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Battle of Gaza (312 BC)

By Kevan Barwise

Antigonus' growing power led Ptolemy, Cassander, and Lysimachus, at the instigation of Seleucus (who had taken refuge with Ptolemy) to deliver an ultimatum to Antigonus to restore Seleucus and share his other gains with the rest of them. Antigonus refused and continued his conquests, seizing Syria, Bithynia, and Caria.

Antigonus then left his son Demetrius behind in Syria while he dealt with Cassander in the west with an assigned force of 10,000 mercenaries, 2,000 Macedonian phalangites, 5,000 cavalry, a force of light armed infantry, and 43 elephants. Ptolemy after leading sea-borne raids in Cilicia returned to Egypt and decided on a full-scale invasion of Syria. Ptolemy marched through the desert with 18,000 infantry and 4,000 cavalry to Gaza in early 312. Demetrius, though advised against it, decided to offer battle.

Demetrius deployed 2,900 cavalry, 1,500 light infantry, and 30 elephants under his command on the left. The infantry phalanx of some 11,000 was deployed in the center, with 13 elephants in front with a complement of light-armed troops. On the right, 1,500 cavalry with orders to keep the formation oblique and refuse battle until the issue had been decided.

Ptolemy and Seleucus originally had posted the bulk of their cavalry on the left, but when they learned of Demetrius' disposition, they transferred their strongest 3,000 cavalry to the right, under their command. Anti-elephant spiked devices, possibly caltrops, where connected by chains and thrown in front of the cavalry. These were supported with javelin-men and archers placed to harass the enemy elephants. The center consisted of the phalanx with 18,000 infantry. 1,000 cavalry was deployed on the right.

The end result of deployment was that Demetrius was evenly matched on his left, but could not get to use his superiority on the right because he's refusing that wing.

The battle opened with the confrontation of the advance-guards of the stronger cavalry wings, in which Demetrius drove off his opponents. Ptolemy and Seleucus responded by riding around Demetrius' left flank to attack. Hard struggle followed, that degenerated into hand-to-hand scrimmage, with horseman fighting with their swords after their lances had been shattered.

While the cavalry battle on the flank was progressing, Demetrius brought forward his elephants apparently hoping to demoralize, rather than actually engage, the opposing troops. As the elephants approached the 'minefield,' the Ptolemaic archers and javelin men began showering the elephants and their drivers. This, together with some elephants stepping on the caltrops, led to them getting out of control. After shooting down nearly all the drivers, Ptolemy's forces were able to capture all the elephants involved in the attack.

The loss of the elephants panicked Demetrius' cavalry and several battalions fled After trying to keep more from following, Demetrius and the remaining cavalry had to retreat but still managed to stay in formation while retiring over the open plain. This discouraged Ptolemy from pursuing. However Demetriusí infantry threw away their arms and retreated in chaos. Upon reaching Gaza, they were entering to secure their baggage, Ptolemy appeared on the scene and were able to gain entrance to the city before the gates could be closed.

Demetrius lost 500 men, had another 8,000 taken prisoner, and lost his elephants. Demetrius was the forced to retire to Tripolis in Phoenicia, which gave Ptolemy free reign as far north at Sidon and Tyre and gave Seleucus the opportunity to recover Babylon.

The Armies

Antigonid (DBA #38a) - 1x3Kn, 1x3Cv, 1x2LH, 6x4Pk, 1x4Aux, 1x2Ps, 1xEl.

Early Ptolemaic (DBA #42a) - 1x3Kn, 1x2LH, 6x4Pk, 1x4Aux, 1x4Wb, 2x2Ps.

Deployment

Antigonid deploy first within 6 inches of their baseline. The Antigonid camp must be placed on the baseline and represents the city of Gaza. Then the Ptolemaic deploys anywhere within 6 inches of their baseline.

The Battle Map (ASCII)

============Demetrius Baseline===================
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===========Ptolemy Baseline======================
SCALE: The space between each dot/letter is one inch.

TERRAIN KEY:

.=Good Going (Good Going)
R=Road
B=Built Up Area 

Terrain Notes

The battlefield is set on the plains of Gaza and is generally terrain feature free. The built up area represents the city of Gaza and the Antigonid camp.

Special Rules

To represent the special "anti elephant caltrops" used successfully in the battle the Ptolemaic player can place three 40mm x 40mm cards at deployment time in front of any his troops. Any mounted troops moving over the caltrops into combat receive a -1 combat modifier.

Victory Conditions

Normal DBA.


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Last Update: July 3, 1999

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