A MOST SANGUINARY AFFAIR: BLOODY TOWTON

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Palm Sunday, 1461: On a bleak, windswept Yorkshire plateau two Medieval armies clashed amidst a snowstorm; brutally hacking-and-slashing with sword, halberd and bill in what was to prove the largest and bloodiest battle ever fought on English soil. It would prove to be the decisive battle in the dynastic struggle known to history as the War of the Roses.

The War of the Roses was a 30 year-long conflict between adherents of two branches of the ruling Plantagenet dynasty: the House of York, whose symbol was a white rose; and the House of Lancaster, whose device was the red rose.

The roots of the conflict lay partially in the competing claims of these royal cousins; and can be traced back to the overthrow of King Richard II by his Lancastrian cousin, Henry of Bolingbroke, Early of Derby and Duke of Hereford; who took the throne as King Henry IV.While Henry was able to hold onto his usurped crown and pass it to his son, the heroic warrior king Henry V; the legitimacy of Lancastrian rule came into question in the reign of his grandson, Henry VI.

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Henry VI suffered from bouts of “madness”; in which he was largely unaware of circumstances around him. He likely inherited this malady from his maternal grandfather, the French kingCharles VI; whose reign (1380-1422) was marred by frequent periods of “madness”.  Control of the kingdom during King Henry’s periods of mental infirmity was granted by Parliament to his cousin Richard, the powerful Duke of York.

Under English succession laws, York’s claim to the throne was superior to that of his Lancastrian cousin’s. As Protector of the Realm, Richard of York was too close to the throne for the liking of the adherents of the House of Lancaster; particularly the king’s wife, Queen Margaret of Anjou. When Henry temporarily regained his senses in 1454, the Lancastrians used the opportunity to call a new Parliament; to which the Duke of York and his supporters were not invited. (In Medieval England, Parliament was called and dissolved by the King; and its members there at his invitation.) Not surprisingly, this Lancastrian Parliament stripped the Yorkists of their privileges. Armed conflict soon broke out, and in 1455 the War of the Rosesbegan with the First Battle of St. Albans.

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The fortunes of war shifted back and forth; the Yorkists gaining the advantage till atWakefield, in December of 1460, the Lancastrians ambushed Richard of York’s forces and killed both the Duke and his 17 year old second son, Edmund of Rutland.

The late Duke Richard was succeeded both as Duke of York and leader of the Yorkist cause by his able eldest son, Edward of March. Just over a month after his father and brother’s defeat and death, he routed a Welsh force led by Owen Tudor at Mortimer’s Cross. It was before this battle that Edward’s army beheld a meteorological phenomenon known asparhelion; in which the rising sun appeared to be flanked by two lesser suns and a bright halo. From this he took his personal standard, the “Sunne in Splendour“.

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Edward IV’s banner, the Sunne in SplendourDespite a second Lancastrian triumph at the Second Battle of St. Albans  over Edward’s ally,Richard Neville, the Earl of Warwick; Edward was able to join up with Warwick in London. There, on March 4, 1461, Warwick proclaimed Edward king. (Warwick would ten years later break with Edward and proclaim Henry VI once again king. From these acts he came to be known as “The Kingmaker“.)

The Lancastrian army, under Queen Margaret and her favorite, the Duke of Somerset,retreated to York, where their cause was strong. (Oddly, at this time in the war the Lancastrians were strongest in the north, with York a Lancastrian stronghold. Despite so many of their lords having titles in the south, such as Somerset and the Earl of Devon, the Lancastrians were detested south of the Midlands.) Edward led a Yorkist army northward to bring the Lancastrians to battle.

The Yorkists moved along three routes. John Mowbray, Duke of Norfolk marched to the east of the main body, with orders to raise forces and rejoin Edward before the battle. Warwick’s group moved to the west of the main body, through the English Midlands, gathering men as they went. Warwick’s uncle, the very capable Lord Fauconberg, led Edward’s vanguard; clearing the direct route to York for the main body, led by Edward himself.

Bloody skirmishes occurred at Ferrybridge and at Dinting Dale; in which the Lancastrians led by Lord Clifford attempted to harass the Yorkist’s advance. Clifford, who was thought to have personally killed Edward’s younger brother, Edmund of Rutland after Wakefield and was called “the Butcher”, was killed during the skirmish at Dinting Dale by an arrow; a loss for the Lancastrians of a dedicated adherent and ferocious enemy of York.

On Palm Sunday, March 29, under a glowering sky and amidst a snowfall, the armies of York and Lancaster met between the villages of Towton and Saxton; about 12 miles southwest of York and 2 miles south of Tadcaster.

The stage was set for what would become the largest and bloodiest battle in English history.

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LEGNICA: THE MONGOL TERROR REACHES POLAND

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The Middle Ages’ greatest war machine rolls westward out of Asia, as Eastern Europe faces the onslaught of the Mongol horde!

Genghis (or “Chinghis”) Khan was undoubtedly one of history’s greatest conquerors. After uniting the nomadic tribes north of the Great Wall, forging the “Mongol” nation, he created the most mobile army the world has ever seen. To this day, no armies have traveled further and faster (on average) than the Mongols. While the conquests of other nations are measured in miles, those of Genghis Khan and his successors must be calculated by lines of longitude and latitude; spanning the whole of Eurasia.

Though Genghis Khan died in 1227, the juggernaut he created rolled on under his sons and grandsons. In 1230, the Mongol general Chormaqan Noyan invaded Persia. Within a couple of short years, he had smashed all opposition. Operating out of Tabriz in Azerbaijan, he reduced Georgia and Armenia to client-status.

Mongol army on the marchThis control of the Caucuses region opened communications with another Mongol army, 130,000 strong, under the Mongol generalissimo, Subutai “the Invincible” and Batu Khan, a grandson of Genghis Khan. This force of swift-moving horsemen was tasked with conquering Russia; a prelude to the conquest of eastern Europe. Eighteen years earlier, Subutai had conducted a “reconnaissance in force” into southern Russia; culminating in the defeat of the Russian princes at the Battle of the Kalka River.

In 1236 this Mongol army crossed the Volga River, and within a year had crushed the Volga Bulgars; and subdued (and incorporated) the Kipchak and Alani tribes north of the Caucasus, taking their forces into the Mongol army. Between 1237 and 1238, the Mongoltumans (divisions of 10,000 men) conquered the principalities of southern Russia. Of the great towns and cities only Smolensk,  Novgorod and Pskov survived sack and slaughter; the former because it submitted to the Mongols and agreed to pay tribute, the latter two because they were two far north, protected by forest and swamp. The nomadic Cumans of the Ukraine (part of the now-destroyed Kipchak Confederation) fled before the Mongol terror; finding refuge across the Carpathian Alps, in the Kingdom of Hungary.

Mongols storm Russian cityThe Mongols made great use of siege engines such as the trebuchet pictured here. These could be assembled and disassembled as needed, carried on pack animals while on march. As depicted below, they were powered by a team of men pulling ropes.

Russia subdued, the Mongols prepared in 1240-41 for their next thrust westward; this time following the Cumans into Hungary. Subutai planned a winter campaign: the Mongols preferred to invade in the dead of winter, when militia armies had disbanded back to their farms and villages; and the great rivers were frozen hard, presenting no barrier. The plains of Hungary were the main target; a place where, once subdued, the Mongols could pasture their vast pony herds. To cover their northern flank during the Hungarian operation, and prevent the Poles from coming to Hungary’s aid, Subutai and Batu sent a force of two tumans through Poland….

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GREAT WARSHIPS OF HISTORY: BYZANTINE FIRE DROMON

For centuries Byzantium’s seaborne-flank was defended by a fleet of swift galleys; armed with one of history’s greatest secret weapons: Greek Fire!

In 672 three great Muslim fleets were dispatched by the Muslim Caliph, Mu’awiya; to clear the sea lanes and prepare for a Muslim army to besiege the storied capital of the Byzantine Empire: Constantinople. Methodically moving up the Anatolian coast and into the Aegean, they wintered at Smyrna in 673. Entering the Hellespont (Dardanelles) in 674, the Arab armada landed at Cyzicus on the southern shore of the Sea of Marmara. A base was established, and from here the Arab fleets attempted to blockade Constantinople and support the Arab land forces arriving opposite the city, after crossing Anatolia.

This was not the first time the great city had stood siege. Its massive triple walls, constructed during the reign of the emperor Theodosius in the 5th century, had never been breached. However, with command of the sea around the city as well as an army camped outside the walls, the Arabs could cut Constantinople off from outside supply. In time, the great city must surrender or starve.

Finally, in the autumn of 677, the Emperor Constantine IV resolved to confront the Arab besiegers at sea, and break their blockade. His fleet sailed out of the protected anchorage of the Golden Horn, and into the blue waters of the Bosporus. Wheeling from column into line, the Byzantine fleet darted forth into the open waters of the Sea of Marmara; where the Arab mariners scrambled onto their ships and rowed out to meet them.

The Byzantine galleys were of a type called dromons (“racers”). As the name implies, they were swift galleys, powered by oars and sail. Evolved from the Imperial Roman “bireme”, they differed from the ancient design used by the Greeks and Romans in several key ways. They were either smaller monoremes (powered by a single bank of oars) or biremes (two banks of oars), ranging from 50 to 120 oars. These vessels lacked the distinctive outriggerfound in the ancient Greek and Roman galleys (or of the later Renaissance galleys), and the partially-submerged bronze bow-ram that was the main weapon of the ancient warships had been replaced with a sharply pointed bow “spur”; projecting above the water. This was useful in breaking enemy oars, if not in punching a hole in an enemy hull.

The Arab sailors and warriors in the Sea of Marmara that day were sailing ships of the same (or nearly the same) design as the Byzantines; built in Arab-controlled ports in recently captured Egypt and Syria. There, shipyards had built vessels for the Byzantines until those lands were overrun by Muslim armies in the first half of the 7th century; when Islamic forces burst forth from the Arabian Peninsula, filled with religious zeal to spread their faith at the point of the sword. Once in control of former Byzantine ports along the Mediterranean, the Arabs were able to build their own great fleet of dromons to oppose the Byzantines at sea. Unlike the Arab dromons, though, the main weapon of the swift Byzantine darters sallying forth to offer battle that autumn day was no longer their ship’s beaks, or even their deck-mounted catapults. Instead, siphons and pumping devices were mounted on their bows, and sometimes on gunwale-mounted swivels; devices through which to launch a deadly and highly secret new incendiary weapon: Greek Fire.

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DIADOCHI: MACEDONIAN GAME OF THRONES (PART 9)

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Long before George R.R. Martin penned his tale of war, intrigue and treachery the ancient world was scene to its own version of Game of Thrones.

(This is the ninth in a series concerning the Wars of the Diadochi. Part 1 can be read here,and includes comprehensive biographies of the players in this drama. It is strongly advised that you start there before reading on here. The previous installment, Part 8, can be found here . Stay tuned to this blog for future installments! Special thanks to Michael Park for his indispensable help in filling in the gaps in the sources and putting-up with my incessant questions!)

 

ANTIPATER COMES SOUTH

It was the  summer of 320, three years after the death of Alexander the Great.  The First War of the Diadochi had reached an ugly conclusion, but one without a true decision. Perdiccas, the Regent who had ruled the empire since ‘s Alexander’s death, was himself dead. But with his chief rival, Craterus, out of the game the question was now who would replace him?

As the Royal Army and the kings marched out of Egypt, Antipater marched south from Cilicia to join them. The wholly unexpected defeat and death of his son-in-law and partner, Craterus, at the hands of Eumenes must have come as a tremendous shock to the “old rope” [1]. That a mere “Greekling“, one who was (in the eyes of his detractors) a trumped-up nobody whose only claim to advancement was a sycophantic devotion to the royal family; who had merely served Alexander with “ink and quill” while better men (Macedonians) had served with spear and shield [2]; that such a man would defeat and kill Craterus, a Macedonian-of-the-Macedonians, must have been a very bitter draught to swallow.

Antipater was  in Cilicia with some 10,000 (or less) troops when word reached him of this sudden reversal of fortune. As discussed in the previous chapter, his purpose for being in Cilicia (see Part 8), was likely to block Eumenes retreat.  As unsettling as the news of Craterus’ demise would have been, perhaps even worse was the presumed loss of his army to Eumenes. The initial reports would have informed Antipater that this force of 20,000 infantry and 2,000 cavalry had given up the struggle and joined Eumenes upon learning of the death of their beloved commander.

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These men, described as “Macedonians celebrated for their valour” [3], were long-serving veterans who  had followed first Philip and then Alexander in the wars of Macedonian greatness. At least some were the same men who had stood up to Alexander at Opis and demanded discharge and return home; and who once reconciled had been sent with Craterus back to Macedon in 323 [4]. Under his and Craterus’ command they had brought Greece to its knees in the recent Lamian War (see Part 3 and Part 4). Only the Argyraspides (the “Silver Shields”),  with the Royal Army marching home from Egypt, enjoyed a greater reputation.

This had been Antipater’s army, and now it was in the hands of his enemy.

This was a catastrophe of the first order. Though the Allies had defeated the Perdiccan forces in Egypt, and taken control of the Royal Army, this could reverse the verdict of Memphis and cause the leaders to rethink their allegiance.

However, Antipater’s fears were very quickly alleviated. Craterus’ Macedonian veterans, perhaps as many as 15,000, refusing to serve their master’s killer, had deserted Eumenes the night after the battle. They now appeared at Antipater’s camp, to rejoin his cause.

Thus bolstered, Antipater marched south to meet the Royal Army. Though they had recently served his enemy, Perdiccas, these were Macedonians who he was confident would respect his reputation as the oldest serving officer of the Macedonian army.  Eumenes could have Anatolia for now; Antipater would take possession of the two kings and the court, the only arbiter of legitimacy.

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Marching south, he found the Royal Army camped in Upper Syria at a place called Triparadeisos. There, mischief was afoot, and it was an army in near mutiny that awaited him.

CLASH OF WILLS AT TRIPARADEISOS 

The location and nature of Triparadeisos is uncertain. Scholars think that it was near modern Baalbek, site of ancient Heliopolis in the foothills of the Anti-Lebanon Mountains. At the time it may have been a Persian pleasure park or garden, called in  Old Persian a  pairidaeza; a word that Xenophon rendered into Greek as Paradeisos (from whence comes the English term, paradise). The Achaemenid kings set these rectangular
gardens, marked off with flags,  within enclosed royal hunting parks. Part of the rites of Persian (and, earlier, Assyrian) kingship involved a ritual lion hunt; staged in just such hunting parks. A mosaic from the Macedonian capital of Pella depicts Alexander and Craterus slaying a lion, perhaps at just such a place. Could the conqueror have been confirming his new position as Darius’ successor by observing this ritual hunt?

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“Fragrant, lush and cooling, a place of meditation”:  It was at such a place that the Kings and Royal Court, escorted by the royal army, camped and awaited the arrival of Antipater with his “European” army. One can well imagine that this was a fit place for the court to take its rest after the hardships of the last few months; a virtual “paradise”, indeed. Well-watered by the sources of both the Litani (the ancient Leontes) and the Asi (the upper Orontes), Triparadeisos was likely a green and well-shaded park; mountains looming above to the east and west. The name would indicate that perhaps this was three “pairidaeza”  in one; three adjacent parks, or one triple the size of the normal.

We have no information, but as these Persian gardens typically had a central reflecting pool with a viewing platform above it; the grand pavilions of the kings, Philip-Arrhidaeus and Alexander IV, surrounded by those of their attendants, occupied this select spot.  Filling the green grounds beyond the royal enclosures would have been the tents of the officers of the army; and radiating outward, furthest from the “royals”, those of the common soldiers.

Chehel Sotoun garden in Isfahan Iran built by Shah Abbas II

An example of a Persian garden: the Chehel Sotoun garden in Isfahan, Iran; built by Shah Abbas II in the 17th cent

This place of tranquility was now the scene of discord and near-mutiny.

At the heart of the disorder was the young queen, Eurydice; the 16 year old wife to King Philip.

Hearkening back to a previous chapter (see Part 6), this spirited young lady had started life as Adea, daughter of the Macedonian prince Amyntas and Kynane. Her mother was the daughter of Philip II and half-sister of Alexander. Kynane had come from Macedon to Sardis in 321, in an effort to marry her daughter Adea to her half-brother, Philip-Arrhidaeus. In a confrontation with soldiers led by Perdiccas’ arrogant, headstrong brother, Alcetus, Kynane was killed. But the Macedonian soldiers, horrified that a daughter of their revered Philip had been so mistreated, demanded the dead princess get her wish; and the teenage Adea was indeed married (against Perdiccas’ wishes) to her half-uncle, King Philip-Arrhidaeus.  She took the “throne-name” of Eurydice.

Like her mother Kynane, who was daughter of an Illyrian warrior princess (one of Philip’s 6 wives), Eurydice was brought up in the same “manly” way as was her mother. She was taught to hunt and to fight, and this “Amazon” was not content to play a background role in the unfolding drama.  She apparently got along quite well with her husband; and though he was a middle-aged man (and bearing a striking resemblance to his late father, Philip II) and she but a teenager, she very soon was acting as spokeswoman for her mentally deficient (and perhaps autistic) husband. As the army and court rested at Triparadeisos, she soon became embroiled in a power struggle for control of the court; between herself (representing the interests of King Philip) and the temporary regents chosen by the generals in Egypt, Peithon and Arrhidaeus.

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Amazons appear in Greek myth, but seldom in history. Adea-Eurydice was raised as a warrior by her mother, Kynane; daughter of Philip and the Illyrian warrior princess Audata. 

Freed by the death of Perdiccas from the dominance of that ruthless and overbearing figure, Eurydice was eager to assert herself (and her royal husband’s) independence from the control of ambitious generals; and to rule Macedon (and the empire) as a true queen. She was the granddaughter of Philip, and her husband that great man’s only living son and namesake. She would no longer rest content under the thumb of another.

Popular with the rank-and-file Macedonians, she applied herself to winning them over to her cause, undermining the acting regents. She found a “wedge-issue” ready at hand, in the discontent of the royal army regarding arrears in pay.

When Perdiccas marched on Egypt, he left his army’s pay-chest, some 800 talents, in the Phoenician city of Tyre. He likely promised his men to make good their pay after the campaign against Ptolemy was completed. Then Perdiccas was murdered by his officers; and upon learning of the death of Craterus, the army had rampaged through the camp and killed various of the late Regent’s friends and family. Among those was Perdiccas’ sister, Atalante. When word of these events reached  her husband, Attalus, commander of the Perdiccan fleet, who  at that moment was blockading the Pelousiac mouth of the Nile; he departed with the fleet to Tyre.  There the Perdiccan garrison-commander received him into the city and handed over the 800 talents. With this “war-chest” secured, Attalus offered refuge to those still loyal to his brother-in-law’s memory.

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The tough Macedonian soldiers were the representatives of the “Macedonian people in arms”. All political power derived ultimately from their consent. At the king’s death, they elected the next monarch. Even strong kings like Alexander had trouble controlling them. But they remained loyal to the Argead dynasty throughout the Diadochi Wars, till the death of Alexander IV. 

We don’t know who reached-out to whom, but shortly after the royal army and court arrived at Triparadeisos, Eurydice and Attalus were intriguing. Attalus soon appeared in the camp, despite a death sentence passed upon him and other leading Perdiccans by this same body of troops just weeks earlier in Egypt. This speaks to the level of dissatisfaction within the army with the current situation; perhaps regretting the death of their former leader and the unjust slaughter of his family and friends, and particularly with Peithon and Arrhidaeus’s, who were clearly not up to the task of leading this army.

This was the second time since 323 that Peithon, the former Bodyguard (Somatophylax) of Alexander, had been given command of an army and failed to either establish his command authority or to win its loyalty. Though he had handily defeated the Bactrian rebels in 323, he had lost control of his Macedonians in that campaign [5] and with it any thought of creating a power-base in the “upper satrapies” [6]. A capable soldier, he had no skill at politics; condemning him in this “game of thrones” to a supporting role.

Between Attalus rallying sympathy and support to the Perdiccan cause among his former soldiers; and the charismatic young queen’s agitation for redress of th
e soldier’s complaints regarding arrears in pay; the acting regents found their situation untenable. They resigned in favor of Antipater, temporarily leaving the army without leadership. When the old Regent arrived in camp, the royal army was in a state of near mutiny; and the soldier’s temper at a near boil.

Antipater pitched his army’s camp separate from that of the Royal Army’s, across a stream that watered the park. At about the same time, Antigonas “One-Eyed” arrived from Cyprus, where he had been successfully campaigning against Perdiccas’ allies.

Antipater crossed the stream and entered the Royal camp, where he called the troops to assembly. There he attempted to assume control. He found himself confronted by Queen Eurydice and Attalus, supported by the troops, demanding what was owed to them. Antipater had no funds to pay them, and frustration gave way to riot, perhaps inflamed by Eurydice and Attalus’ incendiary rhetoric. The old Regent only escaped murder on the spot by the intervention of two highly respected soldiers: Antigonas, and Seleucus; the latter serving as commander of the elite Companion Cavalry and chiliarch (second-in-command) of the royal army.

Each of these officers were to play a huge role in future of the game; but at the time of Triparadeisos neither had yet to played a leading role. Antigonas, himself a vigorous old soldier (he was perhaps 62) was of the generation of veterans who came of age in wars of Philip II. The old “grognards” [7] who were at the core of the agitation knew him and respected him;  Antigonas (“Cyclops”) was a “soldier’s soldier”. Seleucus was of the generation of Alexander. He had crossed into Asia with his young king at the age of 23. By India he commanded the elite hypaspists (now called the Argyraspides), and had crossed the Hydaspes on the same raft as Alexander himself. At Babylon he was appointed to command the Companions and chiliarch under Perdiccas. Many of the men now rioting had served under him in one capacity or another in the last few years.

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These two put themselves physically between the old Regent and any would be assailant; and escorted him back to his own camp, across the stream. This was the last time these two great men would be on the same side.

First round had gone to Eurydice.

However, within a day events had shifted against the girl.

The officers of the army convened their own conference, and decided to ratify the decision to place themselves under Antipater’s command. Eurydice’s position was perhaps weakened when Attalus returned to Tyre, taking with him many soldiers loyal to the Perdiccan cause, or who were lured away by the promise of his pay-chest. (From there, Attalus set sail with a force of 10,000 infantry and 800 cavalry, intending to attack Cnidus, Caunus, and Rhodes [8] . Instead, he joined his forces to those of Perdiccas brother, Alcetas, in Caria.) Antipater now took control of the army and the court. His first order of business was to rein-in the spitfire young queen.

Eurydice found herself facing a much sterner opponent than Peithon and Arrhidaeus; one with long experience in handling headstrong,  meddling queens (not to mention three daughters). We don’t know what conversation the two had, but we can be sure that Antipater put the young “Amazon” in her place. Perhaps she simply conceded to his authority with the understanding that however formidable Antipater was, time was on her side. She was 16, he in his eighties. Her time would come, if not now then soon.

THE TRIPARADEISOS SETTLEMENT

A new administrative settlement for the empire was needed; one that superseded the arrangements made at Babylon three years earlier, recognizing the “facts on the ground”. Antipater, who had spent his life in Macedon, would return home with a force of old veterans and mercenaries.

As reward for his services, Antigonas was to be given back his satrapy of Phrygia, from which he had fled the year before. More importantly, he was elevated to the supreme rank of Royal General (strategos) of the army in Asia, and custodian of the kings and court (let him deal with Eurydice’s intrigues!); giving him sufficient prestige and power to prosecute the war against the remaining Perdiccan rebels currently controlling much of Asia Minor (Anatolia). To keep an eye on him and check his power, Antipater’s own son, Cassander (of which much will soon be said) was appointed as his second-in-command (chiliarch).

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Antipater left him with many of the young Macedonians recruited for the Lamian War and the struggle against Perdiccas; to augment the rest of the late Perdiccas’ “royal army”. This was still mutinous though made less troublesome by the desertion of some to Attalus, and by the detachment of the Silver Shields, the worst of the “grumblers”; who were placated (or perhaps punished, for leading the near-mutiny against Antipater) by being sent east. Their commander, Antigenes,  was appointed satrap of Susa as his reward for the killing of Perdiccas. As Susa was the seat of a royal treasury, the Argyraspides would at last have their pay demands met in full.

Antipater rewarded others who had been useful or loyal in the last two years as well. Seleucus was appointed satrap of Babylonia, though he would have to expel the current satrap, appointed by Perdiccas. Peithon, another of Perdiccas’ killers, was reappointed satrap of Media; with additional authority as strategos over all of the upper satrapies. Ptolemy, absent from conference but a force to be reckoned with, was confirmed not only as satrap of Egypt; but granted license to expand to the west, as he saw fit. Ptolemy had already, without permission from the (then) Regent, Perdiccas, annexed neighboring Cyrene. At Triparadeisos, this conquest was legitimatized; and Ptolemy perhaps encouraged to focus his energies towards Carthage in the west, instead of making trouble for the central government. [9]

Lesser appointments were made as well, of men loyal to Antipater. Hellespontine Phrygia, vacant since Leonnatus’ death, was given to Arrhidaeus. Not only had he served briefly as co-Regent, abdicating in favor of Antipater; he was being rewarded for his role in taking Alexander’s corpse to Egypt, which act set in motion the chain of events that led to the fall of Perdiccas. In Lydia, Antipater placed a check on Antigonas’ future ambitions, by replacing his friend Menander with his admiral and the victor of Amorgos,  Clitus the White.  Caria, currently occupied by Perdiccas’ brother Alcetus with a considerable army,  was returned to Asander, whom had been forced out of this post by Perdiccas.  Other satraps, appointed in Babylon in 323, were continued in their positions.

Antipater further strengthened both his own position and the future peace he envisioned in the empire by a new batch of family weddings. He had three daughters to give away, two of which were newly widowed. Nicaea, Perdiccas’ widow, was given to Lysimachus, the very-capable satrap/governor of Thrace. Though so far not involved with events in the greater empire, and deeply embroiled in a conflict with the Odrysian king, Seuthes III, Lysimachus’ position with an army so close to the Macedonian homeland made his support important to obtain. Antigonas was brought into the Antipatrid family by the marriage of Antigonas’ 17 year old Demetrius to Phila, widow of Craterus; a woman at least ten years his senior. (It would prove a good match, despite the age difference, with Phila providing Demetrius with two children and wise counsel over the next two decades.) Finally, his third daughter Euridike’s betrothal to Ptolemy was at last consummated with marriage.

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As a final piece of business, the death sentences passed in haste against the leading Perdiccans, particularly Eumenes and Alectus, were now officially ratified. Though they could only be carried out by force-of-arms, Antigonas had the official writ to conduct this war against them.

Though not evident at the time, the settlement at Triparadeisos began the dissolution of Alexander’s conquests into rival kingdoms. The names of the dynasts would change in the next two decades. But with Antipater taking Europe as his sphere of interest (and place of retirement), and leaving Antigonas in control of Asia and Ptolemy in near-independent control of Egypt, the seed was planted for the division of the Macedonian Empire into three competing kingdoms.

Antigonas was the “big winner” at Triparadeisos. He had arrived as a refugee satrap and deputy of Antipater’s. He had spent all of Alexander’s wars left behind, guarding the supply lines between Europe and Asia in Phrygia. Always a fringe player but never center stage, Antigonas was now thrust into a starring role. A lifetime of frustrated ambition was now given scope for achievement. It was an opportunity he  would not squander.

With the pieces rearranged on the board, the game was set to move into its next phase. It would prove the bloodiest yet.

NEXT: ANTIGONAS AND EUMEMES

  1. The derogatory term used by Olympias and her partisans for Antipater. The meaning is likely that he (Antipater) had long kept Olympia from doing  as she saw fit; binding her actions like an (old) rope. But this is just speculative.
  2. Neoptolemus is recorded to have insulted Eumenes by saying that he (Neoptolemus) had followed Alexander through Asia with shield and spear; while Eumenes had only done so with stylus and tablet. This, of course, referred to the fact that for most of his life, Eumenes had been the Royal Secretary to first Philip and then Alexander.
  3.  Diodorus XVIII.30,4
  4. Arrian VII.8-12; Diodorus XVII.108-109. How many of the 10,000 veterans of Opis remained in service at this time is unknown. Certainly a number must have take their discharges and retired.  But Diodorus’ description of  Craterus’ Macedonians as men “celebrated for their valor” implies that at least a majority of these were veterans; as those young Macedonians who were recruited during the emergency of the Lamian War are unlikely to have warranted this description.
  5.  See Part 4.
  6. North eastern Iran, Afghanistan, and the Persian satrapies in central Asia.
  7. French for “grumblers”, a term used first by Napoleon for the veterans of his “Old Guard”.
  8. Arrian, Successors,  1.39
  9. Ptolemy’s governor of Cyrene, Ophellas, rebelled against Egyptian authority on or just after 313 BC. As independent ruler of Cyrene, Ophellas invaded Carthage in 308 as an ally of Agathocles.
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13 DAYS OF GLORY: THE ALAMO, 1836

  There are times when a defeat can become a triumph. Just as the heroic death of the 300 Spartans at Thermopylae gave courage to the rest of Greece; so the last stand of a handful of brave Texians in a fortified Mission became a rallying cry for Texas’ independence: Remember the Alamo!

IN the predawn hours of March 6, 1836, the Mexican army of President and GeneralissimoAntonio López de Santa Anna stormed the battlements of the Alamo; slaying the defending Texan garrison to a man.

This battle, though neither final or decisive, was the seminal moment in the Texas War of Independence. It bloodied the Mexican army and lent the Texans both a band of martyred heroes and an immortal rallying cry: “Remember the Alamo”!

Antonio López de Santa Anna attempted to establish a benevolent dictatorship in Mexico in the 1830s. Originally a believer in republican government, he soon came to believe that his fellow Mexicans were unready for self-governance. After putting down revolts in Mexico against his government, he turned his attention to the break-away province of Texas.

Following Santa Anna’s seizure of power and revocation of the Mexican Constitution of 1824 in early 1835, the English-Speaking (mostly American) majority of Texans (called “Texians“, to distinguish them from the Spanish-Speaking “Tejanos”) revolted in the face of his dictatorial policies. These American immigrants, originally invited by previous governments to settle in Texas as a counter to Comanche raids, were now the majority of the population; and brought with them the American distaste for tyranny. Expelling what few Mexican garrisons existed in the territory, the Texians began drafting a constitution for the new nation they envisioned; and building an army in preparation of Mexican reprisals.

Near San Antonio de Béxar (modern-day San Antonio) was an 18th century Spanish Mission. Abandoned at the end of that century, it was briefly turned into a garrison for Spanish troops; who gave it the name, “Alamo“. After Mexico gained its independence from Spain, the Alamo was held by a Mexican garrison; till this force was expelled by Texians under the famous knife-fighter James “Jim” Bowie, a land-owning resident of San Antonio, in December of 1835.

Bowie was at first ordered by the new Texian Army commander, Sam Houston, to dismantle the fort and retrieve the 19 cannons of various caliber left behind by the Mexicans. Instead, upon finding he had insufficient transport to effectively evacuate the guns, Bowie decided to improve the defenses (with the aid of engineer Green B. Jameson) and hold the Alamo. Bowie felt strongly that the Alamo could be a bastion defending Texas from Santa Anna’s coming attack. In a letter to Henry Smith, a leader of the Texas War or Independence Party, Bowie argued that “the salvation of Texas depends in great measure on keeping Bexar (San Antonio) out of the hands of the enemy. It serves as the frontier picquet guard, and if it were in the possession of Santa Anna, there is no stronghold from which to repel him in his march towards the Sabine.”

Bowie shared command of the mixed “regulars” and “volunteers” with Colonel James C. Neill. Neill sent to Houston and the provisional government for supplies and additional men; but at this stage both the Texas government and Houston’s incipient army were in disarray; and no help was sent to the Alamo.

James “Jim” Bowie, famous knife-fighter and local landowner, had ties to the Mexican “Tejano” community; having married a Mexican bride and settled in San Antonio. Sent by Houston to evacuated the garrison and cannon from the Alamo, he instead chose to strengthen the Alamo’s defenses and hold it against Santa Anna.Bowie’s famous knife, proto-type for all future “Bowie Knives”

On February 3, 1836 Lt. Colonel William Barret Travis arrived at the Alamo with 18 cavalrymen of the new Texan army; to take over as Neill’s second-in-command. Travis was a young lawyer from Alabama, recently come to Texas to build a new life. Five days after Travis’ arrival, another group of volunteers, these from Tennessee arrived at the Alamo. They were led the famous frontiersman and former U.S. Congressman, David (“Davy”) Crockett; a man who was already a legend in his own time; famous for his abilities as a sharpshooter.

When on February 11th Neill had to absent himself from the Alamo because of family matters, he left Travis, the highest-ranking “Regular” army officer in command of the garrison. Bowie, who led a band of 30 “Volunteers”, would act as his co-commander. Bowie and Travis detested each other, and as they prepared the fort against eventual attack, tension between the two men was high. But all supposed that Santa Anna would not attempt a winter campaign, and long before he arrived in the spring Neill would have returned; likely with reinforcements.

William Barret Travis was a lawyer from Alabama, who like many Americans had come to Texas to make his fortune. Commissioned as a cavalry officer in the new Texas army, he was appointed co-commander at the Alamo with Jim Bowie, till Bowie fell ill the second day of the siege; after which Travis was the sole commander.

However, Santa Anna, who fancied himself as “the Napoleon of the West”, was doing what all great generals attempt: the unexpected. In the dead of winter, he was marching north toward Texas, at the head of an army of 6,019 soldiers. This force had set out in December, even as Bowie was capturing the Alamo in the first place. Their progress was slow as the army worked its way over difficult and sometimes frozen terrain; encumbered by artillery, supply wagons, and numerous camp followers. Santa Anna had spent 1835 putting down rebellions and fighting battles in Mexico against well-armed local militias; and the core of his army was comprised of loyal veterans. However, many of the soldiers were newly recruited replacements, and their officers used the march north to train their men. On February 12, Santa Anna crossed the Rio Grande, undetected by the Texian defenders. It was not till the morning of February 23 that Travis’ scouts reported the approach of Santa Anna’s 1,500 strong advance guard, when it was only 1.5 miles outside of town.

Santa Anna marched into San Antonio de Bexar on the February 23, 1836; and demanded the unconditional surrender of the Alamo. Here, his entry is depicted in the very accurate 2004 film, “The Alamo”.

While the surprised and unprepared Texians hurried into the Alamo, the Mexican army occupied San Antonio Bexar. A parlay soon followed, in which Bowie sent his engineer, Green B. Jameson, to ask terms. According to Mexican sources, he was informed by Santa Anna’s aid, José Bartres, that El Presidente demanded unconditional surrender (“on discretion”):

… according to the order of His Excellency… the Mexican army cannot come to terms under any conditions with rebellious foreigners to whom there is no recourse left, if they wish to save their lives, than to place themselves immediately at the disposal of the Supreme Government from whom alone they may expect clemency after some considerations.

This was in keeping with Santa Anna and the Mexican government’s official position toward the Texian rebels: In late December 1835, the Mexican Congress passed the Tornel Decree, declaring foreigners fighting in Texas against Mexico “pirates”, to be treated with summary justice. Santa Anna had in the previous year shown no clemency to rebels in Mexico, and his reputation preceded him. Even had the Texian garrison within the Alamo been so inclined, they were under no illusions that they could expect mercy at the hands of Santa Anna…

(To continue reading, go here)

 

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BREACHING THE ALPS: HANNIBAL’S ICY ORDEAL

Hannibal (2)

DEFYING  THE ODDS, HANNIBAL CROSSES THE ALPS LATE IN THE SEASON, AND BY SO DOING TURNS THE TABLES ON ROME

On a bitterly cold late autumn morning, high atop the Western Alps, a polyglot army of Spaniards and North Africans gathered to hear the inspirational words of their twenty-nine year old commander. Bone-weary and increasingly ragged, the host was a skeleton of the force that had entered the mountains from the Rhone Valley only eleven days earlier. Twice they’d been ambushed by hostile Celtic tribesmen, in the process loosing thousands of men and hundreds of pack animals. For the last two days they had been camped here, at the top of the pass leading to Italy; recouping and allowing stragglers to catch-up.

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It was the beginning of November, 218 BC[1]. This army, the creation of one man’s implacable will, was attempting to accomplish the seemingly impossible: cross the snow-girded Alps and enter Italy, from whence to make war upon Rome in its own backyard.

That man was Hannibal Barca, and this was his war.

What we know as the Second Punic War was called by Roman writers the “Hannibalic War”. It was Hannibal, following in his father Hamilcar’s very large footsteps, who carefully prepared his nation for this struggle. Continuing the conquest of Spain begun by Hamilcar, he had honed the multi-ethnic Carthaginian army into his personal instrument of revenge against the Romans, who had humiliated Carthage in the First Punic War. It was he who’d defied Rome and attacked their ally, the town of Saguntum in Spain; the casus bellum of this new war.

Standing now on a promontory and facing his tired, shivering soldiers, the indefatigable Hannibal pointed to the vista below: there, Italy beckoned. Five months before they had left New Carthage (Qart Hadasht to the Carthaginians, and Carthago Nova in Latin) in Spain[2]; now their goal was in sight. Below, the Celtic tribes of the Po Valley waited as allies to welcome and supply them. He told them that they should imagine that they “were now scaling the ramparts not only of Italy, but of Rome itself…and after one, or, at the most, two battles, they would have in their hands and in their power the citadel and capital of Italy.”[3] Years later, old veterans imagined they had actually seen Rome itself in the distance. Only one more effort was needed, and this downhill. Their spirits buoyed, the army prepared for the final push on into the valley below.

It had been a long, history-making trek.

Hannibal had prepared all winter, setting off in early spring. He crossed the Pyrenees with 50,000 infantry, 10,000 horse and 40 elephants[4]. His course was carefully arranged in advance, with guides….

(To continue reading, go here.)

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GREAT CAPTAINS: JULIUS CAESAR

c julius-caesarThis is the eighth in a series of posts in which we examine the “Great Captains” of military history. Unusually, we do this in video format; posting compelling biographical material; as well as images and a brief narrative.

Few great generals are better known than Julius Caesar. As the only Great Captain of antiquity to write his own campaign memoirs, both the general public of his day and history students today know of his exploits in more detail, albeit perhaps somewhat subjective details, than is the case with any of his fellow greats. This is deliberate: Caesar was not only a great general; he was also a very gifted politician and statesman.

Born in 100 BC, he was the nephew by marriage of another commander of great ability,Gaius Marius. His family was a poor branch of the Julii, a venerable patrician family claiming descent from Iulus, son of the Trojan prince Aeneas; who supposedly brought the survivors of Troy to Latium. Aeneas was, in legend, the son of the goddess Venus; and Caesar certainly behaved as though he was descended from the goddess of love, always cutting a swath through the ladies of Rome.

He spent the first half of his life struggling to find financial security and to carve out a place for himself in the rough-and-tumble politics of his day. As the heir to Marius’ place as political champion of the plebeians and military veterans, Caesar built a strong connection with the “people”; who remained loyal to him till the end of his life. He used this political strength with the voters to win election to one political office after another; climbing the ladder known in Roman society as the cursus honorum. But because by Roman law he could not get an opportunity to show his metal as a general until reaching the appropriate age and standing for those offices which granted the recipient military command. It was not till he was 39 that he received his first independent command. This was as propraetor of Hispania Ulterior. This gave him the opportunity to campaign against the Lusitanians; in which he began to exhibit his gift for command.

He forged a strong alliance with two of the leading men in the Rome of his day: Pompey the Great, Rome’s most respected military leader; and Marcus Licinius Crassus, its leading financier and business leader. Between them, this Triumvirate controlled Roman politics and were able to effectively advance each other’s interests. Caesar was able to win election as Consul in 59 BC; and from there to be appointed governor of the Roman territories abutting Gaul….

(To continue, go here)

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