Crete with Alexander
Posted: Thu Jan 23, 2014 10:26 am
Cretans : Were there any Cretans in the entourage of Alexander at Persia or india ? As Archers or Philosophers perhaps .....is there a mention somewhere ?
All about Alexander the Great
This is incorrect, as I have pointed out elsewhere. In earlier Greek armies, the 'psiloi' light troops came from poorer non-land-owning classes, often the servants or labouring classes, sometimes even slaves. They gradually came to be replaced by tribal Thracian peltasts, who were then imitated by these poorer Greeks. The Macedonian 'sarissaphoroi' were NOT these poor classes, but landowners all, giving military service in return for their land-grants.....but it is likely that this only means that they were in the Macedonian army (the class that supplied light troops in the Southern Greek armies were to be found in the phalanx).
I don't think this is correct either. At Issus, the 'archers' under Antiochus are brigaded with the agrianes under Attalus [II.9.2] and are on the right wing. On the left wing were a separate body described as 'Cretan archers', who are brigaded with Thracian peltasts under Sitalkes [II.9. 3], but these Cretans are clearly not ALL the archers of Alexander's army, and they provide a 'mirror' image on the left, of the light infantry on the right. This is the first mention of Cretan archers and we may surmise that with the vast improvement in his fortunes, Alexander had hired these gentry. They seem also to have numbered around 1,000 ( we hear of at least two 'taxeis' of archers e.g.[ V.23] later).Arrian II 9 iii does describe all the archers as Cretan 'οἵ τε Κρῆτες τοξόται' so it iis possible that their commanders were too, two certainly were.
This is a point often overlooked in the overall scheme of things. I don't recall reading anywhere that he'd appropriated such vast sums (3000 Talents) of wealth before Issus. And especially immediately after Issus. Where evidently, Parmenion took down 55 tons of gold and large amounts of silver. That should have alleviated any cash shortages for some time. And it is no wonder that during Tyre Alexander was able to be so bold as to tell the Persian that he didn't need his gold.Xenophon wrote:......
By the time of Issus, ALexander's fortunes had markedly improved, and he hired increasing numbers of mercenaries.
Arrian II 9 iii does describe all the archers as Cretan 'οἵ τε Κρῆτες τοξόται' so it iis possible that their commanders were too, two certainly were.
This is timely information. I was just writing the Archers scene into Issus a few days ago. And was about to skip ahead to Guagamela to do the same but was unaware that the Cretans had been relocated to the left in favor of some Macedonians on the right. And I'll have to do some digging myself to determine the location and disposition of any archery units at Granicus, Maracanda (Samarkand), and Hydaspes.Xenophon wrote: I don't think this is correct either. At Issus, the 'archers' under Antiochus are brigaded with the agrianes under Attalus [II.9.2] and are on the right wing. On the left wing were a separate body described as 'Cretan archers', who are brigaded with Thracian peltasts under Sitalkes [II.9. 3], but these Cretans are clearly not ALL the archers of Alexander's army, and they provide a 'mirror' image on the left, of the light infantry on the right. This is the first mention of Cretan archers and we may surmise that with the vast improvement in his fortunes, Alexander had hired these gentry. They seem also to have numbered around 1,000 ( we hear of at least two 'taxeis' of archers e.g.[ V.23] later).
Later, at Gaugamela the archers of the right wing are referred to as 'Macedonian archers' presumably in order to differentiate them from other archers - probably the 'Cretans' whose post was apparently the left wing by analogy with Issus. ( rather than simply being 'Macedonian' in the sense of part of the Macedonian army - after all, up to this point, they are referred to at least a dozen times as simply 'the archers' with no other description necessary).
Glad you mentioned Agis here. Agis sent his brother Agesilaos ahead with the cash and warships provided by Autophradates to set up a base for operations on Crete 'for Persia'. So, it would seem that most of the Cretan Archers joining Alexander were inherited from Philip. As Crete was never annexed and not evidently considered worthy of the wasted time and resources, Persia found it a hotbed of willing resistance to Macedone power.agesilaos wrote:Certainly a few invitations to digress here1
I do want to address the whole class thing and the structure of Argaead society and will...in a fortnight, I still have to read Hatzopoulis without which pronouncing would be as dumb as taking a stressed out batsman /wicket-keeper to an Ashes series! So marshal your troops and I'll see you in the Churchfield in fourteeen days.
The whole no ethnic means Macedonian line is just wrong; the hippotoxatoi (horse-archers) are simply called that on a number of occasions and they are Scythian (Daiai, probably). Obviously the argument from class is in abeyance, but consider the situation up until Issos. Alexander has disbanded his fleet, Agis is active on Krete and the Persians rule the waves; how is Alexander going to recruit in Krete? He cannot; therefore, either Arrian is mistaken in calling the archers on the left wing Cretan (due to the Cretans he has just mentioned as accompanying Xenophon, perhaps) or they were with him from the start, possibly inherited from Philip. Either way they were not new recruits. That said, they may not be Cretan either, but given that two commanders were, and Krete was famed for her archers (most other Greek states were not, javelins or even stones being the norm for psiloi) there seems to me a good chance the whole body were, Diodoros would put their strength at 500ish as they consist of 1,000 with the Agrianoi (there are 1,000 mentioned in the Balkan campaign, half left with Antipatros?).
The archers are well used since they constitute the only long range troops Alexander had with him, although there may have been phalangites capable of wielding a sling, they do not seem to have been stripped out for special service. The high casualty rate of toxarchs and the fact that they are reported so often speaks not only to their steady committment to action but also to the status of their officers; I doubt any Macedonian noble would condescend to lead archers, they allegedly despised fighting on foot; though clearly did but the light infantry? I would plump for these being professionals leading professionals and possibly all Cretan, archery does not seem to be a common Greek skill; any man may pick up a bow but that does not make him an archer and the lack of a shield makes him particularly vulnerable; I'd rather have a shield and a pointed stick. Whilst being rather PC 'The Last samurai' did show something interesting; the inadaquetly trained Japanese riflemen could not function against melee weapons due to their poor morale; that Thracian archers evoke little comment, like their celtic counterparts is, surely because they were not effective; Alexander was not going to invade with dead weight, he had no opportunity to recruit in Crete once he had disbanded the fleet (and the Cretans no reason to join him until Issos? Probably not until the defection of the Phoenician fleet or even the defeat of Agis III).
But, to address the original post, I think we would both agree that it is possible all the archers in the early campaign were Cretan but not certain any were, other than those ethnisised toxarchs.