Hellenistic Warfare > Alexander's Military Units

Alexander's Military Units

Alexander the Great - Dove Decoration


Alexander the Great’s military was a highly organized and versatile force, comprising various units that each played a specific role in achieving his battlefield successes. Here’s an in-depth look at the key military units within Alexander’s army:

Infantry Units

  1. Pezhetairoi (Foot Companions)

    • Description: The backbone of Alexander’s infantry, these were the common soldiers of the Macedonian phalanx.
    • Equipment: They were armed with the sarissa, a long spear about 18 to 22 feet in length, and carried a small shield.
    • Role: They formed a dense phalanx, a formation that was virtually impenetrable from the front, designed to hold the enemy in place.
  2. Hypaspists

    • Description: Elite infantry known as shield-bearers.
    • Equipment: They carried a shorter spear and a larger shield compared to the phalanx soldiers.
    • Role: They served as the link between the phalanx and the cavalry, providing flexibility and rapid response capabilities on the battlefield.
  3. Agrianians

    • Description: Elite light infantry from Thrace.
    • Equipment: They were lightly armored, allowing for greater speed and agility.
    • Role: They were used for skirmishing, scouting, and rapid assaults, often operating on the flanks or in rough terrain where heavier troops would be less effective.
  4. Greek Allied and Mercenary Infantry

    • Description: Allied Greek hoplites and mercenaries formed a significant part of Alexander’s forces.
    • Equipment: They typically carried a hoplon (large round shield), a spear, and wore armor.
    • Role: They provided additional infantry support and were often used to hold strategic positions or reinforce the main phalanx.

Cavalry Units

  1. Companion Cavalry (Hetairoi)

    • Description: The elite cavalry unit, considered the finest in Alexander’s army.
    • Equipment: They were heavily armored and carried a xyston (long spear) and a sword.
    • Role: Serving as shock troops, they were crucial in executing flanking maneuvers and delivering decisive charges to break enemy lines.
  2. Thessalian Cavalry

    • Description: Renowned for their skill and discipline, they were considered the best heavy cavalry outside the Companion Cavalry.
    • Equipment: Similar to the Companions, they were heavily armed with spears and swords.
    • Role: They often operated on the opposite flank of the Companion Cavalry, providing balance and executing complementary maneuvers.
  3. Light Cavalry (Prodromoi and Sarissophoroi)

    • Description: Lightly armored cavalry used for scouting and skirmishing.
    • Equipment: They carried shorter spears, javelins, and sometimes bows.
    • Role: They performed reconnaissance, harassed enemy formations, and pursued fleeing troops.

Ranged Units

  1. Archers (Toxotai)

    • Description: Archers recruited from various regions, including Crete and Persia.
    • Equipment: They used composite bows, capable of shooting arrows at long ranges.
    • Role: They provided ranged support, weakening enemy formations before the main engagement.
  2. Slingers (Sphendonetai)

    • Description: Light troops armed with slings.
    • Equipment: They used slings to hurl stones or lead projectiles.
    • Role: Like archers, they provided ranged support and disrupted enemy ranks from a distance.

Siege Units and Engineers

  1. Engineers

    • Description: Skilled personnel responsible for building and operating siege equipment.
    • Role: They constructed siege towers, battering rams, and other devices used to breach fortifications.
  2. Siege Equipment

    • Description: Various machines used in siege warfare.
    • Types: Included catapults for hurling stones, ballistae for shooting bolts, and mobile towers for scaling walls.
    • Role: Essential for conducting successful sieges against fortified cities, exemplified by the Siege of Tyre.

Specialized Units

  1. Peltasts

    • Description: Light infantry armed with javelins and small shields.
    • Role: They served as skirmishers, using hit-and-run tactics to harass and disrupt enemy formations.
  2. Companions’ Guard (Somatophylakes)

    • Description: An elite unit tasked with protecting Alexander and his high-ranking officers.
    • Role: They ensured the safety of the command structure and acted as elite reserves during critical moments in battle.

Logistics and Support

  1. Logistics Corps

    • Description: Units responsible for the supply and support of the army.
    • Role: They managed the transportation of food, weapons, and other supplies, ensuring the army remained operational during long campaigns.
  2. Medical Units

    • Description: Teams responsible for treating the wounded.
    • Role: They provided medical care, which was crucial for maintaining the fighting strength of the army over prolonged campaigns.


Alexander the Great’s military was a highly organized and adaptable force, integrating a variety of units that each played specific and crucial roles in his campaigns. The combination of heavy and light infantry, elite and versatile cavalry, specialized ranged units, and advanced siege capabilities allowed Alexander to conquer vast territories and achieve numerous decisive victories. The effective use of these diverse units, underpinned by strategic innovation and exemplary leadership, made Alexander's military one of the most formidable in history.


Warfare Links

Sabalico Logo
Sabalytics Logo
World Map Logo
rStatistics Logo
Time Zone Logo
Galaxy View Logo
Periodic Table Logo
My Location Logo
Weather Track Logo
Sprite Sheet Logo
Barcode Generator Logo
Test Speed Logo
Website Tools Logo
Image Tools Logo
Color Tools Logo
Text Tools Logo
Finance Tools Logo
File Tools Logo
Data Tools Logo
History of Humanity - History Archive Logo
History of Humanity - History Mysteries Logo
History of Humanity - Ancient Mesopotamia Logo
History of Humanity - Egypt History Logo
History of Humanity - Persian Empire Logo
History of Humanity - Greek History Logo
History of Humanity - Alexander the Great Logo
History of Humanity - Roman History Logo
History of Humanity - Punic Wars Logo
History of Humanity - Golden Age of Piracy Logo
History of Humanity - Revolutionary War Logo