A Smaller History of Greece
From The Earliest Times To The Roman Conquest
By William Smith D.C.L., LL.D.
PHILIP OF MACEDON, B.C. 359-336.
The internal dissensions of Greece produced their natural fruits; and we shall have now to relate the downfall of her independence and her subjugation by a foreign power. This power was Macedonia, an obscure state to the north of Thessaly, hitherto overlooked and despised, and considered as altogether barbarous, and without the pale of Grecian civilization. But though the Macedonians were not Greeks, their sovereigns claimed to be descended from an Hellenic race, namely, that of Temenus of Argos; and it is said that Alexander I. proved his Argive descent previously to contending at the Olympic games. Perdiccas is commonly regarded as the founder of the monarchy; of the history of which, however, little is known till the reign of Amyntas I., his fifth successor, who was contemporary with the Pisistratidae at Athens. Under Amyntas, who submitted to the satrap Megabyzus, Macedonia became subject to Persia, and remained so till after the battle of Plataea. The reigns of the succeeding sovereigns present little that is remarkable, with the exception of that of Archelaus (B.C. 413). This monarch transferred his residence from AEgae to Pella, which thus became the capital. He entertained many literary men at his court, such as Euripides, who ended his days at Pella. Archelaus was assassinated in B.C. 399, and the crown devolved upon Amyntas II., a representative of the ancient line. Amyntas left three sons, the youngest being the celebrated Philip, of whom we have now to speak.
It has been already mentioned that the youthful Philip was one of the hostages delivered to the Thebans as security for the peace effected by Pelopidas. His residence at Thebes gave him some tincture of Grecian philosophy and literature; but the most important lesson which he learned at that city was the art of war, with all the improved tactics introduced by Epaminondas. Philip succeeded to the throne at the age of 23 (B.C. 359), and displayed at the beginning of his reign his extraordinary energy and abilities. After defeating the Illyrians he established a standing army, in which discipline was preserved by the severest punishments. He introduced the far-famed Macedonian phalanx, which was 16 men deep, armed with long projecting spears.
Philip's views were first turned towards the eastern frontiers of his dominions, where his interests clashed with those of the Athenians. A few years before the Athenians had made various unavailing attempts to obtain possession of Amphipolis, once the jewel of their empire, but which they had never recovered since its capture by Brasidas in the eighth year of the Peloponnesian war. Its situation at the mouth of the Strymon rendered it also valuable to Macedonia, not only as a commercial port, but as opening a passage into Thrace. The Olynthians were likewise anxious to enrol Amphipolis as a member of their confederacy, and accordingly proposed to the Athenians to form an alliance for the purpose of defending Amphipolis against their mutual enemy. An alliance between these two powerful states would have proved an insurmountable obstacle to Philip's views: and it was therefore absolutely necessary to prevent this coalition. Here we have the first instance of Philip's skill and duplicity in negotiation. By secretly promising the Athenians that he would put Amphipolis into their hands if they would give him possession of Pydna, he induced them to reject the overtures of the Olynthians; and by ceding to the latter the town of Anthemus, he bought off their opposition. He now laid siege to Amphipolis, which, being thus left unaided, fell into his hands (B.C. 358). He then forthwith marched against Pydna, which surrendered to him; but on the ground that it was not the Athenians who had put him in possession of this town, he refused to give up Amphipolis to them.
Philip had now just reason to dread the enmity of the Athenians, and accordingly it was his policy to court the favour of the Olynthians, and to prevent them from renewing their negotiations with the Athenians. In order to separate them more effectually, he assisted the Olynthians in recovering Potidaea, which had formerly belonged to their confederacy, but was now in the hands of the Athenians. On the capture of the town he handed it over to the Olynthians. Plutarch relates that the capture of Potidaea was accompanied with three other fortunate events in the life of Philip, namely, the prize gained by his chariot at the Olympic games, a victory of his general Parmenio over the Illyrians, and the birth of his son Alexander. These events happened in B.C. 356.
Philip now crossed the Strymon, on the left bank of which lay Pangaeus, a range of mountains abounding in gold-mines. He conquered the district, and founded there a new town called Philippi, on the site of the ancient Thracian town of Crenides. By improved methods of working the mines he made them yield an annual revenue of 1000 talents, nearly 250,000l.
Meanwhile Athens was engaged in a war with her allies, which has been called the SOCIAL WAR; and which was, perhaps, the reason why she was obliged to look quietly on whilst Philip was thus aggrandizing himself at her expense. This war broke out in B.C. 357. The chief causes of it seem to have been the contributions levied upon the allies by the Athenian generals. The war lasted three years; and as Artaxerxes, the Persian king, threatened to support the allies with a fleet of 300 ships, the Athenians were obliged to consent to a disadvantageous peace, which secured the independence of the more important allies (B.C. 355).
Another war, which had been raging during the same time, tended still further to exhaust the Grecian states, and thus pave the way for Philip's progress to the supremacy. This was the SACRED WAR, which broke out between Thebes and Phocis in the same year as the Social War (B.C. 357). An ill-feeling had long subsisted between those two countries. The Thebans now availed themselves of the influence which they possessed in the Amphictyonic council to take vengeance upon the Phocians and accordingly induced this body to impose a heavy fine upon the latter people, because they had cultivated a portion of the Cirrhaean plain, which had been consecrated to the Delphian god, and was to lie waste for ever. The Phocians pleaded that the payment of the fine would ruin them; but instead of listening to their remonstrances, the Amphictyons doubled the amount, and threatened, in case of their continued refusal to reduce them to the condition of serfs. Thus driven to desperation, the Phocians resolved to complete the sacrilege with which they had been branded, by seizing the very temple of Delphi itself. The leader and counsellor of this enterprise was Philomelus, who, with a force of no more than 2000 men, surprised and took Delphi. At first, however, he carefully abstained from touching the sacred treasure; but being hard pressed by the Thebans and their allies, he threw off the scruples which he had hitherto assumed, and announced that the sacred treasures should be converted into a fund for the payment of mercenaries. On the death of Philomelus, who fell in battle, the command was assumed by his brother Onomarchus, who carried on the war with vigour and success. But he was checked in his career by Philip, who had previously been extending his dominion over Thessaly, and who now assumed the character of a champion of the Delphic god, and made his soldiers wear wreaths of laurel plucked in the groves of Tempe. He penetrated into Thessaly, and encountered the Phocians near the gulf of Pagassae. In the battle which ensued, Onomarchus was slain, and his army totally defeated (B.C. 352). This victory made Philip master of Thessaly. He now directed his march southwards with the view of subduing the Phocians; but upon reaching Thermopylae he found the pass guarded by a strong Athenian force, and was compelled, or considered it more prudent, to retreat.
After his return from Thessaly Philip's views were directed towards Thrace and the Chersonese. It was at this juncture that Demosthenes stepped forwards as the proclaimed opponent of Philip, and delivered the first of those celebrated orations which from their subject have been called "the Philippics." This most famous of all the Grecian orators was born in B.C. 382-381. Having lost his father at the early age of seven, his guardians abused their trust, and defrauded him of the greater part of his paternal inheritance. This misfortune, however, proved one of the causes which tended to make him an orator. Demosthenes, as he advanced towards manhood, perceived with indignation the conduct of his guardians, for which he resolved to make them answerable when the proper opportunity should arrive, by accusing them himself. His first attempt to speak in public proved a failure, and he retired from the bema amidst the hootings and laughter of the citizens. The more judicious and candid among his auditors perceived, however, marks of genius in his speech, and rightly attributed his failure to timidity and want of due preparation. Eunomus, an aged citizen, who met him wandering about the Piraeus in a state of dejection at his ill success, bade him take courage and persevere. Demosthenes now withdrew awhile from public life, and devoted himself perseveringly to remedy his defects. They were such as might be lessened, if not removed, by practice, and consisted chiefly of a weak voice, imperfect articulation, and ungraceful and inappropriate action. He derived much assistance from Satyrus the actor, who exercised him in reciting passages from Sophocles and Euripides. He studied the best rhetorical treatises and orations, and is said to have copied the work of Thucydides with his own hand no fewer than eight times. He shut himself up for two or three months together in a subterranean chamber in order to practise composition and declamation. His perseverance was crowned with success; and he who on the first attempt had descended from the bema amid the ridicule of the crowd, became at last the most perfect orator the world has ever seen.
Demosthenes had established himself as a public speaker before the period which we have now reached; but it is chiefly in connexion with Philip that we are to view him as a statesman as well as an orator. Philip had shown his ambition by the conquest of Thessaly, and by the part he had taken in the Sacred War; and Demosthenes now began to regard him as the enemy of the liberties of Athens and of Greece. In his first "Philippic" Demosthenes tried to rouse his countrymen to energetic measures against this formidable enemy; but his warnings and exhortations produced little effect, for the Athenians were no longer distinguished by the same spirit of enterprise which had characterized them in the days of their supremacy. No important step was taken to curb the growing power of Philip; and it was the danger of Olynthus which first induced the Athenians to prosecute the war with a little more energy. In 350 B.C., Philip having captured a town in Chalcidice, Olynthus began to tremble for her own safety, and sent envoys to Athens to crave assistance. Olynthus was still at the head of thirty-two Greek towns, and the confederacy was a sort of counterpoise to the power of Philip. It was on this occasion that Demosthenes delivered his three Olynthaic orations, in which he warmly advocated an alliance with Olynthus.
Demosthenes was opposed by a strong party, with which Phocion commonly acted. Phocion is one of the most singular and original characters in Grecian history. He viewed the multitude and their affairs with a scorn which he was at no pains to disguise; receiving their anger with indifference, and their praises with contempt. His known probity also gave him weight with the assembly. He was the only statesman of whom Demosthenes stood in awe; who was accustomed to say, when Phocion rose, "Here comes the pruner of my periods." But Phocion's desponding views, and his mistrust of the Athenian people, made him an ill statesman at a period which demanded the most active patriotism. He doubtless injured his country by contributing to check the more enlarged and patriotic views of Demosthenes; and though his own conduct was pure and disinterested, he unintentionally threw his weight on the side of those who, like Demades and others, were actuated by the basest motives. This division of opinion rendered the operations of the Athenians for the aid of the Olynthians languid and desultory. Town after town of the confederacy fell before Philip; and in 347 Olynthus itself was taken. The whole of the Chalcidian peninsula thus became a Macedonian province.
The prospects of Athens now became alarming, her possessions in the Chersonese were threatened, as well as the freedom of the Greek towns upon the Hellespont. The Athenians had supported the Phocians in the Sacred War, and were thus at war with Thebes. In order to resist Philip the attention of the Athenians was now directed towards a reconciliation with Thebes, especially since the treasures of Delphi were nearly exhausted, and on the other hand the war was becoming every year more and more burthensome to the Thebans. Nor did it seem improbable that a peace might be concluded not only between those two cities, but among the Grecian states generally. It seems to have been this aspect of affairs that induced Philip to make several indirect overtures to the Athenians in the summer of B.C. 347. In spite of subsidies from Delphi the war had been very onerous to them, and they received these advances with joy, and eventually agreed to the terms of a peace. Having thus gained over the Athenians, Philip marched through Thermopylae, and entered Phocis, which surrendered unconditionally at his approach. He then occupied Delphi, where he assembled the Amphictyons to pronounce sentence upon those who bad been concerned in the sacrilege committed there. The council decreed that all the cities of Phocia, except Abae, should be destroyed, and their inhabitants scattered into villages containing not more than fifty houses each. Sparta was deprived of her share in the Amphictyonic privileges; the two votes in the council possessed by the Phocians were transferred to the kings of Macedonia; and Philip was to share with the Thebans and Thessalians the honour of presiding at the Pythian games (B.C. 346).
The result of the Sacred War rendered Macedon the leading state in Greece. Philip at once acquired by it military glory, a reputation for piety, and an accession of power. His ambitious designs were now too plain to be mistaken. The eyes of the blindest among the Athenians were at last opened; the promoters of the peace which had been concluded with Philip incurred the hatred and suspicion of the people; whilst on the other hand Demosthenes rose higher than ever in public favour.
Philip was now busy with preparations for the vast projects which he contemplated, and which embraced an attack upon the Athenian colonies, as well as upon the Persian empire. For this purpose he had organized a considerable naval force as well as an army; and in the spring of 342 B.C. he set out on an expedition against Thrace. His progress soon appeared to menace the Chersonese and the Athenian possessions in that quarter; and at length the Athenian troops under Diopithes came into actual collision with the Macedonians. In the following year Philip began to attack the Greek cities north of the Hellespont. He first besieged and captured Selymbria on the Propontis, and then turned his arms against Perinthus and Byzantium. This roused the Athenians to more vigorous action. War was formally declared against Philip, and a fleet equipped for the immediate relief of Byzantium. Philip was forced to raise the siege not only of that town but of Perinthus also, and finally to evacuate the Chersonesus altogether. For these acceptable services the grateful Byzantians erected a colossal statue in honour of Athens.
After this check Philip undertook an expedition against the Thracians; but meantime his partisans procured for him an opportunity of marching again into the very heart of Greece.
Amphissa, a Locrian town, having been declared by the Amphictyonic council guilty of sacrilege, Philip was appointed by the council as their general to inflict punishment on the inhabitants of the guilty town. Accordingly he marched southwards early in B.C. 338; but instead of proceeding in the direction of Amphissa, he suddenly seized Elatea, the chief town in the eastern part of Phocis, thus showing clearly enough that his real design was against Boeotia and Attica. Intelligence of this event reached Athens at night, and caused extraordinary alarm, In the following morning Demosthenes pressed upon the assembly the necessity for making the most vigorous preparations for defence, and especially recommended them to send an embassy to Thebes, in order to persuade the Thebans to unite with them against the common enemy.
The details of the war that followed are exceedingly obscure. Philip appears to have again opened negotiations with the Thebans, which failed; and we then find the combined Theban and Athenian armies marching out to meet the Macedonians. The decisive battle was fought on the 7th of August, in the plain of Chaeronea in Boeotia, near the frontier of Phocis (B.C. 338). In the Macedonian army was Philip's son, the youthful Alexander, who was intrusted with the command of one of the wings; and it was a charge made by him on the Theban sacred band that decided the fortune of the day. The sacred band was cut to pieces, without flinching from the ground which it occupied, and the remainder of the combined army was completely routed. Demosthenes, who was serving as a foot-soldier in the Athenian ranks, has been absurdly reproached with cowardice because he participated in the general flight.
The battle of Chaeronea crushed the liberties of Greece, and made it in reality a province of the Macedonian monarchy. To Athens herself the blow was almost as fatal as that of AEgospotami. But the manner in which Philip used his victory excited universal surprise. He dismissed the Athenian prisoners without ransom, and voluntarily offered a peace on terms more advantageous than the Athenians themselves would have ventured to propose. Philip, indeed, seems to have regarded Athens with a sort of love and respect, as the centre of art and refinement, for his treatment of the Thebans was very different, and marked by great harshness and severity. They were compelled to recall their exiles, in whose hands the government was placed, whilst a Macedonian garrison was established in the Cadmea.
A congress of the Grecian states was now summoned at Corinth, in which war was declared against Persia, and Philip was appointed generalissimo of the expedition.
In the spring of B.C. 336 Philip sent some forces into Asia, under the command of Attalus, Parmenio, and Amyntas, which were designed to engage the Greek cities of Asia in the expedition. But before quitting Macedonia, Philip determined to provide for the safety of his dominions by celebrating the marriage of his daughter with Alexander of Epirus. It was solemnized at AEgae, the ancient capital of Macedonia, with much pomp, including banquets, and musical and theatrical entertainments. The day after the nuptials was dedicated to theatrical entertainments. The festival was opened with a procession of the images of the twelve Olympian deities, with which was associated that of Philip himself. The monarch took part in the procession, dressed in white robes, and crowned with a chaplet. Whilst thus proceeding through the city, a youth suddenly rushed out of the crowd, and, drawing a long sword which he had concealed under his clothes, plunged it into Philip's side, who fell dead upon the spot. The assassin was pursued by some of the royal guards, and, having stumbled in his flight, was despatched before he could reach the place where horses had been provided for his escape. His name was Pausanias. He was a youth of noble birth, and we are told that his motive for taking Philip's life was that the king had refused to punish an outrage which Attalus had committed against him.
Thus fell Philip of Macedon in the twenty-fourth year of his reign and forty-seventh of his age (B.C. 336). When we reflect upon his achievements, and how, partly by policy and partly by arms, he converted his originally poor and distracted kingdom into the mistress of Greece, we must acknowledge him to have been an extraordinary, if not a great man, in the better sense of that term. His views and his ambition were certainly as large as those of his son Alexander, but he was prevented by a premature death from carrying them out; nor would Alexander himself have been able to perform his great achievements had not Philip handed down to him all the means and instruments which they required.