Monday, May 04, 2009

Ancient Warfare Magazine

In any given army the number of men who are at ease with killing and capable of routinely carrying it out is small. The Antigonid phalangites were now locked in a death dance with just such men. Their memories of Paraetacene, where their phalanx had been summarily driven from the field with severe casualties, were alive now in front of them. Working sarisae into the spaces generated by the confusion, the Argyraspids pushed and thrust at the disordered phalanx opposite them and spaces became gaps. As front rank sarisae shattered the double edged sword (xiphos) of the Argyraspids began to find unprotected sides and groins. Gaps turned to breach as, wielding sarisae, butt spikes and swords and “not a man withstanding them”, the Antigonid phalanx was “cut to pieces at close quarters” (Plut. Eum. 16.4) by the Argyraspids. Dry salt dust turned bloody saline mud.

The breach, driven deep into the Antigonid phalanx, was quickly exploited by Eumenes’ native hypaspists and the other phalanx units as they drove in to the left and right, their rearward ranks butt-spiking those underfoot. The Antigonid phalanx, cohesion falling away, could not retreat as their rear ranks, the light infantry still loosing the odd missile from behind them, kept pushing forward. All now was butchery as Antigonid phalangites, desperate to escape, discarded weapons and attempted to flee the carnage. Bodies piled on bodies in the rout as those not spitted by sarisae were eviscerated and hacked apart by swords. As the panic spread rearward and along the line, the Antigonid phalanx was put to incontinent flight. The Argyraspids, regimented in their brutal savagery, pursued. Blood mixed freely with faeces and urine as the salt dust drank.

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