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Bitter ending of Macedonia’s Silver Shields

Posted July. 30, 2019 07:28,   

Updated July. 30, 2019 07:28


The film “Alexander,” directed by Oliver Stone, features a scene where Macedonian soldiers, as they have stepped foot on India, disobey the general’s order and demand that they return home. If you look closely, you would notice that most of them are in silver-colored armor. These soldiers were of the strongest unit in Macedonia, nurtured by king Alexander the Great’s father Phillip II. The unit was called the “Silver Shields” as the soldiers carried shields plated with silver.

Having returned home from India, Alexander released 10,000 soldiers including 3,000 from the Silver Shields, providing them with travel expenses and one talent (equivalent to about 26 kilograms of silver) for each.

However, before the Silver Shields even reached their home, Alexander the Great died and his empire got engulfed in wars triggered by the “Diadochi” (successors) who fought for control. The Silver Shields were all old veterans but welcomed by every general. For the next decade, they managed to move to different places and fought as hard as possible. Surprisingly, these old men never lost a single battle.

In 316 B.C., Antigonus and Eumenes had a war over the control of Asia Minor. The old soldiers, in their last combat, easily defeated the armored infantry led by Antigonus. Plutarch said that most of the opposing soldiers were killed during hand-to-hand fights and many of the Silver Shields were over 70 years old and not a single person was younger than 60.

Yet, an unprecedented victory of the elderly met with a horrendous ending. As their families were captured, the Silver Shields were tricked by Antigonus to betray Eumenes. Antigonus then buried a commander of the unit to death, and let the old soldiers be scattered around rough areas in Afghanistan, only to be killed soon by Antigonus’ secret command. In all ages, only a fool would believe promises politicians make.