Here I continue my article on Ancient Greece, especially about Greek warfare, once again it is about the military of ancient Greece and its history. This time it would focus more on the empires made by the Greek world, not only in Greece itself but outside Greece, going south, east, and west. These other Greek nations and empires from outside Greece include Macedonia, the Seleucid Empire, the Egyptian Empire, and Carthage. These empires (except Macedonia) are from outside Greece but were still Greeks and dominated other parts of the world with Greek power. The one that was responsible for spreading Greek ideas including warfare outside Greece was the conquests of Macedonia.
First of all, Macedonia was just a small kingdom in northern Greece (the Balkans) next to Thrace, Epirus, and the Greek cities. What all changed it was the legendary general and king, Alexander the Great in the 4th century BC who conquered the lands to the east and south making the Greeks a world power. The person who started Macedon’s ambitions was Alexander’s father King Philip II who conquered the Greek cities making the Greeks fall to Macedonia and from then the Macedonians joined in with the Greeks and used Greek armies to expand their empire. In more than about 12 years of Alexander III the Great’s reign (336-323BC), Macedonian territory expanded from Greece going east all the way through Persia and Bactria, all the way to the Indus river, at the border of India, an to Egypt in the south, the Balkans in the west. Alexander conquered these lands with his powerful army with Macedonians and Greeks combined. As the conquests progressed, the Macedonians used different armies from all over the eastern world such as Persians and more. Part of the powerful army were holiness and the same Greek army units combined with battle tactics from Greeks and Persians. Afterwards, when Alexander died in 323BC, the Macedonian Empire was divided between his generals making the rest of the world Greek.
When building their empire, by the conquests of Alexander the Great through the known world in the east, the Macedonians expanded their territory by a large army having the same units as the Greek army, except with Macedonian and Greek armies combined. The Macedonian army had the same units of hoplites as their special forces. Although Macedonian hoplites had skills and looks different from Classical Greek hoplites; the Macedonian hoplites did not wear a full Corinthian helmet but instead a bronze helmet placed above and around the head but not covering the face, these helmets had a round shape only covering the head and sometimes had a round or pointed tip with a plume coming out.These hoplites did not wear heavy iron armor but the white leather cuirass with metal scales, this type of armor was lighter and more flexible in battle (though white may not be the exact color they used), the armor then was a lot more lighter and it came together with a tunic under and cape sometimes. These hoplites carried a spear as their primary weapon and formed phalanx in battle, for secondary weapons they held either a xiphos sword or a kopis sword if they had no spear, and a large round shield with the Macedonian vergina sun symbol. Most of the hoplites wore armor though the minor forces of Macedon wore just a tunic with a helmet. The Macedonian army was also made up of the minor Greek forces including peltasts (javelin men), archers, slingers, and cavalry men; the cavalry men though were in greater use in the Macedonian army than in the Greek army. The Macedonian cavalry was an important unit in their army, they were also armored with the usual white armor and had the round helmet covering the face, which is also called the Boeotian helmet, used by Greek horsemen, they carried spears as their main weapon and a sword too; to symbolize the Macedonian army in the conquests, they had a purple or red cape. However, the Macedonian army did fully use their own men but used the forces of the Greek city states to fight for them. The cavalrymen were mostly from Macedonia or Thessaly, the peltasts (javelin men) were hired from Thrace or the Greek islands or even Scythia so were the archers and slingers, while the hoplites were either from Athens, Sparta, or Macedonia. The powerful Macedonian army of Alexander fought against the Persians at the battles of Issus and Gaugamela, then conquered Persia and all their lands including Babylon, Egypt, Judea, and Medea. Afterwards, Alexander’s army hired the remaining Persian armies to fight at their side on their next conquest in India, though they failed as it was too far and the Indians had more elephants than men. Afterwards, the Macedonian empire and army id not die, they continued to expand with the new empires, although Macedonia later on grew to become a weak kingdom but its succession kingdoms grew and expanded and their armies changed with ideas form the east.
After Alexander’s death, the Macedonian Empire was divided into 3; Macedonia, and the Seleucid and Ptolemaic kingdoms. The Seleucid Empire was the next Persian Empire based in Syria, it was one of Macedonia’s succession kingdoms which was handed to Seleucus, one of Alexander’s generals giving it its name. The Seleucid Empire became a leading power for about 200 years in the east covering Asia Minor, Syria, Judea, Babylon, Persia, until the Indus River, the border with India. The Seleucids though kept their empire with an effective army of both Greek and eastern battle strategies and units. The Seleucid army was mostly made of cavalrymen, which was their most important part in battle more than foot soldiers and hoplites. The Seleucids at battle though mainly used hoplites on horses and especially chariots, this is what the empire focused on in battle. Their chariots came in units with 1 or 2 soldiers riding on it firing arrows and the chariot itself was a weapon with blades at its wheels to slash the enemy army. The Seleucid infantry was not much of an effect, but they were still used, having peltasts, archers, and hoplites, a difference with them was that they used archers and javelin men more and as shields they used an lighter oval shield instead. Another part of their army was the use of Indian elephants, which was highly effective too, above them were archers or javelin men shooting arrows and javelins from above.
The Egyptian empire on the other hand, was a successor kingdom to Macedonia, it was then renamed the Ptolemaic kingdom as it was given to Ptolemy, one of Alexander’s generals. This new empire was a different version of Egypt as it became more Greek and even the army units changed. In battle, the Ptolemaic Egyptians used infantry men more compared to the Seleucids, and focused on javelins, archers, and spear men who were not much of hoplites but a less trained version of them. The difference here was that the Egyptians used plain white leather armor while the Seleucids used iron armor more. A similarity between them was that they both used chariots with archers above them and sometimes used war elephants, and for swords they rarely used the xiphos but the stronger curved-sword, kopis. The Ptolemaic Egyptians however did not have much of a powerful army but their navy was much more effective. Their types of armor were made for desert battle, especially in the deserts of Egypt and Syria, which makes the armor lighter and flexible.
Shown above is my drawing of a Ptolemaic Egyptian infantry soldier and a Seleucid chariot soldier. On the right, is a newer version of the Egyptian army; this soldier wears an iron helmet not covering the face but surrounding the head, it has a different type of white leather armor and a cape behind it. This soldier is more of a peltast except fully armed and armored, having an oval shield with the Egyptian symbol, a set javelins for throwing, and a kopis sword. On the right, it shows a Seleucid Empire soldier fully equipped with a bronze helmet and iron cuirass armor with gold scales and a dark cape behind. This soldier for a difference wears a long-sleeve tunic under and holds a kopis sword too and a bow. This soldier ont he right is an elite force of the Seleucid Empire as it is on a chariot, shown behind.
Another part of the Greek world was Carthage, though it may be far off from Greece and Greek lands, located in north-coast Africa, west of Egypt and south of Italy, its origins though are Greek, originating from the Phoenician settlers. Carthage however was not an empire itself but a republic, same as Rome and Athens and well known for their navy and wealth by trade more than their army. Carthage though had an effective army consisting of cavalry and infantry, though their cavalry was more of the important part. They had mostly the same army units as the Greeks did including peltasts, archers, hoplites, and an extensive cavalry. The unique part of the Carthaginian army was the use of war elephants, the elephants of Carthage were their most important and effective part. Carthage is most famous for fighting wars with Rome (the Punic Wars), here Carthaginian general Hannibal launched a large attack on Rome with the whole army including elephants, but at the end lost. The Carthaginian army had the same type of armor as the Greeks, usually the light leather ones but t eh difference is that that in Carthage they sometimes used chain-mail cuirass armor which Greeks did not use but the same bronze helmets. The weapons though were the same but the Carthaginians took the use of javelins more seriously; Carthage’s forces then are more similar to that of the Romans than the Greeks.
Shown above is my sketch of a Carthaginian and Macedonian soldier, each look differently. The Carthaginian soldier (left)wears the classic Greek bronze head-cover helmet but instead of a leather cuirass, this soldier wears a chain-mail similar to that they used in Rome.This soldier would be classified as an elite pelatast or heavy infantry, holding a set of javelins with an oval shield, and a xiphos sword, these were the same types of units on Carthage’s war elephants. The Macedonian soldier (right) is classified more as a hoplite, except without a spear being used for light combat with a xiphos sword ans shield. This version of hoplite does not wear a full helmet but the bronze one and a light leather armor together with a smaller shield for sword combat and the classic Macedonian purple cape being part of their royal army. All these soldiers of my drawing may have looked the same, which is true since most of the units of the Greek world empires outside Greece had the same look and weapons and somewhat the same skills. The similarity all these empires mentioned (Egypt, Seleucids, Macedonia, Carthage) has is that they all met their end fighting wars with Rome and soon falling to what will be the new Roman Empire, combining all these empires.
Before this finishes, here is also a short topic on the Greek navy and the types of ships together with siege weapons. Aside from the army, the Greek city states, also the empires had a powerful navy, especially Egypt and Carthage. In the history of Greece and the Greek empire, famous naval battles are recorded, such as the Battle of Salamis where the Greeks won against the Persian invaders, some happened during Alexander’s naval conquests, also in the war between Carthage and Rome, ad lastly, the Battle of Actium, between the Ptolemaic Egyptians and the Romans when Rome finally took over the Greek world. There are different types of Greek ships in the navy and have different effects, the Romans to used the same type of ships as the Greeks, except stronger; other empires too such as the Persians had a similar navy.
The Greeks had a set of different war ships of different uses and were similar to the Roman warships. The ships came in different sizes and were different from each other by the number of rows of oars. For example, the ship called bireme is much smaller and used to hold archers and skirmishers, and had 2 sides of oars but only one row, it is much simpler in look and was an earlier form of these battle ships. The trireme was much more effective moved by a double row of oars and 2 sails, it held the archers in naval battle and in battle, its effect was ramming enemy ships with its sharp point in front. The quadrireme was a larger version of a trireme, this one held more soldiers, had a sharper edge, but was more used for siege weapons to destroy enemy ships, these types of ships also had a small tower mounted on it for skirmishers or siege weapons. Following it, there are larger types of ships which were more used for blockading; the Romans on the other hand used even larger ships having until 7 rows pf oars. At battle, these ships fought in a few different ways but had limited skills.
The ships of all these empires of the Greek world and even Rome had the same appearance but their sails had each of the country’s symbol and sometimes ships itself had different colors. In battle, the ships often fought together as one fleet but each ships had different weapons and skills. The way naval battles were fought in the Greek world, also Roman world was by firing missiles such as arrows and javelins at enemy ships. By firing arrows or javelins, archers were boarded on the ships using their bows altogether to fire at the enemy; in naval battles though, first burning oil was thrown at sea where the enemy passes, then archers fire their flaming arrows at the oil burning the enemy, or they fired a singe flaming arrow at the ship itself which was made of wood, this was very much effective especially if the enemy ship were trapped but it would be hard to escape the trap. Another way Greek ships fought as by ramming directly at the enemy ship with the ship’s point in front, after ramming, the enemy ship would get beaten. Part of naval melee combat was also when ships hit each other, the soldiers would board the enemy ship, for the Greeks hoplites and infantry melee soldiers were boarded on triremes to board the enemy ship and attack the enemies on ship, sometimes the ships would be useless as the soldiers fought jumping from ship to ship. Another effective but slow way of combat in the Greek navy were siege engines mounted on ships, used for launching bolts or large hot stones or flaming hay balls on enemy ships. Using siege weapons were quite slow but the larger ships carried them and it took up more spacing having not much soldiers in them but siege weapon operators. These siege weapons included ballistas and catapults which had the effect of destroying enemy ships by burning or simply battering them. The famous naval battles of the Greek and Roman world like Salamis, the Greeks against Persians; Syracuse and Naxos, which was Athens against Sparta; and even in the Punic wars with Carthage and finally Actium used these naval battle tactics and had great effects in the wars.
The Greeks too had a set of siege weapons, the ballista and the onager were the classic and basically used ones. These siege weapons were both used in land and sea battles. The ballista was a commonly used one, a large crossbow low on the ground but pointed upwards, it was used on ships or in land battles when it came to siege walls and fortresses or to take down a number of enemy forces. Ballistas were also used on ships to fire flaming bolts a the enemy ships, the ballistas often fired bolts which were a larger version of arrows and had the flaming effect to burn down ships or burn the enemy lines. The onager was another type of weapon, this one was a small version of the catapult and moved on ground but needed about 6 men to operate. Onagers were both used in land to siege walls or destroy enemy ships by using heavy stones or flaming hay piles. These types of weapons then were overall used in the Greek world and also by the Romans, thought the Romans made improved versions of them.
Before this article ends, here’s to shorten the explanation of the Greek army, in battle they were different from each other having hoplites, archers, cavalrymen, siege weapons but they fought together as one and relied more on melee combat. Although the Greeks of the extended Greek world (Seleucids, Egyptians, and Carthaginians) did not fight that way anymore but individually as units and modified many parts of the Greek army. For the navy, they also fought together, and with their own military tactics, they were able to grow and build empires, dominating the known parts of the world for centuries. This topic may have been really long, but sure may have taught you a lot of things!!