Philip II of Macedon

The famous king (Βασιλεύς) of ancient Macedonia and father of Alexander the Great, Philip II was born in 383/82 BC. He was son of the king Amyntas III and queen Eurydice. His brothers were Alexander II, Perdiccas III and Eurynoe, while he had also 3 half brothers, the sons of Gygaea, namely Menelaus, Arrhidaeus and Archelaus. [1]

Early Life

In 368 BC when his elder brother Alexander II allied himself with Thebans, Philip was taken as a hostage in Thebes where he stayed for about 3 years. In Thebes as Justin attests, “Philip was given fine opportunities of improving his extraordinary abilities; for being kept as a hostage at Thebes three years, he received the first rudiments of education in a city distinguished for strictness of discipline in the house of Epaminondas, an eminent philosopher, as well as commander.” [2]

His Reign

After his brother Perdiccas, the King of Macedon, was killed in the battle against Illyrians along with 4,000 Macedonians, Philip returned to Macedon either as a king or as a regent to his young nephew Amyntas. Based on his experiences gained close to Epaminondas in Thebes, Philip made many innovations in Macedonian army by bringing discipline, better training and new equipment like the introduction of Sarissa [3]. This way he created the famous “Macedonian Phalanx“. At the beginning of his reign he dealt with many difficult situations. On one hand he managed to get rid of the internal threats to his kingdom, namely his 3 half brothers and the pretender Argaeus, supported by Atheneans. Argaeus was finally defeated by Philip’s general Mantias. Afterwards in 358 BC he defeated in battle the Illyrians of Bardyllis while he sealed the peace-treaty with Illyrians by marrying Audate, daughter of Bardyllis. From this marriage Philip had his first daughter, Cynane. In 358 BC Philip was involved in Thessaly where he had another political marriage. This time with Philine of Larrisa who bore Philip, his son Arrhidaeus.

Macedonian Phalanx - Sarissa

His alliance with Epirus resulted to marry with Olympias, a Molossian princess who would be destined to be the mother of one of the most famous persons of history, Alexander the Great. She also bore Philip his daugher Cleopatra. Philip took with him in Macedonia, Alexander, brother of Olympias. Later he installed Alexander as king of Epirus and he remained known as Alexander of Molossis. In a string of successful campaigns, he managed to reach as far as Thrace and took under his own control both the gold mines of Mt Pangaion, as well as the silver mines in Thrace. He gained the control of Amphipolis, Pydna, Potidaea and Methoni. During the siege of Methoni he lost his eye from an arrow. Next he turned on the South and intervened in the third Sacred war, against the Phocians. Unexpectedly Philip met his two first loses in the background from the Phocian leader Onormachus who introduced the use of catapults in the battlefield. However he succeeded in defeating them and Onormachus met a tragic end in his life. Now Philip took under his own control Thessaly. He took another wife from Thessaly, this time Nikesipolis from Pherae. She bore him a daughter named Thessalonike and the greatest city of Macedonia nowadays is named after her.

The Athenean orator and leader of Anti-Macedonian party of Athens, Demosthenes tried to cause a stir of Atheneans and other Southern Greeks against Philip firstly with his “Olynthiacs”. It was at the time Philip turned against Olynthians, Athens’ allies in the area, and in 348 BC he attacked his former ally Olynthus and destroyed it on the grounds they have given refuge to two of his half-brothers, the pretenders of the thone of Macedon. At the time Isocrates urged him on his letters to Philip, to unite Greeks against Persians.

His last years

In 338 BC Philip and his allies defeated in the battle of Chaeronea the alliance of Athens and Thebes. With this battle he asserted his authority in Greece and created the League of Corinth, where he was elected as “Hegemon” by the rest of Greeks. The Greeks, except Spartans, were finally united against an old common enemy, the Persian empire. However Philip was not destined to be the one who will lead the Pan-Hellenic campaign against Achaemenids since in 336 BC, Philip was assasinated by Pausanias of Orestis, during the marriage of his daughter Cleopatra to Alexander of Epirus. He had reigned for about 25 years and according to the account of the historian TheopompusEurope had never seen a man like Philip of Macedon“.

[1] Justin 7.4.5

[2] Justin 7. 5.1

[3] Diod. 16.3.1

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John says:

Interesting article. Sounds like Philip II achieved quite a lot in his own right. Admittedly his famous son gets most of the plaudits though.