Ancient Macedonian battle tactics

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Ancient Macedonia employed a range of tactics and formations in their military campaigns, the most notable of these is the Macedonian phalanx, Developed by Philip II and used extensively on campaign by his son Alexander the Great.

Battle tactics prior to reforms of Phillip II[edit]

The Macedonian Phalanx

Prior to the reign of Philip II (382–336 BC) Macedonia was a comparatively minor state with a mixed Hellenic and Barbarian culture. Its armies where similar to that of other Greek states to the south in that they employed to an extent the use of the phalanx. Such early Macedonian armies showed clear similarities with the military styles of nearby Barbarian states such as Thrace and Iyllria.[citation needed] The army most likely used the Doru and Aspis (a mid-length Hellenic spear and solid metallic shield.) The army was of no substantial threat or force; prominence of the army only came after the reign of Phillip the II.

Reforms of Phillip II[edit]

Phillip spent much of his early life held captive in Thebes, where he was educated in military theory by Epaminodas, It is evident Phillip greatly benefited from these teachings, once he became King of Macedonia he moved quickly to reform the old semi-Barbaric Macedonian army. He began by introducing the use of light effective cavalry, chiefly he created the companion cavalry and increased the use of horsemen from Thessaly. His most notable change however came in the introduction of the Macedonian phalanx, which although heavily derived from the older Hellenic hoplite phalanx, it was considered superior in many ways. Phillip also regularised the armies, introduced divisions and regiments and totally revolutionised the weaponry used by the soldiers of his state.

Organisation[edit]

The basic unit of the Macedonian Phalanx was the syntagma, a collection of 256 men in a 16x16 strong square. Each column of the syntagma was known as a lochos and contained 16 men, the man at the front was known as the lochagos (captain) and the man at the back who guarded the rank's rear was the ouragos. Assuming rank number one is the rank first to the right when looking directly forward into the formation the 2nd rank contained a dilocus who was in charge of the two ranks and was superior to the other lochagos, the next lochos was controlled by a lochagos and the line after controlled by a tetrairach. The tetrairach controlled the first 4 ranks (64 men) but directly controlled his own lochos. This pattern is repeated except in the 8th rank the tetrairach is known as a taxitairch, and he so forth controlled 128 men. The leader of the 2nd group of 8 ranks and therefore the leader of the whole syntagma was the syntagmatairch. He controlled the whole group of 256 men and was entrusted with their control during the intense difficulties of battle. The syntagma were grouped into 32 regiments collectively known as a keras (wing) each keras containing about 8192 men. The two keras together formed a full army, or a phalanx. This was in itself commanded by a strategos (general).

Weaponry[edit]

In accordance with the changes in formation that underwent the Macedonian Army, Phillip II also introduced new weaponry and equipment for his soldiers. Notably the Sarissa (an 18 ft long Spear) for use in the Phalanx to give soldiers additional range. To accompany this, Larger heavier aspis's were incorporated into the Army along with less flexible bronze armour and a distinctive new metal cap called a konos (helmet) which was a kind of Phrygian cap,

Soldiers

Weakness and defeat[edit]

The Macedonion 'Lochous', or individual unit, when grouped together, were nearly invincible from the front, but incredibly weak from the rear and flanks. Thus, "hammer and anvil" tactics were often the most effective way in beating a phalanx. Infantry engages from the front, while cavalry circles the wings, and charges repeatedly into the rear of the phalanx, until the army is totally annihilated.

Legacy[edit]

References[edit]

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