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Old January 5th, 2017, 08:34 AM   #1
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The Hypaspists


Is it just me or are these guys the most underrated soldiers of the ancient world? I mean, they only fought in small battalions of 1,000 men, and yet they were such excellent soldiers for the Macedonian army, they were highly valued in sieges, close-combat, and missions requiring physical endurance. They were a versatile infantry force who could not only fight as hoplites but even as phalangites - ancient historians repeatedly emphasise their speed and mobility, even in rough terrain. The Hypaspists literally fought to the death to defend the right flanks of the Phalanx. Apparently they lasted for 30 years and were never beaten in combat.
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Old January 10th, 2017, 01:38 AM   #2

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The history of the hypaspists is a little vexed. They are only referred to as such under Alexander. Ed Anson has done most of the more recent work on this group calling them "Macedonia's professional soldiers". If they are to be identified with Philip's original foot guard (and I agree with this) - the pezhetairoi - they are then Theopompus' "tallest and most powerful" among the Macedonians who were picked troops forming the royal guard. Alexander III likely applied this name to the regular infantry and renamed the guard the hypaspists.

Controversy surrounds both their makeup and their arming. On the first there are definitely two and possibly three troops: the hypaspists; the royal hypaspists and the agema which, just to continue the confusion, is several times referred to by Arrian as the "somatophylakes" (which also denominates the seven adjutants to the king). On the second, to my mind the hypaspists operated in a dual armed role: both as sarsia bearers in the phalanx (though Fred Ray and others - Ed Anson and Waldemar Heckel among them - see them as hoplites only) and as something of a hoplite. This is not surprising as so did other units of the phalanx. For example, Koinos "asthetaitoi" attacked Tyre from ships and were plainly not armed with a srisa for the purpose (ditto the hypaspists).

On their service, if we identify them with the Argyraspids ("Silver Shields"), something that is as near to certain as you can get in ancient history in my view, then these blokes served from Philip's time through to Gabiene under Eumenes. Not all will have survived, of course, and there will have been replacements over that time - originally from Macedonia and then likely the best from the phalanx over the eastern anabasis. The Argyraspids proclaim their sterling service in one of the best pre0battle vignettes in history (so good I use it as a signature):

You are sinning against your fathers, you degenerates, the men who conquered the world with Philip and Alexander!

They then added that their opponents would soon see that they "were worthy both of the kings and of their own past battles". They most certainly were and proceeded to annihilate Antigonos' phalanx near single handedly. These blokes had been killing for a long time. This was their life and had been for decades. They had taken part in Crocos Field and Chaeroneia under Philip. More dangerously, they'd taken part in Alexander's entire campaign including the slaughter that was the Indian expedition were mass killing became the norm. These blokes were inured to any feeling of regret for occurred on a battlefield as Antigonos' men found out in both battles in Iran.
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Old January 10th, 2017, 06:19 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by Salaminia View Post
The history of the hypaspists is a little vexed. They are only referred to as such under Alexander. Ed Anson has done most of the more recent work on this group calling them "Macedonia's professional soldiers". If they are to be identified with Philip's original foot guard (and I agree with this) - the pezhetairoi - they are then Theopompus' "tallest and most powerful" among the Macedonians who were picked troops forming the royal guard. Alexander III likely applied this name to the regular infantry and renamed the guard the hypaspists.

Controversy surrounds both their makeup and their arming. On the first there are definitely two and possibly three troops: the hypaspists; the royal hypaspists and the agema which, just to continue the confusion, is several times referred to by Arrian as the "somatophylakes" (which also denominates the seven adjutants to the king). On the second, to my mind the hypaspists operated in a dual armed role: both as sarsia bearers in the phalanx (though Fred Ray and others - Ed Anson and Waldemar Heckel among them - see them as hoplites only) and as something of a hoplite. This is not surprising as so did other units of the phalanx. For example, Koinos "asthetaitoi" attacked Tyre from ships and were plainly not armed with a srisa for the purpose (ditto the hypaspists).

On their service, if we identify them with the Argyraspids ("Silver Shields"), something that is as near to certain as you can get in ancient history in my view, then these blokes served from Philip's time through to Gabiene under Eumenes. Not all will have survived, of course, and there will have been replacements over that time - originally from Macedonia and then likely the best from the phalanx over the eastern anabasis. The Argyraspids proclaim their sterling service in one of the best pre0battle vignettes in history (so good I use it as a signature):

You are sinning against your fathers, you degenerates, the men who conquered the world with Philip and Alexander!

They then added that their opponents would soon see that they "were worthy both of the kings and of their own past battles". They most certainly were and proceeded to annihilate Antigonos' phalanx near single handedly. These blokes had been killing for a long time. This was their life and had been for decades. They had taken part in Crocos Field and Chaeroneia under Philip. More dangerously, they'd taken part in Alexander's entire campaign including the slaughter that was the Indian expedition were mass killing became the norm. These blokes were inured to any feeling of regret for occurred on a battlefield as Antigonos' men found out in both battles in Iran.
I think they most likely looked like these guys. they did wear armour but sometimes i think they also had just their linothorax on, it depended on where they fought. Click the image to open in full size.
Click the image to open in full size.

Yeah the Hypaspists were the equivalent of the SAS or Delta force in terms of skill, they were the most bad ass soldiers of Macedonia and even the ancient world. The Spartans are overrated tbh, let's try putting 7,000 veteran Hypaspists plus some 5,000 cavalry under Alexander against 200,000 Persians at Thermopylae and watch the Persians get absolutely cut to pieces.

Last edited by TheMilitaryHistoryAddict; January 10th, 2017 at 07:26 AM.
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Old January 10th, 2017, 08:06 AM   #4

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This is not surprising as so did other units of the phalanx. For example, Koinos "asthetaitoi" attacked Tyre from ships and were plainly not armed with a srisa for the purpose (ditto the hypaspists).
I don't have much of a dog in this fight, since you agree that whatever they became, they began as hoplites, but I do question the logic of the statement above. Prior to Iphicrates, the only place you would see infantry spears longer than dory is on ships, like the Egyptians, alongside exotica like the dorudrepanon or glaive. So I am not seeing the "they could not use long spears on ships" argument. Am I missing something in your thought process?
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Old January 10th, 2017, 08:12 AM   #5

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Originally Posted by TheMilitaryHistoryAddict View Post

Yeah the Hypaspists were the equivalent of the SAS or Delta force in terms of skill, they were the most bad ass soldiers of Macedonia and even the ancient world. The Spartans are overrated tbh, let's try putting 7,000 veteran Hypaspists plus some 5,000 cavalry under Alexander against 200,000 Persians at Thermopylae and watch the Persians get absolutely cut to pieces.

And how do you think 300 with no cavalry and unsteady allies would fare?? If Sparta had 7,000 veteran Spartiates to field in any battle, history would be much different.
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Old January 10th, 2017, 09:09 AM   #6
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And how do you think 300 with no cavalry and unsteady allies would fare?? If Sparta had 7,000 veteran Spartiates to field in any battle, history would be much different.
But there wasn't 300, the movie is exaggerated lol in real life there was atleast 7,000 plus Greek allies
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Old January 10th, 2017, 09:16 AM   #7
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But there wasn't 300, the movie is exaggerated lol in real life there was atleast 7,000 plus Greek allies
The total was with Greek allies. Only 300 actual Spartiates showed up.
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Old January 10th, 2017, 09:24 AM   #8
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The total was with Greek allies. Only 300 actual Spartiates showed up.
Ok well, i suppose it might've been a similar fate, but they would definitely have inflicted massive casualties on the Persians, i guess they were much more effective fighting in a cohesion beside the Phalanx, heavy cavalry, and peltasts

Well the Spartans alone would not change the world, because they'd be flanked, but if Spartans had reinforced their vulnerable flanks with cavalry and skirmishers like Alexander then yes things would be different.
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Old January 10th, 2017, 09:36 AM   #9
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Ok well, i suppose it might've been a similar fate, but they would definitely have inflicted massive casualties on the Persians, i guess they were much more effective fighting in a cohesion beside the Phalanx, heavy cavalry, and peltasts

Well the Spartans alone would not change the world, because they'd be flanked, but if Spartans had reinforced their vulnerable flanks with cavalry and skirmishers like Alexander then yes things would be different.
The flank in question was their rear. Leonidas had already put up a rear guard that defended the mountain pass, but that group ran off without a fight (which is what caused them to lose the battle as decisively as it occurred). Skirmishers and cavalry weren't going to defend a mountain flank against 10,000 infantry (Immortals).

Besides, nearly identical later battles happened at Thermoplyae where Greek/Hellenic armies attempted to use the narrow terrain to hold off invaders. Each time they got outflanked and lost. Two of the battles were fought by Macedonian or Seulicid kings, who being products of a military institution created by Philip and Alexander, you'd think they would know better.
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Old January 10th, 2017, 09:53 AM   #10
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The flank in question was their rear. Leonidas had already put up a rear guard that defended the mountain pass, but that group ran off without a fight (which is what caused them to lose the battle as decisively as it occurred). Skirmishers and cavalry weren't going to defend a mountain flank against 10,000 infantry (Immortals).

Besides, nearly identical later battles happened at Thermoplyae where Greek/Hellenic armies attempted to use the narrow terrain to hold off invaders. Each time they got outflanked and lost. Two of the battles were fought by Macedonian or Seulicid kings, who being products of a military institution created by Philip and Alexander, you'd think they would know better.
The group that defended were the Thespians wasnt it? I thought they all died holding off the immortals, never heard about them running off where does it say they deserted

I know that but i meant in the open field as well, ok let's make a more interesting scenario, let's say those 7,000 greeks and 300 spartans have a rear guard of 3,000 veteran hypaspists and 10,000 javelin men, slingers and archers. Could a force like this have possibly stopped the immortals in their path?

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