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Chiliarch (from Greek: χιλίαρχος, chiliarchos, sometimes χιλιάρχης, chiliarches or χειλίαρχος, cheiliarchos; meaning "commander of a thousand") is a military rank dating back to Antiquity. The command of a chiliarch is called a chiliarchy (χιλιαρχία, chiliarchia).[1]

Ancient Greece[edit]

In the Ancient Macedonian army, a chiliarch was the commander of a 1024-strong chiliarchy or taxis of the pezhetairoi and the hypaspists heavy infantry, subdivided into 64 16-men files or lochoi. At the same time, officers known as pentakosiarchs ("commanders of 500") are also mentioned alongside the chiliarchs under both Alexander the Great and in the Ptolemaic armies, apparently as subordinate officers.[1]

In addition, the title of chiliarch was used as the Greek equivalent of the Achaemenid Persian title hazahrapatish (also transliterated in Greek as azarapateis). The Achaemenid army was organized on a decimal basis, and the hazahrapatish was the commander of the melophoroi (μηλοφόροι, "apple-bearers"), the 1,000-strong personal bodyguard of the Achaemenid kings. The latter often played a role analogous to that of a majordomo or vizier in later times.[1][2] The Persian office was in turn adopted by Alexander the Great, and first awarded to Hephaestion and after Hephaestion's death to Perdiccas. Likewise, Antipater shortly before his death named Polyperchon as strategos autokrator, but then named his own son Cassander as chiliarch, and thereby "second in authority" according to Diodorus Siculus (XVIII.48.4–5). This Persian-inspired office did not survive into subsequent Hellenistic practice.[1] However, it was revived by later Iranian dynasties: while its existence in the Parthian Empire is unclear, it was certainly in existence in the 3rd century under the Sasanian Empire (Middle Persian: hazārbed or hazāruft). According to the 5th-century Armenian historian Elishe, it was equivalent to wuzurg framadār or prime minister.[2] From Persian, the term also passed into Armenian as hazarapet and hazarwuxt.[2]

Roman and Byzantine periods[edit]

Later Greek authors employed the term chiliarch for the Roman military tribunes, with the tribunus laticlavius in particular rendered χ[ε]ιλίαρχος πλατύσημος (ch[e]iliarchos platysemos).[1] In the Byzantine Empire, the title was used as a more scholarly alternative to the rank of droungarios, chiefly in literary works, while in the later 10th century it became once more a technical term when Nikephoros II Phokas instituted 1,000-strong units termed chiliarchia or taxiarchia and commanded by a chiliarchos or taxiarches.[3]

Greek War of Independence[edit]

The title was once again revived during the Greek War of Independence. In January 1822, the First National Assembly at Epidaurus decided to create an organizational framework for the irregular troops of the various independent war leaders, and instituted a number of chiliarchies (χιλιαρχίες), each composed of ten centuries (εκατονταρχίες) of a hundred men under a centurion (εκατόνταρχος, ekatontarchos). Each chiliarchy was commanded by a chiliarch, with a small staff comprising a deputy chiliarch (υποχιλίαρχος, ypochiliarchos), a subaltern known as taxiarchos, a doctor, a surgeon, a quartermaster and a priest.[4]

In 1828, the chiliarchies were reorganized and reduced to three, each now comprising two pentakosiarchies (πεντακοσιαρχίες) of five centuries each, comprising 1120 men in total. Each chiliarch had a small staff comprising an adjutant, a secretary, a priest, a doctor, a paymaster and a quartermaster, while a flag bearer and a trumpeter were allocated to each pentakosiarchy. The 1828-model chiliarchies were abolished after the Battle of Petra in July 1829, and thirteen light infantry battalions (tagmata) formed instead.[4]


  1. ^ a b c d e Brandis, Karl Georg (1899). "Chiliarchos". Realencyclopädie der Classischen Altertumswissenschaft. Band III, Halbband 6, Campanus ager-Claudius. pp. 2275–2276. 
  2. ^ a b c Gignoux, Philippe (1991). "Chiliarch". Encyclopædia Iranica, Vol. V Fasc. 4. pp. 423–424. 
  3. ^ Haldon, John F. (1999). Warfare, state and society in the Byzantine world, 565–1204. Routledge. p. 115. ISBN 1-85728-494-1. 
  4. ^ a b Μεγάλη Στρατιωτική και Ναυτική Εγκυκλοπαιδεία. Τόμος Στ′: Σαράντα Εκκλησίαι – Ώχρα [Great Military and Naval Encyclopedia. Volume VI] (in Greek). Athens. 1930. p. 582.