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Bodyguards (Somatophylakes)

Somatophylakes or Bodyguards: Greek and Macedonian court officials.

As it is in our own time, important persons in Antiquity had a bodyguard to protect them and clear the road when they were approaching. For example, the king of Sparta could command 300 hippeis ('horsemen'). In Macedonia, there was a distinction between the real protectors (the hetairoi or 'companions') and the seven men who were merely called bodyguard (somatophylax) but were in fact adjutants. It is likely that the Macedonian kings were following a Persian example; the great king also had an elite corps of anûšiya ('companions'), and seven men who were his principal advisers.

During the reign of Alexander the Great, especially after the fall of his generals Parmenion and Philotas (330), he increasingly used the somatophylakes for special missions.

In the third century, the title 'somatophylax' was given to high court officials. Higher officials could receive the rank of archisomatophylax, 'archbodyguard'.

In the table below, you can see the names of the adjutants of Alexander the Great, and how they changed during his reign. Peucestas, who saved the king's life during a siege in the Punjab, was added as an eighth somatophylax.

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336
Arrybas
Ptolemaeus
Lysimachus
Aristonus?
Balacrus
Demetrius
Peithon?
 
335
Arrybas
Ptolemaeus
Lysimachus
Aristonus?
Balacrus
Demetrius
Peithon?
 
334
Arrybas
Ptolemaeus
Lysimachus
Aristonus?
Balacrus
Demetrius
Peithon?
 
333
Arrybas
Hephaestion
Lysimachus
Aristonus?
Balacrus
Demetrius
Peithon?
 
332
Arrybas
Hephaestion
Lysimachus
Aristonus?
Menes
Demetrius
Peithon?
 
331
Leonnatus
Hephaestion
Lysimachus
Aristonus?
Menes
Demetrius
Peithon?
 
330
Leonnatus
Hephaestion
Lysimachus
Aristonus?
Perdiccas
Demetrius
Peithon?
 
329
Leonnatus
Hephaestion
Lysimachus
Aristonus?
Perdiccas
Ptolemy
Peithon?
 
328
Leonnatus
Hephaestion
Lysimachus
Aristonus
Perdiccas
Ptolemy
Peithon?
 
327
Leonnatus
Hephaestion
Lysimachus
Aristonus
Perdiccas
Ptolemy
Peithon?
 
326
Leonnatus
Hephaestion
Lysimachus
Aristonus
Perdiccas
Ptolemy
Peithon
Peucestas
325
Leonnatus
Hephaestion
Lysimachus
Aristonus
Perdiccas
Ptolemy
Peithon
Peucestas
324
Leonnatus
Hephaestion
Lysimachus
Aristonus
Perdiccas
Ptolemy
Peithon
Peucestas
323
Leonnatus
 
Lysimachus
Aristonus
Perdiccas
Ptolemy
Peithon
Peucestas
 
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