Sarissophoroi

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The sarissophoroi (Greek: σαρισσοφόροι, "sarissa bearers") (singular: sarissophoros, (Greek: σαρισσοφόρος)), also called prodromoi, were a unit of light cavalry in the army of Macedon and various Hellenistic states. They wielded a shorter version of the infantryman's (pezhetairos) pike (sarissa), possibly in reality merely a longer version of the cavalry lance (xyston), but also carried javelins so that they could harry an enemy from a distance. Scholarship is divided as to the ethnic composition of the sarissophoroi/prodromoi of the Macedonian army. Most authorities regard the sarissophoroi/prodromoi as being raised from Macedonians, which would parallel the Athenian prodromoi, who were raised from the Thetes, the lowest census class of Athenian citizens.[1] Sekunda, however, gives them an origin from Thrace.[2] Arrian usually differentiates the prodromoi from the Paeonian light cavalry, which suggests a fixed ethnic composition.[3] This uncertainty is probably due to the lack of a definite understanding of the use of the term prodromoi by the primary sources.

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 sarissaphoroi then assumed a purely battlefield role as shock cavalry. It is also possible that the sarissaphoroi, 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 Thessalian cavalry. In battle the sarissophoroi were usually placed on the outer flank of the Companion cavalry. Four ilai, each 150 strong, of sarissaphoroi/prodromoi operated with Alexander's army in Asia.[4]

At Gaugamela, the sarissophoroi under Aretes were responsible for finally routing the Persian left wing cavalry, winning the battle in this sector.[5]

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.[6]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Gaebel, p. 178
  2. ^ Sekunda 2010, p. 454
  3. ^ Gaebel, p. 178
  4. ^ Ashley. pp. 32-33.
  5. ^ Ashley. p. 32.
  6. ^ 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
  • Sekunda, N. V. (2010). "The Macedonian Army". In Roisman, Joseph; Worthington, Ian. A Companion to Ancient Macedonia. Oxford, Chichester, & Malden: Wiley-Blackwell. pp. 446–471. ISBN 978-1-4051-7936-2. 
  • Sidnell, Philip (2006). Warhorse. London: Hambeldon Continuum. p. 355. ISBN 1-85285-374-3. 
  • Heckel, Waldemar (2006). Who's Who in the Age of Alexander the Great: Prosopography of Alexander's Empire. John Wiley & Sons, Inc. p. 351. ISBN 1-4051-8839-1.