Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Syr-Darya and The Romance of Frontiers and Fallen Empires

A fortress city, planted on the outskirts of an Empire, only a river, a brick wall and the courage of its defenders standing between "civilization" and a destructive horde of "Barbarians" (or "Freedom", depending on your POV). This is the stuff of legend.

Frontiers fascinate us. The dividing lines between This and That. From the American West, to the Rhine, the Khyber Pass and so on. This is especially the case when it is a defended frontier, clearly demarcated. The Great Wall of China, Hadrian's Wall, the Tower of Cirith Ungol.  Last stands and hopeless cases also fascinate us. The Lost Eagle of the Ninth Legion, Fort Apache, Rorkes' Drift, The Alamo, Arthur.

Alexandria Eschate, "Alexandria the Farthest", is just such a  place. Not so well known as some more famous frontiers, it was founded by Alexander on what we usually call the Jaxartes River, the boundary between his empire and what the Persians before him called Turan, the semi-desert inhabited by various steppe tribes, usually lumped together as Saka or Skythians. Alexander's Empire fragmented on his death and the pieces were squabbled over, the Iranians established a new Persian Empire, but still the Greek colonists in Alexandria persisted. They didn't found a great empire of their own but accommodated and treated with various Kings, Cities and Tribes, Greek, Persian, or "Barbarian" when they could and fought when they couldn't. They traded East as far as China and West to the Mediterranean, and they remained recognizably Greek at least to the time of Caeser and as far as we know, for some time beyond. Here is a good setting for my fictional campaign.

Breaking down the various elements and mixing and matching elements of the historical Greco-Bactrian, Greco-Indian, Seleucid, Parthian, Sassinid Empires as well as the Turanian Tribes, into a Hollywood or perhaps RE Howard-ian historical/fictional setting suitable for a campaign along what is now known as the Syr Daria River.

Initially I shall aim for 4 Political Entities and 6 social/military elements. These are all local powers, kinglets or Satraps. The intervention of the main armed might of the Selucids, Parthians, or even the Greco-Bactrian/Indian kings would be an over powering storm but one which would pass.

Political Entities.
Alexandria the Farthest, ruled by Antimater II,  a descendant of Antimachus.
Maracanda ruled by King Euthenasia, a descendent of Euthedemus, sometime Satrap of the Greco-Bactrian King.
Hrykania, ruled by Rostam, Satrap of the Persian Empire. According to the time line, these are subject to the Parthian Empire but mine will bear a stronger resemblance to the Sassinids or the late Achaemenids. Whatever armies that were mustered to fight Rome, I'm not convinced that the Parthians ever completely did away with useful infantry, or managed to turn every cavalryman into either a fully armoured super heavy cavalry man or an unarmoured horse archer with no one in between with partial armour or a felt horse bard etc. The similarity of late Achamenind Persian and Seleucid Asiatic/Iranian troops before and Sassinid Persian troops after the Parthian kings is so strong that I find it hard to believe that there wasn't some continuity even if there wasn't much use made of  some elements in the wars between the Parthian dynasty and Rome. Besides its my story and I'll do what I have to to have both variety and balance for table top teasers!  
Turan, a confederacy of Nomadic tribes and their subject towns, sometimes a foe and a threat but other times a potential ally and almost always a source of mercenaries.

Social/Military Elements.
The City Militia. Given that light troops are easily available, these will fight primarily as a pike Phalanx although increasing degradation to Thureophorai is possible. A small number serve as heavy cavalry "Companions". These include more Iranian features than do the infantry.
Iranian nobles and their retainers. Cavalry both heavy and light.
Iranian Militia. Spearmen and archers from the non-Greek cities and farmlands
Hill folk. Light infantry  from the wilder areas whether mercenary or subjects.
Turanians. Skythian and other tribes raiding on their own behalf  or more commonly fighting as mercenaries. Only the light cavalry and archers sign on as mercenaries.  
Elephants. A small number of these are available thanks to ties to India.

I don't intend to do a scaled topograhical map, not yet anyway, but I do intend to draw up an area map. Each of the political entities will have 3 provinces that can provide troops/money, 2 small town/farming areas each worth 250 pts of local troops of appropriate type plus the capital worth 250 pts of troops and 100 of cash cash for hiring mercenaries as well as a 50 pt garrison of generic spearmen, javelinmen, slingers and artillery which may not leave the city walls. (To avoid having tooo many excess troops, these will be the same for both Cities). The Turanians will be an exception, they will only have 1 center worth 400 pts but can move it at any time to any province under their control. 1/2 of those pts will be available to hire out as mercenaries unless needed to defend their homeland.

The next step will be to hold a grand parade and see what I have on hand that can be bent to fit, what will be left on hand and what unpainted castings and molds I have that can be used to fill gaps.


  1. Sounds like a great idea. looking forward to the updates.

  2. Exciting times ahead -I look forward to hearing of the Grand Parade...