Rise and fall of the Macedonian Empire (I)

Welcome at the beginning of our new series “Rise and fall of the Macedonian Empire”.  In this few episodes program we will try to cast a little light on one of the biggest phenomenon of the ancient world.

Alexander the Great is known by everybody thanks to his military genius during his many campaigns all over Asia and Northern-East Africa. But most of the people pass over the fact that any of his spectacular victories wouldn’t be possible without legacy of his father: powerful Macedonian army, and League of Corinth- The Hellenistic military alliance.

Philip II of Macedon was born around 382 BC. He spent his childhood as a hostage in Thebes which was current hegemony in continental Hellas. He gained in there superior military and diplomatic education from Epamidonas. He served for short time under Pelopidas as his adjutant when he could saw one of the best generals of antic facing political and military opponents.

He returned to Macedonia around 364 BC where thanks to death of his father and two elder brothers he gained throne of a kingdom. As soon as he gained power he realised that he inherited torn country in deep crisis facing it’s own doom.

Most of the army was destroyed in recent war with Dardanians, who now were preparing to invade the Macedonia itself; Paionians started sending their army across shared border; the Thracians were supporting Pausanias one of pretender to Macedon throne and was prepared to send military forces to his aid. Similar situation was at the south where another pretender- Argeus, gained support of Athens – one of biggest forces in Hellas and owner of biggest navy in yet known world without counting Persians.

If not for Philip the Macedonia wouldn’t last for long.

First he used his experience gained in Thebes and started reconstruction of the army. Taking example from his mentor Pelopidas he started giving eloquent speeches both to his soldiers and all the Macedonian people restoring their faith and morale. Later he exhaustively re-trained his men providing them with new weapons and tactics. The Macedonian Phalanx which soon was destined to gain fame all around the world was created as mirror image of Theban hoplites, with the exception that Macedonians used 6-meters long sarissa instead of 3-meters doru. Also Macedonians carried much more heavier equipment than their Hellenistic cousins.

At the same time Philip spent a lot of time on diplomatic court. He basically drained whole royal treasury for bribes both for Thracians and Paionians so they would leave Macedonia in peace for the time being. He surrendered part of his western territory for Dardanians and took Dardanian princess for a wife as a part of their new treaty.

Philip saw that Athenians supported Argeus only because they wanted to recover the city of Amphipolis which was currently under Macedon reign. Philip therefore withdrew his garrison from the city declaring it independent, undermining Athenians reason for supporting Argeus. Still Athenians mercenaries in number of 3,000 landed on Methone shores led by Mantias- one of Athenians statesman. As soon as he saw the situation, he and his officers declined to march into Macedonia instead staying next to their ships. Argeus led his soldiers to Aegae- capital of Macedonia hoping that as soon as it’s citizens will see him they will declare him king. That didn’t happen. Without besieging equipment and with no further support of Athens state he was forced to turn back and return to Methone. At the road back he was ambushed by Philip and his forces. During the battle Argeus died and many of Athenians soldiers were captured. This victory restored morale of Macedonian army and gave edge to diplomatic efforts of Philip.

After the battle, he released all his captured prisoners and withdrew all his claims to the city of Amphipolis. Thanks to that he, was able to persuade Athens to make peace with him.

Weakened, vulnerable and bleeding but Macedonia thanks to politics of Philip survived.

 Stay tuned for next episodes of the “Rise and fall of the Macedonian Empire”.

 -by Blaise L.-