Bosporan 348 BC - 375 AD

Cold. Ag. 1. WW, Rv, H(S), H(G), V, RGo, BUA. Nominal list scale: 1 element equals 125 men (half normal scale).

C-in-C - Irr Kn (F) @ 19 AP 1
Sub-general - Irr Kn (F) @ 19 AP 0-2
Nobles and retainers - Irr Kn (F) @ 9 AP 5-9
Horse archers - Irr LH (F) @ 4 AP 19-36
City militia - Reg Ax (O) @ 4 AP 3*-10
Upgrade city militia Ax with armour as Reg Ax (S) @ 5 AP Any
Slingers - Irr Ps(O) @ 2 AP 4*-12**
Maiotian and similar archers - Irr Bw (I) @ 3 AP or Irr Ps (O) @ 2 AP 8*-24**
Upgrade archers with spear and shield to Irr Bw (O) @ 4 AP, or if city militia, to Reg Bw (O) @ 5 AP 0-4
Maiotian and similar javelinmen - Irr Ax (O) @ 3 AP or Irr Ps (S) @ 3 AP 8*-24**
Camerae and other boats - Irr Bts (O) @ 2 AP [Ax, Bw, Ps] 0-6
Replace boats with galleys - Reg Gal (O) @ 3 AP [Regular infantry] 0-3
Wagon-laager for camp - TF @ 1 AP 0-24
Sarmatian allies - List: Siracae, Iazyges, Later Rhoxolani Sarmatians (Bk 2)

Only before 11 AD:
Regrade sub-general as mercenary - Reg Sp (I) @ 24 AP or Reg Ax (O) @ 24 AP 0-1
Greek mercenaries - Reg Sp (I) @ 4 AP, or if acting as Euzonoi, Reg Ax (O) @ 4 AP 0-9
Thracian and similar mercenaries - Irr Ax (S) @ 4 AP or Irr Ax (O) @ 3 AP 0-10
Skythian allies - List: Kimmerian, Skythian and Early Hu (Bk 1)

Only from 108 BC:
Ditch and bank - TF @ 2 AP 0-24
Replace horse archers with Sarmatian-style lancers - Irr Kn (F) @ 9 AP Any
Regrade city militia Ax as imitation legionaries - Reg Bd (I) @ 5 AP Any

Only from 108 BC to 10 AD:
Replace Thracian and similar mercenaries with Celts - all Irr Bd (I) @ 4 AP or all Irr Wb (O) @ 3 AP Any
Regrade mercenary sub-general as Reg Cv (O) @ 28 AP 0-1
Regrade other generals as Irr Cv (O) @ 17 AP Any
Downgrade generals not regraded as Cv to ally-generals - Irr Kn (F) @ 14 AP All

Only after 41 AD:
Replace horse archers with Sarmatian-style lancers - Irr Kn (F) @ 9 AP 1/2-all
Bolt-shooters - Reg Art (F) @ 10 AP or Reg Art (O) @ 8 AP 0-3
Roman allies - List: Early Imperial Roman (Bk 2) or Middle Imperial Roman (Bk 2)

This list covers armies of the Bosporan kingdom and related city-states from the accession of Parysadas I until the kingdom's demise at the hands of the Huns. The minima marked * apply only if city militia are used. The maxima marked ** are halved after 109 BC. Kn (F) that dismount to defend fortifications or attack warwagons or fortifications do so as Bw (O); Cv (O) do so as Ax (S). A Roman allied contingent need not contain either legionaries or auxilia, but must contain at least one of the two.


Notes underneath cited in the form "(M xx)" refer to page xx of Mariusz Mielczarek's "The Army of the Bospoaran Kingdom" (1999), Oficyna Naukowa, Lodz.

List dates: I have moved the date back to the accession of Parysadas I, as evidence of the subjugation of the Sindi and Maiotians is firmly attested in his reign if not before; this avoids the somewhat odd situation of the army list starting in the midst of a major civil war, while not going so far back in time to the period when the army consisted of hoplites and Skythians (as related in an anecdtoe in Polyainos). I have also included the "Mithridatic" period, since it is obvious that the army of the Bosporus during this time was nothing like Mithridates' main army, even if it was not the same as previous Bosporan armies. I have absolutely no idea why the second half of the current list starts at 46 BC, other than this is the date of the death of Pharnakes, but this hardly seems relevant to the Bosporan military. Mithridates' successors were not ousted until 10/11 AD. It should be note that the list strictly covers not only the kingdom, but other city-states in the Bosporus such as Cherson that achieved independence after civil war.

Aggression: I have raised this from 0 to 1, partly because the action against Aripharnes and Eumelos by Satyros is best represented as a Bosporan force invading Siracae lands rather than a purely internal civil war (Diodoros records Aripharnes having troops in this conflict, but does not record any being provided by Eumelos, even if he did command some, so the army was essentially purely Siracae), and also because Eumelos is recorded as waging war against various piratical tribes, expanding his rule over the neighbouring areas and indeed, aiming to subdue the best part of the Black sea region (Diodoros 20.25.2-3).

Terrain: The current list specifies a compulsory H(S), which seems appropriate for most of Crimea - however the Bosporan kingdom was not most of Crimea, but the flattest easternmost portion of it, along with the westernmost (and flattest) portions of the Asian side of the Strait of Kerch. The current list also omits Rv, again seemingly looking at Crimea, rather than the Asian half of the kingdom, which had substantial rivers like the Kuban, many of which were nonetheless too small to be counted as WW: the Thates, seemingly a tributary of the Kuban, was certainly crossable by an army, if with difficulty.

List scale: The Bosporan kingdom was not very large, and relied on outside forces for its protection. Accordingly, a list scale of 1:125 has been employed. To fight battles at true scale therefore, all minima and maxima must be halved.

Generals: The commanders of the mercenaries seems to have been an important general (M 43) hence the provision for an infantry general.

Nobles: Orginally equipped in the Skythian manner, Sarmatian influences later prevailed. The number of mounted warriors, especially charging horsemen, cannot have been anywhere near as high at the current list maintains (a minimum of 5000-odd 'nobles'!). Satyros' charging cavalry at the Thates are described as "picked" and presumably represented the armoured nobility in typical Skythian style while the great majority were more lightly equipped horse archers, as indicated by abundant grave finds. Even allowing a generous 20% to be such nobles only yields no more than 8 elements' worth.

Horse archers: Satyros is recorded (Diodoros 20.22.4) as having at least 10000 horsemen at the Thates river, called Skythian 'allies', but as he is recorded as leading them, in the traditional Skythian manner in the centre, it is evident that many, if not all, were subjects of the kingdom (contrast Eumelos on the other side, who did not command the 'allies' there and took charge of a wing command). For the purposes of this list, I will assume that half of the forces recorded as 'Skythian' are genuine Skythian allies (but somewhat more of the infantry, including "hordes"), and the other half Skythian-influenced subjects of the kingdom like the Sindi and Maiotians, and Skythian-influenced Bosporans, such as the royal family itself.

Militia: Duncan Head in his Armies of the Macedonian and Punic Wars writes (page 30) that at the Thates river conflict militia were not involved, and that the militia, while having probably not completely disappeared, were largely irrelevant militarily at this date, a view echoed by Mielczarek for similar reasons (M 37). However, since the militia were important before and after (Appian, Mithridatic Wars 120, records Pharnakes as having to beat the Phanogorians in open battle), one must consider whether they were at this time, but for some not readily apparent reason not used in this particular battle. There is I believe, indeed such a reason. Satyros had been appointed by his father as successor, and seems to have commanded the kingdom's forces, unlike his rival Eumelos who was reliant on external support. Yet his brother Eumelos was not only able to raise a rebellion, but was able to keep the rebellion going successfully, even after his defeat at the Thates river. This speaks for some degree of popular support, and indeed, after he was proclaimed king, Diodoros states he enacted a number of popular measures to restore them to their former goodwill to himself (20.24.5), including abolishing fiscal levies. This former state can only refer their inclination before the Thates river conflict. Thus the people, and therefore the people's militia, were inclined to Eumelos rather than to Satyros who had the power and ability to summon them to fight. It is no wonder therefore that he declined to do so: there would have been every chance that they (unlike his mercenaries) would have deserted him mid-battle, with disastrous results. I conclude therefore that the militia were as every bit important now as before and later, but simply for political reasons not used at the battle we have the best account of. With regard to equipment, there is no evidence that the infantry used a spear as opposed to javelins until the end of the second century BC, hence the Ax (O) grading; however, it is clear that many were relatively well armoured, and hence can still be rated as Ax (S).

Slingers: I see nothing in Diodoros 20.23 that talks of siege engines, contra Mielczarek (M 50), and what he interprets as artillery shot are clearly slingstones, as the very heaviest of them weighs just over one kilogram, and they average less than half of this - ie. the standard fist-sized stone such as used by many slingers around the Mediterranean littoral. Slingers are recorded amongst the Crimean Goths from after the end of this period - not a normal Gothic weapon, and they probably picked it up from the Bosporan natives. Such slingstones have been found in many villages as well as cities, indicating their widepread use.

Archers: Although the Sindi and Maiotians were Bosporan subjects, other similar tribes could be employed (M 40), hence my relabelling these as "Maiotian and similar".

Bw (O): Graves containing both spear (javelin) and bow are attested from before this era (M 45, 50), and stelae of soldiers with bow appear from the the second century BC (M 49), while arrowheads finds are common in cities and villages throughout the kingdom. I take this as licence to upgrade some archers to Bw (O), and that such types could be found serving in militia units. I don't know why Mielczarek says the combination of 'spear' and bow in these Taman graves is un-Skythian (M 50), elsewhere he says this composition is typically Skythian (M 57).

Javelinmen: I allow these to be Ax (O) as well as Ps (S). I see no reason why they should be pure skirmishers, especially since the very same men in the Skythian list are rated as Ax (O) and not Ps (S)!

Mercenaries: Diodoros records "not more than 2000" Greeks at the Thates river under Satyros (20.22.4), implying that more might be expected; I accordingly allow 2500. He also records the same number of Thracians. Paphlagonians are attested from inscriptional evidence (M 38), here included in the "Thracians and similar". I discount the possibility of Celts, in that the evidence for them purely comes from the fact that thureoi are shown on things such as coins, but thureoi were of course not restricted to Celts (M 40). These should be available not just to the civil war of 310 BC, even if that did coincide with their peak use (M 38), as mercenaries were still being used in the Mithridatic period (M 70) by the cities.

Naval elements: the navy is curiously absent from the current list, given its vital importance to the Bospran state, split quite literally in half as it was by the Straight of Kerch. Sailors were directly recuited by the state from as far afield as Athens (M 39), and trierarchs are attested from inscriptional evidence. Local tribes made extensive used of "camarae" (Tacitus, Histories 3.47; Strabo 11.2.12), double-ended narrow boats covered up and over with planks for piracy and the like.

Wagon laager: used by Satyros at the Thates river, it is likely that this practice was quite standard given the nomadic influences on the military practices of the kingdom.

Sarmatian allies: these should extend beyond 41 AD, since Sarmatians were involved in both sides of a civil war in 45 AD (M 80), and Sarmatian influence was certainly strong after this date. Sarmatians tribes other than the Siracae were used, hence the lack of tribal specification. As an aside, the Siracae list needs a complete reworking - it should include lots of Taurian infantry and the like, and armoured lancers should only become common in the first century BC.

Skythian allies: these should not be limited to 310 BC, they were still important during the Mithridatic era, and of vital importance before that.

Celts: these are attested by Appian (Mithridatic wars 111).

Ditch and bank: the construction of various defensive works in both sides of the kingdom can be credited to Asander (M 67).

Pontic generals: these are graded in accordance with the standard interpretation of Pontic cavalry. Non-Pontic generals are classified as allies since they were unhappy with Pontic rule and not infrequently revolted.

Imitation legionaries: Tacitus refers to Bosporan infantry equipped in the Roman manner. The current list assumes this is as auxiliaries, but legionaries are at least as likely, given that such equipment is likely to have been introduced by Mithridates well before the Romans had any regular auxiliaries (M 74) .

Romans: I have removed these from the main list, and replaced them with allied contigents, on the grounds that the commanders of the cohorts plural mentioned as assisting the Bosporans from time to time are likely to have been independent enough to not count as being sub-ordinate, and commanders of legionaries certainly so. Early Imperial legionary allies represent the possible involvement of Legio I Italica in a Bosporan war (M 99), and Middle Imperial legionary allies represent the forces evidenced by inscriptions from Legio I Italica, Legio II Herculiaand Legio XI Claudia, and possibly others including mounted units. Cohorts are likely to have been part-mounted hence cavalry may be used without legionaries.

Sarmatian style lancers: these were only introduced in the Mithridatic era according to Mielczarek, which is a major departure from the current list. They carried bows in addition to their lances as is clear from pictorial representations, and hence dismount as Bw. Armour appears to have become more common as time went on, both armoured and unarmoured men being illustrated in the same scene is some cases, and initial illustrations showing the men as entirely unarmoured. Whether such unarmoued men fought separately is unclear (this is shown at in one scene, plate XXV in Mielczarek's book - but see note 71 on page 88 - but it also shows them charging in line with lances lowered, which sounds like Kn (F) behaviour anyway, rather than LH).

This page last modified 21 June, 2004.

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