Study on The Military Formation of Macedonia Under The Rule of Alexander The Great

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Words: 554 |

Page: 1|

3 min read

Published: Jan 15, 2019

Words: 554|Page: 1|3 min read

Published: Jan 15, 2019

The Macedonian phalanx gave rise to one of the largest empires in early Eurasian history. Alexander the Great’s army of around 50,000 men impressively defeated armies of much larger size through an ingenious tactic of outmaneuvering and outflanking an enemy army with cavalry and skirmishers while the phalanx held the front lines (Wasson). This ingenious strategy caused enemy lines to break indefinitely, and lead to an undefeated track-record for the Macedonian army. Even though the Alexander’s military strategies were innovative— and successful— there were many other reasons that Alexander’s army was so successful. Of particular importance is the ingenuity in Macedonian armor— and more specifically, how it adapted to better suit the roles of the phalanx, cavalry, skirmishers, and men-at-arms.

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The phalanx, originally designated as a heavy-infantry unit, was converted into a light-infantry unit under the command of Alexander the Great and his father, Philip II. This sacrifice of protection gave the unit much more mobility. While earlier hoplites were usually equipped with bronze armor, Alexander’s phalanx generally wore a corsolet of many linens glued together with sticky resins. However, each member of the phalanx carried a shield called a pelta or hoplar, a shield that was about 1 meter in diameter. This shield was wooden and covered in a layer of bronze, so it was fairly lightweight but still sturdy and protective. These shields were wielded in addition with a sarissa— a very long pike— to allow the phalanx to keep the enemy at range and deter them from pushing too far forward (Hanson, 91).

Under Alexander the Great, cavalry was used as a shock troop for the first time in history. Because they were leading the charge, they required a heavy and protective armor. Each heavy-cavalry was outfitted in a heavy bronze linothorax, an ancient type of ancient Greek cuirass. It was constructed by covering a linen sheet in bronze plate or mail, and further reinforcing it with a layer of leather (Aldrete et al., 58). Their helmets— boeotian helms— were open faced to allow for better peripheral vision and to not impair hearing (Anderson, 147). Guarding the flank of the cavalry was usually the peltasts, who wore no armor whatsoever for maximum mobility. They were equipped with several javelins, a sword and usually a light shield. The peltasts were one of Alexander’s main skirmishing units, and excelled on broken terrain where enemy heavy-infantry and cavalry could not form up cohesively.

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On Alexander’s personal armor, historical artistic interpretations suggest he wore armor in the style of the linothorax, with horizontal iron pauldrons with a scaled tasset for added mobility. He also wore an iron-plated cuirass with leather and stiffened linen at the joints. It is clear that mobility was specifically emphasized in Alexander’s tactics, as most infantry was lightly equipped, and their armor was specifically designed for speed over protection. This coincides with most records of Alexander’s battle tactics, in which the phalanx would draw the enemy lines in, and cavalry or skirmishers would quickly flank them, followed by a push by the phalanx after the enemy lines broke. Combat was most likely fast paced, and because of this, mobility was key. The Macedonian battle machine’s combined innovations and adaptations in technique, tactics and armor made them an unbeatable driving force in one of the largest empires in history.

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Study On the Military Formation of Macedonia under the Rule of Alexander the Great. (2019, January 03). GradesFixer. Retrieved May 21, 2024, from
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