Did Alexander command the PHALANX at Chaeronea?

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Re: Did Alexander command the PHALANX at Chaeronea?

Post by Paralus » Sat Jun 24, 2017 4:05 am

SpartanJKM wrote:Forgive me, I was in error on some detail in attempting to support my view that the Macedonian cavalry took part in the action here at Chaeronea: I mentioned Coenus as one of the probable 'seasoned generals' sent by Philip to command with Alexander, and that he was one who would not be commanding infantry.

I was likely wrong, as he later commanded one of the right-winged taxies at Issus and Gaugamela, which negates the implausibility that he per see would not be leading infantry at Chaeronea.
Never fear! It's not at all impossible that Koinos was an infantry commander at Chaeroneia. He is attested at the head of an infantry unit in Illyhria (Arrian, 1.6.9). That is under Alexander but that does not mean he didn't hold the command in Philip's last years. Koinos was old enough to refer to his age when speaking on behalf of the troops in India (Arr. 5.27.3). Then again, Perdikkas is an infantry commander at Thebes under Alexander but a member of the hypaspist agema or king's foot guard (along with Leonnatos) when Philip is assassinated (Diod. 16.94.4). But you're correct: he can only have been a commander of a phalanx "battalion" and not one of the "seasoned generals".

Interestingly, it pays to check out these notices. The Loeb has: "Perdiccas and the rest came up with him and killed him with their javelins" (16.94.4). The Greek says nothing of the sort only that they συγκεντήσαντες or "stabbed him together". No weapon is mentioned and this is an assumption of the translator likely based on Diodoros' use of δορυφόρων φυλακῆς / "spear bearing guards" earlier (93.1) . It reads far more as if Pausanias was stabbed with swords - something any guard would carry one suspects, especially if hot footing it after a runaway killer.
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Re: Did Alexander command the PHALANX at Chaeronea?

Post by Xenophon » Sat Jun 24, 2017 4:46 am

Spartan JKM wrote:
" I should have just opined 'Parmenio and Antipitar; the latter's night breakthrough at Amphissa prior to Chaeronea was effected with cavalry and infantry. "

You really should check the sources rather than rely on secondary modern authors [such as the unreliable Richard Gabriel?]. As you can see below, there is no mention of a night attack, nor of who was involved and the only commander mentioned is Philip himself.

Polyaenus [IV.2.8]
"Having marched against the territory of Amphissa, Philippus found himself obstructed by the Athenians and Thebans; who had made themselves masters of a defile [the Gravia pass, which was only 35 yards or so wide], which he was unable to force; and therefore resorted to a stratagem. He wrote a letter to Antipater in Macedonia, informing him that the Thracians were in rebellion, and that he was obliged for the present to defer his expedition against Amphissa, and to march into Thrace. This letter he dispatched by a way, where he knew it would be intercepted: which accordingly was the case; and Chares and Proxenus the generals, who commanded against him, because they were convinced by the contents of the letter, abandoned the post they possessed. Philippus immediately availed himself of their movements; and passing the defile without opposition, afterwards defeated the allies, and took Amphissa."
[The stratagem of the false letter is a doublet of one at Frontinus I.4.13 where Philip fools the Athenians into withdrawing their fleet. It is more likely that since the pass was too narrow to occupy, Chares and Proxenus were camped at the southern end, from where they could quickly block the pass - provided they were not taken by surprise, as seems to have happened here. Note we are not told how this was achieved.]

Plutarch 'Life of Demosthenes'
"Philip, however, elated by his good-fortune in the matter of Amphissa, surprised Elateia and occupied Phocis. "

Philip had deterred the vengeful Boiotians at the end of the Phokian war, hence they were well-disposed toward him. Locrian Amphissa likely opened its gates to Philip as soon as Chares and Proxenus and their mercenaries withdrew following the surprise taking of the pass. Following the occupation of Amphissa, Parmenion (not Antipater) was sent with a detached force to take Naupactus on the Corinthian gulf, thus re-establishing communications between Philip and his Peloponnesian allies.

Demosthenes "On the Crown" 18.142
"....That mistake was made before, when by his false reports he contrived the destruction of the unhappy Phocians. 143. The war at Amphissa, that is, the war that brought Philip to Elatea, and caused the election, as general of the Amphictyons, of a man who turned all Greece upside down, was due to the machinations of this man. In his own single person he was the author of all our worst evils..."

The Amphictyonic league had appointed Philip to act against Amphissa following an accusation of sacrilege by Athens - the Amphissans were supposedly cultivating lands sacred to Apollo near Delphi.

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Re: Did Alexander command the PHALANX at Chaeronea?

Post by Xenophon » Sat Jun 24, 2017 5:04 am

Paralus wrote:
But you're correct: he can only have been a commander of a phalanx "battalion" and not one of the "seasoned generals".
Whilst it is difficult to try and equate military ranks from vastly different times and places, "battalion" is a bad translation of a Phalanx 'Taxeis/unit', which probably consisted of 2,000 men. ( Battalions generally number only several hundred men, and the equivalent might be the 'speira' or 'syntagma' of 256 men i.e 16 files of 16 men, though that is a little low. Perhaps the best equivalent would be the 'lochos' of 512 men, later called 'pentekosiarchy' - 32 files of 16).
A modernish equivalent would in fact be "brigade" which consists of several battalions and can number roughly 2,000 men. A brigade is commanded by a Brigadier-General ( the lowest general rank), whose function is much the same as a 'Taxis hegemon/commander'.

It would thus not be incorrect to think of the Macedonian army's dozen or so 'Taxeis/Brigade commanders as 'seasoned generals'.

If we turn to the Greek, Diodorus does not actually say 'generals/strategoi', but rather 'hegemonia'/commanders/leaders' qualified by 'being persons of note/important'/aciologatatous - and this would undoubtedly include the 'Taxeis hegemonia'

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Re: Did Alexander command the PHALANX at Chaeronea?

Post by Xenophon » Sun Jun 25, 2017 12:44 am

Paralus wrote:
Then again, Perdikkas is an infantry commander at Thebes under Alexander but a member of the hypaspist agema or king's foot guard (along with Leonnatos) when Philip is assassinated (Diod. 16.94.4).
Being a Royal Guard has always been regarded as being in "the fast lane" for higher promotion. In this instance, Perdikkas would have expected some sort of reward for having so zealously "avenged" Philip, and promotion to 'hegemon' commanding a taxis of the phalanx ( i.e. a general commanding a significant part of the Macedonian army) was about as high a reward as one could get. Mind you, since time immemorial, it has always been a rule to take assassins alive, in order to find out who else was involved, and Alexander must have wondered if Pausanias had been killed by his fellow Lynkestian in order to silence him. ( the additional escape horses indicated that there was more than one assassin involved in the plan, hence Pausanias, perhaps through nerves, had 'jumped the gun'. Incidently, the fact that there was more than one assassin makes a motive of a personal vendetta rather unlikely....).

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Re: Did Alexander command the PHALANX at Chaeronea?

Post by Paralus » Sun Jun 25, 2017 5:12 am

Xenophon wrote:Whilst it is difficult to try and equate military ranks from vastly different times and places, "battalion" is a bad translation of a Phalanx 'Taxeis/unit', which probably consisted of 2,000 men. ( Battalions generally number only several hundred men, and the equivalent might be the 'speira' or 'syntagma' of 256 men i.e 16 files of 16 men, though that is a little low. Perhaps the best equivalent would be the 'lochos' of 512 men, later called 'pentekosiarchy' - 32 files of 16).
No argument; hence the inverted commas. That is simply a modern convenience (widely used) pretty much as moderns refer to a "League of Corinth", something the ancients will never have recognised. Diodoros is no technical write and is most inconsistent when he describes these. For example, at Gaugamela he uses στρατηγίαν ("strategian") to indicate "units commanded by" whomever. At Chaeroneia he uses the more generic τάξεις / taxis to describe Philip placing individual "units" as he saw fit. The difference with Guatemala is almost certainly down to his source who is describing geographically/ethnicity based groups under the command of their regional taxiarch.
Xenophon wrote:If we turn to the Greek, Diodorus does not actually say 'generals/strategoi', but rather 'hegemonia'/commanders/leaders' qualified by 'being persons of note/important'/aciologatatous - and this would undoubtedly include the 'Taxeis hegemonia'
The implication is that these are advisors to the 18 year old Alexander who is, I agree, commanding one wing of the army al la Parmenion under Alexander. Hence I'd expect these to be those eminent commanders who'd held army commands independently in the past and were no longer "tied" to an individual taxis. Parmenion and Antipatros come to mind as would Alexander's enemy, Attalos. Were Koinos commanding a phalanx taxis here, I'd expect him to be with that unit. An intriguing though is Krateros. We find him commanding the leftmost taxis at Granikos and commanding the infantry on the left. Perhaps Philip also had such an individual commander who would Alexander must assuredly have been with if he fought on foot.

There is great resistance to seeing Alexander leading the foot here. I recall raising this via email with Brian Bosworth a considerable few years back and he, too, could only see this as a cavalry action because that;s how Macedonian nobles - especially royalty - fought. He was also of the opinion that these taxis commanders commanded from horseback. Something Wrightson had recently restated. Yet there are other attested instances of Alexander leading foot (1.1.10-12 & 1.6.9 for example). I see no reason why, at Chaeoneia, Alexander cannot be commanding infantry while commanding the Macedonian left.

But I agree, such a taxis command is no little thing and it is most tempting to see Perdikkas' command under Alexander as reward/promotion. We see this also with Ptolemy son of Seleokos who first appears as a member of the king's personal hypaspist foot guard (the "royal hypasists" - σωματοφυλάκων τῶν βασιλικῶν / "royal bodyguard") and is promoted to taxiarch for Issos where his is killed at the major break in the middle of the Macedonian infantry line (2.8.3-4; 2.10.5-7).
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View form the southwestern flank of Parnassos, not too far from Delphi. The Gravia pass is up 'thataways' in the distance. I'm glad I wasn't part of Philp's flying column. Doubt I'd hang about there in the dead of winter either!
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Re: Did Alexander command the PHALANX at Chaeronea?

Post by SpartanJKM » Sun Jun 25, 2017 9:27 am

Robert L. O'Connell, The Ghosts of Cannae:
Hannibal and the Darkest Hour of the Roman Republic
(2010), pp. 5-6,

"...All we really have are words, preserved for us in the most haphazard fashion out of a much larger body of literature. So the study of ancient history is roughly analogous to scrutinizing a badly decayed patchwork quilt, full of holes and scraps of material from earlier work. Central to understanding the process of study is an awareness that, besides an occasional fragment liberated from the desert by archaeologists, there will be no more evidence. The quilt is it; everything must be based on a reasoned analysis of the fabric at hand. Plainly the quality and integrity of some of the patches greatly exceed those of the others, so they will be relied upon whenever possible..."

Alas, applying this to Chaeronea, no existing patch overtly exceeds in quality any of the others; the earlier works which would presumably help us greatly include Theopompus and Marsyas of Macedon (or 'of Pella').

Perhaps Alexander did command a couple of phalanx brigades at Chaeronea on the far left of the Macedonian line (Parmenio was surely at this time more suited to lead the cavalry), but if so, that hardly refutes the hetairoi not participating in the victory. I feel that the ancient texts which suggest Alexander commanded the phalanx at Chaeronea can be counter-argued that the relevant passages could intimate that, specifically, the Athenians and the Sacred Band fell before 'Philip's phalanx' (the Macedonian right/Greek allied left was primarily an infantry clash, in which Philip pulled the enemy line into a cul-de-sac in some manner), which is in stark contrast to Plutarch's wording that Alexander was 'said to be the first to break the ranks of the Sacred Band of the Thebans' (moreover, why would the 254 Thebans be buried over where Philip directly commanded, we could question, if the Lion of Chaeronea was indeed commemorated for them. Also, if Athens possessed overall command of the allied army, might they not insist the Sacred Band be anchored on their left flank?); albeit it's reasonable to assume that the entire phalanx of both Macedonian wings weilding 'long spears' were all Philip's, and Justin's comment that the 'Athenians' were far superior in numbers of soldiers could pertain to the entirety of both armies, such conundrums greatly entices deep modern scrutiny, particularly that the cavalry were integral to Philip's tactical doctrine at this time here on an open enough plain rendering it viable for him to make the battle mobile enough against a numerically superior static enemy of heavy infantry to give his wedged cavalry ilae the chances for decisive blows once they and the phalanx brigades ruptured the integrity of a solid enemy defensive wall of hoplites. Reputable modern scholars who do not deal with the I nfantry/cavalry issue at Chaeronea (eg, Fuller, Bosworth) were merely brushing on this period before discussing in detail Alexander's campaigns. IMHO, the battle almost surely was to be no exclusive 'infantry battle'.
...The Greek mercenary hoplites at Issos seemed not to suffer the such problems when gaps appeared in the Macedonian phalanx. It was more difficult for the phalangite to turn and face an internal flank attack than for a hoplite to make such...
True, but with this advantage there would need to be enough hoplites; at Issus, that was but one major gap; the reality there was much different than the scenario of pre-arranged gaps at Chaeronea amid the infantry lines for the Macedonian cavalry to charge at the Greek allied right wing through their infantry after being marshaled behind them at the onset of the battle; at Issus, a substantial split between the Macedonian right and left wing was created by Alexander's headlong charge, into which a body - maintaining their integrity - some 10,000 hoplites had a naked right flank of the Macedonian left to attack, under which Craterus' unit held up long enough until Alexander's left swing perhaps saved them. Indeed, such a tactical dynamic is likely akin to what could have occurred at Chaeronea against the Macedonians if Philip had availed the Greek allied army an exposed flank, whereby they wouldn't break ranks (thus making sure he matched their front along the nearly two-mile plain) as they pivoted in an attempt to laterally attack (if the opportunity presented itself within this defensive strategy the allied seemingly executed) in a hoplite tradition (eg, the Spartans at Mantinea, 418 BCE).

The pragmatic Greek defensive position at Chaeronea would not have attempted to breach intermittent gaps in the enemy front lest they lose their stout defensive cohesion, and being they had superior numbers (pace Diodorus), they could weaken Philip's phalanx by extending it (cf. Hammond, Philip of Macedon, p. 152), hence the Macedonian cavalry were needed to match the enemy frontage (cf. Gabriel, Philip II of Macedonia, p. 218) and maximize their striking capacity with offensive initiatives.

But I'm pinpricking, and you are generally correct, Paralus: a veritable liability of the phalangitae against hoplites was indeed if the latter could exploit the former's sides and effectuate more individualized combat.
...I don't see that as practical...
I disagree (somewhat). The key element in Philip's new tactics was using infantry and cavalry in concert rather than as individual combat arms - which included several variations (cf. Richard A. Gabriel, Philip II of Macedonia, pp. 80-81). They could have been interspersed with the infantry, or concentrated primarily amid the Macedonian left-center. Whichever, they could strike at angles upon the enemy front once the stability and solidity of enemy phalanx was thrown off balance by the extended sarissai (gaps did not have to be wide at all for the wedged ilae to pierce through).

A horse's line of vision includes a blind spot directly in front of it; superfluous to mention, its large eyes are located on the sides of the head, thus it's panoramic view permits a 340-degree line of vision without turning its head, and the Macedonian horses would not be turned away, following extensive and precise training, by anything directly in front of it (cf. Carolyn Willekes, Equine Aspects of Alexander the Great's Macedonian Cavalry, in the book Greece, Macedonia and Persia, 2015, p. 53). Willekes is an expert on equine behavior, and assiduously comes to the conclusion that Philip's precisely trained cavalry in wedged ilae could pierce enemy infantry, including crack Boeotians - see her terrific work The Horse in the Ancient World: From Bucephalus to the Hippodrome (2016), which includes an invaluable chapter on the Macedonian cavalry. Analyzing the same topic before Willekes, Gabriel comprehensively examines how and why Philip's cavalry could break infantry lines in concert with its own infantry, discussing aspects of the mechanics of the Macedonian horse in action with an expert rider, who also wielded a machaira, for close combat after the xyston broke or fulfilled its use (cf. Philip II of Macedonia, pp. 72-78). Both draw numerously on Xenophon's On Horsemansip to support their assessments.

The nebulousness of the surviving ancient texts on Chaeronea is indeed a peculiar crux for attempting to analyze such a famous battle, but none mention 'infantry' either, let alone 'infantry charges' or 'infantry battle'. They do suggest it, but not holistically, and what ancient military manuel texts explicitly state (including Arrian, a cavalry officer himself) is what the wedge formation could do against enemy lines (including infantry); Philip's cavalry did do at Chaeronea, IMHO, was work with the pezhetairoi in concert - whatever the detailed precision of their course - to break the Boeotian/allied line on their right and exploit that perforated condition. Unlike the Battle of Crannon sixteen years later, the Macedonians were outnumbered at Chaeronea (following Justin via Trogus via Theopompus, and not Diodorus via, apparently, Duris and/or Diyllus). They probably could not win a 'conventional' infantry battle against this enemy formation without their cavalry, and the hetairoi in wedge formation could break enemy infantry lines, contemporaneously pressed by the pezhetairoi, in a precise manner. This plain was open enough for cavalry, but more confined than other battles involving Philip's and Alexander's cavalry, thus the lower ratio of infantry and cavalry deployed at Chaeronea than the other battles.

Some cherry-picking:

George Grote, A History of Greece, Vol. XI, p. (1853), p. 501 (Grote's brilliant works seemingly presaged the seminal precepts of John B. Bury, which centered around the study of 'history as a science, not literature'),

"...the victory was not gained by the phalanx alone. The military organization of Philip comprised an aggregate of many sorts of troops besides the phalanx; the body-guards, horse as well as foot - the hypaspistae, or light hoplites - the light cavalry, bowmen, slingers, etc. When we read the military operations of Alexander, three years afterwards, in the very first year of his reign, before he could have made any addition of his own to the force inherited from Philip; and when we see with what efficiency all these various descriptions of troops are employed in the field; we may feel assured that Philip both had them near him and employed them in the field at Chaeronea..."

Arthur Wallace Pickard-Cambridge, in his contribution to The Cambridge Ancient History, Volume VI (1927), p. 263,

"...The battle was a crowning proof of the inability of amateur soldiers and citizen-levies to cop with a well-trained professional army, combining units of all descriptions under a centralized direction. We do not indeed hear what part Philip's cavalry took in this particular battle, but they doubtless helped to complete the defeat of the enemy..."

Nicholas G. L. Hammond, Studies in Greek History: A Companion Volume to 'A History of Greece to 322 B.C. (1973; revised from his journal on Chaeronea from 1938), pp. 543 & 547,

"...The problem for Philip was to break the Greek line with a phalanx, which was not only lighter armed but was also inferior in point of numbers. A frontal attack all along the line not only had little chance of success but might well end in disaster, for the heavy Greek line with its oblique front might pivot its left wing northwards and force him back on the Kephissos...

...if placed on the Macedonian left, the cavalry would be operating in the plain, and would be in the most opportune position for action, should the Greek line break...Thus, although there is no definite evidence, it is generally assumed that Alexander's charge on the left wing at Chaeronea was made at the head of cavalry..."


George Cawkwell, Philip of Macedon (1978), p. 148,

"...Philip must have had his army execute a wheeling manoeuvre, pivoting on the center, and as the right of the Macedonian phalanx performed its well-drilled withdrawal, the Athenians followed, and the Greek line stretched and broke before the assault of the Macedonian cavalry under Alexander on the left..."

Guy T. Griffith, A History of Macedonia, Vol. II: 550-336 B.C. (1979), p. 600,

"...if they could contain the Boeotians. They might not be able to beat them decisively, however. For this he [Philip] must have relied on his cavalry. The story of the battle, if it had come down to us, would have told, presumably, how, where, and when the decisive blows by the cavalry were delivered; especially, how the Greek hoplite phalanx, which began by presenting an unbroken wall of spears and which could not be outflanked, was induced in some way to break formation and offer a gap or gaps which could give a cavalry charge its point of entry..."

John R. Ellis, contribution to The Cambridge Ancient History, Volume VI (1994), p. 781,

"...The course of the engagement, in August 338, on the Attic date 7 Metageitnion, is impossible to recover. The sheer weight of Macedonia's cavalry, apparently led by Alexander, and the superior skill and tactics of the phalanx seem to have been decisive (Diod. XVI.86)..."

Ian Worthington, Philip II of Macedonia (2008), p. 150 (actually footnoting Rahe in this passage, clearly in disagreement),

"...From the Macedonian left flank Alexander headed a charge against the opening in the allied line. Some of the cavalry contingents veered right to penetrate the gap and wheel behind the Thebans at that point, while Alexander led the Royal Squadron and veered left to encircle the Sacred Band. That Alexander would choose to take on this renowned fighting unit first comes as no surprise. At eighteen he was eager to win battle glory and to prove his father's trust in him. He annihilated the Sacred Band, which, despite the overwhelming odds, was said to have fought to the last man..."

Richard A. Gabriel, Philip II of Macedonia: Greater than Alexander, (2010), p. 218,

"...No ancient source mentions the presence of cavalry at Chaeronea, and while Diodorus implies Alexander was in command of cavalry, he does not expressly say so. Although the sources are silent on this issue, we can conclude from the evidence that the cavalry was involved in the battle. First, we know from the sources that Philip had two thousand cavalry with him at Elatea before the battle. Second, Parmenio's raid on the Athenian camp, his capture of Amphissa, and his outflanking of the Athenian line at Parapotamii were accomplished with a mixed force including cavalry. Thus, Parmenio had cavalry with him when he linked up with Philip prior to the battle. Third, no sane commander would have neglected to use his cavalry and leave his infantry considerably outnumbered by the enemy infantry. Without his cavalry, Philip would not have been able to extend his line completely across the allied front, and one or both flanks would have been left open to envelopment. Fourth, Philip sent Parmenio and Antipitar to assist Alexander on the left of the line. Both senior commanders were cavalry officers. It would have made no sense to send them if Alexander was in command of only infantry. Finally, the speed with which the battle developed after Alexander's force penetrated the allied line implies the use of cavalry both to encircle the Sacred Band and to block the retreat of the Theban and Boeotian elements of the allied line. If Alexander's force was infantry moving in phalanx formation, they could hardly have moved into position in time to bar the Thebans' flight. For these reasons, modern scholars have tended to agree that Alexander was in command of cavalry at Chaeronea..."

As for the vaunted Sacred Band only receiving wounds in the front by the long spears of Philip's phalanx by Plutarch, those who espouse Gabriel's analysis could argue that it was a native writer, not an historian, telling or relaying an apocryphal occurrence to glorify the culmination of such eminent native heroes, and Diodorus' 'companions' with Alexander could have indeed implied the cavalry, and the inconsistency in nomenclature with the likes of Arrian could simply denote a not uncommon interchangeability of such terms amid ancient texts spanning over different generations.

These modern analyses - accounting for strategic and topographical aspects, etc. - from such reputable scholars, spanning over a century and a half no less, outweighs, IMHO, the lack of solid corroboration from the 'surviving Greek historical tradition at its most poverty-stricken' (cf. Griffith, A History of Macedonia, Vol. II, p. 597).

Forgive my sensitivity, but I feel that Alexander often achieved the tactical balance of co-ordinated arms in Asia because this very attribute, etc., was portended here at Chaeronea, and he adapted remarkably to each change in enemy and geography, not some arbitrary agenda involving 'because he did it in Asia automatically must mean he did it here".

If it somehow could be realized that Diodorus' source (thought by Hammond to be the pro-Athenian Diyllus; cf. Philip of Macedon, pp.13-14) was right, and that Philip did indeed outnumber the Greek allied army at Chaeronea, that would completely change all this (from myself, at least), and it would far more tenable for Philip to simply use his brigades of pezhetairoi to overwhelm the Greek hoplites, as Antipitar did at Crannon in 322 BCE. But as it is, he was almost certainly outnumbered (he was the invader who failed in his attempted diplomacy with the major southern Greek states, and could not levy locally as they could; but even if he had auxiliaries and Thessalians, the victory could probably won, under these challenging circumstances, with the paramount tasks undertaken only by his intensely drilled and professionalized troops whom had been with him for many years), hence was compelled to draw on his masterful generalship and New Model Army to achieve victory at Chaeronea. Philip represents a revolution to the evolution of warfare of his time and place.

Thanks, James :)
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Re: Did Alexander command the PHALANX at Chaeronea?

Post by SpartanJKM » Sun Jun 25, 2017 11:18 am

...You really should check the sources rather than rely on secondary modern authors [such as the unreliable Richard Gabriel?]. As you can see below, there is no mention of a night attack, nor of who was involved and the only commander mentioned is Philip himself...
I do check the sources (and they can be very obscure, hence credible inferences by modern scholarship) as do modern scholars (who provide extensive footnotes), and they explain their revisionism (but nobody is infallible): John R. Ellis wrote in his Philip II and Macedonian Imperialism (1976), p. 197,

"...When the mercenaries of Proxenos and Chares relaxed, the Macedonians burst through at night, opening the way to Amphissa. Within two or three hours, with Parmenion at their head, they took the town...

Along with the ancient passages you provided, Ellis (and Hammond, Worthington and Gabriel) also provided Aeschines (3.146) and Dinarchus (1.74) in connection to this backdrop (relevant only in political blame, etc.); no, a 'night attack' is not mentioned by all these passages, but it all reflects a surprise on a larger force amid a war footing in a very secure position, again gullibly caught off guard to a bluff but still in a stronger position, hence a swift night attack is almost assured when the Greeks were presumably on their vigil, which is corroborated by Worthington (Philip II, p. 146) and even Peter Green (Alexander of Macedon, p. 10). Indeed, Polyaenus has Philip in command, but he was almost surely at his base at Cytinium to keep the ruse looking genuine and overlook his logistic base of operations rather than personally lead a raid, and as Gabriel points out, perhaps too assuredly, "Polyaenus has Philip in command, but this description is surely incorrect since we find Parmenio in command of the forces that took Naupactus a few weeks later" (footnote 68, p. 278), following Ellis and Worthington.

Polyaenus and the Attic orators are invaluable in providing a platform to scrutinize this, but they are hardly more reliable in attempting to reach detailed happenings than modern scholarly extrapolations, IMHO.

Thanks, James :)
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Re: Did Alexander command the PHALANX at Chaeronea?

Post by Paralus » Sun Jun 25, 2017 1:44 pm

SpartanJKM wrote:Perhaps Alexander did command a couple of phalanx brigades at Chaeronea on the far left of the Macedonian line (Parmenio was surely at this time more suited to lead the cavalry), but if so, that hardly refutes the hetairoi not participating in the victory.
Not a couple. I agree with Xenophon that Philip charged his son with the command of the Macedonian left while Philip commanded the right. This is why Philip has his "seasoned" generals with the young prince.
SpartanJKM wrote:True, but with this advantage there would need to be enough hoplites; at Issus, that was but one major gap; the reality there was much different than the scenario of pre-arranged gaps at Chaeronea amid the infantry lines for the Macedonian cavalry to charge at the Greek allied right wing through their infantry after being marshaled behind them at the onset of the battle; at Issus, a substantial split between the Macedonian right and left wing was created by Alexander's headlong charge, into which a body - maintaining their integrity - some 10,000 hoplites had a naked right flank of the Macedonian left to attack, under which Craterus' unit held up long enough until Alexander's left swing perhaps saved them.
This gap was not caused by Alexander's "headlong charge". Unshod horses are unlikely to have sprinted across a river and this attack will, by necessity, have been rather more controlled than a "headlong charge". While a gap did appear on the right, the major problem was slightly left of centre. Krateros held the left end of the line and Attalos was to his right followed by Ptolemy. It is here that the major gap opens and the Greek hoplites infiltrate the phalanx. Even so, Alexander's phalanx was able to win the day along with the swing left of the cavalry and infantry nearby.
SpartanJKM wrote:I disagree (somewhat). The key element in Philip's new tactics was using infantry and cavalry in concert rather than as individual combat arms - which included several variations (cf. Richard A. Gabriel, Philip II of Macedonia, pp. 80-81). They could have been interspersed with the infantry, or concentrated primarily amid the Macedonian left-center. Whichever, they could strike at angles upon the enemy front once the stability and solidity of enemy phalanx was thrown off balance by the extended sarissai (gaps did not have to be wide at all for the wedged ilae to pierce through).
I'm assuming this view of interspersing cavalry and phalanx troops comes from your below cherry picked modern sources? Gabriel perhaps? To take just a one point of Gabriels' "argument", no source tells us that Philip sent Parmenion and Antipatros to aid Alexander. We might well speculate this (as we have) but no source provides any evidence. Gabriel would seem to fancy circular arguments (from silence no less) in claiming that Alexander must have commanded cavalry because Parmenion and Antipatros are cavalry commanders they therefore were sent to help Alexander command the cavalry. Never mind that Diodoros is clear that Philip gave Alexander command over one wing while he commanded the other. Parmenion and Antipatros are army commanders and led armies in their own right. They were not simply "cavalry commanders". In Asia, Parmenion would command the left wing of Alexander's army and, on Gabriel's logic, he was simply commanding the cavalry.

Gabriel also implies that because Philip was outnumbered in infantry he had to have his cavalry to extend his line. Again, as Xenophon has pointed out, cavalry do not fight infantry battles: they are a mobile force, not static. They do not fill out infantry lines. Interspersing cavalry with infantry invites disaster. Gaps in the Macedonian line would be just what the allied doctor ordered. On you own reckoning these would need to be large enough to allow a wedge attack. Now, Diodorus is clear that the battle was fiercely contested even after Alexander "ruptured" the front line. Even should the enemy hoplites not move from their lines into these gaps, it only takes a moment's thought to imagine what would occur when horses are injured or lose their rider attempting to break a hoplite line. It would only take several lose, wounded horses to begin causing mayhem among the Macedonian files and ranks who would be frontally engaged with the enemy line.

The numbers have been dealt with, Hammond makes a very oblique line over two miles long so as to fit his necessary numbers on the field. Ma is closer to the truth in that the line simply blocked the valley from the Lykuresi valley across. Even were the numbers anywhere near to Hammond's (or Justin's), a defensive line would simply be deepened. Again, even if we suppose the allied line to be acutely angled with one end far advanced of the other, why would that wing be the inexperienced Athenians? The allies were content to adopt a defensive position with their infantry flanks well anchored by difficult ground.
SpartanJKM wrote:As for the vaunted Sacred Band only receiving wounds in the front by the long spears of Philip's phalanx by Plutarch, those who espouse Gabriel's analysis could argue that it was a native writer, not an historian, telling or relaying an apocryphal occurrence to glorify the culmination of such eminent native heroes, and Diodorus' 'companions' with Alexander could have indeed implied the cavalry, and the inconsistency in nomenclature with the likes of Arrian could simply denote a not uncommon interchangeability of such terms amid ancient texts spanning over different generations.
A very convenient argument. But it doesn't really do to marginalise such sources as we have on the basis that one really doesn't suit our point of view because he is "native" and "not an historian". And just what is the latter meant to imply? We would need to have one of O'Connell's patches (or more) which indicates a far less heroic performance by the "vaunted Sacred Band". We do not and Plutarch is plain enough that the elite group fell where they faced the Macedonian sarisai.

On the use of terms, Diodoros is not technical writer as I've said and the word he uses here is not "companion" in the sense of Companion Cavalry at all. It is never used of it and this is no matter of different usages at different times. Diodoros uses it four times including this passage (15.12.1 & 85.2 being the others). All uses prior to this refer to flanks or support in infantry deployment. Thus in the first the Spartans used to always place the Mantineans on their flank. In the second, the Manitineans and other Achaians are then supported by the Lakadamonians while the Thebans are supported by the Arkadians. Polybios, too, uses this as "flank". To translate this as "companions" is, as I said, to muddy the water. This simply means those either side of him or those about him: those on his flanks.
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Re: Did Alexander command the PHALANX at Chaeronea?

Post by Xenophon » Mon Jun 26, 2017 3:11 am

Paralus wrote:
The implication is that these are advisors to the 18 year old Alexander who is, I agree, commanding one wing of the army a la Parmenion under Alexander. Hence I'd expect these to be those eminent commanders who'd held army commands independently in the past and were no longer "tied" to an individual taxis. Parmenion and Antipatros come to mind as would Alexander's enemy, Attalos. Were Koinos commanding a phalanx taxis here, I'd expect him to be with that unit. An intriguing though is Krateros. We find him commanding the leftmost taxis at Granikos and commanding the infantry on the left. Perhaps Philip also had such an individual commander who would Alexander must assuredly have been with if he fought on foot.
'Advisors' is something of an assumption, though I would agree a likely one. One would certainly expect the likes of Antipater and/or Parmenion to be supervising Alexander. However there is another reason to station 'leaders/hegemonia' of note beside Alexander, and that is to protect him and keep him safe in the fighting - which Antipater or Parmenion could hardly do.
I should point out that unit commanders, especially senior ones, are never "tied" to their units but in fact spend most of their time away from their units in carrying out their duties. They attend staff meetings, briefings, orders groups (both receiving orders and subsequently issuing them to their subordinates) carrying out reconnaisances etc. In fact they are so busy with these duties they have no time to attend to their own needs, hence the need for 'batmen' and 'orderlies'. Nor, as we know, do the nominal unit commanders always lead their unit in action.
The men surrounding Alexander for his protection would need to be experienced, courageous fighting men and not too young - and the 'hegemonia' of note would be ideal for the job. I have no doubt they vied with one another for the honour and prestige of fighting alongside their commander Alexander, and that their second-in-commands were perfectly well qualified to actually lead the 'taxeis' in action.
Can you imagine the shame and dishonour if something befell Alexander because the important men were not with him ?
There is great resistance to seeing Alexander leading the foot here. I recall raising this via email with Brian Bosworth a considerable few years back and he, too, could only see this as a cavalry action because that's how Macedonian nobles - especially royalty - fought. He was also of the opinion that these taxis commanders commanded from horseback. Something Wrightson has recently restated. Yet there are other attested instances of Alexander leading foot (1.1.10-12 & 1.6.9 for example). I see no reason why, at Chaeroneia, Alexander cannot be commanding infantry while commanding the Macedonian left.
I would entirely agree that Royalty could -and did- fight on foot. There are plenty of instances in our sources, as you rightly say. Furthermore, the equipment in Philip's tomb includes specific infantry gear (e.g. aspides). Alexander even leads troops up siege ladders ( e.g. Malli) or across drawbridges (Tyre), and he certainly didn't do that on horseback! :lol: :lol:
It should be emphasised, as you have done, that being a cavalryman or infantryman was not mutually exclusive at that time (Alexander's "Companion" cavalry fight on foot at need) , as it was much later - that would be to assume an anachronism.
As for taxis commanders leading from horseback, I don't believe there is any evidence for this. In ancient Greece commanders did not merely urge on their troops verbally sitting on a horse behind the lines, they were expected to lead from the front, and fought in the front ranks - even Kings.
( There are of course exceptions. For example,Xenophon, in the retreat of the Ten thousand is serving as a cavalryman, and leads Hoplites in a race to a hilltop on horseback)
On the use of terms, Diodoros is not technical writer as I've said and the word he uses here is not "companion" in the sense of Companion Cavalry at all. It is never used of it and this is no matter of different usages at different times. Diodoros uses it four times including this passage (15.12.1 & 85.2 being the others). All uses prior to this refer to flanks or support in infantry deployment. Thus in the first the Spartans used to always place the Mantineans on their flank. In the second, the Manitineans and other Achaians are then supported by the Lakadamonians while the Thebans are supported by the Arkadians. Polybios, too, uses this as "flank". To translate this as "companions" is, as I said, to muddy the water. This simply means those either side of him or those about him: those on his flanks.
Again, quite correct - the root word of 'parastaten' is 'para', literally 'beside' in Greek, thus it does not mean 'companions' but rather 'comrade,one who stands beside you '.

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Re: Did Alexander command the PHALANX at Chaeronea?

Post by Xenophon » Mon Jun 26, 2017 4:30 am

On a slightly different note, the site of the battle of Chaeronea is well known, and its width is roughly 2.3 km or 2,500 yards between the river Cephissus to the north and the mountains to the south. Allowing for some peltasts/light troops on both sides this is exactly the right width for the two phalanxes to deploy eight deep in close order, (16 deep in open order before they closed up to fight), assuming each army numbered about 20,000. There is no room for either side to deploy cavalry on the flanks, hence they must have been in the rear of their respective phalanxes.


As Paralus pointed out, the number of troops present cannot have been the 30,000 infantry and 2,000 cavalry Diodorus gives Philip, with the Allies numbering even more according to Justin, for then the only way to fit them on the battlefield is to make the battle-lines oblique, as Hammond does for the allies, and that is altogether unlikely.

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Re: Did Alexander command the PHALANX at Chaeronea?

Post by sean_m » Mon Jun 26, 2017 9:25 am

Yes, the idea that Macedonian royalty always lead cavalry charges does not fit the other sources (and again, we really know very little about Macedonia before Alexander .. not really enough to say what was customary, let alone what someone as ruthlessly flexible as Philip did). Part of Philip's methods seems to have been that he used any available weapon, and if one failed he tried another. We talked about the story about him telling his men as they ran away from Onomarchus "I am not fleeing, but retreating like a ram so I can butt harder" and the story that upon seeing an impregnable fortress he boasted that he could take it as long as he could bring a mule-load of gold against its walls. Philip was no Boucicault obsessed with single combat and too weak to make his men do what was good for the army as opposed to their personal reputations.
Xenophon wrote:As for taxis commanders leading from horseback, I don't believe there is any evidence for this. In ancient Greece commanders did not merely urge on their troops verbally sitting on a horse behind the lines, they were expected to lead from the front, and fought in the front ranks - even Kings.
( There are of course exceptions. For example,Xenophon, in the retreat of the Ten thousand is serving as a cavalryman, and leads Hoplites in a race to a hilltop on horseback)
[quote="Graham Wrightson, "The Nature of Command in the Macedonian Sarissa Phalanx," p. 84 https://www.academia.edu/16462474/The_n ... sa_phalanx"]

Furthermore, as mentioned above, Coenus and Perdiccas were wounded by arrows at Gaugamela. The protection afforded to the infantry by the upright sarissas of the rear ranks of the phalanx meant that few phalangites were injured by missiles. If both men commanded their phalanx battalion on horseback they would have been more exposed to injury from missiles and would have been a very visible target for the enemy archers. It would not be surprising if officers were marked out for attack by the enemy before the rank and file. Usually the death of the general means the defeat of the army. Ancient archers probably would have targeted the officers in the enemy line to throw them into confusion, just as snipers have targeted them throughout the history of warfare. It could simply have been two lucky shots to hit both Coenus and Perdiccas while on the ground behind the phalanx, but this is highly improbable.

If commanders were on horseback behind the unit they would get a much better view of the overall situation and the dispositions of their men and be better able to maintain alignment with the rest of the battle line. In an age where aerial views of the battlefield and advanced reconnaissance were unavailable, the general had to do his best to maintain a strong sense of the events of the battle as they unfolded. 49 The positioning of a commander behind his men is desirable so that he can maintain direct control over his troops. The elevation of the commander on a horse and his consequent flexibility of movement and direction aid in this control.[/quote]

Of course, men in the front rank with bronze cuirasses and gilt helmets with giant plumes and crests also made a conspicuous target ... so as always, citation implies neither approval nor disapproval. But the story of Parmenion at Gaugamela implies that he was not in the front rank of the sarisophoroi, because once the file had closed and the sarisas had been lowered someone in the front rank had no chance to observed the overall situation let alone to call for a messenger, give him instructions, and send him back through that solid mass of pikes to get a horse and ride for help (and Heckel figures that that story was invented within a generation of Alexander's death, so the people who invented that story understood the practicalities).
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Re: Did Alexander command the PHALANX at Chaeronea?

Post by Xenophon » Tue Jun 27, 2017 12:36 am

Sean M. wrote:
But the story of Parmenion at Gaugamela implies that he was not in the front rank of the sarisophoroi, because once the file had closed and the sarisas had been lowered someone in the front rank had no chance to observed the overall situation let alone to call for a messenger, give him instructions, and send him back through that solid mass of pikes to get a horse and ride for help (and Heckel figures that that story was invented within a generation of Alexander's death, so the people who invented that story understood the practicalities).
Some confusion here, I think. I referred to unit commanders (Taxiarchs/Hegemonia) commanding their units standing in the front rank, on the right.
Above that level, commanders who did NOT command a unit probably did not stand with a unit, but perhaps were posted in the rear and mounted, surrounded by their 'staff'. At Gaugemala,the elderly Parmenion commanded the left wing - half the army - and was not associated with a particular unit. If that was the case, then he would have had no difficulty in despatching a mounted messenger/member of his staff to Alexander.....

It is possible Alexander commanded the left wing in similar fashion at Chaeronea, but the implication is that he personally took part in the fighting and fought in the front ranks and so commanded in the "old way". We simply don't know for certain.

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Re: Did Alexander command the PHALANX at Chaeronea?

Post by SpartanJKM » Tue Jun 27, 2017 1:32 am

My apologies, Xenophon - I was a little impetuous in my last response. I am in total agreement with you: the ancient sources should by checked better, and thanks for opening my eyes to be more careful. I'm all for modern revisionism when it is well calculated, but on checking all the referenced ancient sources pertaining to the backdrop of the Gravia Pass and Amphissa, I am perturbed that three major historians on Philip state -in a cut-and-dried, matter of fact manner - that Parmenio led the night raid through the pass and pounced on the unprepared mercenaries under Chares and Proxenus.

We know Antipitar was in Macedon, following Polyaenus' excerpt (as stratagems were central to his work, he likely would have mentioned a 'night raid', which would entail torches, thus minimizing the degree of surprise), and Philip, circumventing Thermopylae, was in Doris (almost certainly the city of Cyntinium, as he could be stationed just six miles above the Gravia Pass, which led into Amphissa). The successful ruse involving Philip's' bogus letter to Antipitar could have been, presumably, substantiated more so with his presence than not as the Macedonians withdrew from Cyntinium - to be observed and reported to Chares and Proxenus - to ostensibly deal with a rebellion in Thrace, hence the abandoning of the Gravia Pass by the numerically strong force suited for its blockage. Hammond opines that "a night or two later Philip's troops stormed through the Pass, annihilated the mercenaries, and captured Amphissa" (cf. Philip of Macedon, p. 148), with Naupactus being captured next.

Perhaps Parmenio was directly leading the forces which captured Amphissa and Naupactus, and Philip personally oversaw the ostensible withdrawal of his troops, but the many passages that state this in modern books, indeed, do not bother injecting one or two words of 'this is conjectural but plausible' (maybe editors want more succinct 'conviction'!). Stating Parmenio was directly leading this operation is purely arbitrary - a reasonable one, if Philip wasn't, which I also feel as plausible - but such arbitrary assessments should be emphasized as such, even in just a sentence or two. I assumed there some suggestion even if mildly dubious, somewhere in the ancient passages (I was aware of Polyaenus' passage, and just assumed it was pieced together from the other passages from the Attic orators or Strabo, etc.) that prompted the modern historians to state indubitably it was Parmenio who led the operation in a night attack (upon perusal, there's seems to be no solid basis for Gabriel's comment that "we find Parmenio at Naupactus"). It's possible, given his sure position in the chain of command of Philip's, but nothing at all in the fountainhead of evidence aids with that judgement, and it bothers me thru didn't express so, even a little. This should be a caveat for any amateur (like me!).

I believe the Macedonian cavalry were at Chaeronea in action, but I don't agree, face-value, with Gabriel's statement that Diodorus implies that Alexander led the cavalry; I agree with you guys that the ancient texts more suggest he led infantry, and that the brevity of all their passages seems to reflect an infantry battle.

Thanks, James :)
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Re: Did Alexander command the PHALANX at Chaeronea?

Post by Paralus » Tue Jun 27, 2017 4:35 am

SpartanJKM wrote:I'm all for modern revisionism when it is well calculated, but on checking all the referenced ancient sources pertaining to the backdrop of the Gravia Pass and Amphissa, I am perturbed that three major historians on Philip state -in a cut-and-dried, matter of fact manner - that Parmenio led the night raid through the pass and pounced on the unprepared mercenaries under Chares and Proxenus...

...It's possible, given his sure position in the chain of command of Philip's, but nothing at all in the fountainhead of evidence aids with that judgement, and it bothers me thru didn't express so, even a little.
To that list of historians you can add Ian Worthington. In his book By The Spear Philip II, Alexander the Great and the Rise and Fall of the Macedonian Empire (Oxford, 2014), Worthington states, without supporting argument, that Alexander “must have been devastated when Philip told him he would not be going to Asia but would remain behind in Macedonia” (p114). In a book replete with endnotes and references to source material, one wonders why nary a one accompanies this flat assertion other than that no source states this. He stated this previously in his Philip II of Macedonia’ (2006, p 185-186) - again without an ounce of evidence to back it up. This was to support his view that Alexander may well have been complicit in the murder of his father. That's before we get to the battle of Issos.... It always pays to read the ancient sources.
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Re: Did Alexander command the PHALANX at Chaeronea?

Post by Xenophon » Tue Jun 27, 2017 6:26 am

Spartan JKM wrote :
We know Antipitar was in Macedon, following Polyaenus' excerpt (as stratagems were central to his work, he likely would have mentioned a 'night raid', which would entail torches, thus minimizing the degree of surprise), and Philip, circumventing Thermopylae, was in Doris (almost certainly the city of Cyntinium, as he could be stationed just six miles above the Gravia Pass, which led into Amphissa). The successful ruse involving Philip's' bogus letter to Antipitar could have been, presumably, substantiated more so with his presence than not as the Macedonians withdrew from Cyntinium - to be observed and reported to Chares and Proxenus - to ostensibly deal with a rebellion in Thrace, hence the abandoning of the Gravia Pass by the numerically strong force suited for its blockage.
I'll just repeat Polyaenus' passage again here for convenient reference....
Polyaenus [IV.2.8]
"Having marched against the territory of Amphissa, Philippus found himself obstructed by the Athenians and Thebans; who had made themselves masters of a defile [the Gravia pass, which was only 35 yards or so wide], which he was unable to force; and therefore resorted to a stratagem. He wrote a letter to Antipater in Macedonia, informing him that the Thracians were in rebellion, and that he was obliged for the present to defer his expedition against Amphissa, and to march into Thrace. This letter he dispatched by a way, where he knew it would be intercepted: which accordingly was the case; and Chares and Proxenus the generals, who commanded against him, because they were convinced by the contents of the letter, abandoned the post they possessed. Philippus immediately availed himself of their movements; and passing the defile without opposition, afterwards defeated the allies, and took Amphissa."

The stratagem of the false letter is a doublet of one at Frontinus I.4.13 where Philip fools the Athenians into withdrawing their fleet, by an identical letter to Antipater. That makes the phoney letter ploy rather suspect in itself. Secondly, messengers returning to Macedon would be heading north. It is likely that since the pass was too narrow to occupy, Chares and Proxenus were camped at the southern end, from where they could quickly block the pass.Since Chares and Proxenus could no more traverse the pass than Philip could, how could they possibly intercept the messengers ? ( If they learnt of the letter, and tried another route, the messengers would be long gone before they could be intercepted. For that matter how could Philip ensure the letter was intercepted and captured? )

Note also that according to Polyaenus there was no 'raid' either by day OR night. According to him, Chares and Proxenus moved off of their own accord, and then Philip simply marched through the pass completely unopposed.. Later, he fights and beats Chares and Proxenus and their 10,000 Athenian and Theban mercenaries, then proceeds to take Amphissa, presumably also unopposed since we are not told of any fighting or siege.

Given the above, all we can be really sure of is that for some reason Chares and Proxenus ceased guarding the pass and moved away, allowing Philip to march through unopposed.

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