Macedonian Unit Organisations

Part 2 - The Cavalry

A print version of this article was published in Slingshot, 216 (July 2001), pages 16-19

This page last modified: 23 June 2001, save for the above citation


This is an updated version of the 2nd half of an article I wrote for Slingshot (part 1 was in Issue 214, p35-38, and the updated version is here). I have incorporated footnotes and links to and from them. Some people don't like footnotes, so Slingshot doesn't encourage them, but I am not one of them!.

The literary sources are even less detailed in describing the mounted contingents in Alexander's army those of the foot, and the situation is somewhat the same in the tactical manuals of Ailian et al. For instance Asklepiodotos gives this list of cavalry units:

Telos ('corresponding to the keras of the phalanx')

However, he doesn't give the numerical strength of any of them, other than each one is double the size of the previous. If the telos corresponds to the former keras of the phalanx, an ile should be 64 men, if to the later keras, 256 men.10 Arrian adds an Epitagma after the Telos, but also says that an ile has 64 men (20.2), while Ailian (19.10) says that Polybios (no doubt in his lost tactical manual) described the Macedonian wedge-shaped ile as consisting of 64 men, and in his own list gives numbers so that the ile consists of 64 and the epitagma 4096 horsemen (20.2).

However, it is clear that when Arrian and Diodoros refer to a squadron of Alexander's cavalry as an ile, they are referring to a unit larger than 64 men: e.g. Arrian lists 8 such ilai of Companion cavalry at Gaugamela, when clearly the Companions numbered more than 512 men. This despite Arrian's own tactical manual! To further confuse the issue, they often use the word hipparchia for cavalry squadron, and in a manner that is seemingly at first interchangeabe with ile: e.g. Diodoros talks of the royal ile of Companions at Gaugamela (17.5.1), with other squadrons being called hipparchies. Alas neither Arrian nor Diodoros (nor any other historian) makes any explicit statement about the sizes of the Macedonian cavalry units under Alexander. Thus it is necessary to hunt for more clues in their narratives. Once again, the starting point is Diodoros' list of forces accompanying Alexander when he crossed the Hellespont, where he gives 1800 Macedonian cavalry (17.17.5).

Looking first at the Companions, the Macedonian heavy cavalry, it has traditionally been assumed that the seven squadrons of Companions additional to the royal squadron mentioned by Arrian at the battle of Gaugamela (3.11.8) were all present at the battle of Granikos. However, Macedonian cavalry reinforcements arrived after the battle of Granikos, 300 strong, and joined the army at Gordion (Arrian 1.29.4). Furthermore Polybios (12.19.2) has Kallisthenes recording a total 800 arriving before entering Cilicia, possibly meaning 300 horse at Gordion and another 500 just before Cilicia. Now interestingly although Arrian records 8 squadrons at Gaugamela, Diodoros gives 9 (17.57.1): the royal ile, the other 'Friends', plus 7 others.11 It seems likely that these 'Friends' were a new squadron formed out of some of the reinforcements, and over-looked by Arrian. Either casualties amongst the Macedonian horse were very much higher than anybody suspects, or one (or more) additional squadrons must have been formed at some time prior to Gaugamela (Companions being unlikely to be left behind as garrisons). Since four squadrons of Prodromoi are reported both at Granikos and much later (Arrian 1.12.7 and 4.4.6), any additional squadrons must have been Companions, and here we have just such an extra squadron recorded in Diodoros, who says that 'on the right wing Alexander stationed the royal squadron under the command of Kleitos the Black (as he was called), and next to this the other Friends under the command of Philotas son of Parmenion, then in succession the other seven squadrons under the same commander'. Tellingly, Arrian's text here is somewhat confused, since of the 8 squadrons he records, uniquely two are termed 'royal'. It seems that he or his source was confused as to what this additional squadron of 'Friends' was.

It has long been assumed that the royal squadron, frequently mentioned separately from the others, was 300 strong. This is perhaps partly because 300 was a traditional guard strength in Greece (eg. the Theban Sacred Band, the Spartan Hippeis), but also because 300 is the difference between the 1800 horse taken by Alexander according to Diodoros, and the 1500 he left behind in Macedon. The assumption is that the Companions were divided equally into two - 1,500 with Alexander and 1,500 with Antipater, with the difference of 300 being the Royal Squadron. The other 1500 men that went to Asia with Alexander would then be divided amongst the ordinary squadrons.

However, modern commentators like Bosworth and Green to the contrary, Diodoros doesn't actually say that Alexander left 1500 Macedonian horse behind when he crossed over to Asia. What he actually says (17.17.5) is "The soldiers (stratiotai) who were left behind in Europe under the command of Antipater numbered twelve thousand foot and fifteen hundred horse" - in other words he does not say that these men were Macedonians at all. Since in the previous sentences he has just listed a force of men the majority of whom are described as non-Macedonians, it would be very much stretching the text to say that these last enumerated men were all Macedonians. So we really have no reason to believe that the 1500 horse left behind were all Macedonians, let alone Companions, in which case the 'case' for making the royal squadron 300 strong looks to be rested on decidedly shaky ground.12

Fortunately however, there is further evidence for a 300-strong royal squadron, since various successors of Alexander all had 300-strong guard cavalry squadrons: Eumenes (Diodoros 19.28.3); Antigonos (Diodoros 19.29.5); Peukestas and Antigenes ( Diodoros 19.28.3). As all these men both claimed to stand in Alexander's place, and inherited the command of substantial portions of his troops, so it is reasonable to argue that they kept his military organisations intact, and indeed, even 150 years later Eucratides the Great of Bactrias' horseguards were still the traditional 300 strong (Justin 41.1.4).13

The support for a 300-strong royal squadron therefore seems reasonable. However, if this is the case, then making all the other Macedonian cavalry squadrons 300 strong looks improbable. Firstly, the fact that the royal squadrons of the Successors mentioned above are all described as 300 strong rather implies they were not the same strength as normal squadrons: why give their numbers separately if their strength was no different from the rest? Secondly, the numbers of Macedonian cavalry would then be rather high. At 300 men per ile, this would give some 3600 Macedonian horse with Alexander at the battle of Granikos if the (non-Macedonian) Paionians are reckoned at a single squadron: Plutarch (Alex. 16.2) says he lead 13 ilai there, counting the Prodromoi, Paionians, and Companions. In earlier times Philip could only field 3000 horse by including the Thessalians (Diodoros 16.35.4) and even four years before Granikos led only 'at least 2000' to victory over the Greeks (Diodoros 16.85.5). The Macedonian population was certainly expanding, but was it expanding at the rate it could now field up to 3600 horsemen in addition to those left in Macedonia under Antipater?

Furthermore, it would require that there be as many Macedonian horsemen in the Asian advance force as in the main expedition (though slightly less if we accept some Prodromoi in the 900 light horse of Diodoros: see below), which sounds rather improbable. Furthermore, a 300-men ile cannot be reconciled with the tactical manuals as an even multiple of 64. Admittedly there is one mention of a body (if not a unit) of 300 Macedonian horse who are not part of the royal squadron: reinforcements from Macedon (Arrian 1.29.4). However, I would argue that figures for such reinforcements tell us little, if anything, about unit strengths, since such men would have been posted into units only upon catching up with the army.

Given the confusion in Asklepiodotos about the relationship of the phalanx keras to the horse telos, there is the possibility that somehow a 64-man ile has been confused with a 256-man ile. It is perhaps notable that Arrian at one point refers to group of 60 Companions (4.3.7), which might be such a 64-man sub-unit. How then would a 256-man ile fit the evidence?

Given Diodoros' 1800 Macedonian cavalry accompanying Alexander, subtracting 300 for the royal squadron (which naturally would be with the King) leaves 1500 Macedonian horse. At 256 men per squadron, this would represent almost exactly 6 squadrons (a paper strength of 256 would give 1536 men). To make Plutarch's 12 squadrons at Granikos (Alex. 16.2, again assuming the Paionians are one squadron, as seems likely, e.g. Arrian 3.8.1) we would therefore need to posit another 5 squadrons in the advance force totalling 1250 men, giving just over 3000 Macedonian horse at Granikos. This is still a fairly high total, although much more reasonable than with 300-man squadrons.

Alas, the total number of cavalry in the advance force is not stated in any source. Plutarch records that ancient estimates (by Aristobolos, Ptolemy and Anaximenes) of Alexander's cavalry at Granikos ranged from 4000 to 5500 horse (Alex. 15, and Mor. 327D-E), and Brunt proposed that the difference between Anaximenes' high figure and the lower ones was in part due to the cavalry of advance force being missing from the lower totals. However, after subtracting Anaximenes' 5500 from the 5100 of Diodoros and Ptolemy, this only leaves 400 cavalry for the advance-party, and as Brunt points out: 'it was well known that the enemy strength lay in cavalry; so small a contingent would have been inadequate, and bears no relation to the resources in cavalry at Philip's disposal'. Hence Brunt (and following him, Milns) conjectured that the cavalry force in the advance-party should be 1000 (and the total number of cavalry at Granikos be 6100) made up of 400 mercenary and 600 Macedonian cavalry because Philip had an abundance of native cavalry.

This many mercenary cavalry is reasonable; Arrian splits off what appears to be 200 mercenary cavalry at 1.23.6, implying there were more than 200 in total, but it is still only a guess.14 Likewise, the figure of 600 Macedonians is also just a guess. Brunt, when conjecturing 8 ilai of Companions averaged over 200 men says (p35) that "we might expect the 4 ilai of Macedonian prodromoi not to be very much inferior in strength; the figure of 900 seems rather too low to comprise them as well as the Paeonians and the Thracians, who probably numbered 600 (the contingent Callisthenes probably overlooked)".

Thus the figure of 600 seems to come from nowhere other than being the 'missing 600' of Diodoros' troop list (5100 men) and his troops totals (4500 men). Brunt's explanation would seem to call for 600 missing Prodromoi, and Milns takes this up, deducing that 300 Prodromoi accompanied Alexander when he crossed into Asia Minor and when added to the 600 Thracian and Paionian horse, gave the 900 mentioned by Diodoros, while 600 more were part of the advance party. However, perhaps a better force to be given a strength of 600 as 'missing' is allied or mercenary cavalry. Erigyios is said to command 600 allies by Diodoros (17.17.4) when crossing into Asia, but Arrian has Philip commanding them at Granikos (1.14.3), with Erigyios commanding allies only at Gaugamela (3.11.10). Unless Arrian is mistaken, Erigyios then is unlikely to have commanded these allies when Diodoros states he did. He could however have commanded mercenaries, and interestingly mercenaries are not mentioned in the battle at Granikos, even though some were most likely present (see above and Arrian 1.23.6). After the allies were sent home Arrian records Erigyios commanding the mercenary horse (3.23.2), so he may have done so before. Diodoros may have confused 600 Greek mercenaries with 600 Greek allies. Perhaps, as Brunt suggests, they were tardy arriving, missing the muster or crossing, but making it in time for Granikos (under Philip).

The reason Milns added some of these Prodromoi in with the Thracian and Paionian horse is that Diodoros' cavalry list is textually flawed. Diodoros says "Thrakes de prodromoi kai Paiones ennakosioi" - that is, "Thracians scouts and Paionians: 900". Milns suggested amending it to "Thrakes de kai prodromoi kai Paiones ennakosioi": that is, "Thracians and scouts and Paionians, 900", on the basis of Brunt's observation that 1800 Macedonian cavalry representing the Companions and Prodromoi together is too few, and this interpretation has found great favour. However, it is not without problems.

Firstly, it puts the Prodromoi in the category of 'non-Macedonian' and all the evidence points to the Prodromoi being Macedonian, e.g. at 2.8.9, Arrian talks about the Companions, and the (other) Macedonian horse, and we know of no other possible candidates for non-Companion Macedonian cavalry than the Prodromoi.15 It could be argued that Diodoros puts mercenary Thracian infantry in the non-mercenary category too, but it is clear that here Diodoros is referring to Greek mercenaries rather than all mercenaries. Secondly, it means the number of Thracian and Paionian horse would be rather small if these 900 men also include some (if not all) of the Macedonian Prodromoi. One might have thought that 900 was few enough given the more than Balkan 7000 infantry accompanying them, and later reinforcements alone of Thracian cavalry are recorded numbering 500 (Arrian 3.5.1) and even 600 strong (Diodoros 17.65.1).16

Thirdly, it would result in an advance party with 3 squadrons of Macedonian light horse, and none of heavy; while the force at home would have just 1 light to 8 heavy squadrons. As Duncan Head has pointed out to me, this would lead to a rather unbalanced forces, when elsewhere Philip and Alexander both seemed to have attached great importance to blanced forces. This is especially true for the advance force: while Balkan light horse might substitute for Macedonian Prodromoi, Greek mercenary cavalry could hardly be classed in the same category as Macedonian Companions. Fourthly, it would lead to an advance force of 1000 horse compared to 11000 infantry, a ratio of just over 8%, whereas the main force had a ratio of 5100 horse to 32000 infantry, or nearly 14%, despite Brunt's own comment about the strength of the expected cavalry opposition!

Finally, it is difficult to make such a force composition based on (non-royal) squadrons averaging 200 men reconcile with Arrian's statement that Alexander had some 7000 horse at Gaugamela (3.12.5) without introducing unknown non-Macedonian cavalry squadrons to make up the shortfall in numbers. Even assuming no losses over the entire campaign, the 6100 horse added to the reinforcements received later on only just makes 7000; losses of course clearly occurred. Therefore we can be confident that the number of cavalry in the advance force was over 1000, and probably well over.

To my mind a far better emendation would be to read Diodoros' phrase as saying "Thracian scouts and Paionians: 900", making scout an adjective rather than a noun. There is no compelling reason that light Thracian horsemen should not be described as 'scouts'; Athens had a complement of prodromoi to accompany its regular cavalry at this time (Aristotle, Ath. Pol. 49.1), and there is nothing particularly 'Macedonian' about the word prodromoi; on the contrary, 'scouts' would be a good description for light horsemen such that Thrace produced. That Diodoros doesnÕt call them 'scouts' elsewhere is hardly a great objection, since he mentions them so few times, and having once described them as scouts need not so describe them again. Perhaps the clinching factor is that Arrian also, at one single point, calls the Paionian horse 'prodromoi' (3.8.1); and if the Paionians can be so described, then so can the neighbouring Thracians they are paired with.17

With 256-man squadrons, taking the Paionians as a single squadron (and certainly they would be considerably outnumbered by the Thracians), there then would be 5 squadrons in the advance force, or 1250-odd men. If we take Brunt's estimate of 400 mercenary cavalry at face value (and they are more likely 600 strong), that would give 1650 horse to about 11000 infantry, a far more reasonable ratio of 13%. Furthermore, there is no necessity to assume any light/heavy imbalances, since the Prodromoi would be included amongst the Macedonian totals, and each force would have had a mixture: probably both had 2 squadrons of Prodromoi.

As an aside, I make no comments about the organisation of non-Macedonian cavalry. Since Macedonian horse used wedge-shaped formations, while Thessalian horse used rhomboids, and other Greek horse oblong formations, their unit organisations would naturally be different. As for Paionians, the fact that they could be described as an ile is the only evidence I can find for them having any organisation at all! Even the evidence for Prodromoi having the same organisation as Companions is circumstantial, being mostly based on the lack of evidence to the contrary.

Is there then any direct evidence for 250-men Macedonian squadrons? To which I can only say no! However, the evidence for any number at all for a single squadron is very slim. The only direct evidence I can find is that 200 Companions are detached to take over Magnesia (Arrian 1.18.1). Campaigning in the Balkans, we find Alexander deploying 400 horsemen (Arrian 1.5.10) into 2 bodies of 200 (Arrian 1.6.1). The providence of these men isn't given, but since they are accompanied by Hypaspists, archers and Agrianians, they are very likely to be Companions, since Alexander uses similarly composed forces elsewhere. It would be nice to suggest that these two examples show units of 192 men (3 by 64) but triples do not fit into tactical manuals' scheme of things, and as we have seen, causes the number of Macedonian cavalry to be too few. Perhaps we have here below-strength units of 256; both instances being halfway through campaigns, and cavalry units are expected to have higher attrition (if not casualty) rates than infantry due to losses of mounts.18

Other than this, not counting contingents listed as reinforcements, we have very few examples to decorate any argument with. We see 300 unspecified cavalry watching Persians at Issos (Arrian 2.9.4, the same force is described as two squadrons by Curtius, using the Latin term 'ala'), these could well be mercenaries. There are the 200 horse sent off to Karia (Arrian 1.23.6), these are probably mercenaries too however. Then there are the 1500 cavalry crossing the Danube (Arrian 1.3.6) who are probably mostly, if not all, Macedonian; all-in-all, a not very persuasive body of evidence for anything. There are a few other figures mentioned, but they seem to fit no set pattern. There is fragment of Theopompus' work however (FgrH 225b) relating to Philip's Companions in the 340's, before Philip had subdued Greece, that may be of some relevance. This states the Companions numbered 800 men, and this might be seen as a royal ile of 300 and two others of 250, but with such small numbers nothing can be concluded with confidence.

Alexander reorganised the Macedonian army after Gaugamela, as I discussed previously in part 1 describing the infantry. Curtius (5.2.3) says that the Macedonians were reorganised from 'lochoi' of 500 men (the 'pentakosiarchia' of the Hellenistic manuals) to units of 1000 (a 'chiliarchia'), but he doesnÕt say which infantry were reorganised, or indeed if any of the infantry were (infantry are assumed as a 'lochoi' is normally used of infantry, but see below).

However, there is evidence that the cavalry were also reorganised, and in a similar way. Arrian says (3.16.11) that from then on, each squadron (ile) was formed from two lochoi, and that previously there had been none. Much later, near the end of his reign, Alexander recruited large numbers of Persians into the army, and some of these were placed amongst the Companions, since Arrian records the formation of a new fifth 'hipparchy', mostly made up of Persians (7.6.3). Since Arrian has previously recorded 8 squadrons (ilai) of Companions, e.g. at Gaugamela, the logical inference is that hipparchies were larger units than ilai, since if a hipparchy was the same as an ile, there would already be a fifth such squadron in existence.

I would postulate that these hipparchies were first formed after Gaugamela, each from two ilai. If the Alexandrian ile was 256 men strong as I suggest, this would give a 512-man hipparchia, just as in the manuals of Ailian et al. The manuals use the term 'Tarentinarchia' for a 256-man unit, but such a term is obviously post-Alexandrian (probably introduced by Pyrrhus, after contact with his Tarentine allies) so would not have been in use in Alexander's time. Another term is required, and this would be the ile of Arrian as used in his history (but not his manual). Later armies, using Tarentinarchia for the Alexandrian ile, used ile to refer to the smaller 64-man unit, causing confusion for later writers like Ailian, who says 'it is also possible to make ilai both larger and smaller' (21.3). The case is similar for the term 'taxis' as used of the infantry: a 128-strong company according to the manuals, but used in the narratives of entire battalions probably 2000 strong.

This scheme would have the 8 ilai of Companions being formed into 4 hipparchies. The royal ile kept its separate existence, and if this ile was a non-standard sized unit of 300 men, it mightn't have been combined in this manner easily in any case. The discrepancy between Arrian's 8 ilai and Diodoros' 9 ilai/hipparchies at Gaugamela before the reorganisation might then be explained as a confusion on Arrian's part (and/or his sources) knowing that 8 ilai were combined into 4 hipparchies, but failing to account for the royal squadron. Diodoros' usage of ile for the royal squadron at Gaugamela but hipparchy of the others is telling, even if he is confused about the difference between the two (Diodoros' chronology is notoriously faulty at times). Arrian's one previous mention of a Companion hipparchy (1.23.3) could then be seen as an anachronism. This would hardly be his only one however: by way of example he records one Adaios (1.22.7) as a Chiliarch, despite him firstly commanding a (presumably mercenary) taxis (1.21.4) when we would expect to find a taxiarch commanding a taxis, and secondly being described as a chiliarch when chiliarchies were apparently only first formed much later (Curtius 5.2.3). All other references to hipparchies in Arrian post-date the Susan reorganisation.

It is possible to object to the formation of 4 hipparchies on the grounds that not much later on (Arrian 3.27.4), only 2 hipparchs were created to command the Companions, now split into 2 portions, when we might expect four if there were four hipparchies, and Brunt does indeed object in this manner. However, it may readily be seen that the 'Susan reorganisation' did not occur overnight as our sources at first glance imply.19 The royal squadron for instance was still referred to as such for a short time afterwards (Arrian 3.19.6, after which he uses the term 'agema', like the senior unit of the hypaspists, e.g. 4.24.2), and significantly, in this transitional period, Arrian refers to the other cavalry being organised into units called a 'tetrarchy', a word used here just once (3.18.5), for thereafter he talks about hipparchies. Clearly this tetrarchy represents a new transitional unit that has yet to acquire a formal name. A rather mundane word tetrarchy implies a composition of 4 sub-units, and if each of these is the newly-created lochoi of Arrian (3.16.11), this tetrarchy would be a 512-man unit - in other words the new hipparchy before it had been named as such. Thus a hipparch would not have been a commander of a hipparchy when the hipparchies were first created, because they were actually called tetrarchies instead. Hipparchies are only first attested by Arrian after the Oxus had been crossed (3.29.7), after the last of the Thessalians and old veterans had been sent home (3.29.5) - in other words hipparchies were named from the hipparchs, and not vice versa.

Brunt also argues that the new hipparchies were just the old ilai renamed, since there were clearly more than 4 hipparchies by the time Alexander was campaigning in the Hindu Kush. However, by this time the Prodromoi no longer existed (they are last mentioned by Arrian at 4.4.6, the only horse still formed in ilai); if, as is likely, they had been absorbed into the Companions, their 4 ilai would have made another 2 hipparchies. Since the organisation of a taxis of akontistai or mounted javelinmen, (Arrian 3.24.1) and hippotoxotai or mounted archers (Arrian 4.24.1), the Prodromoi had been superseded as light cavalry, while the departure of the Thessalians had left the army short of heavy cavalry, so inferring the Prodromoi were now included in the Companions is entirely reasonable. Furthermore, Brunt argues that the Companions were still purely Macedonian, but this ignores Arrian's statement (3.16.11) that in the 'Susan reorganisation', the cavalry reinforcements were all drafted into the Companions, regardless of nationality, unlike the foot, so that Greeks and possibly Asians were already swelling their ranks, which might imply more hipparchies would have to have been created. Since by 327 we know the names of at least 6 hipparchs, this would imply at least 6 hipparchies. Brunt assumes that we have not been told all their names to arrive at his 8 hipparchies renamed from ilai, but hhis approach must surely underestimate the strength of the Macedonian horse. 8 hipparchies is however more than possible, since Arrian 4.22.7 has Hephaistion take half the Companion cavalry, leaving Alexander with 4 hipparchies in addition to the royal squadron in 4.24.1. Admittedly, it is not said that Alexander's were all Companions - a mercenary hipparchy is attested by Arrian at 4.4.6, but given the evidence of Dio and the 25000 suits of armour, 4000 Companions is in my opinion quite likely. This would also accord with the number of cavalry in the idealised manuals of the Ailian et al.20

One possible problem is that new hipparchy Arrian records as being mostly made up of Persians late in Alexander's reign (7.6.4) is described as being the "fifth" hipparchy when clearly there were more than 4 hipparchies already in existence. Certainly severe casualties were taken crossing the Gedrosian desert, so that the number of hipparchies may have been reduced as a result, although I feel it would be more likely for their individual strengths to have been lowered, rather than units being kept at full strength by amalgamating depleted formations, and in any case, this was considerably later, and reinforcements were arriving all the time from Europe.

I believe we should see this fifth 'hipparchy' as a new fifth unit that wasn't a hipparchy, but something corresponding to the 1000-man Ephipparchia of the manuals - a source (or medieval scribe) confusing ephipparchia for hipparchia would be easy enough to understand.21 This would at least make better sense of the numbers. Arrian records Asiatic horsemen being distributed amongst the Macedonians (Arrian 7.6.3, 7.8.2), as had the earlier non-Macedonians at Susa; as they fought in Macedonian units they were presumably armed in the Macedonian style (Arrian 7.6.5). I have postulated 6 hipparchies' worth of men from the old Macedonian units of Companions and Prodromoi as making 3 units worth of 1000 horse, and another 1000 Asiatics would make up the numbers for 2 hipparchies worth of extra Companions so that there were 4 of these (mostly) Macedonian (ep)hipparchies. It was only when Alexander created this new fifth Companion unit almost entirely of Iranians that Macedonian resentment boiled over into mutiny. It may be significant that the Seleucid Iranian agema was 1000-strong (Polybios 30.25) if we have here a descendent of Alexander's original all-Iranian regiment. 22

It might also be significant that the text of Arrian concerning this fifth unit is a bit confused. Brunt translates "There were also aggrieved at... the incorporation of (various foreign) troopers in the Companion cavalry,... at the addition to these of a fifth hipparchy, though it was not entirely barbarian, but when the whole cavalry force had been enrolled for the purpose". It seems that four units of Companions had received a minority of foreigners, and a new fifth unit created mostly of foreigners. The phraseology of 'but when the whole cavalary force had been enrolled for the purpose' seems to make no sense, but the usage of 'whole force' and 'enrolled' together to me implies so,e sort of reorganisation, since troopers already enrolled into the army are unlikely be reenrolled into units that remain the same, but could be enrolled into new units.

To conclude this section then, Alexander's Macedonian cavalry was initially organised into ilai of 250 men, except for the royal squadron which was 300 strong. Between the battle of Gaugamela and the capture of Bessos, the ilai were reorganised into 500 strong hipparchies, and the royal squadron was renamed the agema. As Alexander's army grew in size, non-Macedonians were incorporated into the cavalry, and eventually the hipparchies grew to 8 in number. These figures are again somewhat greater than most previous estimates of AlexanderÕs forces have allowed.

Taking all the available evidence together, I would thus chart the following evolution of the Macedonian portion of Alexander's field army:

Granikos, 334 BC: 2000 Hypaspists, in 4 pentakosiarchies of 500; 12000 Pezetairoi in 6 taxeis of 2000, 500 archers, 300 royal Companions, 1750 other Companions in 7 ilai of 250, 1000 Prodromoi in 4 ilai of 250.

Gaugamela, 331 BC: 2000 Hypaspists, in 4 pentakosiarchies of 500; 12000 Pezetairoi in 6 taxeis of 2000, 500 archers, 300 royal Companions, 2000 other Companions in 8 ilai of 250, 1000 Prodromoi in 4 ilai of 250.

Skythia, 329 BC: 3000 Hypaspists, in 3 chiliarchies of 1000; 14000 Pezetairoi in 7 taxeis of 2000, 1000 archers, 300 agema Companions, 2000 other Companions in 4 hipparchies of 500, 1000 Prodromoi in 4 ilai of 250.

India, 327 BC: 3000 Hypaspists, in 3 chiliarchies of 1000; 14000 Pezetairoi in 7 taxeis of 2000, 1000 archers, 300 agema Companions, 4000 other Companions in 8 hipparchies of 500.

India, 326 BC: 4000 Hypaspists, in 4 chiliarchies of 1000; 16000 Pezetairoi in 8 taxeis of 2000, 1000 archers, 300 agema Companions, 4000 other Companions in 8 hipparchies of 500.

Babylon, 324 BC: 4000 Argyraspids, in 4 chiliarchies of 1000; 16000 Pezetairoi in 8 taxeis of 2000, 1000 archers, 300 agema Companions, 4000 other Companions in 4 ephipparchies of 1000 (plus 1000 other Companions and 30000 mostly Persian Pezetairoi).

Babylon, 323 BC: 1000 Argyraspids; 10000 Pezetairoi in 5 taxeis of 2000 (some of which are having Persian missile troops incorporated into their ranks), 300 agema Companions, 4000 other Companions in 4 ephipparchies of 1000 (plus 1000 mostly Persian Companions, 1000 Persian Hypaspists, 1000 Persian Argyraspids, 1000 Persian agema and 27000 other mostly Persian Pezetairoi)



10. Ile in the singular, ilai in the plural. Return

11. These others are described as hipparchies rather than ilai. Return

12. This assumes no Prodromoi amongst the 1800 Macedonains, see later for the validity of this assumption. Return

13. The military conservatism of the Graeco-Bactrian and Indo-Greek kingdoms, isolated from the more dymanic West is at times quite striking. Return

14. The test in translation reads "...left 3000 mercenary foot and 200 horse under Ptolemaios..." and the Greek is as ambiguous as the English as to whether these hotse are mercenaries or not. However, mercenary horse are mentioned in ever increasing numbers fom this time onwards, and it is very likely that they were used right from the outset. Return

15. That the (mounted) Prodromoi seem to be called called 'sarissophoroi' in places (eg. Arrian 1.14.1 and 1.14.6, concerning what is clearly the same body of horsemen) might be regarded as evidence of their Macedonian nature, but as Duncan Head has pointed out (Slingshot 214, p10-13), some Thracians are also recorded as using the sarissa. Return

16. Curtius records the arrival of some 5000 Thracian horse reinforcements at one point (9.3.21), and I would be inclined to think this is an exagerration, although Diodoros records a little less than 6000 arriving (of unspecified nationality) on the same occasion (17.95.4). Return

17. 'Scout' is rather an inadequate translation of prodromoi, which literally means 'runners ahead', for genuine scouts are termed 'skopoi' in the Greek sources. Prodromoi need not be on horseback, which might be why Arrian sometimes refers to the Macedonians ones as 'prodromous hippeas' (1.14.6, mounted scouts) to make the point explicit. Return

18. There remains the likelyhood that the royal ile was amongst these 400 horsemen, which may complicate things further (cf. Arrian 3.1.4, 3.18.5) since it was likely 300 strong. Return

19. Arrian has the reinforcements and subsequent reorganistaion both take place in Susa (3.16.10), but Curtius has the reinforcements arrive before, in Babylon (5.1.40-42) and the reorgainsation take place somewhat later, in Sittacene (5.2.1-7) while Diodoros has the reinforcements arrive just after leaving babylon, and again the reorganisation take place in sittacene, before arriving in Susa. No doubt such an extensive reorgainsation took some time. Return

20. The 4000 cavalry of the manuals should not be pressed too far, as that of the manuals includes types other than lance-armed Companion-style cavalry. Return

21. That is the previous 8 hipparchies would comprise 4 (ep)hipparchies. That no source talks about such a reorganisation perhaps need not be an overriding objection, since the sources fail to detail any of the other reorganisations as well. Return

22. It is perhaps tempting to see such 1000-strong units cavalry units behind Curtius' implication that the cavalry as well as the foot were reorganised into chiliarchies from 500-strong 'lochoi' (5.2.3), perhaps misdating my proposed later cavalry organisational change from hipparchies of 500 to (ep)hipparchies of 1000. Return

References, sources, etc.:

P.Connolly, "Greece and Rome at War"; MacDonald, 1981
Ailian's Taktike Theoria, translated by A.M. Devine; Ancient World, 19 (1989), 31
Arrian's Taktike (Teubner edition of 1968, Greek text only)
Asklepiodotos' Taktike (Loeb edition of 1977 along with other authors)
A.M.Devine, "Polybius' Lost Tactica: The Ultimate Source for the Tactical Manuals of Asclepiodotus, Aelian, and Arrian?", The Ancient History Bulletin 9.1 (1995) 40-44, available on-line at:
Diodoros' Universal History (Loeb edition of 1963; and also available on line at Perseus here
Polybios (Loeb edition of 1925)
Arrian's Anabasis of Alexander (P.A.Brunts' Loeb edition of 1976)
A.B.Bosworth, "Conquest and Empire: The reign of Alexander the Great"; Cambridge University Press, 1988
P.Green, "Alexander of Macedon"; University of California Press, 1991
Plutarch's Life of Alexander (Loeb edition of 1919)
Plutarch's On the Fortune or Virtue of Alexander (in 'Moralia', Loeb edition)
Justin's Epitome of the Philippic History of Pompeius Trogus. Translated by J.C.Yardley, American Philological Association, Classical Resources Series, Scholars Press, Atlanta GA, 1994, ISBN 1-55540-951-2. Introduction and Notes by R.Develin.
P.A.Brunt, "Alexander's Macedonian Cavalry"; Journal of Hellenic Studies, 83 (1963), 27
Polyainos' Stratagems and Excerpts, Ares edition of 1994, translated by P.Krentz and E.Wheeler, ISBN 0-89005-503-3
Quintus Curtius' History of Alexander (Loeb edition of 1946, J.Yardley's Penguin edition of 1984)
P.Hall, "At the Ends of Empire: Alexander's Bactrian War"; Slingshot, 210, 12
A.B.Bosworth, "A Cut Too Many? Occam's Razor And Alexander's Footguard"; The Ancient History Bulletin, 11.2-3 (1997), 47
N.G.L.Hammond, "Arrian's Mentions of Infantry Guards"; The Ancient History Bulletin, 11.1 (1997), 20
R.D.Milns, "Alexander's Macedonian Cavalry and Diodoros XVII.17.4"; Journal of Hellenic Studies, 86 (1966), 166
F.Jacoby, "Die Fragmente der Griechischen Historiker, Part IIb"; Berlin, 1927
D.Head, "The Thracian Sarissa"; Slingshot, 214, 10
D.Karunanithy, "Of Ox-Hide Helmets and Three-Ply Armour: The Equipment of Macedonian Phalangites"; Slingshot, 213, 33


Without Michael Anastasiadis, Duncan Head and Nik Fincher's many very useful discussions this article would never have seen the light of day. I would also like to thank Kevin Donovan and Chris Webber for checking some of the above sources for me - being stuck in Japan, source information is hard to come by, though I am gradually acquiring more.


Return to my homepage index, go to my Battle of Granikos DBM scenario or return to the Macedonian Infantry Notes section.