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Milvian Bridge 312 AD

Introduction:

The Battle of Milvian Bridge is one of the seminal events in western history.  With this victory, Constantine became the undisputed Western Roman Emperor and laid the foundations for Christianity to emerge as the dominant religion of the Empire.  

Milvian Bridge was a culmination of a 6 year struggle for control of the Western Roman Empire between Constantine and Maxentius.  In AD 312, Constantine invaded northern Italy, and stood less than 10 miles from Rome when Maxentius chose to make his stand in front of the Milvian Bridge, a stone bridge which carries the Via Flaminia across the Tiber River into Rome. Holding it was crucial if Maxentius was to keep his rival out of Rome, where the Roman Senate would surely favor whoever held the city.

Constantine, was outnumbered about 4:1 and victory was far from certain.  However, as the legend goes - which was narrated by Constantine himself - on the evening of 27 October, with the armies preparing for battle, Constantine reportedly had a vision. The Greek letters "Chi-Ro" (Christ) intertwined along with a cross appeared emblazoned on the sun, along with the inscription "by this sign, you will conquer." Constantine, who was not a Christian at the time, nevertheless put the symbol on his solders' shields.

The next day's battle was a resounding victory for Constantine.  Maxentius' retreating troops were hemmed in by the single bridge.  A pontoon bridge was hurriedly set up to aid the retreat.  However, the weight of men and horses resulted in the bridge's collapse, and Maxentius himself was drowned in the river.  Click here for a view of the bridge today.

Constantine entered Rome not long afterwards and was acclaimed as sole western Augustus. He credited his victory at Milvian Bridge to the god of the Christians, and ordered the end of any religious persecution within his realm, a step he had already taken in Britain and Gaul in 306.

Order of Battle:

Despite the fame of this battle, there is a lack of information on the field of battle and the exact numbers of troops involved.  What follows is our best guess based on piecing together a number of disparate secondary source material.  To give Constantine a fighting chance, his troops must be of better quality, and should be made harder to break given their leaders' divine vision the night before:

Constantine - 9,200 men and 1,800 horse
2 veteran legions each with 4,000 men and 300 horse and 600 auxilia inf and 600 cav

Sub-general 1D6
Constantine 1D6 + IHSV banner Sub-General 1D6
10 X 4I veteran legionaires
2 X 3I aux inf
2 boltshooters

 

10 X 4I veteran legionaires

2 X 3I aux inf1 boltshooters
1 stone thrower

2 X 3C Roman cavalry
4 X 3C aux cavalry

Maxentius - 16,000 inf and 5,600 cav - 2 weak Legions and the rest aux
Maxentius 1D6 Sub-general 1D6 Sub-general 1D6
2 X 4C cataphracts = 800
4 X 3C Barded cavalry = 1,200
8 X 3C Hvy cav = 2,400
6 X 2C LC = 1,200
2 X 4I reg legionaires = 1,600
8 X 4I raw legionaires = 4,800
3 X 4I aux spear = 2,400
4 X 4I aux bow = 4,800
6 X 2I skirmishers = 2,400
1 boltshooters
1 stonethrower
2 X 4I reg legionaires = 1,600
8 X 4I raw legionaires = 4,800
3 X 4I aux spear = 2,400
4 X 4I aux bow = 4,800
6 X 2I skirmishers = 2,400
2 boltshooters


Our Battle:

Our battle opens with Maxentius launching his overwhelming strength in cavalry against Constantine's right flank (See top of pic.  Maxentius' troop movements are in blue).  Constantine's divinely inspired cavalry - outnumbered by more than 3:1 - fight a gallant delaying action to prevent the army from being outflanked.

Maxentius, finding his cavalry checked, launches his infantry against Constantine's centre and left.  Constantine wins the centre, but his left flank crumbles under the immense pressure.

The battle ends in a draw, with Maxentius falling back towards the Milvian bridge.

 

 

Close-up of Constantine's troops.  As we did not have enough late Roman figs, so used EIR.

A view of the opening set up as viewed from Constantine's side of the table.

Constantine with his Chi-Ro banner - "with this sign, conquer"

The huge cavalry melee on the right flank

Constantine's troops hold the centre

Maxentius launches his massive infantry force on Constantine's left.

Maxentius' troops making a run for the bridge.