Akontistai advance at speed to pepper an enemy with javelins, and then withdraw in good order before a counter-attack can be organised.
Those unlucky enough to be extremely poor freedmen were pressed into service as psiloi, missile units, and the lowest class of Hellenic infantry. The Psiloi were divided into three parts: javelineers, slingers, and archers. The javelin-armed Psiloi, the Akonistai, were ragged peasants armed with javelins and small knives. Their function was simply to throw their missiles and then run as fast as possible to safety behind the Hoplitai lines. They were used for skirmishing and to provide a demoralizing hail of missile fire during the grinding battle between the two phalanxes. Never use Akonistai in melee except as diversionary fodder or as a flanking force; roles in which they don’t excel, but might actually be better than nothing. They have their uses, as their javelins are still sharp and deadly, but they were often used only as light skirmishers or as a last resort in Hellenic armies for obvious reasons.
Historically, Akontistai did not play a particularly large role on the battlefield, and weren’t normally a particularly decisive force. They were used mainly for their ability to induce an enemy to attack prematurely. They are little more than an annoyance on the open field, but can be deadly if positioned in places where their javelins can be used for maximum effect: on high terrain, on an enemy unit’s flank, or atop a city wall.