Commands & Colors: Ancients. The massacre on the Crimissos

Syracusans: Alex Isabelle
Carthaginians: Laura Beltrami

341 BC: the Syracusans still find themselves elbowing with the Carthaginians for the control of Magna Graecia. Several years have passed since the events of Agrigento, which finally saw the Carthaginian forces prevail. This time the latter are proceeding in the direction of I-do-not-know-which-city-in-Sicily, decided to take control once and for all. Having learned to disdain mercenaries for their lack of moral reliability, they have assembled an entire elite unit called the "sacred battalion", a collection of 2,500 high-blooded Carthaginian citizens, trained as god commands, hence the name. This battalion is part of the army which, led by a certain Hasdrubal (yet another), has worked to unify Sicily under the sign of Carthage.

History here takes on interesting contours. Arriving near the Crimissos river, Hasdrubal's brain goes out. He makes his army cross the river without sending anyone on reconnaissance. If he had done so he would have discovered that, clinging to the nearby hills, there was a Syracusan army, led by Timoleon, a skilled strategist here personified by yours truly. With a moderate lucky shot (a storm followed by a flood, which slowed the crossing of the river), he launched his fully charged troops against the still separated Carthaginian troops.

The result is a very violent clash, and actually quite short one. On the one hand, the heavy troops are sent to crush the Carthaginian vanguard; the light ones are sent to obstruct the tail, intent on leaving the river one step at a time. A plan I think was good overall, as well as historically accurate; yet, it turned out badly.

The Carthaginian rearguard, made up of barbarians
and light units, storm the banks of the Crimisso.

The sacred battalion accused an enormous amount of losses, without however dispersing completely. The troops who attacked it accused more. An entire troop of heavy infantry was demolished and the leader who led it, that is Timoleon himself, had to flee behind another unit; the cavalry that was supposed to give them the coup de grace was pushed back so brutally that the horses ran away from the battlefield, with their riders attached. The heavy troops that were supposed to strike down on the Carthaginian vanguard at this point were nailed down. At this point, a Syracusan mercenary unit intervened to save what could be saved and, thanks to its numerical advantage, managed to eliminate the Carthaginian elite unit. But the price for that was so high.

Meanwhile, the barbarian warriors hired by the Carthaginians to serve as cannon fodder showed enormous tenacity by managing to defeat the Syracusan light infantry on the river's edge, despite a constant bombardment of arrows, stones and various bullets launched in desperation, then opening the way to the other middle troops, who rushed out of the Crimissos. In the chaos that ensued, the Carthaginians easily paved the stunned Syracusan troops, who had to immediately beat a shameful and definitive retreat.

Do you want to read other stories? Click here for the full list.

The theater of the massacre seen from the Carthaginian perspective.

The Carthaginian victory points. It looked like a nice photo when I took it.

The mercenary auxiliary unit that eliminated the sacred battalion.
The only Syracusans to have done anything. How ironic.


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