THE hypaspists were a type of infantry soldier who served as a vital part of the Macedonian armies of both Philip II and his son and heir Alexander III, better known to most as Alexander the Great. They became an invaluable piece of an infantry that helped conquer Greece and defeat the Persian forces of Darius III, aiding in the establishment of an empire that stretched from the Peloponnesian peninsula northward through Macedon and Thrace, across the Hellespont into Asia Minor, and southward into Syria, Mesopotamia, and Egypt.
Although they are credited for their valiant role in the conquest of Asia, many modern historians are unsure on the evolution and exact role of the hypaspists – even their equipment is in question. This confusion was also evident in the writings of early historians who could not agree on something as simple as whether or not they carried the eighteen-foot sarissa of the phalangites, a much shorter double-edged sword (the xiphos) or a javelin. Most agree, however, that they were hand-picked not only for their speed and endurance but also for their strength and courage.