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Chaeonian Guard: a question for the experts

There's an elite infantry unit used by Pyrrhus that has me curious: the Chaeonian Guard.

Chaon was the province in the north west of Epeiros so I suppose they were recruited from there. They're mentioned as an elite.

In Plutarch's "Life of Pyrrhus" in the battle at Sparta, they're described as the "Chaonon logados," the picked men of the Chaonians. They were mobile enough to be used by Ptolemaios in an attempt to get around the edge of the trench outside the city, along with 2000 Gauls, but they were also heavy enough to participate in a pretty ferocious fight with Akrotatos' 300, which they eventually lost.

So: what are they? Phalangites, according to some, or Spearmen according to others.

I was wondering if they might be an Epirote verion of the famous Hypaspists - Alex.the G.'s all-round fix-it unit?

If so, would the HaT Hypaspist set work for this Pyrrhic unit?

http://www.plasticsoldierreview.com/Review.aspx?id=1447


Opinions sought.

donald

Re: Chaeonian Guard: a question for the experts

Not much to be found beyond what you already mentioned. From the rather vague description some sort of Hypaspist type of unit sounds reasonable. So shorter spears than Phalangites, perhaps heavier armor than that of HaT's Hypaspists. Why not use HaT's Phalangites (those that come without pikes) and give them long spears? Just an idea.

Re: Chaeonian Guard: a question for the experts

Flambeau
Why not use HaT's Phalangites (those that come without pikes) and give them long spears? Just an idea.
Not a bad idea.

I've been looking at painted HaT Hypaspists on the net & the figures seem a bit dire.

cheers, donald

Re: Chaeonian Guard: a question for the experts

On a second thought: Linear B Mithridatic Heavy Infantry might also be an option. Have fun!

Re: Chaeonian Guard: a question for the experts

Flambeau
On a second thought: Linear B Mithridatic Heavy Infantry might also be an option. Have fun!
I remember reading the PSR review earlier:

http://www.plasticsoldierreview.com/review.aspx?id=2465

So, sadly, I think not.

donald

Re: Chaeonian Guard: a question for the experts

This question is more in ironside's territory as he knows the Classical literature better than myself. Afraid there is not much information available from the archaeological and iconographic sides of things.

That is correct, the Chaeonians were one of the three most powerful tribes that inhabited northwestern Epeiros and generally the one that is associated most directly with Pyrrhus himself, thus their elite status.

From my own subjective viewpoint I can say that while there is no evidence that directly contradicts their usage as phalangites, their aforementioned versatility suggests otherwise. Sarissas are useless in the vast majority of campaign situations (while marching, sieges, ambushes, etc.) and just because the Chaeonians are described as an elite does not mean they had to be phalangists; Alexander's army contained a number of famous units that were peltasts who could do quite well in melee situations, the Agrianes being the most famous of these. This, combined with their Epirot origin, leads me to lean toward an armored/well trained hoplite-peltast cross that may have even had a ranged attack. But there may be other literary sources on offer that shed more light.

Good luck with the ongoing project! :sunglasses:

Re: Chaeonian Guard: a question for the experts

Thanks for the vote of confidence, not something I feel personally...

I think given their picked status, on the flank, and associated with Ptolemy (son of Pyrrhus) your likely talking about a bodyguard of Hypaspists a few hundred men or likely only a few dozen, since they are not mentioned thereafter untill Ptolemys death...

"Pyrrhus himself, then, with his men-at-arms, tried to force his way directly against the many shields of the Spartans which confronted him, and over a trench which was impassable and afforded his soldiers no firm footing owing to the freshly turned earth. But his son Ptolemy, with two thousand Gauls and picked Chaonians, went round the trench and tried to force a passage where the waggons were. These, however, being so deeply planted in the earth and so close together, made not only his onset, but also the counter-efforts of the Lacedaemonians, a difficult matter.
The Gauls pulled the wheels up and were dragging the waggons down into the river; but the young Acrotatus saw the danger, and running through the city with three hundred men got round behind Ptolemy without being seen by him, owing to some depressions in the ground, and at last fell upon his rear ranks and forced them to turn about and fight with him. And now the Barbarians crowded one another into the trench and fell among the waggons, and finally, after great slaughter, were successfully driven back."

Ptolemy, with two thousand Gauls and picked Chaonians

They are defeated though by a rear attack by 300 Spartans(again)... the celts seem to have done the bulk of the work....


:wink:

Re: Chaeonian Guard: a question for the experts

Thanks for the replies, gentlemen.Scholarship is alive & well on this forum.

Ironsides: a small number of Chaeonians is indicated but not certain IMO. I believe 300 Spartans had some success with large numbers at some other battle?

And a smaller group of determined soldiers can wreck havoc on larger numbers of disorganised enemies.

So I'm not certain that a reasonably sized unit of Chaeonian Guards might not be a viable guess.

donald

Re: Chaeonian Guard: a question for the experts

Paintdog
Thanks for the replies, gentlemen.Scholarship is alive & well on this forum.

Ironsides: a small number of Chaeonians is indicated but not certain IMO. I believe 300 Spartans had some success with large numbers at some other battle?

And a smaller group of determined soldiers can wreck havoc on larger numbers of disorganised enemies.

So I'm not certain that a reasonably sized unit of Chaeonian Guards might not be a viable guess.

donald

Sure several times... also Argives (champions), Thebans (sacred band) and Persians (bodyguard) all had 300 "champions" or "picked" men and associated with a particular heroic effort... as I'm sure this was...

As I said previously I suspect the Picked Chaonians are a bodyguard but dont seem to take part in the following slaughter, but could be the same as the men described as Comrades (companions?) later on...
If so could they have been Cavalry?, mounted or dismounted, Pyrrhus himself is only dismounted when his horse is killed under him in a later attempt at forcing the defences:

"Pyrrhus was seen forcing his way on horseback past the trench and the waggons into the city. But the men stationed at this point raised a shout, and there was a concourse and shrieking of the women, and just as Pyrrhus was riding through the waggons and attacking the men in front of him, his horse was wounded in the belly by a Cretan javelin and leaped to one side, and in his death agony threw Pyrrhus upon steep and slippery ground. His companions were thrown into confusion around him, and the Spartans, running upon them and making good use of their missiles, drove them all off."


:wink:



Re: Chaeonian Guard: a question for the experts

Well, Pyrrhus had, at various stages, his 'agema' who were lance-armed heavy cavalry.
These were not the Chaeonians.

Numbers are problematical, as you know. Infrequently quoted in ancient sources and often suspect when they are. And this doesn't take into account units carrying battle casualties & worn down by campaigning.

I may as well move to pure speculation here. Thureophori. These medium infantry are introduced some time around now, or a little later. Could the Chaeonians be troops so armed & equipped? If they were of Epirote/Illyrian origin, medium infantry, spear-armed & carrying a thureos is a possibility?

I will end before I move into total fantasy by saying Pyrrhus' armies get a rather curt handling in various wargames' army lists IMO. It was both a professional force but also utilised a wide variety of allies & mercenaries. I won't even mention that most lists give them a bare minimum of elephants when they figure so markedly in two of his most famous battles.

donald

Re: Chaeonian Guard: a question for the experts

Not surprised that the Pyrrhic lists are laconic, because it is one of those topics from an evidence perspective that our knowledge is much weaker than it initially appears (that is sadly quite common in ancient military studies). I am certainly up for a Thureophori style unit even if they do not specifically carry the thureos itself, but doubt the evidence would specifically confirm or deny such a supposition. They certainly would have been the most versatile, as just logically speaking lance bearing cavalry as well as phalangite style units could be pretty easily countered tactically. One of the things the latest Classical military research has wandered into over the past decade is Greco-Roman fighting was often characterized by smaller engagements involving fortifications over large pitched battles, an overall psychology that would be emulated in Europe during the Renaissance of the 15th and 16th Centuries.

As you mentioned I think one of the main problems with simulating a Pyrrhic force is how much they were or were not standardized. I would personally suggest not much, even among the professional core. Even in Early Roman Imperial times some military historians are really re-thinking how we conceptualize standardization of military equipment in the Classical world (amazing though they were, it still was a pre-industrial society after all), and this goes doubly so for somebody like Pyrrus who commanded a very decentralized multi-cultural force. He is clearly somebody that was more interested in finding and gathering quality warriors to achieve his objectives over being too concerned with what specific types of weapons, shields, etc. they carried. This fits the general post-Alexandrian mindset too, as much to the chagrin of the surviving traditionalists in Greece proper the Diadochi proved time and again they were willing to utilize just about any type of warrior if they were available and could achieve desired objectives. So were the Chaeonians specifically re-equipped with thureos shields as a whole unit? In my opinion probably not; they likely would have fielded a variety of equipment types available at the time that allowed them to accomplish their tactical objectives. If this happened to include thureos shields, then Pyrrhus was likely fine with it.

Hope that helps a little. Frankly the good news about a Pyrrhic army is there is tons of wiggle room in the evidence, so it is a nice army to be creative with. I am not personally an expert in this era (Early Iron Age Neo-Hittite and Assyrian warfare is my #1 specialty), so I have rather prodigious gaps in my specific knowledge of equipment for this time period. Thus additional input from others is always desirable. :grin:

Re: Chaeonian Guard: a question for the experts

What an interesting reply! I do appreciate the privilege of listening to you & other knowledgeable chaps such as Flambeau & Ironsides.

I think you're completely right about standardised units in any pre-industrial army.

The problem is, as wargamers, we need our units wrapped in neat little boxes in terms of weaponry, equipment & tactics and even numbers. To allow the probable anarchy that existed is impossible to game above skirmish level.

It's not in me to be snarky about Fantasy gaming, but if it was I'd be a complete hypocrite because "historical" gaming has overlaps with this other genre.

I will also confess to not seeing much difference between peltasts, thureophori, Ipicratic infantry etc. Does the shape of a shield change battlefield roles very much at all? There may well be different tactical parameters for all these medium infantry-types but the sources usually don't make that clear. General infantry may well just be general infantry. For example, I know it's exceptional but hoplites in Xenophon's Ten Thousand don't always act like heavy infantry but take on roles seemingly reserved for their lighter brethren.

donald

BTW one day I want to hear your views on Bronze Age chariot tactics.

Re: Chaeonian Guard: a question for the experts

Oh sure, and I don't want to give the impression about being toooo crazy with the mixing and matching. Differences did (usually) exist between ranged and melee cav, phalangites and peltasts, etc. But the differences between one handed weapon infantry such as a pure peltast, hoplite, spearman, swordsmen, axemen, etc. were likely rather slim and often non-existent in many forces. Weapons from the greater spear family tended to predominate as primary weapons among most non-Roman ancient forces (and even the latter were very pilum based) for a number of reasons.

You are completely correct about hoplites; they changed character drastically several times during their history and seem to have covered a wider amount of roles as time went along. The experiences of the 10,000 are a perfect example of this; I doubt that was the only time hoplites were pressed into slinger or another service as a tactical expedient. In the end ancient commanders were just like modern ones in the sense that they would likely use whatever forces they had on hand, even if they were not 100% ideal to solve the desired situation.

P.S.- I am working on some projects at the moment and will hopefully be able to announce a small one here soon. But when it comes to chariots the sources of Mary Littauer and Joost Crouwel dominate... for now.

Re: Chaeonian Guard: a question for the experts

Three fairly contemporary painted images from Funerary stele maybe you already know them, dating is 300-50bc:

I would suggest later 3rd century:

Dioscurides standard bearer thureophoroi?

Helmet might suggest 2nd century, looks hes wearing mail or scale?:

Salmamodes Thorakites?

Small round shield maybe the earliest in date,perhaps a Phalangite?:

Saettas


And an intersting fresco from a recent Macedonian find dated late 4th century 325-300bc, the tomb contained an iron "Linothorax" much like Philips example, interesting in that it shows a range of troop types and colours:



Philips Kit

A Nice video on the Tomb to maybe create some inspiration, don't forget the subs button....

https://youtu.be/zxQCp15BEN0

Sadly I can no longer get the imbed code to work but clink the link above for the utube vid....


:wink: