Special Sub-Topic: Name That Battle (BCE)
|The Greeks were victorious in this battle against the Persians, but this did not guarantee the safety of Athens. A runner was dispatched from the battlefield to warn the city to prepare its defense. Where was this battle, which gave its name to an Olympic event?|
Marathon. The Battle of Marathon took place in 490 BCE, and can be said to have been one of the key battles in Ancient Greek history. If the Persians had won, Greece would most likely have been added to their empire.
|This battle may be said to have been Alexander the Great's first major victory against the Persian Empire.|
Battle of the Granicus. Fought in 334 BCE, this battle effectively announced that Alexander was a force to be reckoned with, as he crushed the Persians with very minor losses to his own forces. The Battle of the Granicus marks the point where Alexander's dream of conquering Asia began to look somewhat achievable.
|The Persians were advancing on Greece with the biggest army ever seen, and the Greeks needed time to muster their troops. Three hundred men took a suicidal stand to hold the Persians off and buy time for the Greeks. This battle became one of the most inspirational stories in military history. Where was it fought?|
Thermopylae. Although Thermopylae was technically a victory for the Persians, it was an inspiration to the rest of the Greek army. The Greeks chose to engage the Persians at a narrow pass, with the Spartans positioned at the front. The Spartans were arguably the best warriors in Greece, and they caused the Persians to sustain heavy losses. Had the Greeks not been betrayed at this point, who knows what the outcome of the battle would have been? However, a Greek defected and showed the Persians another path through Thermopylae. Initially 7,000 Greek troops were involved in the battle, but when King Leonidas realised the situation was completely hopeless he dismissed the entire force, apart from his 300 Spartan warriors. Every Spartan, including Leonidas, was killed, but they took a lot of Persians with them.
|This battle is said to be one of Julius Caesar's greatest victories, and effectively marked the end of significant Gallic resistance to Roman rule. |
Alesia. This battle tipped the scales of the Gallic War in Rome's favour. It is interesting to note that although the Senate created twenty days of thanksgiving for the victory, it refused to award Caesar a triumph. This may be one of the great historical 'what-if' moments, as would Caesar have crossed the Rubicon two years later, thereby inciting civil war at Rome, if he had been awarded the triumph he believed he was entitled to?
For a comprehensive description of the Battle of Alesia, see http://www.nationmaster.com/encyclopedia/Battle-of-Alesia
|Flaminius was caught completely unawares by Hannibal in this battle, which took place in 217 BCE.|
Trasimene. Trasimene took place during the Second Punic War between Rome and Carthage. After the battles of Ticinus and Trebia, Flaminius' army marched south to mount a defense near Rome. Hannibal gave chase, but overtook the Roman army. Flaminius was alarmed, and picked up the pace in order to prevent Hannibal from reaching Rome unchallenged. Hannibal was aware that Flaminius' army was about to be reinforced, and decided to attack before the new force could arrive.
Hannibal halted his army in a forested area along a road which passed Lake Trasimene, and laid in wait for the Roman army. In a brilliant piece of deception, he also sent some of his troops north to light fires in order to convince the Romans that his army was nowhere near where it actually was. The Romans fell for it. They marched right by the place where Hannibal was hiding, and he attacked. The unsuspecting Romans were unable to get into battle formation, and suffered a crushing defeat. Hannibal, undoubtedly a brilliant tactician, routed the Romans with the aid of a forest, some fog and a cunning plan ...
|The decision to fight this naval battle was made on the basis of a prediction made by the Oracle at Delphi.|
Salamis. This battle, fought in 480 BCE, took place after Thermopylae. The Athenian commander, Themistocles, decided that the when the Oracle referred to a 'wooden wall' which would halt the Persians, it meant a fleet. Therefore, it was determined that the battle would be fought at sea, rather than on land. The Greeks won, mainly due to the fact that the unwieldly Persian ships could not manoeuvre well in the small gulf of Salamis, whereas the Greeks had lighter, faster vessels.
The Greek victory was a turning point in the Persian Wars, as it once again prevented the Persians from annexing Greece.
|Ramses II 'the Great' and Muwatallis of the Hittites faced off in one of the biggest chariot battles ever fought. Both sides claimed victory, but where did this battle between the two greatest empires of the day take place?|
Kadesh. Dates for the Battle of Kadesh vary, sometimes cited at 1300/1299 BCE, sometimes in 1285, even as late as 1253 BCE. What is undisputed is that it was truly an epic battle where both sides hoped to tip the balance of power in their favour.
Megiddo was successfully besieged by Seti I, and Ugarit and Helipolis were ancient cities.
|Fought in 216 BCE, this battle saw the Carthaginians overcome superior numbers to win the day. |
Cannae. This battle took place during the Second Punic War, which included Hannibal's famous winter crossing of the Alps. The Roman Dictator, Fabius Maximus, was at the end of his tether and resorted to waging a war of attrition in order to get rid of the Carthaginian forces. The populace did not like this plan, as they thought Maximus' tactics of cutting supply lines and avoiding battle made Rome look cowardly. In light of later events, his plan seems sensible.
Cannae is also notable for Hannibal's use of tactics, as he deployed his troops in a manner which allowed them to encircle the Romans. Once the Roman forces were boxed in, most were killed in the ensuing slaughter.
It is estimated that 50,000-60,000 Romans were killed at Cannae, as well as nearly 6,000 of Hannibal's troops. This apparently gives Cannae distinction of being one of the bloodiest days of battle in recorded history.
|This city was besieged for seven months, and bravely struggled to survive. When it eventually fell, its attackers were so enraged by its tenacity that they destroyed most of the city, and those who survived the ensuing massacre were sold into slavery.|
Tyre. Alexander the Great clearly did not expect the siege of Tyre to drag on as long as it did. Eventually, he resorted to using debris to build a causeway in order to get his siege engines into range. This sealed Tyre's doom, and Alexander was so exasperated with the city and its inhabitants that he did not prevent his men from running wild once they had breached the walls.
|Mark Antony and Octavian squared off in this sea battle, to decide who would rule Rome. |
Actium. This battle took place in 31 BCE, and was effectively the last stand of Antony and his wife, Queen Cleopatra of Egypt. Octavian's forces, commanded by Marcus Agrippa, won the day convincingly, probably aided by the fact that first Cleopatra, then Antony, fled the field.
Octavian proceeded to rule Rome for decades afterwards, after assuming the title the Emperor Augustus. Things didn't turn out quite so well for the other side, as both Antony and Cleopatra killed themselves about a year after their loss at Actium.
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