Philip of Macedonia

382–336 BC

Philip II was born as the youngest son of the King of Macedonia during the era of the Theban Hegemony. He was taken as a hostage to Thebes for much of his youth, and there learned the military arts and diplomacy at the court of Epaminondas. This had a profound effect on upon the young man, and he returned to Macedonia at age 22 with advanced ideas for the reorganization of his father's kingdom.

After the deaths of his elder brothers, Philip became king of Macedonia in 359 B.C., and immediately began to put into practice some of his ideas for reforming the military and administration of his kingdom. He first turned his attention to the surrounding hill tribes and established Macedonian authority all over the surrounding regions. Over the next few years he attacked several of the major towns on the Thracian sea-board, and expanded Macedonian influence over Thrace. Eventually he was emboldened to take Amphipolis, a very important colony formerly allied with Athens, which controlled the gold mines of Pangion. (This town later was renamed Philipolis, and was the subject of Paul's letters To the Philippians.) During this period, Athens was attempting to rebuild her empire, but suffered numerous setbacks, and Philip used his behind-the-scenes influence to encourage several colonies to revolt. Some statesmen, such as Demosthenes, could see the danger of the increasingly influential Macedonians, and railed against him, but to no permanent avail. During this period Philip also married Olympias, a princess of Epirus, and his son Alexander was born.

In 355 B.C. the Sacred War broke out and Philip used this war to further his own aims. The sacred war was fought primarily in Phocis and Boeotia, but involved all of the cities of the Amphictyonic Council which were charged with protecting the temple of Delphi. By offering to "come to the defense" of Delphi, and with generous use of his newly won gold mines, he established "friendly" relations with ambassadors throughout Greece, and used these diplomatic relationships to create alliances and increase his influence, just as effectively as he used force in Thrace. By 352 he had brought all of Thessaly under his control, but was finally resisted at the pass of Thermopylae by an army of united Greeks, led by Athens and Sparta. This was but a temporary setback however. Later that year he won a terrific victory over the Phocians, which gave him nearly complete control of northern Greece. He did not attempt to bring his armies south for six more years however, and preoccupied himself by furthering his influence and consolidating power in the Balkans, while continuing to interfere in the affairs of the southern Greeks by diplomatic means. Eventually he brought all of the northern cities formerly allied with Athens under his control, and even inspired Euboea to rebel from Athens.

During the period after the Sacred Wars, Demosthenes continued to rail against Philip, but political opinion in Athens was not united against him, and the city did nothing. Sparta, refused to make an alliance with Philip, but on the other hand, did not take a leadership position in resisting him, since her dominions in the Peloponnese were not immediately threatened. Most of Philips military activity during this period continued to be in Thrace, where he won uniform victories until, in 339 B.C., embarking on an unsuccessful siege of Byzantium. This military set back provided an opening for his enemies in southern Greece, who took the opportunity to unite against him. Thebes and Athens led a united Greek army at the Battle of Chaeronea, but suffered a signal defeat. Instead of pressing his victory however, Philip used diplomacy and offered generous terms, particularly to Athens, and in this way secured his complete domination of southern Greece.

After his victory at Chaeronea, Philip create the "League of Corinth", an alliance of Greece city states of which Macedonia was the head. As one of his first orders of business he informed the members of his plans to invade Persia and requested their assistance. The league members agreed to peace amongst themselves, to suppress rebellions within Greece, and also to provide arms and men for the forthcoming expedition. During this period also, Philip repudiated his wife Olympias, and took a new wife. This caused a break with his son Alexander, who also opposed the new marriage. A year later, Philip was assassinated by one of his own bodyguards at the wedding of his daughter to Alexander of Epirus. Although there is no proof that Olympias had a hand in this, her well-deserved reputation as a scheming, manipulating, and murderous master-mind, certainly cannot be said to absolve suspicions, especially since she and Alexander were the primary beneficiaries of the deed.

Key events during the life of Philip of Macedon:

  Sent to Thebes as a hostage as a boy, to the court of Epimanondas.
364 BC
Returned to Macedonia at age 22.
359 BC
Ascended to he throne of Macedonia.
358 BC
Won first victories over hill tribes. Reorganized Macedonian army.
357 BC
Married Olympias of Epirus. Alexander born shortly thereafter.
357 BC
Took Thracian city of Amphipolis, with its associated gold minds.
355 BC
Break out of the Sacred war in Phocis.
352 BC
Over-ran Thessaly. Stopped at the pass of Thermopylae.
349 BC
Besieged Olythus.
348 BC
Supported a rebellion against Athens in Euboaea, which was put down.
339 BC
Unsuccessfully besieged Byzantium.
338 BC
Decisive victory over united Greeks at Chaeronea.
337 BC
Formed of League of Corinth. Married Cleopatra, rival of Olympias.
336 BC
Murdered at the wedding of his daughter to Alexander of Epirus.

Other Resources

Story Links
Book Links
Alexander's Childhood and Youth  in  Alexander the Great  by  Jacob Abbott
Laconic Answer  in  Fifty Famous Stories Retold  by  James Baldwin
Ungrateful Guest  in  Fifty Famous Stories Retold  by  James Baldwin
Philip of Macedon  in  The Story of the Greeks  by  H. A. Guerber
Philip Masters Greece  in  The Story of the Greeks  by  H. A. Guerber
Philip of Macedonia  in  Famous Men of Greece  by  John H. Haaren and A. B. Poland
King Philip and Demosthenes  in  Greek Gods, Heroes, and Men  by  Caroline H. and Samuel B. Harding
Sacred War  in  The Story of Greece  by  Mary Macgregor
Sacred War  in  Historical Tales: Greek  by  Charles Morris
Philip of Macedon  in  Stories of the Ancient Greeks  by  Charles D. Shaw
Philip of Macedonia  in  The Story of the Greek People  by  Eva March Tappan

Image Links

Assassination of Philip of Macedon
 in Greatest Nations - Greece

Short Biography
Demosthenes One of Greece's greatest orators. Spoke against Philip and the Macedonians.
Alexander the Great Greatest general of ancient times. Conquered Persian Empire with 40,000 soldiers.
Phocion Athenian statesmen who tried to avoid war between Athens and Macedonia. Sometimes opposed Demosthenes.
Olympias Wife of Philip of Macedon. Alexander's mother. Quarreled with Antipater over charge of Macedonia.
Antipater One of Philip's most trusted generals. Left in charge of Macedonia during Alexander's conquests.
Parmenio Chief general of both Philip of Macedon and Alexander the Great. Eventually killed by Alexander.
Onomarchus Phocian General who took command after the death of Philipmelus. Died at the battle of Pagasaean Gulf