The Elements of Alexander’s Army

Army of Alexander the Great – Companions

Army of Alexander the Great contain the companions or personal guards of the King, were the most esteemed arm of the Macedonian army.

It consisted of choice cavalry which mainly enlisted  the sons of the nobility in it.

At the beginning of the campaign this body consists of 1,500 men, but the course of the war Alexander increased their number perhaps to 5,000.

Macedonian cased both Rider and horse in armour.

Army of Alexander the Great- Phalanx

Phalanx was the most notable element in the Macedonian army.

The soldiers wore full defensive armour, viz., a helmet, a breast-plate, and two long curved plates (greaves) protecting the thighs but not covering the lower legs.

Soldier carried a long sword (four feet), a long shield, and distinctive spear called sarissa.

Macedonian Phalanx
Macedonian Phalanx

They used 24 feet long spear which weighed at six feet from its but-end, so that when balanced in the soldier’s hand at that point. Spear projected 18 feet before him.

Hence, the spearheads of the next six ranks, each standing three feet behind, projected in front of every soldier of the first line.

As the phalanx charged, it presented the appearance of a gigantic porcupine, or a moving forest of seven successive rows of glittering steel points.

Philip reduced the formation of the phalanx to sixteen deep.

When a man in the front ranks fell, a fresh soldier from the 8th or still hinder ranks rushed forward to fill the vacant place, so as not to let the column lose its compactness and uniformity.

Philip’s phalanx a less dense mass than the usual Greek hoplite.

Macedonian used phalanx with objective of “using sheer weight to carry the day, while the other troops used tactical movement to achieve victory”.

Army of Alexander the Great- Hypaspists

The title means “bearere of the round shield”, as distinct from the hoplites who carried oblique shields.

Alexander used these mercenaries mainly as heavy infantry.  Hypaspists wore armor lighter than hoplite but known for rapid in their movements.

They carried shorter spears, longer swords and armor lighter than those of the phalanx.

The agema or royal escort, contained the corps of royal foot-guard, to whom the Hypaspists were joined.


Heavy infantry; they had formed the back¬bone of the famous Spartan army.

They wore armour, and carried a sword, a spear, and an oval shield, which covered the whole body.

Well-trained, well-equipped, densely massed for fight, they often proved irresistible.


Alexander had bodies of mounted archers and javelin-men.

They were light-armed and very useful for skirmishing and harassing the enemy ranks from a distance.

In addition to Thracian and Thessalonian light cavalry called Agrianians, he had also Scythian archers enlisted in Asia.

These oriental archers are described as “mainly cavalry, armed with the most dreaded weapon of antiquity, the composite bow of the Iranian and Turkish nomads.”

“These archers shot equally well dismounted and at the gallop, … and their missiles pierced armour and shield with ease.”


Alexander’s used hand operated engines, called Balista and Catapults as scientist didn’t discover Gunpowder yet.

It threw stones and darts to the distance of 300 yards, and often proved very effective in his sieges.

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