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Thread: The arms of Alexander the Great and his enemies

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    Spartan JKM's Avatar Semisalis
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    Default The arms of Alexander the Great and his enemies

    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:

    Cavalry

    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.

    Infantry

    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.

    Alexander's Cavalry

    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.

    Alexander's Infantry

    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:
    Last edited by Spartan JKM; August 05, 2008 at 07:38 AM. Reason: Grammar
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    Default Re: The arms of Alexander the Great and his enemies

    great work, spectacular, do I need to say more?


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    Default Re: The arms of Alexander the Great and his enemies

    Excellent post; I only have a few comments.

    I'm speaking purely out of conjecture, but I doubt the Thessalians were relegated to the (defensive) left out of political or social reasons. I rather think this was done more to ensure the proper protection of the refused flank. As we see in Issus and Gaugamela, they were crucial in ensuring Alexander's army didn't fold under heavy strain. Given their accomplishments, I believe any social disadvantages they suffered from at the outset of the campaign likely evaporated quickly. :wink:

    The Cardaces are one of those enigmas of the time period. I've seen various modern historians describe them alternately as either the Persian answer to the (4th century) hoplite or as an Asiatic version of the (4th century, somewhat armored) peltast. I'm loath to think of them as the latter for one reason... Dareius would have known that Alexander's Companions would be lined up on the flank of honor (Macedonian right, his left). Putting light-armed troops on his weak flank, against Alexander's striking arm strikes me as somewhat suicidal.



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    Default Re: The arms of Alexander the Great and his enemies

    Do you have any more information or pictures on this 2 haned Indian broadsword? I'm a bit of a sword collector/nut and I would really appreciate it.

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    Default Re: The arms of Alexander the Great and his enemies

    Spartan JKM

    Interesting and impressive post.

    A couple of thoughts:

    Most of the Greek mercenaries were gone after Issus, where 12,000 of them ineffectively served
    I really don’t see how the mercenary hoplites can be described as ineffective at Issus, they were in fact just about the only effective force Darius brought with him. The Greek mercenaries stopped the Macedonian phalanx and came close to breaking it. If the supposedly “elite striking arm” of the Persian Empire had done it job on the left equally as well (instead of widely charging pell-mell and then running away) Darius would have carried the day. In defeat The Greek mercenaries were the only unit to withdrawal in an organized fashion, and thus be available for service with Sparta and in Asia Minor, while Alexander was tied down around Tyre.

    The following are quibbles really but…

    Greek Allied Hoplites were the heavy infantrymen. These men carried perhaps 50-70 lbs. of equipment. The hoplite in Alexander's army probably wore a heavy bell cuirass (shaped like a bell), which consisted of molded front and rear bronze pieces connected at the shoulders. The most precarious thing about this piece of armor 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.
    The hoplite shield was the aspis; hoplon was rarely used for describing the shield until well after the Classical or early Hellenistic eras. The ‘Bell cuirass’ was an item of the Archaic era. The hoplite of the Classical and Hellenistic era certainly used either the muscled metal/bronze cuirass or a linothorax with metal scales or plates. Helmets could of course be iron as well; in general iron was almost certainly more common than generally recognized in the hoplite’s defensive arsenal by the 4th century B.C.


    Phoebus

    Companions would be lined up on the flank of honor (Macedonian right, his left). Putting light-armed troops on his weak flank, against Alexander's striking arm strikes me as somewhat suicidal.
    Actually why would (or should) Darius expect cavalry to be the striking arm and on the right, or that it would cut through the Cardaces?
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    Spartan JKM's Avatar Semisalis
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    Default Re: The arms of Alexander the Great and his enemies

    Thnaks for the replies everyone. No time for expounding right now, but conon caught a mistake in posting.
    Quote Originally Posted by conon394
    ...The ‘Bell cuirass’ was an item of the Archaic era. The hoplite of the Classical and Hellenistic era certainly used either the muscled metal/bronze cuirass or a linothorax with metal scales or plates. Helmets could of course be iron as well; in general iron was almost certainly more common than generally recognized in the hoplite’s defensive arsenal by the 4th century B.C.
    Indeed. I meant to present something of a similar nature. Amid my previewing and slight changes, before posting the topic, it should have read along the lines of,

    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.

    I have a tendency to post information not in order, and from a few sources, thus something got excluded amid the scrambling. Anyway, all of us who are interested in the evolution of ancient Greek armor know the Bell Cuirass was gone long before the Macedonian Age. Good observation, conon. Thanks.
    The hoplite shield was the aspis; hoplon was rarely used for describing the shield until well after the Classical or early Hellenistic eras...
    Same difference. It merely comes down to the wording. I have read that aspis is the generic, and apparently more appropriate term. I didn't think to mention the varied names.

    I'm not positive, but I think hopla = armor, hoplon = hoplite's shield, and aspis = shield. We can certainly find out, and certainly go over more soon.

    Thanks, Spartan JKM :original:
    Last edited by Spartan JKM; September 05, 2006 at 06:12 PM.
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    Default Re: The arms of Alexander the Great and his enemies

    Spartan JKM, you need to become a professor at Adelphi University, i will be studying there in a couple of years.

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    Default Re: The arms of Alexander the Great and his enemies

    Same difference. It merely comes down to the wording. I have read that aspis is the generic, and apparently more appropriate term. I didn't think to mention the varied names.

    I'm not positive, but I think hopla = armor, hoplon = hoplite's shield, and aspis = shield. We can certainly find out, and certainly go over more soon
    The case is not so clear cut; consider the entry in the LSJ at Perseus:

    (http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/cgi-bin...try%3D%2374572)

    Overall at best hoplon can mean shield, but no particular variant of the word defiantly means only shield. More importantly the most famous reference for Hoplites shield -> hoplon is Diodorus 15.44.3. The problem is that Diodrous says paradoxically and illogically that Peltasts take their name from their pelte, while Hoplites take their name from their aspis.

    Overall I would say aspis is the more particular - generally meaning the hoplite's shield (compare the LSJ entry http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/cgi-bin...%2C0060%2C001), while hoplon the rather more genaric term. Later in by imperial times when hoplites were a thing of the past authors like Diodrorus could working from the analogy of peltasts reach the conclusion that hoplites had also been named after thier shield…

    You might find the rather closely and carefully argued paper ‘The Myth of the Hoplite's Hoplon’ by Lazenby and Whitehead in CQ 46.1 of interest on this point.
    Last edited by conon394; September 09, 2006 at 06:21 AM.
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    Default Re: The arms of Alexander the Great and his enemies

    First, splendid stuff there JKM.

    Then a question of the Macedonian phalangites (or foot companions). Did the men in the front rows of the phalanx often suffer heavy losses and how were the men assigned to the ranks of the formation? The Romans could swap their rows during battle, but I assume that this was not possible in a phalanx due to the nature of the formation. Is there any historical information available on who got the 'honor' or posting in the first line of the phalanx?

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    Default Re: The arms of Alexander the Great and his enemies

    Thanks conon and Exel (very good question). We'll go over all this when I have time (soon).

    My apologies, Sword of Cao Cao, for this tardy response to your question. No, I'm afraid I haven't seen illustrations of the Indian sword, let alone photos. But there is a book by one professor A.L. Basham (sorry, I don't remember the title) I remember browsing through which might show it; it featured many photos of sculptures and coins etc., and I think bowmen, perhaps on coins. Professor McRindle is another authority on this. Of course, native accounts would certainly be the best, of which I am not knowledgeable of. The sword was known as a nistrimsa.

    Thanks, Spartan JKM :original:
    Last edited by Spartan JKM; September 09, 2006 at 04:23 PM.
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    Default Re: The arms of Alexander the Great and his enemies

    Quote Originally Posted by conon394
    Spartan JKM
    Actually why would (or should) Darius expect cavalry to be the striking arm and on the right, or that it would cut through the Cardaces?
    Why wouldn't he? Hellenic custom relegated the royal/leading force on the right, the spot of honor. Failing that, with Parmenio on the Macedonian left and the Pezetairoi occupying the length of the line facing his own mercenaries, there were few places other than the right for Alexander to line up his Companions and such.

    As for the Cardaces, it all depends on your definition of the term. I don't necessarily agree with them, but many modern historians assert they were not the heavy infantry historians like Arrian (IIRC) claim they were. If they were, fine, but if not... skirmishers would be a poor choice to shore up a flank against an enemy arraying powerful cavalry forces on either flank.



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    Default Re: The arms of Alexander the Great and his enemies

    Quote Originally Posted by Spartan JKM
    7,500 total servants followed the army, for a total of about 45,000.

    very odd numbers, less than primary sources give for actual combat troops, and do not include non combat servents numbers which we rae told was 1 to 6 for infantry and 1 to 1 for mounted, your about 20,000 under what everyone elses uses as total.

    Quote Originally Posted by Spartan JKM

    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.:

    cretans was a term applied to archers who also were equiped and able to fight at close quarters, while they were pionered by Crete, by Alexandrs time the term was applied to any tribal grouping trained and equped to do the dual role of missile and close quarter combat.

    Quote Originally Posted by Spartan JKM
    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.
    Due to an inferior saddle type, any forward momentum resulting in a thrust to skewer aman would invariable unseat the wielder, due to inability to absorb the kenitic forces so generated in an an actual charge or even a canter. It was held about a third of the way along, much like a Napoelonic lance, and the but end weight gave it an excellent ratio to length, the buissines end hitting the oponent while he was unable to reach the weilder, much like a bayonet rifle against a short spear Zulu, who with his excellent weighted short assagai,who simply was butchered because of a lack of reach compared a bayonet equiped lee Enfield, archeolgy at Rorkes drift shows more probably fatalitys through bayonet than fire arms, one mass grave of 400 having been wounded during the fight, and collected, and then dispatched afterwards by bayonet thrust to the chest, for instance. The blade of the Xyston was large, 15 inches long from those at the Chaeonia battlefield, Markle in his "short sarrisa" article in the JHS argues fairly convincingly that this means the weaponwas used to side swipe the enemys horse and or man, not punch/thrust through armour which would require a different head design. Of course if you sit your horse at 45 to your target, you can brace yourself and thrust with quite some force and hope to retain your seat rather than be pushed back along the horse rump, the Roman pommel type of saddle gives exacxtly that kind of support bracing, it has 4 prongs which you lock you leg and bum into, this puts all the kenitic onto your legs, and broken legs are a common feature in Roman cavalry mens graves that have been examined, much like in th Middle ages the high front and back saddle and stripps put all the kenitics onto the lower back, resulting in lots of broken backs in Norman graves. Alexander used a sword rather than the but spike when it broke, but this was personal preference of his. Xenophon tells us that the face was the focus of the blow, the blade head was hollow and weighed .2kg and the but spike solid and weighed 1.2kgs, total weight of the weapon ws 3.6 kgs.

    Quote Originally Posted by Spartan JKM
    Greek mercenary cavalry, horse archers, and mounted javelinmen would be formed after Gaugamela, fought in 331 B.C.

    missing from your list, using Diodorus.
    Thrace and paeonia -900

    in Asia already, 1000 mounted, giving a total of 6,100 mounted.


    Quote Originally Posted by Spartan JKM
    The Companions were Alexander's strike force. They wore a Boeotian helmet and cuirass (breastplate), both made of bronze. Optionally, they wore bronze greaves (shinplates). They were armed with a 10 ft. (?)
    Total length 4.87 metre, tapered cherry kernel wood, balance point from the butt end, 1.47 metre, (or about 30%) behind the grip, with 70% of the length before the grip. University of Newcastle has a number of examples.






    Quote Originally Posted by Spartan JKM

    The Thessalians were no less able as horsemen than the Companions; they were surely relegated to a position of defense on the left wing for social and political reasons. They fought in a diamond-shaped formation (rhomboid),
    Yes, as Archon of Thessaly Alexander had them for life, but had to use them as they demanded to be used, not as inferiors, the rhomiod formation was an ivention of Jason of Pherea (SE Thessaly) who ahd pionered its creation and usage in around 370, he gained contol of all Thessaly and made control of the Theasslaien cav a heriditory title for himslef, a Tagus, and Phillip had gained this title for himself when invited by anti Jason Thessaliens to oust him in 353/2, to which he added the role of Archon for life as well after doing so and winning the battle of the crocus fields. Theassalian coins show cavalry using a spear underarm, andf Diodorus decribes them using two or more javs, the extra javs being held in a horse quiver running along the right rear of the horse and was withdrawn right handed.



    Quote Originally Posted by Spartan JKM
    The Scouts, known as Prodromoi or Sarissophori, could also be called 'Lancers' because of the long lancelike sarissas they carried; it was shorter version of the infantry sarissa that could be held with one hand, about 14 ft. long. Like the xyston, the sarissa (or Scout's xyston?) of the Scout had metal spearheads at both ends.
    It was a socketed xyston, in that each have was connected by a socket, when un cosketed, you had two very usfull javs, easily transported, and when socketed, a lance.





    Excellent post; I only have a few comments.

    I'm speaking purely out of conjecture, but I doubt the Thessalians were relegated to the (defensive) left out of political or social reasons. I rather think this was done more to ensure the proper protection of the refused flank. As we see in Issus and Gaugamela, they were crucial in ensuring Alexander's army didn't fold under heavy strain. Given their accomplishments, I believe any social disadvantages they suffered from at the outset of the campaign likely evaporated quickly.

    He was probably using N Secundas "Army of Alexanderr the Great" in which he explains that because of political and social reasons the Macedonian cav were given the place of honour on the right wing, commanded in person by Alexander, by implication that relgates the thessalien cav, the most numerous and upto that point in time best regraded cavalry of Greece to a subordiante role. That politics dictated that this was so, but the social simularaties and bond between the horse dominated Thessaly and horse dominated Macedonian cantons was strong enough to overcome any percieved slight, besides the companaions was opened up from exclusive regions of recruitement to include members from states deemed polyicaly reliable, ie Thessaly, who now could serve in his own native horse, or if asked, could advance to serve in the macedonian companions, as described by Arrian.


    The case is not so clear cut; consider the entry in the LSJ at Perseus:
    Just to add to the confusion......

    Aspis was an argive shiled pattern, with a distictive broad flat rim always covered in metal and the rest of the shiled somwhatconvex in shape, sometimes the shileds face was also covered with bronze metal sheet and then it was often called a hoplon rather than an aspis, as it resembelled the earlier all bronze shileds, it also had a distinctive central and rim hand hold, but if not covered with bronze but leather instead, it was called aspis.

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    Default Re: The arms of Alexander the Great and his enemies

    Excellent work as always Spartan!

    Perhaps something about the client kings of Darius present at Gaugamela and elsewhere? To relegate the persian military to but levies, light and heavy cavalry does not seem to do them complete justice, what with their numerous client states and their armies...

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    Default Re: The arms of Alexander the Great and his enemies

    cretans was a term applied to archers who also were equiped and able to fight at close quarters, while they were pionered by Crete, by Alexandrs time the term was applied to any tribal grouping trained and equped to do the dual role of missile and close quarter combat.
    I would agree that Cretan and or neo-Creatan (and similarly Tarrentine for cavalry) certainly become terms for troop types and are not necessarily reflective of origin during the Successor period; but I don’t think that paradigm holds for Philip and Alexander. Given the small size of the Cretan force and the fact that Philip and Alexander had other archers simply called Macedonian archers, I would think it is perfectly reasonable to see the Cretans as simply real Cretans.

    Markle in his "short sarrisa" article in the JHS argues fairly convincingly that this means the weaponwas used to side swipe the enemys horse and or man, not punch/thrust through armour which would require a different head design.
    Unless I’m misunderstanding that is a rather large departure from his earlier views – What issue of JHS is his article in?

    hat politics dictated that this was so, but the social simularaties and bond between the horse dominated Thessaly and horse dominated Macedonian cantons was strong enough to overcome any percieved slight
    Or maybe not, considering just how strongly Thessaly sided with Athens during the Lamian War.
    Last edited by conon394; November 28, 2006 at 12:44 PM.
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    Default Re: The arms of Alexander the Great and his enemies

    Concerning Cardaces: Young Persians of noble birth sounds to me like they had the money for approbiate equipment so I'd guess they'd be at least armored to some extent to qualify at least as medium infantry. I wouldn't think the Persian nobility would risk their children's lives by not giving them the best they could afford... from their social background I'd think it very likely that they formed something resembling heavy infantry esspecially when their unit was created after the wars against Greece. It would at least seem plausible.
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    Default Re: The arms of Alexander the Great and his enemies

    Quote Originally Posted by conon394
    I would agree that Cretan and or neo-Creatan (and similarly Tarrentine for cavalry) certainly become terms for troop types and are not necessarily reflective of origin during the Successor period; but I don’t think that paradigm holds for Philip and Alexander. Given the small size of the Cretan force and the fact that Philip and Alexander had other archer simply called Macedonian archers, I would think it is perfectly reasonable to see the Cretans as simply real Cretans..
    Head/Heath in the "Armies of the Macedonian and Punic wars" hold that because annalist uses the term cretan and apply it to a number of tribal groups used by by both Phillip and Alexander, that the term is appliedto anyone trained to act as the proto type cretans who pionered the form of combat.



    Quote Originally Posted by conon394
    Unless I’m misunderstanding that is a rather large departure from his earlier views – What issue of JHS is his article in?..
    Not really, Xenophon tells us thats how they were used, archeology tells us the shape and size which all supports the supposition. Markles original;Markle III, M.M., 'The Macedonian sarissa, spear and related armor' in: AJA 81 (1977) 323-339.
    Markle III, M.M., 'Use of the sarissa by Philip and Alexander of Macedon' in: AJA 82 (1978) 483-497.
    Markle III, M.M., 'Macedonian arms and tactics under Alexander the Great' in: B. Barr-Sharrar (ed.), Macedonia and Greece in late classical and early Hellenistic times (Washington 1982), 87-111.
    are what i was refering too, but recall reading them in JHS but dont have the issue number at hand.

    I'll also mention a debate in AJA between Rahe and Markle. Here are the citations:

    Markle III, Minor M. "Use of the Sarissa by Philip and Alexander of Macedon", AJA 82 (1978), 483-497.

    Rahe, Paul A. "The Annihilation of the Sacred Band at Chaeronea", AJA 85 (1981) 85-87.

    Basically, the debate concerns a passage in Plutarch Pelopidas 18, which says that the soldiers in the sacred band were killed by sarissa, a fact which has been confirmed by archaeology. Markle argues that in 338 only the cavalry was using the sarissa; the infantry had not yet adopted it.


    Quote Originally Posted by conon394
    Or maybe not, considering just how strongly Thessaly sided with Athens during the Lamian War.
    Yes, you pays your money and takes which seems best to fit the facts, im happy to conclude numbers of thessalians joined the Companions pre invasion, and in larger numbers during it.
    Last edited by Hanny; September 11, 2006 at 11:34 AM.

  17. #17
    conon394's Avatar hoi polloi
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    Default Re: The arms of Alexander the Great and his enemies

    Not really, Xenophon tells us thats how they were used, archeology tells us the shape and size which all supports the supposition. Markles original;Markle III, M.M., 'The Macedonian sarissa, spear and related armor' in: AJA 81 (1977) 323-339.
    Markle III, M.M., 'Use of the sarissa by Philip and Alexander of Macedon' in: AJA 82 (1978) 483-497.
    Markle III, M.M., 'Macedonian arms and tactics under Alexander the Great' in: B. Barr-Sharrar (ed.), Macedonia and Greece in late classical and early Hellenistic times (Washington 1982), 87-111.
    are what i was refering too, but recall reading them in JHS but dont have the issue number at hand.

    I'll also mention a debate in AJA between Rahe and Markle. Here are the citations:

    Markle III, Minor M. "Use of the Sarissa by Philip and Alexander of Macedon", AJA 82 (1978), 483-497.

    Rahe, Paul A. "The Annihilation of the Sacred Band at Chaeronea", AJA 85 (1981) 85-87.

    .
    Let me try again. What I’m getting at is that in his two articles from the 70’s I don’t see Markle arguing for the oblique ‘clubbing’ or slashing I understand you to be describing for the Macedonian sarissa armed cavalry. Instead I understand Markle to be describing a ‘stab and drop’ strategy based on the assumption that the cavalry sarissa was longer than the hoplite spear, operating in conjunction with a wedge formation. Thus, except for the potential of a new version of Macedonia tactics developed in –

    Markle III, M.M., 'Macedonian arms and tactics under Alexander the Great' in: B. Barr-Sharrar (ed.), Macedonia and Greece in late classical and early Hellenistic times (Washington 1982), 87-111.

    - (which I have not read), Markle seems to imply a thrusting use of the sarissa. Moreover his model has another problem in that he argues for the wedge succeeding by a repeated use of of ‘stab and drop’ cavalry charges against the so called standard 8 rank hoplite phalanx. I am however rather suspect of any such doctrine and given the literary evidence for the 4th century is skewed toward 12 if not 16 shields or deeper for a hoplite phalanx the focus on 8 ranks is a weak aspect of the argument. Overall, I am a bit skeptical that Macedonian cavalry armed with spears of any length could really defeat hoplites or any other heavy infantry that was not willing to flinch.

    I also find the introduction of Roman saddles a bit misleading. I don’t think you can demonstrate the Macedonians had them, so their cavalry can hardly have depended on them for their tactics or effectiveness.

    Basically, the debate concerns a passage in Plutarch Pelopidas 18, which says that the soldiers in the sacred band were killed by sarissa, a fact which has been confirmed by archaeology. Markle argues that in 338 only the cavalry was using the sarissa; the infantry had not yet adopted it.
    Rahe won. Markle no longer holds that the Sarissa was restricted to only cavalry until Alexander’s day; see note 39 in:

    'A Shield Monument from Veria and the Chronology of Macedonian Shield Types'
    Minor M. Markle Hesperia Vol. 68, No. 2 (Apr., 1999).

    With that, we can take Diodorus at face value: Chaeronea was a long and bloody infantry battle, there is no reason to reverse project any of Alexander’s later cavalry driven victories onto it (Whatever he was after Philip's death; he was still just the only living male heir Philip had, who needed oversight from men he really trusted - Antipater and Parmenion; and was expendable as soon as he got a boy from his new Macedonian wife anyway...).
    Last edited by conon394; September 11, 2006 at 08:06 PM.
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    But if the cause be not good, the king himself hath a heavy reckoning to make, when all those legs and arms and heads, chopped off in battle, shall join together at the latter day and cry all 'We died at such a place; some swearing, some crying for surgeon, some upon their wives left poor behind them, some upon the debts they owe, some upon their children rawly left.

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    Default Re: The arms of Alexander the Great and his enemies

    Very nice post again Spartan JKM. I've printed it out, and i'm going to read it as soon as I can take te proper time

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    Default Re: The arms of Alexander the Great and his enemies

    So how about those falangites, Spartan?

  20. #20
    Spiff's Avatar That's Ffips backwards
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    Default Re: The arms of Alexander the Great and his enemies

    moved to its new home in the Musaeum, another fantastic thread
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