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Macedonian Epirot 342BC - 272BC

Under Discusion


Author: A Bennetts

  • Macedonian Epirot List 27a
  • Pyrrhus in Italy List 27b

Macedonian Epirot List 27a


Warm. Ag 4 between 295BC to 272BC (Pyrrhus), otherwise 0. WW, Rv, H(S), H(G), Wd, O, V, RGo, Rd, BUA

Nominal List Scale: 1 element = 250 men (normal scale)


CinC with xyston, Reg Kn(F) 1

SubG with xyston, Reg Kn(F) 1-2


Epirot and Macedonian cavalry with xyston, Reg Kn(F) 2-4 (1)

Allied Greek cavalry, Reg Cv(I) 0-2


Epirot and Macedonian phalangites, Reg Pk(O) 24-48

Replace phalangite sarissai with javelins as Reg Ax(O) Any (2)

Allied Greek Citizen hoplites, Irreg Sp(O) 0-12

Replace Greek Citizen hoplites with phalangites, Reg Pk(O) Any

Greek mercenaries, Reg Ax(O) or Reg Ax(X) 0-6 (3)

Camp defences, TF 0-12 (4)


Before 294BC

Replace phalangites with levies:

Up to 1/3 Irreg Ps(I), remainder Irreg Ax(I) Any

Replace Ps(I) with Archers & Slingers Irr Ps(O) 0-6 (5)


From 294BC

Ambraciot, Corcyran and other warships:

Up to 1/3 6er or larger Reg Gal(S), remainder Reg Gal(O) {Sp, Ax or Ps} 0-3 (6)

Mercenary Archers and Slingers, Reg Ps(O) 8-16 (7)

Acarnanian & Athamanian Infantry, Irr Ps(S) 4-16

Acarnanian & Athamanian Cavalry, Irr LH(O) 1-4

Aitolian Allies - Hellenistic Greek (Bk 2) (8)


From 287BC

Elephants, Irreg El(O) 0-2 (9)


From 284BC

Illyrians, Irreg Ax(S) 0-4 (10)


From 275BC

Replace Generals with xyston with

Generals with javelins & shield as Cv(O) Any (11)

Replace Epirot and Macedonian cavalry with xyston with Epirot and Macedonian cavalry with javelins & shield as Reg Cv(O) All

Replace Greek cavalry with Greek cavalry with javelins & shield as Reg Cv(O) Any (12)

Galatians mercenaries, Irr Wb(S) 0-8 (13)

Replace Greek mercenaries with thureophoroi as Reg Ax(S) Any (14)


The Epirot Confederacy consisted of the tribal groupings of Molossia,

Chaonia and Thasprotia. It was usually headed by the kings of Molossia.

The list covers the period of major Macedonian influence, commencing

with Philip of Macedon placing his brother-in-law Alexander 'the

Molossian' on the throne as a client and ends with the death of Pyrrhus,

the most famous of the Epirot kings. After being restored, with

Ptolemaic help, as joint king in 297BC, Pyrrhus became sole king after

murdering is colleague in 295BC. At various times he subsequently

conquered and ruled considerable parts of Macedonia (twice being

recognised as king) as well as campaigning in Thessaly, beseiging Athens

and finally invading the Peleponesse. Subsequent to this period, Epirus

was mostly subservient to Macedon, rarely fielding significant forces on

its own behalf.


The list does not cover the Italian expeditions of Alexander or Pyrrhus.

These are covered by separately.


Having spent time at the Macedonian court and being closely associated

with Philip, it is assumed that Alexander imitated Macedonian

institutions in the organisation of both the state and the army. This

was assisted by the greater economic means available to the king

following the Greek coastal settlements that controlled external trade

being brought under royal rule . However, until Pyrrhus was able to

complete this process, it is probable that some Epirot foot would have

remained ill equipped levies. Even afterwards, the terrain of Western

Greece suggests that infantry may have frequently employed javelins

instead of sarissai. The Greek settlements would have been able to

supply some cavalry and hoplites. Over time the latter may also have

been re-equipped as phalangites. Epirus is usually assumed to have

lacked the means to hire mercenaries on any scale, however small numbers

were probably available on occasion (see notes). Aitolians allies must

subsitute citizen hoplites for thureophoroi and may not use Tarantine

mercenary cavalry or any regular infantry.


The list does not include the Italian expeditions of either Alexander

the Molossian (334BC – 330BC) or Pyrrhus (280BC to 275BC). These are

covered separately.



Aggression and Terrain: The Epirot Confederacy was generally passive.

Pyrrhus, who did all his campaigning on enemy soil, was the sole (and

radical!) exception.


Nominal List Scale: The maximum size of a native Epirot armies would

seem to have been between 25,000 and 30,000. Pyrrhus's Italian

expedition was considered exceptional and totalled 25,500 with an

advance guard of up 3000 more. A Molossian army in 385BC was large

enough to be recorded as suffering 15,000 casualties in a battle with

the Illyrians. On this basis the usual troop scale is sufficient.


1: Generals and cavalry. It is generally assumed that these would

use xyston following the Macedonian model. Generals whose command is

otherwise only foot dismount as Ax(S).


2: Re-equip phalangites as Ax(O). It seems generally recognised

that phalangites of the period could replace sarissa with javelins for

special operations. Given the terrain of Western Greece no qualification

is placed on this for Epirot phalangites. Note however it is not

available to re-equipped Greek Citizen hoplites.


3: Mercenaries. It is generally assumed that Epirus did not have

the means to hire mercenaries on any scale. However both Alexander and

Pyrrhus had wealthy external sponsors who could have provided help.

Philip would probably have given assistance to Alexander in his early

years while Ptolemy of Egypt supported Pyrrhus in his successful return

to Epirus in 297BC. In both cases any assistance is likely to have

included either mercenaries or the means to hire them. As part of the

alliance against Demetrius in 289BC the other kings may well have

supplied Pyrrhus with mercenaries or funds while Antigonus Gonatas may

have supplied troops (if so, undoubtedly mercenaries) for the

confrontation with Lysimachus in 285BC. The other successor kingdoms all

assisted Pyrrhus in preparing his Italian expedition and Pyrrhus was

definitely hiring troops on his return from Italy. Provision is made for

the mercenaries to be equipped as 'Iphicratians'.


4: Camp Defences. Camp defences were not unknown to the Macedonians

and their Successors while the Romans had a tradition that it was

Pyrrhus that taught them to fortify their camps.


5: Epirot levies. Prior to this period Epirot foot would have been

lightly equipped with javelins and wicker pelta and do not seem to have

had much of a reputation. Given the limited finances of the kingdom, the

re-equipment of Epirot foot as phalangites was likely to have been

gradual and not necessarily completed until the expansion of the kingdom

under Pyrrhus from 294BC.


6: Ambraciot and Corcyran warships. Pyrrhus had control of Ambracia

from 294BC and it is here that the famous 7er that was later captured by

the Carthaginians (and subsequently by the Romans in the 1st Punic War)

was built. Prior to this it is unlikely the Epirots had any significant

naval capability. In 294BC Pyrrhus also married the daughter of

Agathocles of Syracuse, whose dowry included the island of Corcyra which

had a significant history as a naval power. However the marriage did not

last and it may not have been until 281BC that Pyrrhus finally had

control of the island and it's navy.


7: Mercenary archers and slingers. The force Pyrrhus took to Italy

contained 2500 of these, an exceptional number for the time. They were

obviously a troop type he valued and the assumption is he began

employing them as soon as he could afford to.


8: Aitolian, Acarnanian and Athamanian troops. In 295BC Pyrrhus

intervened in a Macedonian dynastic dispute, gaining parts of Upper

Macedonia as well as Acarnania, Athamania, Amphilochia and Ambracia, all

of which had all been under Macedonian control. He also concluded an

alliance with the Aitolians, subsequently campaigning with them against

Demetrius in 288BC. The alliance appears to have lasted until at least

Pyrrhus's death. While the date is too early, the Hellenistic Greek

list, substituting hoplites for thureophoroi, is a better source for

Aitolians of this period than Later Hoplite Greek.


9: Elephants. Exactly how and when Pyrrhus obtained his elephants

is subject to debate. The earliest possible date is following his

intervention in Macedon in 295BC, the latest as part of his preparation

for the Italian expedition in 280BC. However the most likely moment

remains 287BC, Pyrrhus and Lysimachus splitting the Macedonian elephant

herd between them as part of the division of Macedon following the

defeat of Demetrius. Pyrrhus took 20 elephants to Italy but few, if any,

returned with him. However, when he invaded Macedon on his return from

Italy he captured the elephant herd of Antigonos Gonatas and so had 24

beasts for the invasion of the Peleponesse in 272BC.


10: Illyrians. One of Pyrrhus's wives was Illyrian and, following

his ejection from Macedon by Lysimachus in 284BC, he extended his

control nothwards into Illyria, perhaps as far as Epidamnus. While

Illyrians are never mentioned serving Pyrrhus, given his limited numbers

and their availability and reputation it seems likely that at least some

would have been employed. A force of up to 1000 seems plausible and

would be small enough to have escaped notice in our meagre surviving



11: Equip generals with javelins and shields. Having this as Any

rather than All follows the existing list on the basis of Pyrrhus still

using the xyston in his last battles. I'm not entirely convinced by this

but have retained it for now.


12: Equip cavalry with javelins and shields. Pyrrhus's Italian

expedition has been associated with the introduction of shielded cavalry

to mainland Greece. The assumption is his returning cavalry would

already have made the change.


13: Galatians. On his return from Italy, Pyrrhus immediately

employed 2000 of these. Their use as assault troops in the attack on

Sparta confirms the appropriateness of their Wb(S) classification.


14: Regrade mercenaries as thureophoroi. This is for consistency

with parallel lists which date the introduction of the thureos from 275BC.

Pyrrhus in Italy: 280BC to 272BC

Under Discussion


Author: A. Bennetts

Warm. Ag 2. WW, Rv, H(S), H(G), O, V, E, RGo, Rd, BUA

Nominal List Scale: 1 element = 500 men (twice normal scale);


CinC Reg Kn(F) or Cv(O) 1

Sub Generals Reg Kn(F) or Cv(O) 1-2


Epirot or Macedonian cavalry with xyston, Reg Kn(F) 1-3 (1)

Thessalian, Italiot or Oscan cavalry Reg Cv(O) 2-6

Aetolian, Acarnanian or Athamanian cavalry, Irr LH(O) 1-3

Tarantine light horse Reg LH(O) 2-4 (2)

Elephants, Irr El(O) 1-2 (3)

Epirot, Macedonian or Mercenary phalangites Reg Pk(O) 12-32 (4)

Tarantine and other Italiote citizen militia, Reg Sp(I) 12-32

Replace Tarantine or other Italiote citizen militia Sp(other than marines for warships) with Reg Pk(I) All or None (5)

Italiote, Siciliote or Oscan mercenaries: Up to half Reg Ax(O), otherwise Reg Sp(O) 0-12 (6)

Aetolian, Acarnanian or Athamanian infantry, Irr Ps(S) 4-16

Archers and slingers, Reg Ps(O) 5-10 (7)

Epirot & Tarantine warships Reg Gal(O) {Sp or Ps} 0-6 (8)


Replace Epirot and Macedonian cavalry with xyston with Epirot and Macedonian cavalry with javelins & shield as Reg Cv(O) Any (9)

Reduce the number of archers and slingers and replace Elephants with Escorted Elephants: as El(S) All or None

Archers and slingers, Reg Ps(O) 0-6 (10)

Replace Gal(O) warships with Pyrrhus's flagship as Reg Gal(S) 0-1 (11)

Camp defences, TF 0-12 (12)


Only in 280BC

Lucanian Allies -

Campanian, Apulian, Lucanian and Bruttian (Bk2) up to 12

Samnite Allies - Samnite (Bk2) up to 12


Only in 279BC

Bruttian infantry, Reg Ax(O) up to 10

Lucanian infantry, Reg Ax(O) or Reg Ax(S) up to 10

Samnite infantry, Reg Ax(O) or Reg Ax(S) up to 10


Only in 275BC

Samnite Allies - Samnite (Bk2) (13)


This list covers the expedition to Italy of Pyrrhus of Epirus in

response to a request for aid by the Greek city of Taras (Tarentum).

Pyrrhus's expedition began in 280BC and he defeated the Romans at the

battles of Heraclea and Asculum before switching operations to Sicily in

278BC to fight the Carthaginians at the request of Syracuse. Returning

to Italy in 275BC, he fought the Romans again at Beneventum in 275BC, a

battle the Romans claimed as a victory but which was more likely a hard

fought draw. Pyrrhus himself returned to Greece soon after but it was

not until after his death in 272BC that the last Epirot forces were

withdrawn from Italy. While ancient sources regard Pyrrhus alongside

Alexander the Great and Hannibal as a general, the costliness of his

victories over the Romans gave rise to the expression 'Pyrrhic Victory'.


For his Sicilian expedition, Pyrrhus took less than 10,000 of his own

troops, and was joined by twice that number of locals. This is best

represented as an allied contingent in the Syracusan list but with

Pyrrhus replacing the Syracusan CinC. Such a contingent may not

include otherwise compulsory Thessalian, Italiote or Oscan cavalry,

Tarantine light horse or Tarantine or Italiote citizens. It need not

include compulsory troops other than Epirot or Macedonian cavalry,

phalangites and elephants. The Syracusan list is assumed to be in

normal rather than double nominal scale so, when calculating the

contingent from this list, elephants can be included up to the list

maximum, but other element minima and maxima must be doubled.


Italiotes are the Greek inhabitants of Southern Italy (including the

Tarantines), Siciliotes the Greeks of Sicily (including Syracuse).

Oscans is the general term for the culturally related Apulian, Lucanian,

Bruttian and Samnite peoples of Central and Southern Italy.


This list does not cover Epirot armies in Greece nor the earlier Epirot

expedition to Italy of Alexander the Molossian (333BC – 330BC). These

are covered separately.



Aggression and Terrain: The expeditions of Pyrrhus was not an invasion

as such but, at least nominally, to assist Taras in an essentially

defensive war. Of the three major battles Pyrrhus fought against the

Romans, Heraclea was near Taras itself, Asculum was in hostile Apulia

and Beneventum in allied friendly Samnium. Given the opposing Oscans and

Camillan Romans have Ag 1 (which BTW I believe is too low), an Ag of 2

seems appropriate. Terrain choices represent Southern Italy rather than

Western Greece.


Nominal List Scale: Once joined by his Italian allies, Pyhrrus's field

army in Italy operated in the 30,000-50,000 range (or more if

Dionysius's figures are taken literally). If Oscan allied troops are to

be included, this requires a nominal scale of 1 element to 500 to

represent in 400 - 600 AP.


1: Pyrrhus was renowned as a hand to hand fighter but was also

noted for his prudence and cool head in action. He has also been

associated with the Greek adoption of shielded javelin cavalry from the

Italians. Other Generals could include subordinate Italians, whether

Greek or Oscan, as well as Epirots. Generals can therefore be fielded as

Kn(F) or Cv(O). Generals of a command otherwise entirely of foot

dismount as Ax(S).


2: Cavalry numbers. These are hard to judge but Pyrrhus brought

3000 horse with him (6 elements) and perhaps half of these would have

been Epirot or Macedonian. The remainder were Aetolian and similar and

Thessalians, who were probably provided by Ptolemy Ceraunos. Estimates

for the Thessalians range from 400 to 1000 (or 4000 if Justin is taken

literally!). Up to 2 elements of Thessalians are included with the

Italian Cv while, on the basis that skirmisher elements probably

represent less men than the nominal 500, up to 3 elements seems about

right for the Aetolians and similar. The Thessalians may have returned

home in 278BC. Strabo gives Taras 1000 heavy and 3000 light horse but,

if this was a full levy, rather fewer are likely to have made the field

in an allied army. Other Italiote and Oscan cavalry would also be

available, either allied or mercenary. Including generals, the total

number of elements allowed is generous but consistent with numbers in

contemporaneous lists.


3: Elephant numbers. Pyrrhus took 20 Elephants with him to Italy.

This is not enough to justify 2 elements at double scale but they were

too prominent a feature of his army for a single element to be sufficient.


4: Epirot, Macedonian or Mercenary phalangites. As Pyrrhus's

expedition was heavily financed by the other Successor kingdoms it is

possible that it included mercenaries, in which case they are assumed to

have been drafted into the phalanx. His phalanx did include some highly

regarded Macedonians who were probably supplied by Ptolemy Ceranus and

may have returned home in 278BC. While it is generally recognised that

phalangites of the period could replace sarissa with javelins for

special operations there would be less need for this in Italy due to the

more open terrain and the availability of suitable of local troops. The

option to re-arm with javelins is therefore not available.


5: Citizen phalangites. The citizen troops of Taras are described

as forming a white shielded phalanx. Whether this is a sarissa or

hoplite phalanx is unclear but Pyrrhus is explicitly credited with

reorganising the Tarantine citizens militia and may well have taken this

opportunity to introduce the sarissa.


6: Italiote, Siciliote or Oscan mercenaries. Italian mercenaries

were likely to have been employed by Taras and would have been available

to Pyrrhus. Italiote or Siciliote Greeks would be hoplites, Oscans could

be armed in their native style or, if Campanian, as hoplites.


7: The number of Aetolian Acarnanian and similar infantry in

Pyrrhus's expedition is unknown but probably in the range of 2000 to

4000. These troops are described being used against enemy defending a

steep wooded hill at Asculum, suggesting they remained javelin

skirmishers. Plutarch lists 2000 archers and 500 slingers in Pyrrhus's

expedition. The minima and maxima are based on these numbers and allow

skirmisher elements to represent as few as half the number of men per

element as the list nominal scale.


8: Tarantine warships. Taras was the major naval power of Southern

Italy. It assisted in the transport of Pyrrhus to both Italy and Sicily

and also in Pyrrhus's operations against Rhegium following his return

from Sicily. 6 Galleys seems an appropriate allowance.


9: Equip cavalry with javelins and shields. Pyrrhus's Italian

expedition has been associated with the introduction of shielded cavalry

to mainland Greece. If true, it is assumed that cavalry in Italy would

have made the change prior to their return.


10: Escorted elephants. This is based on two premises. The first is

the need to relect the effect that Pyrrhus's elephants had on the

Romans, especially their infantry. Against a Camillan Roman army of 2/3

Sp, 1/3 Bd, El(S) have a much better chance of achieving this than

El(O). The second premise comes from an attempt to understand why

Plutarch separates out Pyrrhus's archers and slingers from the rest of

his infantry. It cannot be because they were the only light troops as we

know Aetolians and similar are included in the other 20,000 infantry and

these were almost certainly javelin skirmishers. The suggestion is that

at least some of the archers and slingers had a special role as elephant

escorts. Corroraboration for this is found in accounts of Asculum.

Plutarch states the elephants were provided with contingents of archers

and slingers while Dionysius describes close co-operation between the

elephants and the light armed in defeating the Roman anti-elephant wagons.


11: Pyrrhus's flagship. While the Epirot navy was never large, it

did include at least one vessel of particular size, Pyrrhus's flagship

7er. This particular vessel was later captured by the Carthaginians

following Pyrrhus's retreat from Sicily but by then he may have been

using a Syracusan 9er as his flagship. The 7er taken by the

Carthaginians was used by them in the First Punic War and eventually

captured by the Romans.


12: Camp Defences. Camp defences were not unknown to the

Macedonians and their Successors while the Romans had a tradition that

it was Pyrrhus who taught them to fortify their camps.


13: Oscan allies. Pyrrhus and the Tarantines were joined after the

battle of Heraclea by allied contingents from the Samnites and

Lucanians, both of whom were also at war with the Romans. They were

expected before the battle and their late arrival strikes as deliberate

tardiness, indicating they were perhaps potentially unreliable. These

ally contingents are restricted in size as they were unlikely to be the

main field armies of the respective nations. Dionysius's account of the

battle of Asculum has all the Oscan forces, including the Bruttians,

distributed throughout the overall army rather than acting as separate

entities. This suggests that a year of campaigning with Pyrrhus had seen

these contingents absorbed into the overall command structure. The total

number of Oscans at Asculum must have been 15,000 or more. Pyrrhus's

Beneventum campaign in 275BC was in support of the Samnites, who were

already fighting against a Roman invasion. Plutarch says that few

Samnites joined Pyrrhus for this campaign as they were still upset by

his abandonment of them to go to Sicily. This suggests that their main

army was not present but they remain available as potential allies.

Lucanians and Bruttians are not mentioned in this campaign.

Modification to Syracusan (Book 2 List 9)


Between 278BC and 276BC

Pyrrhic Allies – List: Tarantine Epirot (Book 2)


Add to Notes:

Pyrrhic Allies represent the expedition of Pyrrhus of Epirus to assist

the Syracusans against the Carthaginians. Pyrrhus brought less than

10,000 of his own troops (but including the elephants) and was joined by

20,000 Syracusans and other Siciliotes. If used, the Pyrrhic contingent

is chosen as described under the Tarantine Epirot list. However it does

not count as an allied command. Instead, it's general (Pyrrhus) replaces

the Syracusan CinC as army commander. His command must contain all

Pyrrhic troops but can also include others.

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