Prodromoi

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In ancient Greece, the Prodromoi (singular: Prodromos) were skirmisher light cavalry. Their name (ancient Greek: πρόδρομοι, prοdromoi, lit. "pre-cursors," "runners-before," or "runners-ahead") implies that these cavalry 'moved before the rest of the army' and were therefore intended for scouting and screening missions. They were usually equipped with javelins, and a sword. Sometimes they wore either linen or leather armour, as well as bronze helmets. The Athenian prodromoi, were raised from the Thetes, the lowest of the four census classes of Athenian citizens. Their members were, therefore, considerably poorer than the citizens who made up the Hippeis, the heavy cavalry, who were drawn from the second census class.[1]

Later, in the Macedonian army of Philip II and Alexander the Great, the cavalry unit termed the prodromoi carried skirmishing equipment for scouting and outpost duties, however, the cavalrymen of this unit are sometimes referred to as sarissophoroi, "pikemen" or "lancers", which leads to the conclusion that they were sometimes armed with an uncommonly long xyston (believed to be 14 ft long), though certainly not an infantry pike (sarissa). They acted as scouts reconnoitring in front of the army when it was on the march. In battle, they were used in a shock role to protect the right flank of the Companion cavalry. Their abilities as scouts would seem to have been mediocre, because Persian light cavalry took over these duties when they became available to the Macedonian army following Gaugamela. The prodromoi then assumed a purely battlefield role as shock cavalry. It is also possible that the prodromoi, due to their skill in wielding long lances and their extensive battle experience, were considered more valuable in the role of shock cavalry, especially after the departure of the allied Thessalian cavalry. Four ilai, each 150 strong, of prodromoi operated with Alexander's army in Asia.[2]

At Gaugamela, the prodromoi under Aretes were responsible for finally routing the Persian left wing cavalry, winning the battle in this sector.[3]

In the primary sources Arrian mentions that Aretes commanded the prodromoi, in the same context Curtius says that Aretes commanded the sarissophoroi. It would appear that the same unit of cavalry was known by both names.[4]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Gaebel, p. 178
  2. ^ Ashley. pp. 32-33.
  3. ^ Ashley. p. 32.
  4. ^ Arrian, trans. Hammond, p. 267

Bibliography[edit]

  • Ashley, J.R. (2004) The Macedonian Empire: The Era of Warfare Under Philip II and Alexander the Great, 359-323 B.C. McFarland.
  • Arrian, trans Hammond, M. (2013) Alexander the Great: The Anabasis and the Indica, Oxford University Press.
  • Gaebel, R.E, (2004) Cavalry Operations in the Ancient Greek World, University of Oklahoma Press

In popular culture[edit]

They have been featured in the video games Age of Mythology and Age of Empires Online, acting as the primary cavalry of the Greeks in both appearances.