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The  Threskourion

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Javelinmen

An early Thracian javelinman, by Daniella CarlssonEarly Thracian javelinmen were probably indistinguishable from the peltasts, being armed with javelins and sword or dagger, and having the pelta as their only protection.  They also had a beard, and wore a fox-skin cap and pattern-edged tunic.  They may have carried more javelins than the peltasts (who are ususally shown with only two full length javelins), and used the shorter model.  Many would be less well armed, and would have to make do with the javelins only, as well as being without a shield. 

Later javelinmen may have had round shields and swords. Thracian wicker shields (gerrha) were among the Roman trophies from Pydna. This could indicate that the Thracian thureoi were made of wicker, rather than the usual heavier wooden construction, but is more likely to mean that later light infantry still carried the old wicker pelta. They may also have worn helmets, but most would have continued to wear the fox-skin hat as their only head protection.   Otherwise they were probably identical to earlier javelinmen.  These Thracian and Bithynian javelinmen also fought in co-operation with the cavalry, running alongside them and hamstringing their opponents.   Thracian troops from the Roman client-kingdom of Thrace were "equipped in the Roman fashion", and the javelinmen may have been equipped with Roman shields and swords like the velites."

Light infantry that fought with the cavalry were called hamippoi. Duncan says (on the DBM list) "All the hamippoi I know of in art are shown without shields. One is using his left hand to hang on to his cavalryman’s horse-tail, which might explain why they did not find shields useful. Some sources specifically refer to the infantry supporting cavalry as psiloi, starting with Herodotos using "hippodromoi psiloi" for the supporting light infantry whom the Syracusans proposed to send to Greece in 480 (mistranslated as "light cavalry" in the Penguin)."

 

 

  Peltasts or javelinmen skirmishing with hoplites, are shown in Warry, Greece and Rome at War, p51

Early Thracian javelinman

Thracian javelinman or peltast, a reconstruction by Daniella Carlsson

 

 

Left: Javelin thrower from p144 Best.   Thracian psiloiRight: Thracian light javelin man from DBA Online

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Left:  Thracian youth with two javelins, from an Attic red figure vase c. 460 BC now in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts.

 

There is an Agrianian javelinman, by Angus McBride, in the Osprey book about Alexander the Great.

««The most famous Thracian javelinmen were the Agrianians, who formed Alexander's own special forces brigade.  You can read more about the Agrianians on tA young Thracian javelinmanhe Paeonia page.   The colour picture shows an Agrianian light infantryman, from Nick Secunda, The Army of Alexander the Great, Osprey Men at Arms Series, London, 1987, p36. Sekunda says "The Agrianian javelinmen, under the command of the Macedonian Attalus, were the crack light infantry unit of the army.   Plate H1 [above] shows a possible reconstruction of their dress, though peltai may have been carried as well as javelins."

 

Left: a young Thracian javelinman, a reconstruction by Daniella Carlsson.

 

Livy XLII, 59 : "First of all the Thracians, like beasts of prey long held behind bars, charged so vigourously with a great shout upon the Roman right wing, the Italian cavalry, that this people, courageous by nature and through experience in war, was thrown into confusion...* spears to attack the infantry, now to cut off the horses' legs', now to pierce their loins, Perseus charging in the centre of the line, thrust back the Greeks [Aetolian cavalry] with his first attack."

* The gaps in this extract unfortunately represent lost fragments­ it is supposed that this paragraph describe how the cavalry LI detachments fought. Such descriptions are rare, and I think this is the only one concerning Thracians.

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This page last updated on Monday, 07 January 2002 by Christopher Webber thracian@pnc.com.au

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