2006 Society of Ancients Battle Day: Dorylaeum 1097 AD
Saturday 17 June 2006
Sycamore Hall, Drayton Road, Bletchley, Milton Keynes, MK2 3RR
The Battle Pack
This year there is somewhat more onus on the Game Organisers to interpret the troop ratios and types in order to produce good games as well as historical refights. Some element of compromise may well be required.
We are going to follow John France in "Victory in the East” (with my interpretations!) since his analysis seems very reasonable, and several Society of Ancients “experts” have expressed support for this approach.
The Crusaders have left the vicinity of Nicea after the first battle with the Seljuk Turks of Kilij Arslan and the subsequent successful siege of that city. Their army is marching in two groups, the Northern French and Italian Normans in the vanguard two miles ahead of the main force.
Kilij Arslan has gathered his army and that of his new ally the Emir of Danishmend with the intention of attacking and overwhelming the Crusader vanguard.
When the Crusader vanguard sees that it is to be attacked, its leaders order camp to be made by the foot, while the knights ride out to confront the enemy. This is not a surprise attack as such, because the Crusaders were advancing warily, knowing the enemy were in the vicinity. The evidence suggests that the camp was set up in plenty of time before the Turks reached it. It was positioned on the edge of swampland, so protecting at least part of it from attack
The battle essentially split into two parts. First, the knights advance, are repulsed and then rallied in front of the camp by Robert of Normandy, where they hold out until reinforcements from the main Crusader army arrive. Meanwhile, the Turks partially surround the camp, and break into it from various sides. There follows a desperate struggle between Turks and Crusader foot.
- The Crusader knights are still pretty much at "full strength", no significant horse attrition having occurred up until this point.
- After a full discussion of the available evidence, France gives 7,000 knights and 43,000 assorted foot (armed retainers and pilgrims/dependents) for the Crusader force leaving Nicea.
- When the Crusader army splits on the march, it is the Northern French plus the smaller Italian contingent which forms the vanguard, led by Bohemond, Robert of Normandy and Stephen of Blois. France says this was no more than 20,000, and I think we should probably think it was smaller given France argues the Southern French under Raymond of Toulouse was by some way the largest contingent, and the Germans and Low Countries force under Godfrey de Bouillion and Robert of Flanders was by no means a small contingent. In fact I arbitrarily propose a 3:2:2 ratio for Southern French: Northern French+Italians: Germans+Low Countries.
- This then gives for the vanguard 2,000 knights and 14,000 foot.
- Then, let us say half the remaining 5,000 knights are available to ride to the rescue, while the rest stay with the main column. So the relief force is 2,500 knights, of which 1,500 are Southern French and 1,000 are Germans+Low Countries.
- How you choose to represent the knights with wargames figures may depend on your rules and the balance of the game – for example you may wish to over-represent the knights in order to make the initial part of the battle more viable. I think it will all depend on how the knights versus Turkomen combat and movement dynamics work within each set of rules.
- The 14,000 Crusader foot of the vanguard is made up of some trained spearmen, a limited number of missile men (crossbows and bows, but not skirmishers), and the majority pilgrims. No ranged weapons in any numbers are recorded here, and the sources note that the Crusaders could not strike back at the enemy. I am going to suggest 2,000-4,000 spearmen, 0-1,500 missile men, and the rest pilgrims. However, we would encourage the Game Organisers to choose a mix that will give reasonable game balance – we are after all wanting to play some fun games as well as refight the battle! It will be interesting to see what compromises with history may be required by various rules to give good balanced games. Indeed, those games likely to be played twice during the day may want to vary the proportions in each game.
- We can take “pilgrims” to be anyone not part of a noble or knight's retinue, and so will on the whole not be well-armed. They will include any dependents (women, children, old and infirm) who have survived the journey across Europe and Asia Minor thus far. Your rules should probably treat them as poor quality spearmen, but with high morale (ie hard to break, but they don’t fight very well).
- Spearmen and missile men are part of lords’ and knights’ retinues – professional soldiers. These should be good quality foot, but few in number. Say 2,000 spearmen (on average one for each knight, which seems reasonable).
- The personal leadership of the vanguard leaders – Robert of Normandy, Bohemond – is outstanding. No doubt other major figures present will have contributed, eg Stephen of Blois, Tancred, his brother William who was killed here, Richard of the Principate etc.
- The Seljuk army is all mounted.
- The Seljuk army is roughly equivalent in size to the entire First Crusade mounted knights force ie around 7,000. The absolute maximum size is 10,000 including troops of his Danishmend ally. We invite you as Game Organiser to go with a figure which will suit the balance of the game.
- It is led by Kilik Arslan and his ally the Emir of Danishmend. Each of these and any other “generals” should have a “palace guard” of ghulams – of 300-500. The rest of the army should be Turkomen nomad tribesmen.
- The Turkomen tribesmen are very able and fierce fighters.
- Most of the Turks are waiting in the southern valley, but some are on the heights to the north-east of the camp.
The battle takes place at the junction of three valleys. There is a marsh to the flank of the camp. The drumlins are small, gentle-sloped, rounded hills – but they were tall enough to hide the Crusader flanking attack. Some of the subsequent combat took place in and on these hills – for example one of the sources describes a fight between Godfrey and his 50 household knights and what they took to be the bodyguard of Kilj Arslan. My map follows that in the John France book.
Note that the slopes of the valley should be difficult terrain. Also, the valley heading south that is full of Turks is wide – the Crusader knights should definitely not be able to cover the whole width with their frontage.
The camp is being set up by the foot while the knights go out to confront the Turks. The camp therefore covers a large area – enough to contain all the foot (pilgrims and spearmen).
Fighting in the camp was extensive – the Turks entering from possibly more than one direction and coming to close quarters, with much desperate hand to hand combat taking place. The greater numbers of the pilgrims and spearmen seem to have offset the fierceness and skill of the Turks. Your rules need to allow for the Turks to fight in the camp and have a chance of fighting their way through. Once it gets to fighting in the camp, the classifications of “light cavalry” and “close order foot” etc become somewhat less relevant. You need to consider how your rules will classify the camp – as rough or difficult terrain, for example, and how it will affect the combat between Turks and Crusader foot.
Strung out between the vanguard and the rest of the crusaders 2 miles away are many stragglers – these will be “pilgrims”. When the Turks are first sighted, these will panic – they will realise their vulnerability and will either (a) want to make for the camp, or (b) head back to the main crusaders, as fast as they can. It is unclear to what extent the vanguard leaders attempted to safeguard these stragglers – perhaps by military necessity and to protect the majority, they ignored them. Even so, in terms of “victory” conditions, the number of stragglers killed should perhaps be a factor. The Turkomen are also after loot as much as anything else, so the stragglers will be a good target for them. Perhaps somewhere between on and two thousand of the pilgrims might be straggling along the route.
2,500 knights strong, these enter from the western edge down the valley. Historically, Godfrey de Boullion led most of the knights straight towards the Turks, while Raymond Count of Toulouse and Bishop Adhemar took a group through the drumlins to take the Turks by surprise in the flank.
How long should they take to arrive? Well, they were two miles away, and a messenger has to get there, they have to prepare and make plans, and then ride the two miles back without overtiring the horses. Historically, they arrived about noon, which was about five or six hours after the start of the battle. Perhaps we should assume this was the very soonest they could arrive, and you may want to allow a chance for them to be further delayed.
A clever Turkish player who has read this briefing will be expecting the reinforcements. However, this is not necessarily a problem. It seems unlikely that the Turks were unaware of the other Crusader force, so must have known a relief force was going to arrive.
The mysterious Byzantines
Mysterious indeed. So mysterious that none of the sources mention them. John France makes the implicit assumption that because the vanguard was aware the Turks were in the vicinity, then this must have been due to the scouting work of Tatikios and his Byzantines. I am going to be a little controversial and suggest that they are excluded from the refight, on the grounds they are not mentioned by the sources. Besides, bearing in mind the slippery nature of Byzantines (ooh, ooh, look! A man with an axe to grind!), it would not surprise me if Tatikios had contrived to get his small force well out of the way of the vanguard at the point when the Turks were about to attack. After all, the whole point of the Crusade from his Emperor’s perspective was to get the Franks to fight the Turks and not do it themselves! However, if the Game Organisers feel they wish to include them, then please do – they should probably be represented by a very small number of well-trained light cavalry.
The Game Start Point
I suggest the game starts pretty much at dawn as the knights advance to confront the approaching Turks while the camp is set up by the foot.
So, this sets the scene. It is a common criticism of ancient/medieval rules that they are written for classical period ancient battles, and then extrapolated out to cover the medieval period. It will be interesting to see what kind of games the generic, multi time period rules give compared to those written especially for this period. Let battle commence…