To my personal delight, the campaigns of the momentous conflict between Greece and Persia and Hannibal are discussed as much as any other topic here on the VV.
More emphasis will ensue on the nature of Alexander's instrument of warfare, not only because of personal interest and topic matter (the martial reason for the ultimate fall of southern Greece and the Achaemenids), but also because I do not possess as much detailed knowledge of his enemies' arms and composition etc. Neither do the few sources I have. But we're getting better!
Superfluous to say, many details of the nature of the arms of these forces of these periods of Classical History are not without question, with possible anachronisms and nomenclature causing debatable issues. Distinctions can be made, but opinions differ as to the equipment used by many contingents. It is in this specific element where archaeology is the most valuable tool for coming to conclusions, a science which steadily and increasingly progressed into the 20th century.
Let's break down the armies. We can discuss war aims, tactics, and strategies throughout the thread. This thread-starter is for Alexander's army, but it's all evolutionary and connected, as far as I'm concerned. Thus issues of the Greco-Persian political and military struggle from the nascent stages in the 540s B.C. can have relevance.
THE ARMY OF ALEXANDER, 334-323 B.C.
Alexander III of Macedon ('the Great'), set out from Pella, Macedon, with his army and crossed the Hellespont in the spring of 334 B.C. This army was hardly a homogeneous one, in terms of non-Hellenes, and all drawn from the domain recently created by Alexander's father, Philip II. The force Alexander began with consisted of 32,000 infantry and 5,100 cavalry. 7,500 total servants followed the army, for a total of about 45,000. An advance force of 10,000 had been in Asia Minor since 336 B.C., with orders from Philip to liberate the Hellenic states along the Persian-held shores, which would gain possession of the grain-producing areas of Asia Minor, a logistic and strategic issue behind Alexander's venture to Egypt (along with the more noted reason of deified vainglory). It worked well initially, but the able Memnon drove Parmenio, the advance force's leader, back NW. By the time of Alexander's crossing, the territory under Macedonian control in Asia Minor was good enough only for him to secure a bridgehead for his crossing. Here's the breakdown:
The Companions (Hetairoi) - 1,800
The Thessalians - 1,800
The Scouts (Prodromoi) - 900
The Greek allied cavalry - 600
Greek mercenary cavalry, horse archers, and mounted javelinmen would be formed after Gaugamela, fought in 331 B.C.
The Foot Companions (Pezhetairoi) - 9,000
The Hypaspists - 3,000
The Greek allied hoplites - 7,000
The Balkan troops (Thracians, Illyrians, Triballians) - 7,000
Greek mercenaries - 5,000
Macedonian foot-archers - 500
Agrianian javelin-men - 500
At the end of his reign, Alexander had employed as many as 60,000 Greek mercenaries at one time or another. They were soldiers of fortune, readily available in great supply, and also comprised the best footmen the Persians could muster against Alexander.
The strength of the missile troops on foot expanded, particularly with the addition of vaunted Cretan ancillary contingents. Alexander clearly saw he needed to counter the best he could the heavy missile fire of the elements of the Persian army which were adept at implementing. By the time of his death, archers on foot may have numbered 2,000 men. The Agrianian javelin men, archers from Crete, and Dahae (a Scythian tribe) horse-archers were formed into 1,000-man units, and frequently used in offensive missions to support the main battlefield assault, most notably at the Hydaspes in 326 B.C.
Let's take a look at the arms of Alexander; all these descriptions are of the soldier ready for battle, and, of course, are not without uncertainties.
The Companions were Alexander's strike force. They wore a bronze Boeotian helmet and cuirass (breastplate), the latter made of linen. Optionally, they wore bronze greaves (shinplates). They were armed with the the xyston, which was constructed of strong cornel wood. The xyston often shattered in battle, so it was fitted with a second spearhead at the butt, enabling the Companion to swing it around and continue fighting should it break (akin to the kopia of the vaunted Polish-Lithuanian husaria of the 17th century). He had to be very careful; this would be fatal to friends behind him amid close-order formation and combat. The xyston of the Companion was not used to hurl, but to thrust amid hand-to-hand combat, as he carried just one into battle. The Companion carried a short sword, his secondary weapon, which was slung under his left arm. His sword was either a straight one for thrusting, or a curved one (a kopides) for slashing. The choice was probably due to persoanl preferance, but the latter seemed more suitable; a Companion didn't carry both swords into battle. Shields were not used until later, and only when they were required to dismount and fight on foot. In keeping his balance and using his xyston effectively on impact and immediatley thereafter, and maintaining equilibrium amid great celerity and lateral movement, Alexander and his Companions were probably the finest cavalry, in terms of offensive balance and effectiveness, of the ancient world.
The Thessalians were no less able horsemen than the Companions; it is believed they were relegated to a position of defense on the left wing for social and political reasons. They often fought in a diamond-shaped formation (the rhomboid), unlike the attacking wedge of the Companions. The Thessalians, though primarily a defensive arm on the left flank of the army, could prove very useful as shock troops if the need arose. They were armed with two 6 ft. javelins; one could be thrown, the other retained as a hand-held weapon. It seems the Thessalians carried the curved, slashing kopides as their secondary weapon. That they never broke at Issus and Gaugamela under such heavy numerical odds is testimonial to their combat ability. Their protective armor was the same as their counterparts on the right, and were distinguished from the Companions only from dress. Though their role was initially to be defensive, they, too, did not carry a shield.
The Scouts (Prodromoi, or Sarissophori), could also be called 'Lancers' because of the long lancelike sarissas they carried; it was a shorter version of the infantry sarissa that could be held with one hand, about 14 ft. long. Like the xyston, the cavalry sarissa (or Scouts' xyston, if you will) had metal spearheads at both ends. The Scouts were light cavalry composed of Thracians and Paeonians belonging to the Royal Army (ie, the core Macedonian Army). They served under Macedonian officers, and were used to reconnoitre (as the name indicates) in advance of the army when it was on the march. But in battle, they provided a shock function to protect the right flank of the Companions. It was the Scouts under Aretes, wielding their long lances, who aided immeasurably in halting then driving back Bessus' cavalry on the rigth (Persian left); before this happened, Bessus had wheeled around the right side of Alexander's army with 2-3,000 Bactrians and Scythians, and successfully thwarted the checking attempt upon them by Menidas and his mercenary cavalry, as well as from Ariston and Cleander, leading Paeonian cavalry and mercenary infantry, respectively. Menidas was the first to be thwarted, and Bessus threw in a second counter-attack, but the Scouts, heavily outnumbered, saved the threat. The Scouts wore the bronze Boetian helmet (or a crested 'Attic' helmet?), but probably no other body-armor.
The Scouts were comprised of mainly Thracians and Odrysians, lighter cavalrymen supporting both the Companions and Thessalians of both flanks. The Thracians merit substantial recognition; they are famed for adopting (possibly introduncing) the use of Peltasts to the Greek world. A peltast carried a shield and helmet for protection, and fought with javelin and sword in loose order formations, emphasizing mobility over shock power. Thracians were also famed for their cavalary, as they had exceptionally fine horses, and employed the advanced light horse tactics of the Skythians.
were armed with javelins and side-arms, and attacked in a wedge. They wore an Actually, the delta-shaped wedge was used by the Odrysians before the Macedonians utilized it so effectively, and they continued to serve Alexander in this capacity. They were good at skirmishing and scouting ahead of the army.
The Paeonian Cavalry composed some of the Scouts, but also formed their own unit who supported the Companions' flank. They were good skirmishers, and were armed in the same manner as the Thracians. They probably wore the Boeotian helmet but didn't wear any breast-armor. But they did seemingly carry a shield, perhaps the only horsemen serving with Alexander who did so on a consistent basis. They appear to have left behind to garrison Persian holdings as Alexander ventured further east.
Allied Greek Cavalry were mainly horsemen (some light, some heavy?) furnished from the Corinthian League. A typical light allied horsemen was armed with probably two javelins and a sword, and he is believed to have been armed with a shield of some sort. There are no details of an allied heavy horsemen's equipment. Strategically, they were used primarily for escort and garrison duty. In battle, they were kept in reserve, being used mainly in pursuit of disordered, enemy infantry. Alexander would muster them out when he reached Media, as they proved not very inspiring in his battles.
Greek Mercenary Cavalry were professional soldiers offering their services for pay. They were raised to offset Alexander's deficiency in light cavalry in his early campaigns (he relied on precise intelligence of Darius' position etc.). They, too, proved disappointing against Asiatic horsemen, and Alexander began recruiting horsemen from Bactria and Sogdiana to replace them. They were lightly equipped, fighting with spears and swords, and wearing the Boeotian helmet.
Horse Archers were composed primarily of Bactrian, Sogdianian, and Scythian light horsemen. In 329 B.C., Alexander adopted for his instrument a 1,000 or so strong hipparchy of Dahae horse-archers, who would distinguish themselves at the Battle of the Hydaspes.
Mounted Javelin Men also came later, and were recruited from the Persians and possibly from the Paeonians and/or the Agrianianians, whose lands the foot javelin men originated. They were armed, yes, with a javelin, which they hurled upon closing with the enemy. They didn't emerge until after Gaugamela.
The Foot Companions are the ones we know so well: they were the solid core of the infantry - the phalanx. This infantry formation was organized brilliantly in subdivisional battalions (we can go over specifics later) to maneuver as mobile hedgehogs. The phalangite was armed with the famed pike known as the sarissa, lengthened by Philip II to about 16-18 ft (in Philips' phalanx, the sarissa extended forward from the first four ranks, in later Hellenistic armies, from the first five, who wielded a longer sarissa, at about 21 ft.). It was made of strong cornel wood and weighed maybe 14 lbs. Considerable training and discipline had to cohere for this weapon to work, and Philip drilled his Foot Companions incessantly.
The basic unit of the phalanx was the syntagma (or speira), a composition of 256 phalangites, arrayed in a 16 x 16-man formation. A syntagma was divided into four even sub-units (8 x 8) called tetrarchies. Six syntagmas formed a taxis (1,536 phalangites). Six taxeis formed the entire standing force of Foot Companions who crossed to Asia with Alexander. The phalangite wielded his sarissa with both hands, keeping it forward and carefully aligned with the weapons of his comrades. As the phalanx closed in battle with the enemy, the first four lines, with a frontage of 3 ft. between them, projected their sarissas forward, with the four rear ranks holding their sarissa up in the air to lessen the impact of enemy missile power. What I just described was close-order formation; when the phalanx was in open-order formation, the frontage was 6 ft. occupied by each phalangite; in the 'locked-shileds' formation, the frontage was about a foot and a half. The Foot Companion was also armed with a short sword, a light and concave bronze-faced shield, about two ft. in diameter, which was strapped around his left shoulder. Moreover, he wore a bronze helmet. When not involved in a field battle, the phalangite would carry a javelin, for the purpose of storming a city or forced marches etc. As for body armor, it is probable many in the first rank optioned for the protection of a bronze cuirass, probably the thorax. If the others wore armor, which would have impeded their movement, considering their huge weapon, it was most likely a linen cuirass, such as the cotthybos or linothorax.
Above: a wonderful depiction of the Macedonian phalanx ready for action (however far from exactitude), wielding thier 16-18 ft. sarissas. Note the slight variance in front-line armor and helmets. But the small majority of equipment is comprised of the linothorax, a lighter cuirass of glued layers of linen worn over the exomis tunic, and the Phrygian helmet.
The Hypaspists were the counterpart of the Companion cavalry, and also known as the 'Shield-Bearing Guards'. They could be classified as intermediate troops - both heavy and light, depending on the exigencies of the moment. They probably fought with all weapons at one time or another. The Hypaspist was a crack, versatile soldier, drawn up between the phalanx and the Companions. They mainly aided in protecting the vulnerable right flank of the phalanx, or found themselves covering the left flank and rear of the Companions, when Alexander broke through an enemy line. These guys were reputably the toughest foot soldiers in the army. They probably carried the bronze Argive shield, which was a round buckler developed in the 7th century B.C.; it was fastened to the left forearm and large enough to cover the user from chin to knees. They doubtless were not heavily armored, as they were called on to carry tasks involving speed and endurance, particularly in maintaining a link with the Companions. Basically, it's possible if you name it, they could do it on foot!
Greek Allied Hoplites were the heavy infantrymen. These men carried perhaps 50-70 lbs. of equipment. The hoplite in Alexander's army probably wore the heavy, muscle-contoured cuirass, which replaced the heavy bell cuirass (shaped like a bell) from earlier periods, which probably consisted of a molded front and rear bronze pieces connected at the shoulders. A lighter, linen cuirass, known as a linothorax, became even more commonly used, but probably more so for economic purposes. The most precarious thing about the heavy cuirass was it could cause the wearer to dehydrate in the summer, due to its lack of ventilation and weight. I bet they hoped Alexander crushed the enemy soon! He wore a bronze helmet with hinged cheek-protectors (perhaps the Attic or Chalcidian helmet), and bronze greaves covering up past the knee; he carried the 3 ft diameter, round, bronze-plated shield known as the hoplon (or aspis). His main weapon, the doru, was a basic pike, 9 ft. long, and used for thrusting; it had a point at the butt, like the cavalry weapons previously mentioned. His secondary weapon was a 2 ft. sword called a kopis (presumably), used for stabbing. Alexander usually relegated the allied hoplites to the reserve units. Off the battlefield, the hoplites could be employed to carry out civil and engineering duties.
Greek Mercenary Infantry were the Greek soldiers of fortune, out for the adventures offered by professional soldiering. They fought for the Persians more than any Greek army. Some were certainly exiles, though. The mercenaries were probably similarly armed as the allied hoplites, and could prove valuable for their skills and availability, but could be difficult to control when loot was within close reach. They, too, were not used in the frontlines by Alexander.
Peltasts could function as skirmishers, but mainly threw javelins, carrying a few of them. They carried the light, wicker, crescent-shaped shield known as the pelte, hence Peltast, and carried a short sword. They basically were trained in throwing a javelin or fighting hand-to-hand with it. They could perform isolated tasks though; at the Hydaspes, they used axes and broadswords to hamstring the Indian elephants. They wore a metal belt to protect the stomach. They usually fought in open-order and could adeptly screen the phalanx from enemy missile fire or skirmishing. By the time of the campaign in Bactria, many were javelin men were mounted on horses. The elite Peltasts were the Agrianians; Agriania was a wild, Balkan region to the north of Macedon and Paeonia. The Agrianians carried a larger shield than the other Peltasts, and a longer sword. They were also equipped with a spear, and wore light armor of some sort.
Light Infantry, the Psiloi, were responsible for support roles, such as scouting and screening. They were never held in high regard, but Alexander brought them to a notch of respectability. They participated in ambushes, stormings, protecting heavier infantry on the march. They were lightly armed, sometimes solely with a sword. Their ranks included foot-archers and slingers, and they were without any defensive armor. They were not trained or armed to fight hand-to-hand. Their method was based on opportunism, and they found themselves skirmishing in front of the phalanx, but would fall back before behind the phalanx before close-order combat ensued.
Archers were not highly regarded in Greece, as the arm was deemed cowardly and even effeminate. All Greek archers carried swords, but the Cretans, the best archers Alexander had at his disposal, also were equipped with shields (certainly light ones), indicating they were prepared to fight hand-to-hand. This may be the one arm in which the Persians had the edge over Alexander's army, as Persian archers outranged any Greek contingent, due to the longer arrow they used.
Slingers from Rhodes, Achaea, the Balaeric Islands, and Elis provided skilled men with the sling. The Rhodians were believed to be the best. They could outrange the bow, with a maximum range of their bullets (stone, clay, lead) at maybe 350 yards, but the effective range probably at around 150 yards. The Rhodian slingers used 1 ounce projectiles, whcih far outranged the heavier ones used by their Perisan enemies. Slingers were unarmed except for their sling, as anything would have hindered the use of their sling.
Of note: 30,000 Persian youths were recruited by Alexander from the northeastern regions of the former Persian Empire in 327 B.C. Though his Macedonians were contemptuous of them, they impressed Alexander with their drill proficiency when on display in the parade ground. Alexander planned to integrate 20,000 Persian bowmen for a campaign into Arabia; Macedonians armed with their sarissas would form the first 3 ranks in phalangial order, Persians armed with missile weapons the next 12 ranks, and a Macedonian file closing the last line. This would be a 'new phalanx', one with missile fire support, which would have been more effective, in theory, against more lightly armed missile troops. This was visionary, but led to the Opis (125 miles NW of Babylon) Mutiny by Alexander's troops in the summer of 324 B.C., as they felt 'demeaned' by this conscript. Whoops! That's off topic.
Alexander never used elephants in battle, but utilized them as pack animals. He clearly saw them as more a liability than an asset in battle, as he overcame them so well at the Hydaspes.
Alexander's corps of engineers peformed spectacular feats, most notably at Tyre, where they constructed a 200 ft. wide, 1/2 mile long pier, along with four siege towers (reputedly the largest of their day), each being seventy feet tall. They subsequently built floating rams and amphibious assault crafts to use against the Tyrians. Later in the lands of the Pauravas, they built a boat bridge to span the Indus River. But in the day-to-day tasks of constructing roads, ships, catapults, and bridges, they excelled to facilitate Alexander's marches to overcome many of the natural and man-made obstacles that led to much of his success. It was all a legacy of Philip II.
Catapults were employed brilliantly by Alexander and his men. Before him, they had been used to solely (as far as we know) to besiege cities. He utilized the machines to cover his retreating troops, creating a huge missile barrage. In his most tactically impressive battel, he cleared the far bank of the Jaxartes River of enemy Scythians by unloading a salvo upon them, which covered a successful amphibious landing. His subsequent defeat of them was proof that the swiftest nomadic archers of the steppe were not exclusively superior to a force forged from a sedentary state, when led by a genius of war commanding a superb force of combined-arms. Actually, catapults were possibly used tactically on the battlefield (there must have been smaller and cruder precedents to all these type of attributed 'first times' of any doctrine) against Philip II by Onomarchus of Phocis. The Phocian leader succesfully mauled Philip in 353 B.C., in which he prepared an ambush in a semi-circular valley, concealing stone-throwing catapults on both sides. Philip seems to have fumbled here, his only time, seemingly failing to reconnoitre efficiently. But Philip soon regained his own and army's confidence, and the next year destroyed Onomarchus in Thessaly, at the Battle of Crosus Field (near Pherai and Pagasae).
THE ARMY OF THE PERSIANS, 334-331 B.C.
Armor was not very prevailing among the forces of the Persian Empire of Darius III, but was worn by wealthier members of the army, namely the cavalry and the 'Immortals'.
The Royal Guards consisted of two units of 1,000 men each, one cavalry and the other infantry, both elite divisions recruited form the Persian nobility. But they failed dismally against Alexander's Companions, being unable to protect the Great King at the two battles at which he fled. They probably enjoyed the protection of a bronze-covered, hoplon-style shield, as Greek equipment became widespread in the east by the time of Alexander, including swords. The Royal Guards, or 'Apple Bearers' (Amrtaka) in the case of the infantry (their spear butts were the shape of an apple), were armed with a 7 ft. thrusting spear and recurved bow, the cavalry probably having a pair of spears, one as a javelin, the other for fighting with. One such spear was the palta, about 4 ft. long. This elite infantry carried the short akinakes sword, originally developed in Scythia. The double-edged iron blade allowed for cutting, stabbing or thrusting.
The Heavy Cavalry was always the elite striking arm in Achaemenid Persia. In its intial charge, hypothetically, the heavy horsemen of Persia should have inflicted heavy damage upon the Companions and Thessalians. This was largely due to format and maneuvering, not the respective qualities of the soldiers. Their horses were bred for size to be effective in close-order fighting. They wore bronze helmets and body armor of Greek influence. The heavy cavalrman probably wore a cuirass of linen called a hauberk, which was reinforced with bronze scales, and bronze greaves. He carried a short sword, either the akinakes or a similar Greek model. The large horse itself was armored with a bronze apron hanging from the animal's neck, and the forehead was protected down the snout with bronze frontlet. A cuirass protected the horse's thighs, and the sides and flanks had coverings of some sort. Most Persian and allied cavalrymen used a pair of palta as their main offensive weapon. But they also carried a short sword known as the xiphos, which could drawn upon for defense, once their paltas were gone; sometimes they may have been compelled to hurl both paltas, and draw the xiphos for close combat. This was likely if opposed to enemy infantry. Some cavalrymen, heavy and light, opted to wield a single-handed, light battle axe called a sagaris, in place of the short sword. This is the weapon that split Alexander's helmet at the Granicus. The sagaris was a potentially lethal weapon, capable of chopping through even heavy bronze armor. Darius identified the noticeable superiority of the lance of the Macedonians over the material availed to his men at Issus, and he accordingly re-equipped his Royal Guard cavalry with longer, 5-6 ft. paltas (assuming they retined the name) at Gaugamela. Let's give the guy a break; he wasn't that dumb.
The Light Cavalry of the Persians was highly maneuverable. But they wore merely a cloth headress, the tiara, and a cuirass of attached linen over their tunics, probably something similar to the Greek linothorax. These horsemen were purely missile troops, continuosly firing their arrows and/or throwing their javelins, withdrawing and rallying. By Alexander's time, however, it seems that the majority of light Persian cavalry had abandoned the bow in favor of the palta to enable them to engage the Greeks in hand-to-hand combat; the bow had proved progressively less effective against heavily armed Greek hoplites. They were seemingly not equipped with a shield, a helmet, or any metallic body armor.
Greek Mercenary Infantry fighting for the Persian army was hardly different from those I described fighting for Alexander. They were the only effective infantry Darius had fighting for his cause. Some 20,000 Greek mercenary infantrymen were in his employ in 334 B.C., and they were every bit a match for their Alexandrian counterparts, if not quite in equipment and formation. They were not utilized with any efficacy at the Granicus, as Memnon had 'insulted' the commanding satraps with the suggestion of employing a strategy of erosion, denying Alexander a much-needed quick victory. They probably were suspicious of Memnon's intentions, perhaps ones of personal gain, being a prolonged war would benefit a mecenary. Most of the Greek mercenaries were gone after Issus, where 12,000 of them ineffectively served; they had probably departed for Crete and Egypt, seeking other tasks. Alexander's march leading to battle at Gaugamela had cut Darius off from the major mercenary recruiting areas. Only 2,000 were available for him at Gaugamela.
The Cardaces were Persian youths of noble birth, and specially brougth up with a high level of training. They would become cavalrymen or archers. They were infantrymen who, whether purposeful or not, developed into a force similar to the Greek Peltasts. They were lightly armored, with decent crescent shields, but some were availed the heavier hoplon/aspis shield. The crescent shield, made of wicker but with a thin, bronze covering, gave good protection to its bearer without sacrificing speed and mobility. These guys could have been terrific if employed at the right spot, and at the right time. However, Darius was desperate and threw about 10,000 of them into the frontlines at Issus, in support of the outer flanks of the Greek mercenaries (5,000 on each flank). Darius did screen them with archers, but the hypaspists shattered the screeners upon their ranks on the right flank, thus sending the Cardaces into disorder. As it was, the Greek mercenaries fighting for Alexander proved too much for them on the other flank. Darius didn't use them in his next, and last, battle.
Levied Infantry was a liability of the Persian arms. You ever read of the 'massive' numbers of Alexander's enemy armies in Persia? Well, these bunches of raw soldiery comprised more than half those numbers - numbers ridiculously exaggerated anyway. The Persian levies of foot were drawn from the peasant class, peoples not trained well under the Persian military system, for fear of them revolting successfully if they were. Therefore they were kept untrained, unarmed, and with little discipline, and called up for combat only in a time of emergency. Would the invading conqueror from Macedon, the greatest the world had yet seen, at the helm of the most scientifically, sophistcated army ever forged, constitute a time of emergency? Levied soldiers on foot throughout the Persian realm were the serfs of low morale, and showed little interest in risking their lives. They wore a soft hat, a leather tunic, and perhaps leather trousers. They were armed with a flimsy wicker shield called a gerron and carried only a large dagger, the akinaka, and a palta as their weapons, at least by Alexander's time. In sieges and mountainous terrain, these levies could be somewhat effective, but Alexander had no trouble defeating them anywhere. They would break and flee as quickly as any other unit in the Persian military array. However, they were hardly engaged in the serious fighting of Alexander's campaign.
Archers possessed large 4 ft. recurved bows, and the arrows were light and long. This allowed for a longer draw, thus greater range than their Greek counterparts. But by Alexander's time, the Persians abandoned, for teh most part, their tactic of disordering an enemy by missile power, supplementing it with subordinating them to support the Greek mercenaries, with whom Darius felt success against state-of-the-art armed Greeks lay . Archers on foot in Darius' army were used to screen cavalry deployments, outflank an enemy, or harass its line of march through rough terrain.
Slingers in the Persian army fighting against Alexander made no impact whatsoever; they had, at best, half the range of the Rhodians because of the fist-sized stones they used for ammunition. Their Hellenic enemies used smaller lead bullets.
Chariots were rendered obsolete by Alexander's phalanx at Gaugamela, the only time used against him. At one time, the chariot was an effective shock weapon, but as we know, every military action is corresponded with some sort of military reaction, and in this case it was if a formation kept its nerve and discipline, chariots could be handled. Drivers of the scythed chariots, which had 2 ft.+ blades protruding straight out from the wheel, wore a linothorax, relying on the chariot itself to protect his lower body, arm-pieces of bronze, and a bronze helmet. At Gaugamela, Alexander's missile troops decimated the charioteers upon their approach, while at the Hydaspes, his newly formed horse archers destroyed Porus' chariot force in their areas of deployment.
Elephants and Camels were reputedly used by Darius at Gaugamela, some 15 elephants. We know that neither animal was utilized to any effect for the Persians against Alexander, despite both animlals' reputation for instilling fear into horses. Alexander captured many of the elephants along with Darius' baggage train. No camels seemed to have been used at all (despite the scene in the Oliver Stone movie), but were certainly utilized as valuable pack animals by the Persian armies.
The Persians had achieved marvelous feats of engineering, and not just that of the military branch, throughout their history, but nothing was extant under Darius III that holds aburning matchstick to the engineering works of Alexander's corps.
SCYTHIAN HORSE-ARCHERS, 329 B.C.
Alexander's defeat of the Scythians ('Sakas' to the Persians) on the banks of the Jaxartes River was possibly, from a tactical standpoint for posterity, his greatest battle. The clash didn't involve huge numbers of troops, but he defeated the best extant nomadic horse-archers of the steppes, deemed virtually unbeatable due to their swarming tactics of encirclement and speed, as well as the fact they were nomads with no fixed base (thus no Strategic Center of Gravity to assault). Herodotus tacitly expresses admiration for their 'preservation'. I'll spare the details for now (by all means we can discuss them, as I have posted an analysis of the battle before), but he basically restricted their mobility and created a situation that forced them to engage. In this clash against Alexander, the Scythian force was composed exclusivley of horse-archers who fired their arrows at a stationary or retreating enemy, then would merely fall back when charged or if unforeseen and inauspicious contingincies occured. The usual, simple tactic of these skilled horse archers of the steppes would be to divide their force into two units, with each circling in the opposite directions across an enemy front, and continually delivering their barrage of missile power. Their main weapon was the composite bow. They used light arrows to allow a high rate of fire, and used longer ones for greater range. They achieved effective ranges of about 160 yards, and a maximum range of about 380 yards (conjectural, and the latter could never be sustained in a volley assault). They frequently poisoned their arrows with snake venom, and their quivers held about 200 arrows. The Scythian horse-archer also at times wielded a spear and/or javelin, a sagaris (their vaunted battle-axe), and at times a short, curved sword, knwon as a akinakes. They defended themselves with wicker shields, which were strengthened by an iron hoop and perhaps iron plating on some of their shields. The chieftains (or nobles?) wore scale armor, while the subordinated warriors wore leather.Philip II also defeated the Scythians in 339 B.C., but not a force of complete horse-archers.
All of Alexander's subdued in the rugged lands of Hyrcania, Areia, Arachosia, Bactria, Sogdiana, and Paraetacae were undisciplined mountain and nomadic tribespeople who were usually untrained and poorly armed compared to his forces. They were able to field large forces of horsemen, heavy and light, and certainly knew how to ride and fight on horses. But his military operations entailed subduing mountain tribes in a guerilla-style war against nomadic cavalry. This called for a more flexible style of generalship than before, including policy. he was up to then occasion, subduing tribes in a matter of weeks which had remained independent of Persian sovereignty for the previous generations.
FORCES OF THE PAURAVAS, 326 B.C.
India was broken up into numerous kingdoms at this time, each with its own king and army. The armies under their kings were not unlike the Persian armies in terms of construction; they formed their army lines from the tip of the manpower pyramid rather than from the base, as was the case in Macedon, originating with Philip II.
The Indian Cavalry were not of high status in the Indian kingdoms, with neither good discipline and combat effectiveness. The horsemen of these lands were best at raiding and pursuing a beaten foe. Deployed in deep fomation so the cavalry could cohere more easily, they were armed with 2 bamboo javelins, a small of animal hide, and a small composite bow. They wore no armor.
The Indian Infantry was a light force of foot, it's primary weapon being a 6 ft. bamboo bow, which fired a 3 ft. arrow. The light infantryman of India also carried a 4 1/2 ft.two-handed, wide-bladed broadsword, called the nistrimsa, and a longer shield than the cavalrman, also made of hide. Some used a javelin instead of a bow. The bow was relatively unwieldy and carried a slow rate of fire. But it had tremendous power, able to penetrate any shiled or cuirass. The broadsword, too, had tremendous shock potential, but at a disadvantage when faced with superbly administered counter-thrusts from the likes of Alexander's men.
The Chariot was one of the prestige arms of the Indian army, attracting its best warriors. Each chariot, bigger than those of other Asiatic armies, was accompanied by 5 (or 3?) horsemen and 15 (maybe less) infantrymen. This basic unti of the Indian army was known as a patti. Nine chariots, with their supporters from horse and foot, made up a tactical unit. A chariot's crew consisted of 2 armored drivers, 2 men-at-arms, and 2 archers. The tactic here was one of shock, by crashing their way through the enemy lines. As in Persia, this would work against seditious mobs, but against Alexander, their effect was even less than negligible. Sometimes the vehicles would get bogged down in mud etc., and had to be abandoned before ever seeing any action. Chariots were deployed on the wings of the Indian army in advance of the cavalry. Alexander decimated the ones on the left wing with missile power from his newly formed hipparchy, and on the right flank the cavalry had blocked their lanes because of re-deployment, and cleared the charge lanes, with the chariots riding down them, only after Alexander was already locked in close combat with the Indian army's other contingents, and could not intervene in the battle.
The Elephants in Porus' army are what gave Alexander one of his toughest challenges, but mainly because they were a novelty to him, especially some 200 of them. They were organized in a similar manner to the chariots. The drivers of the animals were armed with bamboo javelins and the shorter shields of hide. No towers yet existed, with the mahouts sat behind the head of the elephant, completely vulnerable to enemy missile weapons. However, the pachyderm in itself could be terrifying, particularly to those not yet encountering them. Alexander sustained heavy casualtied against the elephants at the Hydaspes, but had the foresight to equip his Peltasts with broadswords and axes, which were effective in hamstringing the beasts. This was Alexandrian adaptability personified: the weapons which had been his army's cornerstone, the sarissa and the xyston, and javelins, would clearly have little effect here. The ferocity of the beasts' initial charge was probably enough to shatter any enemy yet encountered. Porus must have been in awe. Alexander would tangle with more tribes throughout the Punjab, but no more elephants did he encounter. Perhaps only the wealthiest of Indian kings could afford to maintain and feed the huge, but docile elephants.
Mercenaries played a key role to fill the ranks of Indian armies. Traditionally, they were the best disciplined troops in the army, and usually equipped no different than the Indian native infantry, with whom they served.
OK. That's it! Hope this wasn't too much (take your time please). Looking forward to the same structure, but with the Second Punic War?
EDIT 9/05/06: armor of allied Greek infantry correction.
Thanks, Spartan JKM :original: