Punic Clashes

Having arrived home after my European sojourn it was good to breakout my miniatures for a couple of evenings of gaming this week. As it worked out it was a bit of a Punic Wars theme.

First up were a couple of DBA games against Jim early in the week, while I was still very much in another time zone. Jim’s Carthaginians are, like my own, from the excellent Corvus Belli range. Opting for a pachyderm heavy army these beasts required some focus by the Romans to neutralise them before they broke up the Roman lines. Due to some interesting Punic tactics in the second game the Roman tactics were not completely successful.

Above, Carthaginian light infantry, originally deployed in front of the elephants, nervously watch the elephants retire from the Roman infantry. The elephants soon surged forward again disrupting but not breaking the Roman lines.

Later in the week Colin made a long overdue appearance from the deep south and provided Andrew and I the opportunity for a couple of DBA games. Colin took command of my own Carthaginians in a two games where the battles formed part of our on-going Empire Campaign.

Colin also opted for the pachyderm heavy Later Carthaginians, but supported them with auxiliary infantry (4Ax) rather than my own preference for some more aggressive Gauls. My own PIP dice, I commanded the Romans in the first game, were horrifically variable tending to the extremes causing consternation, joy and embarrassment in equal measure. By good control Colin slowly but surely defeated the Roman upstarts.

A new Consul was sought (Andrew) and in due course another Roman army was dispatched to lower Italy in an attempt to defeat the Punic invader. The Carthaginians selected a field of battle near a large city though their deployment was somewhat constrained by nearby hills.

Now Punic command and control became hesitant and for some time the Carthaginian army refused to advance allowing the Romans to fully deploy. Good use of Roman light infantry slowly countered, if not destroyed the Punic elephants, while Roman and Italian heavy infantry slowly gained an advantage.

A great series of games over the week and an enjoyable start to normality following my travels. I will of course provide some additional context to the games here that formed part of our Empire Campaign when some other games are resolved, stay tuned…

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Heeresgeschichtliches Museum – Vienna 

If you are in Vienna you really need to earmark some time for the Austrian Military History Museum, or more accurately the Heeresgeschichtliches Museum. While in Vienna it consumed my first day and was for me an excellent investment of my limited time in the city.

It’s impossible to cover the exhibits in any detail. However, generally it is divided into four areas. Starting on one wing of the top floor there the exhibits start with the late renaissance with a particular focus on the Thirty Years War. Some excellent exhibits cover the equipment of both horse and foot.

These exhibits are further supported by a series of paintings covering the major battles of the Thirty Years War.

Continuing though the floor takes us to the sections on the later 17th Century before entering the wing on the Wars of the 18th Century. Here excellent displays of various standards of the Seven Years War are particularly interesting, including a number of captured Prussian standards. The weapon and equipment displays are supported by a range of artwork which provide much flavour. Unfortunately the excellent figure displays in the Thirty Years War were not repeated here. That not withstanding I wasn’t disappointed and period artworks added considerably to the various displays in this section.

Returning to the entry area provides access to the opposite wing which covers the French Revolutionary Wars and Napoleonic Wars. Now, I must admit to expecting this area to be larger. However it provides excellent displays of Austrian uniforms in this period with good use of full displays.

This area includes a very interesting French Observation Balloon.

The wing continues through transition periods to cover the 1848 Revolution and the Wars of 1866. I have an ongoing interest in the 1866 period so I was rather interested in seeing this section, which was well presented. One of my favourite displays here was that combining a cannon and painting which form part of the Battle of Königgrätz display.

Now heading to the ground floor again the floor is divided into two wings. One wing covers the era up to 1914 and then the Great War. I understand the Great War section has undergone remodelling, and it shows.

Without doubt this section is presented extremely well with excellent German and English descriptions. Items are packed in, but not crowded. In addition to the Austrian weapons and uniforms the displays are subdivided by year but are supported by uniforms, weapons and selected artillery pieces of Austria’s enemies.

Above, one must be the centre piece the 38cm siege howitzer. However, many other less know items were for me particularly interesting such as aircraft location finder below.

On the final wing of the ground floor is the Republic to the end of World War II with a well presented showing the move from the republic to integration into the Wehrmacht. Here a large selection of small arms and uniforms are well supported by a small but interesting range of anti-tank guns and light vehicles, including a some less often seen vehicles.

This is another excellent section but not as good as the Great War section. Finally, this wing moves into a section covering the Austo-Hungarian navy up until 1918.

Now a few suggestions if like me you are not a German speaker. Make sure you take a Smartphone and headset. Currently English descriptions, except in the Great War section are not complete. The museum provides details on an English language audio tour which can be downloaded. This and the various audio guide points will be invaluable. However, not all the guide points are easily seen. Ensure you consult the map as you go through each section.

As to time I spent seven hours and only just completed the main displays. When you have finished Belveder Palace, and its gardens, are just 10 minutes work away and provide an excellent route back into the main city area, if that is where you are based.

In the Footsteps of Demetrius of Pharos

Recently I spent a few days at the Ancient city of Pharos, today known as Stari Grad, which is located on the modern island of Hvar, in the Adriatic. Pharos was founded by the Greeks in 385 BC and today a few interesting remains exist that provided, for me, an interesting couple of days while resting from my travels.

East of the old part of Stari Grad, which is built on the Greek city of Pharos, is the Stari Glad Plain. Here the land is divided into parcels of 180m by 900m bounded by dry stone walls. Today, the field system remains generally as it was when laid out by the Greeks and is the largest and most well preserved example in existence. Some sections of the dry stone walls are, even today, 1.5m high and some upwards of a metre in width. 

Above and below, examples of the walls. In the one above you can see clearly the internal space filled with smaller stones.

Apparently the field system included a rain water recovery system, though I found no evidence of this, but of course I wasn’t sure what to look for.

During my visit I walked out to the remains of a Greek watch tower, part of a system to provide warning of attack. The information I received from the Stari Grad Information Office indicated an hour return. I took around two hours return.

The plain is protected by UNESCO, and is one of seven such sites in Croatia. A plot marker, as well as tablets from the polis, can be found in Dominican Monastery museum. Unfortunately no photos were allowed.

Stari Grad itself is a beautiful town with many old buildings clustered together. The old town is Medieval but is built on the Roman and Greek towns. Recent archeological investigation has uncovered portions of a Greek road and sections of the old Greek walls. Below, the area around the church of Saint Ivan’s where the most recent archeological excavations have been completed. On the left part of the Greek road while in the distance a section of wall.

Today, selected buildings within the town, including the lower levels of two imposing bell towers, are built using stones from the Greek city walls.

The exhibits in the small Stari Grad Museum, separate from the Dominican Museum, were very interesting. One of my favourites was this terracotta fragment with mould above, and the seal below.

Of course a good range of pottery was on display. Examples included, Greek, Southern Italian and less refined Illyrian.

The museum also displays numerous amphorae from a wrecked 4th or 5th century Roman merchant ship discovered and displayed convincingly as they were found. A smaller display is in the Hvar citadel.

So what of the history, here are a few snippets. The colony was established in 385 BC, but the colony was almost destroyed in 384 BC by the local Illyrians and only saved by Dionysius the Elder, tyrant of Syracuse. Diodorus (15.14) records the following:

This year the Parians who had settled on Pharos allowed the previous barbarian inhabitants to remain unharmed in a well fortified place, while they themselves built their city by the sea and enclosed it with a wall. Later the earlier inhabitants took offence at the presence of the Greeks and called in the Illyrians dwelling on the mainland opposite. These crossed to Pharos in a large number of small boats and, more than ten thousand strong, killed many Greeks and did much damage. However Dionysius’ commander at Lissus sailed up with a large number of Triremes against the Illyrian light craft and, having sunk some and captured others, killed more than five thousand of the barbarians and took around two thousand prisoners.”

Later, of course the Romans turned up. In 219 BC Demetrius of Pharos makes some bad decisions and Pharos comes under Roman rule following a battle around Phoros. Again we have some excellent artefacts from this Roman period including pottery, coins and mosaics which have been discovered underneath the towns narrow streets.

Today in the squares of Saint Stephens is Roman 2nd Century winged Eros is visible, though I managed to work past it twice! Within the bell tower, though I couldn’t see it, is an engraving of a Roman merchant vessel.

Now, as to the name of this post. Well one of the paths I took across the Stari Grad Plain was called “The Path of Demetrius of Pharos”. It seemed fitting to use this as the name, converging Greek and Roman. If you are in the area you may find a day or two in Stari Grad of interest.

Diocletian’s Palace

Yesterday I had the good fortune to spend the day in Split and in particular Diocletian’s Palace. I won’t go into the background history, suffice to say the palace was built between 295 AD and 305 AD by, and for, Diocletian. Today the palace is still very much in everyday use, by citizens of Split and by the tourists that visit but is protected as UNESCO World Heritage Site, one of seven protected sites in Croatia.

Above, a the palace as it was originally built as drawn by archaeologist Ernest Hébrard in 1912.

During the Medieval period a significant portion of the palace was replaced or absorbed by Medieval buildings. However, much remains from Diocletian’s period. With a careful observations, and the services of a guide, many interesting Roman period structures and architecture are visible, even to the untrained eye.

Below, a portion of the Peristyle leading to Diocletian’s living areas. His mausoleum is on the left and the Temple of Jupiter to the right. The sandstone is from the island of Brac, which I’ve since passed, while the columns are of granite and imported from Egypt by Diocletian.

You may have noticed a sphinx in the top left. There are three in the palace today and each are 3500 years old. Here is another view.

The palace is rectangular approximately 160m by 190m and is divided into a garrison and administrative area, perhaps half the area. The remaining area is divided between a religious area and Diocletian’s living and sleeping areas, which face the sea.

Above, is a section of Diocletian’s living area which originally provided excellent views of the Adriatic and today faces the port of Split. Below, a view across the remains of Diocletian’s dining area and in the distance the octagonal mausoleum of Diocletian.

Diocletian’s mausoleum has been occupied by the Christians and as such was converted into a church. Despite this the mausoleum, inside and out, remains impressive. A section of the floor has been exposed to show the original floor 17cm below the current. In the detailing in the photo below that running around the top, broken by a window, is Roman and depicts, among other things, a hunting scene.

Likewise, the Temple of Jupiter has found a new Christian role.

Excavations under the palace since the 1950s, and more recently, have exposed the basement areas. These areas mimic the original structures above and have provided archaeologists excellent information on the structures. Some, such as this one are massive.

There are several walking tours of the area palace and I recommend you taking one. They are extremely inexpensive. Mine was around 100 Croatian Kuna, which is around twenty or so New Zealand dollars. A ticket to the underground areas was from memory around half this but unfortunately had poor signage. Some tours include this area and I wish I had found one. Either way don’t miss it! Entry to the cathedral, mausoleum and Temple of Jupiter cost was 50 Croatian Kuna and is also excellent.

There is a small museum in the palace area. Significant exhibits include Diocletian’s marble dining table, which you must see. In addition are many examples of edged weapons and firearms of Medieval, Venetian and Turkish origin. Useful maps here include the late baroque layout of the defences of Split from around 1660. Unfortunately, when I visited the English translations supposedly available through wifi access, were unreliable.

If you are in Croatia make sure Diocletian’s Palace is on your list.

Kolin Battlefield 

Being in Prague recently I took the opportunity to visit the battlefield of Kolin. As it transpired I was on the battlefield on the 13th of June, just short of the anniversary. Unlike some who have visited this battlefield as part of a tour, I was visiting by myself so ensured I had a reasonable selection of maps. In particular I had “Fredrick the Great A Military Life” by Christopher Duffy and “Kolin 1757” by Simon Millar. For completeness I also took a copy of Frank Chadwick’s Kolin Scenario map designed for use with  Volley & Bayonet. I found Millar’s maps particularly useful on the day.

I approached the battlefield along the the Kaiser Strasse and visible on the right, in a commanding position, was the spire of Krzeczor church and the Austrian monument. The ground sloped upwards from the Kaiser Strasse to the Austrian positions. Turning off the Kaiser Strasse it was a strait forward process to drive into Krzeczor. A short walk then took me to the Austrian monument. It was at this point it became very apparent how significant the slope was. Unfortunately, the picture doesn’t do the justice to this slope. You can however see vehicles on the Kaiser Strasse.

Then above this sits the earthworks and on the earthworks the monument.

Above, looking back towards the village of Krzeczor, distant right, but obscured. Below the monument.

Walking back to Krzeczor even today the church remains a significant building. While today it is little worse for wear it sits in a commanding position and I was struck by its defensible nature, especially considering the stone wall that surrounds it.

Below, a view from the grounds of the church looking towards the Kaiser Strasse. Just visible in the foreground is a portion of the churchyard wall.

The 800 or so Croats had a strong position, reinforced by additional infantry it would have been extremely difficult to secure.

Now, back to the monument. Of particular interest was that beyond the monument the hill flattened effectively creating a plateau. There is a slight rise towards the Krzeczor Hill summit, illustrated in Millar’s book, but it was a minimal slope compared to that running from the Kaiser Strasse to the village of Krzeczor and monument. I’ve tried to illustrate this in the next two photos.

Above, a view on the plateau from the road between the villages of Krzeczor and Bristivi. Careful inspection will show the rear of the Austrian monument, an eagle wings extended, sitting high among the left wooded area. Krzeczor village is on the right obscured. The Kaiser Strasse is completely obscured from view on the plateau.

Now, the Prussians advanced across this ground, having driven the Croats from their positions, crossed the road where I’m standing and engaged Wied’s Austrians in the distance of the photo below. Again there is almost no level change here.

To the east of these photos is the location of the Oak Woods. As Millar details in his book the Oak Wood has gone. However, driving east from Krzeczor village to Radowesnitz village the terrain is very rolling with multiple undulations and extremely limited line of sight. Millar’s map suggests some undulation but it is if anything understated.

A road from Krzeczor village tracks directly from the rear of the village towards the west end of Krzeczor Hill and behind the Austrians line in the photo above. There is a very gentle slope west to the top of Krzeczor Hill, but on reaching the top, today marked by some trees, the ground sloped off quickly to the west.

From here the Przerovsky Hill (right centre) can be clearly rising in the photo below, This hill marks the western end of the Austrian infantry line. Note the road in the left going downhill towards Libodritz.

The ground from Bristivi through Chotzemitz and Brzesau is also on a slope and uphill from the Kaiser Strasse. However Chotzemitz and Brzesau are effectively hidden from the Kaiser Strasse by intervening ground. This is not apparent on any of the maps.

Przerovsky Hill, west of Krzeczor Hill, is a dominating feature. However the road that connects Chotzemitz to Libodritz is itself steep and would have been a considerable obstacle to advance over. On Duffy and Millar’s map the ridge is extended, on Chadwicks interpretation it isn’t, though in my opinion it needs to be. I couldn’t find anywhere to park on the Prussian side so the photo below is taken from an Austrian perspective.

Between the villages of Chotzemitz and Brzesau Millar provides a photo of a small religious shrine, which I have included below as a reference point.

If you look to the right following the road you see Brzesau, pictured below. This is the area that the Prussian 20th, 25th and 40th Regiments would have advanced over.

To their front was the Przerovsky Hill which can be seen below as the wooded high ground today. A portion of the shrine on the right as reference.

Austrian infantry extend the line from the Przerovsky Hill which marked the end of the Austrian infantry line.

I found the battlefield of Kolin very rewarding to visit. It is very much untouched. As a result it is very easy to see the Prussians and Austrians fighting across the fields even today. The visit however highlighted several points I hadn’t fully appreciated.

Firstly, the two hills form a much longer ridge which must have prevented Frederick from observing the Austrian movements. Some maps show this, but the extent was not apparent. If you are modelling the battlefield with a view to refight the battle I think one long ridge is important.

Secondly, the significant plateau near Krzeczor village. Duffy touches on this when he writes: “…they had cleared the village and reached the celebrated Oak Wood behind. After this first success, instead of finding himself master of an empty ridge, Hulsen discovered that he was face to face with the Austrian division of Wied…” It really is a plateau and until you are on it you can’t see what awaits.

Finally, the rolling terrain around Radowesnitz. If using Volley & Bayonet extending the ridge beyond the Oak Wood will break line of site and help model the rolling terrain.

Now, some logistics. If you are considering such a trip I hired a rental car from Prague’s Hlavni Nadrazi train station which allowed relatively straight forward travel to the battlefield thanks to clear instructions from my iPhone, I was travelling by myself. Your navigator may be as good as my phone but without it I wouldn’t attempt the trip. In fact I had more troble getting out of the train station than actually following the instructions on route.

Finally, I would like to acknowledge the useful advice from my good friend Maurizio Bragaglia. Maurizio answered several questions as I tried to determine the best way to get to the battlefield.