Hellenistic Warfare > Argyraspides


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The Argyraspides (in Greek: Ἀργυράσπιδες "Silver Shields"), were a division of the Macedonian army of Alexander the Great, who were so called because they carried silver-plated shields. They were picked men, were commanded by Nicanor, the son of Parmenion, and were held in high honour by Alexander. They were hypaspists, having changed their name to the Argyraspides whilst in India under Alexander (Arrian Anabasis 7.11.3). After the death of Alexander (323 BC) they followed Eumenes. They were veterans, and although most of them were over sixty, they were feared and revered due to their battle skills and experience.

At the Battle of Gabiene they settled with Antigonus when he managed to take possession of their baggage train (consisting of their families and the result of forty years of plunder). They obtained the return of their possessions, but in exchange delivered their General Eumenes to him (316 BC). Antigonus, however, soon broke up the corps, finding it too turbulent to manage. He sent them to Sibyrtius, the Macedonian satrap of Arachosia, with the order to dispatch them by small groups of two or three to dangerous missions, so that their numbers would rapidly dwindle.

The Seleucid kings of Syria employed an infantry phalangite corps of the same name. At the Battle of Raphia in 217 BC the Argyraspides took up positions against the Ptolemaic phalanx. Polybius describes them as being armed in the Macedonian manner (Polyb. 5.79.4, 82.2). Their position besides the king at the Battle of Magnesia suggests that they were the premier infantry guard unit in the Seleucid army. They were men chosen from the whole kingdom (Polyb. 5.79.4) and constituted a corps of 10,000 men at Raphia. At the Daphne parade held by Antiochus IV Epiphanes in 166 BC the Argyraspides were 5,000 strong.

However the corps of men described by Polybius as being armed and dressed in the 'Roman fashion' numbered 5,000, and Bar-Kochva suggests that these men, who are described as being in the prime of life, might have also been a division of the Argyraspides, putting the number of the corps back up to 10,000 strong. The Roman Emperor Alexander Severus, among other things in which he imitated Alexander the Great, had in his army bodies of men who were called argyroaspides and chrysaspides. Livy mentions a cavalry corps called silvershields as the royal cohort in the army of Antiochus III the Great at Magnesia.


Diodorus Siculus, Bibliotheca, xvii. 57, 58, 59, xviii. 63, xix. 12, 41, 43, 48; Curtius Rufus, Historiae Alexandri Magni, iv. 13; Plutarch, Parallel Lives, "Eumenes", 13-19

Historia Augusta, "Alexander Severus", 50

Livy, Ab urbe condita, xxxvii. 40; Polybius, Histories, v. 79

Smith, William, ed. (1870). "Argyraspides". Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities. Boston: C. Little, and J. Brown.

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