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.

Paint or Sell — Seleucid Successors

Hmm, these are Essex Miniatures and I am quite attracted to these. I’m leaning towards the paint side of paint or sell, although I expect that they will remain in the lead pile for quite some time. The Successors are at least in that Classical Period I like and are at least not Roman (although I will get to the Romans later).

The army is also about 400AP in DBMM terms and consists of:

Essex Miniatures
No Code Description Infantry Cavalry Elephants
3 MPA1 Macedonian, Greek Command 9
1 MPA3 Thracian Peltast rhomphaia 8
1 MPA4 Thrancian Peltast Javelin 8
2 MPA21 Cretan Archers 16
6 MPA83 Seleucid Phalangites 48
4 MPA84 Seleucid Agyraspids 32
1 MPA86 Companion Cavalry 4
1 MPA86A Companion Extra Heavy Cavalry 4
1 MEPA90 Elephant mahout pike archer javelin howdah 1
1 MEPA91 Elephant mahout 3 archers howdah 1
3 MPA92 Arab Archers 24
1 MPA94 Arab camel archers 4
2 MPA95 Thorakitai 16
3 MPA97 Heavy cavalry lance 12
3 MPA97A Extra heavy cavalry lance 12
2 MPA98 Tarantine cavalry 8
Total 152 53 2
Essex Miniatures Seleucid Successors 15mm from Essex
Essex Miniatures Seleucid Successors 15mm from Essex