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Battle of the Catalaunian Plains
The map shows the general routes taken by Attila's forces as they invaded Gaul, and the major cities that were sacked or threatened by the Huns and their allies.
The Battle of the Catalaunian Plains (or Fields), also called the Battle of Châlons or the Battle of Maurica, Β] took place in AD 451 between a coalition led by the Roman general Flavius Aëtius and the Visigothic king Theodoric I against the Huns and their allies commanded by their leader Attila. It was one of the last major military operations of the Western Roman Empire though Visigothic soldiers also formed the core of the allied Roman army. Γ] The battle was a strategic victory for the Romans, stopping the Huns' attempt to conquer Roman Gaul. The Huns were later destroyed by a coalition of Germanic peoples at the Battle of Nedao in 454.
Dispositions - Battle of Catalaunian Fields - History
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Evan Schultheis reconsiders the evidence for Attila the Hun&rsquos most famous battle, the climax of his invasion of the Western Roman Empire that had reached as far as Orleans in France. Traditionally considered one of the pivotal battles in European history, saving the West from conquest by the Huns, the Catalaunian Fields is here revealed to be significant but less immediately decisive than claimed.
This new study exposes over-simplified views of Attila&rsquos army, which was a sophisticated and complex all-arms force, drawn from the Huns and their many allies and subjects. The &lsquoRoman&rsquo forces, largely consisting of Visigoth and Alan allies, are also analysed in detail. The author, a reenactor of the period, describes the motives and tactics of both sides. Drawing on the latest historiography and research of the primary sources, and utilizing Roman military manuals, Evan Schultheis offers a completely new tactical analysis of the battle and a drastic reconsideration of Hun warfare, the Roman use of federates, and the ethnography of the Germanic peoples who fought for either side. The result is a fresh and thorough case study of battle in the 5th century.
Review by Murray Dahm
This is a thorough and solid introduction to the battle paired with Hughes [Attila the Hun], you have all you'll need.Ancient Warfare, Vol XIV, Issue 3
Featured 'ON THE BOOK SHELF' with Neil SmithWargames Illustrated, December 2019
As featured byVaeVictis - n° 144 - mars/avril 2019
For those readers with an interest in the military history of the late antiquity period, especially the doings of one Atilla the Hun, "The Battle of the Catalaunian Fields AD451" is for you. The author has done an excellent job of research with original documents, discussing the pros and cons of each source, then adding comments from more recent sources. There are a number of color photos illustrating arms, equipment and the current state of the battlefield. Also included are two appendices: one a chronology, the other a force estimate for the Roman Army. Of extreme importance here is the writing style - it is clear and focused, making for an informative read.
The Past In Review, David Lee Poremba
Many know the name 'Attila', but few known much more about this important conqueror. This highly readable account will correct the deficiency. – Much Recommended
The first thing to say, is this book is a historical data nerds dream. While the book findings conclude half way though the book, there is a huge section on the force estimates from the notitia dignitatum. This pretty much lays out the commands, strengths, etc of the eastern Roman Empire.
It is astounding how detailed this is.
I really enjoyed this book. The detailed descriptions of where the source material comes from, was for me the highlight of the book. I am always amazed how this stuff survives.
I can see this being used by wargammers looking to build up regiments and armies of the period and also by reenactors looking to create units and regiments for living history. In fact there are several photos of reenactors in period clothing and weaponry. The author is an reenactor which seems to help provide groups of the period with a lot of useful stuff.
Read the full review hereMedieval Sword School, Jason Hulott
Featured 'On The Book Shelf'Wargames Illustrated, March 2019
I came to this book not knowing too much about the battle that was said to have saved Western (Latin) civilisation from the barbarian Huns, but keen to know more. The author dedicates much time to drawing on, and debating the validity of the available sources for the battle itself and the political and cultural background. At times it is hard reading but well worth it as the author allows the reader to draw conclusions from the sometimes competing interpretations of historians and experts. As would be expected at a distance of some 15 centuries there has to be some interpretive thinking on the location of the battle and its course, but the methods used and the understanding of the chosen ground makes the delivery believable. The maps are good and the author’s photographs of the site add much to the narrative. There is also an exhaustive appendix identifying the assumed unit strengths.
Michael McCarthy. Battlefield GuideMichael McCarthy
About Evan Michael Schultheis
Evan Schultheis holds a BA in History and a BS in Chemistry from Winthrop University in South Carolina. He is also a member of a re-enactment group who recreate both Hun and Roman forces of the fifth century. He has been engaged in detailed research on all matters relating to the Battle of the Catalaunian Fields since 2013. This, his first book, is the result of that effort.
Last Saturday afternoon Craig came around and we played a Mortem et Gloriam (MeG) game, with a refight of the Battle of Catalaunian Plains. Craig commanded the Roman, Alan and Visigoth army under Aetius and I was Attila with the Huns, Gepids and Ostrogoths. The scenario for this was played as a Pacto game by Simon Hall for the MeG launch recently and is available on the MeG site. For our game I doubled the unit sizes for a Magna game of about 8000 points a side but was short a few figures for some units and had to draft in some other Dark Age troops to make up the numbers.
I followed Simon MacDowall's Osprey book Catalaunian Fields AD 451 for the battle field and deployment and the camps of both armies were off the table. One thing I noticed with the scenario was that the Ostrogoth left flank was a bit light on infantry with only a single unit of combat shy foot archers! In the end it was a straightforward victory for Aetius with Attila's right and left flank pretty much destroyed and only the centre remaining.
Consequences of the Battle
Attila was not defeated but had to leave Gaul. Having rounded the Alps, he attacked Northern Italy in 452 from Pannonia. It destroyed the largest city on the Adriatic coast of Aquileia. Other cities fell, Milan was captured. Only the epidemic among the Huns, as well as the troops of the Eastern Roman Empire to the distant rear of the Huns beyond the Danube, forced Attila to leave Italy. In 453, Attila once again entered the battle with the Alans and the Visigoths on the Loire, but was again forced to retreat and died the same year. In medieval works, Attila was called the Whip of God (flagellum dei), reflecting the Latin church tradition to consider the leader of the Huns as punishment for sins. In medieval works, the Battle of the Catalan fields was presented as a symbol of the victory of the civilized world over destructive barbarism.
Commands Colors Medieval EPIC – Catalaunian Fields (451 AD)
I really like one of the newest installments in the Commands & Colors world – Medieval. And with the recent announcement from GMT that expansions (!) are underway, I am ever more excited! In the meantime, also due to the forced lockdown, I play mainly online. Recently, and idea struck me – if you look at the 2nd and 3rd scenario in Rule-book, it is obvious that you can combine them in one battle!
What I am talking about are Base Game scenarios:
Seems like a great material for the EPIC game! But how to do it, not having enough boards / units nor a good knowledge of VASSAL? Reach to your boardgames friend. And that I did – I approached Giulio, one of my friends from C&C community and asked if he can create an EPIC board for me using Vassal for exactly this purpose. He was very helpful and created 25吇 play-mat on which I was able to combine those two scenarios.
The rules which I decided to be used will be similar to EPIC Ancients. I was playing with Marcin / stormwalker so it was very easy for us to use the regular medieval deck as an EPIC one. Before looking what came out of this, couple of words about the battle itself (that is really fascinating read!).
Attila had a pretext for invading Gaul. Honoria, the older sister of the Western Roman Emperor, appealed directly to Attila to escape an arranged marriage. Attila eagerly accepted the ‘proposal’ and demanded a dowry of half the Western Empire. The Emperor refused and ordered Aetius, a very capable soldier and diplomat, to build a coalition army to meet the expected invasion.
His Roman units and their Gallic auxiliaries formed less than half of the army. The remainder were Alans and Visigoths who reluctantly joined because their fear of the Huns was greater than their hatred of the Romans. Attila’s army contained even more nationalities, but the superb Hun horsemen were the largest component.
On the day of battle, both commanders formed their armies into three divisions as was customary. Attila’s right flank consisted of an ad hoc collection of subject nationalities – primarily Franks, Gepids and Burgundians with no overall commander. The Gepids were most numerous but had lost heavily covering Attila’s retreat from Orleans. The Ostrogoths made up Attila’s left wing. In the center were the fearsome Huns.
Attila expected his Huns to face the Romans, but Aetius had other plans. He had received rumors of possible Alan perfidy, and placed that contingent in the center, bolstered by the Romans on the left and the Visigoths on the right.
Attila first tried to outflank Aetius by attacking the Romans with Huns from his center, but the attack failed. Tellingly, the Germanic right wing held back. Attila then launched his main attack against the Alans in the center, but they resisted fiercely before being overwhelmed. The Huns pursued the Alan remnants, ignoring the untouched Romans on their flank. Aetius promptly attacked the Hun’s exposed flank while sending part of his wing to push back the wavering Gepids. At the same time the Visigoths routed the Ostrogoths on the other flank and were attacking the Hun’s left flank and rear. Attila knew his army would be destroyed if he held his ground, so he ordered a rapid retreat to his wagon laager camp.
The Session Report
In our game we decided that I will lead Romans confederation while Marcin was in charge of Hun’s alliance. The disposition of the forces resembled what historical sources were providing:
- Roman side– ethnic Romans on the left (surprise for Huns!), Alans in the center, Visigoths on the right
- Hunnic side– Ostrogoths on the left (facing their deadly enemy and cousins – Visigoths), Huns in the Center and compositions of Franks & Gepids on the right.
The detailed session report is done in a form of animation – I suggest you click on image and open it in the new window or here:
Key developments of our game:
- My Romans (these were actually Alans) started a range attack in the center, using Darken the Sky. They quickly dispatched one enemy Auxilia and were readying themselves for another salvo when the Hunic charge struck them.
- My center held but with some losses to take pressure off, Visigioths (my right) attacked the Ostrogoths (Marcin’s left). That attack was plagued by misfortunes and bad rolls, culminating in two dead Roman leaders!
- Marcin counter-attacked my failed assault and situation become dire for me – I was losing 4 – 9 .
- But I did not despaired. I coordinated a three-prong attack, using two Foot Onslaughts and Mounted Charge. What an epic attack it was – Romans scored 7 Victory Banners (seven. ) in one turn, So far I think this is my best result ever. That of course turned the score to 11 – 9 !
- Still, after that tremendous feat the Imperial forces were exposed and exhausted, thus Marcin easily scored 5 banners in one turn finishing the game in the end – 14 – 13 for Huns !
What a close and exciting game it was! And the come-back of Romans, scoring 7 VPs in one turn was a spectacular performance! Pity, it was quickly followed up by Huns getting 5 VPs in one go ending the game.
The EPIC Catalaunian Plains definitely will be one of the more interesting and exciting games of medieval period using this system. The battle is very close, balanced and victory is really hard to come by. I hope that in official expansions to C&C Medieval (already officially announced by GMT!) we will find that type of scenario.
Strategy [ edit | edit source ]
This level starts similarly to a death match rule setting, with plentiful starting resources and no Town Center. The player should use their Villagers to construct a Town Center and after doing that, create more Villagers to construct a lot of military buildings so the player can create an army quickly. The player has enough stone to place a Castle before needing to mine more. The army should consist of Light Cavalry, Tarkans, and a lot of Cavalry Archers. While doing this, send the scout to explore the map and locate the enemy bases.
While the army is being created, the player can send their starting army to rush the Visigoths in the south. With only a handful of infantry, the Visigoths can be quickly overrun before they can build any military buildings.
Once the Visigoths are defeated, the player should target the Alans next. With much of the southern part of the map free of enemies, the player can expand into the southwestern side of the map to begin the assault on the Alans. While the enemies will not send their troops south, the Western Roman Empire may build Barracks near the twin bridges.
At last is the Western Roman Empire. If the player still has plenty of resources, create some Cavaliers as they are more durable than Hussars. Attack the Western Roman Empire from two sides so their army will be drained much quicker and they cannot rebuild their base elsewhere when it is destroyed. Do not go to the offensive before their army is drained out. Then, create some Petards or deploy siege weapons to destroy their Castles. As their base is protected by Castles and Towers, it is imperative that the push is relentless, as they will continue to counter with gold units and attempt to rebuild those buildings if given enough time. If the player chooses to deploy siege weapons, they must be protected from enemy melee units. After this is done, destroy their Town Center (make sure that they ran out of stone or destroy it if they're trying to rebuild it). Then, all the player has to do is to kill remaining enemy units and destroy remaining enemy buildings.
Battle of Catalaunian Fields 451AD - TtS Part One
|The Alan’s look to harass and Harry their Hun opponents in the centre|
The NWS had its monthly games day yesterday at North Perth Bowling Club and there were a wonderful array of games on show. Guido had organised for Steve and I to take the roles of the great Attila the Hun and Roman General Flavius Aetius. The battle saw a large allied army of Germanic Foedarati from Visgothic King Theodoric I and Romans defeat Attila and his vassals including Gepids, Ostrogoths and Huns.
We had been working towards this for six weeks. Steve already had his army sorted and I certainly had the Romans covered. I had the Frankish army painted and awaiting basing in storage for nearly twenty years so this was going to be the catalyst to get them out of the box and on the table.
We recruited Phil and Chris to help command on both sides and Peter stepped in when one of our regular To the Strongest players Jeff was indisposed. The table was set up on a 12 x 6 surface and away we went on a bright and beautiful Saturday morning.
|A few from Steve and Chris's side showing the extreme left flank command of Ostrogoths.|
Unbeknownst to us these would be the worst troops on the tale however we did not engage.
|On our right flank the command of Thorismund V , Gothic allies of Theodoric V and|
Sangiban with his Alans. All to be commanded by Phillip Tiberius W.
|On the extreme right flank of the Hunnic Confederation of barabarians we find Gepids of Arderic and part of Ellacs command of Huns.|
|The mighty Romans under the command of Aetius himself|
|Lovely figures of Steve's. One of Foundry's best ranges in my opinion|
|Many of the Franks that I had especially based for this particular battle|
|I had also purchased the resin tent from OTP as part of their fantasy Orc range. I think it suits|
quite nicely as a suitable Barbarian style hide tent. I still need to finish it as the paint was still
partially damp when we placed it on the table that morning. Typical wargamers.
|Masses of Hunnic and Burgundian javelinmen backed up by light cavalry and scary nobles|
|A close up of the Roman and Allied right|
|On the Roman left an advance is called for to negate the potential outflanking Hunnic horse|
|Foundry on my side of the table as well|
|The tabs on the back of the units help us determine the units general save without modifiers |
as well as the command that they are in. The Romans had six commands and the Huns five
so it was very important to keep an administrative watch over all participants.
|The Romans commence their advance in the centre|
|Steves lovely troops in the centre. The Romans were determined to give them no maneuvering |
space whatsoever if at all possible.
|The Ostrogoths demonstrate on the Hunnic left|
|Valimirs reserve of Ostrogothic cavalry at the rear|
|The Franks of Meroveus advance in support of Aetius|
|Sangiban and the Alans, stars of the actual battle historically, advance.|
|A combination of Gripping Beast and Foundry Romans|
|Frankish bow and sling do their best and wonder why they missed out on the Angon stakes!|
|A great aspect of TtS is the depiction of camps.|
|Sangiban advances again|
|Merovius in all his glory|
|The Roman right looks for a weak point to attack|
|Two of our worthy Generals in action|
|It would appear that the Roman camp Provosts may have. ahem. some discipline|
issues within the allied contingents.
|All the Franks were based on Simon's excellent irregular bat bases from his shop. Clever chap |
our Simon Miller and more power to him. Great set of rules and incredibly well supported.
|Steve advances his raw warbands and waits for the attack|
|Phil takes the high ground|
|"Lads this is getting out of hand now"|
|The action starts to heat up across the board|
|The advancing Riomans seem to have caught the Huns and Burgundians slightly on the hop|
|Each side awaits the opportunity to launch a foray into the enemy ranks|
|Those pesky Burgundian javelin men would fight well all day|
|Action in the right Roman centre and flank starts to develop quickly|
|A view from the Roman ranks|
|Love the new activation chits from Simon. Very visible and double-sided for speedier play|
|The Romans are feeling pretty confident at this stage of smashing through the centre|
|Merovius refuses the flank on the Roman left whilst his opponent Chris just cannot get |
his army moving whatsoever through a succession of "1's"
|The Roman auxilia take the woods, denying them from the Hunnic lights|
|A gap in the lines however can it be exploited|
As you can see the game is certainly a large one and has a nice volume of figures on the table. As we leave this part of the report the battle is evenly poised. The Romans have managed to cut off a large amount of the table to deny the Huns their ability to get behind our flanks and rear and the fighting has been fierce in the centre without any major blows being landed as yet.
The Huns: The Fall Of The Western Roman Empire
The Course of Empire, Destruction, by Thomas Cole, 1836, Via MET Museum
The Roman Empire always had a problem with its exceptionally long northern border. The Rhine-Danube Rivers were often crossed by roaming tribes, who for reasons of opportunism and desperation would sometimes cross into Roman territory, raiding and pillaging as they went. Emperors such as Marcus Aurelius had gone on lengthy campaigns to secure this difficult borderland in previous centuries.
While migrations were a constant for several centuries, by the 4th CE, barbarian raiders of mostly Germanic origins appeared on Rome’s doorsteps in unprecedented numbers, looking to settle in Roman territory. This huge event is often called by its German name, the Völkerwanderung, or the “wandering of the people”, and it would ultimately destroy the Roman Empire.
Why quite so many people migrated at this time is still disputed, as many historians now attribute this mass movement to multiple factors, including pressure on arable land, internal strife, and changes in climate. However, one of the key causes is certain — the Huns were on the move. The first major tribe to arrive in overwhelming numbers were the Goths, who showed up in their thousands on Rome’s border in 376, claiming that a mysterious and savage tribe had pushed them to breaking point. The Goths and their neighbors were under pressure from the marauding Huns, who were traveling ever closer to the Roman border.
Alaric entering Athens, artist unknown, c.1920, Via Britannica.com
The Romans soon agreed to help the Goths, feeling they had little choice but to try to integrate the enormous warband into their territory. However, before long, after they had mistreated their Goth visitors, all hell broke loose. The Goths would ultimately become uncontrollable, and the Visigoths in particular would sack the city of Rome in 410.
While the Goths were marauding in the Roman provinces, the Huns were still moving nearer, and during the first decade of the 5th century, many more tribes took the chance to cross Rome’s borders looking for new lands. The Vandals, Alans, Suevi, Franks, and Burgundians, were among those who flooded across the Rhine, annexing land for themselves across the Empire. The Huns had created a huge domino effect, forcing an overwhelming influx of new people into Roman territory. These dangerous warriors had helped to destroy the Roman Empire, before they even got there.
Book Review: The Battle of the Catalaunian Fields
While this appears quite a chunky book, the battle itself is all over after 108 pages. The rest is lists of forces and a vast collection of reference points. This itself, hints at what is to come, as the author takes a look at a 5th century battle involving Attila the Hun and the forces of the Western Roman Empire. It takes to task previous over simplifications, by analysing army makeup and tactics.
There are large claims made, but in the end, still admitting that it&rsquos all conjecture anyway.
&bull Pen and Sword
&bull ISBN 978-1-5267-4565-1
&bull 270 pages &bull Hardback &bull £25
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