The Battle of Panium (also known as Paneion)
was fought in 200 near Paneas (Caesarea Philippi) between Seleucid and
Ptolemaic forces as part of the Fifth Syrian War. The Seleucids were led by
Antiochus III the Great, while the Ptolemaic army was led by Scopas of Aetolia.
The Seleucids achieved a complete victory, annihilating the Ptolemaic army and
conquering the province of Coele-Syria. The Ptolemaic Kingdom never recovered
from its defeat at Panium and ceased to be an independent great power.
Antiochus secured his southern flank and began to concentrate on the looming
conflict with the Roman Republic.
Opponents: Seleucid Empire versus Ptolemaic Egypt
Commanders and leaders:
Seleucid - Antiochus III the Great,
Antiochus the Younger
Egypt - Scopas of Aetolia
Antiochus - 70,000 men - Unknown war elephants
Egypt - 46,50053,000 men 25,00032,000 phalangites 6,000 Aetolian
infantry 500 Aetolian cavalry 14,50015,000 other troops
Casualties and losses:
Seleucid - Unknown
Egypt - 17,50020,825 phalangites killed or captured
In 202, Ptolemy son of Thraseas, the Ptolemaic governor of Coele-Syria,
defected to the side of Antiochus III the Great, the ruler of the Seleucid
Empire. Antiochus invaded and occupied most of the province, including the city
of Gaza, by the autumn of 201, when he returned to winter quarters in Syria.
The Ptolemaic commander Scopas of Aetolia reconquered parts of the province
that winter. Antiochus gathered his army at Damascus and in the summer of 200
BC, he confronted the Ptolemaic army at the stream of Panium near Mount Hermon.
The Ptolemaic front line was four kilometers wide. The left wing was deployed
on the plain below the Panium plateau. It consisted of the 25,00032,000
strong Macedonian settler phalanx under the command of Ptolemy son of Aeropus,
a Macedonian settler himself. These were the Kingdom's best troops. The supreme
command was held by the Aetolian mercenary general Scopas of Aetolia, who
brought with him 6,500 Aetolian mercenaries, including 6,000 infantry and 500
Antiochus probably had around 70,000 soldiers, more than the 68,000 with him at
the Battle of Raphia in 217. Having re-conquered the Upper Satrapies in the
previous years, he could draw upon a larger resource base than before. Polybius
identifies the presence of cataphracts, the elite cavalry agema, Tarentine
soldiers and more cavalry, phalangites, hypaspists, war elephants, unidentified
infantry and light skirmishers in the ranks of the Seleucid army at Panium.
Antiochus the Younger, the firstborn son of Antiochus III, commanded the elite
cataphracts of the Seleucid army and seized Tel Hamra, a foothill of Mount
Hermon, in the night. The cataphracts opened the battle by attacking and
quickly routing the hapless Ptolemaic cavalry under Ptolemy. In the center, the
Ptolemaic phalanx forced back their Seleucid counterparts. The Seleucid
elephants neutralized this Ptolemaic success by charging through the gaps in
the Seleucid phalanx and halting their advance. The cataphracts under Antiochus
the Younger ended their pursuit of the enemy cavalry and charged the rear of
the Ptolemaic phalanx. Pressed from two sides by war elephants, phalangites,
and cataphracts, the relatively immobile Ptolemaic phalanx was almost
annihilated where they stood. Scopas, situated on the right wing, fled the
field, taking 10,000 troops with him.
Scopas led 10,000 men to seek refuge at Sidon; other Ptolemaic contingents fled
to Jerusalem, Phoenicia, Samaria and Decapolis. All of them were forced to
surrender by the end of 198. Coele-Syria came under Seleucid control and the
Ptolemies were compelled to sign a peace treaty with Antiochus in 195. As one
of the battle's results, the Ptolemaic state was forced to scale down the role
of the Macedonian settler phalanx in the years that followed. Some biblical
commentators see this battle as being the one referred to in Daniel 11:15,
where it says, "Then the king of the North will come and build up siege
ramps and will capture a fortified city."
Based on the loss rates of the phalanxes at the battles of Magnesia in 190 and
Pydna in 167, the 25,000 Ptolemaic phalangites may have sustained
17,50020,825 losses, killed or captured.