The Battle of DELIUM 423BC
Lessons for Wargaming
By Bob Crumpton
Sub title : Did we do something wrong ?
With great enthusiasm, the Athenians led by Hippocrates, invaded Boeotia. The orators in the senate had fired everyone up, and off they all set, about 7000 Hoplites, 1000 cavalry, 500 Peltasts and an unknown quantity of light troops. En route to the enemy territory, the Light 'troops' enthusiasm began to wear
thin, as they realised they were approaching unfriendly lands and - coops, they didn't actually have any weapons with them, zeal and emotion having overruled common sense. The good old common began to prevail however, and by the time they reached what was to become the battlefield, all the Athenian
lights had gone home !
The Boeotians got their army together, led by Pagondas. He managed to field as many cavalry, Hoplites and Peltasts as the Athenians, but managed to persuade his 10,000 light infantry to take their weapons out with them.
Late one afternoon, the 2 armies halted, separated by a low range of hills which hid both armies from each other. Scouting ? Who needs it. Pagondas formed his troops up with a centre/centre left of the usual 8 deep Hoplites. The centre right he left to the Thebans who placed their phalanx at 25 shields deep.
Cavalry and lights were dispersed on each wing. On the other side of the hill, Hippocrates arranged his whole phalanx 8 deep, with the cavalry split on each wing.
The Boeotians then marched to the crest of the hill. Naturally they decided to stay there and let the Athenians come up the hill at them - well no actually they didn't - they carried on over and down the other side. Meanwhile the Athenians advanced quite happily uphill. Somewhere along the way both armies
lack of scouting came to a fore, when they discovered watercourses which prevented the wings from engaging each other, so the Boeotian lights could have stayed at home anyway.
The two centres hit half way on the slope of the hill.
On the Boeotian left, the Athenians had the better of things and were quite merrily pushing the Boeotians back. On the right, the 25 deep Thebans were
doing the same to the Athenians, causing a pivoting action.
It was at this stage that Pagondas did the only bit of sensible generalship seen on the day. He sent orders for 2 squadrons of his cavalry to gallop behind the hill, out of sight, and fall on the flank of the Athenian Right, which was having the success. The Boeotian cavalry actually got it right, but didn't have to fight ! They appeared at the right place on cue, and the Athenians, who, as stated, were winning, saw them, panicked and ran.
The Athenian left, which was on the back foot anyway, thought this was a very sound idea, and joined them in
the rearward motion at high speed. The anticipated massacre did not take place, as night fell.
Concealed deployment, lack of scouting, winning units running away causing a domino effect. Now that's what I call a war gaming result - except it happened for real. But what a scenarion for an umpire controlled game. Let the protagonists set up, deploy, advance and then just prior to contact say "You cannot reach the enemy because of (insert own reason) and this entire flank is stationary. Provided you can get a message to your C-in-C and he decides to order a change in plan, you may move. Otherwise you sit this one out "..... Decide which flank before hand to be impartial - and if one or both Generals
have elected to put their best troops or mass their greatest strength on that particular flank - Tough !
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