The Use of Scouts during Alexander the Great’s Time

This blog is going to focus on Alexander the Great’s use of scouts and the different types. I am going to be looking at two different types of scouts used, the ones to gather intelligence, and the ones who were used in battle. One incident of Alexander’s use of scouts to gather intelligence that I came across the most was for preparing for the battle of Issus. Alexander had scouts go and gather information about the size, status, and location of the fleeing Persians. He also obtained intelligence concerning the terrain of the region so that he could plan and be prepared and have the advantage when the battle actually occurred (Engles 334).

Alexander also used scouts in battle. They typically were on horses and were armed. Their job was to be sent ahead of the main army when contact with advance units of a hostile army was expected. The prodromoi were scouts that were equipped with only light armor and a sword. They are defined as skirmisher light cavalry who were equipped for scouting and outpost duties (“Ancient Macedonian Army”). They would jump early into battle and sort of harass the enemy and slash whoever they could. The sarissophoroi were scout raiders who were fast and capable of charging. They had throwing spears but were only lightly armored. The kontos were the scout lancers who were the most heavily armored and were used to break enemy defense lines (“Warfare”).

This is a a piece of sculpture that forms part of the Alexander Sarcophagus. It gives repesentation of what a scout in the calvary may have looked like. He is more heavily armed and has a sword.

This is a piece of sculpture that forms part of the Alexander Sarcophagus. It represents what a scout in the cavalry may have looked like. He is more heavily armed and has a sword.

 

Alexander benefitted from the use of scouts because it gave him the upper hand in knowing what was going to take place, what the enemy’s plans were, and how to best take his opponent down. This is proven by the battle of Issus, where Alexander was able to develop tactics and strategically place his men to overcome his opponent by using scouts. However, it is written that Alexander’s scouts are not mentioned after the pursuit of Darius, his opponent in the battle of Issus, the theories behind this are that maybe Alexander reorganized the scouts, or that maybe he trained some of the as a unit of javelin-men (Worthington 298). A little while after the battle of Issus, Alexander was planning on marching after Darius a third time, but scouts found out that Darius had been slain before Alexander could get to him, thus the scouts saved him a trip (Rufus 16). A lot of Alexander’s victories can be credited to the use of scouts and intelligence. Without using them, he wouldn’t have gotten the advantage of knowing what the enemies plans were and may not have won so many battles that he did.

References:

Engles, Donald. “Alexander’s Intelligence System.” The Classical Quarterly XXX.1 (1980): 327-340. Print

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alexander_Sarcophagus. Image.

Rufus, Quintus Curtius and Johann Freinsheim. Quintus Curtius: His History of the Wars of Alexander. 1747. Print.

Warfare in Ancient Greece- Cavarly. 28 November 2008. Web. 3 March 2014.

Wikipedia contributors. “Ancient Macedonian army.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 4 Mar. 2014. Web. 5 Mar. 2014.

Worthington, Ian. Alexander the Great: A Reader. Routledge, 2012. Print.

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