Akontistai (Hellenic Skirmishers)

Those unlucky enough to be extremely poor freedmen were pressed into service as psiloi, missile units, and the lowest class of Hellenic infantry. The Psiloi were divided into three parts: javelineers, slingers, and archers. The javelin-armed Psiloi, the Akonistai, were ragged peasants armed with javelins and small knives. Their function was simply to throw their missiles and then run as fast as possible to safety behind the Hoplitai lines. They were used for skirmishing and to provide a demoralizing hail of missile fire during the grinding battle between the two phalanxes. Never use Akonistai in melee except as diversionary fodder or as a flanking force; roles in which they don’t excel, but might actually be better than nothing. They have their uses, as their javelins are still sharp and deadly, but they were often used only as light skirmishers or as a last resort in Hellenic armies for obvious reasons.

Historically, Akontistai did not play a particularly large role on the battlefield, and weren’t normally a particularly decisive force. They were used mainly for their ability to induce an enemy to attack prematurely. They are little more than an annoyance on the open field, but can be deadly if positioned in places where their javelins can be used for maximum effect: on high terrain, on an enemy unit’s flank, or atop a city wall.

Sphendonetai (Hellenic Slingers)

Sphendonetai are the second branch of the Psiloi, and are only marginally more useful than their compatriots with javelins. Their sphendonai (slings) can prove deadly weapons, being able to crush bones and armor, and shatter shields from a distance, but they are mainly used to harass and annoy enemy soldiers to force a premature or rash action. Since a sphendone is an easily constructed weapon, and ammunition is readily available in Hellas’ rocky terrain, Sphendonetai are mostly poor peasants and shepherds that use this weapon to provide a meagre amount of protein in their already poor diet or use their weapons to keep predators away from their flocks.

Historically, sphendonetai had their uses, they were often used to harass and provoke the enemy forces by causing some casualties and some damage to the enemy’s armament, particularly the shields, which were easily dented or cracked by a well slung glande (sling projectile). Alexandros employed his Sphendonetai at the battle of Gaugamela to harass the Persian heavy cavalry until they decided to give fight, and then promptly cut them off from the rest of the Persian army, allowing the Hetairoi to cut them to shreds.

Toxotai (Hellenic Archers)

Toxotai are the third branch of the Psiloi, the archers of Hellenic and Makedonian armies. They are generally from the upper end of the poor and recruited from mountainous regions where the use of the bow is an essential skill to keep one’s flock of sheep safe from roving predators. Toxotai are well trained in a manner of speaking, that being that they are using their weapon of choice (often of necessity) from birth. They are decent archers, but are nowhere near as professional as the archers from the east and south. They mostly use the short bow, which means that they are often outranged by their counterparts from other lands. This reflects their secondary role in a Hellenic army. As most missile units, they will be cut to ribbons in melee, so they should be well protected from enemy ranks.

Historically, the Hellenes did not use archers in any significant fashion. They did not have the composite bows of their neighbours, and their lands were not particularly suited to the cattle and horse farming that supplied the raw material for these bows. Therefore, archers fulfilled the same role as other Psiloi: that of long range harassment. The Hellenes and Makedones had no real tradition of archers and could not recruit any but these shepherds to do this work for them, since they lacked any access to the archers of the east. Most Hellenic states relied on Skythian and most importantly Kretan archers to do this for them.

Hoplitai (Greek Classical Hoplites)

Even though the Makedonian Phalangitai have become the dominant infantry type among the Hellenic powers, the Hoplitai of old who fight in much the same manner as the Hellenes did at Thermopylai, Marathon and Plataiai, are still around defending their poleis. Each hoplites is equipped with linen or leather armor, an aspis shield, greaves, the attic style helmet and of course, his spear. The equipment might have changed since the battles of centuries past, but their tactics have not. The Hoplitai still fight in the phalanx formation, often eight man deep whose purpose is to advance forward upon the enemy line, tie them and to whittle them down through attrition.

Historically, the hoplites is one of the most famous types of soldiers that has ever existed. The Hellenic military ethos and culture from the 8th century until the Roman hegemony created a highly skilled heavy infantryman. This combined with the phalanx formation, proved to be key factors in winning over the numerically larger Persian and barbarian armies of the day.

The Hoplitai were mostly drawn from the well-to-do citizens of a polis, who often had a stake in the outcome of the battle or war to come, and who were bound to eachother by a patriotic feeling to their home city, creating a body of citizen-warriors whose motivation was unlike that of any levy, mercenary or other professional soldiers. The hoplites of the Hellenic city states continued to be the dominant infantry type on the battlefield for almost two centuries after the Persian Wars, but the appearance of the Peltastai made them more vulnerable than before and highlighted the shortcomings of the phalanx. Then the rise of Makedonia in the north and its Phalangitai, caused the decline of the "classical" hoplites being fielded in large numbers. However, variants of the hoplites were succesfully adapted by various Hellenic powers, such as the Ekdromoi and Thorakitai Hoplitai. And even after the wars of Alexandros and those of his successors, some poleis and smaller communities still fielded contingents of Hoplitai, who were trained and fought in the same fashion as the Hoplitai of old.

Misthophoroi Hippeis (Mercenary Greek Medium Cavalry)

Greek cavalry is not the most awe inspiring and powerful in the world, but they are no slouches either. Hippeis are a mix of good old fashioned Greek know-how with the practical needs for an effective medium cavalry force. The result is the wedding of linen armor, attic helmets, and hoplon shields to cavalry spears and the xiphos, which produces a warrior with excellent all-round equipment. Since they are mainly drawn from elite nobility, these cavalrymen have a high morale and a good discipline. They ride stout horses whose stock was imported from the north. They are an able, if not spectacular, medium cavalry.

Historically, Greek cavalry was always thought of as better than Roman cavalry, even though it was not particularly significant. The Greeks have enough trouble keeping the equestrian minded Macedonians to the north at bay without having to worry about doing much of significant note.

Sphendonetai Rhodioi (Rhodian Slingers)

These men hail from Rhodos, one of the most storied states and greatest mercantile powers in the Hellenistic world, famous for its fine slingers throughout the Classical and Hellenistic periods. Men like these traveled with Xenophon, fought in the armies of Phillip and Alexander, and served as mercenaries with most of the major powers even through Roman domination. They are armed with slings made from leather, as well as hemp and flaxen cord, and are armored in a padded linen 'half-cuirass'. This gives them some longevity in melee combat, but they are best withdrawn before melee begins in earnest. Their missiles will rain death upon most foes, and they out-range most enemies.

Historically, slingers from Rhodes and others trained in their methods made significant contributions to Hellenic and Successor armies. Xenophon's Anabasis is probably the clearest example, where slingers from Rhodos are able to outfight archers and presumably keep mounted archers at bay. They performed the latter function for Alexander as well, in concert with bolt-throwing engines. In the acceding Hellenistic age, their use by virtually every power is a testament to their effectiveness. Slingers from Rhodos appear later in the Roman army, but history from later periods becomes increasingly sketchy.

Misthophoroi Toxotai Kretikoi (Mercenary Cretan Archers)

The island of Crete is renown for it's archers, and Cretans renown for their reputation as liars and brigands. These men hire themselves out as mercenaries for almost any Mediterranean power who can afford them, as their skills are often unmatched by other archers. Apart from their bow, they also have short swords and they wear hardened linen armor and carry a small shield. Not only are the Cretans good archers, but they can also fare well in melee, although against similarily equipped opponents.

Historically, Toxotai Kretikoi served in most Hellenic armies and other Mediterranean armies from early history, from Carthage in the west to the Seleukids in the east. One of their most famous exploits was in Xenophon's "Ten Thousand", where they gave a good account of themselves against the Persians. Crete during this time was rife with civil wars, and it was often those Cretans on the losing side or who get fed up with the unstable situation, who migrated overseas and hired themselves out as mercenary bowmen. The Diadochoi tried to gain control of the island, but were unsuccesful in their attempts. The constant civil wars attracted outlaws and other unwantables to Crete, that during the Hellenistic period bad behaviour was called "Cretan Way" and during the 1st century BC, the Cilician pirates established themselves on Crete and many Cretans joined them in piracy, which drew the ire of Rome. The first Roman expedition in 74 BC was soundly defeated, but the second expedition in 68 BC managed with great brutality to subjugate the island, which was afterwards made into a military colony, who for centuries to come supplied the Roman army with auxiliary archers, and their renown continued well into the Middle Ages. There is even distinct mention of Cretan archers defending Constantinople in 1453 AD!!

Hippeis Thessalikoi (Thessalian Heavy Cavalry)

Thessalikoi heavy cavalry are drawn from the nobility of Thessalia, a region thoroughly under Makedonian control. They are extremely valuable heavy cavalry, well able to crush enemy resistance with a single thunderous charge. While not quite as powerful as the Hetairoi of Makedonia itself, the Thessalikoi are well able to give a good account of themselves in battle. Their lances and blades, combined with their shields, make them well able to hold in a melee after the charge has been completed and they have a degree of discipline that is enviable among cavalry warriors.

Historically, Thessalia was famous for its heavy cavalry. Unlike southern Hellene regions, the Thessalikoi had a wide expanse of plains and were able to breed horses extensively. They were able to keep the other Hellenes at bay even though they were poorer and less populous than their southern neighbors. They were joined with Makedonia during the reign of Phillipos, and provided cavalry to fuel Alexandros’ conquests. After Alexandros, they continued to provide heavy cavalry to the Makedonians until the Rhomaios invasion of 146 BC that destroyed much of Thessalia’s infrastructure. There is evidence that by this time heavy cavalry was employed only in smaller numbers, due to cost.

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