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Old January 24th, 2015, 09:41 PM   #1
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Why did the diadochi fare so poorly against Rome?

Was it due to the phalanx-legion matchup or due to the diadochi's weakening from internal struggles? Or was there some other systematic deficiency? I find it a little puzzling that they put up even less of a fight than Carthage or the Gauls.
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Old January 25th, 2015, 08:58 AM   #2
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It is interesting question.

Diadochi were not, in military terms, as powerful as Alexander the Great. Seleucid Empire had only a small contingent of Greek warriors in the guard and cavalry and even those were no match for Alexanderís soldiers. The majority of Seleucidís army was represented by eastern warriors and poor colonists. There were many attempts to teach the eastern recruits to fight like Greeks but they were only partly successful. And even could Seleucid Empire afford a large number of soldiers from Greece it would not have been possible to find ones, as by the second century the Greece itself was in need of professional soldiers.

I think that the last time when a powerful Greek army was mobilised was when Pyrrhus of Epirus invaded the Italy. And as you know, that army got a lot of troubles to Rome.
But since the second century the Hellenic armies were weak. I am sure, had the Romans to fight with the soldiers of the same quality as Alexander the Great had had , the Romans would have been defeated, whatever people says about the legion tactic!
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Old January 25th, 2015, 09:06 AM   #3

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The Armies of most of Alexander's successors were massive....for example in the Battle of Ipsus, both sides supposedly wielded armies of at least 50,000-75,000 men. Philip V commanded armies exceeded 50,000 men in the battles with Rome.

The weakness of the Diadochi armies against Rome has been pointed to the endless political instability & disunity among the successor realms, the constant civil wars and strife that weakened the Diadochi, and the flexibility and adaptability of the Romans legions in comparison to the Macedonian Phalanx, and superior generalship among the Roman leaders.
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Old January 25th, 2015, 06:00 PM   #4
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I suspect part of the problem was the growing reliance of the diadochi on phalanx, and an apparent decrease in effective cavalry.
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Old January 25th, 2015, 07:35 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by cerberusd View Post
Was it due to the phalanx-legion matchup or due to the diadochi's weakening from internal struggles? Or was there some other systematic deficiency? I find it a little puzzling that they put up even less of a fight than Carthage or the Gauls.
Try to reverse the narrative and ask what made Rome so successful. And then you will have your answer. the diadochi did nothing different than many smaller kingdoms in terms of their basis for recruitment. that is they found manpower whenever and wherever they could find it and by whichever means they could without giving up or delegating too much power from the leaders.

the biggest difference between Rome and it's opponents was arguably the men itself and the motivation for war and the inter discipline within the units themselves. that goes back to the Roman constitution and the spirit of inclusion and stake in society of which the Roman individual had. this cannot be underestimated.
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Old January 25th, 2015, 08:46 PM   #6

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I think it was the phalanx system and it's failure to adapt to time and terrain is the biggest reason why they seem to not fare so well against Rome.

The Diadochi tended to use the same tactics as Alexander did which started to become dated. The Romans learned about the Phalanx system during there war with Pryuus way before set foot in Greece thus was able to think up counter measures. Once you see the same tactics over and over again the less effective it will become because counter measures would always be developed.
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Old January 26th, 2015, 01:45 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by MJuingong View Post
I suspect part of the problem was the growing reliance of the diadochi on phalanx, and an apparent decrease in effective cavalry.
This is probably the biggest reason. At its heart, Alexander's army was a combined arms force. His successors failed to expand or even maintain the carefully cultivated systems of estates that Philip had established to support the Companions. The diadochi came to rely more and more upon the phalanx.

As an anecdote, while Alexander of Macedon was conducting his famous campaign against Persia, his uncle, Alexander of Epirus invaded Italy. The elder Alexander actually formed an alliance against the Samnites with Rome. It is said that when comparing his conquests against those of his nephew, Alexander of Epirus commented that he was fighting men while his nephew was fighting women.
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Old January 27th, 2015, 06:39 AM   #8

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In addition to the aforementioned reasons (lack of an effective cavalry arm, ever increasing reliance on the phalanx), we should also remember that the wars between Rome and the Macedonians and Selucids occured soon after the Second Punic War. The likes of Philip V and Antiochus III faced the uneviable task of fighting troops and commanders who had been blooded during the war against Hannibal. In reality, although the successor states fielded more "professional" armies than the Romans during this time, it was the Romans who, on the whole, had more experienced troops.

Successor commanders were also inclined to "dig-in" behind defensible positions and respond to the moves of the enemy, as Philip did at Aous and Antiochus did at Thermopylae. This was in sharp contrast to the aggresive, decisive movement that had marked Alexander's campaigns and highlighted the inferiority of these later Hellenistic forces, as well as the timidity of their commanders.

When we factor in the Roman manipular system's inherent flexibility compared to the Macedonian phalanx's rigidity, it's not hard to see how the wars went the way they did.

That's my two cents on the matter.
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Old January 27th, 2015, 08:09 AM   #9

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However the phalanx still did a great job against the Romans when it was working, but obviously the advantage lay with the maniples (it was faster to get ready than the phalanx). Philip the V was far from a timid commander. He was quite aggressive at times, and often conducted lightning campaigns against his enemies to keep his borders safe. At Cynoscephalae, for example, when he ordered his right flank to advance before his left was ready in an attempt to not lose the advantage of the sloping hills and take the initiative before the more flexible Roman forces adapted to the terrain and spread out to his flanks. Philip was a talented commander, just not one of the greats.

Philip had a lot of enemies, including the Dardanians and Illyrians, and far less manpower than Rome could muster. Macedon was well suited topographically for defense. He knew he could not win in a war against Rome, thus delaying actions in hope of settling peace with Roman commanders were part of his wishes, such as at the Aous River.

Last edited by markdienekes; January 27th, 2015 at 10:03 AM.
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