Seleucid Officer of the Royal Guard – Middle 3rd century B.C.
The Army of Alexander was an army made for campaigns, conquests and dedicated to the purpose of continuous expansion. But the Successors armies like the Seleucid army had a different mission. The army became ”institutional” and geared towards defense, aiming to the protection of the crown and the vast lands of the Empire. The Seleucid’s “Royal Guard” is considered to have 10.000 men in various units, core of which were the “Argyraspides” (lit. Silvershields). The unit was continuing the tradition of Alexander’s “Hypaspists”, having a lot of functional similarities with the Persian “Immortals”. The “Royal Guard” was the permanent unit of the Seleucid army. The backbone of the “Silvershields” came from the Syro-Macedonian elite, or even original Macedonians called “klIrouchoi” (military colonists) who were settled in the Empire receiving land and privileges in exchange for military service.
The Officer wears a tube and yoke cuirass inspired by frescos of similar cuirasses found in Macedonian tombs during the same period. The cuirass is made of hardened leather layers while the chest and belly areas have been invested with additional bronze plates. On the shoulders there are decorative motifs with the Macedonian 8 ray star, which may symbolize the elite origin of the trooper as a true Macedonian. In the rear side the thorax has an extra outer protection of 120 bronze scales providing coverage to the vulnerable right part of the torso. The cuirass composite elements of leather and bronze are suitable for the climatic conditions of Easter Mediterranean battlegrounds while also providing flexibility and protection.
A leather baldric from the left side of the Officer suspends the simple wooden scabbard of the Kopis sword.
These “Open type” leather sandals have metal hobnails that increase the stability of the stride of the soldiers on the battlefield especially if there was a need for pushing or absorbing the pressure.
A leather belt with red leather interior lining and a bronze plate with a griffin decoration as a fastening mechanism. The Griffin was a symbol used by the Seleucids and also found in many state coins of 3rd Century B.C. Textile belts specially fastened were used as symbols of a higher military status.
An eastern-tradition fur-cloth is placed over the chiton and under the cuirass, helping the bearer to stabilize the cuirass to his body-shape and also is being used as a shock absorber of enemy blows.
The Attic helmet and its variations was probably the most popular helmet among the Seleucid phallangite Officers. Seleucus Nikator was depicted wearing an Attic type helmet in a series of coins of his era.
Kampouris Manousos. “Warriors of Ancient Greece. Weapons, Tactics, Organisation in Classical Greece”,Alkalios Publications , Athens, 2008 (In Greek)
Bar-Kochva, The infantry Royal Guard in the Seleucid army, Cambridge University Press, 1989
Segunda Nick Seleucid and Ptolemaic Reformed Armies 168-145 BC (Volume 1) Montvert Publications
Head, Duncan (1982) Armies of the Macedonian and Punic Wars. WRG p. 115
Spyros Bakas is a reenactor from Greece and member of the Association of Historical Studies, KORYVANTTES.
Published by karwansaraypublishers.com
«ANCIENT WARFARE MAGAZINE», September 2014, (issue VIII.4), «The Seleucid Empire»
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