IAXS Project #08
Copyright © 1996 held by author 3909 words

Note: The following is Part 2 of THE BATTLE OF CORINTH. We recommend that you read Part 1 first.
--The Editors



[24] Xena's army for the Corinth campaign was organized in three wings: Left, Center, and Right. Each wing consisted of a division of infantry of varying size and approximately a brigade of cavalry. These wings were equipped and trained for independent operations. This kind of organization was not to be repeated until the 1790's when Napoleon created the Corps D'Armee system. These forces were used in exactly the same manner that Napoleon used his corps. The wings moved along whatever roads were available and kept within a half a days hard horse ride of each other thereby maintaining continuous support.

[25] This system, with its many variations, was so effective in Xena's use that it was often thought that Xena's army was a product of divine intervention. Time and again enemies would think that they had Xena's force at their mercy only to discover that what they had to their front was only a part of the army, and that a force far larger than their own lay across their line of communications. Xena was the inventor of "Hammer and Anvil" strategy. Again the "dishonorable" conduct of Xena's forces vastly increased her army's effectiveness. She would continue to hold her enemy's armies by the nose, and kick them in the behind throughout the remainder of her career.

[26] Xena's forces moved fast and their training and equipment reflected that fact. Heavy forces, while they did exist, were kept to a minimum. Celerity and surprise were to be the hallmarks of Xena's operational methods. Therefore she depended on light infantry and light cavalry to further her strategic aims. Both infantry and cavalry were divided into sword and missile armed forces both trained in each other's jobs to increase their tactical flexibility.

[27] The regular light infantry was armed with a relatively long iron sword and usually carried no shield. Additionally they carried a five foot long javelin that could be both thrown and used for thrusting work. The tips of these weapons were made of bronze, and should not be confused with the famous throwing spear of the Roman Legionary, the pilum. They wore armor that was heavier in some parts than the heavy infantry to compensate for the lack of a shield. Often this armor, which was mostly leather, would be supplemented by chain mail. Light infantrymen were also all expert swordsmen.

[28] The missile infantry, in addition to the sword, traded in their javelins for a relatively short recurved yew bow and a quiver of arrows. Additionally, all archers carried a small shield or buckler. Despite the fact that the archers were nowhere near as powerful as the much later English Longbowmen, they were effective enough to provide significant support for both attack and defense.

[29] Other accouterments, such as helmets, were kept to a minimum throughout the army --- primarily to save weight. Since the Army survived off the land for the most part negating the need for extensive baggage trains, incredible distances were often covered by Xena's light infantry. Forty mile per day forced marches were common and sixty mile marches were occasionally achieved.

[30] The cavalry was a far smaller arm, but a very important one. The relative lack of cavalry can be explained by the relative rarity of horses in Greece.

[31] Horses were primarily raised by the richest families in Greece for both social and practical grounds. Indeed until Xena had succeeded in taking most of the state of Thessaly, the horse rearing center of Greece, the cavalry were not significant as a combat arm. Most horsemen during that early period were confined to reconnaissance and security work. Once a significant number of horses and horsemen were acquired they were trained for shock as well as scouting and security. This was brought about because of the possession by Xena of the stirrup.

[32] The simple iron hook known as the stirrup allowed a mounted man to have much more leverage and stability in the saddle than those without it. This allowed a significant number of horsemen to be armed with lances, which was developed from the infantryman's javelin but much longer --- approximately fifteen feet.

[33] The lance armed cavalry would often charge through enemy infantrymen scattering them where the sword armed cavalry would ride them down and destroy what survived the initial charge. A third cavalry arm, much less numerous, were archers. Armed with the same short bow as the infantry, these horsemen were used to provide spot support to the cavalry at key points on the enemy's positions. To put this into a later historical context, in Napoleon's army these three Cavalry arms would be called Chasseurs A' Cheval, Lanceurs, and Grendiers A' Cheval.

[34] Yet a fourth mounted force existed but it doesn't fit into any of the categories listed above. This was the most prestigious force in Xena's army---The Immortals.

[35] The Immortals were a very small formation consisting of no more than a thousand men. Primarily they were Xena's personal guard. This force consisted of Xena's most valued troops. The members of this formation gained their position by long service (not all that common) or by showing conspicuous gallantry on the field. Many had achieved the precious "Squeeze" or night with Xena. Their training was unique for they were trained in all military skills and had great flexibility in the weapons that they carried. Indeed the skills of many of The Immortals rivaled that of Xena herself.

[36] Their mission, while including the guarding of Xena's headquarters and person, consisted of long range reconnaissance. Five man teams of Immortals would ride as much as a week ahead of Xena's main force reconnoitering the terrain and pinning down the location of the enemy. In combat, The Immortals were usually held in tactical reserve where they would wait until the proper moment when the Commanding General, often dressed in glittering golden armor, would herself lead them headlong into the enemy's weak spot collapsing the enemy's ability to fight. This usually ended the battle --- favorably.

[37] In addition to these duties, The Immortals were also Xena's political police. In the event of rebellion in rear areas, small detachments of the Immortals would be sent to suppress the rebellion or to enforce discipline on recalcitrant troops.

[38] If Xena's army had any kind of personnel weakness it lay in the field of engineering. This was a common failing of Greek armies, and of all armies in the Heroic age. Indeed it was not until the Roman Army did military engineering become a war winning factor. However this was more than compensated by Xena's strategic expertise. It was not common for her to engage in sieges since she preferred to cut off and bypass strong points and get on with her strategic aims. She also had an arm of her forces that was particularly handy in dealing with water obstacles. Xena had a Navy.

[39] The name navy doesn't really fit Xena's maritime force particularly well, for they were not trained to a unified doctrine, nor were they equipped with warships as a rule. Xena's Navy was hired. The ship's owners were primarily pirates kept in line by significant sums of money. There were a relatively few "for the purpose" warships available. Most shipping consisted of smallish, and fast merchant ships that had been optimized for raiding. This kind of naval structure made sense for Xena because she was a land commander who used her naval forces solely for the support of her land operations. Indeed it would be nearly 500 years before the Athenians discovered the true significance of sea power and build a navy to reflect that significance.

[40] As it was, Xena's navy represented a serious threat because she was the first General in history to make amphibious assaults as we now know them. Often times these assaults from the sea were coordinated with land attacks, effectively doubling the effects of both operations. This operational method was a truly devastating weapon and the threat of such a combined arms assault often settled a war before it even started.


[41] As stated earlier, Xena's army lived primarily off the land. The army needed to continue its conquests while on campaign or starvation would have ensued, as it sometimes did. Xena had enough foresight to take what materials from the conquered territory she controlled that only reflected her army's needs rather than stripping the territory bare. She was also ruthless in her management of scroungers.

[42] When her forces moved on, a small detail, usually less than ten for every one hundred citizens would be left behind to enforce the tribute that Xena had ordered to be extracted. This "government" was charged to take a percentage of the agricultural produce of the area and then use the local tradesmen to build the rolling stock to send the food and fodder up to the army wherever it went. Administrative sophistication akin to the Roman's did not exist so there was great inefficiency in this supply line, but it did often prove helpful in more barren areas. Also this "press gang" was also to recruit males of military age to be sent to the army where their training was undertaken.

[43] The recruitment process was the same as when Xena was there in person. Those who resisted were thrown a weapon and told to defend themselves. If they did defend themselves they were killed as an example. Those who didn't resist were sent to Xena under guard.

[44] Needless to say any serious opposition was ruthlessly crushed. For this purpose a special company of Xena's Immortals would be dispatched to the area under revolt. The copper scrolls relate that if the rebellion was not stopped by the time this "einsatzkommando" arrived, the most violent methods imaginable would be used to stop the rebellion. After the fighting was suppressed, decimation of the male population of the town often ensued to make an example of it to the surrounding area.

[45] This system was Xena's single greatest weakness as an empire builder. Xena offered protection from other marauders or armies to the populations of the areas she conquered in exchange for the material and manpower she extracted, but she never cared to try to win over the hearts and minds of these populations. This political neglect was exacerbated by the fact that Xena considered herself a warrior not a politician.

[46] There was a cultural bias against administrative duties in Greece and Xena was a part of that culture. Therefore she left behind her least able people, or those in disgrace, to administer the conquered territory. This would lead to constant revolts and mutinies in Xena's rear areas which led in turn to ever increasing brutality by both the rebels and the occupation troops. Often times a bad situation was made even worse by over zealous warriors trying to regain their position in Xena's eye with misplaced brutality. Fortunately, if Xena did arrive in person to assess the situation and if she found misconduct, she would take care of it personally by the execution of the offending troops. There was an even worse possibility. The system was very vulnerable to covert penetration by her enemies.

[47] The men that Xena left behind had not delivered the performance she expected as commanders. This led to this offender being banished to the rear to administer the conquered territories. These men, often untrustworthy, many times were corrupt and brutal. Some were disgruntled and wished revenge on Xena for stunting their careers. The most cunning used their positions as the suppliers of the goods that Xena's army had to live on, to build independent political bases in the areas that they managed. This could lead to these officers building their own private armies capable of striking in Xena's rear necessitating the detachment of elements of the main army to deal with the problem. The scrolls say this happened only once in Xena's career and the Warrior Princess succeeded in breaking up the rebel army.

[48] Much more common but no less dangerous was the possibility of the penetration of Xena's rear areas by agents of Xena's primary enemies. Like all military operations, Xena's depended on the security of her movements and her assets. Disgruntled officers shunted off to the rear because of their failures could and sometimes did make contact with enemy powers to strike independent deals in return for intelligence information. Espionage was of course a capital offense, and Xena detailed ad hoc parts of her forces to try to enforce such security, but her habit of placing untrustworthy people in these important positions undermined her efforts.

[49] Xena tried to compensate by increasing the tempo of her operations and relying on living off the land as much as possible, but this was only partially successful. After the Battle of Corinth, Xena's military career was apparently ended by a subordinate who was able to strike a deal with Athens. This subordinate, Darphus, one of Xena's wing commanders, used a dispute over strategy as a pretext, then used Athenian gold to buy off his men and foment a mutiny.


[50] Greece during the heroic age was in the throes of political disorder. As was explained earlier, Greece was a nation at the very beginning of Western civilization. Administrative structures and economies were at the beginning of their development and very simple in operation. Most Greek towns had what was known as a town chief while some of the larger settlements, Athens most famously, were experimenting with direct democracy. The remainder were hereditary monarchies. It was this confusion that greatly aided The Warrior Princess in her attempt to dominate Greece.

[51] At the start of the Corinth campaign, Xena had to cope with five major strategic powers: Athens, the ultimate objective of her strategy; Corinth, the grand tactical target of the campaign; Argos, the city that would have been next in Xena's strategic plans; and, Sparta, the culmination of Xena's designs. The fifth power that Xena had to deal with was easily the most unique, and still basically unknown, the wandering tribes of the Centaur species.

[52] The tribes of Greece were not only trying to come to terms with themselves as a people, but also with two other societies: One of women, The Amazons, and one of an entirely different species, the Centaurs. Xena, as far as we now know, had little involvement with the Amazons, although there is much speculation that she learned many of her skills while with them, but she was heavily engaged with the Centaurs for most of her military career. In this case, when Xena invaded Thessaly, the Amazons of the region retired into the Pindus Mountains to await developments. They were never involved in the war the Centaurs now faced.

[53] The Centaur is a bizarre species, consisting of the entire body of a small horse grafted onto the upper torso and head of a human. Almost nothing is known of this race except the fact that they were dangerous on the battlefield. Indeed since no centaur skeleton has ever been discovered, there is a general belief that the species never existed. Nevertheless, the interviewee on the copper scrolls clearly describes this odd species and the manner and results of her fighting them.

[54] Easily the most versatile of the ancient military forces, the Centaur could, by himself, undertake all the roles armies were capable of undertaking. Compact, strong, and fast, the average Centaur trooper weighed between six hundred and seven hundred pounds. Each animal could carry approximately two hundred pounds of provender exclusive of what they could carry in a wagon or chariot. Unlike human troops, Centaurs could be organized instantly into ad hoc formations of any arm of combat. These formations were usually led by the best Centaur at any one military discipline. Centaurs were expert at exploiting their extreme mobility by using their human intelligence combined with their equine strength and agility. All Centaurs were trained with versatility in mind and all carried a missile weapon of some sort, sword and lance. Centaurs were also easy for which to provide since they were omnivorous. They could eat nearly anything.

[55] The King of the Thessalian Centaurs was one Tyldus the Great. Little is known about him, except for the fact that he was responsible for two important developments. Centaur blacksmiths apparently invented the horseshoe. With this simple innovation, Centaurs stayed in the field for much longer periods and suffered far fewer health problems. So impressed was Xena with the technology, she adopted the horseshoe wholesale for all of her cavalry forces. The second innovation for which Tyldus was responsible was that of the massed cavalry formation. Centaur heavy cavalry would form into large blocks while armed with heavy lances and charge at the trot into formations of human infantry in an unimaginably devastating manner. However, because of the Centaur's weaknesses in rough or closed terrain, infantry could be successful against them, and Xena made sure that whenever she could bring the Man Horses to battle it was on a battlefield of her own choosing.

[56] The Centaurs involved in the Battle of Corinth were originally from the plains of central Thessaly. As far as can be determined, Xena apparently fought at least three pitched battles with the Centaurs and succeeded in levering them out of their homelands and driving them into the mountains of central Greece. In this case Xena showed political sagacity for her army was welcomed as liberators by the human population of the province. Thousands of humans flocked to be recruited by the Warrior Princess as her forces passed, and the province remained an important component of Xena's logistical network throughout the campaign.

[57] Xena exploited the traditional racism of Greek society very much to the Centaur's disadvantage. The Centaurs were harried constantly, rounded up, and preyed upon until they were driven across the Isthmus into the Northern Peloponnese where they were finally able to find political support from the King of Corinth, Sisyphus. The approximately fifteen thousand Centaurs that survived were to be the primary striking force of the alliance that Sisyphus was able to assemble to face Xena on the plains of Corinth.

[58] The four major powers in the Attic peninsula and on the Peloponnese at the time of Xena's offensive on Corinth were Athens, Corinth, Argos, and Sparta. The relations between these powers were tense at best because with the continuation of the Trojan war, and the King of Sparta at Troy with Sparta itself under a regent in Menaleus's absence, all feared that each other might have designs on the other's territory. The Athenian Council, a democratic committee elected by the total male population of the town was deeply divided on security issues. Despite the fact that Athenian land forces were considerable and that Athens had the greatest Navy in the known world, the Council could not come to any kind of firm decision about what to do about the arrival of Xena and her forces on a line less than forty miles away.

[59] Sisyphus, King of Corinth, the most able of the monarchs in the area, had no illusions about Xena's presence and he feared an assault by the Warrior Princess at any time. So he quickly and deftly did what he could to build a defensive alliance in order to stem the threat. Sisyphus was caught in a serious strategic bind. The port of Lechion, a huge public works program to establish Corinth on the Gulf of Corinth had yet to be completed. Since there was no good anchorage on the Corinthian gulf, the huge Corinthian navy was pinned to its port of Cenchreae on the Saronic Gulf. A huge canal that cut the Isthmus from the Gulf of Corinth to The Saronic Gulf had been planned but not begun thus leaving the Corinthian navy impotent in this situation. The navy had been built with the Athenian Navy as the primary threat in mind.

[60] The Athenian possession of the new warship called the bireme, as well as the size of the Athenian Navy, forced Sisyphus to make a strategic decision that was totally rational given the circumstances the earlier situation presented. Corinth did have some naval forces in the Corinthian Gulf, at the port of Aristonautes, but they were insignificant for two reasons, the harbor was very small, and the fastest way to get shipping into the Corinthian Gulf was to haul the ships overland via teams of oxen from Cenchraeae. This was an immensely slow and expensive process. The long sea voyage around the Peloponnese could not be trusted to bring the necessary reinforcements from Cetchraeae in time.

[61] When Sisyphus decided upon this strategy, it was not expected that any threat would manifest itself from the north. To Corinth's complete surprise, Xena had seized the northern littoral of the Corinthian Gulf between the border of Locris and Velanidhia Point. This coastline possessed several excellent anchorages, especially where the modern town of Andikira now stands, on Krisios Bay. The threat grew ever larger as intelligence reported the gathering of a significant number of ships in Krisios Bay. Xena had succeeded in smashing Sisyphus' plans at a blow.

[62] Desperate for support, Sisyphus sent deputations to Athens, Argo and Sparta. The mission of these deputations was to convince the leaders of Argos and Sparta of the grave threat they now faced. If Athens was strategically enveloped and Corinth was crushed, Xena could strike south with impunity, and destroy both inland cities at her pleasure. Sisyphus could expect no immediate help from the northeast. Athens was frozen into immobility by the Athenian council's inability to come to a decision upon strategy despite the fact they had the largest and best trained navy in the known world. Another factor in Athen's political dallying was the fact that they feared Corinth as a threat against themselves. The council could not see that if Corinth fell, they could do absolutely nothing for the loss of Corinth enveloped Athens on land AND AT SEA.

[63] Sparta was led by Tyndareus, a doddering, senile old man who was placed in regency over the city since his son Menelaus was at Troy laying siege. Argos-Mycenea was led by Orestes, one of the sons of Agamemnon, who was young and energetic but did not possess the imagination to see the threat of the Warrior Princess and he was more interested in revenge upon Menelaus. In addition the great state had declined in power greatly because of the pressure of the cities involvement in the Trojan War.

[64] In great trepidation, Sisyphus, who was no friend to the Centaurs, turned to Tyldus as the possible striking arm of the army that might save his city while he trained as many troops as he could. As it was, Sisyphus was able to gather about eight thousand levies to provide the Corinth and the town of Megara on the Isthmus garrisons and about four thousand infantrymen to support Tyldus in the field. Sisyphus' survival depended upon the effectiveness of the Centaurs, and whether or not Tyndareus and Orestes could be convinced to send massive reinforcements.

Continued next month in Part 3

Episode Guide Air Dates Encyclopedia   Xenaica Xena FAQ IAXS Membership Submission  Guidelines Back Issues