Wars of the Diadochi > Greco-Bactrian Military

Greco-Bactrian Military

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Background

Indian War Elephant with wooden tower.Before the arrival of the Greek settlers, the armies of Bactria were overwhelmingly composed of cavalry and were well known as effective soldiers, making up large portions of the Achaemenid cavalry contingents. 2,000 Bactrian horsemen fought at the Granicus against Alexander and 9,000 at the Battle of Gaugamela on the left flank of Darius' army. Herodotus also mentions the widespread use of chariots among the Bactrians. After Alexander's conquest of Bactria, Bactrian cavalry units served in his army during the invasion of India and after the Indian campaign, Alexander enlarged his elite companion cavalry by adding Bactrians, Sogdians and other east Iranian cavalrymen.[32] Both Aeschylus (The Persians, v. 318) and Curtius mention that Bactria was able to field a force of 30,000 horse. Most of these horsemen were lightly armed, using bows and javelins before closing with sword and spear. Herodotus describes the Persian cavalry of Mardonius at the Battle of Plataea (which included Bactrians) as horse archers (hippotoxotai). Bactrian infantry is described by Herodotus as wearing caps in the Median style, short spears and reed Scythian style bows.Alexander and Seleucus I both settled Greeks in Bactria, while preferring to keep their Macedonian settlers farther west. Greek garrisons in the satrapy of Bactria were housed in fortresses called phrouria and at major cities. Military colonists were settled in the countryside and were each given an allotment of land called a kleros. These colonists numbered in the tens of thousands, and were trained in the fashion of the Macedonian army. A Greek army in Bactria during the anti-Macedonian revolt of 323 numbered 23,000.[32]The army of the Greco-Bactrian kingdom was then a multi-ethnic force with Greek colonists making up large portions of the infantry as pike phalanxes, supported by light infantry units of local Bactrians and mercenary javelin wielding Thureophoroi.[33] The cavalry arm was very large for a Hellenistic army and composed mostly of native Bactrian, Sogdian and other Indo-Iranian light horsemen. Polybius mentions 10,000 horse at the Battle of the Arius river in 208 BC. Greco-Bactrian armies also included units of heavily armored cataphracts and small elite units of companion cavalry. The third arm of the Greco-Bactrian army were the Indian war elephants, which are depicted in some coins with a tower (thorakion) or howdah housing men armed with bows and javelins. This force grew as the Greco-Bactrian kingdom expanded into India and was widely depicted in Greco-Bactrian coinage. Other units in the Bactrian military included mercenaries or levies from various surrounding peoples such as the Scythians, Dahae, Indians and Parthians.

Sources

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