Companion cavalry

The Companions (Greek: ἑταῖροι [heˈtairoi̯], hetairoi) were the elite cavalry of the Macedonian army from the time of king Philip II of Macedon, achieved their greatest prestige under Alexander the Great, and have been regarded as the first or among the first shock cavalry used in Europe. Chosen Companions, or Hetairoi, formed the elite guard of the king (Somatophylakes).

Etymology

The name of the military unit derives from Greek Hetairoi, those near the king. The Hetairoi (Companions) could be members of the Macedonian aristocracy or commoners of any origin who enjoyed the trust and friendship of the Macedonian regent. The Hetairideia, a festival pertaining to the sacred relationship which bound the king and his companions together[1] was celebrated and even Euripides, the famed Athenian play writer, was honoured as an hetairos of the king Archelaus.[2] The Royal friends (Philoi) or the king's Companions (basilikoi hetairoi) were named for life by the king among the Macedonian aristocracy.

Unit

Equipment

Macedonian Army Thessalian
A heavy cavalryman of Alexander the Great's army, possibly a Thessalian, though the Companion cavalry would have been almost identical (the shape of the cloak of the latter was more rounded). He wears a cuirass (probably a linothorax) and a Boeotian helmet, and is equipped with a scabbarded xiphos straight-bladed sword. Alexander Sarcophagus.

Companion cavalry would ride the best horses, and receive the best weaponry available. In Alexander's day, each carried a xyston, and wore a bronze muscle cuirass or linothorax, shoulder guards and Boeotian helmets, but bore no shield.[3] A kopis (curved slashing sword) or xiphos (cut and thrust sword) was also carried for close combat, should the xyston break.

Organization

The Companion cavalry was composed of the Hetairoi of the king, mainly upper class citizens who were able to acquire and maintain armour and horses. In the age of Philip II and Alexander they were organized into 8 territorial squadrons, termed ilai. Each ile numbered between 200 and 300 horsemen[4][5] and was commanded by two men, because as Arrian claims, Alexander "did not want anyone, not even his intimate friend, to be the centre of attention".[6] After receiving reinforcements in Susa, Alexander established two companies in each squadron.[7] They were referred to by the name of the territory they were mustered in or by the name of its captain. The Royal Ile was commanded by Alexander himself and contained twice the number of soldiers the other units contained, c. 400.[5] These cavalry squadrons would sometimes be combined together in groups of two, three or four to form a hipparchy, which was commanded by a hipparch, though the whole Companion force was generally commanded by Alexander.[5]

In Alexander's Balkan campaigns, we find mention of Companions from upper Macedonia, the central Macedonian plain and Amphipolis.[8][9] During the advance on Granicus, a squadron commanded by Socrates of Macedon (not to be confused with the philosopher) hailed from Apollonia on Lake Bolbe.[9] During the Battle of Issus, Arrian names the ile of Anthemus (modern Galatista),;[8] another, from the unidentified land of Leuge (likely Pieria), is also mentioned.[10]

Theopompus describes the Companions, probably of around the mid 4th century BC, as being made of "no more than 800 at this time" and mustered "some from Macedonia, some from Thessaly and still others from the rest of Greece".[11] By 338 BC, Alexander is reported to have had around 2600 in his Companion Cavalry.[12] As Alexander's force campaigned towards India, barbarians played an increasing role in the Companion Cavalry and the Macedonian mutiny at Opis may have been partially caused by this.[13][14] At one point, there were four hipparchies made up of entirely oriental forces and one that was a mix of Macedonians and orientals.[13]

Tactics and use

Cavalry alex
Macedonian Companion cavalry ile in wedge formation

The Companions probably constituted the first real shock cavalry in history, able to conduct charges against massed infantry, even if such use is scarcely described in the ancient sources. Contemporary cavalry, even when heavily armored, would most usually be equipped with javelins and would avoid melee.

In battle, it would form part of a hammer and anvil tactic: the Companion cavalry would be used as a hammer, in conjunction with the Macedonian phalanx-based infantry, which acted as their anvil. The phalanx would pin the enemy in place, while the Companion cavalry would attack the enemy on the flank or from behind.

In battle, Alexander the Great personally led the charge at the head of the royal squadron of the Companion cavalry, usually in a wedge formation. In a pitched battle, the Companions usually fought on the right wing of the Macedonian army, next to the shield-bearing guards, the Hypaspists, who would guard the right flank of the phalanx. Other cavalry troops would protect the flanks of the Macedonian line during battle. Under Alexander's command, the Companions' role was decisive in most of his battles in Asia.

Legacy

Hellenistic kingdoms

The Companions of Alexander the Great
The Companions of Alexander the Great

The Companion cavalry of the Diadochoi (Alexandrian successor-states), were even more heavily equipped. Seleucid Companions were noted to have worn lighter, but not otherwise dissimilar, equipment to the cataphracts at the Battle of Magnesia in 190 BC, which may have included partial horse armour and leg and arm protection. Ptolemaic Companions and Antigonid Companions were also equipped with a large round aspis cavalry shield unlike the Companions of Phillip and Alexander.

‘Companions’ was a title not used by the Seleucids in its original sense. It was replaced with different and various grades of ‘Kings Friends'. However, the title 'Companions' was kept as a regimental one. There was only one regiment or unit that held the title of Companions in the entire Hellenistic world though; the Antigonids and Ptolemies had different names for their elite cavalry regiments.

Eastern Roman Empire

The Hetaireia or Hetaeria was a corps of bodyguards during the Byzantine Empire. Its name means "the Company", echoing the ancient Macedonian Companion cavalry. The imperial Hetaireia was composed chiefly of foreigners. They acted as part of the Byzantine imperial guard alongside the tagmata in the 9th–12th centuries.

See also

References

  1. ^ Winthrop Lindsay Adams. Alexander the Great: legacy of a conqueror. p 8. ISBN 0-321-08617-1. (2004)
  2. ^ John V. A. Fine. The ancient Greeks: a critical history. p 612. ISBN 0-674-03314-0. (1983)
  3. ^ Lonsdale 40
  4. ^ Fuller 49
  5. ^ a b c Lansdale 41
  6. ^ Sage 185
  7. ^ Arrian, Alexander's Anabasis, III.16
  8. ^ a b Hammond 414
  9. ^ a b Hammond 416
  10. ^ Hammond 415
  11. ^ Sage 173–174
  12. ^ Sage 174
  13. ^ a b Lansdale 56
  14. ^ Arrian, Alexander's Anabasis VII.6

Works cited

  • Fuller, John Fredrick Charles (2004). The Generalship of Alexander the Great. Da Carpo Press. ISBN 978-0-306-81330-6. can be found at Google Books in preview
  • Hammond, Nicholas G. L. (1998). "Cavalry Recruited in Macedonia down to 322 BC". Historia: Zeitschrift für Alte Geschichte. 47 (4): 404–425. JSTOR 4436520.
  • Lonsdale, David J. (2007). Alexander the Great:lessons in strategy. Routlidge. ISBN 978-0-415-35847-7. can be found at Google Books in preview
  • Sage, Michael M. (1996). Warfare in ancient Greece. Routlidge. ISBN 978-0-415-14355-4. can be found at Google Books in preview
Ancient Macedonian army

The army of the Kingdom of Macedon was among the greatest military forces of the ancient world. It was created and made formidable by King Philip II of Macedon; previously the army of Macedon had been of little account in the politics of the Greek world, and Macedonia had been regarded as a second-rate power.

The latest innovations in weapons and tactics were adopted and refined by Philip II, and he created a uniquely flexible and effective army. By introducing military service as a full-time occupation, Philip was able to drill his men regularly, ensuring unity and cohesion in his ranks. In a remarkably short time, this led to the creation of one of the finest military machines of the ancient world.

Tactical improvements included the latest developments in the deployment of the traditional Greek phalanx made by men such as Epaminondas of Thebes and Iphicrates of Athens. Philip II improved on these military innovators by using both Epaminondas' deeper phalanx and Iphicrates' combination of a longer spear and smaller and lighter shield. However, the Macedonian king also innovated; he introduced the use of a much longer spear, the two-handed pike. The Macedonian pike, the sarissa, gave its wielder many advantages both offensively and defensively. For the first time in Greek warfare, cavalry became a decisive arm in battle. The Macedonian army perfected the co-ordination of different troop types, an early example of combined arms tactics — the heavy infantry phalanx, skirmish infantry, archers, light cavalry and heavy cavalry, and siege engines were all deployed in battle; each troop type being used to its own particular advantage and creating a synergy of mutual support.

The new Macedonian army was an amalgamation of different forces. Macedonians and other Greeks (especially Thessalian cavalry) and a wide range of mercenaries from across the Aegean and Balkans were employed by Phillip. By 338 BC, more than a half of the army for his planned invasion of the Achaemenid Empire of Persia came from outside the borders of Macedon — from all over the Greek world and the nearby barbarian tribes, such as the Illyrians, Paeonians, and Thracians.

Unfortunately, most of the primary historical sources for this period have been lost. As a consequence, scholarship is largely reliant on the works of Diodorus Siculus and Arrian, plus the incomplete writings of Curtius, all of whom lived centuries later than the events they describe.

Antigonid Macedonian army

The Antigonid Macedonian army was the army that evolved from the ancient Greek kingdom of Macedonia in the period when it was ruled by the Antigonid dynasty from 276 BC to 168 BC. It was seen as one of the principal Hellenistic fighting forces until its ultimate defeat at Roman hands at the Battle of Pydna in 168 BC. However, there was a brief resurgence in 150-148 during the revolt of Andriscus, a supposed heir to Perseus.

Starting as just a mere handful of mercenary troops under Antigonus Gonatas in the 270s BC, the Antigonid army eventually became the dominant force in Hellenistic Greece, fighting campaigns against Epirus, the Achaean League, Sparta, Athens, Rhodes and Pergamon, not to mention the numerous Thracian and Celtic tribes that threatened Macedon from the north.

The Antigonid army, as with the army of Philip II and Alexander the Great that came before it, was based principally around the Macedonian phalanx, which was a solid formation of men armed with small shields and long pikes called sarissae. The majority of Macedonian troops serving in the army would have made up the numbers of the phalanx, which took up to one-third to two-thirds of the entire army on campaign. Alongside the phalanx, the Antigonid army had its elite corps, the Peltasts, numerous Macedonian and allied cavalry and always a considerable amount of allied and mercenary infantry and auxiliary troops.

Battle of Gaugamela

The Battle of Gaugamela (; Greek: Γαυγάμηλα), also called the Battle of Arbela (Greek: Ἄρβηλα), was the decisive battle of Alexander the Great's invasion of the Persian Achaemenid Empire. In 331 BC Alexander's army of the Hellenic League met the Persian army of Darius III near Gaugamela, close to the modern city of Dohuk in Iraqi Kurdistan. Though heavily outnumbered, Alexander emerged victorious due to his army's superior tactics and his deft employment of light infantry. It was a decisive victory for the Hellenic League and led to the fall of the Achaemenid Empire.

Defeat in detail

Defeat in detail, or divide and conquer, is a military tactic of bringing a large portion of one's own force to bear on small enemy units in sequence, rather than engaging the bulk of the enemy force all at once. This exposes one's own units to many small risks but allows for the eventual destruction of an entire enemy force.

Glaucias of Macedon

Glaucias of Macedon was an officer of the Companion cavalry at the Battle of Gaugamela. He may be the Glaucias who, on Cassander's orders, murdered Alexander IV of Macedon and his mother Roxana in the citadel of Amphipolis.

Heavy cavalry

Heavy cavalry is a class of cavalry whose primary role was to engage in direct combat with enemy forces, and are heavily armed and armoured compared to light cavalry. Although their equipment differed greatly depending on the region and historical period, they were generally mounted on large powerful horses, and were often equipped with some form of scale, plated, chainmail or lamellar armour as well as either swords, maces, lances, or battle axes.

Hephaestion

Hephaestion (Ancient Greek: Ἡφαιστίων Hephaistíon; c. 356 BC – 324 BC), son of Amyntor, was an ancient Macedonian nobleman and a general in the army of Alexander the Great. He was "by far the dearest of all the king's friends; he had been brought up with Alexander and shared all his secrets." This relationship lasted throughout their lives, and was compared, by others as well as themselves, to that of Achilles and Patroclus.

His military career was distinguished. A member of Alexander the Great's personal bodyguard, he went on to command the Companion cavalry and was entrusted with many other tasks throughout Alexander's ten-year campaign in Asia, including diplomatic missions, the bridging of major rivers, sieges and the foundation of new settlements. Besides being a soldier, engineer and diplomat he corresponded with the philosophers Aristotle and Xenocrates and actively supported Alexander in his attempts to integrate the Greeks and Persians. Alexander formally made him his second-in-command when he appointed him Chiliarch of the empire. Alexander also made him part of the royal family when he gave him as his bride Drypetis, sister to his own second wife Stateira, both daughters of Darius III of Persia. When he died suddenly at Ecbatana around age thirty-two, Alexander was overwhelmed with grief. He petitioned the oracle at Siwa to grant Hephaestion divine status and thus Hephaestion was honoured as a Divine Hero. Hephaestion was cremated and his ashes taken to Babylon. At the time of his own death a mere eight months later, Alexander was still planning lasting monuments to Hephaestion's memory.

Hetairideia

Hetaeridia or Hetairidia (Ἑταιρίδεια) was a name of a festival among Macedonians and Magnesians (Athenaeus XIII. 572, quoting Hegesander). The origin of the Thessalian Hetaeridia is said to be related to Jason, who sacrificed to Zeus Hetaereius, "Zeus of the Companions" (the Argonauts) and called the festival by this name. Athenaeus continues "and the Macedonian kings also celebrated the Hetairidia (Θύουσι δὲ καὶ οἱ Μακεδόνων βασιλεῖς τὰ ῾Εταιρίδεια)". Scholars consider the Macedonian Hetaeridia an archaic festival and related to the Hetairoi (the name of the noble aristocracy and later Companion cavalry).

Hypaspists

A hypaspist (Greek: Ὑπασπιστής "shield bearer" or "shield covered") is a squire, man at arms, or "shield carrier". In Homer, Deiphobos advances "ὑπασπίδια" or under cover of his shield. By the time of Herodotus (426 BC), the word had come to mean a high status soldier as is strongly suggested by Herodotus in one of the earliest known uses:

"Now the horse which Artybius rode was trained to fight with infantrymen by rearing up. Hearing this, Onesilus said to his hypaspist, a Carian of great renown in war and a valiant man..."A similar usage occurs in Euripides's play "Rhesus" and another in his "Phoenissae". Xenophon was deserted by his horse in a particularly sticky situation. A hypaspist would differ from a skeuophoros in most cases because the "shield bearer" is a free warrior and the "baggage carrier" was probably usually a slave. The word may have had Homeric and heroic connotations that led Philip II of Macedon to use it for an elite military unit.

This unit, known as the Hypaspistai, or hypaspists, was probably armed like hoplites rather than as phalangites (pikemen) in Philip's Macedonian army. In battle, they were probably armed with the Greek aspis shield, spolas or linothorax body-armor, Hoplite's helmet, greaves, dory spear and a xiphos or kopis sword (though their equipment was likely more ornate than main-line soldiers). In set piece battles, the Macedonian Hypaspists were positioned on the flanks of the phalangite's phalanx; in turn, their own flanks were protected by light infantry and cavalry. Their job was to guard the flanks of the large and unwieldy pike phalanx, an armored soldier with an 18–22 ft. pike, the sarissa. The Phalangites were not particularly agile or able to turn quickly, so hypaspists would prevent attacks on the vulnerable sides of the formation. Their role was vital to the success of Philip's tactics because the Macedonian Phalanx was all but invulnerable from the front, and was, with five layers of iron spikes moving in unison, used as the anvil in a hammer and anvil tactic, where the Companion cavalry was the hammer that smashed the enemy against an anvil of thousands of iron spikes. As such an important yet vulnerable part of the Macedonian Army, it needed protection for its main vulnerability, the flanks. The protection/remedy for this vulnerability was the Hypaspists, who were able to conduct maneuvers and use tactics, which, owing to their hoplite panoply of weapons and armor, would have been impossible (or at least much less effective) if performed by the Phalangites.

It is worth noting that all the references to a unit called "Hypaspists" are much later than the period of Philip, and modern historians have to assume that later sources, like Diodorus Siculus (1st century BC) and Arrian, had access to earlier records.

Arrian's phrase tous kouphotatous te kai ama euoplotatous ) has frequently been rendered as 'lightest armed', although Brunt concedes it is more properly translated as 'nimblest' or 'most agile'.

There has been a great deal of speculation by military historians ever since the late Hellenistic period about the elite units of Philip's army. The hypaspists may have been raised from the whole kingdom rather than on a cantonal basis; if so, they were the King's Army rather than the army of the kingdom.

In the Hellenistic period, hypaspists apparently continued to exist, albeit in different capacities and under different names. The name lived on in the Seleucid, Ptolemaic and Antigonid kingdoms, yet they were now seen as royal bodyguards and military administrators. Polybius mentions a hypaspist being sent by Philip V of Macedon, after his defeat at the Battle of Cynoscephalae in 197 BC, to Larissa to burn state papers.The actual fighting unit of hypaspists seems to have lived on in Macedonia as the corps of 'Peltasts', whose status, equipment and role seems to have been almost exactly the same as that of the hypaspist under Philip. Originally consisting of 3,000 men, by the Third Macedonian War there were 5,000, most likely to accommodate their elite formation, the Agema.

Lancer

A lancer was a type of cavalryman who fought with a lance. Lances were used in mounted warfare by the Assyrians as early as 700 BC and subsequently by Greek, Persian, Gallic, Chinese, and Roman horsemen. The weapon was widely used in Asia and Europe during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance by armoured cavalry, before being adopted by light cavalry, particularly in Eastern Europe. In a modern context, a lancer regiment usually denotes an armoured unit.

Mallian Campaign

The Mallian Campaign was conducted by Alexander the Great from November 326 to February 325 BC, against the Malli of the Punjab. Alexander was defining the eastern limit of his power by marching down-river along the Hydaspes to the Acesines (now the Jhelum and Chenab), but the Malli and the Oxydraci combined to refuse passage through their territory. Alexander sought to prevent their forces meeting, and made a swift campaign against them which successfully pacified the region between the two rivers. Alexander was seriously injured during the course of the campaign, almost losing his life.

Philotas

Philotas (Greek: Φιλώτας, died October 330 BC) was the eldest son of Parmenion, one of Alexander the Great's most experienced and talented generals. He rose to command the Companion Cavalry, but was accused of conspiring against Alexander and executed.

Pinarus River

The Pinarus River (Greek: Πίναρος) is a small stream in southern Anatolia near today's Turkey—Syria border. It was famous in antiquity as the site of the First Battle of Issus, where Alexander the Great defeated Darius III of Persia.

Ancient sources describe it as being near a small coastal village or town which straddled the stream. The river was said to run red with blood after Alexander the Great, leading his elite Companion cavalry turned the right flank of the Persians, smashed the center, and routed the Persian forces personally led by Darius III of Persia, who subsequently fled the field in a panic.

Speculation on the location of the Pinarus has been raging for over 80 years. It was formerly believed it to be the Deli Çay, but the distances measured by Alexander's bematists and observations of the local topography, as compared to ancient descriptions, indicate that the Pinarus is actually the Payas River.The Issos River at approx. 36.30 East by 36.60 North is the geographical point that the battle is named after. The river starts in the hills and flows approx. 40 miles due west to the coast.

Sarissa

The sarisa or sarissa (Greek: σάρισα) was a long spear or pike about 4–6 metres (13–20 ft) in length. It was introduced by Philip II of Macedon and was used in his Macedonian phalanxes as a replacement for the earlier dory, which was considerably shorter. These longer spears improved the strength of the phalanx by extending the rows of overlapping weapons projecting towards the enemy, and the word remained in use throughout the Byzantine years to sometimes describe the long spears of their own infantry.

Sarissophoroi

The sarissophoroi (σαρισσοφόροι, sarissa bearers; singular: sarissophoros σαρισσοφόρος), also called prodromoi, were a unit of light cavalry in the ancient Macedonian army.

Somatophylakes

Somatophylakes (Greek: Σωματοφύλακες; singular: somatophylax, σωματοφύλαξ), in its literal English translation from Greek, means "bodyguards".

The most famous body of somatophylakes were those of Philip II of Macedon and Alexander the Great. They consisted of seven men, drawn from the Macedonian nobility, who also acted as high-ranking military officers, holding command positions such as general or chiliarch. Alexander the Great appointed Peucestas as eighth somatophylax after the siege of Malli.

The Battle of Alexander at Issus

The Battle of Alexander at Issus (German: Alexanderschlacht) is a 1529 oil painting by the German artist Albrecht Altdorfer (c. 1480–1538), a pioneer of landscape art and a founding member of the Danube school. It portrays the 333 BC Battle of Issus, in which Alexander the Great secured a decisive victory over Darius III of Persia and gained crucial leverage in his campaign against the Persian Empire. The painting is widely regarded as Altdorfer's masterpiece, and is one of the most famous examples of the type of Renaissance landscape painting known as the world landscape, which here reaches an unprecedented grandeur.

Duke William IV of Bavaria commissioned The Battle of Alexander at Issus in 1528 as part of a set of historical pieces that was to hang in his Munich residence. Modern commentators suggest that the painting, through its abundant use of anachronism, was intended to liken Alexander's heroic victory at Issus to the contemporary European conflict with the Ottoman Empire. In particular, the defeat of Suleiman the Magnificent at the Siege of Vienna may have been an inspiration for Altdorfer. A religious undercurrent is detectable, especially in the extraordinary sky; this was probably inspired by the prophecies of Daniel and contemporary concern within the Church about an impending apocalypse. The Battle of Alexander at Issus and four others that were part of William's initial set are in the Alte Pinakothek art museum in Munich.

Xyston

The xyston (Ancient Greek: ξυστόν "spear, javelin; pointed stick, goad") was a type of a long thrusting spear in ancient Greece. It measured about 3.5–4.25 meters (11.5–13.9 ft) long and was probably held by the cavalryman with both hands, although the depiction of Alexander the Great's xyston on the Alexander Mosaic in Pompeii (see figure), suggests that it could also be used single handed. It had a wooden shaft and a spear-point at both ends. Possible reasons for the secondary spear-tip were that it acted partly as a counterweight and also served as a backup in case the Xyston was broken in action. The xyston is usually mentioned in context with the hetairoi (ἑταῖροι), the cavalry forces of ancient Macedon. After Alexander the Great's death, the hetairoi were named xystophoroi (ξυστοφόροι, "spear-bearers") because of their use of the xyston lance. In his Greek-written Bellum Judaicum, the Jewish historian Flavius Josephus uses the term xyston to describe the Roman throwing javelin, the pilum.

The xyston was wielded either underarm or overarm, presumably as a matter of personal preference. It was also known, especially later, as the kontos; meaning literally "barge-pole"; the name possibly originated as a slang term for the weapon.

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