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hetairoi


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The ‘Companions’ of early Macedonian kings. Personal status at the Macedonian court was principally defined by relationship to the king; hetairoi were at first an élite because they were the king's friends, his retinue, who functioned equally as senior officers of state and militarily as the king's own cavalry, among them his Bodyguards. As the state grew and its royal structures became firmer, so the number of hetairoi also grew. Under Philip II, after the major expansion and consolidation phase (c.340 bc), acc. to Theopompus there were 800 of them, some from Macedonia, some from Thessaly, some from further south in Greece, who participated in Philip's distribution of newly conquered lands. These men were, even now, personally selected by the king, but within them different circles of status developed—not all could be daily advisers, and those who were, the esp. close personal companions, formed an informal council of state. From Philip's time, adolescent sons of hetairoi were recruited to be royal pages.

Militarily hetairoi were cavalry—perhaps at first the only cavalry. As numbers of cavalry available grew, the hetairoi became an élite unit serving closely with the king, until Alexander (2) the Great called all Macedonian cavalry ‘Companion Cavalry’. The same development occurred with the heavy infantry, whom Alexander named Pezetairoi (‘Infantry Companions’).

Subjects: Classical Studies.


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