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News from a wargamer with a special interest in the military history of the Balkans. It mainly covers my current reading and wargaming projects. For more detail you can visit the web sites I edit - Balkan Military History and Glasgow & District Wargaming Society. Or follow me on Twitter @Balkan_Dave
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Sunday 24 March 2019

Mithridates the Great

I was looking for a break from my WW2 research and painting when I picked up a copy of Philip Matyszak's book on the Pontic King, Mithridates the Great.

His army is one of those interesting ancient army lists I have come across in various rules over the years. Like Successor armies, it has a bit of everything. Sarmatian heavy cavalry supported by Skythian horse, scythed chariots, Thracian and Galatian foot with either a pike phalanx or imitation legionaries. All that is missing is a few flaming pigs!

Sarmatian horse 

However, I suspect like many ancient wargamers, I had only a vague idea of where Pontus was, or much about its most famous ruler.

Pontus was on the Black Sea coast in what is northern Turkey today. Although it stretched along the coast into the Caucasus and into southern Russia. Mithridates expanded the kingdom to the Bosporan Kingdom, based on the Crimea and the Kerch peninsula. He was closely allied with Armenia and at its height, the Kingdom extended into most of modern-day Turkey and Greece.

This expansion brought him into the Roman sphere of influence, although he hoped they were otherwise occupied with internal wars in Italy and revolts in Spain. His early success was halted when he came up against two of Rome's finest generals of the period, Sulla and Lucullus. Even a young Julius Ceasar makes a brief appearance in the story.

He fought two wars and lost them both through a combination of poor strategy and tactics and the sheer perseverance of the Romans. Nonetheless, his resistance to Roman expansion lasted longer than most and justifies the subtitle of this book, 'Rome's indomitable enemy'.

His longevity was down to geography and the wealth that his kingdom provided in order to finance large numbers of mercenary troops. He also had a large fleet, which restrained the largely landlubber Romans. He wasn't a great battlefield general, but he did have inspired commanders and quality troops.

Philip Matyszak writes a very good narrative history of the campaigns in this book. There are good campaign maps and battlefield diagrams, something that is often missing in books covering this period. This book is for the general reader and he tells a great story.

I have never fielded this army on the wargames table, but I probably have most of the main elements in 28mm.


Thracian foot


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