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History => Ancient and Medieval History => Weapons and Tactics => Topic started by: Justin Swanton on March 16, 2019, 09:52:36 AM

Title: Was Alex's phalanx identical in size and organisation to that of the tacticians?
Post by: Justin Swanton on March 16, 2019, 09:52:36 AM
Shall I do this?  ::)
Title: Re: Was Alex's phalanx identical in size and organisation to that of the tacticans?
Post by: Jim Webster on March 16, 2019, 10:20:16 AM
At one point I remember reading somebody who thought that the early phalanx was only ten deep, and later it got to 16 or even 32 deep when the whole system ossified
My feeling is that this theory owed more to the general feeling at the time that the Seleucid, Ptolemaic and others were degenerate 'Syrians' and 'Egyptians' and couldn't be expected to fight with the elan of European Macedonians
Title: Re: Was Alex's phalanx identical in size and organisation to that of the tacticans?
Post by: Tim on March 16, 2019, 11:21:17 AM
I seem to remember one of the battles where the Phalanx has to deploy 8 deep (to avoid being seriously out flanked?). Let me see if I can find the reference. (Once upon a time I would remember exactly where I read it... now I have found my rightful home in the Sociery of ancients...)
Title: Re: Was Alex's phalanx identical in size and organisation to that of the tacticans?
Post by: Erpingham on March 16, 2019, 11:25:22 AM
I'm waiting for Justin to do "this", whatever it is.  Not an area I know much about so looking forward to learning something new.
Title: Re: Was Alex's phalanx identical in size and organisation to that of the tacticans?
Post by: RichT on March 16, 2019, 05:17:08 PM
Nobody knows for sure, and opinions are plentiful and cheap (and worth what you paid for them).

Next?
Title: Re: Was Alex's phalanx identical in size and organisation to that of the tacticans?
Post by: Justin Swanton on March 16, 2019, 06:06:07 PM
I'm waiting for Justin to do "this", whatever it is.  Not an area I know much about so looking forward to learning something new.

It's a rather complex but fascinating topic. Without going into too much detail at least not for a single post here's my hypothesis:

The phalanx of the manuals works on a standard file depth of 16 men (though the tacticians also mention file depths of 8, 10 and 12 men, but 16 is the most common). Each unit of the phalanx, with its own commanding officer, consists of the two units below it, thus:

(https://i.imgur.com/TaIRXNx.png)

Thus far all yawnworthy. The tacticians assert this is the Macedonian pike phalanx, which raises the question: to what extent did the phalanx of Alexander actually resemble this formation? I propose that everything we know about Alex's army matches this structure exactly and in every detail. In other words his heavy infantry was a little over 16,000 men at full strength. It was divided into two wings each under the equivalent of a kerarch. It also had four phalangarchias each with their own commander, themselves subdivided into eight telos, and so on, all the way to the syntagma. There is no explicit mention of lesser formations except the individual file, which has 16 men and is made up of two half-files - as described by the manuals. But those lesser formations can be inferred from the way the larger formations are subdivided.

The hypaspists were not 3,000 strong but were composed of two formations, the hypaspists proper and the foot guards, each a telos of 2,000 men. The hypaspists were present at Granicus and both formations at all the following battles. Alexander at one point sent 10,000 Macedonians home, replacing them with 10,000 Persians of which 1,000 joined the hypaspists-foot guards, now effectively one unit. After his death his generals, not fans of Alex's introduction of non-Macedonians into the army, dismissed the Persians, leaving the hypaspists-foot guards - now called the Argyraspides - at 3,000 men, their strength at Gabiene and Paraitakene.

Alex had 6 2,000-man telos including the Hypaspists at Granicus, under 6 named commanders. After Granicus he is reinforced by 3,000 Macedonian foot plus an unnamed force under Parmenion. Since Parmenion is the second-in-command of his army his force must be quality - the foot guards in fact who are present at Issus. Alex leaves 1,000 Macedonians in Asia Minor (plus 500 allied Greeks) and attaches the remaining 2,000 plus the 2,000 foot guards to his main army, bringing it up to its full muster of a little over 16,000 men.

He had 8 telos at Issus and 7 named commanders. He personally commanded the foot guards who followed his cavalry in their charge through the kardakes. They were in fact part of a composite formation with the Companions that Arrian describes at Gaugamela: "a sort of wedge', under Alex's direct control.

The same deployment of Issus was used at Gaugamela with the same effect. The foot guards, now called hypaspists but still distinct from the regular hypaspists, are under Alex's personal command. They are the 'phalanx of Alexander' the Persian chariots attack.

After Gaugamela Alexander formalises a subdivision of each telos into two chiliarchies to which he names 8 commanders - chiliarchs. Not sixteen as the Merarchs still personally command one of the two chiliarchies of their telos, which is standard practice in the manuals.

At the Hydapses one can clearly see four phalangarchias - units of 4,000 men - in action. Alexander personally takes one - the foot guards and hypaspists plus two telos - with him across the river whom he leaves under the command of Seleucus when he departs with the cavalry. Antigenes and Tauron command two others and Craterus, tasked with distracting Porus, commands the last.

And that's it in a nutshell.

Title: Re: Was Alex's phalanx identical in size and organisation to that of the tacticans?
Post by: Dangun on March 17, 2019, 12:21:18 AM
which raises the question: to what extent did the phalanx of Alexander actually resemble this formation?

I politely suggest caution. Literary sources like the manuals and reality may vary greatly. By way of analogy, the literary sources confidently give a standard number for Roman auxilia. But... the only complete unit roll we have for any unit of the Roman army, for any time period, directly contradicts the number given in the literary source, by a big margin. And that's a contemporary, functional document from a unit secretary of the Roman army, not some literary ideal by an author who may or may not know better and may be writing at significant temporal distance.

I propose that everything we know about Alex's army matches this structure exactly and in every detail.

But I don't want to imply I actually know anything about this specifically.  :) I confess my near complete ignorance.
Title: Re: Was Alex's phalanx identical in size and organisation to that of the tacticans?
Post by: Justin Swanton on March 17, 2019, 05:44:32 AM
It's just come to my attention that Luke Ueda-Sarson took substantially the same approach to Macedonian army organisation (http://lukeuedasarson.com/GranicusNotes.html). I knew I couldn't have been the only one!
Title: Re: Was Alex's phalanx identical in size and organisation to that of the tacticans?
Post by: Justin Swanton on March 17, 2019, 06:33:09 AM
which raises the question: to what extent did the phalanx of Alexander actually resemble this formation?

I politely suggest caution. Literary sources like the manuals and reality may vary greatly. By way of analogy, the literary sources confidently give a standard number for Roman auxilia. But... the only complete unit roll we have for any unit of the Roman army, for any time period, directly contradicts the number given in the literary source, by a big margin. And that's a contemporary, functional document from a unit secretary of the Roman army, not some literary ideal by an author who may or may not know better and may be writing at significant temporal distance.

The 16 man phalangite file seems pretty firmly established. Besides the manuals Polybios describes it in detail. The 16,000 man number for a complete phalanx also seems to correspond to hellenitic armies that are not raised in an emergency where the general lays his hands on every man he can find.

So 16,000 men at Cynoscephalae and Magnesia. Ptolemy IV has 48,000 phalangites at Raphia which is 3 x 16,000 and 8,000 Greek mercenaries, in other words three tetraphalangarchia and a diphalangarchia. Antiochus has 10,000 silver shields and 20,00 regular phalangites, 30,000 pikemen in total which is the equivalent of two tetraphalangarchia (the numbers were probably rounded down). Antigonus has 8,000 phalangites - one diphalangarchia - at Raphia whilst Eumenes has 6,000 men - three telos, but that battle is in a time of confusion and emergency where the generals had to use whatever was available. At Pydna Perseus had 21,000 phalangites but he called up every available man.

Title: Re: Was Alex's phalanx identical in size and organisation to that of the tacticans?
Post by: Duncan Head on March 17, 2019, 05:51:00 PM
The hypaspists were not 3,000 strong but were composed of two formations, the hypaspists proper and the foot guards, each a telos of 2,000 men. The hypaspists were present at Granicus and both formations at all the following battles. Alexander at one point sent 10,000 Macedonians home, replacing them with 10,000 Persians of which 1,000 joined the hypaspists-foot guards, now effectively one unit. After his death his generals, not fans of Alex's introduction of non-Macedonians into the army, dismissed the Persians, leaving the hypaspists-foot guards - now called the Argyraspides - at 3,000 men, their strength at Gabiene and Paraitakene.

This is the bit I have most doubt about, though the suggestion as to how 4,000 hypaspists became 3,000 argyraspides is clever. But Arrian IV.24.10 (well before any recruitment of Persians) refers to the deployment of "one-third of the hypaspists", which is far easier to envisage with 3,000 men in three chiliarchies than with 4,000.

See here (https://koryvantesstudies.org/studies-in-english-language/page220-2/) for an interesting suggestion that the hypaspists were composed of three units with different origins.

However nothing would require that Alexander's phalanx had an establishment of 16,000 throughout his reign, merely that it did at some stage - probably near the end, if this was the ideal that survived to influence his successors and the manuals. A recent article on the tacticians by Graham Wrightson, in Ancient Warfare: Introducing current research (https://smile.amazon.co.uk/Ancient-Warfare-Introducing-Current-Research/dp/1443876941/), points out the commonality between the manuals' 16,000-man phalanx and the actual sizes of phalanxes fielded by several Hellenistic kings - one of the points Justin makes.
Title: Re: Was Alex's phalanx identical in size and organisation to that of the tacticans?
Post by: Justin Swanton on March 17, 2019, 06:46:29 PM
The hypaspists were not 3,000 strong but were composed of two formations, the hypaspists proper and the foot guards, each a telos of 2,000 men. The hypaspists were present at Granicus and both formations at all the following battles. Alexander at one point sent 10,000 Macedonians home, replacing them with 10,000 Persians of which 1,000 joined the hypaspists-foot guards, now effectively one unit. After his death his generals, not fans of Alex's introduction of non-Macedonians into the army, dismissed the Persians, leaving the hypaspists-foot guards - now called the Argyraspides - at 3,000 men, their strength at Gabiene and Paraitakene.

This is the bit I have most doubt about, though the suggestion as to how 4,000 hypaspists became 3,000 argyraspides is clever. But Arrian IV.24.10 (well before any recruitment of Persians) refers to the deployment of "one-third of the hypaspists", which is far easier to envisage with 3,000 men in three chiliarchies than with 4,000.

The passage indicates that Alexander divided his army into four parts: one part encamped near the mountain and the rest of the army split into three attack forces. So 1/4 of the hypaspists (500 men) stay at camp. Leonnatus keeps 1/4, Ptolemy gets 1/4 and Alexander the remaining 1/4.

Alternately ὑπασπιστῶν τῶν βασιλικῶν can refer to the foot guards and hypaspists combined since they are operationally one unit at this point. So both are divided into units of 1000 men. 1000 stay at camp and the remaining 3000 are divided between the commanders.

Discovering, however, that the barbarians of the district had joined their forces into one body, he left a part of his army there near the mountain, encamped as they were, and taking as many men as seemed sufficient, according to the reports he had received, as soon as they could descry the fires near at hand, he divided his army into three parts. Over one part he placed Leonnatus, the confidential body-guard, joining the brigades of Attalus and Balacrus with his own; the second division he put under the lead of Ptolemy, son of Lagus, including the third part of the royal shield-bearing guards, the brigades of Philip and Philotas, two regiments of horse-archers, the Agrianians, and half of the cavalry. The third division he himself led towards the place where most of the barbarians were visible.


Arrian earlier indicated that Alexander had brought "the shield-bearing guards, the Companion cavalry with the exception of those who had been joined with Hephaestion’s division, the regiments of what were called foot-Companions, the archers, the Agrianians and the horse-lancers." Can we assume the shield bearing guards were the regular hypaspists and the "foot Companions" the foot-guards of Issus? That would make them 4,000 men in total.




Title: Re: Was Alex's phalanx identical in size and organisation to that of the tacticans?
Post by: Erpingham on March 17, 2019, 06:51:54 PM
Quote
The passage indicates that Alexander divided his army into four parts: one part encamped near the mountain and the rest of the army split into three attack forces. So 1/4 of the hypaspists (500 men) stay at camp. Leonnatus keeps 1/4, Ptolemy gets 1/4 and Alexander the remaining 1/4.

Just checking here - why does Alex leave a quarter of his guard infantry in camp?  Is he expecting a threat that ordinary troops couldn't handle?
Title: Re: Was Alex's phalanx identical in size and organisation to that of the tacticans?
Post by: Duncan Head on March 17, 2019, 07:02:13 PM
The passage indicates that Alexander divided his army into four parts: one part encamped near the mountain and the rest of the army split into three attack forces. So 1/4 of the hypaspists (500 men) stay at camp. Leonnatus keeps 1/4, Ptolemy gets 1/4 and Alexander the remaining 1/4.

Naah. No suggestion in Arrian that it was "one-third of the hypaspists except for the other bit", nor that any of the hypaspists stayed in camp. They are the last troops that he would leave out of the action! Both this and your alternative suggestion do too much violence to the plain meaning of the text, I feel.

Quote
Arrian earlier indicated that Alexander had brought "the shield-bearing guards, the Companion cavalry with the exception of those who had been joined with Hephaestion’s division, the regiments of what were called foot-Companions, the archers, the Agrianians and the horse-lancers." Can we assume the shield bearing guards were the regular hypaspists and the "foot Companions" the foot-guards of Issus? That would make them 4,000 men in total.

Definitely not. It is clear that the foot-companions, pezetairoi, were part of the line phalanx (though not all the battalions of the phalanx were pezetairoi, apparently, only some of them).

The hypaspists are a problem, as indicated by the various academic opinions cited in the Kambouris article. I wonder if they were 2,000 strong at the time of the crossing into Asia (however divided into two or more smaller units), rising to 3,000 at the time of the reform in Curtius V.2.3 that supposedly established chiliarchies, and - just perhaps  - to 4,000 at some time after the Indian campaign to give the total 16,000-man phalanx.
Title: Re: Was Alex's phalanx identical in size and organisation to that of the tacticans?
Post by: Justin Swanton on March 17, 2019, 07:17:38 PM
Quote
The passage indicates that Alexander divided his army into four parts: one part encamped near the mountain and the rest of the army split into three attack forces. So 1/4 of the hypaspists (500 men) stay at camp. Leonnatus keeps 1/4, Ptolemy gets 1/4 and Alexander the remaining 1/4.

Just checking here - why does Alex leave a quarter of his guard infantry in camp?  Is he expecting a threat that ordinary troops couldn't handle?

Well, what does he start with?

"Alexander now took command of the shield-bearing guards, (commanded by Leonnatus)
the archers,
the Agrianians,
the brigade of Coenus and Attalus,
the royal body-guard of cavalry, (commanded by Alexander)
about four regiments of the other Companion cavalry, (commanders are Ptolemy, Balacrus, Philip and Philotas)
and half of the horse-archers"

When he divvies it up who gets what?

Leonnatus keeps the shield bearing guards and gets the brigades of Attalus (only other infantry) and Balacrus (Companion cavalry)

Ptolemy keeps his cavalry and gets the two cavalry brigades of Philip and Philtas (which is half the cavalry), and 'a third part' of the hypaspists, the Agrianians, and two regiments of horse archers.

Alex keeps his royal bodyguard cavalry and gets presumably the remainder of the Companion cavalry, hypaspists and horse archers.

So who guards the camp? Either the Companion cavalry or horse archers assigned to Alexander or a part of the hypaspists. There are no remaining infantry available. Are cavalry/horse archers favourites as camp guards?

Title: Re: Was Alex's phalanx identical in size and organisation to that of the tacticans?
Post by: RichT on March 17, 2019, 07:18:36 PM
I've always been more or less convinced by Luke Ueda-Sarson's argument that the 12,000 phalanx didn't include the Hypaspists, and therefore that the 'taxeis' were 2000 strong. Comparison with Hellenistic armies, for what it's worth (which may not be all that much) is that the Peltasts/Argyraspides/Guards are accounted separately from the phalanx proper (for all that functionally they were part of the phalanx) - eg Antigonid army, 16,000 phalanx plus 3000 Peltasts etc. This doesn't mean that Arrian would necessarily do the same with Alex's army, but it seems quite possible - 12,000 phalanx plus 3000 Hypaspists. These numbers come and go of course in ways that can't always be followed in detail, but that 16,000 is not just a theoretical number but was commonly used in practice by Hellenistic armies seems clear enough.

But I can't think of any case where Alex's phalanx would have been 16,000, unless you up the Hypaspists to 4000, unlikely, and include them in the phalanx total, contrary to later practice.
Title: Re: Was Alex's phalanx identical in size and organisation to that of the tacticans?
Post by: Justin Swanton on March 17, 2019, 08:22:08 PM
The passage indicates that Alexander divided his army into four parts: one part encamped near the mountain and the rest of the army split into three attack forces. So 1/4 of the hypaspists (500 men) stay at camp. Leonnatus keeps 1/4, Ptolemy gets 1/4 and Alexander the remaining 1/4.

Naah. No suggestion in Arrian that it was "one-third of the hypaspists except for the other bit", nor that any of the hypaspists stayed in camp. They are the last troops that he would leave out of the action! Both this and your alternative suggestion do too much violence to the plain meaning of the text, I feel.

Thinking about it (and taking a closer look at Arrian: Alex arrives with the hypaspists as a single unit. No subdivision into regular foot guards and regular hypaspists, etc.

When it comes time to split his forces into three groups, Leonnatus, commander of the 'confidential bodyguard' keeps his unit and gets some regular infantry and cavalry. Ptolemy gets "the third part" of the hypaspists and we aren't told what happens to the first or third part. So presumably Leonnatus and his confidential bodyguard would, according to the standard interpretation, add up to 1/3 of the hypaspists or 1000 men if the entire unit is 3000 strong. The regular hypaspists add up to 2000 men. Alex gets a third part = 1000 men. Would that conform to the general consensus?

There is however another way of looking at it: if the confidential bodyguard is numerically half the entire unit of hypaspists (2000 men), then Leonnatus keeps that unit, Alex gets half the hypaspists proper (1000 men) and Ptolemy gets the 'third part'- 1000 men. Does the Greek for 'third part'- τὸ τρίτον μέρος - necessarily carry the connotation that the part is exactly 1/3 of the total or just that it is one of three possibly unequal parts?
Title: Re: Was Alex's phalanx identical in size and organisation to that of the tacticans?
Post by: Dangun on March 18, 2019, 11:58:16 PM
The 16 man phalangite file seems pretty firmly established. Besides the manuals Polybios describes it in detail. The 16,000 man number for a complete phalanx also seems to correspond to hellenitic armies that are not raised in an emergency where the general lays his hands on every man he can find.

For the less well informed of us (me), what are the range of sources for these numbers? Is it multiple manuals? And are there any helpfully corroborating inscriptions, funeral monuments? etc.

Thanks in advance
Title: Re: Was Alex's phalanx identical in size and organisation to that of the tacticans?
Post by: RichT on March 19, 2019, 09:38:16 AM
For the less well informed of us (me), what are the range of sources for these numbers? Is it multiple manuals? And are there any helpfully corroborating inscriptions, funeral monuments? etc.

Thanks in advance

16 man file:

Polybius 18.30: "With this point in our minds, it will not be difficult to imagine what the appearance and strength of the whole phalanx is likely to be, when, with lowered sarissae, it advances to the charge sixteen deep. Of these sixteen ranks, all above the fifth are unable to reach with their sarissae far enough to take actual part in the fighting. They, therefore, do not lower them, but hold them with the points inclined upwards over the shoulders of the ranks in front of them, to shield the heads of the whole phalanx; for the sarissae are so closely serried, that they repel missiles which have carried over the front ranks and might fall upon the heads of those in the rear."

The manuals of Asclepiodotus, Aelian and Arrian all also talk of a 16 man file in very similar words (similar to each other and to Polybius - not surprisingly, as these three texts and this section of Polybius are closely related, perhaps from a common source).

Under Alexander the file might have been 8 men (based on Polybius' discussion of Issus and the references in Asclepiodotus to an 'earlier' syntagma of 8 x 8 ), though by the end of Alexander's reign his proposed Macedonian/Persian phalanx had 16 man files (led by a dekarch, 'commander of ten'!)

16,000 man phalanx - off the top of my head there's Cynoscephalae and Magnesia and I expect I've forgotten another.

Corroborating inscriptions, funeral monuments - sadly not as such. The best evidence for lower ranks and junior officers comes from Ptolemaic Egypt but there's nothing as nice as "File Leader Demetrius and his file of 15 men". So nothing specific on either file or total phalanx size, though there are a good selection of junior ranks attested (but nothing above the chiliarch, 'commander of 1000', as far as I recall, other than the vague and generic 'strategos', 'general'). But I don't think there's any reason to doubt the 16 man file was standard.

Given that we know/believe that the Hellenistic phalanx was formed into speirai/syntagmata of 256 men; and that we know Alexander had taxeis (1500 traditionally, or 2000 I think quite likely) and chiliarchiai (1000s), and that the manuals talk of chiliarchiai/merarchiai of 1000 and 2000; I don't think it's much of a stretch to think that Alexander's phalanx had a similar organisation to the Hellenistic phalanx, based on units of 64 (if it had 8 man files) or 256 (if it had 16 man files), grouped into 1000s, paired into 2000s. There's no evidence outside the manuals for the larger groupings except in Antigonid inscriptions, 'strategiai' (maybe 4000s?), and for the Hellenistic phalanx, the 'keras', wing or half phalanx; though if a literary source refers to a 'wing' we can't be sure it means a technical unit name or just loosely in the sense of 'left wing', 'right wing'. Maybe, maybe, the Antigonid phalanx was formed from two 'wings', called Chalcaspides and Leucaspides. Maybe, maybe, maybe, maybe Alexander's phalanx had a similar structure with two wings, of Pezhetairoi ('Foot Companions') and Asthetairoi ('Best Companions', 'Kin Companions' or 'Star Companions', take your pick). Even if so he didn't take all of either with him to Asia as an equivalent force remained with Antipater, so the total wasn't 16,000; but there's no reason to suppose 16,000 wasn't the ideal paper strength for a field army, in the way a Roman consular army would consist of four legions/alae (which doesn't mean every, or even any, Roman armies are precisely this strength).

HTH.
Title: Re: Was Alex's phalanx identical in size and organisation to that of the tacticans?
Post by: Justin Swanton on March 19, 2019, 04:51:03 PM
Richard, we are in agreement! Come to my arms!

I can add Arrian: Anabasis, 7.23.3-4:

      
…he [Alexander] enlisted them [the Persians] into the Macedonian ranks, with a Macedonian dekadarchos leading each dekad and, following him, a Macedonian dimoirites and a dekastateros [ten-stater man] – so named after his pay – which was less than that of the dimoirites, but greater than that of the soldiers with no supplement. Added to this were twelve Persians and, last in the dekad, a Macedonian who was also a dekastateros; so within the dekad there were four Macedonians, three of whom were on increased pay, the commander of the dekad, and twelve Persians.

1 dekadarchos + 1 dimoirites + 1 dekastateros + 12 Persians + 1 dekastateros = 16 men
Title: Re: Was Alex's phalanx identical in size and organisation to that of the tacticans?
Post by: Dangun on March 19, 2019, 11:58:02 PM
Thanks, much appreciated.

Would it be fair to say: "a consistent literary message, but nothing remotely contemporary"?
Polybios or Asclepiodotus may have made mention of a source?
Title: Re: Was Alex's phalanx identical in size and organisation to that of the tacticans?
Post by: Justin Swanton on March 20, 2019, 01:13:58 AM
Thanks, much appreciated.

Would it be fair to say: "a consistent literary message, but nothing remotely contemporary"?
Polybios or Asclepiodotus may have made mention of a source?

Asklepiodotus  is generally supposed to have been a pupil of the philosopher Poseidonios (CA 135 – 50 BC), whom he used as the source for his manual. Poseidonios was a Macedonian who lived in the Seleucid Empire, and Asklepiodotus' Ars Tactica describes the Seleucid military system, itself an amalgam of Macedonian and Persian military doctrine, evident from the reference to elephants and chariots along with detailed descriptions of the structure of the Macedonian phalanx.

Polybios (200 - 118BC) was son of a general of the Achaean League, at a time when all the Greek states had adopted the Macedonian military system. He himself was a cavalry officer before being taken to Rome as a hostage. He became tutor of the sons of Aemillius Paulus, Roman general at Pydna. So Polybios would have had extensive first-hand knowledge of the pike phalanx.
Title: Re: Was Alex's phalanx identical in size and organisation to that of the tacticans?
Post by: Dangun on March 20, 2019, 06:30:46 AM
So Polybios would have had extensive first-hand knowledge of the pike phalanx.

Thanks. That’s interesting, I will have to look up Asklepitodotus.

And I guess there is no good reason to think that the phalanx Polybius was familiar with had significantly  changed in the 200 years since Alexander?
Title: Re: Was Alex's phalanx identical in size and organisation to that of the tacticans?
Post by: Andreas Johansson on March 20, 2019, 07:30:20 AM
And I guess there is no good reason to think that the phalanx Polybius was familiar with had significantly  changed in the 200 years since Alexander?
That's the usual assumption, and Polybius' phalanx is very similar to that of the tacticians, at least one of whom (I forget which and don't have the books at hand to check) explicitly claims to be describing the phalanx of Alexander's day.

That said, opposing views had been presented. Rich was posting (http://soa.org.uk/sm/index.php?topic=137.msg42842#msg42842) last year about a book by he'd read that argued that the "classical" pike phalanx originates only in the late 3C, with Alexander's phalanx consisting of what we might think of as "Iphicrateans" (i.e. troops with shields smaller than hoplites' aspides and single-handed spears intermediate in length between the hoplite's doru and the "proper" phalangite's sarissa).
Title: Re: Was Alex's phalanx identical in size and organisation to that of the tacticans?
Post by: RichT on March 20, 2019, 08:07:02 AM
Justin:
Quote
Richard, we are in agreement!

What! What fun is that? There must be some mistake. :)

Oh, hang on...

Quote
Asklepiodotus' Ars Tactica describes the Seleucid military system

Well, maybe. There are Ptolemaic elements in it too - the Ptolemic and Seleucid armies were both still in existence in Asclepiodotus' day. I'm inclined to see A (and the whole Tactics tradition) as an amalgam of Hellenistic practice without being specific to any one real army (hence the multiplicity of different names for units, and bits of 'prevously called, now called' etc). But in this case there is no right or wrong answer.

Quote
And I guess there is no good reason to think that the phalanx Polybius was familiar with had significantly changed in the 200 years since Alexander?

That is the question, and opinions vary as Andreas says. It's Aelian who says (Tactics, Proem): "And yet, if Your Majesty [Emperor Hadrian] shall be pleased to think of it as a Greek 'theorem' or some other discourse, it wll give you some small delight because you will find, contained within, Alexander of Macedon's manner of marshalling his army". All that tells us for sure is that Aelian thought of his Tactics as applying to Alexander, not that it actually did, but I think there are enough other hints around for it to be clear that the view in antiquity was that Alexander's phalanx was much like the Hellenistic phalanx except for details.

There are lots of uncertainties around armament and organisation of Alexander's army though so it's not cut and dried by any means.
Title: Re: Was Alex's phalanx identical in size and organisation to that of the tacticans?
Post by: Dangun on March 20, 2019, 09:51:45 AM
There are lots of uncertainties around armament and organisation of Alexander's army though so it's not cut and dried by any means.

That’s where the fun is.
Title: Re: Was Alex's phalanx identical in size and organisation to that of the tacticans?
Post by: Justin Swanton on March 20, 2019, 10:02:54 AM
There are lots of uncertainties around armament and organisation of Alexander's army though so it's not cut and dried by any means.

That’s where the fun is.

I suppose so, though it's a pity we can't all just agree with me. One big happy family.  ::)
Title: Re: Was Alex's phalanx identical in size and organisation to that of the tacticans?
Post by: Justin Swanton on March 20, 2019, 11:42:04 AM
Trying to get a fix on the size of the hypaspists I found this. Alex is besieging Halicarnassus in Asia Minor. The troops under Memnon make a sortie from the city:

      
The second party, which sallied forth by the triple gate, was met by Ptolemy,[2] one of the royal body-guards, who had with him the regiments of Addaeus and Timander and some of the light-armed troops

......

Of the men in the city about one thousand were slain; and of Alexander's men about forty, among whom were Ptolemy, one of the king's body-guards, Clearchus, a captain of the archers, Addaeus, who had the command of a thousand infantry ["chiliarch"], and other Macedonians of no mean position. - Arrian, 1.22

The bodyguards are present in the infantry deployments at Issus, Gaugamela and Hydaspes, but not at the Granicus. If they are composed of 2 x 1000-man chiliarchies as this text suggests then they are the equivalent of a telos, which suggests in turn that the hypaspists proper are also a telos.

Taking this to Granicus helps to solve the problem of the deployment. Arrian gives what looks like this line-up, with Philip and Craterus mentioned twice:

      
Close to these were posted the Companions who were shield-bearing infantry [hypaspists] under the command of Nicanor, son of Parmenio. Next to these the brigade of Perdiccas, son of Orontes, then that of Coenus, son of Polemocrates; then that of Craterus,[1] son of Alexander, and that of Amyntas, son of Andromenes; finally, the men commanded by Philip, son of Amyntas. The first on the left wing were the Thessalian cavalry, commanded by Calas, son of Harpalus;[2] next to these, the cavalry of the Grecian allies, commanded by Philip, son of Menelaus;[3] next to these the Thracians, commanded by Agatho.[4] Close to these were the infantry, the brigades of Craterus, Meleager, and Philip, reaching as far as the centre of the entire line. - Arrian, 1.14

(https://i.imgur.com/kINmuvu.jpg)

Philip and Craterus are obviously duplicates of the same unit, and it would seem that Amyntas and Meleager also command the same unit. But why two different commanders?

Going back earlier, Arrian describes how the infantry marched in a double phalanx. This is not a double column (for which Arrian uses the word diphalanx) but two lines one behind the other, advancing toward the Granicus. However once at the river they prepare for battle and now only one line is described. How to resolve that?

I suggest that the telos of Philip, Amyntas and Craterus were formed up in double lines, the reason for this being that the ground wasn't quite wide enough for a phalanx at full width plus flanking cavalry. It would have looked like below. Each rear half (or chiliarchy) had its own commander of which Meleager was one.

(https://i.imgur.com/6FbcRlt.jpg)

Once it reached the river and stopped, the chilicarchies of Philip, Meleager and Craterus advanced in column by syntagma to the left of the front line and reformed, which gives this configuration:

(https://i.imgur.com/aA5Kg2C.jpg)

Craterus and Amyntas command their right hand chiliarchies. Philip resumes command of his entire telos. Meleager commands the left hand chiliarchy of Amyntas. Who commands the left hand chiliarchy of Craterus? It is at the end of the phalanx so - following the manuals - it needs a senior commander. I suggest it was Parmenion, who has command of the left but does not command any of the cavalry units there (all their commanders are named). All Macedonian commanders command their personal unit besides their section of the line. For Parmenion simply to sit and direct without actually leading a force of his own would be very anomalous.

You then effectively have 6 telos of which the Companions (the hypaspists), minus the Guard, number 2,000 out of a total of 12,000 foot. Alex may not have incorporated the Guard in this battle if they were part of the original expeditionary force sent by Philip under his other son or son-in-law (forget the name for a moment) whom Alexander had assassinated. Alex had been in Asia Minor only a few weeks - he may not yet have been sure of the Guard's loyalty - they would prove it later at Halicarnassus. Finally, the three telos of Philip, Amyntas and Craterus, considered as complete units, reach the middle of the line as affirmed by Arrian.


[Edit: forget all about Halicarnassus following Duncan's clarification below. But the suggested deployment at the Granicus does seem to cover all the bases]





Title: Re: Was Alex's phalanx identical in size and organisation to that of the tacticans?
Post by: Duncan Head on March 20, 2019, 01:17:52 PM

      
The second party, which sallied forth by the triple gate, was met by Ptolemy,[2] one of the royal body-guards ...

The bodyguards are present in the infantry deployments at Issus, Gaugamela and Hydaspes, but not at the Granicus. If they are composed of 2 x 1000-man chiliarchies ...

"Bodyguard" in this passage is somatophylax, σωματοφύλαξ. There are seven of them.
Title: Re: Was Alex's phalanx identical in size and organisation to that of the tacticans?
Post by: Justin Swanton on March 20, 2019, 03:15:14 PM

      
The second party, which sallied forth by the triple gate, was met by Ptolemy,[2] one of the royal body-guards ...

The bodyguards are present in the infantry deployments at Issus, Gaugamela and Hydaspes, but not at the Granicus. If they are composed of 2 x 1000-man chiliarchies ...

"Bodyguard" in this passage is somatophylax, σωματοφύλαξ. There are seven of them.

OK. I'm learning. So in this passage (Arrian 5.13):

Alexander himself embarked in a thirty-oared galley and went over, accompanied by Perdiccas, Lysimachus, the confidential body-guards [σωματοφύλακες], Seleucus, one of the Companions, who was afterwards king, and half of the shield-bearing guards; the rest of these troops being conveyed in other galleys of the same size.

σωματοφύλακες refers to individuals - Perdiccas and Lysimachus.

Which means that this passage:

He then picked the select bodyguard called the Companions, as well as the cavalry regiments of Hephaestion, Perdiccas, and Demetrius, the cavalry from Bactria, Sogdiana, and Scythia, and the Daan horse-archers; and from the phalanx of infantry the shield-bearing guards, the brigades of Clitus and Coenus, with the archers and Agrianians

along with:

Having thus arranged his army, he ordered the infantry to follow at a slow pace and in regular order, numbering as it did not much under 6,000 men.

The 6000 men refers to "half of the shield-bearing guards" and the two brigades of Clitus and Coenus. It doesn't refer to the light troops (at least not the archers and probably not the Agrianians and javelineers either since they had the same battlefield role) as these are ordered by Alexander to pick up speed and keep pace with the cavalry: "He also instructed Tauron, the commander of the archers, to lead them on also with speed to back up the cavalry."

So two infantry brigades + half the hypaspists = 6000 men. If the hypaspists number 3000 men and a brigade numbers half that, the total infantry complement will come to 4500 men and we have a problem. If however the hypaspists number 4000 men and the brigades are telos each at 2000 men, then half the hypaspists plus two telos = 6000 men.


[Edit - this doesn't work. Alex actually takes all the hypaspists. To be revised.]
Title: Re: Was Alex's phalanx identical in size and organisation to that of the tacticans?
Post by: RichT on March 20, 2019, 03:50:48 PM
Justin - I don't want to spoil our outbreak of agreement but you might be better off doing your learning first, and proposing your theories afterwards. Any of the standard works on Alexander's army will help you to sort out your Hypaspists (3000) from your Bodyguards (7).

Also I don't know what translation of Arrian you are using, but it's not helping - in your previous post you had "the Companions who were shield-bearing infantry [hypaspists] under the command of Nicanor" which suggests that your translator whoever s/he is doesn't know Greek.
Title: Re: Was Alex's phalanx identical in size and organisation to that of the tacticans?
Post by: Justin Swanton on March 20, 2019, 11:49:03 PM
Justin - I don't want to spoil our outbreak of agreement but you might be better off doing your learning first, and proposing your theories afterwards. Any of the standard works on Alexander's army will help you to sort out your Hypaspists (3000) from your Bodyguards (7).

Agreed (that's twice now)  :)

Also I don't know what translation of Arrian you are using, but it's not helping - in your previous post you had "the Companions who were shield-bearing infantry [hypaspists] under the command of Nicanor" which suggests that your translator whoever s/he is doesn't know Greek.

"Companions who were shield-bearing infantry" comes from the Project Gutenberg version with translation by Chinnock though, yes, I know what I've said before about translations. The Greek is οἱ ὑπασπισταὶ τῶν ἑταίρων - "the hypaspists of the Companions" which, unless I'm missing something, seems to be pretty much the same thing? Arrian is distinguishing the infantry Companions from the cavalry Companions - τοὺς ἑταίρους τοὺς ἱππέας - of the preceding section.
Title: Re: Was Alex's phalanx identical in size and organisation to that of the tacticans?
Post by: Justin Swanton on March 21, 2019, 07:58:44 AM
A little refinement to my proposed Granicus deployment. (all WIP what can I say?)

Diodorus affirms that Alex arrived at Asia Minor with 12,000 Macedonian heavy foot, 5,000 mercenaries and 7,000 allies (Library, 17.17). The mercenaries like the Macedonians and unlike the allies would have been well-trained professional soldiers, capable of keeping formation whilst covering a considerable distance marching in line. If one includes them in the initial double line deployment one gets this:

(https://i.imgur.com/8vSR1Pb.png)

It does fit rather neatly.
Title: Re: Was Alex's phalanx identical in size and organisation to that of the tacticans?
Post by: Duncan Head on March 21, 2019, 08:56:57 AM
Also I don't know what translation of Arrian you are using, but it's not helping - in your previous post you had "the Companions who were shield-bearing infantry [hypaspists] under the command of Nicanor" which suggests that your translator whoever s/he is doesn't know Greek.

"Companions who were shield-bearing infantry" comes from the Project Gutenberg version with translation by Chinnock though, yes, I know what I've said before about translations. The Greek is οἱ ὑπασπισταὶ τῶν ἑταίρων - "the hypaspists of the Companions" which, unless I'm missing something, seems to be pretty much the same thing? Arrian is distinguishing the infantry Companions from the cavalry Companions - τοὺς ἑταίρους τοὺς ἱππέας - of the preceding section.

"οἱ ὑπασπισταὶ τῶν ἑταίρων" is "the hypaspists of the Companions" -  hypaspists is nominative, Companions is genitive. Not quite the same thing at all.

If you look back to the Kambouris article I linked to on the first page - here (https://koryvantesstudies.org/studies-in-english-language/page220-2/) - he regards "the hypaspists of the Companions" as one of the three battalions of the hypaspists, so named because they were originally the shield-bearing squires of the Companion cavalry.
Title: Re: Was Alex's phalanx identical in size and organisation to that of the tacticans?
Post by: RichT on March 21, 2019, 01:05:08 PM
Justin
Quote
"Companions who were shield-bearing infantry" comes from the Project Gutenberg version with translation by Chinnock

To be fair Chinnock's knowledge of Greek is much much better than yours or mine, but that was a slip, and anyway he was writing in 1880-odd and most of the work on identifying units of Alexander's army etc has been done since then. It's always worth checking technical terms and unit names against the Greek (but it's never a good idea to mess with the meaning).
Title: Re: Was Alex's phalanx identical in size and organisation to that of the tacticans?
Post by: Dave Beatty on April 02, 2019, 05:05:26 PM
Shall I do this?  ::)

I look forward to it! What is a 'tactican?'
Title: Re: Was Alex's phalanx identical in size and organisation to that of the tacticans?
Post by: Justin Swanton on April 02, 2019, 05:10:03 PM
Shall I do this?  ::)

I look forward to it! What is a 'tactican?'

I've more or less done it above (though with possibly more to come). The tacticians are the three writers of military manuals in Antiquity that describe the organisation and function of the various branches of the army. They are Asklepiodotus, Aelian and Arrian.

Ah...I see I misspelt 'tactician' in the thread title.
Title: Re: Was Alex's phalanx identical in size and organisation to that of the tacticans?
Post by: Patrick Waterson on April 02, 2019, 06:44:26 PM
I look forward to it! What is a 'tactican?'

An early development of armoured warfare ... perhaps this (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dendra_panoply#/media/File:Mycenaean_armour_from_chamber_tomb_12_of_Dendra_1.JPG)?