Wars of the Diadochi > Battle of Gabiene

Battle of Gabiene

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Background

The Battle of Gabiene (316 BCE) was the second major battle that occurred between Antigonus I Monophthalmus and Eumenes in 316 BCE in the larger Wars of the Diadochi that occurred following the death of Alexander III the Great.This battle occurred following the Battle of Paraitakene and was mostly known from the records of Hieronymus of Cardia and later Diodorus who switched sides which allows historians to have access to both sides of the story which is very unusual for ancient battles.

The two armies met in the middle of the Persian satrapy and set up about 4.5 miles from each other and began preparing for the upcoming engagement. The battlefield was a flat plain as it as located on the Iranian Plateau. Antigonus deployed his heavy cavalry, elephants and light infantry on the right flank under the command of his son Demetrius I Poliorcetes. He had a center phalanx and on his left he had more cavalry and light infantry.

Eumenes deployed his forces by positioning his elephants and light infantry against the heavy cavalry and elephants of Antigonus and he would lead this charge personally. In the center was the elite Argyraspides phalanx group that was made of elderly men more than accomplished in battle and warfare. They had originally fought under Philip II of Macedon and later under Alexander himself. As the armies faced off on the battlefield the leader of the Argyraspides named Antigenes was believed to have rode over to the front line of Antigonus and taunted them saying:

"Wicked men, are you sinning against your fathers, who conquered the whole world under Philip and Alexander?"

Following this the morale of the opposing phalanx sunk and noticing this change in behavior the forces of Eumenes launched their attack. The two centers charged at each other and the elephant legions did the same, the battle had begun.

The Battle

The light infantry and elephants met each other on the battlefield and a brutal fight ensued. Eventually the military of Antigonus appeared to gain an advantage over Eumenes due to their larger number of soldiers. This caused a retreat of a majority of the cavalry of Eumenes led by Peucestas. Throughout the fight the soldiers had been kicking up a large amount of dust and this began to obscure the battlefield and clouded the visibility.

In the ensuing chaos of all this Antigonus ordered his left flank of cavalry to right around the opposing army so they could not be seen and plunder the military camp behind them. The experienced cavalry from Medes and Tarantine led by Peithon were able to successfully navigate around the main line of Eumenes and raid their unguarded camp and supplies behind them.

On the right flank Antigonus and Demeterius met up and took the rest of their cavalry around the main line of elephants and infantry to smash into the opposing cavalry. The entire time the lines had kept steady and the two opposing phalanxes were engaged in a stalemate. However, with this new charge by Antigonus and the cavalry the cavalry forces of Eumenes were routed and retreated across the plain.

With his camp being plundered and the left flank of cavalry totally gone, the Argyraspides launched a brutal offensive against the opposing phalangites and killed 5,000 of the soldiers without a single loss. The remaining soldiers fled across the battlefield and Eumenes ordered Peucestas and his cavalry that had previously retreated to finish the forces off for good. Peucestas refused and Antigonus took the opportunity to launch a final last offense of his light cavalry under the command of Peithon who had just returned to the line after raiding and looting the camp unbeknown to Eumenes and the forces. The light cavalry charged right at the experienced Argyraspides but they formed into a defensive square and retreated off the battlefield as well, thus ending the fighting.

Aftermath

Despite Antigonus claiming victory of Eumenes, neither side was really able to claim a decisive win. Eumenes was not militarily crushed following the engagement and still had a large army to back him up. Following the end of the battle he tried to convince his troops to engage Antigonus the next morning and crush him completely. Yet, morale was low and most of the soldiers did not want to fight anymore. His officers wanted to return and manage their own smaller kingdoms and satrapies and overall not many were interesting in this conflict.

Antigonus however, did something else that changed the course of the Wars of the Diadochi and captured the children, wives and all of the treasure of the elite Argyraspides fighting force. In a secret negotiation they offered to hand over Eumenes to Antigonus in exchange for the release of their families and wealth. Antigonus agreed and the Argyraspides returned to Eumenes' camp and kidnapped him along with his senior officers. The Argyraspides brought them to Antigonus as agreed and Eumenes was executed despite the initial reluctance of Antigonus.

Following his execution Antigonus also killed Eudemus who came from India and commanded the war elephants and light infantry. The Argyraspides did not escape complete loss and their leader Antigenes was executed as well. The Macedonian soldiers of Eumenes were assimilated into the larger army of Antigonus and the Argyraspides were never used as a fighting force again. In fact, Antigonus would send the Argyraspides to the satrapy of Arachosia where the satrap named Sibyrtius was given command to send them out on dangerous missions in small groups so they would slowly be killed. By breaking apart their group structure the Argyraspides were never going to be a threat in the future.

Impact

Should the forces of Eumenes had pursued Antigonus they may have beaten him once and for all after this battle. However, through his strategic kidnapping and secret negotiations he was able to bring the young commander to kneel without any more lengthy engagements. Up until this point Antigonus had suffered many brutal stalemates and this would weaken him to the point where his kingdom was ripe for invasion by the other successors.

This battle would lead directly to the Battle of Gaza.

Sources

Primary Sources

Secondary Sources

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