The Evolution of Hellenistic Infantry, part 2:

Infantry of the Successors

(part 1 is here)

A print version of this article was published in Slingshot, 223 (July 2002), pages 23-28

This page last modified: January 21, 2002, save for the above citation


Upon the death of Alexander the Great, the Macedonian empire lacked a clear heir. Accordingly, his leading generals, the Diadochoi (the Successors), divided power amongst themselves as a temporary measure while they manoeuvred to overcome their rivals and secure sole power for themselves. Nobody succeeded in the task, and as a result the various fragments continued an independent existence until the end of the Hellenistic era. The leading contenders in the immediate struggle were all Macedonian aristocrats, save for Eumenes, Alexander's Greek military secretary. As a Greek, he could never hope to gain the throne vacated by Alexander himself, so he acted in the name of Alexander's postumously-born infant son. Each Successor's initial force differed in composition, reflecting the troops they had either inherited from holding an independent command under Alexander (as was the case of Antipatros, Krateros or Antigonos) or had been doled out in the initial division of power (Perdikkas, Ptolemy or Seleukos for instance).

In such a climate, military resources were at a premium. Faced with a finite, and indeed, strictly limited number of Macedonian troops, the Successors had two courses open to them if they wanted to enlarge their armies. The most obvious one was to raise troops from amongst the non-Macedonian peoples subject to them. This was something of a two edged sword however, since an armed and trained native populace was that much more likely to rebel.1 The other, and more widely adopted alternative, was to fall back on mercenary troops. Alexander of course had used huge numbers of mercenaries himself, Greek and non-Greek, but he only needed them in the main to perform secondary roles as the Macedonians bore the brunt of the fighting. His Successors were forced to use them in place of Macedonians, who now came to be just the elite core of most armies, greatly outnumbered by non-Macedonians.

Of necessity, mercenaries were now deployed in the main phalanx. According to Diodoros, Antigonos' phalanx at Paraitakeni comprised 9000 such men, in addition to 3000 Lykians and Pamphylians, 8000 mixed-race troops armed in the Macedonian manner (these apparently were a proportion of the 30000 mixed-race troops Curtius and Diodoros record Alexander having ordered to be trained while he was campaigning in India), plus 8000 Macedonians lent to him by the Macedonian regent Antipatros, an unusually large contingent for the times. Clearly the mercenaries who fought in such phalanxes were not traditional skirmishing peltasts. It is just possible that some mercenaries were being trained to fight in the Macedonian manner with the sarissa rather than Iphikrates' equipment, although there is no direct evidence for it, and the likelyhood remains that the great majority were Iphikratean-style hoplites.2

The Peltast's return?

Because the Macedonians were the most proficient part of each Successor's army army, and also the hardest to replace, the Diadochoi had an incentive to use them sparingly. Alexander had used his Macedonians on numerous side actions up mountain and down dale in the course of his conquests, rooting out opposition wherever he found it. Casualties were constantly replaced by yet more drafts from home, denuding the country of fighting men.3 What was appropriate for Alexander was not for the Successors. They had to harbour their Macedonians for use in the pitched battles that ultimately decided all their fates.4 In any case, such side-operations were increasingly rare - Asia had after all been conquered, the only opposition of note were the other Diadochoi (or Greeks fighting in a similar manner), and battles between them were normally decided in the open plains, not in mountain passes. If they needed troops to occupy mountain passes, they turned to more expendable men. Hence we see the faint return of the peltast. Diodoros 19.19.4 has this seemingly stray reference: Antigonos "selected the finest of his peltasts and divided the bowmen, the slingers, and the other psiloi into two parts... occupy the places that were narrow and difficult". The usage of the word peltast here comes as a complete surprise, since Diodoros until this point makes no mention of peltasts in Antigonos' army, and indeed, makes no mention of peltasts in the entire previous two volumes of his history, concerning affairs from Philip's time onwards.

I believe the clue lies in the choice of the phrase 'finest' peltasts. Greek mercenaries for two generations had not performed peltast-like functions (at least in the parts of the world we are informed about), and so were not described as peltasts in the sources; their role as light-armed troops had been usurped by Macedonians and other Balkan troops.5 Should Greek mercenaries undertake peltast-like functions, they could presumably once again be called peltasts: a peltast, as much as a hoplite, was not precisely defined by type of shield carried, but more by his overall function, a light infantryman compared to a line of battle combatant.

Macedonian soldiers were trained in the use of both javelin and pike; there was no reason Greek mercenaries could not be trained to use both spear and javelins as the situation demanded. Such training would be extremely hzaradous, since a mercenary had the option of leaving his current employer if service conditions were not to his liking, and training men who might one day fight on the side of your enemy might seem like a risky investment indeed. Antigonos evidently fought it was worth the gamble, since the very best of his mercenaries could apparently be used as peltasts.

It can hardly be coincidental that Antigonos had been given his command by Alexander as long ago as 333 BC; he might have been working with some of these mercenaries for many years since he had held it continuously for all that time: plenty of time to select the most loyal and train them up to the standards required to be able to fight as peltasts as well as hoplites. One might also consider that when Alexander was still alive there may have been no need to consider the possibility of his troops fighting for his enemies. Other commanders did not have this luxury of long service, and so it is perhaps not surprising we do not hear any more about such peltasts, although the scantity of source material is just as likely to be the cause. It is also noteworthy that Antigonos' alloted sphere of operations under Alexander was the mountainous interior of present-day Turkey, where troops that could fight in both roles would have been especially valuable.6

Practice makes perfect

As Macedonians were seemingly no longer routinely being employed in their peltast capacity, it is possible they may have lost the ability to operate efficiently as dual-role troops. Certainly the later Hellenistic tactical manuals of Ailian, Arrian and Asklepiodotos, no doubt derived from Polybios' lost manual via Poseidonius, and incorporating information derived from works by early 3rd century generals like Pyhrrus,7 make no explicit mention of any dual-role function for the soldiers of the phalanx. All is not as it seems however. According to Polybios, at least some elite Antogonid pikemen of the 2nd century were called peltasts. The description of these troops as 'peltasts' (who are yet pikemen) has caused great confusion (and controversy) amongst scholars, and has led to some to think their shields were smaller than the rest of the Macedonian phalanx: why else distinguish them by a shield name?8

However, a review of the sizes of Macedonian shields (or representations thereof) reveals a fairly continuous gradation from 60 to 75 cm in diameter, just as Greek Argive aspides vary in size. This is quite natural: their bearers could not all have arms the same length, and a curved shield that is braced rather than held must conform in some manner to the dimensions of the bearer's arm.9 Therefore I would advance an alternative explanation: Antigonid Macedonian peltasts were called peltasts not because they were armed with a particularly distinctive 'pelta' but because they could still perform if need be as peltasts. In this case, Sekunda's identification of Ajax in the House of Menander painting as a Macedonian 'peltast' would be all the more appealing, since Ajax is depicted with a javelin (or light spear), not a pike.10

If any troops in the later Antigonid army retained the ability to function in two roles, the 'peltasts', as elite troops, would be the obvious choice. This would explain the evident confusion in the late Hellenistic manuals describing Macedonian 'peltasts'. As Aelian puts it (2.8): "The peltasts have similar equipment to the Macedonian, but lighter: For they carry a pelta and light-weight arms, and spears shorter than a sarissa. This manner of arming appears to hold a middle place between that of psiloi and those properly called heavy infantry, being heavier than that of the light-armed and lighter than that of the heavy infantry, and for this reason most authorities place it among the light armed". Evidently some authorities Aelian had consulted considered the peltasts to be not light armed at all, but heavy infantry. A 'peltast' with a pike would indeed be a heavy infantryman, a hoplite; a peltast with a javelin would not - but would still be more heavily equipped than the psiloi. It is perhaps notable that the only times Polybios mentions 'peltasts' in the Seleucid army they are on one occasion described as leading an assault through a breach in a wall (10.31.11), and on the other as being 10000 strong (10.49.1). Elsewhere Polybios tells us that the elite portion of the Seleucid phalanx was 10000 strong and that most of them were called Argyraspids. It seems likely that these men were 'peltasts' in exactly the same manner Antogonid pikemen were 'peltasts' - they could be rearmed for certain missions. This would also neatly explain why the Hellenistic tactical manuals do not talk about how 'peltasts' are marshalled, nor how many there should be in the army (in contrast to the psiloi and phalangites), but make reference only to their equipment. If they were the same men the phalangites, they would never make an appearence in such deployment discussions, since they were already included - as hoplitai (phalangites).


The paucity of sources from the loss of Diodoros' history from 301 BC until the start of the extent portions of Polybios' narrative in the late 220s BC means that a discussion of the evolution of Hellenistic infantry in the 3rd century BC must be rather conjectural. Macedonia and northern Greece were overrun in 279 BC by the Galatians, Celtic tribes from the Danube. The Galatians carried a characteristically shaped shield called in Greek a thureos, a shield that as it turned out offerered insufficient protection against the showers of javelins the Aitolian Greeks hurled at them as they tried to force their way southwards (Pausanias, 10.22.6). The thureos used by the Galatians is frequently described as somewhat rectangular on account of the name, derived from the word for "door-stone" (ie. a door stop), so that there is a tendency to think of the shield as "shaped like a door" (as in the Liddle-Scott-Jones lexicon), or even of "huge size, like a door". This is far from the truth however. Livy describes (38.21) Galatians having "insufficient protection from their shields, which were long, but not wide enough for the size of their bodies, and, besides that, were flat in surface". Shields carried by other Gauls living nearby such as the Gaesatae were apparently similar, and Livy contrasts their small shields with the larger 3 foot round shields carried by the Romans skirmishers, the velites. Statuettes of Galatians in Seleucid service show clearly that these long and narrow shields were almond-shaped rather than rectangular, ie. shaped like an oval door stone, not the door itself.11

It is after the Galatian invasion that Greek troops carrying such shields, 'thureophoroi', start to appear in the Greek sources. They appear at first in citizen armies such as the Boiotian league,12 but later in Successor armies as well: Polybios records thureophoroi in a Seleucid context by 220 BC who may well be mercenaries.13 While the traditional citizen hoplite remained the backbone of many city-states' forces for some time, others were evidently adapting to changing circumstances.14

Asie from their thureos, what then was the armament of these thureophoroi, and what was their tactical role? The Galatians were swordsmen, but Celtic sword fighting does not appear to have been adopted by the Greeks along with the thureoi. Given the shape of the thureoi, an almond or oval, it is tempting to compare the thureoi with the 'symmetrical' (and therefore probably oval) pelta of an Iphikratean hoplite. If a thureophoroi was simply an Iphikratean hoplite who had replaced an oval pelta with another oval shield of similarly light construction, we might expect no change in either other armament or tactical application as a result.

Support for the above hypothesis can be found in abundant pictorial representations. Representations of troops equipped with thureoi from the Hellenistic kingdoms usually show them equipped with a single spear.15 Lacking a missile weapon, such troops had no more ability to skirmish than their 4th century ancestors. Yet as they lacked both (heavy) body armour and pikes, they were not in the same class as phalangites when it came to close combat. Such a jack-of-all-trades troop type would have been less than ideal in many sitautions, and the search for improvements appears to have begun early. One direction was to strengthen their combat ability by equipping them with heavier equipment. "Thorakitai", that is troops wearing (heavy) body armour, feature prominently in Polybios' accounts of the Achaian army, as distinguished from both the pike phalanx and the light troops. These troops were frequently deployed with the Illyrians, usually fighting between the phalanx and the light troops. Thorakitai are most likely just armoured thureophoroi, and representations of Hellenistic troops sometimes show spearmen with thureos and mail; the mail being introduced as a result of either Roman or Celtic influence.16 Another possibility was to enlarge the size of the thureoi (and presumably strengthen it) so that it's protective value was similarly increased, albeit at the expense of mobility and cheapness. The imprint of a large 'thureos' dating to ca. 150 BC has been found in Bactria, measuring some 130 cm from top to bottom, and proportionally wider.17


Another possible direction was to lighten their equipment. We have seen how Macedonian troops could fight with pike or javelins, and that an Iphikratean hoplite who exchanged spear for javelins could become a peltast. If a thureophoroi was to swap spear for javelins, his tactical function would accordingly change from a line-of-battle troop to a skirmisher. While troops carrying thureoi in artistic depictions usually carry a spear, the unique tombstone of Dionysios the Bithynian, from Ptolemaic Alexandria and probably dating to the middle of the 2nd century BC, shows the deceased carrying a spear as normal, but he is accompanied by an attendent carrying two javelins.18 The javelins clearly belong to the spearmen, since the boy also carries his master's thureos. The fact that it is his attendent that is carrying the javelins is I believe of significance: his usual weapon was the spear, though javelins could be used in its place, but both were not carried simultaneously.

Another significant piece of evidence is to be found in a passage in Plutarch describing the citizen troops of the Achaian league at the battle of Sellasia in 222 BC. He says they used "thureoi too narrow to cover the body, and spears (doru) much shorter than pikes. By which means they were skillful in skirmishing at a distance, but in a close fight had much the disadvantage". It is difficult to see how a thureophoroi equipped with a thrusting spear could skirmish effectively, but if this was replaced by a pair of javelins, this objection is removed. It only then remains to be explained how the word for spear came to be used rather than javelin: spears were the normal equipment of thureophoroi, although perhaps Achaians made more use of rearming their troops with javelins than did others. Such troops, despite carrying thureoi, might have been unlikely to have been called thureophoroi if thureophoroi already had the widely understood meaning of a (spear-wielding) thureos bearer. Yet calling them peltasts might have also caused as much confusion to contemporaries, since as we have seen, that term was used of Macedonian pikemen who were (or rather, could be) temporarily rearmed with shorter weapons. The new troop type demanded a new name, and I believe that name, at least in Polybios, was the euzonos.

The word euzonoi (unencumbered, or lightly equipped; it orginally had no military connotations) had been used to describe soldiers at least as far back as Xenophon ca. 400 BC, who could use the word of troops as diverse as psiloi and hoplites, so long as they were particularly nimble and active on their feet. But by Polybios' day in the 2nd century BC, the word had seemingly come to mean a separate troop type, since in his history we hear not only of euzonoi, but of troops "armed in the manner of euzonoi".19 The extent portion of Polybios' history never tells us what he means by arming in the manner of euzonoi, but in Polybios' account of the 3rd battle of Mantineia he refers to the Achaian euzonoi being defeated along with the Tarantines in the front line, where they are supported by, but do not include, the Illyrians and the thorakitai.20 Plutarch also describes the same battle in his Life of Philopoimen. As it is usually considered that Plutarch's life of Philopoimen is based on Polybios' lost biography, the details in each battle description should be closely related. Plutarch reports that "Machanidas and his mercenaries beat the javelinmen (akontistas) and Tarantines whom Philopoimen had placed in front". This would indicate that the euzonoi of Polybios and the akontistas of Plutarch are one and the same.

Polybios was a general in the Achaian army, and like Caesar, another historian-general, was never caught short for a technical word. For him euzonoi had a specific technical meaning when used in a military context, just as did the term 'peltast', even if he might use it in a non-technical manner as well. Later authors, divorced by time from the proceedings, but heavily influenced by classical authors of such as Thukydides and Xenophon, tended to use terms that reflected classical usage, not those of the times they reported. Hence the confusion of the late Hellenistic tactical authors such as Arrian and Aelian - men who knew from their classical education that a peltast was a skirmisher and struggled to understand that Polybios (or even Poseidonios, his late 2nd century tactical continuator)21 could talk about peltasts in other ways. It is particularly interesting to note that when Polybios does talk about peltasts in a non-Macedonian context, it is in a manner that easily implies pikemen who could also be javelinmen. I have already mentioned the Seleucid 'peltasts'; the Achaians seem to have been the same. At 22.9.2-3, we read that in 188/7 BC Ptolemy had sent the Achaians "six thousand sets of bronze equipment for peltasts (hopla chalka peltastika)". As previously noted, the Achaians had adopted the pike by this stage. Bronze equipment (or even more tellingly, shields, as hopla is an ambiguous word) tallies best with pikemen, who used bronze shields as well as helmets and greaves, and citizens at that, since mercenaries usually provided their own gear. If the Achaians as thureophoroi could rearm themselves as euzonoi, with javelins, there is no reason they could not still do so now that they were pikemen.

At the battle of Magnesia, the Achaians participated as an allied force, led by Diophanes, fighting under Eumenes' command. Polybios' account is lost, but Appian, seemingly drawing on Polybios, calls the 3000 Achaian foot "peltasts" (Syr, 31). Livy's very similar account, calls them "caetrati" in an analagous fashion, just as he calls the elite Antigonid pikemen caetrati when describing the battle of Pydna. The Achaians were drawn up next to a force of Cretan archers, Trallian slingers and other light infantry with javelins that defeated the Seleucid scythed chariots with their missiles. It is not said that the Achaians assisted in this action (although both texts are often read this way), but if they did, this would present no problem if they were using javelins rather than pikes.

The issue has been confused because the sources are in some senses contradictory. I have noted above Plutarch's Achaians skirmishing, yet being armed with spears. Another example may be provided by Appian's usage of the word peltast. Sometimes he is clearly drawing upon Polybios, and thus uses the word when Polybios uses it: describing troops who could be pikemen. Yet at other times he uses the word in its more classical manner. Describing the Seleucids at Magnesia, he makes reference to various light infantry including 'peltasts' from Tralles, Crete, Cilicia, etc. Clearly these are not ex-pikemen. Livy however makes no reference to these men being "caetrati" which we would expect if Polybios had called these men peltasts, they are just "levis armatura", ie. light infantry. What we have here is a believe is each man's version of Polybios' troops "eis ton euzonon tropon kathoplismenoi (armed in the manner of euzonoi)". They are not exactly euzonoi as Polybios uses the term in its narrow meaning, since they are not ex-thureophoroi. If Polybios had used the word euzonoi for them, no doubt Appian would have done so too.22 If he had said peltast, we would expect not only peltasts in Appian but also caetrati in Livy - but Livy takes the phrase simply to produce light infantry, not caetrati. It is significant that Appian talks of these "peltasts from... Crete, Tralles and Cilicia, armed after the Cretan fashion"; likewise Livy records "1000 newly enlisted Cretans, 1500 Carians and Cilicians similarly armed"; the parallels are clear. What is this Cretan fashion of armament? Monumental evidence shows Cretans with javelin/small spear plus a small shield, and Polybios decsribes the Cretans at 10.29.6 as armed with small shields (Kretas aspidiotas). This is clearly more like a classical peltast than the Polybian ex-pikemen.23

To summarise then, I would contend that Hellenistic pikemen, at least the most able of them, continued to be able to operate in a peltast-like capacity using javelins rather than shields, and that such pikemen were called 'peltasts', not because they carried a pelta (which they did, though the word peltophoroi would appear to be preferable in this context), but because of this dual-role peltast-like function. Other hoplites, whether classical or 'Iphikratean', were mostly replaced by either such pikemen, or else by 'thureophoroi' who differed from the hoplites they replaced only in the type of shield they carried - they were heavy infantry, not skirmishers. Like pikemen, thureophoroi could replace their spear with javelins to operate in a peltast-like capacity. Such troops were then not called peltasts however, at least not by contemporary sources such as Polybios, since peltast meant a pikeman. When operating as light infantry, they were no longer heavy troops, but belonged to the class of troops known as euzonoi, or light infantry, a word that Polybios sometimes uses in a narrow sense to mean such re-armed troops rather than light infantry in general. During his lifetime, the Hellenistic states were eclipsed by the power of Rome. As a result it was Roman military influences that were then increasingly felt throughout the Hellenistic world. Some states raised their own legionary forces in direct imitation of Rome. Others, such as Commagene, soldiered on preserving old customs intact, buffered by Roman power from change. Those further changes that did occur were due to the contact with now dominant power of the Mediterranean, and can no longer be properly considered as belonging to the Hellenistic realm. Hellenistic military evolution was drawing to a close.


1. Native uprisings had to be constantly guarded against. Antigonos made much use of Lykians and Paphlagonians, who has long been accustomed to Greeks and Greek warfare (they were fighting as Greek hoplites as least as long ago as Herodotos' day), but he was the exception that proved the rule. Ptolemy at the battle of Gaza made use of a small number native Egyptians, and he may have done so elsewhere, but this was probably not considered a success to judge from the alacrity his son introduced Jewish military settlers, and the later propensity of the Egyptians to revolt against the Macedonian occupiers. The Persians refused to serve any but Peukestas - which I would posit is why Peukestas survive the aftermath of Eumenes' defeat by Antigonos, while many of the Medes, who had contributed light cavalry to Antigonos' cause, thereafter gained independence forming the state commonly referred to as Media-Atropatene. Return

2. Diodoros' wording at 19.40.3 for instance, "the Argyraspids, and finally the mercenaries and those of the other soldiers who were armed in the Macedonian manner" could be interpreted to mean the mercenaries were include in those armed in the Macedonian manner (as opposed to the 'others' being other than the Argyraspids; the Greek is as ambiguous as the English). However, this seems unlikely given the wording of 19.27.6 describing the very same troops: "The outer end consisted of mercenaries, who numbered more than 6000; next were about 5000 men who had been equipped in the Macedonian fashion although they were of all races", which would appear to contrast their armament with that of the mercenaries. Return

3. Diodoros 18.12.2 describes how Antipatros, the regent of Macedonia, could only call upon a mere 13000 Macedonians at the outbreak of the Lamian war in 323 BC because of the constant drainage of men eastwards. Return

4. The likes of Leonnatos, Eumenes, Krateros, Antigonos, Perdikkas, Neoptolemos and several others all died in or as a direct result of pitched battles, and the few that did not, such as Ptolemy, Seleukos and Antipatros only owed their continued existence to fighting such battles successfully. Return

5. It should be admitted that in the more far flung corners of the Greek world, Iphikrates' innovations might not yet have penetrated fully or even at all, say in Sicily, let alone Crimea. However, such places were, for the moment, far removed from the action, and did not have much influence the development of Hellenistic infantry. Return

6. Basic light-armed troops, psiloi, and the equivalents of traditional Greek-style peltasts, were generally readily available from native sources, but were of limited use in pitched battle. If Greek troops had to be single-role only, hoplites would have been prefered over peltasts given the importance of pitched battles. A troop type that could't pull its weight in such circumstances was of very limited utility. Antigonos had fought 3 battles against the Persians while Alexander pushed on ahead into the Persian heartland, and then later had to deal with a Kappadokian nationalist movement. Return

7. See 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 Return

8. Eg. N.Sekunda, "The Tomb of Lyson and Kallikles", Military Illustrated, May 1994, 29-33. Return

9. On the basis of an excavated Macedonian shield having a radius of approximately 66 cm, Hammond concluded that the Macedonian foot (the size of a 'foot' varied from state to state) was approximately 32 cm, slightly more than the Greek average, but not greatly so, refuting Tarn who had earlier proposed that Macedonian measurements were smaller than average (N.G.L.Hammond, "A Macedonian Shield and Macedonian Measures", The Annual of the British School at Athens, 91 (1996), 365-367). Asklepiodotos in his tactical manual specifies the Macedonian shield as being 8 palms in diameter; a palm was 1/4 of a foot. Sculptural representations of Macedonaian shields bracket this excavated example, varying from 62 cm (from Giannitson near Pella, cited in M.M.Markle's "A Shield Monument from Veria", Mediterranean Archaeology, 7 (1994), 83-87) through 70 cm (Oropos, K.Liampi, "Der Makedonische Schild", Bonn, 1998), 72 cm (Katerini tomb) and 75 cm (Lyson and Kallikles' tomb). Liampi also cites fragments of another excavated shield approximately 74 cm in diameter, and a Ptolemaic Macedonian-style shield mould that is 70 cm in diameter. Return

10. N.Sekunda, "The Tomb of Lyson and Kallikles", Military Illustrated, October 1990, 19-24. At first sight, the shield carried by Ajax does indeed appear to be smaller than the normal Macedonian shield. However, one only has to look at the Argive shield carried by Menelaos in the same picture to conclude that the shield is shown underscale compared to the man bearing it - Menelaos' shield is also decidedly undersized. The painting is after all not supposed to be an accurate historical work; it is a fictional scene, and a late copy at that of a work that merely may have depicted historical figures in the guise of ancient heroes. Return

11. N.Sekunda, Seleucids and Ptolemaic Reformed Armies 168-145 BC. Volume 1: The Seleucid Army, Montvert, 1994. The assumption that Galatian shields were rectangular may have been influenced by the knowledge that some some Celtic shields undoubtably were oblong in shape. The famous Battersea shield recovered from the Thames long ago is of such a shape. Variatians over such a widespread culture as Iron age Celts are bound to be expected. Return

12. M.Feyel, "Polybe et L'Histoire de la Beotie au IIIe siecle avant notre ere", Paris (1942), 193-195, discusses inscriptional evidence for thureophoroi in the Boiotian league army, who first appear alongside hoplitai in the troop lists. Boiotian tombstones depicting thureoi are illustrated in P.M.Fraser & T.Ronne, "Boeotians and West Greek Tombstones", Athens (1957). Return

13. Polybios, 5.53.8: Molon stationed between his cavalry wings "the thureophoroi, the Galatians and in general all his heavy-armed troops. His archers, slingers and all such kinds of troops he posted beyond the cavalry on either wing, and his scythed chariots at intervals in front of his line." It is possible to read this as meaning 'the thureophoroi, the Galatians, and then his heavy troops', just as it is possible to read it as meaning 'his thureophoroi, his Galatians and his other heavy troops'. No matter which way it is read, the thueophoroi were clearly in the line of battle rather than posted out on the wings like his psiloi were. Return

14. Finds at Corinth of model terracotta shields dating from ca. 250 BC have found 11 traditional Argive aspides compared to a single almond-shaped thureos (G.R.Davidson, "A Hellenistic Deposit at Corinth", Hesperia, 11 (1942), 105-127; "Corinth, results of excavations, vol. 12: the Minor Objects, The American School of Classical Studies at Athens", Princeton, 1952, p340-342). This implies that Corinth had yet to make any significant changes a generation after the invasion. According to Plutarch, the Spartans continued using hoplites until 225 BC when its troops, both citizen and helot, were converted into Macedonian-style phalangites. One state that did not continue using hoplites for long was Boiotia. From inscriptional evidence they fielded citizen troops equipped as both thureophoroi and hoplitai until the 240s BC when the mixture changed to thureophoroi and "peltophoroi". Peltophoroi has been most plausibly interpreted as being a descriptor for Macedonian-style pikemen; neither a traditional 'hoplite' (which they seemed to replace), nor the traditional skirmishing 'peltast' that carried the pelta over 100 years before (since "peltast" would suffice to describe them), nor the more modern 'thureophoroi' that they serve alongside, but rather as a 'pelte' bearing pikemen, such as their neighbours the Macedonians employed. Return

15. The vast majority are equipped with a single thrusting spear, longer than the bearer is high. The only exceptions I know of are those depicting the soldier wielding his sword instead, and the tombstone of Dionysios the Bithynian, as described in the main text. Some representative examples of typical thureophoroi can be found in N.Sekunda's "Hellenistic Infantry Reform in the 160's BC", Oficyna Naukowa MS (2001). Sekunda argues that all such examples postdating the 160's BC represent Hellenistic imitations of Roman toops. I am totally unconvinced by his thesis. The thureophoroi he cites in his evidence as "Roman style" troops all carry small thureoi rather than large Roman scuta and not a single example carries a pilum as we would expect of the typical Roman soldier. A very few wear mail, but this in no way means they are "Roman": mail was a Celtic introduction to the Mediterranean area, so this is hardly conclusive given the Greeks' military contact with the Romans postdated that with the Galatians. Sekunda would have us believe the Seleucid army at Beth-Zacharia "must" be equipped in the Roman manner because it is in mail, but many non-Roman troops wore mail, and as he himself states in other works, many Roman themselves did not. Return

16. Depictions of thorakitai include the tombstone of Salmas of Adada found in Sidon, variously date from the late 3rd century BC to the middle 2nd BC, showing a man carrying a spear wearing a mail shirt in addition to carrying his spear (seven other thureophoroi from the same site are unarmoured). The Kampyr terracotta from Bactria shows a soldier wearing a cuirasse, carrying a thureos and wielding a sword. Sekunda interprets the figure, likely dating from 170 BC to 145 BC at the latest, as an imitation legionary; it seems much more likely it is simply a thorakitai using his sword rather than his spear. Return

17. V.P.Nikonorov, "The Armies of Bactria 700 BC - 450 AD", Montvert, 1997. Return

18. Sekunda argues that the spear would be the equivalent to the hasta of the Roman triarii and the javelins equivalent to the pila of the principes and hastatii, but acknowledges that carrying both would be most un-Roman. His statement that the thureoi is the equivalent of the Roman scutum is also extremely suspect: Polybios does indeed call legionariies thureophoroi, but that is only because thureophoroi are the nearst Greek approximation to a legionary; such equivalence is expressly denied by Livy for instance who comments on the small size of thureos compared to the large size of the scutum. Return

19. Eg. Byttakos' men at 5.79.3. A short discussion of the military usage of the word euzonoi can be found in Duncan Head's comments in Guardroom, Slingshot, 205 (1999), 58-59. It might seem strange that simply swapping a spear for javelins might be seen as 'lightening' a soldiers equipment, but to the Greek way of thinking, a man equipped for hand-to-hand combat was more properly and more heavily equipped than a man with missile weapons. The word hoplite itself literally meant just 'equipped', but the word was never applied to archers, no matter however well-kitted out with defensive equipment, even such troops as the Persian Immortals who might have born both spear and bow, and body armour in addition. Return

20. Polybios, 11.13.1-3. The Achaian euzonoi were mercenaries by this date: in 208 BC the Achaian citizen troops had all been rearmed as Macedonian-style pikemen. Duncan Head has objected to my equating euzonoi with (ex-)thureophoroi in Polybios on the grounds that in 10.29.4, Polybios talks about a force of euzonoi, whom he later seemingly lists as comprising thorakitai, psiloi, Cretans and thureophoroi (10.29.6); and that he also uses euzonoi to describe Roman light troops who are clearly not ex-thureophoroi. There are two arguments that can be used against this objection. Firstly, it seems that Polybios uses the word euzonos in an ambiguous manner - sometimes with a broad meaing, sometimes with a specific meaning. It is to be noted that at 10.30.5 Polybios talks about psiloi AND euzonoi, as if psiloi are not euzonoi, whereas in 10.29.5 they are. This may appear to be an inelegant solution, but it is the only one that I can see that also makes sense of statements such as 'armed in the manner of euzonoi' which clearly implies a specific meaning, if only we knew what it was. Secondly, my formulation can in any case explain 10.29.4-6 by saying that while at 10.29.4 the (ex-)thureophoroi were carrying javelins, at 10.29.6 they were using spears; in the former instance they are therfeore euzonoi, but not in the latter. This would be impossible to either prove (or disprove) without a second parallel account, which in this instance we do not possess. Return

21. See note 7 and also Sekunda's works referred to above. Return

22. Appian has no qualms about using the word euzonoi to describe troops from after Polybios' time, such as those in the Mithridatic wars. Clearly such usage need not (and should not) imply a Polybian definition. Return

23. In this essay, I have contended that Hellenistic soldiers did not carry spear and javelin simultaneously. Those wargamers familar with the WRG Maccabean army lists will no doubt be wondering 'what about the Dead Sea scroll soldiers'? The DBM list for instance states "the only infantry described, who make up the mass of the army, are armed with a 12 foot spear and 7 javelins each and carry a long oval shield. They can be taken as equivalent to standard Hellenistic thureophoroi". As I will show in an forthcoming article (given editorial permission), this is the result of a bad misunderstanding of the text, since they carry no javelins whatsoever. They indeed do represent a thureophoroi equivalent, but it is an Iphikratean-hoplite thureophoroi equivalent, not a javelin-throwing skirmisher. Having said that, there are however two instances were Macedonians can be shown to have carried a thrusting spear and a javelin at the same time. The first is the well known incident of a Macedonian officer in Alexander's army fighting a staged duel armed with both a pike and a javelin; the second is Demetrios 'the Besieger' who used both spear and javelin when fighting aboard his flagship at Salamis-in-Cyprus. Both instances are so highly unusual as to warrant the 'exception proves the rule' status. Nobody would contend that Alexander's phalanx was dual-armed with pike and javelin (as opposed to optionally armed) because an officer could hold both in the higly unusual circumstances of a duel; similarly I am not aware of anybody contending that Macedonians were normally dual armed with spear and javelin just because such a heroic figure as Demetrios could wield both in the highly unusual circumstances of defending his quarter-deck. To the best of my knowledge, such positive evidence for non-Macedonian thureophoroi being dual armed does not exist at all. Return

I would like to thank David Karunanithy for providing copies of many of the articles mentioned in the footnotes, and especially Duncan Head for articles and so many useful discussions.

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