The Battle of Raphia - 22nd June 217BC


Over 175 elephants fought at Raphia

Following the death of Alexander the Great , his Empire broke up into several kingdoms, initially ruled by his generals. As time passed these new nations became more diverse and hostile towards each other. Two of the largest of these kingdoms was the Seleucid Empire which covered most of modern day Iran and Iraq, and the Ptolemaic Egyptian Empire which extended around from Egypt to modern day Israel, Syria and Southern Turkey. These two empires clashed and soon found Syria and Palestine to be their war zone. In 217BC Antiochus III, the Seleucid Emperor invaded and overran Ptolemaic Palestine, prompting Ptolemy IV to raise an army and counter-attack. Both armies relied heavily on foreign mercenaries, but despite this diversity they were in many ways very similar, still fighting largely in the phalanx method that had been mastered by Alexander over 100 years earlier.

The two armies met at Raphia near modern day Gaza, on a large flat and featureless plain, both forces being huge; 70,000 vs 65,000 men.


Initial deployment at the Battle of Raphia

ORDERS OF BATTLE

Using a figure ratio of 1 to 100 - halve these numbers (except elephants) for 1 to 200 if needs be.


SELEUCID ARMY

Antiochus III - Commander in Chief - veteran, good tactician

Heavy Agema Cavalry (2000 men) - 20 figures - Extra heavy cavalry, barded hoses, cataphract armour, lance, veteran, superior morale

Light cavaly (2000 men) - 20 figures - Open order cavalry, javelins, shield, trained, steady

Greek Mercenaries (5000 men) - 50 figures - Medium infantry, pike, shield, trained, steady

Elephants (60 animals) - 3 models - unarmed driver, tower with 3 crew armed 1 bow, 1 pike, 1 javelins, trained, unpredictable

Elephant escorts (1200 men) - 12 figures - open order skirmishers, bow, trained, steady

Macedonian Phalangites (20,000 men) - 200 figures - close order, light armour, pike, shield, trained, steady

Macedonian Argyraspids (10,000 men) - 100 figures - close order, light armour pike, shield, veteran, elite

Arab Infantry (10,000 men) - 100 figures - open order, no armour, javelins, poor quality morale

Cissians, Medes & Carmanians (5,000 men) - 50 figures - open order, no armour, javelins, shield, steady

Cardacian & Lydians (1500 men) - 15 figures - open order, no armour, javelins, shield, steady

Heavy cavalry (2000 men) - 20 figures - light armour, lance, trained, steady

Elephants (40 animals) - 2 models - unarmed driver, tower with 3 crew armed 1 bow, 1 pike, 1 javelins, trained, unpredictable

Elephant escorts (800 men) - 8 figures - open order skirmishers, bow, trained, steady


PTOLEMAIC ARMY

Ptolemy IV - Commander in Chief - veteran, good tactician

Heavy cavalry (3,000 men) - 30 figures - light armour, lance, veteran, trained

Royal Guard (3,000 men) - 30 figures - close order infantry, light armour, pike, shield, veteran, elite

Libyan Peltasts (3,000 men) - 30 figures - open order infantry, spear, javelins, shield, trained, steady

Elephants (40 animals) - 2 models - unarmed driver, tower with 2 crew armed 1 bow, 1 pike, trained, unpredictable

Elephant escorts (800 men) - 8 figures - open order skirmishers, bow, trained, steady

Macedonian Phalangites (25,000 men) - 250 figures - close order, light armour, pike, shield, trained, steady

Egyptian Phalangites (10,000 men) - 100 figures - close order, light armour, pike, shield, trained, poor morale

Greek Mercenaries (8,000 men) - 80 figures - medium infantry, pike, shield, trained, steady

Galatians (2,000 men) - 20 figures - medium infantry, javelins, shield, steady

Thracians (2,000 men) - 20 figures - medium infantry, 2 handed sword, javelins, shield, steady

Heavy cavalry ( 2,000 men) - 20 figures - light armour, lance. trained, steady

Elephants (40 animals) - 2 models - unarmed driver, tower with 2 crew armed 1 bow, 1 pike, trained, unpredictable

Elephant escorts (800 men) - 8 figures - open order skirmishers, bow, trained, steady



clash of pikemen

THE BATTLE AS IT HAPPENED

The 60 elephants on the Seleucid right flank, engaged and easily beat the 40 elephants of the Ptolemaic army, forcing them back onto their own men and routing the infantry on that flank. Antiochus personally led the cavalry on that wing and chased the Ptolemaic cavalry off the field too. On the opposite wing it was Ptolemy who was winning the upper hand, his cavalry outflanked the Seleucid cavalry and his Greek mercenaries beat the Arab, Medes and other allied troops.

Only the centre phalanxes now remained and both sides advanced into contact, ater hard fighting the Ptolemaic army began to win the fight, encouraged by Ptolemy personally while Antiochus was still away from the battle pursing the cavalry from the initial flank success. When he returned he found his army in rout from the battle and Ptolemy victorious.

Ptolemy lost 1500 infantry and 700 cavalry, Antiochus lost 10,000 infantry, 300 cavalry and a further 4,000 taken prisoner.


WARGAMING NOTES

This is an especially large battle for the Ancient period and with the addition of sub-commanders would lend itself to a multi player game to give it more pace.

Although the battle description sounds quite decisive, in reality it could have easily gone either way, and that also applies to wargaming the battle; eveything to is to play for.

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