Hellenistic Warfare > Prodromoi



The Prodromoi were an important component of Alexander the Great's cavalry, serving as scouts and light cavalry. Their role was crucial in reconnaissance, skirmishing, and providing support to the main cavalry units. Here’s an in-depth look at the Prodromoi and their place within Alexander’s military structure:

Overview of Alexander’s Army

Infantry Units

  1. Pezhetairoi (Foot Companions):

    • Core Unit: Backbone of the Macedonian phalanx.
    • Equipment: Armed with the sarissa (a long spear).
    • Role: Formed a dense, impenetrable front line.
  2. Hypaspists:

    • Elite Infantry: Flexible and versatile troops.
    • Equipment: Carried shorter spears and larger shields.
    • Role: Acted as a link between the phalanx and the cavalry.
  3. Agrianians:

    • Light Infantry: From Thrace, known for agility.
    • Equipment: Light armor, javelins, and small shields.
    • Role: Skirmishing, flanking, and operating in rough terrain.

Cavalry Units

  1. Companion Cavalry (Hetairoi):

    • Elite Cavalry: Shock troops.
    • Equipment: Heavily armored with long spears.
    • Role: Flanking maneuvers and decisive charges.
  2. Thessalian Cavalry:

    • Heavy Cavalry: Versatile and effective.
    • Equipment: Similar to Companion Cavalry.
    • Role: Supported the Companion Cavalry and balanced the flanks.
  3. Light Cavalry (Prodromoi and Sarissophoroi):

    • Mobile Units: For scouting and skirmishing.
    • Equipment: Light armor, spears, and sometimes bows.
    • Role: Reconnaissance and rapid assaults.

Prodromoi (Scouts)

Background and Recruitment

Equipment and Tactics

Tactical Roles

  1. Reconnaissance:

    • Gathering Intelligence: The Prodromoi were responsible for scouting ahead of the main army, providing critical information on enemy movements, terrain, and possible ambushes.
    • Reporting: They would quickly relay their findings back to the main force, enabling commanders to make informed strategic decisions.
  2. Screening and Skirmishing:

    • Screening Force: The Prodromoi formed a screen in front of the main army, protecting it from surprise attacks and engaging enemy scouts and light troops.
    • Hit-and-Run Tactics: They used hit-and-run tactics to harass the enemy, disrupt their formations, and create opportunities for the main cavalry and infantry to engage effectively.
  3. Flanking Maneuvers:

    • Support to Main Cavalry: During battles, the Prodromoi supported the Companion Cavalry and other main cavalry units by executing flanking maneuvers, attacking enemy flanks, and pursuing fleeing troops.
    • Exploiting Weaknesses: Their speed and agility allowed them to exploit gaps and weaknesses in enemy lines, creating openings for heavier units to strike.

Key Engagements Involving Prodromoi

  1. Battle of the Granicus (334 BCE):

    • Initial Engagement: The Prodromoi were crucial in the initial skirmishes, providing reconnaissance and engaging Persian scouts, setting the stage for the main battle.
  2. Battle of Issus (333 BCE):

    • Scouting and Flanking: They scouted the terrain and enemy positions, allowing Alexander to plan his attack. During the battle, they helped secure the flanks and chase down retreating forces.
  3. Battle of Gaugamela (331 BCE):

    • Reconnaissance: Their reconnaissance efforts provided vital information on the vast Persian army’s deployment, enabling Alexander to devise an effective battle plan.
    • Flanking Actions: The Prodromoi participated in the flanking maneuvers that helped disrupt the Persian lines, contributing to the decisive Macedonian victory.
  4. Battle of the Hydaspes (326 BCE):

    • River Crossing: The Prodromoi played a significant role in securing the river crossing, scouting for suitable crossing points and providing cover for the main force.
    • Skirmishing: They engaged in skirmishes with Porus’ forces, helping to secure the bridgehead and prepare for the main battle.

Significance and Legacy

  1. Tactical Flexibility:

    • Versatile Role: The Prodromoi’s ability to perform a wide range of tasks, from reconnaissance and skirmishing to supporting main cavalry operations, made them a versatile and indispensable component of Alexander’s army.
  2. Strategic Advantage:

    • Intelligence Gathering: Their reconnaissance capabilities provided a significant strategic advantage, enabling Alexander to make informed decisions and execute complex maneuvers with confidence.
  3. Integration into Combined Arms Tactics:

    • Effective Coordination: The integration of the Prodromoi into Alexander’s combined arms tactics exemplified his innovative approach to warfare, utilizing different units in a coordinated manner to achieve decisive victories.


The Prodromoi were a critical element of Alexander the Great’s military, providing essential reconnaissance, skirmishing, and support to the main cavalry units. Their agility, speed, and tactical flexibility allowed them to perform a variety of roles that contributed significantly to Alexander’s success on the battlefield. The effective use of the Prodromoi within Alexander’s combined arms tactics showcases the strategic brilliance and adaptability that characterized his campaigns, enabling him to conquer and control a vast empire.


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