Thursday, September 08, 2011

Silva Arsia: 509bc

Here I am with an early Republican Roman and Etruscan army in 20mm, and a copy of Hail Caesar; so what would make more sense than refighting one of their battles.

Of course in terms of historical accounts, the material for the period is pretty limited, the Romans at this time did not leave detailed records, and so what is handed down by their historians is rather scant; whilst the Etruscan language remains one of those untranslated mysteries of history.  This game was based on the extraordinarily limited available material - you can read a pretty full account of what is known on Wikipedia; it won't take long!

Like many an ancient battle the terrain was essentially an open plain, but for effect, the forest of Silva Arsia flanked one edge of the board, with the foothills of Rome to the other.

Gav took control of the Etruscans and made his deployments. The Etruscans had three commands; Tarquin led 6 units of Hoplite infantry and 2 of bow armed skirmishers; Veii led 2 units of Second Line troops, 2 Italiot allied units, a unit of Ligurian warband and 2 Javelin armed skirmish units; lastly Aruns led 2 units of fine Etruscan cavalry.  He put the heavy troops on his left, whilst the Cavalry were obliged by history to face the Roman horse on the right.

I took command of the Romans formed of Brutus leading 3 units of poor cavalry; Pubicola led 4 Hastati units with 2 units of Leves skirmishing before them; behind these was a Lictor leading 4 units of Principes, 2 Triarii and a unit of Accensi guarding the flank.  Forming up a Roman army is a no brainer!

What happens after that is anyone's guess.  I won initiative, but failed to deliver any commands, and so Brutus' army stood implacably in the face of the advancing Etruscans.

A handful of shots from the Etruscan skirmishers were enough to scare away the Accensi.  Publicola tried to advance the Hastati to meet the enemy, but instead orders to withdraw were received and the left flank of the army simply wandered away.

Meanwhile the Cavalry were doing most of the actual fighting on the Roman Left, and by the time the Hastati returned to the front line, both Brutus' and Arun's cavalry had exhausted one another with a series of savage charges.  The weaker Roman cavalry managed to survive due to greater numbers, but both sides had to retire.  This would prove an infantry battle.

The Romans in three lines were on the back foot but the Etruscans were no match for the resultant deep lines of support.  It turned out that the inability of Pubicola to motivate his men did at least leave short lines of command.

The Etruscans began to turn the Roman right, but were not actually having an effect on the Romans.

The deep Roman lines were of course bolstered by the Triarii.  Tarquin thickened his own lines and tried to wear the enemy down, but only found his forces withdrawing from every charge. 

Still the grinding match was wearing down both armies, both were getting close to losing a second command.

Gav risked delivering the Coup d'Grace, by putting the command of Veii into a final charge against weakened left of the Romans.  Alas for him it failed, the Romans maintained order and their counter attacks were enough to finally break the fighting will of the more junior Etruscan forces.

In fact it was at a point where his main forces were still largely unscathed.  The Romans were all over the place but they had made enough of a mess of the enemy to claim victory.  It was a narrow scrappy affair, but it went to prove that the Roman way of war was superior to that inherited from the Greeks.

As time would ultimately prove.


  1. Looks really impressive - I love an obsure Ancient Battle. My copt of Hail Caeser arrived this week. One of the things I like the look of is the fact that your troops don't always do what you want tem to.

  2. Really nice photos. Great looking troops too.