Armies of the Hellenistic States 323 BC to AD 30 by Gabriele Esposito – Review

I have had an interest in the successor states since I first read Alfred Duggan’s historical fiction, “He Died Old”, which was set in the life and times of Mithradates of Pontus, who fought Rome for around 60 years.

From there it was a short step back to Robin Fox’s “Alexander” for some more academic ancient history. This was at the same time as starting to wargame as a hobby so building a Macedonian Army in 25mm size was a natural step given the interest I had in Alexander. Off to university studying Economics but at the same time managing to squeeze in some Ancient History in between lectures covering Malthus, Adam Smith, Galbraith, Solow, Keynes and Friedman, among others.

Pike phalanxes and Alexander’s Successors led to reading about the political machinations that exceeded even the best the popular soap operas could manage for skulduggery and I was hooked.

Over the years I referenced many Osprey publications as well as those from the Wargames Research Group when painting the models trying to achieve accuracy when painting them.

Gabriele Esposito, well known already for his articles in Karwansaray Publishers Ancient Warfare magazine has turned his attention to the Hellenistic States in a book published by Pen & Sword Military, titled Armies of the Hellenistic States 323 BC to AD 30, History, Organization and Equipment. The book is 155 pages long, (ISBN: 9781526730299) and was published on 17 July 2019.

Esposito has attempted to cover 350 years of Hellenistic history in a single volume analysing the organization and equipment employed by the armies of the Hellenistic States. Alexander the Great died in 323 BC and this resulted in his empire fragmenting into the various states of the Diadochi. Kingdoms were formed from Asia, to  North Africa and the Eastern European areas.

The book covers the complex Hellenistic military forces from the breakdown of Alexander’s empire until contact with the simplified Roman military machine obsoleted the pike phalanxes almost over night (OK, well it might have been over several years but in all interactions between the Legions and Phalanxes the Legions won and excuses were made for the failure of the Phalanx).

The Diadochi fielded armies with thousands of men, chariots, elephants and siege machines. The book covers these armies and analyses the forces of Macedon, the Seleucid Empire, Ptolemaic Egypt, the Greco-Bactrian Kingdom, Armenia, Pergamon, Pontus, Cappadocia, Galatia, the Bosporan Kingdom, Epirus, Sicily, the Achaean League and the Aetolian League.

To take such a broad subject and cover it within 155 pages means that the text rips along and Esposito’s writing style is very easy to read. The book is well illustrated with colourful maps (taken from Wikimedia under the Wikimedia Commons license). To illustrate the uniforms of the time the author has used the resources of a German based Hellenistic re-enactment group, Hetairoi which are a group covering much of the period. The re-enactors are used to illustrate uniforms, armour and weapons, shields and the like all in colour. Particularly impressive are the photos of the pikes.

The book is organised into 15 chapters, and Acknowledgement, Introduction, Bibliography and Index. There is also an appendix that discusses the re-enactors, Hetairoi e.V. (hetairoi is the Greek for “companion” and a reference to Alexander’s companions).

The chapters present are:

  1. The Military Revolution of Philip of Macedon
  2. The Macedonian Army of Alexander the Great
  3. The Succession to Alexander and the Wars of the Diadochi
  4. The Wars of the Hellenistic World
  5. The Armies of the Early Successors
  6. The Antigonid Army
  7. The Ptolemaic Army
  8. The Seleucid Army
  9. The Attalid Army
  10. Hellenistic Anatolia
  11. Pontus, Armenia and the Bosporan Kingdom
  12. The Epirote Army
  13. The Greek Cities
  14. Hellenistic Israel
  15. The Greco-Bactrian Kingdom and the Indo-Greek Kingdom

That pretty much covers the entire Hellenistic world post Alexander.

At the end of the book there is a bibliography. Interestingly, after listing some 20 primary sources, Esposito lists the secondary sources he used. These are a mix of academic works such as Bar-Kochva’s, The Seleucid Army to popular works such as Peter Connolly’s, Greece and Rome but by far the largest number of secondary sources are the publications of the Wargames Research Group, Montvert and Osprey. Esposito then lists his 17 secondary article sources, which are all from various issues of the Ancient Warfare Magazine.

This book will be of interest to ancient wargamers and military modellers in particular, full as it is with uniform and weapon detail. It is a good primer on Hellenistic Warfare. It would also interest those undertaking more serious Ancient History studies, at least enabling them to more clearly see uniforms and equipment from the past. Best of all, it is currently on sale at Pen and Sword. I will admit, now I am looking forward to both reading his older work on the Armies of the Late Roman Empire as well as the imminent release of Armies of Celtic Europe 700 BC to AD 106 at the end of next month. Recommended.

Recent Book Arrivals

I had a couple of packages arrive recently with the odd book to read. OK. so there was a lot. Some interesting titles in there however and I wuill get around to reviewing when I get a chance (which means when I actually finish reading a few. The temptation is to read them concurrently rather than serially. I shall try and resist that temptation.

The first batch will be pretty quick reading:

The second batch will tale a wee bit longer I will admit:

Mind you, I started on the second batch, in particular Steve Dunn’s. Southern Thunder, The Royal Navy and the Scandinavian Trade in World War One, which frankly I new absolutely nothing about. I can see some great scenarios for a wargame or three there as well as the need to acquire some more ships. Navwar order coming up.

Philippine History – Now That’s Frustrating

I was in the National Bookstore again today searching for a book on a topic near and dear to the heart of me, history. Ancient history to be accurate. Philippine ancient history to be really accurate. From what I can see, Philippine History only seems to start around 1581 with the arrival of a Jesuit.

I kept checking history books and apart from being filled with what seemed to be polemic and chapters on how wonderful Filipinos are, some even had chapters on Jewish inventions, like Google, for goodness sake, in a book on Philippines History. There was nothing I would describe as objective history and certainly nothing on life here before the Jesuits.

Now I will admit I was only having a quick scan of the books, scanning the odd chapter and the table of contents but what I saw was not really all that encouraging for a view of life in ancient times. The word “pre-history” turned up a lot to describe everything before the Jesuits as no one could write then and the most useful thing I learned was that Barangay may have referred to a boat (thank you Jesuits for that piece of information) and four Filipinos turned up in Japan (two blokes and two ladies) in the 600s or 800s C.E., and they were not the first singing group to go there!

I would be happy if someone could point me to a decent history of the early Philippines but so far everything I’ve seen suggests that this may not be all that likely to find.

I think I need to find a bigger bookshop.

Philippine History

Well, it ain't historical but it is modern Manila - a view along Makati Avenue looking towards Ayala Avenue and Ayala Triangle Park
Well, it ain’t historical but it is modern Manila – a view along Makati Avenue looking towards Ayala Avenue and Ayala Triangle Park

We’ve sort of settled into Manila and after a couple of walks around the Makati City area I thought I would do what I always do when arriving in a new country long term, I had a look for a book on Philippine history. Two bookshops, both large and the only book I could find was on Philippine History after the Cross.

Now I know that there is a rich history in these 7,000 odd islands stretching back a number of years but published works in English on the period between pre-history and the Spanish arrival seem to be rare – or at least hard to find.

Given my hobby and love of Ancient and Medieval History in particular, this is kind of frustrating so I can see I will have a decent chunk of research to keep me amused as I learn more and travel these islands.

So, what do I know about the pre-Spanish history of the Philippines. I can summarize is as follows:

  • Negritos are believed to have migrated to the Philippines around 30,000 years ago (yes, I know, that is pre-history)
  • They apparently came from Borneo, Sumatra, and Malaya
  • More Malayans followed over the years
  • the Igorots display today some of that older Malayan culture
  • a bunch of Austronesians also migrated in and generally took over from the Negritos
  • the ancient Philippines (say, from about 1 C.E. to 1,000 C.E.) were influenced by the Hindu kingdoms, then perhaps by the Chinese and Indonesian states they were trading with. This lead to:
    • the Rajahnate of Butuan and Cebu
    • the dynasty of Tondo
    • the august kingdoms of Maysapan and Maynila
    • the Confederation of Madyaas
    • the Country of Mai
    • the Sultanates of Sulu and Maguindanao
    • these were small maritime states trading with China, India, Japan, Thailand, Vietnam, and Indonesia
    • the remainder of the settlements were independent Barangays allied with one of the larger states
  • the period of Philippine history I am most likely to be interested in is that period following the creation of the Laguna Copperplate Inscription which is the first written document found in a Philippine language
More Historical - Gabriela Silang ("Generala") who was first Filipina to lead a revolt against the Spanish in the 18th Century after they killed her second husband. She was eventually captured in the mountains and hanged.
More Historical – Gabriela Silang (“Generala”) who was the first Filipina to lead a revolt against the Spanish in the 18th Century after they killed her second husband. She was eventually captured in the mountains and hanged.

The first interest in the local history will end about the time to the Spanish colonization and settlement, which began with the arrival of Miguel López de Legazpi’s expedition on 13 February 1565. He established the first permanent settlement of San Miguel on the island of Cebu. We will soon (I hope) be moving into an apartment in Legazpi Village, in Makati City, Metro Manila.

So, a lot of history to research. I expect the military history of the area is likely to mirror that of the Indonesia archipelago.

The hunt begins.

Ancient Warfare VIII/3 – Horsemen of the Steppes

One of the magazines I always look forward to is Ancient Warfare and this latest issue is of particular interest to me for two reasons:

  1. There is no coverage of the Mongols – they deserve separate treatment purely because of their success and the size of their eventual empire
  2. The coverage of the Amazons – something that has been an interest to me since seeing the Amazon sculpture frieze and mosaic in the Louvre
The Amazon Mosaic from the Louvre in Paris
The Amazon Mosaic from the Louvre in Paris

This issue then covers many of my interests whilst focussing on the Pontic Steppes where the majority of classical period nomadic horsemen originated. Included then are articles about the Amazons; a look at Herodotus’s examination of the Skythians; Dugdammi (Lygdamis), who managed to cause some trepidation in Ashurbanipal of Assyria when he united a number of nomadic tribes; Darius the Great’s Scythian expedition, 512 BCE; The battle for the Bosporan Kingdom, 310/309 BCE (Skythians face off against Sarmatians); and Alexander the Great’s mauling of the Skythians at the  Battle of the Jaxartes.

The Amazon sculptures from the Louvre in Paris
The Amazon sculptures from the Louvre in Paris

There are a number of other articles as well on Rome and Egypt but perhaps most interesting for me was the article noted as an obscure debate over a very long spear – How Long was the Macedonian Sarissa? There are a couple of good illustrations of both the reported length of that spear and it relative reach compared to the spears of regular hoplites.

It is also strangely appropriate and good timing that this issue comes out during the Naadam festival, the celebration of Mongolia. As I type this I have been watching the nine standards of Chinggis Khaan paraded and placed for the festival.

Slingshot — Issue 290 — Sept-Oct 2013

Slingshot 290 -- Sept-Oct 2013
Slingshot 290 — Sept-Oct 2013
The Society of Ancients is catching up. Slingshot for Sept-Oct 2013 appeared in the letterbox here in Singapore on Monday. I believe that Issue 291 has gone off to the printers already so should arrive shortly completing 2013. It’ll be time for a renewal of membership then and hopefully the 2014 printing schedule will catch up with the passing of the actual months. In this issue, however, are some interesting articles:

  • Ruspne 46 BC — Reconstructing the battle using Lost Battles – Part 2
  • The increasingly long “A Short History of the Iberian Peninsula from 400 to 1100 AD – Part 6”
  • A piece on the Battle of Hastings
  • The Campaign and Battle of Sambre in 57 BC
  • Army Selection and Gaming Style
  • Chinese Dynastic Colours — a really interesting piece from Duncan Head
  • The Battle of Montaperti 1260 AD — the SOA Battle Pack

The only problem with the issues coming out so quickly at the moment? Instead of savouring the journal I’ll need to read it somewhat more quickly that I had planned.

Slingshot 287 Mar/Apr 2013

Stacks Image 140Slingshot, the journal of the Society of Ancients, arrived here in Singapore last Friday (I guess still beating delivery times to Canberra). The cover this time represents the Muslim army bypassing Poitiers and marching on to Tours. As in previous issues, the cover art is taken from an Osprey Publishing book.

The always interesting contents of the journal this time include Part 4 of Transjordanian Tales, discussing warfare and wargaming prospects around Moab in Biblical times. There is also some lively discussion in Guardroom, in part about Transjordanian Tales.

Also included this month is an interesting piece from Jim Webster on the Iphikratean Peltast/Hoplite. A Short History of the Iberian Peninsula from 400 to 1100AD moves into part 3, discussing the entry of the Moors to the Peninsula (and I just had a sudden flashback to the performance of Shakespeare in the Park here in Singapore which this year was Othello – brilliant production).

Other articles include:

  • The Western Mediterranean Way of Warfare Debates, Part 2.1: Way of Warfare, by Roy Boss & Mark Grindlay
  • War, Games and Wargames: Part 2, by Richard Taylor
  • Galatians on the March! … at the Victorian 2012 Field of Glory Competition by Steven Neate
  • The Sussex Cup 2013: A DBA Tournament Report, by Richard Pulley

Along with figure and book reviews.

This issue also marks the last with Mark Watson as editor. From the next issue the editor will be Perry Gray from North America. As always, as a whole, the journal is always worth a read. It is not only on the top of my still growing pile of reading, it is my lunch reading for today.

Highly recommended.

If you haven’t seen a Slingshot recently or have an interest in ancient warfare and wargames and haven’t seen a Slingshot at all, I can recommend this journal. It is colour throughout and for the £24.00 membership fee ((Note that the cost includes postage – local or international)) (Slingshot is free to members, 6 times a year) it is money well spent. Details are at http://www.soa.org.uk/.

Slingshot 286 Jan/Feb 2013

ss286 coverSlingshot, the journal of the Society of Ancients, arrived here in Singapore yesterday. A wonderful cover representing the arrival of Hanno the Great to hear the demands of the mutineers during the Libyan War of 240 BCE.

The contents of the journal this time include Part 3 of  “a Short History of the Iberian Peninsula from 400 to 1100 CE”, this part dealing with the Visigoths, a topic of interest to me.

Also included is “The Western Mediterranean Way of Warfare Debates” a lively discussion of the Western Mediterranean. Nick Harbud presents a piece on building an army for a wargame, there is a continuation of a piece called Transjordanian Tales, discussing warfare and wargaming prospects around Moab in Biblical times. This has almost had me reaching for some chariots but no … elephants first!

The rest of the journal is filled with pieces about some wargame competitions and such.

As a whole, the journal is always worth a read and it is inevitably on top of the growing pile of reading next to me here.

If you haven’t seen a Slingshot recently or have an interest in ancient warfare and wargames and haven’t seen a Slingshot at all, I can recommend this journal. It is colour throughout and for the £24.00 membership fee (Slingshot is free to members, 6 times a year) it is money well spent.

Society of Ancients – Slingshot

ss281cover

Society of Ancients members can stop reading now 😆

One of my favourite reads every two months is Slingshot. This is the journal of the Society of Ancients, based in the UK. The Society is a collection of wargamers, historians (military and otherwise) whose common interest is ancient military history and playing games with small soldiers (or similar).

Over the last couple of years the journal has changed its shape and the cover to the left here is the current iteration of the journal. It is now printed with a soft cover and colour throughout, with more colour illustrations to illustrate articles (we do live in a colourful world after all).

The journal now looks and feels more like a magazine than it has ever felt and whilst it avoids a look that is “slick” it does feel good reading through it.

The contents this month consist of the usual sections – editorial, guardroom (that’s the letters to the editor – some people still do write them), figure reviews and book reviews. In addition this month there are articles on the Seventh Crusade, the Role of the Mast of Dragons (Later Romans), a continuation of East Roman Cavalry Warfare and Tactics c. 410-641 as well as some specifically wargaming topics, such as the report from the 2011 Victorian Field of Glory Championship and perhaps my favourite article this month, the Ruleset Round Table where the authors of a number of wargaming rules were asked the same questions. Some interesting reading indeed in there.

One thing I was pleased to see was William Shepherd’s Plataea receiving a very high accolade from a reviewer, an accolade I agreed with when I wrote Plataea 479 BC – Part 2.

If you are not a member of the Society of Ancients but you have an interest in Ancient Wargaming or Ancient Military History, then I suggest you head over to their website – it is not expensive for a year’s subscription and worth every cent.

Plataea 479 BC – Part 2

plataea
I finally finished reading this and I am glad I did. Already, as a result of the first quick look, Anthony and I had decided to expand our little ancient Greek project to include the Persian invasion. I thought I had a good understanding of the politics, military systems and battlegrounds of this conflict but Shepherd’s book has me reaching for other reference works as I reassess my understanding of this conflict of systems.

The coverage of the forces, commanders and opposing plans sets the stage for the conflicts to come. A good interpretation of Herodotus along with a review of other sources and secondary works makes this book one of the few that actually covers the battle of Plataea.

The illustrations of Peter Dennis are very evocative and help bring the text further to life. I particularly like “the Most Glorious Victory Ever Known” illustration on pages 70-71 and want my Greeks and Persians to look like that.

The battle maps really help to understand the flow of the battle and Shepherd’s interpretation of it. It is also quite nice to have an Osprey where the supporting photos are generally all colour and not taken in the 1950s – modern photos of the supporting materials.

Well done William, this is a wonderful addition to the Osprey range and I wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone with an interest in ancient history generally and the Greek and Persian Wars in particular.

the details of the book:

Campaign 239.

Author: William Shepherd

Illustrator: Peter Dennis

Plataea 479BC

The Contents are:

  1. Origins of the campaign
  2. Chronology
  3. Opposing commanders
  4. Opposing forces
  5. Opposing plans
  6. The campaign to Plataea and Mycale
  7. Plataea
  8. Mycale
  9. After the battles
  10. The battlefields today
  11. Further reading and bibliography
  12. Index

It was released as a paperback; January 2012; 96 pages; ISBN: 9781849085540