Alexander the Great King Philip Term Paper

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Alexander saw himself as that philosopher-king who would install a new kind of cooperation and brotherhood with one or unified Greek culture, Hellenism, and speaking a common language, Greek (Smitha 1998). He intended that his subjects in the East would be reared and trained to become like the Greeks and Macedonians.

In consolidating his huge territory, Alexander founded cities, mostly named Alexandria, in suitable and well-paved locations with sufficient supply of water. His army veterans, young men, merchants, traders and scholars settled there, infused Greek culture and, through them, the Greek language widely flourished. Through his mighty victories and territorial control, Alexander thus spread Greek civilization and paved the way for the incoming Hellenistic kingdoms and the conquest of the Roman Empire (Microsoft 2004).

He also felt that trade would unite his empire more strongly and so he forced new commercial possibilities and made Babylon the center of brisk world commerce (Smitha 1998). His first decisions created a new demand for iron. By conquering the Persian treasury, Alexander removed trade barriers and out more money into circulation. Building new ports, new cities and 70 military colonies in his conquered territories further stimulated economic vigor among them. Alexander had also wanted to build dock along the Euphrates at Babylon, dredge the Euphrates River up to the Persian Gulf, colonize the eastern shore of the Gulf and circumnavigate and explore Arabia. His grand plan of extending his conquest to Sicily and Italy to put more of the world under his rule ad control was at the drawing board when freak tragedy struck. He caught a fever, many suspected it was malaria, and he died at only 32 in 323 BC.

Alexander was a myth-maker who changed the world. His court historian Callisthenes described how the sea itself appeared to have retreated from Alexander's path. Some historians ascribed godly powers to him, but Zoroaster priests believed that Alexander had demons (Smitha 1998). These priests were outraged by the assimilation of foreign religions with theirs under the rule of Alexander and spread fiction to describe and establish him as one of the greatest degenerates and one of the worst sinners in history for executing many Persian teachers and lawyers and for quenching sacred fires (Smitha). Some in Persia considered him a member of the Achaemenids, the Persian royal family; Egyptians assumed that he was the son of the last pharaoh, Nectanebus; Arabs eventually came to know him as Iskander they would build fanciful tales about; while Christians in Ethiopia recognized his father King Philip II as a Christian martyr and Alexander an ascetic saint (Smitha).

The battle tactics of Alexander's large army were designed for rapid decision and implementation. It operated through an oblique battle formation of an advanced right flank and a refused left wing (van Dorst 2000). A sudden but ferocious attack of a heavy horse on a small part of the opponents' force was conducted to break their morale and create panic among soldiers still preparing for combat. Alexander's overwhelming success drew largely from his army's breaking the enemies' morale. His surprise maneuvers at Granicus, Issus and Hydaspes dealt fatal blows on enemy morale and took advantage of fatigue and lack of sleep because of long marches. Alexander's army was more prepared for these eventualities.

Credit for Alexander's gargantuan military accomplishments must be shared with his army. It was made up of the Macedonian cavalry, heavy infantry and Macedonian allies.

The Macedonian cavalry consisted mainly of soldiers recruited from among the natives of the kingdom itself, the rest were taken from conquered foreign territories (van Dorst 2000). The most prestigious among the mounted troops were the hetairoi or companions, who initially consisted of members of the Macedonian nobility, then mixed with soldiers from Thessaly and some other parts of the Greek world. Alexander's father, King Philip II, increased this cavalry from 600 horsemen to 3,000 troopers. These companions or hetairoi were grouped into ilai or wings of 200 men, except for the royal squadron, called basilike ile or agema and composed of 300 to 400 cavalrymen. They were arranged in a wedge formation in battle.

The cavalry put on metal helmets and different types of armor, linen or corselets with metal scale reinforcements and with bronze or iron breastplates (van Dorst 2000). Some of these cavalrymen were uncomfortable with the armor and shields were only for dismounting actions or strategies. They usually carried different types of thrusting spears or javelins but a sword was always a secondary weapon. Heavy cavalry like Alexander's was quite effective if the opponents' morale was low, but not with determined or prepared opponents. Horses had to be trained to charge straight at opponents but this could be done only with much time and effort, because horses instinctively flee from danger. Otherwise, cavalrymen made use of suitable mounting substitutes small number of light cavalrymen were part of the native Macedonian cavalry. They were called scouts or prodromoi and they usually carried javelins to reconnaissance missions. They also served as heavy cavalry as sarissophoroi and carried the sarissa in battle (van Dorst 2000). The Macedonian cavalry operated closely with the light Paeoniona, Illyrian and Thacian cavalry.

Macedonian infantry units were also formed, most importantly the foot companions called pezhetairoi, who were recruited according to a territorial system from Macedonian provinces (van Dorst 2000). These units were aimed at containing and reducing domestic rebellion in seditious northern districts in Asia Minor. Nobles from the same area as the foot companion regiments were in command, usually 1,500 strong, but their number varied because of losses and replacements. Six or seven pezhetairoi regiments were usually part of the expeditionary at the start of battle. They underwent more flexible training and their equipment and tactics were adjusted to different situations. Carrying only a hoplite shield and a spear, they could be deployed in the classical Greek hoplite phalanx formation. In addition to a shield and a spear, they sometimes also used a long pike, the famous sarissa and a rimless shield hanging from the shoulder. At other times, they used light javelins instead of spears or pikes (van Dorst). These equipment were adapted or used according to tactical requirements of specific battles. A helmet and another metal protection or body armor appeared to have also been used. Armor eventually came to be made of linen, felt or leather of the same cut as that of Alexander's sarcophagus as the standard. Forces on the frontline could have been equipped with metal cuirasses, but the body armor was difficult and uncomfortable, especially in hot weather and so it was discarded or models with only frontal protection were experimented on.

There too were the hypaspistai or shield-bearers, identified with the "silver shields " or argyraspides in the latter part of Alexander's reign (van Dorst 2000). These shield-bearers or "silver shields" were individually selected, based on merit, among the taxies or pezhetairoi. They were 3,000 men under three sub-units of 1,000 men each. One of these three, the agema, was more prestigious than the others. Some of the soomatophylakes recruited from Macedonian nobles were enlisted with the hypaspistai. Unlike the taxies of foot companions, the hypaspistai did not depend on replacements from particular districts but maintained their ranks by constantly recruiting selectively from the other regiments of the Macedonian heavy infantry. Their tactics and equipment were similar to those of the pezhetairoi but they were sent out only on special assignments involving honor. They occupied the right flank of the heavy infantry and wore lighter equipment than those of foot companions (van Dorst).

There was also a native Macedonian light infantry under the command of Alexander and this was made up of javelineers, archers and slingers (van Dorst 2000). Most of the javelin throwers came from the neighboring kingdom of Lagarus. The agrianoi also belonged to the elite and were usually sent only on dangerous missions, such as to serve as hamippoi to strengthen the Macedonian cavalry. Still another wave consisted of 7,000 men who served as peltastai or shield-bearing fighters, but who were chosen not for their military prowess but only to suppress uprisings in their regions. Mercenary bowmen from Crete complemented Macedonian archers.

Alexander's army also had allies that reinforced its might. One was the Thessalian cavalry who served Alexander, their military leader and who took the left flank of his Army. This cavalry consisted of those who did not return home and got integrated into the Macedonian hetairoi. They favored a rhomboid formation (van Dorst 2000) and were believed to have served as hoplites. City states also contributed small groups of horsemen to the Macedonian army. After the battle, the majority returned to their cities but the rest remained and served as mercenaries in Alexander's Army. These were both hoplites and peltastai. The Army also hired indigenous mercenary troops from the territories of the Persian Empire and India, some…

Sources Used in Document:


Dorst, Sander van. Macedonian Army. Van Dorst, 2000.

Marx, Irma. Empire of Alexander the Great - Expansion into Asia and Central Asia. Silkroad Foundation, 2000.

Microsoft Encarta. Alexander the Great. Online Encyclopedia. Microsoft Corporation, 2004. http://encyclopedia_761564408/Alexander_the_Great.html

Smitha, Frank E. Alexander Changes the World. World History, 1998.

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