top of page

Conquer and unite Greece now in decline, annihilate the great Persian Empire and make small Macedonia the center of a new course in history. This was the vision of Philip II king of Macedonia (359 and 336 BC) in a combination of great diplomatic skills and creator of the greatest ancient model of military efficiency, the Macedonian Phalanx, before the Roman legions. But without the genius of Philip II would his son Alexander the Great really exist? History documents that the extension of the Hellenic world to the East in about 35 years stems from the union between the father's strategic-political projects and his son's dream of glory. Most Greeks did not know Macedonia, a mountainous region not very integrated in the Greek world, different living habits, different political institutions, different language, he was a semi-barbarian people. Macedonia was a monarchy, the king was limited by the authority of the nobles who were age "companions of the king".
Philip II, upon the death of his father Aminta III defeated by the Illyrians, finds himself hostage in Thebes where he learns the military arts following Epaminonda, the Theban general winner of the Spartans with the use of the Sacred Battalion. The Macedonian phalanx was organized on 16 rows of 16 men, 256 warriors, each armed with a shield and sarissa, a spear from 5 to 7 meters long with an iron tip. The first row held the sarissa in a horizontal position while the other ones kept it progressively more vertical. The aim was to break through enemy lines and keep opponents at a distance by combining it with the contribution of cavalry, which Filippo had more than the Greeks had.
Having become king, he devoted himself to a profound reorganization of the state. His vision foresaw the unity of his kingdom, to impose itself on the city-states of Greece and finally to overthrow the Persians. The first enemies defeated, in a period of instability that continues to see the Greek pòleis always fighting each other, between 359 and 348 BC, are the Illyrians in the Balkans, then Thessaly in the West and the city of Olinto which allow him to reach the gold of Thrace and control of the high Aegean Sea. These victories, and the precarious situation of Athens from an economic and military point of view, allow Philip to enter the Anfitional Congress where he makes all his influence felt pending the clash with Athens represented in growing tension by the speaker Demosthenes and his Philippicae however Demosthenes persuaded the Athenians to enter into a temporary peace (348 BC) to reorder forces, find allies and ruin the agreements between Philip and several Greek cities including Thebes. Thus Philip's plan to bring Greece under control with Greece's consent failed. War was inevitable.
The battle of Cheronea, in Boeotia, in 338 BC is considered among the central conflicts of history because the victory of Philip marks the end of Greek independence and sees for the first time in battle his son Alexander who was eighteen years old and commanded the left wing of the deployment. Philip released two thousand prisoners he had captured and sent his son Alexander, who had covered himself in glory, and the most experienced of his lieutenants, Antipater, to Athens as messengers of peace. Philip asked for the command of all Greek military forces against the Persian enemy to be recognized. At the conference in Corinth all the states that sent their representatives, minus Sparta, agreed to meet in a confederation by pledging to give their troops and guarantee peace.

Without his death Filippo would probably have achieved other extraordinary results, perhaps the same as Alessandro, but enriching them with politics and strategy rather than ambition. 

Certainly Alexander's victories became a model of imitation for the subsequent conquerors but it is fair to think that the death of Philip II prevented him from having a place among the greatest conquerors and generals in history. And then, the extraordinary army had created him almost out of nowhere, delivering to his son an extraordinary, innovative and original instrument that was only partly inspired by the best military minds produced by the most recent history of Greece.


Philip of Macedon

press to zoom
press to zoom
press to zoom
press to zoom
bottom of page