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The Battle of Callinicus (Greek: H μάχη του Καλλίνικου) was fought in 171 BC between Macedon and Rome to the city "Kalliniko", near Larissa. The Macedonians were led by their king, Perseus of Macedon, while the Roman force was led by Consul Publius Licinius Crassus. The Macedonians were victorious. The battle is notable for the prevalent role of cavalry and light infantry as a combined 'task force'. Livy describes this battle at 42.58-60, and according to his account, the heavy infantry were not engaged in this battle. Furthermore, his description provides a rare account of the dynamics of light infantry fighting with cavalry, although this may well be narrative rhetoric on Livy's behalf.[1]


The deployment of the Roman and Macedonian forces are described at Livy 42.58[2]

Livy tells us that the main parts of Macedonian line consisted of several mixed groups of cavalry and light infantry: Perseus' Agema and sacred cavalry held the centre; Thracian native cavalry and light infantry held flanked him on the left while Macedonian cavalry and Cretans flanked his right. This three piece centre was flanked on either side by King's Cavalry. This line was preceded by slingers and javelin-men.

The Romans similarly deployed large forces of cavalry and light infantry. The Roman line was held by volunteer cavalry in the centre, flanked on the right by cavalry and velites under the consul's brother Caius, and on the left by Greek light infantry and cavalry. Behind this Stood Gauls and Cyrtian allies on the right and Thessalian cavalry on the left.

The battle began with a furious charge from Perseus' cavalry against the Greeks and volunteer cavalry in the Roman line. Though this pushed the Roman forces back, a complete rout was prevented by the steady Thessalian cavalry holding the ground behind these Roman forces. On the Roman right, Caius Crassus faced Cotys in a vicious cavalry-light infantry battle, graphically described by Livy:

First of all the Thracians, like wild beasts kept in cages and suddenly released, set up a deafening roar and charged the Italian cavalry on the right wing with such fury that, in spite of their experience of war and their native fearlessness, they threw them into disorder. The infantry on both sides snapped the lances of the cavalry with their swords, cut at the legs of the horses and stabbed them in the flanks.[3]

Satisfied with the defeat of most of the deployed Roman forces, Perseus took his general Euander's advice and had his forces retire before engaging the remaining heavy infantry.

Between 42.60-61 Livy describes the various moods of the Romans and Macedonians as a result of the battle.

^ Though there is no extant modern commentary on this passage, Livy's use of narrative rhetoric is well known to modern historians, see e.g. Chaplin & Kraus. Livy. Oxford. ISBN 978-0-19-928633-1.
^ Livy. pp. 42.59.

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