Toxarchos: Commander of Archers

Spyridon Bakas


Associated Assets

To download this article in .pdf format, please click here: Toxarchos_Nereid


The Toxarchos or Toxarchis was a commander of – or officer in – a group of archers (toxotai). Toxarchoi are mentioned both by Thucydides, in the conflict between the Athenians and Aetolians, and by Arrian, in his description of the war between Macedonians and Thebans. On the Nereid Monument from Lycia, dated 390 BC, we see probably a unique representation of a heavily-armoured archer, who is probably the leader of the other archers shown in the scene. He is fighting at the side of a hoplite, reminiscent of the entaxis or parentaxis, in which men with missile weapons accompanied hoplites in battle.

The thing that sets this archer apart is the combination of a weapon that requires agility (bow) and a large hoplite shield, which seemingly would complicate the movements of the warrior and is primarily used by heavy infantry. However, the officer must have supervised and guided his men, so he would have remained immobile at certain moments and thus be directly exposed to enemy missiles. This may explain why he is equipped with heavy armour and shield.

The existence of the heavy hoplite shield can be also justified if the particular fighter ever decided to attach himself as a hoplite to the rear lines of the phalanx. He would use the bow when conditions required him to fight as a missile trooper positioned on the flanks or in front of the phalanx.

The armoured archer recalls descriptions of warriors from Homer’s Iliad. At one point, Teucer, the greatest of the Greek archers, fights as a heavy infantryman, equipped with spear and shield. When necessary, he would switch to using a bow and arrow, which was otherwise carried around by his attendant Pandion.

Reconstruction of Toxarchos Photo courtesy of KORYVANTES Association, edited by

Reconstruction of Toxarchos
Photo courtesy of KORYVANTES Association, photo-edited by «ANCIENT WARFARE MAGAZINE» – Bow is a Grozer «Assyrian Biocomposite», Armor built by hellenicarmors.gr, Leather quiver built by huntresscustomleather.wordpress.com

Thanks to experiments, we have learnt that the Hoplite shield and the bow can indeed be used together. One of the members of our historical association Koryvantes took part in a traditional archery tournament at Biga, Turkey, in September 2013. In full armour and with the shield covering his back, he managed to fire dozens of arrows in the intense Anatolian summer heat. Moreover, correct adjustment of the shield improved the archer’s stability, improving the odds of lining up successful shots.

This armoured archer demonstrates the gradual maturity of Greek battle tactics that came through the interaction of the Greek colonies with the local cultures of Anatolia. The Greeks started reappraising the combat value of missile troops in general and archers in particular. That perhaps had to do with the fact that the Greeks encountered
peoples who had superior bow-making ability and archery skills, stimulating a kind of ancient arms race.



The Officer uses a bronze “Attic” Style helmet, with a crest. This type of helmet is fit for an archer as it increases the field of vision and gives a standard protection to the wearer.

”tube and yoke” composite armor

Various pottery images of the late classical period show a ”tube and yoke” composite armor re-enforced with scales. The armor depicted here is based on iconographic archaeological findings. The shoulder-guards and the trunk of the thorax have a full-metal cover consisting of over 1000 handcrafted bronze scales, properly fixed onto a thick surface made of layered linen cloth. The chest area has been strengthened with a bronze plate of 1.2 mm thick thus increasing the level of protection for the sensitive area around the heart.


The leather belt fastened around the abdomen could be used both for protection , sign of social status or rank.


The greaves follow the late archaic fashion with embossing that mimics the human anatomy of the lower limbs. They are made from a single sheet of bronze, lined with leather for leg comfort, and are worn without the help of any leather straps

Βοw – Arrow

The archer uses an Eastern Type recurve composite bow, with additions of horn in the inner surface and a sinew backing. This type of bow, instead of the widespread “Scythian” bow, was still common in the Greek world. The arrow has a barbed bronze arrowhead, round shape natural goose feathers and a bone swift tailed nock.


The quiver has been made of leather and waterproofed with beeswax. The rosette motif was painted with natural red pigment that can be found in abundance on the island of Kythera. It has been suggested that the quiver was used as an extra protection device for the thighs.


The shield has a wooden core with a diameter of 90 cm. In the inside, it is lined with leather, and externally it carries the emblem of the back of a horse as a heraldic of the Athenian Tribe of “Filaides”. It is attached to the back with an independent baldric worn across the shoulder. The baldric is attached into copper hubs riveted to the shield and is decorated with red leather interior lining and spherical patterns. The release and suspension of the shield was not difficult and can be held by the archer himself, while the gentle slope of the shield provides protection both on the side and on the back of the archer.

Khopis – scabbard

The khopis in it’s wooden scabbard is suspended with the leather baldric by two bronze hoops. It is decorated with a bronze rosette and an elaborate wooden ending while a leather outer lining offers protection to the wood and better fitting of the handle.


The long linen tunic is an indicative of Asian or Thracian influence


 The Author

Spyros Bakas is a reenactor from Greece and member of the Association of Historical Studies, KORYVANTTES.


Publishing Information

Published by karwansaraypublishers.com

«ANCIENT WARFARE MAGAZINE», May 2014, (issue VIII.2), «War, trade and adventure. Struggles of the Ionian Greeks»


Copyright of KORYVANTES Association – do not copy or reproduce without permission


  1. Παράθεμα: Cretan Archers | Histories


Εισάγετε τα παρακάτω στοιχεία ή επιλέξτε ένα εικονίδιο για να συνδεθείτε:

Λογότυπο WordPress.com

Σχολιάζετε χρησιμοποιώντας τον λογαριασμό WordPress.com. Αποσύνδεση /  Αλλαγή )

Φωτογραφία Facebook

Σχολιάζετε χρησιμοποιώντας τον λογαριασμό Facebook. Αποσύνδεση /  Αλλαγή )

Σύνδεση με %s