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Thread: Historical Baktrian Army Composition

  1. #1

    Default Historical Baktrian Army Composition

    I have been lately digging into the Baktria and the history of the Greco-Bactrian kingdom and so far I've had some succesful campaigns with them, but yet there are still very few gameplay or historical guides for that particular faction compared to factions such as Romani, where I can actually create historical compositions for my legions for roleplay purposes and the material is abundant.

    Interestingly enough I came across this quote (in Wiki) attributed to the Chinese traveller Zhang Qian, who visited Baktria in the late 2nd century. He says:

    "Daxia (Bactria) is located over 2,000 li southwest of Dayuan, south of the Gui (Oxus) river. Its people cultivate the land and have cities and houses. Their customs are like those of Dayuan. It has no great ruler but only a number of petty chiefs ruling the various cities. The people are poor in the use of arms and afraid of battle, but they are clever at commerce. After the Great Yuezhi moved west and attacked Daxia, the entire country came under their sway. The population of the country is large, numbering some 1,000,000 or more persons. The capital is called the city of Lanshi (Bactra) and has a market where all sorts of goods are bought and sold." ("Records of the Great Historian" by Sima Qian, quoting Zhang Qian, trans. Burton Watson)
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greco-Bactrian_Kingdom

    This might put some light on the issue of the Baktrian armies and confirm some of my previous thoughts that Baktrian armies in general were made of very few Greeks, especially in later times. Indeed, as Baktria I find it more effective to simply recruit lots and lots of Pantodapoi Phalangitai, which are widely available in terms of AOR and more cost effective than the Pezhetairoi, and for historical purposes "Hellen" units tend to be far in-between in all games.

    Anyways, being objective, I take that a historical Baktrian army would have 1) a very strong Indo-Iranian backbone, with a few Hellenised\Hellen high ranking guys on the top; I would also risk making an educated guess that regional levies could be far more used than units of Hellenic origin such as Peltastai, but anyways I am just an amateur, and thus I seek a definite advice over the validity of my assertions and over whether or not there is a good model to base an RP historical recruitment on. I thank you for that .
    Last edited by A Terribly Harmful Name; 12-23-2008 at 01:16.

  2. #2

    Default Re: Historical Baktrian Army Composition

    Zhang Qian's comments should not be taken at face value because of the complexity of the social situation in Bactria following the Saka and Yuezhi invasions. You must, for instance, ask how much of the Greek military might of the Graeco-Bactrian kingdom derived from the state and how much derived from its inhabitants in their individual capacities. If Bactria was like most other Hellenistic states, which it seems it was in the general sense, then the state played an important role in the organization and effectiveness of the Greek core of its military, right down to the dispensal of arms from royal armouries (which is suggested by the finds from the arsenal at Ai-Khanoum). After the fall Bactria c. 145 BC to the Saka, the prime organization of the military was lost, and the Greek soldiers who remained and did not retreat into the mountains with the remnants of the state may not even had their own major arms to fight with.

    This statement, therefore, only reflects upon the situation in Bactria after the defeat of the Graeco-Bactrian state in that region. This, however, is not really reflective of how you should play your game, because in your game your state presumably has not been defeated by nomads and the Greeks within it would not have had a reason to flee.

  3. #3

    Default Re: Historical Baktrian Army Composition

    I personally think that rather than retreating in the mountains, Greek survivors of Baktria who could ventured into present day Pakistan and NW India, joining the ever feuding Eastern and Western IndoGreek Kingdom in what is now known as Punjab, and all along the Kophen river from present day Kabul and well into Pakistan. It is considered that Eukratides II did so, leaving Baktria for Indus upper valley, aka Punjab. There they lasted until about CE 10, before succumbing to IndoSaka. .

    Their descendants, subjects of the Kushan empire, were mostly Buddhists and helped create works of art as the following...

    http://www.flickr.com/search/?q=gandhara

    and especially the following which helped preserve their ancestry until they were completely Indianised. The Atlas,
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/bijapuri/2007337732/

    and this, Gandharan Athena, most probably Athena Alkidemos-Ardorxo, a syncretic deity.
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/bijapuri/2006534025/

    Any budding artist willing and able to turn this Bactrian King
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/bijapur...99550/sizes/l/
    into a pic we could use?

    and a little bit of history,
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heliocles
    in coins,
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/bijapur...7603201308814/
    found in Taxila museum,
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/bijapur...7603201308814/
    Last edited by keravnos; 12-23-2008 at 05:39.


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  4. #4

    Default Re: Historical Baktrian Army Composition

    Quote Originally Posted by keravnos View Post
    I personally think that rather than retreating in the mountains, Greek survivors of Baktria who could ventured into present day Pakistan and NW India, joining the ever feuding Eastern and Western IndoGreek Kingdom in what is now known as Punjab, and all along the Kophen river from present day Kabul and well into Pakistan. It is considered that Eukratides II did so, leaving Baktria for Indus upper valley, aka Punjab. There they lasted until about CE 10, before succumbing to IndoSaka. .

    Their descendants, subjects of the Kushan empire, were mostly Buddhists and helped create works of art as the following...

    http://www.flickr.com/search/?q=gandhara

    and especially the following which helped preserve their ancestry until they were completely Indianised. The Atlas,
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/bijapuri/2007337732/

    and this, Gandharan Athena, most probably Athena Alkidemos-Ardorxo, a syncretic deity.
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/bijapuri/2006534025/
    That's what I meant by "retreat into the mountains with the remnants of the state." Following the loss of Bactria, the remnants of the Graeco-Bactrian state transferred into the Hindo-Kush mountains, Arachosia, and northwestern India, with major new centres of power at Taxila and Begram. It makes sense that the majority of refugees would have moved first into the Hindu-Kush range immediately behind the plains of Balkh to flee the Saka onslaught, which is why I said that they would retreat into the mountains.

  5. #5

    Default Re: Historical Baktrian Army Composition

    My knowledge on this topic is limited to what I've read in Duncan Head's "Armies of the Macedonian and Punic Wars 359 BC to 146 BC" (Wargames Research Group, 1982). I imagine there's more recent work out there on Baktrian armies, but this is a summary of what Duncan has to say:

    Baktrian Greeks may have fought as peltasts but most probably served as phalangites. It is also worth keeping in mind that "peltast" could be a general term for any mercenary troops, whether they're technically peltasts, thureophoroi or something else.

    Cavalry appear to have been important and numerous. Euthydemos fielded a 10,000 strong cavalry-only army against Antiochos III in 208BCE. Most of these troops were probably from the Iranian nobility. The Baktrians are likely to have fielded a mix of light and heavy cavalry; Head specifically mentions the Arachosians. Euthydemos certainly used elephants, and it is likely that other Baktrian kings did too. Euthydemos may also have had access to Saka mercenaries.

    Greek armies in India were most likely made up of large numbers of Indian troops – especially after the Indian Greeks became separated from Baktria itself.

    So, based on this, my guess is that Baktrian armies were probably similar to other Macedonian phalanx-based armies, but with plenty of diverse cavalry and local infantry. The settled Greeks were used mainly for phalanx and guard units, the Iranian nobility formed the bulk of the cavalry and local Baktrian and Persian troops made up the supporting infantry.

    This is my planned set-up (once I can afford it!). Keep in mind that I haven’t taken any Indian provinces yet and very heavy cavalry and elephants are too expensive at this stage.

    6 units phalanx: 3 Pantodapoi Phalangitai, 2 Klerouchoi and 1 Pezhetairoi (in that order, left to right)
    6 units cavalry: 2 Arachosian skirmisher cavalry or Dahae riders, 2 Indo-Iranian light cavalry, 2 Indo-Iranian heavy cavalry or Baktrian medium cavalry, plus one or two FMs. I might end up removing a couple of cavalry units to make room for more infantry (and to reduce costs!)
    6 units regional infantry: 2 Persian or Subeshi archers, 2 Persian archer-spearmen, 2 Baktrian light infantry or Eastern axemen (or I can substitute slingers for any of these). I avoid using low-level Greek units (Toxotai, Akontistai, Sphendonetai) on the grounds that all the Greeks will be serving in the phalanx (the poor ones as Pantodapoi) and the Eastern equivalents are generally better value anyway.

    Given the historical use of Indian troops in India, once I take Gandhara I plan to raise a local army to take the other two Indian provinces then take the fight to the Seleukids from the East with an all Indian force, which should be interesting.

    Other options: thureophoroi (may prove more useful on the flanks than the relatively lightly armoured Persian troops), peltasts and horse-archers.
    Later additions/replacements: cataphracts, elephants, Baktrian horse-archers, Indian units, elite infantry and maybe thorakitai. It seems plausible to me that the Baktrians could copy Seleukid thorakitai if they faced them in battle, but IIRC the scarcity of chain mail out East means it's unlikely they would be used in large numbers, if it all.

    With such a diverse unit roster (the most varied in the game?) it makes sense to tailor your armies to suit their enemies – taking large numbers of Baktrian light infantry to the steppes, for example, would be unwise. There is also some precedent for this in Euthydemos’ use of an all cavalry force against the Seleukids.

    Hope this helps,

    V.

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