214 bce

Ele­phants, mer­ce­nar­ies and pha­lanxes of troops armed with saris­sas take to the field in the Bat­tle of Raphia

All About History - - BATTLE OF RAPHIA -

01 Bat­tle­lines drawn

The two armies are en­camped less than a kilo­me­tre apart. After five days of wait­ing, Ptolemy leads his army out of the Egyp­tian camp and An­ti­ochus fol­lows suit. In the cen­tre of his bat­tle­line, Ptolemy places his in­fantry pha­lanx and his elite in­fantry. The Ptole­maic left wing is an­chored by a merce­nary cav­alry reg­i­ment un­der Poly­crates. On the ex­treme right wing, Ptolemy sets more cav­alry un­der Echecrates. The spa­ces be­tween these reg­i­ments are filled with sol­diers drawn from far and wide in­clud­ing Gauls, Thra­cians, Libyans, Greek mer­ce­nar­ies as well as na­tive Egyp­tians. He places his African for­est ele­phants ahead of his cav­al­ry­men on each wing. Ptolemy him­self takes a po­si­tion on the Egyp­tian left wing.

02 Troops as­sem­ble

On his own right wing An­ti­ochus places 2,000 horse­men un­der An­tipa­ter. An­other reg­i­ment of 2,000 cav­alry troop­ers is be­side them. Di­rectly to their fore are 60 In­dian ele­phants. On the ex­treme left wing An­ti­ochus puts an­other reg­i­ment of 2,000 cav­alry with more ele­phants in front of them. The Seleu­cid pha­lanx is in the cen­tre of the line, op­po­site the Egyp­tian pha­lanx. The Syr­ian bat­tle­line is filled out with troops from many na­tions, in­clud­ing Car­daces, Cis­sians, Medes, Car­ma­ni­ans, Arabs, as well as mer­ce­nar­ies from Greece and Crete. An­ti­ochus is with his right wing be­cause he in­tends to fight Ptolemy head on.

03 Pachy­derm prob­lems

Both kings de­liver in­spi­ra­tional speeches to their troops, their pha­lanxes, upon whom they pin much of their hopes for vic­tory, in par­tic­u­lar. The bat­tle com­mences, with the ele­phants of the Ptole­maic left wing and Seleu­cid right wing be­ing the first reg­i­ments to en­gage in com­bat. Many of Ptolemy’s African for­est ele­phants are un­will­ing to fight the larger In­dian ele­phants of the Seleu­cids and flee. Ptolemy’s Royal Guard cav­alry is com­pelled to re­treat along with them.

04 Cav­alry driven back

An­ti­ochus cir­cles around the re­treat­ing en­emy and strikes the Ptole­maic cav­alry on its left wing while his Greek merce­nary peltasts mount an at­tack on Ptolemy’s own peltasts, who have be­come dis­or­dered by the re­treat­ing ele­phants. These are driven back. An­ti­ochus drives off the Egyp­tian cav­alry and sets off in head­long pur­suit of the flee­ing horse­men. He ends up far dis­tant from the rest of the fight­ing.

“An­ti­ochus drives off the Egyp­tian cav­alry and sets off in head­long pur­suit of the flee­ing horse­men. He fight­ing” ends up far dis­tant from the rest of the

05 Mer­ce­nar­ies at­tack

On the other side of the field the

Egyp­tian army is far­ing much bet­ter. The Ptole­maic com­man­der, Echecrates, sees that his own ele­phants are re­fus­ing to clash with the big­ger Seleu­cid an­i­mals. He gives up on them and or­ders his Greek mer­ce­nar­ies to at­tack the Seleu­cids in front of them while he leads a cav­alry charge that flanks the en­emy’s ele­phants. He de­scends upon the rear of the Seleu­cid cav­alry on the Syr­ian left wing. The Seleu­cids here are routed and their left be­gins to col­lapse.

06 Push­ing back

In the cen­tre of the bat­tle­line, the in­fantry pha­lanxes, up un­til now not en­gaged, clash with one an­other. The Egyp­tians have the bet­ter of the fight­ing and push An­ti­ochus’ best troops back­ward.

07 Vic­tory achieved

An­ti­ochus, be­liev­ing him­self vic­to­ri­ous, is far away when one of his of­fi­cers points to the bat­tle­field left far be­hind. A dust cloud can be seen head­ing to­ward the Syr­ian camp. This can only mean that the Seleu­cids are los­ing the bat­tle! The king hur­ries back with his Royal Squadron but only ar­rives in time to find his men in pell-mell flight. The bat­tle is over. Ptolemy has won a great vic­tory and gains posses­sion of Raphia.

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