Sunday, November 14, 2010

Ammianus Marcellinus: The Siege of Amida

If you like wargaming the Late Roman period, I highly recommend Ammianus Marcellinus' history, The Later Roman Empire (AD 354 -378). He was a Greek officer who served in the Roman army during the mid-Fourth Century and offers a lot of anecdotes and personal perspectives on the era's politics and wars. The  heart of the work focuses much on the rise of Julian the Apostate.

The Persian siege of Amida is a great read. The assault against the Roman-held city walls has all the kind of punch you might associate with Speilberg's 'Saving Private Ryan'. Marcellinus really pulls you into the exchange of arrows, slingshot, and artillery missiles as the Persians try to take the city by escalade (ladders), earthen ramps, and siege towers. The city eventually falls after 73 days, but Marcellinus makes a narrow escape with a few other survivors. All kinds of game scenarios, big and small, suggest themselves from these pages. 

On an an army-building note, Marcellinus often refers to the barbarian clients/allies/mercenaries in service to the Persian King of Kings, Sapor. Unless I am mistaken, it kind of reads like Marcellinus was able to identify these Middle Eastern troops from 'true' Persians. Maybe an analogy might be to compare Roman troops and irregular auxiliaries. While I have never played a Sassanid Persian army (I have fought a few, at least on the tabletop), it did make me wonder what kind of possibilities there might be for them in miniatures. I'll admit, I have not done any manufacturer research on the army in years, but it seems whenever I see pics of Sassanid infantry, they often appear to be the standard levy lot. Sounds like I may need need to do some more digging around.

1 comment:

  1. What I love about AM's account of Amida is that, even though he wrote it thirty or more years after the event, the sheer terror he felt for elephants still shines through, clear as a bell. It's one of the best bits of the Res Gestae.