History Tidbits - The collection
490 BC - Battle of Marathon,
Battle at the start of the Persian Wars Sept 490 BC in which the
Athenians and their allies from Plateae defeated the Persian king
Darius' invasion force, on the Plain of Marathon about 40 km/25
mi northeast of Athens.
The Greeks, a combined force of about 10,000
under Miltiades supplemented by allied Plataeans, were encamped
overlooking the plain, about a mile away from the Persian force
which was some five to six times their strength. Taking advantage
of the fact that the Persians had their backs to the sea, the Greek
strengthened their wings and attacked. The Persians held off the
Greek attack on their centre, but Miltiades then wheeled round the
Greek wings, crushing the Persian flanks and putting pressure on
their centre. The Persians were driven back into the sea and although
most managed to re-embark into their ships, about 6,000 lay dead
on the field, while Greek losses were under 200.
The victory at Marathon was an enormous boost to
morale which was to be of great value when the Persians mounted
a much more threatening invasion 10 years later.
The battle has been immortalised by the race named
after it in memory of the runner, Pheidippides, who reputedly ran
to Sparta from Athens to appeal for aid before the battle. He covered
the distance of 200 km/125 mi in a day but the Spartans failed to
provide any assistance. A more recent legend, that he ran from Athens
to Marathon (a distance of about 40 km/25 mi) to fight in the battle,
then ran back with the news of the victory before dropping dead,
actually gives rise to the name of the modern race but is considered
spurious by scholars.
431-404 BC - Peloponnesian War
... conflict between Athens and Sparta, backed by their respective
allies, 431-404 BC, originating in suspicions about the ambitions
of the Athenian leader Pericles. It was ended by the Spartan general
Lysander's capture of the Athenian fleet in 405, and his starving
the Athenians into surrender in 404. Sparta's victory meant the
destruction of the political power of Athens.
479 BC - Battle of Plataea
... in which the Greeks defeated the Persians during the Persian
48 BC - Battle of Pharsalus
Julius Caesar's final victory over Pompey's forces near Pharsalus
(now Farsala) in Thessaly 9 Aug 48 BC. After their comprehensive
defeat at Pharsalus, the remainder of Pompey's force surrendered,
ending all organized resistance to Caesar's rule.
The battle began well for Pompey, who outnumbered
Caesar's 22,000 troops two-to-one; his cavalry charged Caesar's
cavalry and forced them back. However, this exposed their flank
to attack by Caesar's foot soldiers who took full advantage of this
weakness, causing the Pompeian cavalry to fall into total disorder
and finally ride clear of the battle entirely. The Pompeian foot
soldiers heard of their cavalry's panic-stricken flight and
turned and ran, pursued by Caesar's troops. The Pompeians were
routed, losing 8,000 troops compared to only 200 of Caesar's.
480 BC - Battle of Salamis
... in the Persian Wars, Greek naval victory over the Persians 480
BC in the Strait of Salamis southwest of Athens. Despite being
outnumbered, the Greeks inflicted a crushing defeat on the invading
Persians which effectively destroyed their fleet.
After the sack of Athens by the Persians, the
of some 370 Greek war galleys then lying off the island of Salamis
debated what action they could take; their debate was ended by the
appearance of the Persian fleet in the Bay of Phalerum. Themistocles,
the Athenian commander of the Greek fleet, sent a fake message,
ostensibly from a spy, to the Persians warning that the Greek fleet
was about to withdraw and that the Persians should blockade the
entrance to the Bay of Eleusis. The Persians fell for the ruse and
spread their 1,000 ships thinly across the bay.
The Persians were so confident they could deal with
a mere 370 vessels that they had a throne prepared for their king,
Xerxes, on nearby Mount Aegaleus so that he would have a grandstand
view from which to watch the anticipated crushing of the Greek fleet.
However, the Greeks came out into the bay at full speed, broke the
Persian line, and then created mayhem in all directions, sinking
over 500 Persian ships for the loss of only about 40 of their own.
Xerxes, disgusted at this humiliation, returned to Asia, leaving
a subordinate, Mardonius, to continue the land campaign.
637 AD - Battle of Qadisiya
Battle fought in S Iraq 637. A Muslim Arab force defeated a larger
Zoroastrian Persian army and ended the Sassanian Empire. The defeat
is still resented in Iran, where Muslim Arab nationalism threatens
to break up the Iranian state.
207 BC - Battle of Metaurus,
In the Second Punic War, Roman victory over the Carthaginians 207
BC on the Metaurus river (now Metauro) in Italy, about 65 km/40
mi west of Ancona. This proved to be the decisive battle of the
war, since it wrecked Hannibal's chances of overthrowing Rome and
assured Roman military supremacy over Carthage. A 40,000-strong
Carthaginian army under Hasdrubal was marching inland to reinforce
Hannibal. The relief force was attempting to find a ford to cross
the river at dawn when they were surprised by a Roman army of about
50,000 troops. The Romans attacked immediately; Hasdrubal's force
began to press the Roman right wing back. The Roman commander on
the right wing, Nero, was unable to come to grips with the enemy
due to the ground in front of his position. He abandoned the right
wing, marched his force round the rear of the Roman line, and
the left wing which then totally destroyed the Carthaginian force;
Hasdrubal was among the Carthaginians slain.
479 BC - Battle of Plataea
... in which the Greeks defeated the Persians during the Persian
371 BC - Battle of Leuctra
Theban defeat of the Spartans July 371 BC, southwest of Thebes (now
Thivai, Greece). The defeat finally ended the 30-year period of
Spartan dominance over Greece and the Thebans assumed the hegemony
over the Greek states. This was the first time that Epaminondas,
the Theban commander, used his innovative tactics which foreshadowed
the famous phalanx, later developed so successfully by Philip of
Macedon and then Alexander the Great. Until this time, hoplite
had always been fought by the two sides confronting each other in
two long lines; Epaminondas concentrated hoplites 50 deep at one
point in the line in a wedge formation and used this local
to drive a hole through the Spartan line. As the other Spartans
left their formation to come to the aid of their overwhelmed
the rest of the Thebans fell upon their disorganized ranks, killing
over 1,000 of them.
333 BC - Battle of Issus
Battle in which Alexander the Great defeated the Persian king Darius
III at the ancient port of Issus in Cilicia, about 80 km/50 mi west
of present-day Adana, Turkey. Darius' family were captured during
the battle which secured Alexander's supply route in preparation
for his invasion of the Persian Empire. Alexander met Darius' army,
aided by 30,000 Greek mercenaries, drawn up in a defensive line
on the river Pinarus.
Alexander, with an army of 35,000 Macedonians,
his cavalry against the Persian cavalry and routed them. The
foot soldiers then crossed the river and assaulted the Persian
while Alexander personally led his own cavalry against Darius'
who fled from the field. The Persian troops followed and the Greek
mercenaries were left to fight what remained of the battle.
405 BC - Battle of Aegospotami
Spartan naval victory over the Athenians at the end of the
War 405 BC off Aegospotami (now Gelibolu on the northern shore of
the Dardanelles). Lysander's decisive victory over the Athenian
fleet broke the hitherto unchallenged Athenian naval superiority
and effectively ended the war. An Athenian fleet of some 180 triremes
lay at Aegospotami and 170 Peloponnesian ships, under Lysander,
lay at Lampsacus (now Lapseki) on the southern shore. On four
days the Athenian fleet rowed across the strait, hoping to draw
Lysander's force out to give battle, but without success. On the
fifth day Lysander waited until the Athenians made their usual sortie
and returned to their base; once they had anchored, Lysander's fleet
made a sudden dash across the water, pounced on the anchored
captured 160 ships, and killed the crews.
31 BC - Battle of Actium
Naval battle in which Octavian defeated the combined fleets of Mark
Antony and Cleopatra 2 Sept 31 BC to become the undisputed ruler
of the Roman world (as the emperor Augustus). The site of the battle
is at Akri, a promontory in W Greece. Antony had encamped in Greece
with a powerful force of infantry and cavalry, and was waiting for
Octavian's smaller force to attack. However, engagements on land
proved indecisive and in the meantime Octavian's naval commander
Marcus Agrippa had managed to cut off Antony's supply route by sea,
despite commanding a fleet of only 400 ships against Antony's 500.
Antony and Cleopatra could have escaped overland to continue the
fight but Cleopatra demanded to return to Egypt by sea and they
were defeated in the ensuing sea battle. Having unsuccessfully
peace terms, they fled to Egypt but Octavian pursued them there
the following year. Alexandria surrendered without a fight and they
378 AD - Battle of Adrianople
Gothic victory over the Roman Empire in the East 9 Aug 378 which
marked the beginning of the empire's downfall. A Gothic settlement
was founded within the frontier of the Roman Empire and Valens,
the Eastern Emperor, was lost in the battle.
216 BC - Battle of Cannae
In August 2, 216 B.C.. Hannibal - general of Carthago in Numidia
- defeats Terentius Varro - Consul of Rome - at the Aufidus river
near the city of Cannae in southern Italy.
Hannibal with his 50.000 men fought with their backs against the
river which at that point flows in a shallow "U" form.
As he had his left flank touching the Aufidus river, he didnīt have
to worry about being outflanked by the 80.000 Roman troops, in fact
his whole tactic was based on this secure flank. His center consisted
only of a thin line of infantry. Hannibals main force was
on the flanks. The left and right wings each contained deep phalanxes
of heavy infantry and eight thousand cavalry next to the river on
the left. His open right flank was guarded by two thousand cavalry.
In the rear his camp was protected by eight thousand men.
Varro, feeling confident of victrory with his more than 80,000
Roman soldiers, accepted battle, but as he saw that Hannibals flanks
were well protected, Varro decided to crush the Carthagians by
allmost all his men through Hannibals center. With 65,000 men in
his center, 2,400 cavalry on his right and 4,800 cavalry on his
left he sent the remaining 11,000 men to attack Hannibals camp.
After some preliminary skirmishes, Hannibal let his light center
advance into a salient against the Romans. When the Romans reacted
by attacking the center of Carthago, which slowly started an orderly
but fighting retreat under the sheer might of Varros forces, Hannibal
let his heavy cavalry on the left crush the opposing Roman cavalry.
Hannibals cavalry rode after that around the Roman armys rear and
attacked the Roman cavalry on Varros left flank from behind while
Hannibals right flank attacked the same cavalry from the front.
The Roman cavalry panicked and fled the field, pursued all the way
by Hannibals right flank cavalry.
The heavy cavalry of Carthago turned back to assault the rear of
the Roman infantry who had pressed back Hannibal's thin center line.
While this happened Hannibal let his left and right infantry wings
turn against the flanks of the Roman center which had advanced deep
due to the weak center of Carthago. Now the weak center stopped
their retreat and dug their heels in as the encircelment was
Varro, boxed in, unable to maneuver lost approximatively 60.000
men as his army was thoroughly destroyed.
A footnote: During WW1 the same tactics was copied and used
as the Schlieffen Plan in the Ardennes - learn from history.
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