticus@gmail.com.