Friday, February 09, 2007

Ancient Macedonian Army

The army of Alexander the Great called Macedonian because it fought for the Macedonian king. These soldiers from Macedonia proper were supplemented by considerable forces from other territories. The native Macedonians however remained the most important part of the army. Alexander's father, King Philip II, spent three years in Thebes from the age of fifteen (367-364 BC).

This enabled him to study Epaminondas' Theban army. When Philip ascended to the throne of Macedonia in 359 BC he began to use his genius and experience to develop the brilliant Macedonian war machine. As Greek armies still consisted of both civilians and mercenaries, Philip should be credited for creating the world's first 100% professional army. In doing so, he combined the experience of the trained mercenary with the loyalty of the civilian.


Companion Cavalry

The most prestigious of the mounted troops were the hetairoi or companions. The companion cavalry had its origins in the retainers kept by the Macedonian royal house. At first the members of this elite unit were recruited among the Macedonian nobility.
During the reign of king Philippus II its strength had however been raised from approximately 600 horsemen to over 3000 troopers. Only part of these were selected among Macedonian nobles, others were recruited from Thessaly and other parts of the Greek world.An important contingent in the army of Alexander the Great was the Thessalian cavalry, approximately 4000 that served the Macedonian king because he was tagos or military leader of Thessalia as well. These horsemen generally operated in battle as the heavy cavalry wing deployed on the left flank of the army. Eight territorially recruited ilai were selected to join the Asian campaign.
The Pharsalian had much the same status amongst these squadrons as the royal among the Macedonian companion cavalry. This particular unit may have had a higher establishment strength than the usual two hundred troopers. In contrast to the wedge deployment used by Macedonian and Thracian horsemen the cavalry of Thessaly usually favoured a rhomboid formation. After the war of revenge on the Persian empire was officially brought to an end those Thessalian cavalrymen that opted not to return home were integrated in the reorganised units of the Macedonian hetairoi.


These men can almost certainly be identified with the so called argyraspides or silver shields from the later part of Alexander's reign. These soldiers were not recruited on a territorial basis, but selected individually on merit from the taxeis of the pezhetairo.The hypaspistai numbered three thousand men organised in three subunits of each a thousand soldiers. Although constituting a picked force among the Macedonian infantry one of these battalions, the agema, had a higher prestige than the other two. A modest number of soomatophylakes recruited among the Macedonian nobility was attached to the hypaspistai , which were selected among those of common birth.

Territorial Army

The pezhetairoi formed the main heavy infantry force of the Macedonian army. The training and armament of these heavy foot soldiers were much more flexible than that of the hoplites in most Greek city states. Equipment and tactics could be adjusted to suit different situations. Armed with the hoplite shield and a spear of normal length the foot companions were capable of deployment in a classical Greek hoplite phalanx. In addition these soldiers could be equipped with a long pike requiring the use of both hands, the famous sarissa, and a different rimless shield hanging from the shoulder to fight in the distinctive Macedonian variant of the phalanx



Accompanying Alexander's army during the invasion of Asia were approximately 1,600 light allied cavalry, hailing from Greece, Thrace and Paeonia. These units were equipped with javelins or thrusting spears and carried little or no body armor. Their main function was to protect the heavy cavalry and the phalanx from enemy attacks. In general these units lacked the exclusive discipline and training of the Thessalians and Companions. Most outstanding of the light cavalry were the 600 Thracian prodromoi or Scouts, used for reconnaissance and preliminary attacks

Territorial Army - Hoplites & Peltasts

The infantry was composed of both hoplites and peltastai.On crossing the Hellespont Alexander had up to 7,000 allied Greek infantry, consisting of traditional Greek hoplites. Alexander apparently made relatively little use of these troops other than as reserves behind the Macedonian phalanx or as garrisons in conquered cities. From the tribal areas of Philip's Macedonian empire came about 5,000 light infantry peltasts. The traditional Thracian peltast carried a bundle of javelins and a wicker shield. Added to these troops were 5,000 mercenaries, part hoplites and part peltasts


The 1,000 Agrians (Agrianes, Agrianians) came from the mountainous north of Philip's empire and were invaluable fast and versatile crack skirmisher troops - guerillas if you like - the Ghurka's of Antiquity. Whenever an assault had to be made uphill or through hostile terrain, the Agrians were there. Alexander used them during his attacks on the Pisidians, during the encirclement of the Persian Gates and the challenging sieges of the Sogdian and Indian Rocks. Agrians wore no body armour, perhaps not even a shield.
Alexander also employed 1,000 archers, half of them Macedonian, half of them from Crete. The Cretans had a reputation for being the best bowmen of their era.


A number of small mercenary horsemen played an important role in the field army cavalry. Mercenary troops were also hired among the population of the conquered territories of the Persian empire and India. Some of these indiginous forces consisted of mounted javelineers and horse archers, others served as light infantry skirmishers. At the end of Alexander's reign Asiatic troops were levied and equipped and trained on the Macedonian model. After the campaigns in north-eastern Persia units of Sacae, Dahae, Paropamisadae and Sogdians (and Bactrians) were included.


The battle tactics of the army of Alexander were generally aimed to force a rapid decision. The attack of the Macedonian forces was generally made in an oblique battle formation with an advanced right flank and a refused left wing. A fierce charge of the heavy horse on a small portion of the enemy's forces was intended to break the morale of the enemy and create panic among units not yet engaged in combat. Success depended to a large extent on sapping the morale of an opponent.

The use of surprise was an important means to undermine the confidence of the enemy. Unexpected manoeuvres were employed to surprise the opposing forces at the Granicus, Issus and the Hydaspes. It was also important to engage the enemy when his forces were fatigued by long marches or lack of sleep.

Hellene allies (oplites) were in the back front because the Macedonian pezetairos was trained well in the phalanx system. How Alexander put a soldier in the front line when he doesn’t know to use or trained the sarissa? It will be break up imminently.

How a Macedonian pezetairos keep safe the supply lines with the use of the big sarissa? He doesn’t have any chance. The hoplites had more a heavy shield protection and were more agile to make this jop.

One from the reliable sources that used and the today’s writers as about the Alexander and the Macedonians was the Diodoros Sikelianos ( 60 B.C.). In the 17th book and in the 17 quote mentioned a detailing information as about the numbers.

Territorial(infantry) Army12000 Macedonians, 7000 Allies and 5000 mercenaries.
Commnder of those was the Parmenion.
Also we have:
7000 soldiers from Odryses,Trivallous and Illirians.
1000 archers from the Agrian.
Total number:32000

1800 Macedonians with commander Filotas.
1800 Thessalinas with commander the Kallas.
600 rest of the Greeks with commander Erigios

Also 900 Thracians and Paionians scouts with commander Kassandros.
Total number: 4500

Those are the military forces that composed of the Alexander army in the beginning of the Persian campaign.Also the military forces that remained in the Europe as the writer said were 12000 pezous and 1500 cavalries under the Antipatros command. He doesn’t say their origin.The given numbers as also and the description of those that composed of are exactly as written from Diodoros

  2. Diodoros Sikeliotis

No comments:

Post a Comment