Stories of the Ancient Greeks - Charles D. Shaw

Philip of Macedon

Macedon, or Macedonia, was a mountainous country lying north of Greece. Its people were not Greeks but their kings claimed to be of the same stock as the Hellenes. One of those kings built roads, erected forts, improved his army, and tried to interest his people in literature and art. He paid Zeuxis, the great artist, to paint beautiful pictures on the inner walls of his palace. Euripides, the famous poet, visited this king, and died at his capital city.

The greatest of all these kings was Philip. When his father died and left him the kingdom he was twenty-four years old, tall and good-looking, with pleasant manners and a kindly nature. But he was not truthful, and would use any means to gain his purpose.

When he was a boy he lived for a while at Thebes in Greece. It is likely that he knew Plato, and it is sure that he had trained himself to be one of the best speakers of the time. He learned from the Thebans many lessons in the art of war, and afterwards introduced into his own army the Greek phalanx. This was a company of soldiers with sixteen men in front and sixteen men deep. Each of these carried a long spear extending, eighteen feet before and six feet behind him. Horses could not be driven against those spears and foot-soldiers could not reach the men who carried them.

Philip was very ambitious, very determined, and a good judge of men. Where he could not conquer he bought; and he declared that he had taken more towns with silver than with iron.

Another man wished to be king and Athens favored him. A battle was fought and Philip won. He took some Athenians prisoners, but set them free gave them handsome presents and offered to be a friend to Athens. The Athenians made peace with him as he desired.

He then turned to his other enemies fought one after another and defeated all. In one year's time his kingdom was free and quiet.

Other wars soon broke out and he had just taken a city when three men came running to him one after another.

The first one said, "O king, your horses have won a race at the Olympic games!"

The second cried out, "O king, your general has defeated the Illyrians!"

The third one shouted, "O king, in your palace at home a noble son is born!"

The king was very proud and happy at all this good news.

He captured another city, sent people to live in it, and called it Philippi after himself. With this city he obtained some gold mines which made him richer than he had ever been.

While he was leading the attack upon another town, an arrow shot from the wall put out one of his eyes. When the town fell into his power he left the inhabitants one garment each, and set them free to go where they would; but he pulled down every house in the place, and sent other people of his own to build and live there.

In one of his wars he was beaten and retreated into Macedonia. There he gathered more soldiers and gave each a crown of laurel. The laurel was the favorite tree of Apollo, and Philip said, "My soldiers and I are warriors of the sun god, and he will take care of us."

The very next battle made him master of Thessaly.

Demosthenes, the orator of Athens, saw the danger to that city from this ambitious man and began to deliver speeches against Philip. The Macedonian king went on with his plans, and when he had taken another city he not only threw down the houses but sold the people as slaves.

The Athenians tried to unite the other states against him, but Philip sent them word that he was willing to make peace. Athens sent ten men to make a treaty, one of them being Demosthenes. The king trifled with them and put them off day after day, but at last persuaded them to march with him into Thessaly.

Finally he became master of all Greece.

To Athens he was kind and favorable but he treated Thebes differently. He put a number of soldiers into the citadel and ruled the city as he pleased.

A congress was held at Corinth and the Greeks agreed to make war on Persia and to elect Philip leader of their armies. Only the Spartans refused to consent. To punish them he took away part of their lands which he gave to other people.

While he was getting ready to go to Persia he gave a grand wedding feast for his daughter. The Greeks sent him golden crowns as presents. On the second day of the festival there was a splendid procession in which men carried images of the Olympian gods. With them a statue of Philip was carried as if he also were a god.

Dressed in white he marched between his son and the bridegroom. The guards were kept at a distance to show that the king trusted the people. A young man rushed forward and stabbed him with a short sword. The feast was broken up. Philip was dead, and his son, Alexander, stood ready to take his father's place.