Monday, 24 February 2020

Hellenistic Ersatz Legionaries

Hellenistic 'Legionary' Infantry

At a parade in 166BC, Polybius refers to a 5,000 man unit of Seleucid infantry as armed 'like Romans'.

The question is how really like a Roman legion was this Hellenistic unit.

The key military attacking unit in World War II was the Armoured/Mechanised Division. No purely infantry army could win against a foe fielding these units. After WWII, armoured and mechanised divisions remained as the primary military units facing each other in The Cold War. Newly emergent nations with the cash to spare were keen to create their own modern battle winning divisions. They copied NATO or Soviet divisions, buying the vehicles and creating the ranks and uniforms. But these ersatz armoured divisions, good as they looked on paper, were found wanting in a real war. You can't make a Russian armoured division simply by buying the gear. You need Russian to man the tanks.

So what were Seleucid 'legionaries'? Hellenistic armies already had Thureophoroi and Thorakitai, infantry with helmets, large Gallic shields, spears & javelins, swords and, sometimes, mail armour? Even if Hellenistic kings equipped their troops with Italian rather than Gallic shields and heavy javelins rather than spears and light javelins, that wouldn't make them legions.

The point of the legion wasn't just the gear, but the training and battle tactics to use same - such as the flexible maniples, the line rotation in battle, the four types of troops, cohorts and so on.

Hellenistic Infantry

Whatever, Hellenistic legions have become a staple of wargames so I have some for my new 15 mm army.

Mine are sourced from Xyston, and I got them from Rochester Models.


  1. Great looking troops - they look just like the fresco.

  2. These new 15 mm models are the cat’s pyjamas, Dean.

  3. Dear John,
    I wonder if there's a Greek equivalent of the Russian 'monkey model'

    Certainly ARVN arillery scared lot of US troops, me among them. Worst case was at the huge Long Binh base where an observer on the perimeter called in an 8-digit target (which would have been down to one yard. The battery commander converted it to six digits, but he did so by removing 7 and 8, not 4 and 8. They shelled the US returnee barracks across the base, then fired a follow-up mission into the rescuers.
    All best

    1. LOL, when your allies are more dangerous than the enemy.
      the ‘monkey model’ T72 Is IMO still a useful weapon in the right hands. My money would be on The Blackhorse fielding T72s against some of the Middle Eastern armoured divisions fielding Challenger IIs.