Page 1 of 2 1 2 LastLast
Results 1 to 20 of 29

Thread: The Siege of Alexandria and the Battle of the Nile, 48-47 BCE

  1. #1
    Xanthippus of Sparta's Avatar Campidoctor
    Join Date
    May 2005
    Location
    near Pittsburgh PA
    Posts
    1,759

    Default The Siege of Alexandria and the Battle of the Nile, 48-47 BCE

    The following is something I've had in the works for awhile...a detailed account of the Alexandrian War. Pulling from such diverse sources as Stacy Schiff's recent biography of Cleopatra, down to works of Plutarch and of Caesar (well, probably Aulus Hirtius, one of his officers) I think I have a fairly good narrative prepared of one of the most unknown, under-reported, and underrated events of the ancient world.

    6/2012: After a long absence, I have resumed work on this little article. The whole thing has been updated, and much has been added.

    3/2013: Well, my absence ended up being much longer than anticipated. I may have abandoned this article entirely had it not been for a Reddit user who stumbled upon this piece, and joined this forum just to PM me to continue my post. In addition, I have gained an amazing new source; Cleopatra's Kidnappers: How Caesar's Sixth Legion gave Egypt to Rome and Rome to Caesar by Stephen Dando-Collins. He does an amazing job at setting the scene for the background of the siege and battle. His attention to detail on Caesar's officers and men is impeccable. Only Stacy Schiff's account of the battle in Cleopatra: A Life rivals Dando-Collins' in recent material.

    -----

    Soon, I will be getting to Caesar's breakout from Alexandria and the Battle of the Nile. The battle itself is somewhat mysterious, not really talked about much in the ancient sources, despite it's size and the fact that there were appearently many casualties on both sides (a fact not disputed by any of the Roman accounts). I will do the best I can to create a clear account from the sources available.

    The discussion sparked by the thread "Who do you blame for the decline of the Pharoahs" on here as well as my own readings inspired me to throw this together. The following is part one, the introduction. Part two will include the Alexandrian uprising, Caesar under siege, and the Battle of the Nile in 47 B.C., on both land and sea. I will be including as many pictures as possible in this section, as accurate orders of battle as I can find, maps, and plenty of citations.

    Enjoy.




    -From Stacy Schiff's Cleopatra: A Life






    Prelude to the war.

    In September, 48 B.C., Pompey Magnus landed in Egypt desperately seeking asylum. His Optimate army had been crushed in central Greece by the Legions of Julius Caesar, bringing a decisive end to the first major Roman civil war.

    Pompey, while on his eastern campaigns aganist Mithridates of Pontus, as well as incursions into Syria, Judea, and the Caucuses, had previously had a staunch ally in Ptolemy XII Auletes. Auletes was the father of Egypt's current boy Pharoah, Ptolemy XIII Theos Philpator...his sister, the famous Cleopatra VII, as well as their their half-sister Arsinoe IV.

    The real power in Egypt at the time was not held by an offspring of Ptolemy Auletes. Ptolemy XIII (aged 12 or 13 in the year 48) was the puppet ruler, with the real power held by three top Ptolemaic officals....the eunuch Pothinus (Ptolemy XIII's political minister, and offical regent), rhetoritican Theodotus of Chios (Ptolemy's tutor), as well as Achillas (Egyptian-born Greek commandant of the Ptolemaic army). Meanwhile, Cleopatra, the eldest of Auletes' children at 21, was in exile (along with Arsinoe), having been dethroned by said officals. The courtiers, led by Pothinus, wanted a Ptolemy on the throne that they could more easily control.

    Pompey, with Caesar hot on his trail, may have thought he could set up shop in Egypt, raise a new army with the country's rich funds, and make a stand similar to what the rest of the Optimates would do from Africa province two years later. Or, he may planned to link up with his sons (Gnaeus Pompey actually was in command of Egypt's fleet (1.), Metullus Scipio, Cato the Younger, and the other said Optimates at some point. But it was not meant to be.

    The arrival of Pompey Magnus and his family (along with a small army of his remaining Legionaries (2.) off Pelsium led to serious apprehension among the Ptolemaic courtiers. They realized that Caesar was not far behind, and feared that Egypt would become the next battleground in a civil war that had already devasated central Greece. Their decision was hasty, and had far-reaching consequences.

    The red carpet was essentially rolled out for Pompey. Ptolemy XIII was present, as was a large honor guard. A small skiff was sent out to bring Pompey inland. On board was Achillas, Lucicus Septimus (a former Roman tribune and a veteran of Pompey's eastern campaigns, now in Ptolemaic employ) and a Centurion under his command named Salvius. The scene was one of forboding. The following is the account of what happened next from Plutarch's Life of Pompey.

    Accordingly, when they saw a reception that was not royal, nor splendid, nor in accordance with the hopes of Theophanes, but a few men sailing up in a single fishing-boat, they viewed this lack of respect with suspicion, and advised Pompey to have his ship rowed back into the open sea, while they were beyond reach of missiles. But meanwhile the boat drew near, and first Septimius rose up and address Pompey in the Roman tongue as Imperator. Then Achillas saluted him in Greek, and invited him to come aboard the boat, telling him that the shallows were extensive, and that the sea, which had a sandy bottom, was not deep enough to float a trireme. At the same time some of the royal ships were seen to be taking their crews aboard, and men-at‑arms were occupying the shore, so that there seemed to be no escape even if they changed their minds; and besides, this very lack of confidence might give the murderers an excuse for their crime. Accordingly, after embracing Cornelia [Pompey's wife], who was bewailing his approaching death, he ordered two centurions to go into the boat before him, besides Philip, one of his freedmen, and a servant named Scythes, and while Achillas was already stretching out his hand to him from the boat, turned towards his wife and son and repeated the verses of Sophocles:—

    "Whatever man upon a tyrant takes his way,
    His slave he is, even though a freeman when he goes."

    After these last words to his friends, he went into the boat. And since it was a long distance from the trireme to the land, and none of his companions in the boat had any friendly word for him, turning his eyes upon Septimius he said: "Surely I am not mistaken, and you are an old comrade of mine!" Septimius nodded merely, without saying anything to him or showing any friendliness. So then, as there was profound silence again, Pompey took a little roll containing a speech written by him in Greek, which he had prepared for his use in addressing Ptolemy, and began to read in it. Then, as they drew near the shore, Cornelia, together with his friends, stood on the trireme watching with great anxiety for the outcome, and began to take heart when she saw many of the king's people assembling at the landing as if to give him an honourable welcome. But at this point, while Pompey was clasping the hand of Philip that he might rise to his feet more easily, Septimius, from behind, ran him through the body with his sword, then Salvius next, and than Achillas, drew their daggers and stabbed him. And Pompey, drawing his toga down over his face with both hands, without an act or a word that was unworthy of himself, but with a groan merely, submitted to their blows, being sixty years of age less one, and ending his life only one day after his birthday.
    ------
    According to Plutarch, Caesar arrived in Egypt not long after this assassination unfolded, at the head of the 6th Legion. Upon presenting the head of Pompey to Caesar as proof of death, the Roman famously wept.

    The Ptolemaic cabal had underestimated Roman values immensely. While Caesar may have in fact been pleased that his arch-rival was out of way, it goes without saying that he was probably crushed to see such a cruel end befall a former collegue.

    Still, for a time he tolerated the rule of Pothinus, Achillas, and Theodotus of Chios. Caesar attempted to gain the good will of the Alexandrians by attending lectures of philosophers and mingling with the citizens of the city (3). This would prove short-lived, as the Ptolemaic courtiers smelled blood in the water.

    Caesar was in Alexandria with only a single Legion.


    Buildup to hostilities


    Tension was on the rise in Alexandria between Julius Caesar and the de facto rulers of the Ptolemaic Empire, led by Pothinus, the young Pharoah's regent.

    Upon taking up residence in the city, Caesar demanded a repayment of monies owned to the Roman state (dating from the reign of Ptolemy XII) in the amount of 10 million drachmas; a large but not a fianancially unfeasible debt. Plutarch notes that the Ptolemies actually owed the Roman state over 17 million drachmas, but Caesar lowered the debt on the logic that the current Pharoah did not incur it. Still, this sum would have been very difficult for the reduced Ptolemaic kingdom to raise on such short notice. To give the reader an idea, 10 million drachmas would roughly be equal to the years salary of about 20-25,000 skilled artisans or soldiers.

    Still, Pothinus and the Alexandrians did not take kindly to this Roman dictator camping out in their city and making demands of them. The Alexandrians served old and moldy grain to the Roman troops; simple pottery was used at offical diplomatic dinners between Caesar and the courtiers instead of fine gold and silver. When asked why this was being done, Pothinus would point to the debt issue. A confrotation insued, and Pothinus stated that they would indeed pay off the debt, but suggested that Caesar settle other matters for now. Caesar bluntly stated that Egyptians were the last people he would choose as his advisers.

    At this time, Caesar sent for Cleopatra, who he may have had some contact with previously. Their meeting is a very famous event and well-known, so I will not cover it here.

    Suffice to say that Pothinus and Achillas most likely heard of Cleopatra's stealthy arrival and found their backs aganist the wall. Caesar's plan was for Cleopatra and Ptolemy XIII to be offically reconcilled. Thus, the ruling cabal of Alexandria would be down and out, as Cleopatra would most likely gain prominence in such a union once again.

    Pothinus and Achillas planned for Caesar to be assassinated at the state dinner at the Royal Palace in Alexandria formally re-uniting Cleopatra and Ptolemy as joint rulers. However, Caesar's barber, a slave, overheard gossip about the event. He informed Caesar, who acted first.

    Caesar had one of his personal guards leave the banquest hall. The guard found Pothinus and killed him. Theodotus of Chios presumably fled Egypt; in 42 or 43 B.C. he would be captured in Anatolia by Brutus and Cassius and executed for his role in the death of Pompey (4).

    Achillas, however, made a hasty retreat from the city, and levied the Ptolemaic army.

    Caesar Under Siege


    In response, Caesar summoned his own allies. Caesar sent to Rhodes, Syria, and Cilicia, for all his fleet; and summoned archers from Crete, and cavalry from Malchus, King of the Nabateans (5). Furthermore, he fortified the southern end of the small peninsula in Alexandria containing the Royal Palace, which would become his fortress.

    At the same time, the Alexandrians dammed up the city's canals to cut off potential routes of escape for the Romans, and erected walls of their own in the city streets. Locals poured out into the street to aid the cause. Formidible siege equipment was erected on the spot, making use of the technical knowledge common in Alexandria, with its extensive scientific community (6).

    Caesar (or, once again, probably one of his officers writing for him) mentions how effective the Alexandrian siege operations were.

    The city abounding in every thing, and being very rich, furnished ample materials for these several works: and as the people were extremely ingenious, and quick of apprehension, they so well copied what they saw done by us that our men seemed rather to imitate their works. They even invented many things themselves, and attacked our works, at the same time that they defended their own. (7)
    To strengthen the size of the Alexandrian force, slaves were armed by wealthy citizens to join in the fight. In a scene remiscent of the Siege of Carthage, arms and armor were forged en masse by local artisans. Before long, the Ptolemaic regular army led by Achillas arrived on the scene, the makeup of which was 20,000 infantry and 2,000 cavalry.

    Caesar attempted to parlay with Achillas, but his diplomats were killed on the spot. With Caesar nearly completely surrounded, and heavily outnumbered, it was clear that the Romans were on the rocks. What Achillas did not count on is Caesar's wily strategic persona, and division that would arise from within the Ptolemaic camp.

    Caesar knew he had to attempt a breakout. He had to at least maintain contact with the outside world, as his reinforcements were inbound. The harbor was still held by the Alexandrians, along with the island of Pharos, home of the famous lighthouse and a substantial residential population of native Egyptians. Caesar decided to assault the island to accomplish his goals.....


    The Ptolemaic and Roman Forces of 48-47 B.C.


    This army, some 20,000 in numbers, consisted of men who had practical experience of fighting and a large proportion of whom had undergone Roman discipline, and were officered by Romans. Beside the troops of Gabinius [Roman Legionaries -Xan] (mainly, as we have seen, Gauls and Germans) it included a considerable number of refugees and escaped slaves from Italy and the West, and also a considerable number of bandits and pirates from Asia Minor and Syria — relics of the great pirate power broken by Pompey. (8)
    From all sources that I have seen (the ancient ones, Sekunda, Bar-Kochva, etc.), the Ptolemaic army that fought Caesar in Alexandria and later at the banks of the Nile in 47 B.C. had completely abandoned the Macedonian phalanx. Bar-Kochva, in The Seleucid Army, mentions the Macedonian element in the Ptolemaic army was in decline even before the Battle of Raphia in 217 B.C.E., due to the fact the Ptolemies made the Kleuroch land grants hereditary. This dissuaded the descendants of the original owners away from joining the armed forces, and kept new potential recruits from immigrating to Egypt.

    Most of the Ptolemaic officer corps was made up of former Legionaries that were originally sent to Egypt by Pompey under the command of his lieutenant, Aulus Gabinius. The original objective was to equip and train an Egyptian army in the Roman style, to prop up Ptolemy XII and insure Roman influence. Through the confusion of the the Civil Wars, they were joined by others, and went into business for themselves serving the Ptolemaic court independently of Roman command. The Civil Wars had created serious tensions within the Roman army. Soldiers found themselves exiled, or lacking opportunities (Livy mentions that the former Tribune that killed Pompey was disgruntled, possibly passed up for a higher command). Alexandria was very rich to say the least, and more luxurious...to the point of decadence...compared to Rome. Higher pay and more opportunity for advancement could be found for Roman soldiers in Egypt.

    Typical Ptolemaic mercenaries such as Galatians were most likely present, as Cleopatra was known for using an all-Galatian bodyguard during this time. After her death, the survivors would serve Herod the Great. The remaining native-born Greeks and Macedonians of the kleuroch, who presumably made up the vast majority of the 2,000-strong cavalry force, as well as some of the infantry and the mariners as well. Native Egyptians were present as well, although the exact ethnic makeup of the army at this time is somewhat obscure. However it is unquestionable that this force was trained and fought in the Roman style, with some latitude given for Hellenistic-type equipment of individuals. Lightly equipped archers and peltasts are described by the Roman sources as constantly harassing Caesar's men during the Battle of Nile, both from the ground and from barges and galleys on the river itself.


    Native Egyptian infantry, equipped in the Roman style.


    (From left to right) Bosphoran infantry similar to those of Mithridates of Pergamon's force; although the depiction may be slightly anarchronistic...maybe substitute a Theuros shield in. Judean infantry; Jews certainly fought for the Romans and probably the Ptolemies as well. Galatian infantry; common in the Ptolemaic army. Roman Marian Legionaries; present in both forces. I liked this depiction by Angus McBride as the Legionaries have a Hellenized look probably common in the east.

    As for the Roman force, Caesar's 6th Legion consisted of 4,000 men...Bevan estimated the force at 3,200 infantry and 800 horse. Possibly less as Caesar's Legions were all understrength at the Battle of Pharsalus in Greece against Pompey, before Caesar's arrival in Egypt. However, Caesar's troops may have been bolstered by some of Pompey's remaining men...it was said that Caesar gave complete amnesty to all of Pompey's companions but it is not mentioned if this immediately included Pompeian Legionaries; however it is a fact that it eventually would (more on this later). But, suffice to say that they were battle-hardened veterans of the Civil War.

    Unlike some of Caesar's battles, he would have real strength in allied forces. Mithridates of Pergamon, son of the famous Mithridates VI "The Great" of Pontus, would lead the relief force. Mithridates, ruler of the Roman-allied Hellenistic Kingdom of the Crimean Bosphorus, would link up with some of Caesar's veteran Legionaries that were moving overland to Syria, and bring this Roman/Bosphoran force on a long land journey to Egypt to aid Caesar. Highly ironic that the son of one of Rome's most infamous enemies would aid its most famous general. But Mithridates was fiercely loyal to Caesar and to Rome. Along the way, he picked up 3,000 Hasmonean Jewish troops, led in person by client king Antipater the Iduaemean, the father of Herod the Great. Herod was of course the monarch that famously rebuilt the Temple of Jerusalem and pursued the infant Jesus of Nazereth in later decades.

    ---


    The Assault on Pharos


    Caesar's situation within the Royal Palace compound was becoming increasingly dire.

    The Alexandrians were threatening Caesar's communications with Rhodes, his maritime ally, and thus the outside world. The Ptolemaic fleet was still active in and around the Great Harbor. Freight ships loaded with stones were sunk in the harbor entrances by the Alexandrians to strengthen the blockade, or possibly by the Romans themselves to prevent the Ptolemaic fleet from assaulting them from the harbor. Achillas' men started to destroy the pipelines into the Royal Palace to deprive the Romans of fresh water.

    Caesar once again attempted a diplomatic solution. He had the advantage of holding all three young Ptolemies under his custody. According to Cassius Dio, Caesar presented the young Ptolemy XIII before the Alexandrians to deliver a message...that he desired peace and an end to hostilities. This fell on deaf ears.

    Something had to be done, and fast. With his garrison withering away, Caesar's planned response to the blockade and siege was simple; seize the island of Pharos and the great lighthouse of Alexandria, which commanded the city's harbor.

    Fortunately for Caesar, a dramatic turn of events in the Ptolemaic camp would aid him drastically. Arsinoe IV, half sister of Cleopatra, escaped from the Roman-held Royal Palace and joined the Ptolemaic army, with the help of her tutor Ganymedes, a eunuch. Arsinoe was of little concern to Caesar and was not very well guarded, allowing her escape. Being a Ptolemy and thus of higher rank than Achillas, Arsinoe assumed the role of Ptolemaic commander with Ganymedes as her assisstant.

    What happened next is very much debated in the ancient sources. Dio essentially argues that Ganymedes, the slave turned mathematician and engineer, immediately came into conflict with Achillas, the nobleman professional soldier. Caesar's officers in The Alexandrian Wars however place the blame on Arsinoe for what happened next, perhaps because of her very controversial ultimate fate.

    Cassius Dio dryly noted that Ganymedes accused Achillas of wanting to "betray the fleet"; it can be easily assumed this was his pretext for seizing control of the Ptolemaic forces. Arsinoe consented to the execution of Achillas and the deed was done. The Alexandrian Wars tells a different story; of Achillas and Arsinoe being direct rivals and Arisone playing the main role in Achillas' demise.

    With the successful takeover of the Ptolemaic war effort, Ganymedes and Arsinoe decided they were in an excellent position to force a Roman capitulation.

    In civil life, Ganymedes was an engineer before he rose to the station of Arsinoe's second in command. Now, he would use his talents and knowledge of the city against the Romans.

    Alexandria was "quite hollow underneath" due to the city's cisterns, sewer system, and aquaducts. The richer parts of the city were well supplied with fresh water; this especially included the royal quarter that Caesar had fortified. While Achillas had cut most of the water supply into the area, these early efforts had been incomplete, as the Romans had cisterns in their sector that were still supplying them. Ganymedes had a far more devious plan. Using water wheels and other engines, the Alexandrians started pumping salty sea water from the Nile Delta into the pipes that led to the Roman defenses. Over time, the Roman defenders started to notice that their drinking water was becoming very salty and dark. At the same time, word came in that the water in other parts of the city was unaffected. The Roman troops were shocked that the Alexandrians were able to accomplish this, and the Legion was quickly wearing down due to dehydration. (10.)

    Quote Originally Posted by The Alexandrian Wars, 7
    All doubt being removed by this circumstance, such a terror ensued among the troops that they fancied themselves reduced to the last extremity.
    Caesar had to act, or the garrison would be forced into surrender or overrun once they became too weak to fight. He decided to address the Legionaries personally. The Alexandrian Wars gives the gist of his statement.

    "that they might easily find fresh water by digging wells, as all sea coasts naturally abounded with fresh springs: that if Egypt was singular in this respect, and differed from every other soil, yet still, as the sea was open, and the enemy without a fleet, there was nothing to hinder their fetching it at pleasure in their ships, either from Paraetonium on the left, or from the island on the right; and as their two voyages were in different directions, they could not be prevented by adverse winds at the same time; that a retreat was on no account to be thought of, not only by those that had a concern for their honor, but even by such as regarded nothing but life; that it was with the utmost difficulty they could defend themselves behind their works; but if they once quitted that advantage, neither in number or situation would they be a match for the enemy: that to embark would require much time, and be attended with great danger, especially where it must be managed by little boats: that the Alexandrians, on the contrary, were nimble and active, and thoroughly acquainted with the streets and buildings; that, moreover, when flushed with victory, they would not fail to run before, seize all the advantageous posts, possess themselves of the tops of the houses, and by annoying them in their retreat, effectually prevent their getting on board; that they must therefore think no more of retreating, but place all their hopes of safety in victory."

    With a retreat out of the question, he ordered his Centurions to begin digging wells in the area near the coastline to find fresh water. They hit fresh water after some digging, but surely not enough to hold over the Roman force for long.

    Not long after, a message came in to Caesar. The 37th, a Pompeian Legion that had surrendered to Caesar and joined his cause, had arrived in Rhodian galleys off the coast of Alexandria. The Legions was well equipped, with extra arms, supplies, and siege engines, including ballistas. However, they were prevented from landing by an "easterly wind, which continued to blow for several days" (12.). While the ships were in no danger, Caesar had an additional problem: more men who needed water immediately.

    So, Caesar planned to sally out. He boarded a Roman vessel and order all his remaining ships to follow (13.). However, he did not bring any Roman combat troops as they were needed to hold Caesar's compound. Caesar's force sailed up the coast and he sent sailors to shore to search for freshwater. However, these foragers were caught plundering the local villages by the 2,000 cavalrymen of the Ptolemaic regular army, presumably well-armed noblility or mercenaries. Though it is not said, my guess is that this did not end well for the Roman mariners. Learning that the Roman ships were largely without fighting men, the Ptolemaic navy arrived on the scene and chased Caesar (who manned what ships he could) back to his Alexandrian compound.



    A Rhodian Trihemiolia.

    The Alexandrian Wars mentions massive Quinqeremes as being among the Alexandrian ships, while the Rhodian ships of the Roman force were most likely the Trihemiolia, an upgraded Trireme, a very characteristic ship for the fleet of Rhodes to use.

    A Rhodian ship fell behind Caesar's main force during the retreat, and was immediately set upon by the Ptolemaic fleet. The Rhodians fought off the attack, capturing a Quinqereme, sinking another, while disabling a third and killing it's crew. Caesar then returned to the city unmolested with his cargo and warships. The tables were starting to turn...

    Pharos

    With his first attempt to sally out meeting with success, Caesar decided on a course of action that would attempt to put the Romans in command of the great harbor of Alexandria, and would allow the rest of the Roman army to land safely within the city.

    Using small boats, Roman Legionaries were transported across the Great Harbor to assault Pharos, with Caesar personally in command. Fierce fighting broke out near the lighthouse and the native Egyptian residential neighborhood due west of this great wonder of the ancient world. According to Dio, the civilian population was given no quarter by the Romans and many smaller vessels docked on the island were set alight. The Ptolemaic reinforcements were able to easily cross over to the island via the bridge connecting the south-west tip of the island to the city proper. The Romans took heavy losses to their small force in house-to-house fighting. (9)

    Julius Caesar realized he had come a bridge too far and ordered a hasty retreat. The Romans attempted to escape back across the harbor to the Royal Palace enclosure but were set upon by Ptolemaic small boats and bimenes.

    Caesar's craft was engaged and rammed by a Ptolemaic vessel. The Roman dictator was thrown into the dark waters of the Great Harbor, as the battle raged around him. Caesar was able to slip out of his heavy purple cloak and clothes. He then swam furiously to a nearby Roman skiff, actually holding a clutch of important documents above water while doing so. Julius Caesar thus saved himself from capture or drowning. His cloak however, was not so lucky. It turned up being displayed by Ptolemaic forces as a prize for propoganda value, to show just how close they had come to ending the career of Rome's greatest general.

    The Burning of the Library


    The loss of the Ptolemaic library of Alexandria is easily the most famous event to come out of the siege. But it remains shrouded in mystery.

    Plutarch's version is that the Roman ships that Caesar had arrived on were cut off by the Alexandrians from the sea (due to their control of Pharos) and burned by the Romans themselves, probably to prevent their capture. The fire got out of control and spread to the nearby library (see above map).

    In The Civil Wars, Appian does not even mention the library in his short description of the battles.

    Aulus Gellius, a Roman author and Latin language specialist, perserved a slightly different story from Plutarch in a blurb from his Attic Nights work.

    At a later time an enormous quantity of books, nearly seven hundred thousand volumes, was either acquired or written [really, both -Xan] in Egypt under the kings known as Ptolemies; but these were all burned during the sack of the city in our first war with Alexandria, not intentionally or by anyone's order, but accidentally by the auxiliary soldiers.
    Cassius Dio recounts another, slightly different story.

    Quote Originally Posted by Dio, Book 42.37.2
    ...many battles occurred between the two forces both by day and by night, and many places were set on fire, with the result that the docks and the storehouses of grain among other buildings were burned, and also the library, whose volumes, it is said, were of the greatest number and excellence.
    Dio also weighs in on the timeline, saying that the burnings occured while Achillas was still in command of the Alexandrian forces. Perhaps the round-the-clock fighting had something to do with the fires, as much torchlight would be needed for such an exercise.

    As we will see, Cassius Dio's account seems to be the most logical. Plutarch's account of the Roman ships being burned is directly contradicted by The Alexandrian Wars, the most detailed and primary source on the battle, which may have been written by a Roman participant, or from accounts given by participants.












    [[To be continued]]



    1. Caesar, Julius. Commentaries on the Gallic and Civil Wars. Book 3, chapter 40.1 http://classics.mit.edu/Caesar/civil.3.3.html
    2. Plutarch, Life Of Pompey, 77.1 http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/...s/Pompey*.html
    3. Appian, The Civil Wars, Book 2, 89. http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/...l_Wars/2*.html
    4. Appian, The Civil Wars, Book 2, 90.
    5. Caesar, Julius. The Alexandrian Wars, 1.
    http://etext.virginia.edu/etcbin/toc...&division=div1
    6. Justin Pollard and Howard Reid. The Rise and Fall of Alexandria: Birthplace of the Modern Mind.
    7. The Alexandrian Wars, 3.
    8. Bevan, H.R. The House of Ptolemy p.364 available from http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/...EVHOP/13*.html
    9. Cassius Dio, Roman History, Book 42. http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/...io/42*.html#35
    10. The Alexandrian Wars, 5-6.
    11. Plutarch, Life of Caesar, 49.6 http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/...aesar*.html#49
    12. The Alexandrian Wars, 9
    13. The Alexandrian Wars, 10
    Last edited by Xanthippus of Sparta; June 06, 2013 at 08:30 PM.



    "The fact is that every war suffers a kind of progressive degradation with every month that it continues, because such things as individual liberty and a truthful press are not compatible with military efficency."
    -George Orwell, in Homage to Catalonia, 1938.

  2. #2
    Aru's Avatar Protector Domesticus
    Join Date
    Dec 2004
    Location
    Here.
    Posts
    4,791

    Default Re: The Alexandrian War. Caesar vs. Ptolemaic Egypt

    So 'Rome' depicted the events rather well?
    Has signatures turned off.

  3. #3
    Xanthippus of Sparta's Avatar Campidoctor
    Join Date
    May 2005
    Location
    near Pittsburgh PA
    Posts
    1,759

    Default Re: The Alexandrian War. Caesar vs. Ptolemaic Egypt

    Quote Originally Posted by Aru View Post
    So 'Rome' depicted the events rather well?
    The Ptolemaic costuming was way over the top, I remember. Achillas had a hairdo that was looked like it should belong to a Star Trek alien or something. The potrayal of the Egyptians and Alexandria was too anarchronistic, sorta like the Egyptian faction in RTW, if you will.

    "Rome" also downplayed the event a lot. Caesar was in real trouble as you will see.

    The series made the conflict inside Alexandria look more like a riot by native Egyptians aganist the Romans when it was a planned and effortful assault on Caesar using the full resources of the city itself and the Ptolemaic military.
    Last edited by Xanthippus of Sparta; September 07, 2011 at 05:54 PM.



    "The fact is that every war suffers a kind of progressive degradation with every month that it continues, because such things as individual liberty and a truthful press are not compatible with military efficency."
    -George Orwell, in Homage to Catalonia, 1938.

  4. #4
    medievaldude's Avatar Senator
    Join Date
    Aug 2009
    Location
    North York, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
    Posts
    1,147

    Default Re: The Alexandrian War. Caesar vs. Ptolemaic Egypt

    Ptolemaic at Cleopatra's time, it's army was no longer it's former glory !

    Ductus Exemplo
    Fas est et ab hoste doceri !
    He who knows when he can fight and when he cannot will be victorious.
    Treat your men as you would your own beloved sons. And they will follow you into the deepest valley.

  5. #5
    Manuel I Komnenos's Avatar Rex Regum
    Civitate

    Join Date
    Jan 2010
    Location
    Athenian Empire
    Posts
    11,557

    Default Re: The Alexandrian War. Caesar vs. Ptolemaic Egypt

    Great, I'll read this when I got time. My knowledge on the Ptolemies is rather lacking compared to the Seleucids or the Bactrians.

  6. #6

    Default Re: The Alexandrian War. Caesar vs. Ptolemaic Egypt

    Very good read, please do continue.
    قرطاج يجب ان تدمر

  7. #7
    Xanthippus of Sparta's Avatar Campidoctor
    Join Date
    May 2005
    Location
    near Pittsburgh PA
    Posts
    1,759

    Default Re: The Alexandrian War. Caesar vs. Ptolemaic Egypt

    Quote Originally Posted by medievaldude View Post
    Ptolemaic at Cleopatra's time, it's army was no longer it's former glory !
    Actually, Caesar almost died at Alexandria.

    Not only did the forces of Achillas come close to overrunning his compound, but Caesar nearly drowned in the Great Harbor.

    The Ptolemaic force was quite capable, but succumbed to other factors.



    "The fact is that every war suffers a kind of progressive degradation with every month that it continues, because such things as individual liberty and a truthful press are not compatible with military efficency."
    -George Orwell, in Homage to Catalonia, 1938.

  8. #8
    medievaldude's Avatar Senator
    Join Date
    Aug 2009
    Location
    North York, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
    Posts
    1,147

    Default Re: The Alexandrian War. Caesar vs. Ptolemaic Egypt

    Well I'm pretty sure by now the Galatians were no longer a big force or in use, as their absence at Panium. As well the campaigns of Antiochus IV proved well the Ptolemaic army/navy was weakened even with the great line of roman-like reforms. followed with the native revolts in the previous years and less levies to recruit ......all i can say is well i would rather see the army that of Ptolemy IV days.. :S

    Ductus Exemplo
    Fas est et ab hoste doceri !
    He who knows when he can fight and when he cannot will be victorious.
    Treat your men as you would your own beloved sons. And they will follow you into the deepest valley.

  9. #9
    Xanthippus of Sparta's Avatar Campidoctor
    Join Date
    May 2005
    Location
    near Pittsburgh PA
    Posts
    1,759

    Default Re: The Alexandrian War. Caesar vs. Ptolemaic Egypt

    Quote Originally Posted by medievaldude View Post
    Well I'm pretty sure by now the Galatians were no longer a big force or in use, as their absence at Panium.
    Galatians were indeed still around, even later than this.

    Cleopatra's personal guard was entirely Galatian actually. After her death, they served Herod the Great.

    More on the composition of the Ptolemaic forces (infomation is scant) as well as the Romans (a little more is known here).



    "The fact is that every war suffers a kind of progressive degradation with every month that it continues, because such things as individual liberty and a truthful press are not compatible with military efficency."
    -George Orwell, in Homage to Catalonia, 1938.

  10. #10
    KaerMorhen's Avatar Vicarius
    Join Date
    Nov 2005
    Location
    Poland, Tychy
    Posts
    2,603

    Default Re: The Alexandrian War. Caesar vs. Ptolemaic Egypt

    Both old superpowers like Seleucids and Ptolemaics were just a shade of theirs former glory in the days of late Republic. They were decentralized and derailed compared to SPQR. Their armies were many but weak, quantity vs quality in fact. Many will disagree but Magnesia f.e. was a nail to the coffin for Seleucids. Like it or not but SPQR/IMPERIUM all the way!!!

  11. #11
    Manuel I Komnenos's Avatar Rex Regum
    Civitate

    Join Date
    Jan 2010
    Location
    Athenian Empire
    Posts
    11,557

    Default Re: The Alexandrian War. Caesar vs. Ptolemaic Egypt

    Magnesia was a close call but I don't know what would have happened in case of Seleucid victory.

  12. #12
    KaerMorhen's Avatar Vicarius
    Join Date
    Nov 2005
    Location
    Poland, Tychy
    Posts
    2,603

    Default Re: The Alexandrian War. Caesar vs. Ptolemaic Egypt

    Quote Originally Posted by Manuel I Komnenos View Post
    Magnesia was a close call but I don't know what would have happened in case of Seleucid victory.
    the fall of Seleucids would come latter in time, as for the muscle state they were already dead, more than Ptolemaics. They seemed to be very tired of what they were and had no will to change that. On the other side was vicious and rising Rome.

  13. #13
    medievaldude's Avatar Senator
    Join Date
    Aug 2009
    Location
    North York, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
    Posts
    1,147

    Default Re: The Alexandrian War. Caesar vs. Ptolemaic Egypt

    Quote Originally Posted by Manuel I Komnenos View Post
    Magnesia was a close call but I don't know what would have happened in case of Seleucid victory.
    Well Hannibal suggested that he be in charge of a Seleucid Army and go use the navy to invade Italy

    They were decentralized and derailed compared to SPQR. Their armies were many but weak, quantity vs quality in fact. Many will disagree but Magnesia f.e. was a nail to the coffin for Seleucids. Like it or not but SPQR/IMPERIUM all the way!!!
    Really the Seleucid army was vast but had pretty professional troops, firstly the phalangite core was of course military settlers. Heavy infantry included Mercenary Thracians, Galatians, Cappadocians Hellenes and various troops from the realm of the anchor. light infantry was no doubt a good one a well known archer compartment and Thuerophoroi and what not. cavalry you got the Agema and cataphracts the light Cavalry had Tarentines and Sychtians and the light galatians..

    In Truth Antiochus III was a great general, but his dreams got the better of him both at Magnesia and Raphia... In truth the really advantage was just the fact the Maniple had more freedom than the syntagma...

    well...

    legions were much better at strategic action (detachments of legions could easily operate independently from the main army). Most of the Macedonian defeat is directly related to detachments of legions being able to infiltrate and break through forces holding the key mountain passes. The phalanx couldn't be at every pass, but it seemed that a legion acting under a proconsul or legate could defeat th kind of natural obstacle which often held up Hellenistic armies.

    Legions could react on a grand tactical basis faster than a phalanx. Cynoscephalae is the classic illustration of this. The victorious legion was able to send a detachment over to help the other wing, with ad hoc organization under command of an anonymous Tribune, because it was made up of easily detachable maniples. The 20 maniples were just lucky to arrive unopposed in the rear of the engaged enemy. Enemies came to realize that the phalanx could not adjust to the threat everywhere on the battlefield, because it needed and continuous front. Clumps of maniples, or cohorts could react and move independently.

    At the end of the day There werent much good generals in the Seleucid army, that goes for Romans too

    Ductus Exemplo
    Fas est et ab hoste doceri !
    He who knows when he can fight and when he cannot will be victorious.
    Treat your men as you would your own beloved sons. And they will follow you into the deepest valley.

  14. #14
    Manuel I Komnenos's Avatar Rex Regum
    Civitate

    Join Date
    Jan 2010
    Location
    Athenian Empire
    Posts
    11,557

    Default Re: The Alexandrian War. Caesar vs. Ptolemaic Egypt

    The truth is that the Seleucid Army remained pretty formidable even during the days of Antiochus IV Epiphanes. Despite the loss of the largest part of Asia Minor and the numerous military colonies the Seleucids had there, their army had managed to return to its previous strength, just two decades after the battle of Magnesia. Historians have argued that the Seleucid army also remained predominantly Greek/Macedonian and well trained until those last days of glory for the Seleucid Empire. The advantage of the Ptolemies compared to the Seleucids lied on the fact that the Seleucids could rarely gather their whole strength as much of their force had to man the Eastern and Western borders of the vast Empire, while the Ptolemies were only vulnerable from Sina.

  15. #15
    medievaldude's Avatar Senator
    Join Date
    Aug 2009
    Location
    North York, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
    Posts
    1,147

    Default Re: The Alexandrian War. Caesar vs. Ptolemaic Egypt

    despicable romans stopped Antiochus IV's plans on egypt, and he was on his way of retaking the lands stolen by the Pahlavians... Even sacking the Armenian capital he's no Madmen alright.

    I was amazed he was able to defeat a Egyptian fleet and take rhodes in one of his's campaign into egypt. Even with the apamea treaty good thing the romans didn't get mad till a year or two later xD

    Ductus Exemplo
    Fas est et ab hoste doceri !
    He who knows when he can fight and when he cannot will be victorious.
    Treat your men as you would your own beloved sons. And they will follow you into the deepest valley.

  16. #16
    Xanthippus of Sparta's Avatar Campidoctor
    Join Date
    May 2005
    Location
    near Pittsburgh PA
    Posts
    1,759

    Default Re: The Alexandrian War. Caesar vs. Ptolemaic Egypt (UPDATED)

    Really, the Seleucid army was formidable even later.

    Antiochus VII Sidetes had the Parthians on the rocks until he was killed in action in 129 B.C.

    After that, several civil wars within Syria were fought until the Seleucids were conquered by Tigranes the Great.

    Oh, and the main article is updated.
    I'll pick up the story with Caesar's attempt to capture Pharos, and Ptolemaic in-fighting here soon.



    "The fact is that every war suffers a kind of progressive degradation with every month that it continues, because such things as individual liberty and a truthful press are not compatible with military efficency."
    -George Orwell, in Homage to Catalonia, 1938.

  17. #17

    Default Re: The Alexandrian War. Caesar vs. Ptolemaic Egypt (UPDATED)

    This is awesome, Xanthippus. Keep up the good work. Also, you might be interested in this thread from the Paradox Interactive forums; it's a year-by-year accounting of the breakup of Alexander's empire and the wars of the diadochi, with maps. Sadly unfinished, but a great concept: http://forum.paradoxplaza.com/forum/...e+diadochi+war
    قرطاج يجب ان تدمر

  18. #18
    medievaldude's Avatar Senator
    Join Date
    Aug 2009
    Location
    North York, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
    Posts
    1,147

    Default Re: The Alexandrian War. Caesar vs. Ptolemaic Egypt (UPDATED)

    I always thought that the Seleucids could have been greater than they already were.....erffffffffffff

    Ductus Exemplo
    Fas est et ab hoste doceri !
    He who knows when he can fight and when he cannot will be victorious.
    Treat your men as you would your own beloved sons. And they will follow you into the deepest valley.

  19. #19
    Xanthippus of Sparta's Avatar Campidoctor
    Join Date
    May 2005
    Location
    near Pittsburgh PA
    Posts
    1,759

    Default Re: The Alexandrian War. Caesar vs. Ptolemaic Egypt (UPDATED)

    Thanks!

    By the way, the pics are from Johnny Shumate's portfolio (the Bosphoran), Osprey's The Army of Herod the Great (the Jewish and Galatian troops) and the Romans are of course by the venerable Angus McBride.



    "The fact is that every war suffers a kind of progressive degradation with every month that it continues, because such things as individual liberty and a truthful press are not compatible with military efficency."
    -George Orwell, in Homage to Catalonia, 1938.

  20. #20
    Xanthippus of Sparta's Avatar Campidoctor
    Join Date
    May 2005
    Location
    near Pittsburgh PA
    Posts
    1,759

    Default Re: The Alexandrian War. Caesar vs. Ptolemaic Egypt (UPDATED)

    Quote Originally Posted by medievaldude View Post
    I always thought that the Seleucids could have been greater than they already were.....erffffffffffff
    Oddly, despite the fact that the Seleucid kingdom was non-existant by 48 B.C., Plutarch refers to the ships that brought Caesar to Egypt in the first place, sparking off this whole chain of events, as "Seleucid".

    I felt the need to mention this, but it really didn't fit into my narrative.



    "The fact is that every war suffers a kind of progressive degradation with every month that it continues, because such things as individual liberty and a truthful press are not compatible with military efficency."
    -George Orwell, in Homage to Catalonia, 1938.

Page 1 of 2 1 2 LastLast

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •