Wednesday, 1 August 2012

XII. Saladin is back! The byzantines lose their foothold in the middle-east.

It's been a while (to put it mildly)... We are in Damascus again for our byzantine-egyptian campaign and, after the last greek triumph, general Palaiologos decided to fortify his position and fully reinforce his army. He is on the defensive now while Saladin is counter-attacking with a full army of arab soldiers. They are eager to wash away the shame of the last defeat but the greeks are not going to give up easily; this is a unique chance to expand their Empire...

Palaiologos deploys his army in a wide front. He mixes light and regular cavalry on the sand dunes, and sets his foot far left, in front of his camp. The greek general is in the center of his army. Saladin is advancing his horsemen on his own left, while all his infantry is widely deployed on his right.

The arabs are not wasting time, they are moving forward eagerly. The byzantines are praying to their lord jesus and they have a weird feeling that their god is watching over them...

"FORWARD" orders Palaiologos and he leads the bulk of his cavalry while they march out of the dunes and towards the enemy. Soon the desert will become the last resting place for many again.

The lines are ready to clash! Dust has risen around the horses and the men can barely see their comrades. There is only one way for them, forward! Forward where they will kill or be killed for their masters.

The two great lines of horses and men and steel smash into each other! Palaiologos is leading from the front and his deeds of today will be sung all across the Empire. Among the screams and the blood, the rest of the two armies move forward to join the fray.

While the battle in the center is raging, the arabs form a wider front, with reinforcements on their right wing. The greek foot on the left is still lagging slightly.

The battle's balance is kept in a terrifying way. Both cataphracts and ghulams are cut down and two holes open in both fronts.

After long minutes of fierce fighting, for the first time in this war the two generals are facing each other in person! The greek noble is ahead of his men like a spearhead, eager to face the saracen, while Saladin is weighing his opponent... "Coward!" shouts Palaiologos.

"CHARGE" orders Palaiologos again and his line forms and rushes forward! How long can the horsemen take the punishment?

Back and forth without pause and there! Left of the greek general a unit of Pachenegs routs but the battle is far from over.

Now the arabs seem to gain the upper hand, by forming a coherent front and encircling a serbian light horse on the right. Palaiologos gets his wish and faces the egyptian general man-to-man, even though he is on his own. Can he change the course of this war single-handedly?

This is a battle to be remembered. Again the byzantines push the arabs back. Saladin himself regroups while on the right the Serbs are doing a great job occupying two units of egyptian horse.

By now everyone is exhausted but no one gives up. Even after several charges and counter-charges in this terrible heat, the lines form again for another charge.

Another memorable moment as every other skirmish is won by the same army. Upper hand? Still nobody has it!

Absolute balance again as the byzantine kavallarioi bring down the berbers and open a new hole in the arab line.

The line order is gone and the armies are merging into a chaotic melee. The infantry is still not involved in the fight while all the cavalry is committed.

The brave Serbian light horse of the byzantines finally goes down and the greek right is weakening dangerously. Will Palaiologos take advantage of the hole in the arab left in time?

There! Kavallarioi encircle the khwarizmians on the right while the varangians are charging the arab bowmen on the left. The norse mercenaries are usually late to engage but when they do, they may still perform the coup de grace

"Not this time!" shouts Saladin at his opponent. The khwarizmians push the kavallarioi back and the ghulams coming from the right fall on them from the flank. Palaiologos is still engaged in the center and things are starting to look grim for the greeks.

The byzantine general is pushed back while the battle rages all around him.

"Alhamdulillah!" screams Saladin. His faithful ghulams stomp on the kavallarioi who were with their back to the khwarizmians and Palaiologos quickly orders the retreat. The remainders of his army turn and fall back rapidly.

The arab horsemen don't let the greeks go away easily. With their blood frenzy they launch themselves right on the back of the varangians.

The egyptians halt their charge after cutting down the byzantine skutatoi. Palaiologos managed to retreat in good fashion and his army shall live to fight again. It will all end where it started: Crete shall be where the last great battle will take place and the winner shall bring his Empire at his enemy's doorstep.

1 comment:

  1. Some conclusions about the battle from the chronicles of an independent medieval historian (Ermokratis the Dyorodos, Ερμοκράτης ο Δυόροδος):
    1. Raw force and power of will appeared to be the decisive factor this time, not sophisticated tactics.
    2. Petzenaks are not to rely on, they should not be brought with to risky enterprises away from the byzantine base, as they can change sides any moment. Their role in history is to be used as sideshow against the constant Bulgarian threat.
    3. At the crucial battle of Crete, the Byzantine general should choose Hersonisos for battlefield, giving thus the norse Varangians an extra morale boost :-)