The battle of Gabiene ended the Asian part of the Second Diadoch War. That war had been fought between Eumenes of Cardia, representing the forces loyal to the Macedonian dynasty of Alexander the great, and Antigonus One-Eye, who was now determined to establish his own power. It had seen Eumenes pushed out of Asia-Minor and Phoenicia and into Persia, despite displaying an unexpected level of military ability.
At Gabiene Eumenes was slightly outnumbered, but not by a large margin – both armies appear to have been around 20,000 strong. One of Eumenes’s military assets was the Silver Shields, one of Alexander’s elite units. This was apparently a genuinely “veteran” unit, containing experienced men over the age of sixty, with forty years of campaigning under Philip II and Alexander.
The battle itself was indecisive. Antigonus won the battle on the wings, while Eumenes won the heavy infantry battle in the centre, where the Silver Shields proved their military value. However, early in the battle Antigonus captured Eumenes’s camp, which contained the remaining loot from forty victorious years, and the wives and families of the Silver Shields.
Eumenes made an attempt to convince his men to resume the battle on the following day, but instead the Silver Shields betrayed him to Antigonus, in exchange for their baggage. Eumenes was soon executed. The Silver Shields had never been entirely happy to serve under Eumenes, a Greek commanding Macedonians, but they were soon to pay for this betrayal. While it was generally accepted that mercenary troops would change sides after a defeat in battle, Antigonus clearly felt that he could not trust them after their betrayal of an undefeated general. The more troublesome Silver Shields were posted to a dangerous frontier province, and sent on the more dangerous patrols in the hope that they would be killed off.
Ancient Warfare Magazine: Volume III Issue 2: Alexander's Funeral Games. This issue focuses on the prolonged and intensive period of warfare that followed the death of Alexander the Great, when his generals fought for power, at first hoping to inherit Alexander's entire empire and later to preserve their new kingdoms. After a general overview of the wars the articles pick out some of the more interesting aspects of the wars, including the rollercoaster career of Demetrius Poliorcetes, and the important early battle at Gabiene. [see more]
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