Alexander's Campaign > Alexander's Military

Alexander's Military

Alexander the Great - Dove Decoration

Background

The phalanx went like this. The soldiers body was to be the center and each soldier had a shield in his left hand. They carried spears that were sixteen feet long and had forged iron points. The soldiers would stand in lines and cover the right portion of each soldiers body with their shield and point the spear towards the enemies.

Each soldier also had a small sword for hand to hand combat. All the men were arranged in sixteen lines one behind each other and there were approximately one thousand soldiers in each line. This is known in the miltary as a thousand in rank and sixteen in file so each phalanx unit contained 16,000 troops total. The development of this sort of military unit is what made Alexander so successful against his enemies and would also prove useful when the Romans adopted a similar technique in their legions.

The spears were so long that when the men stood in close order, the rear ranks being brought up near to those before them, the points of the spears of eight or ten of the ranks projected in front, forming a bristling wall of points of steel, each one of which was held in its place by the strong arms of an athletic and well-trained soldier. This wall no force which could in those days be brought against it could penetrate. Men, horses, elephants, every thing that attempted to rush upon it, rushed only to their own destruction. Every spear, feeling the impulse of the vigorous arms which held it, seemed to be alive, and darted into its enemy, when an enemy was at hand, as if it felt itself the fierce hostility which directed it.

If the enemy remained at a distance, and threw javelins or darts at the phalanx, they fell harmless, stopped by the shields which the soldiers wore upon the left arm, and which were held in such a manner as to form a system of scales, which covered and protected the whole mass, and made the men almost invulnerable. The phalanx was thus, when only defending itself and in a state of rest, an army and a fortification all in one, and it was almost impregnable. But when it took an aggressive form, put itself in motion, and advanced to an attack, it was infinitely more formidable. It became then a terrible monster, covered with scales of brass, from beneath which there projected forward ten thousand living, darting points of iron.

It advanced deliberately and calmly, but with a prodigious momentum and force. There was nothing human in its appearance at all. It was a huge animal, ferocious, dogged, stubborn, insensible to pain, knowing no fear, and bearing down with resistless and merciless destruction upon every thing that came in its way. The phalanx was the center and soul of Alexander's army. Powerful and impregnable as it was, however, in ancient days, it would be helpless and defenseless on a modern battle-field. Solid balls of iron, flying through the air with a velocity which makes them invisible, would tear their way through the pikes and the shields, and the bodies of the men who bore them, without even feeling the obstruction.

The phalanx was subdivided into brigades, regiments, and battalions, and regularly officered. In marching, it was separated into these its constituent parts, and sometimes in battle it acted in divisions. It was stationed in the center of the army on the field, and on the two sides of it were bodies of cavalry and foot soldiers, more lightly armed than the soldiers of the phalanx, who could accordingly move with more alertness and speed, and carry their action readily wherever it might be called for. Those troops on the sides were called the wings. Alexander himself was accustomed to command one wing and Parmenio the other, while the phalanx crept along slowly but terribly between.

Alexander's Campaign

Balkan Campaign

+ Balkan Battles

Persian Campaign

+ Persian Battles

Indian Campaign

+ Indian Campaign Battles

Sources

Primary Sources

Secondary Sources