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Topic Subject:The Army of Antigonid Macedonia
DominicusUltimus
Legate
posted 26 January 2013 14:26 EDT (US)         
The Army of Antigonid Macedonia



By DominicusUltimus


Macedonia. The land that had given birth to the likes of Philip II and Alexander the Great continued to be an influential force in the Hellenistic Age, until it came in conflict with the rising power of the Roman Republic. However, the Macedonian kingdom that came to blows with the Romans wasn't ruled by the Argead Dynasty of Philip and Alexander. That bloodline had come to an end when Cassander, son of Antipater who was one of Alexander's most trusted generals, executed Alexander's son Alexander IV along with his mother Roxane in 310 BC. No, this Macedonia was led by the Antigonid dynasty. xx

Descended from Antigonus Monopthalmus, one of the most powerful of Alexander's Successors, the Antigonids were a line of powerful and ambitious kings who warred with the Ptolemies and the Seleucids for control of the Greek speaking world. Though Antigonus Monopthalmus was the progenitor of the royal line, the first official king of Antigonid Macedonia was his grandson Antigonus Gonatas who firmly established himself in 277 b.c. In this article I shall go into detail about the armed forces of the Antigonids. From how closely they followed the military mold set by Philip and Alexander, to how they started to evolve in an attempt to match and exceed the legions of Rome. xx


The Phalanx



The mighty Antigonid phalanx


The backbone of the Antigonid war machine was the Macedonian phalanx. The men or phalangites of the Antigonid phalanx continued to wield the mighty sarissa pike as the Argead phalanx had before them. However, the Antigonids increased the already prodigious length of the sarissa from sixteen feet to a monstrous twenty-two feet long. This gave their soldiers the advantage of a far greater reach than their opponents as well as their Argead predecessors, but it also had the disadvantage of making the phalanx even more unwieldy than it already was. Another disadvantage of the massive weapon was that it further compounded the phalanx's limited maneuverability, and made it even more vulnerable to outflanking by more mobile opponents such as the Polybian Era legionnaire. xx

Despite these disadvantages, the Antigonid phalanx was a formidable formation that could be almost unstoppable when commanded by a capable general. The length of the sarissa allowed five spearheads to be aimed at an enemy before he could get close enough to attack the first rank of the phalanx, and forest of spear points presented a powerful and terrifying image that few men had the courage to stand against. The length of the sarissa also had the added advantage of maintaining the cohesion of the phalanx by keeping the ranks of phalangites in line with one another. The unengaged phalangites of the rear ranks held their sarissai at an angle above the first five ranks, and by doing so created a kind of shield that deflected arrows, sling stones and other missiles thrown at them. xx

The Antigonids initially allowed only pureblooded Macedonians to fight within the ranks of the phalanx, but this slowly began to change as more Macedonians began migrating East into the fertile lands of the Seleucid and Ptolemaic empires. These restrictions were finally abolished after thousands of Macedonians were killed or captured at the disastrous Battle of Cynoscephalae in 197 b.c. Desperately in need of replacements and manpower, the Antigonid king Philip V proclaimed a series of reforms over the course of several years (196 b.c. to his death in 179 b.c.) that allowed non-Macedonians into the ranks of the phalanx and soon thousands of Thracians and Illyrians began flocking to his banner. These men reinvigorated the Antigonid military and gave Philip's son Perseus the strength he needed to fight the Romans at the decisive Battle of Pydna in 168 b.c. xx

There were also two elite corps within the Antigonid phalanx known as the Chalkaspides (Bronze Shields) and the Leukaspides (White Shields). The two corps numbered roughly five thousand men each, and they were distinguished from the other Antigonid phalangites by their more extravagant weapons and armor. These arms were not just for show, and were said to be of exceptional quality equal to those of the king himself. The two corps were often, but not always, found fighting alongside each other in battle. xx


Infantry and Auxiliary Forces


To support the phalanx and to protect its vulnerable flanks, the Antigonids fielded many types of light and heavy infantry. The first of these were the Peltastai. Unlike the lighter skirmishing forces of other kingdoms, the Macedonian Peltastai were well protected in linothorax armor and were often found fighting alongside the phalanx. They often served as shock troops and were skilled in ambushing and traversing rough and irregular terrain. Their ranks stood five thousand strong, and two thousand of them formed an elite battalion known as the Agema. The Agema served as the personal guard of the Antigonid kings, and were often deployed in only the most dangerous and rewarding missions. xx

The Antigonids also field two other types of infantry known as the Thureophoroi and the Thorakitai. The Thureophoroi were light troops armed with a spear, a handful of javelins, a kopis or makhaira short sword and the large thureos shield for which they were named. Their primary role was to skirmish with enemy's own light troops, and to harass the opposing phalanx before it came into contact with their own. The Thorakitai possessed the same weapons used by the Thureophoroi, but were well protected with shirts of mail armor. This added protection allowed them to fight alongside the phalanx, and to charge and exploit any gaps created in the enemy's line. They were also skilled in fighting in rough or mountainous terrain where the more heavily armored phalangites could prove all but useless against lighter opponents. xx

The light infantry of the Antigonid army were known as the Psiloi. These men were the skirmishers of the Antigonid army and thus were divided into three separate divisions based on their weaponry. These divisions were the Akontistai (javelineers), the Toxotai (archers) and the Sphendonetai (slingers). Together they served to "soften up" the enemy by picking off soldiers or by disrupting the enemy formation with massed volleys of missiles just before they came into contact with the main phalanx. Though not as crucial as the high-riding cavalry or the mighty phalanx, they were still an integral, if somewhat inglorious, component of the Antigonid war machine. xx


The Cavalry


The last and most prestigious arm of the Antigonid army was the cavalry, the hammer to the phalanx's anvil. However, it was also the most neglected and underappreciated part of the Antigonid army. As warfare in mainland Greece become focused once again on the heavy infantry slugfests between phalanxes, the tradition of horsemanship amongst the Macedonian nobility fell more and more into disuse. The close proximity between Macedon and the various Greek city-states meant there wasn't as much of a need for fast, hard-hitting cavalry as there was during the heyday of Philip and Alexander. Despite this, they were still a crucial component of the Antigonid army. xx


The Hetairoi


The first of the cavalry squadrons were the world famous shock cavalry known as the Hetairoi or Companion Cavalry. Comprised of the Macedonian nobility, and especially the king's closest friends, the Hetairoi were a small but war-winning force. They were well armored in muscle cuirasses of bronze, silver and in some cases even gold. Their role was to charge directly into the enemy and for this they wielded a large thirteen foot long lance called a xyston, which could impale two men when propelled by a proper charge. If the xyston was lost or broken after a charge they switched to a singed-edged sword known as a kopis. The hacking style of the sword was enhanced by the Hetairoi's increased height, and it wasn't unusual to see a Hetairoi literally disarm his opponent in battle. xx


The Xystophoroi


The last two cavalry squadrons of the Antigonid army were known as the Loncophoroi and the Xystophoroi. The Loncophoroi were armored similar to the Hetairoi, but instead wielded a shield and short thrusting spear in combat. Their role was to engage and intercept shock cavalry like the Hetairoi before they could unleash their deadly charge. On the other hand, the Xystophoroi were solely meant to charge repeatedly into the enemy line. Like the Hetairoi they wielded the mighty xyston lance, but unlike them they and their mounts were almost completely unarmored. This helped them gain momentum for a charge and escape swiftly afterwards, but if caught in a melee with infantry or other cavalry forces they could be torn to pieces. xx


Overview and Summary


Despite the difference in tactics, and the shift away from the cavalry to the phalanx as the decisive element of battle, the Antigonid army was a formidable military machine. It was more than capable of matching up to the forces of the Seleucids, the Ptolemies and the citizen armies of the Greek city-states, but against the more flexible and maneuverable legions of the Roman Republic it was found to be somewhat lacking. However, these shortcomings were not insurmountable and the great defeats at Cynoscephalae and Pydna had more to do with the failings of its commanders than the ability of the soldiery. xx

The disaster at Cynoscephalae in 197 b.c. was caused not by a poor performance on the phalanx's part, but by Philip V's decision to engage the Romans when only half of his army was ready for battle. Indeed, the right wing of the phalanx that managed to form up met the legionnaires head-on and succeeded in driving the vaunted legions of Rome before it. Disaster occurred only when the unformed left wing was routed, and the victorious legionnaires charged into the phalanx's unprotected flanks and rear. Had Philip been more patient and fought the Romans after his army had fully deployed, there is a significant chance that he could've won the day and prevented the Romans from ever gaining a foothold in Greece. xx

The catastrophe at Pydna in 168 b.c. was another defeat that could've been prevented if the commander had been more aware of the tactical situation and exerted more control over all of his forces. Once again, the phalanx and legion met one another head-on and the legionnaires proved unable to pierce the wall of spear points. Trying in vain to grab the sarissa or hack away their spear points, the legionnaires fell back on uneven ground and unwisely the phalanx pursued. Instead of ordering his men to hold or pulling them back, Perseus let them go forward and allowed the phalanx to lose its unity and cohesion. Seeing their chance in front of them the legionnaires charged into the gaps of the phalanx, but the day could've been saved if Perseus had led his cavalry in a charge into the legion's exposed flanks. xx

Instead, the last true Antigonid king fled the battlefield while his soldiers fought on until they were slaughtered to the last man.

Had the army of the Antigonids regressed when compared to the army of the Argeads? It had, but it was still capable of meeting almost any other army in battle with a significant chance of achieving victory. The problem was not to be found in the system or in the soldiers themselves, but in the higher echelons of power. Commanders who relied on the brute force of the phalanx whilst ignoring its weaknesses instead of compensating for them led the army to disaster in the face of determined opposition such as the Roman legionnaires. Though the torch of war had been passed from the phalanx to the legion, the armies of the Argeads and the Antigonid's left an incredible impression that men such as I still remember today. xx


For those who are interested, the links below provide more detailed information about the great battles of the Antigonid army:

The Battle of Cynoscephalae

The Battle of Pydna


Selected Bibliography:

B. Bar-Kochva The Seleucid Army
Joseph Pietrkowski Great Battles of the Hellenistic World
John Warry Warfare in the Classical World
Philip Matyszak The Enemies of Rome: From Hannibal to Attila the Hun
Ruth Sheppard Alexander the Great at War

and of course Wikipedia

Credits for picture and screenshots:

Ancient Warfare Magazine. Specific issue found here.

The Classical Age: Total War Team. Home page here

"Life is more fun when you are insane. Just let go occasionally".- yakcamkir 12:14
"It is not numbers, but vision that wins wars." - Antiochus VII Sidetes
"My magic screen is constantly bombarded with nubile young things eager to please these old eyes. This truly is a wonderful period in which to exist! - Terikel Grayhair
Angel of Total War: Rome II Heaven and the Total War: Attila Forums

[This message has been edited by DominicusUltimus (edited 01-29-2013 @ 05:08 AM).]

AuthorReplies:
Alex_the_Bold
Legionary
posted 26 January 2013 17:05 EDT (US)     1 / 21       
An excellent article. Well researched, concise and well written. Just a little mistake:
Peltastoi
The correct form is Peltastai...

Invincibility lies in defence, while the possibility of victory in the attack -Sun Tzu
Akouson me, pataxon de (hit me, but first listen to me)-Themistocles to Euribiadis prior to the battle of Salamis.
Awesome Eagle
Spear of Mars
(id: awesomated88)
posted 26 January 2013 17:35 EDT (US)     2 / 21       
I am with Alex on this one. Wonderful, i cant see any glaring grammatical errors. Maybe a pic or two to break up the text would be a nice addition but not necessary.

Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it- George Santayana
History is a guide to navigation in perilous times. History is who we are and why we are the way we are- David C. McCullough
Wars not make one great- Yoda
DominicusUltimus
Legate
posted 26 January 2013 17:48 EDT (US)     3 / 21       
The correct form is Peltastai
Corrected! And I was planning to add a picture of the phalanx, but it's a little too big and I don't want to mess with the forum coding too badly.

Edit - Pictures and their sources have been added to the article.

"Life is more fun when you are insane. Just let go occasionally".- yakcamkir 12:14
"It is not numbers, but vision that wins wars." - Antiochus VII Sidetes
"My magic screen is constantly bombarded with nubile young things eager to please these old eyes. This truly is a wonderful period in which to exist! - Terikel Grayhair
Angel of Total War: Rome II Heaven and the Total War: Attila Forums

[This message has been edited by DominicusUltimus (edited 01-27-2013 @ 03:38 AM).]

Terikel Grayhair
Imperator
(id: Terikel706)
posted 27 January 2013 05:48 EDT (US)     4 / 21       
An excellent review of the Antigonid army! Well-developed, with pics... everything a happy seraph could want. A few dates would be nice- like when Antigonus took over, a general idea of how long into the dynasty the changes began, and when Cynocephalae and Pydna were that ended their reign. I know these things, but others might not.

One nit (format your line, my suggestion, why):
the Hetairoi were a small but war winning force
the Hetairoi were a small but war-winning force
(missing a hyphen to link the two words into a single adjective)

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DominicusUltimus
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posted 27 January 2013 07:18 EDT (US)     5 / 21       
The OP has been corrected and edited according to your advice Terikel! I always make the mistake of forgetting to add dates to noteworthy battles when I'm caught up in my writing. I shall not make it again when I start working on my next article.

"Life is more fun when you are insane. Just let go occasionally".- yakcamkir 12:14
"It is not numbers, but vision that wins wars." - Antiochus VII Sidetes
"My magic screen is constantly bombarded with nubile young things eager to please these old eyes. This truly is a wonderful period in which to exist! - Terikel Grayhair
Angel of Total War: Rome II Heaven and the Total War: Attila Forums
Alex_the_Bold
Legionary
posted 27 January 2013 15:57 EDT (US)     6 / 21       
The pictures have made it much better... I think that you should also mention that the light troops (archers, javelinmen etc.) were called psiloi

Invincibility lies in defence, while the possibility of victory in the attack -Sun Tzu
Akouson me, pataxon de (hit me, but first listen to me)-Themistocles to Euribiadis prior to the battle of Salamis.
DominicusUltimus
Legate
posted 27 January 2013 16:54 EDT (US)     7 / 21       
I was actually going to do a fair bit of editing on that part, since a friend of mine reminded earlier that the akontistai were only the light infantry that used javelins. The other two types were the Toxotai (archers) and the Sphendonatai (slingers), and together they all formed the psiloi.

I shall make my additions/edits right now.

"Life is more fun when you are insane. Just let go occasionally".- yakcamkir 12:14
"It is not numbers, but vision that wins wars." - Antiochus VII Sidetes
"My magic screen is constantly bombarded with nubile young things eager to please these old eyes. This truly is a wonderful period in which to exist! - Terikel Grayhair
Angel of Total War: Rome II Heaven and the Total War: Attila Forums

[This message has been edited by DominicusUltimus (edited 01-27-2013 @ 04:54 PM).]

Awesome Eagle
Spear of Mars
(id: awesomated88)
posted 27 January 2013 17:22 EDT (US)     8 / 21       
Looks Fantastic so far Dom!

Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it- George Santayana
History is a guide to navigation in perilous times. History is who we are and why we are the way we are- David C. McCullough
Wars not make one great- Yoda
Alex_the_Bold
Legionary
posted 27 January 2013 17:34 EDT (US)     9 / 21       
It's actually Sphendonetaiφενδονηται, pronounced Sphendonitai... (I know I'm annoying).

Invincibility lies in defence, while the possibility of victory in the attack -Sun Tzu
Akouson me, pataxon de (hit me, but first listen to me)-Themistocles to Euribiadis prior to the battle of Salamis.
DominicusUltimus
Legate
posted 27 January 2013 17:44 EDT (US)     10 / 21       
(I know I'm annoying)
Quite the opposite Alex. It's very refreshing to have a natural Greek speaker correct me whenever I make errors or unintentionally butcher your language Ironically, I misspelled Sphendonetai in my reply to you but spelled it correctly when I edited the article earlier.

Very glad to hear you're both enjoying the article so far, and I hope it gets more visitors and forummers interested in the Antigonids and the other Successor dynasties whenever it gets newsied.

"Life is more fun when you are insane. Just let go occasionally".- yakcamkir 12:14
"It is not numbers, but vision that wins wars." - Antiochus VII Sidetes
"My magic screen is constantly bombarded with nubile young things eager to please these old eyes. This truly is a wonderful period in which to exist! - Terikel Grayhair
Angel of Total War: Rome II Heaven and the Total War: Attila Forums
General Sajaru
Tribunus Laticlavius
posted 29 January 2013 01:58 EDT (US)     11 / 21       
Excellent article Dom. A few nits (with such a good article, that's all I can find ):
shift away from cavalry to the phalanx as the primary bread winner of a battle,
While this is not a bad expression, it's somewhat incongruous to use when speaking about warfare. I would suggest primary focus or primary type of troop, perhaps.

Commander's who relied on
Commanders who relied on

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Terikel Grayhair
Imperator
(id: Terikel706)
posted 29 January 2013 04:13 EDT (US)     12 / 21       
Maybe:
shift away from cavalry to the phalanx as the primary decider of battles

?

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DominicusUltimus
Legate
posted 29 January 2013 05:07 EDT (US)     13 / 21       
My gut was telling something was off about that sentence. When I read it, it felt like I was talking more about economics or familial demographics than warfare haha.

I shall rewrite it as, 'shift away from the cavalry to the phalanx as the decisive element of battle'.

The writing of 'commanders' as possessive instead of plural was also a silly mistake on my part, especially considering how much I hate it when people type 'your' or 'there' instead of 'you're' and 'they're'.

"Life is more fun when you are insane. Just let go occasionally".- yakcamkir 12:14
"It is not numbers, but vision that wins wars." - Antiochus VII Sidetes
"My magic screen is constantly bombarded with nubile young things eager to please these old eyes. This truly is a wonderful period in which to exist! - Terikel Grayhair
Angel of Total War: Rome II Heaven and the Total War: Attila Forums
DominicusUltimus
Legate
posted 30 January 2013 13:48 EDT (US)     14 / 21       
If there are no more critiques or errors to be found, I shall proceed to invoke the Two Day Rule

"Life is more fun when you are insane. Just let go occasionally".- yakcamkir 12:14
"It is not numbers, but vision that wins wars." - Antiochus VII Sidetes
"My magic screen is constantly bombarded with nubile young things eager to please these old eyes. This truly is a wonderful period in which to exist! - Terikel Grayhair
Angel of Total War: Rome II Heaven and the Total War: Attila Forums
Terikel Grayhair
Imperator
(id: Terikel706)
posted 31 January 2013 00:45 EDT (US)     15 / 21       
Invoked. Y'all have two days to git yer comments up. After that, this goes up.

|||||||||||||||| A transplanted Viking, born a millennium too late. |||||||||||||||||
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|||||||||||||||| Listed on my page for your convenience and envy.|||||||||||||||||
Somewhere over the EXCO Rainbow
Master Skald, Order of the Silver Quill, Guild of the Skalds
Champion of the Sepia Joust- Joust I, II, IV, VI, VII, VIII
Terikel Grayhair
Imperator
(id: Terikel706)
posted 02 February 2013 05:27 EDT (US)     16 / 21       
Posted and newsied.

Chalk up a Custom Title qualification, DU. Well-earned.

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|||||||||||||||| Too many Awards to list in Signature, sorry lords...|||||||||||||||||
|||||||||||||||| Listed on my page for your convenience and envy.|||||||||||||||||
Somewhere over the EXCO Rainbow
Master Skald, Order of the Silver Quill, Guild of the Skalds
Champion of the Sepia Joust- Joust I, II, IV, VI, VII, VIII

[This message has been edited by Terikel Grayhair (edited 02-02-2013 @ 01:41 PM).]

DominicusUltimus
Legate
posted 02 February 2013 12:06 EDT (US)     17 / 21       
Thank you Terikel. I was also wondering if my past article on Seleucus I Nicator also counts towards a custom title. It's short and somewhat lacking when compared to my most recent work, but it was the first article I wrote for RTWH and I'm particularly proud of it.

"Life is more fun when you are insane. Just let go occasionally".- yakcamkir 12:14
"It is not numbers, but vision that wins wars." - Antiochus VII Sidetes
"My magic screen is constantly bombarded with nubile young things eager to please these old eyes. This truly is a wonderful period in which to exist! - Terikel Grayhair
Angel of Total War: Rome II Heaven and the Total War: Attila Forums
Terikel Grayhair
Imperator
(id: Terikel706)
posted 02 February 2013 13:42 EDT (US)     18 / 21       
It counts.

|||||||||||||||| A transplanted Viking, born a millennium too late. |||||||||||||||||
|||||||||||||||| Too many Awards to list in Signature, sorry lords...|||||||||||||||||
|||||||||||||||| Listed on my page for your convenience and envy.|||||||||||||||||
Somewhere over the EXCO Rainbow
Master Skald, Order of the Silver Quill, Guild of the Skalds
Champion of the Sepia Joust- Joust I, II, IV, VI, VII, VIII
DominicusUltimus
Legate
posted 02 February 2013 13:49 EDT (US)     19 / 21       
Most excellent and thank you once again. I shall have to start work on my next article soon and inch ever closer to coveted promotion.

"Life is more fun when you are insane. Just let go occasionally".- yakcamkir 12:14
"It is not numbers, but vision that wins wars." - Antiochus VII Sidetes
"My magic screen is constantly bombarded with nubile young things eager to please these old eyes. This truly is a wonderful period in which to exist! - Terikel Grayhair
Angel of Total War: Rome II Heaven and the Total War: Attila Forums
Aftermath
HG Alumnus
posted 05 February 2013 17:42 EDT (US)     20 / 21       
Good work Dom, I know relatively nothing of the finer details of the period so articles like these are great to read whilst I get excited about Rome II.

Concise and informative; exactly what a newbie like me needed

A f t y

A A R S

:: The Sun always rises in the East :: Flawless Crowns :: Dancing Days ::

"We kissed the Sun, and it smiled down upon us."
DominicusUltimus
Legate
posted 05 February 2013 18:15 EDT (US)     21 / 21       
Thank you Afty. It's always a pleasure to be of assistance to those who require it

"Life is more fun when you are insane. Just let go occasionally".- yakcamkir 12:14
"It is not numbers, but vision that wins wars." - Antiochus VII Sidetes
"My magic screen is constantly bombarded with nubile young things eager to please these old eyes. This truly is a wonderful period in which to exist! - Terikel Grayhair
Angel of Total War: Rome II Heaven and the Total War: Attila Forums
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