Battle of Magnesia

Battle of Magnesia
Part of War against Anthiocus III
DateDecember 190 BC
LocationNear Magnesia ad Sipylum, Lydia (modern Turkey)
ResultDecisive Roman victory
Combatants
Roman RepublicSeleucid Empire
Commanders
Lucius Cornelius Scipio Asiaticus,
Scipio Africanus,
Eumenes II of Pergamum
Antiochus III the Great
Strength
50,00070,000


The Battle of Magnesia was fought in 190 BC near Magnesia ad Sipylum, on the plains of Lydia (modern Turkey), between the Romans, led by the consul Lucius Cornelius Scipio and his brother, the famed general Scipio Africanus, with their ally Eumenes II of Pergamum against the army of Antiochus III the Great of the Seleucid Empire. The resulting decisive Roman victory ended the conflict for the control of Greece.

The main historical source for this battle is Livy whose account distorts history to magnify Roman military glory and moral superiority. There is also an account by Appian with similar faults. [1]

The Battle

Antiochus was driven out of Greece following the defeat of his expeditionary force at the Battle of Thermopylae. The Roman navy with its Rhodian and other allies defeated and outmanoeuvered the Seleucid navy permitting the Roman army to cross the Hellespont. The theatre of war moved to Asia with the Roman army under the new consul Lucius Cornelius Scipio Asiaticus, younger brother of the great Scipio Africanus who accompanied him as legate.

After his defeat in Greece, Antiochus had retired to his main army in Asia Minor, where he set up an entrenched camp protecting the approach to Sardis and his fleet base at Ephesos. According to Grainger he had two phalanxes one of 10,000 professional soldiers and one of 16,000 semi-professional military settlers, together 26,000 men + 3,000 Galatians and 4,700 light infantry. Antiochus also had 6,000 heavy cataphract cavalry + 2,000 other heavy cavalry: the royal horse guards + 2,500 Galatian light cavalry + 500 Greek light cavalry + 1,200 steppe-nomad horse-archers = 12,000+ cavalry in total. He also had scythed chariots and 54 elephants and a unit of camel-borne Arab archers. The allied side had up to 43,000 Roman and Italian, mainly heavy, infantry + 6,000 Greek, mainly light, infantry with a total of c.5,000 cavalry + 16 elephants.

The great Roman success was to get Antiochus to fight a battle at all, before a new consul was sent out from Rome and before winter stopped the campaign. Scipio had successfully crossed the river and set up a camp only about 4 km from the camp of Antiochus. One suspects that the Romans won the campaign more with the spade, than the sword. The battle ground appears to have been too constricted for the cavalry advantage of Antiochus to tell. Scipio's further advance from his camp had the river protecting his left. Except for 4 squadrons (turma) all the allied cavalry was on its right as the battle started.

As in almost all ancient battles, different reconstructions are possible. Grainger has the battle start on the Seleucid left with a failed attack by the scythed chariots which disrupted the Seleucid cavalry on that wing. Perhaps at the same time, there was a charge on the right by the Seleucid cavalry wing commanded by the king himself. That charge broke their opposing infantry leading to a pursuit by the Seleucid horse, leaving the field to unsuccessfully attack the Roman camp. The Roman ally Eumenes, commanding all their cavalry on the right of the Roman-Allied army then counterattacked the Seleucid left, already disrupted by the scythed chariots, and broke it. In the centre of the battle line, the Seleucids had arrayed their pike phalanx with elephants in the intervals. The Roman attack ultimately managed to drive off the elephants in order to outflank and destroy the phalanx. There was further fighting at the Seleucid camp before that fell.

Conclusions

After an armistice was arranged between Antiochus and Rome the Roman army waged a campaign against the Galatians which politically undermined the Seleucid position in Asia Minor. The Romans had had a tremendous advantage throughout their campaign from their much more limited political objective. All the small powers could ally themselves to Rome because Rome sought no political annexations at this time. Conversely, the strategy of Antiochus had never made sense. The Aegean Sea was a natural frontier for a state based in Babylonia, as Xerxes discovered. If Antiochus had wanted to advance west into Greece, he needed to turn his state into the leading naval power in the Mediterranean, from nowhere, before sending his army west.

The treaty forced upon Antiochus III by the victorious Romans was crippling, in the Treaty of Apamea Antiochus was forced to pay a huge war indemnity of 15,000 Talents along with giving up significant territory in Asia Minor. The Taurus Mountains became the new frontier. The Seleucid navy was limited by treaty. It weakened the already fractious Seleucid Empire and halted all ambitions of Antiochus III in becoming a latter day Alexander in his own right.

An alternate view is that the real threat to the Seleucid Empire came from the east. The Taurus was a defensible frontier and the Seleucids were better off without having to deal with the turbulent politics of Greece and gained by having a great distance between them and Rome. Most of the lands lost had only been recaptured in 213 BC. Large parts of the Seleucid Empire of that time would never see a Roman army in the succeeding centuries. The economic powerhouse of the Seleucids was Babylonia which was never consolidated into the Roman Empire.

Trivia

  • Before the battle Antiochus asked Hannibal, who had fled to him, whether the vast and well-armed formation would be enough for the Roman Republic, to which Hannibal replied, "Yes, enough for the Romans, however greedy they may be." (Granger p320 states neither Hannibal nor Scipio Africanus were present at the battle.)
The battle of Magnesia is playable in the Rome Total Realism and features in the opening movie.

External links

John D. Granger The Roman War of Antiochus the Great 2002 Leiden-Boston
2nd century BC - 1st century BC
220s BC  210s BC  200s BC - 190s BC - 180s BC  170s BC  160s BC 
193 BC 192 BC 191 BC - 190 BC - 189 BC 188 BC 187 BC

Politics
State leaders - Sovereign states

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Magnesia ad Sipylum was a city of Lydia, situated about 65 km northeast of Smyrna (now İzmir) on the river Hermus (now Gediz) at the foot of Spil Mount. Nowadays this is the location of Manisa in Turkey.
..... Click the link for more information.
Lydia (in Greek Λυδία) is a historic region of western Asia Minor, congruent with Turkey's modern provinces of İzmir and Manisa. Its traditional capital was the city of Sardis (Turkish: Sard).
..... Click the link for more information.
Motto
Yurtta Sulh, Cihanda Sulh
Peace at Home, Peace in the World
Anthem
İstiklâl Marşı
The Anthem of Independence
..... Click the link for more information.
Roman Republic was the phase of the ancient Roman civilization characterized by a republican form of government. The republican period began with the overthrow of the Monarchy c.
..... Click the link for more information.
The Seleucid Empire was a Hellenistic successor state of Alexander the Great's dominion. At its greatest extent, the Empire comprised central Anatolia, the Levant, Mesopotamia, Persia, Turkmenistan, Pamir and the Indus valley (Pakistan).
..... Click the link for more information.
Lucius Cornelius Scipio Asiaticus (2nd century BC) was a Roman general and statesman. He was the son of Publius Cornelius Scipio and brother of Publius Cornelius Scipio Africanus.
..... Click the link for more information.
Publius Cornelius Scipio Africanus Major (Latin: P·CORNELIVS·P·F·L·N·SCIPIO·AFRICANVS ¹) (236–183 BC) was a general in the Second Punic War and statesman of the Roman Republic.
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Eumenes II of Pergamon (ruled 197 - 158 BC) was king of Pergamon and a member of the Attalid dynasty. The son of king Attalos I and queen Apollonis (?), he followed on his father's footsteps and collaborated with the Romans to oppose first Macedonian, then Seleucid
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Antiochus III the Great
Seleucid king

Silver coin of Antiochus III
Reign 223 BCE - 187 BCE
Buried
Predecessor Seleucus III Ceraunus
Successor Seleucus IV Philopator

Antiochus III the Great, (Greek
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Roman-Syrian War or as it is also known Syrian War (191 BC - 188 BC) was a war fought between a coalition consisting the Roman Republic, Pergamum, Rhodes, Macedon and the Achean League against an alliance lead by the Seleucid Empire, ruled by Antiochus the Great, and the
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Battle of Thermopylae was fought in 191 BC between a Roman army led by consul Manius Acilius Glabrio and a Seleucid force led by King Antiochus III the Great. The Romans were victorious, and as a result, Antiochus was forced to flee Greece.
..... Click the link for more information.
Battle of the Eurymedon was fought in 190 BC between a Seleucid fleet and Rhodian ships, who were allied with the Roman Republic. The Seleucids were led by the famous Carthaginian general Hannibal, who had gone into exile in the events following the Battle of Zama.
..... Click the link for more information.
Battle of Myonessus was fought in 190 BC within the war of Rome against Antiochus III the Great for the domination over Greece, between a Seleucid Empire fleet and a Roman plus Rhodian fleet. The Romans were victorious.
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2nd century BC - 1st century BC
220s BC  210s BC  200s BC - 190s BC - 180s BC  170s BC  160s BC 
193 BC 192 BC 191 BC - 190 BC - 189 BC 188 BC 187 BC

Politics
State leaders - Sovereign states

..... Click the link for more information.
Magnesia ad Sipylum was a city of Lydia, situated about 65 km northeast of Smyrna (now İzmir) on the river Hermus (now Gediz) at the foot of Spil Mount. Nowadays this is the location of Manisa in Turkey.
..... Click the link for more information.
Lydia (in Greek Λυδία) is a historic region of western Asia Minor, congruent with Turkey's modern provinces of İzmir and Manisa. Its traditional capital was the city of Sardis (Turkish: Sard).
..... Click the link for more information.
Motto
Yurtta Sulh, Cihanda Sulh
Peace at Home, Peace in the World
Anthem
İstiklâl Marşı
The Anthem of Independence
..... Click the link for more information.
Roman Republic was the phase of the ancient Roman civilization characterized by a republican form of government. The republican period began with the overthrow of the Monarchy c.
..... Click the link for more information.
Lucius Cornelius Scipio Asiaticus (2nd century BC) was a Roman general and statesman. He was the son of Publius Cornelius Scipio and brother of Publius Cornelius Scipio Africanus.
..... Click the link for more information.
Publius Cornelius Scipio Africanus Major (Latin: P·CORNELIVS·P·F·L·N·SCIPIO·AFRICANVS ¹) (236–183 BC) was a general in the Second Punic War and statesman of the Roman Republic.
..... Click the link for more information.
Eumenes II of Pergamon (ruled 197 - 158 BC) was king of Pergamon and a member of the Attalid dynasty. The son of king Attalos I and queen Apollonis (?), he followed on his father's footsteps and collaborated with the Romans to oppose first Macedonian, then Seleucid
..... Click the link for more information.
Antiochus III the Great
Seleucid king

Silver coin of Antiochus III
Reign 223 BCE - 187 BCE
Buried
Predecessor Seleucus III Ceraunus
Successor Seleucus IV Philopator

Antiochus III the Great, (Greek
..... Click the link for more information.
The Seleucid Empire was a Hellenistic successor state of Alexander the Great's dominion. At its greatest extent, the Empire comprised central Anatolia, the Levant, Mesopotamia, Persia, Turkmenistan, Pamir and the Indus valley (Pakistan).
..... Click the link for more information.
Battle of Thermopylae was fought in 191 BC between a Roman army led by consul Manius Acilius Glabrio and a Seleucid force led by King Antiochus III the Great. The Romans were victorious, and as a result, Antiochus was forced to flee Greece.
..... Click the link for more information.
Publius Cornelius Scipio Africanus Major (Latin: P·CORNELIVS·P·F·L·N·SCIPIO·AFRICANVS ¹) (236–183 BC) was a general in the Second Punic War and statesman of the Roman Republic.
..... Click the link for more information.
The word "legate" comes from the Latin legare ("to send"). It has several meanings, all related to representatives:
  • A legate is a member of a diplomatic embassy.

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cataphract (from the Greek κατάφρακτος kataphraktos, plural kataphraktoi, literally meaning (very) "behind barriers", "behind a fence", "protected") was a form of heavy cavalry used by nomadic eastern Iranian
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scythed chariot was a modified war chariot. A scythed chariot was a war chariot with a blade(s) mounted on both ends of the axle.

History

Some scholars believe the scythed chariot was invented by Ajatashatru, the King of Magadha in Ancient India, in circa
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Xerxes may refer to these Persian kings:
  • Xerxes I, reigned 485–465 BC, also known as Xerxes the Great.
  • Xerxes II, reigned 424 BC.
Xerxes may also refer to:
  • Xerxes of Armenia, an Armenian king, killed about 212 BC by Antiochus III the Great.

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