Sunday, May 01, 2005

Crafting the War Machine

Crafting the War Machine. This is an insightful article which examines the Macedonian army as it was developed by Philip and Alexander. It was written by Russell Glen.

From the site:

The Macedonian war machine was like none other before it. Never previously had flexibility and strength been so inventively merged into one symbiotic beast. At the hands of Philip of Macedon and his infamous son Alexander, the Macedonian army thrusted, charged and crushed its way across vast expanses of hostile terri­tory. The success they achieved, combined with the drive and stra­tegic brilliance of its commanders, forged an empire unparalleled in antiquity. Through tactical success after tactical success the army continually adapted and evolved to take advantage of whatever sit­uation was available, defeating vastly superior numbers of enemy troops and overcoming previously insurmountable obstacles. While it is true that the Macedonian army was but one tool used by the Macedonian rulers, its legacy, both in the form of the empire it founded and the new era of military thinking it ushered in, was the greatest advancement in military thinking until the conquests of Napoleon; and even he “perused again and again the campaigns of Alexander . . . and modeled [himself] upon them” (Kiley 2002). What gave this military its fantastic strength? How was it so able to adjust and overcome time and time again, regardless of odds, location or foe? From the sands of Egypt to the river valleys of India, the Macedonian army introduced the world to the advance­ment of combined-arms tactics.

The army was both created and led by legendary commander-in-chiefs who merged the relative strengths of the ancient militaries of the time and adapted them to work together in one, efficiently deadly war machine. The military became more than just a patch­work of its separate parts. As Iphicrates noted, it became a unified body of military might, ready to react to any situation as quickly and cooperatively as was possible. Philip, and Alexander after him, astutely studied the tactics of the age, analyzing the titanic clashes of the Greek heavy phalanxes and the finessed attacks of the Per­sian cavalry. From these age-old military institutions they con­structed their revolutionary military, constantly disregarding the contemporary thinking. Through continued evolution, and the usage of an aggressive style of battle that deftly took advantage of the newfound force, the Macedonian military proved for all history the necessity of combined-arms tactics.

1 comment:

wiedmer said...

This is a tidy and factual little article. But the keen student of ancient Macedon will have to know that a large part of Alexander's success was due to his personal leadership skills. He was actually a bit of a nutcase. He led the cavalry charge; he was the first in line and others followed, forming a wedge. If his men gave their all to win battles for him (and they won every one), it was to a large extent because they saw him taking such bold risks with his person. It is a wonder that he did not die in battle...