THE MACEDONIANS - PHILIP, ALEXANDER AND BEYOND

Our Macedonians were sculpted by Steve Saleh and Nick Collier with Mark Copplestone. Scroll down for historical information on Ancient Macedonian armies by Adrian Garbett or click on one of the following links to see the range:

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The Macedonians - Philip, Alexander and Beyond

By Adrian Garbett

The Legacy of Philip: When Philip II took the Macedonian throne in 359BC he inherited an army that was tribal and divided, the only troops of note were the excellent noble cavalry called hetairoi (Companions). Former Macedonian kings had attempted to reorganise the peasantry into a stable infantry contingent with varying levels of success and from this core Philip reformed the soldiers of upper and lower Macedonia into a formidable force.

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First he unified the country politically and set about giving his people a national identity that had been absent before. He developed an officer corps from the son's of leading nobles and then set about regularising the army. He named the infantry phalanx the pezetairoi (Foot Companions) and trained them in the arts of manoeuvre and campaigning. The mounted Companions ranks were opened to non-nobles and foreigners and their elite status was fostered.

In 358BC the Macedonian army was only able to field 10,000 foot and 600 horse by the battle of Chaeroneia (338BC) this had risen to 30,000 and 2,000 respectively. The dramatic increase in numbers is illustrated by the fact that Philip began with 800 Companions and at the end of his reign had over 3,000. To bolster the peasant phalanx he formed the hypaspist (shield bearer) regiments.

Philip also recognised the value of mercenaries to complement his national army and paid well thus securing their loyalty. He developed the largest and best equipped siege train of the period and made improvements to existing siege machines which enabled him to take towns with relative ease.

Before his murder Philip despatched over 10,000 troops to the Asiatic mainland possibly with the intention of taking on the mighty Persian Empire, that would have to wait for the entrance of one of the greatest generals in history, his son Alexander.

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The Army of Alexander: We are lucky to have accounts of the army Alexander took to Asia even if they can be disputed and occasionally authors figures conflict. The discussion and study of this army is probably only surpassed by that around the Imperial Romans and there are still heated debates about how they fought and were equipped especially the Hypaspist regiments. What is clear is that the Companions, Hypaspists and Foot Companions were the core of this superb army and it is these we will concentrate on.

Supporting these were large allied and mercenary contingents for which we have quite a deal of information. Many of the troops can be collected from other ranges and to give you some idea of the numbers involved here is a list of recorded units.

Alongside the Companions were some 1,800 Thessalian and 600 Greek heavy cavalry plus 900 Macedonian, Thracian and Paeonian light horse. Greek mercenaries (mostly peltasts) numbered 5,000, allied hoplites 7,000, 7,000 Thracian and Illyrian mercenary tribesmen and 1,000 skirmishing archers and Agrianian javelinmen. The whole force including the Macedonian regiments came to 5,100 cavalry and 32,000 infantry; Philip's previously despatched troops probably brought this up to 6,000 and 42,000 respectively. This was the army that would take on the largest Empire in the world and win!

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The Companions: The records say that there were 1,800 Companion cavalry with Alexander when he landed in Asia, this number is still disputed as we are told that the tactical formation was the ilai and this numbered 300 troops. There are eight ilai recorded as present so it is possible only the Royal ilai was full-strength with the other seven having a complement of 210. Whatever the numbers these were the best cavalry anywhere in the world at this time and won battle after battle for Alexander who frequently led them in person on the battlefield.

The Companions were armoured charging cavalry; they wore the reinforced linen cuirass similar to contemporary hoplites and a Boeotian helmet that offered good protection while allowing a wide field of vision and minimal interference with hearing. Officers may have worn a muscled cuirass and more ornate helmets; Alexander had a high Thracian-style example at the battle of Granikos. Crests and feathers would be white. Helmets could also be painted; one in white with a gold wreath around it is recorded. Equipment would be richly decorated for these elite troops.

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As the campaign proceeded Companions would have become less regimented in appearance as they replaced their equipment with that captured from Persians and Greeks. The original uniform seems to have been a bleached white long-sleeved tunic and a red brown cloak. Officers and members of the Royal ilai may have had edging to the tunic and decoration on the cloaks in purple as a sign of status, though in the hellenistic period purple cloaks were sometimes given as a mark of rank and this may have been the case here, often with a yellow border or decoration.

The main offensive weapon of the Companions was the xyston, a long lance (around 10 to 12 feet) with an iron head and bronze butt spike. The butt-spike was heavy to balance the lance as it seems to have been held further back than would be normal possibly to allow more reach. The Companions would charge in a wedge formation that would shatter all but the firmest infantry formations and then engage in hand-to-hand combat with their Greek-style swords. Apparently Alexander preferred to fight with his sword reinforcing his image as a daring individual.

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The Hypaspists: These regiments seem to have developed out of earlier Foot Companions, this may have been as a result of the old Foot Companions becoming the nucleus of the phalanx or that they changed into a royal guard regiment. Whatever their roots the Hypaspists performed a useful role for Philip II in that they were not a provincial force like the phalanx (see below) but were loyal to the royal line alone.

There were three regiments of Hypaspists each 1,000 men strong with one being designated the agema elite unit. The debate about Hypaspist equipment and battlefield role has been long and, as yet, unresolved although there are now some areas of agreement of historical facts about them and their exploits.

The theories run basically along the lines that the Hypaspists started out as either hoplites or some form of elite peltast. There is evidence for both these roles in that they carried a large hoplite shield and fought in the battle line but were also frequently sent on forced marches through difficult terrain, it is entirely possible that such a highly trained group of troops could fulfil both these roles. What is certain is that they finally became the elite phalanx of the Imperial army after they reached India so may have been phalangites even before this! Whatever the truth they were the equal of the Companions in bravery and training and their equipment should reflect this.

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As mentioned they carried a version of the hoplite shield (somewhat incompatible with the use of a pike it should be said) and wore the contemporary reinforced linen cuirass. They were renamed the argyraspides (silver shields) in India so may have had richly decorated shields. Helmets were typically of the Thracian style but with the addition of side crests, plumes and feathers (probably white again) to distinguish them as an elite body. Greaves would have also been worn.

Offensive equipment was either the hoplite thrusting spear or a pair of javelins according to the need. In the battle line they held the flank of the phalanx so would have used the spear, on campaign when they had to assault light troops or through broken ground javelins would have been more useful. The usual assortment of Greek swords would have been carried.

When you are collecting the Hypaspist regiments you need to decide which period you want, the earlier hoplite/peltast types are catered for in packs WG095, 123 & 125 while the argaraspides pikemen can come from WG113. Both periods can utilise officers and musicians from the Command pack WG091.

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The Foot Companions: The use of large bodies of men armed with pikes in deep formations was not an invention of Philip or Alexander but they both gave the phalanx a new role on the battlefield. Where once the pikemen had stood in dense, immobile ranks providing cover for their betters these Foot Companions were aggressive and key to the success of the Macedonian war machine. They were the pinning force that held the enemy in place for the hammer-blow of the Companions charge and as such were vital to Macedonian tactics.

Each Macedonian province provided troops for the phalanx and these men were organised into separate taxeis (regiments) each of 1,500 men. Alexander took six taxeis to Asia giving him a total of 9,000 seasoned and tough Macedonian peasants to take the brunt of the fighting. Each Foot Companion regiment fought either 10 or 16 ranks deep but could halve or double this as the need demanded. At the battle of Issos they were only 8 deep while they are recorded 32 deep while they were manoeuvring onto the battlefield.

Armour was a version of the ubiquitous linen cuirass but may have been ignored by the rear ranks altogether as it is unlikely that they would come to grips in the normal course of a battle. Helmets were simple versions of the usual Greek and Thracian examples while some may have substituted leather caps, straw, the Greek sun-hat called a petasos or the traditional Macedonian kausia. A small round shield called an aspis was carried; it had no rim and a baldric for supporting it to enable use of the pike in two hands. It had a bronze facing and may have been decorated with the Macedonian 8-pointed star in regimental colours.

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It should be remembered that equipment is mainly a morale-raising factor and that men with high motivation and self-belief will perform well whatever their armour so it is possible that lighter armour could denote better troops.

The primary weapon was of course the pike which was known in the Classical world as a sarissa, the shaft was made in two pieces of around 8' length joined by a steel tube of 6"-7". The spearhead was nearly 2' long and was balanced by a massive bronze butt-spike allowing the pike to be levelled at the hip and project forwards for the first five ranks of the phalanx. To give some idea of the unwieldliness of the pike consider that the usual hoplite spear was half the size and weighed 2.5lbs while a sarissa is a colossal 14.5lbs!

Collecting the Foot Companions: It is possible to depict the phalanx accurately with some ranks having levelled pikes as those to the rear keep theirs angled up to deflect missiles. You can also have armoured troops in the front ranks with less heavily equipped types behind them and completely unarmoured ones in the rear rank. To distinguish the taxeis of each province you can give them uniform colours for their helmet crests and shield designs. You could even choose to have different dress for each province, one might favour straw hats (WG096) while another wears helmets (WG101).

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The Successors of Alexander: After the premature death of Alexander his surviving generals and provincial governors fought incessantly for power, from these wars cam new and greater empires as well as many short-lived almost piratical states. The armies of these followers of Alexander were still based upon the Macedonian model but diversified much as the original had upon contact with foreign cultures.

There were several short-lived dynasties in the Macedonian homeland (finally annexed by Rome in 168BC), in Egypt the mighty Ptolemeic dynasty aped the Pharaohs and gave the world Cleopatra, the Seleukids of Syria and Asia Minor combined Macedonian and Persian culture, Eumenes rose from being Alexander's secretary to lord of Kappadocia, The father and son combination of Antigonas "One Eye" and Demetrius "The Besieger" (plus grandson Antigonas "Knock-Knees") added colour and nearly won an empire and the paranoid Lysimachos in Thrace with the wild tribes. The list goes on and on.

Almost all of the Macedonian range can be used for various Successors, the trousered (Greeks would say "barbarian") phalangites especially show the influence of the East and would fit later Imperial Macedonian, Seleukid and Baktrian armies.

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