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Battle of Chaeronea (338 BC)

By Chris Jones

The power of Macedon was in the ascendant. Since becoming King in 359 BC, Philip II had revolutionised the Macedonian army, equipping the common infantry as a deep phalanx of pikemen and supporting them with elite Hypaspists, Companion cavalry and light troops. His influence on Greek affairs grew and in 346 BC he defeated the adjacent state of Phocis, wresting control of the Delphic Oracle from the Phocians.

His aggressive policies concerned Thebes, which formed an alliance with their erstwhile enemies the Athenians. Together with a number of smaller states, they formed an army of 30,000 Hoplites and 5000 mercenary peltasts to oppose Philip. Initially they attempted to block his approach at the passes but their advance force was defeated. They then took up a strong position at Chaeronea, a town lying in a plain unlike most Greek towns. The battle to decide the rulership of Northern Greece was about to begin.

The Greek forces lined up with their left flank based on Chaeronea itself and their right flank covered by marshes lying along the river Cephissus. The Greek forces were aligned with the Athenians on their left flank, other Allied Hoplites in the centre and the Thebans on the right wing. The Theban Sacred Band formed the extreme right of their position. The Greeks do not appear to have had any cavalry.

Philip with a force of over 30,000 infantry and 2000 cavalry formed up in a novel way. He advanced his phalanx obliquely on his right wing and centre. He himself commanded the Hypaspists on his extreme right. His son Alexander commanded the cavalry concentrated opposite the Thebans.

Thus advanced, the Hypaspists contacted the Athenians before the rest of his forces. On contact, Philip withdrew his forces drawing the Atheninas forward. This opened a gap in the centre of the line which Alexander charged through with his Companions. The other cavalry now attacked the flank of the Scared Band. At the same time, Philip advanced with his phalanx against the disrupted Athenians and broke them. The Thebans attacked to flank and rear fought well expunging the dishonour of Plataea, where they had fought with the Persians against Greece. The Scared Band were wiped out, only 50 surviving out of 300. Greek losses were 2,000 killed and 4,000 captured. Macedonian losses were light.

The victory gave control of Greek affairs to Philip. He was assassinated in 337 BC and his son Alexander would take his army eastward to conquer the Persian Empire and beyond, leaving an obedient if not entirely loyal Greece behind.

Simulating Chaeronea in DBA

Order of Battle

Macedonian 1 Kn 2Cv 1 Lh 6Pk 1 Ax(+1) 1Ps Greek 1 Sp(+1) 8 Sp 2Ax 1 Ps

Terrain

The river Cephissus should run down the right flank of the table as seen from the Greek side. A small BUA to represent Chaeronea should lie on a gentle hill on the Greek left flank.

There were a number of small rivers crossing the battlefield but as none of these seem to have affected the battle they can be ignored if desired or possibly represented as narrow strips of bad going. Similarly gentle slopes in the Greek rear seem to have had no impact on the battle.

Deployment

Normal DBA.

Special Rules

The Theban Sacred band are upgraded to Sp(+1) gaining a +1 in close combat. Similarly, Philipıs elite Hypaspists, which seem to have been the guard unit in his army, are also upgraded.

Victory Conditions

Normal DBA.


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Last Update: June 18, 2000

My thanks to Chris Jones for this scenario. Comments, questions, and suggestions are welcome. Send them to Chris Brantley at IamFanaticus@gmail.com.