People > Philip II of Macedon

Philip II of Macedon


PHILIP II. (382-336 BC), king of Macedonia, the son of Amyntas II., and the Lyncestian Eurydice, reigned 359-336. At his birth the Macedonian kingdom, including the turbulent peoples of the hill-country behind, was very imperfectly consolidated. In 370 Amyntas died, and the troubled reign of Philip's eldest brother, Alexander II., was cut short in 368 by his assassination. His murderer, Ptolemy of Alorus, ruled as regent for the young Perdiccas, Amyntas's second son. In 367 Philip was delivered as hostage to the Thebans, then the leading power of Greece (by whom does not seem clear). During the three years he spent at Thebes the boy no doubt observed and learnt much. When he returned to Macedonia (364) Perdiccas had succeeded in getting rid of Ptolemy; but he fell in 36O-359 before an onset of the hill tribes instigated by the queen-mother Eurydice, leaving only an infant son. Various pretenders sprang up and the kingdom fell into confusion. Philip seized the throne and drove back his rivals. He now began the great task of his life-the creation of the Macedonian national army. The first experiment he made with this new organism was brilliantly successful. The hill tribes were broken by a single battle in 358, and Philip established his authority inland as far as Lake Ochrida. In the autumn of the same year he took the Athenian colony, Amphipolis, which commanded the gold-mines of Mt Pangaeus.

Their possession was all-important for Philip, and he set there the new city, called after him, Philippi. Athens was temporarily pacified by assurances that Amphipolis would be handed over to her later on. The work of fashioning the Macedonian army occupied Philip for the next few years, whilst his diplomacy was busy securing partisans within the states of Greece. He avoided as yet a forward policy, and having taken Pydna and Potidaea soon after Amphipolis, he made them over to the Olynthian confederation (see Olythus). His marriage with the fierce witch-woman, Olympias, daughter of the Epirote king, falls in this period, and in 356 she bore him his greater son, Alexander. In 353 Philip was ready for strong action. He first attacked Abdera and Maronea, on the Thracian sea-board, and then took Methone, which belonged to Athens. An overt breach mth Athens was now inevitable. In the same summer he invaded Thessaly, where the Aleuadae of Larissa ranged themselves on his side against the lagus Lycophron, “ tyrant ” of Pherae. Pherae called in the help of the Phocian mercenaries, who had profaned Delphi, and Philip met with a check. He had, however, the advantage of now being able to present himself to the Greeks as the champion of Apollo in a holy war, and in 352 the Macedonian army won a coniplete victory over the Pheraeans and Phocians. This battle made Philip tagus of Thessaly, and he claimed as his own Magnesia, with the important harbour of Pagasae. Hostilities with Athens did not yet take place, but Athens was threatened by the Macedonian party which Philip's gold created in Euboea.

From 352 to 346 Philip did not again come south. He was active in completing the subjugation of the Balkan hill-country to the west and north, and in reducing the Greek cities of the coast as far as the Hebrus (Maritza). For the chief of these, indeed, Olynthus, he continued to profess friendship till its neighbour cities were in his hands. Then, in 349, he opened war upon it. Athens. to whom Olynthus appealed, sent no adequate forces, in spite of the upbraiding of Demosthenes (see his Olynthiacs), and in the spring of 347 Olynthus fell. Philip razed it to the ground (see Olynthus). Macedonia and the regions adjoining it having now been securely consolidated, Philip celebrated his “Olympian” games at Dium. In 347 Philip advanced to the conquest of the eastern districts about the Hebrus, and compelled the submission of the Thracian prince Cersobleptes. Meanwhile Athens had made overtures for peace (see the De falsa legation of Demosthenes), and when Philip, in 346, again moved south, peace was sworn in Thessaly. The time was come for Philip to asse, rt himself in Greece, and the Phocians, who still dominated Delphi and held Thermopylae, could furnish a pretext to the champion of Pan-Hellenism and Apollo. The Phocian mercenaries at Thermopylae were bought od' and Philip crossed into central Greece. Here he made Thebes his ally and visited the Phocians with crushing vengeance. The Pythian games of 346 were celebrated at the delivered Delphi under Philip's presidency. Pan-Hellenic enthusiasts already saw Philip as the destined captain-general of a national crusade against Persia (Isocrates, Philippus, about 345). And il wife. He was chosen by the Macedonian army at Babylon in such a position Philip had determined to secure: the Macedonian agents continued to Work throughout the Greek states, and in the Peloponnesus Sparta soon found herself isolated. Euboea, too, submitted to Macedonian influence, and even received some garrisons. But more work had to be done in the Balkan high- lands.

In 344, or one of the following years, the Macedonian arms were carried across Epirus to the Adriatic. In 342 Philip led a great expedition north “ comparable to nothing in antiquity si11ce Darius' famous march to Scythia.” In 341 his army was still campaigning in eastern T hrace, when Philip felt compelled to show his presence in T hessaly. During these years, although Athens had not overtly broken the peace of 346, there had been various diplomatic bickering's and hostile intrigues between the two powers (cf. the Phzlippics of Demosthenes). Athens had even sent emissaries to the Persian court to give warning of the proposed national crusade. She now egged on the cities of the Propontis (Byzantium, Perinthus, Selymbria) who felt themselves threatened by Philip's Thracian conquests, to declare against him. The sieges of Perinthus and Byzantium (340, 339) ended in Philip's meeting with a signal check, due in some measure to the help afforded the besieged cities by Athens and her allies Philip's influence all over Greece was compromised.

But before marching south he led another expedition across the Balkans into the country now called Bulgaria, and returned to Pella with much spoil but severely wounded in the thigh. In 338 he once more crossed into central Greece. The pretext was the contumacy shown by the Locrian town Amphissa to the rulings of the Amphictyonic Council. Philip's fortification of Elatea filled Athens with alarm. Thebes was induced to join Athens; so were some of the minor Peloponnesian states, and the allies took the field against Philip. This opposition was crushed by the epoch-making battle of Chaeroneia, which left Greece at Philip's feet. In the following year (337) Philip was in the Peloponnesus, and a congress of the Greek states at the Isthmus (from which, however, Sparta held sullenly aloof) recognized Philip as captain»general for the war against Persia. Philip returned to Macedonia to complete his preparations; an advanced force was sent into Asia in the spring of 336. But Philip's plans were suddenly blasted by his assassination in the same year during the marriage festival of his daughter at Aegae, the old capital of Macedonia. He left, however, in the Macedonian army a splendid instrument which enabled his son within ten years to change the face of the world.

Philip stands high among the makers of kingdoms. Restless energy, determination, a faculty for animating and organizing a strong people, went with unscrupulous duplicity and a full blooded vehemence in the pleasures of sense. Yet Philip was not untouched by ideal considerations, as is proved by the respect, no doubt sincere, which he showed for Hellenic culture, by the forbearance and deference with which he treated Athens, the sacred city of that culture and his mortal foe. A special interest belongs to the Macedonian kingdom as it was shaped by Philip, since it forestalls a system which was not to find the time ripe for it in European history till many centuries later-the national kingdom quickened with the culture developed by the ancient city-states. The national kingdoms founded by the Northern races, after the fall of the Roman Empire, under the influence of the classical tradition, are the beginnings of the modern Euro ean system; Philip of Macedon foreshadows Theodoric, Charlemagne and William the Conqueror. But this first national kingdom within the sphere of Greek culture could not ultimately live between the surge of the Northern barbarians and the Roman power.


See the authorities under Greece History A vivid and masterly sketch of Philip's personality and work is given in D. G. Hogarth's Philip and Alexander (1897).

Primary Sources

Secondary Sources

1911 Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 21

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