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A Cavalry Unit in the Army of Antigonus Monophthalmus: Asthippoi*

  • N. G. L. Hammond (a1)


As the editor of the new Budé edition of Diodorus Siculus 19 has said, R is ‘the more often correct’ of the two main manuscripts and the other, F, has a number of acceptable variants; and she reckons the division between R and F to have been ‘fairly ancient’. All other manuscripts are merely copies, more or less faithful, of R and F. For the passage which I wish to consider I quote the text as given in R:



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1 Biziere, F., Diodore Sicile, Bibliotbèque bistorique, livre XIX (Paris, 1975), pp. xx–xxii

2 This form should be retained in the text, as at 30.3. R has and F has . The emendation to favoured by L-S-J9 s.v., should be rejected, because two mounts is an unnecessary complication for an archer in a major cavalry battle; in the only instance of the word, in Plu. Mor. 197 d, the reading of two manuscripts should be preferred. For riders with two mounts see Arr. Tact. 2.3.

3 Even as the betairoi were companion! of the King. I doubt whether astbetairoi can carry Bosworth's weight of interpretation (his p.251): ‘ “Closest in kin companions” would have encapsulated nicely both their Macedonian nationality and their previous independence of the central monarchy.’

4 See Hammond, N. G. L., A History of Macedonia i (Oxford, 1972) 138, and in ii (forthcoming), 159 and 162 f.

5 See Hammond, N. G. L., Epirus (Oxford, 1967), pp. 460 f., citing Hecataeus (FGrH i) F 107 and Strabo C 326 and C 434, and A History of Macedonia i. 439. In taking a different view Bosworth in CQ N.S. 21 (1971), 98, seems to confuse kinship with political dependence; Strabo keeps that distinction clear.

6 For the linking of the astbetairoi with the battalions of Upper Macedonia see Bosworth, in CQ N.S. 23 (1973), 249.

7 As in my History of Greece, p. 536. The choice is between Alexander 1 and Alexander II if Anaximenes, a contemporary of Philip and Alexander III, is correct in attributing the invention of the title to an Alexander in Book I of his Philippica, which dealt probably with the period before Philip became King (Jacoby on FGrH 72 R 4). Alexander I is preferred by Ellis, J. R., Philip II and Macedonian Imperialism (London, 1976), p.53.

8 This passage is cited in Et. Magn. (ed. Gaisford) 699, 47–8, as from Demosthenes , where it is not to be found. As Gaisford suggested, it is probably an error for Anaximenes Philippica Book II, which would have dealt with the early years of Philip's reign (see Jacoby, in FGrH ii C 107), and the occasion was probably the campaign against Bardylis, which was introduced by Diodorus as being and was in fact carried to Lake Lychnitis inside Illyris (D. S.16.4.3 and 16.8.1).

9 That they numbered several thousand and yet were élite troops may surprise us if we think on the scale of the Greek city-state, but we may note that Bardylis had 10,000 élite infantry in D.S. 16.4.4. The word pezbetairoi was used also for a more select élite, namely the bodyguard of the King(FGrH 115 (Theopompus) F 348). For a similar use of the terms ‘bodyguard’ and ‘hypaspists’ see Brunt, P. A. in his Loeb edition of Arrian, pp.xlii and lxxvii.

10 Most of the Macedones in Lower Macedonia were described as being from one of the many cities there; e.g. Ptolemy Alorites.

11 See also Quintus Curtius 4.13.28, who describes the battalions on the right of the phalanx at Gaugamela as those of Coenus, Orestae—Lyncestae, and Polyperchon. If we go by the names of the commanders, the earliest mention of asthetairoi battalions is in 335 B.C. at 1.6.9, , which is generally taken to involve two battalions.

11 Here I disagree with Bos worth in CQ N.S. 23 (1973), 247: , it seems designates the whole six phalanx battalions’. If it were so, what need for another name? The use of the term for Persians has some bearing on its meaning; for they could hardly be called ‘best companions’ before their service started, but they could be called ‘closest-in-kin companions’ if Alexander was claiming to be the Persian monarch, where ‘the kindred’ was an honorific term (hence his remark in Arr. 7.11.6–7), or ‘townsmen-companions’ in that they came from Alexander's new cities (7.6.1).

13 In this case Arrian did not mention the division of the army, but Diodorus is surely correct, since Alexander was campaigning in the very mountainous country of the Pisidians and had no need of the full phalanx.

14 The word was used of the peoples of Upper Macedonia by Thucydides at 2.99.2. A more explicit translation would be ‘to the other formations’, being used in its general sense of ‘a body of troops’ (used of cavalry in Arrian 1.15.4); for the contrast inherent in the words is with the formation in the previous limb of the period, the Companion cavalry. I disagree with the inference made by Milns, R. D. in GRBS 7.2 (1966), 160 that ‘the emphatic position of the words strongly implies that there was a battalion or battalions over and above the ones to which additions were made’.

15 Tarn, W. W., Alexander the Great, ii (Cambridge, 1948), 154 thought that all squadrons of the Companion Cavalry came from areas outside ‘old Macedonia’; a strange oversight and a most improbable hypothesis. See Brunt, P. A. in JHS 83 (1963), 42.

16 e.g. in Xen. Hell. 5.2.38–40 Derdas of Elimiotis had 400 superb cavalry.

17 The populations of the new towns were partly settlers from Lower Macedonia and partly leading local people; for a discussion of these towns see the forthcoming volume II of A History of Macedonia, ch. 20.

18 Bizière in the Budé edition, p.43 n.2 and p.45 n.l; Jouguet, P., L'lmpérialisme macédonien et l'hellénisation de l'Orient (Paris, 1926), pp.125 f.

19 F. Bizière favours the first alternative in the Budé edition p.xvi: ‘L'hypothèse la plus satisfaisante, à notre avis, est que Diodore a utilisé directement Hiéronymos, de très près jusqu’ à la mort d'Eumène.’

20 L-S-J9 s.v. III.2. Compare Hdt. 1.56.1 . Geer's and Bizière's translations are cited on p. 128 above. If I am correct, we may infer from the absence of any indication of unit-commander, racial origin, or geographical area that these troops were Macedonian.

21 . R and F have accusatives in this sentence, and their readings were correct in that they reproduced the original. That being so, Diodorus probably changed into the nominative a sentence of Hieronymus which was in the accusative, doing so in order to add his own note about the argyraspides. The meaning ‘the descendants of the hypaspists’ makes sense when we remember that the hypaspists had been recruited by Philip and inherited by Alexander and were between 60 and 70 to say 75 years of age in the winter of 317/16 B.C. (D.S. 19.41.2)–recruited then mainly between 357 and 347 B.C., if we put the average age of admission into this corps d'élite at 30—and could therefore be expected to have adult sons in the 330s and 320s. We hear of their families in Asia in D.S. 19.43.7, and no doubt they had families in Macedonia too. We know that Philip and Alexander trained the sons of their Companion Cavalry as pages and as horsemen, to enter the Companion Cavalry if suitable; and we may infer from this passage that they had trained the sons of the corresponding infantry corps, ‘the royal hypaspists’, to become in their turn hypaspists. This has not been suggested, I think, because Tarn and others have thought that was synonymous with which Tarn then took to be ‘Eumenes' hypaspists’ and Launey, M., Rechercbes sur les armées bellénistiques (Paris, 1949) i.298 inferred from this passage ‘peut-être tout ou partie des 3,000 hypaspistes’ without explaining how the Greek words mean ‘tout’ or why the ‘partie’ was according to the text more than the total 3,000. For the association of the argyraspides with the hypaspists see note at the end.

22 Tarn in CAH 6.468.

23 The list of these satrapies is given in FGrH 156 (Arrian) F 9, 35 and D.S. 18.39.6.

24 Two thousand of those troops had just been brought in by Peithon in Media.

25 R. M. Geer misses the significance of the article in ‘the 8,000’, when he translates ‘and finally nearly eight thousand Macedonians whom Antipater etc.’; so too F. Bizière in the Budé translation.

26 In CAH 6.470

* I owe a particular debt to G. T. Griffith for his valuable comments and criticisms of this article. Where I disagree with him, it is with hesitation; but as in our forthcoming volume ii of A History of Macedonia, we show respect for one another's views but are not tied to them. I am grateful also to A. B. Bosworth whose re-establishment of the astbetairoi in the text of Arrian has made this article possible


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