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Historical Warfare : The Macedonian Phalangites

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The Phalangites were the soldiers who made up the Macedonian phalanx. Discover what equipment they used, how they fought and what was ultimately their greatest weakness.

A Phalangites primary weapon was the Sarissa, which was a huge pike, about 4–6 metres (13–20 ft) in length.The sarissa was made of tough cornel wood, was very heavy for a spear, weighing around 5.5 kg to 6.5 kg. It had a sharp iron spear head shaped like a leaf and a bronze butt-spike that would allow it to be anchored to the ground to stop charges by enemy soldiers. The secondary weapon was a sword, called a Kopis, which was used in close quarter combat.

As a result of its size, a Phalangite had to hold the pike in two hands, making the Greek Aspis shield unusable. It was because of this, that the Macedonians used a shield called a 'Telamon shield', which was smaller and less deeply convex than the aspis shield employed by Greek hoplites.

In terms of armour, a Phalangite wore pretty much the same armour as a regular hoplite, although they wore a different type of helmet, called a Thracian helmet, which had a projecting peak above the eyes and usually had large cheek pieces. These cheek pieces were usually decorated with engraved beards.

In battle, the Phalangites fought in a large phalanx formation. This version of the phalanx had the first five rows lowering their spears so as to create a wall of spears, while the rear ranks would angle their spears at a 45 degree angle, so as to deflect incoming missiles. They were traditionally used to hold an enemy in place whilst the calvary struck from behind. However, due to the size of the spears they were not very mobile, and as a result could be utterly annihilated if struck from either the flanks or from behind.

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Sources:

Encyclopedia Britannica. (2018). Phalanx | military formation. [online] Available at: https://www.britannica.com/topic/phalanx-military-formation [Accessed 8 Jul. 2018].

Encyclopedia Britannica. (2018). Pike | weapon. [online] Available at: https://www.britannica.com/technology/pike-weapon [Accessed 8 Jul. 2018].

Realm of History. (2018). 5 Incredible Facts About The Macedonian Phalanx. [online] Available at: https://www.realmofhistory.com/2015/09/09/5-things-you-may-not-have-known-about-the-macedonian-phalanx/ [Accessed 8 Jul. 2018].

Wasson, D. and Wasson, D. (2018). The Army of Alexander the Great. [online] Ancient History Encyclopedia. Available at: https://www.ancient.eu/article/676/the-army-of-alexander-the-great/ [Accessed 8 Jul. 2018].

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