Hellenistic Warfare > Somatophylakes


Alexander the Great - Dove Decoration


The Somatophylakes were an elite corps of bodyguards and companions who served the Macedonian kings, particularly during the reign of Alexander the Great. The term "Somatophylakes" is derived from the Greek words "soma" (body) and "phylos" (friend), meaning "bodyguard" or "companion." The institution of the Somatophylakes likely originated in the Argead dynasty, the ruling house of Macedon, and was formalized under Philip II, Alexander's father.

Role and Duties:

The Somatophylakes served as the king's personal bodyguards and closest confidants, accompanying him in both peacetime and on military campaigns. Their primary duty was to ensure the safety and security of the king, particularly in times of danger or during battles.In addition to their martial role, the Somatophylakes also acted as advisors to the king, offering counsel on matters of state and military strategy.


The Somatophylakes were typically drawn from the Macedonian aristocracy and noble families, reflecting their elite status within the kingdom. The corps was composed of a select group of individuals who had earned the king's trust and loyalty through their valor, loyalty, and service. The number of Somatophylakes varied over time and depended on the preferences of the king. Alexander the Great, for example, is said to have had a core group of seven Somatophylakes.

Prominence under Alexander the Great:

The Somatophylakes reached the height of their influence and importance during the reign of Alexander the Great. Alexander maintained a close and personal relationship with his Somatophylakes, many of whom had accompanied him since his youth and early military campaigns. The Somatophylakes played a crucial role in Alexander's conquests, serving as his trusted advisors and commanders in battle.

Notable Members:

Some of the most famous Somatophylakes of Alexander the Great include Hephaestion, Ptolemy, Perdiccas, Craterus, and Seleucus.Hephaestion, in particular, was one of Alexander's closest friends and confidants, serving as his chief companion and Somatophylax until his untimely death in 324 BC.


The institution of the Somatophylakes continued to exist in various forms throughout the Hellenistic period and beyond, reflecting the enduring influence of Macedonian military and court culture. The concept of the royal bodyguard and close companionship between monarchs and their trusted advisors persisted in later monarchies and imperial regimes. Overall, the Somatophylakes played a vital role in the Macedonian royal court and military hierarchy, serving as the king's most trusted and loyal companions during the era of Alexander the Great and beyond.


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