PHILIP II (382-336)


King of Macedonia and architect of Macedonian greatness.

In his youth he witnessed the near dissolution of the kingdom through civil war and foreign intervention, and spent some time (probably 369-367) as hostage in Epaminondas' Thebes. The nadir came when his brother, Perdiccas III, died in battle against Illyrian invaders (360/59), who occupied the north western borderlands.

On his accession (perhaps initially as regent for his nephew, Amyntas) his priority was to save Macedon from dismemberment by hostile powers, poised for the kill; and from the outset he displayed a genius for compromise and intrigue. The Athenians, who backed a pretender (Argaeus) were defeated in a skirmish near Aegae but wooed by the return of their prisoners (and by his hints that he would recognize their claims to Amphipolis). Other belligerents (Paeonians and Thracians) were bought off, and Philip used the time he acquired to train a new citizen army in mass infantry tactics, introducing the twelve cubit pike (sarisa) as its basic weaponry.

His efforts bore fruit in 358, when he decisively defeated the Illyrians near Lake Lychnitis and used his victory to integrate the previously independent principalities of upper Macedonia into his kingdom. Their nobility joined the companions of his court and the commons were recruited into the army.

Philip's increased power was immediately deployed against Athens. While the city was enmeshed in the Social War (357-355) he annexed Amphipolis and Pydna in 357, captured Potidaea in 356, ceding it to the Olynthian federation in return for alliance, and acquired Methone (354) -at the cost of his right eye and permanent disfigurement. From the conquests came land which he distributed in part to a new aristocracy, recruited from all parts of the Greek world (e.g. Nearchus of Crete, Laomedon of Mytilene and Androsthenes of Thasos, all settled at Amphipolis). Most important was Crenides, the Thracian settlement by Mt.Pangaeus, which Philip occupied and reinforced in 356, naming it Philippi after himself. The exploitation of the neighbouring gold mines allegedly engrossed 1,000 talents per annum, which enabled him to maintain a large mercenary army and win the services of politicians in southern Greece.

Thessaly rapidly became an annex of Macedon. An early marriage alliance with the Aleuadae family of Larissa brought an invitation to intervene in the murderous internecine war between the Thessalian League and the tyrants of Pherae. Initial defeats in 353 were redeemed by the great victory of the Crocus Field and the expulsion of Lycophron and Peitholaus from Pherae. In return Philip was appointed archon of Thessaly with its revenues and superb cavalry at his disposal.

In 349 he attacked another traditional enemy, Olynthus, and by September 348 had captured the city through internal treachery. The population was enslaved and Olyntus' land absorbed, but despite the shock of this exemplary treatment there was no response to the Athenian appeal for an international alliance against him, and in despondency the Athenians entered peace negotiations early in 346.

Peace and alliance were concluded in April 346 (Peace of Philocrates) at the same time that Philip accepted an appeal to lead an Amphictionic campaign against the Phocians (allies of Athens). With masterly prevarication he delayed ratifying the peace until he was in the vicinity of Thermopylae, preventing the Athenians reinforcing their allies, and forced the Phocians to terms (July 346). The settlement which resulted left him master of Thermopylae with voting rights in the Amphictiony.

The years after 346 saw further expansion. Campaigns against the Illyrians (notably in 345) brought the Dardanians and Talauntians to subject status, and between 342 and 340 Philip crowned a long series of campaigns against the Thracians with a prolonged war in the Hebrus valley. The old Odrysian kingdom became a dependency under a Macedonian strategos; military colonies (notably Philippopolis/Plovdiv) were implanted, and the Thracians supplied his largest pool of auxiliary troops.

Meanwhile Philip's influence had expanded in southern Greece. He championed Megalopolis and Messenia against Sparta, supported a coup at Elis (343) and sent mercenaries to Euboea (343/2: date disputed).

By 342 Athenian interpretations of his motives had more conviction. In 34 the Euboean regimes at Eretria and Oreos (Histiaea) were overthrown by an Athenian-led invasion and Athenian overtures were sympathetically received in the Peloponnese. The situation became graver in 340, when Philip laid siege to Perinthus and Byzantium, and open war erupted in the late summer, when he commandeered the Athenian grain fleet.

He left the sieges incomplete to launch a successful attack on the Skythian king Ateas, and returned to Macedon in mid-339.

The final act came when he assumed command of an Amphictionic expedition against the Locrians of Amphissa and used the campaign as a fulcrum to attack Thebes and Athens, now united in alliance against him. Its denouement was the battle of Chaeronea (August 338), fought with a fraction of the forces at his disposal, which destroyed Thebes as a military power and made him undisputed master of the Greek world. Garrisons at Corinth, Thebes, Ambracia, and (probably) Chalkis policed the settlement he imposed, and a conference at Corinth (summer 337) approved a common peace which guaranteed the stability of all governments party to it, prohibited constitutional change and entrenched Philip as executive head (hegemon) of the council (synedrion) which directed its enforcement.

The meeting also witnessed Philip's proclamation of his war of revenge against Persia, a project doubtless long in gestation but only now publicized, and in 336 an expeditionary force crossed the Hellespont to begin operations in Asia Minor.

Philip's last year was overshadowed by domestic conflict. His love match with Cleopatra provoked a rift in the royal house which saw his wife Olympias in angry retirement and the heir-apparent, Alexander, in temporary exile in Illyria. There was a formal reconciliation; but tensions persisted, and Philip fell by assassin's hand in autumn 336. The sources give personal motives, but there are also hints of a multiplicity of conspirators and the background to the murder is beyond speculation.

He was interred at Aegae (many believe, in the splendid barrel-vaulted Tomb II in the Great Tumulus of Vergina), leaving his kingdom a military and economic giant but internally almost as distracted as it had been at his accession.



Oxford Classical Dictionary, 3rd ed. (1996), p.1161