5 Interesting Things You Should Know About The Macedonian Phalanx

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2) Macedonian Phalanx was originally composed of semi-nomadic herders –

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The Macedonians had one significant advantage over other southern Greek city-states, and that ironically related to ‘simple living’. In other words, the Greek hoplite was essentially a farmer who was tied to his land, and such made up the bulk of the middle class of his society’s economy. This resulted in more stringent campaigning seasons, since the hoplites couldn’t be too far away from their agricultural lands. However, as for the developing state of Macedon, most of its male population took part in simpler economic activities, like herding animals (based on seasons). So, during times of war, when such conscripted men campaigned far and wide, their economics tasks could also be alternatively handled by older men, women and even (in certain cases) children.

Essentially, manpower was never a problem for the Macedonian kings, with the kingdom’s burgeoning population spread across numerous villages, as opposed to being concentrated in urban centers or poleis. These simple yet hardy folk were given the incentive for better economic benefits (read ‘plunder’) that could have supplemented their meager incomes. And thus the factor that limited other Greek city-states, allowed Macedon to field a ‘professional’ phalanx army which was properly motivated and prepared. As Alexander the Great made it clear to his troops, during the mutiny at Opis (as mentioned in Arrian’s Anabasis) –

Macedonians, my speech will not be aimed at stopping your urge to return home; as far as I am concerned you may go where you like. But I want you to realize on departing what I have done for you, and what you have done for me. Let me begin, as is right, with my father Philip. He found you wandering about without resources, many of you clothed in sheepskins and pasturing small flocks in the mountains, defending them with difficulty against the Illyrians, Triballians and neighboring Thracians. He gave you cloaks to wear instead of sheepskins, brought you down from the mountains to the plains, and made you a match in war for the neighboring barbarians, owing your safety to your own bravery and no longer to reliance on your mountain strongholds. He made you city dwellers and civilized you with good laws and customs. Those barbarians who used to harrass you and plunder your property, he made you their leaders instead of their slaves and subjects.

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