Philip Of Macedon Essay Research Paper The

Philip Of Macedon Essay, Research Paper The internal reforms that took place under Philip, strengthened Macedonia and enabled him to conquer the Greek states. Philip used the League of Corinth to consolidate and maintain his power through terms of peace.

Philip Of Macedon Essay, Research Paper

The internal reforms that took place under Philip, strengthened Macedonia and enabled him to conquer the Greek states. Philip used the League of Corinth to consolidate and maintain his power through terms of peace.

To test the validity of this hypothesis we must look at three things:

? The major reforms in Macedonia under Philip

? How Philip went about conquering the Greek states

? The policies and terms under which the League of Corinth operated

Following the death of Perdiccas, Philip came to the throne in the autumn of 360B.C. He realised that great reforms were essential if he intended to remain the King of Macedonia. Macedonia underwent a major reconstruction at the hands of Philip but it was his military and political reforms that truly strengthened his kingdom.

Due to Philip’s intentions of immediate expansion, there was a large emphasis placed on the reforms of his military. Philip made vast improvements in his cavalry and siege engines, both of which were widely exploited by his son and successor, Alexander the Great. These two improvements may have been important, but according to Tritle (1997:179), the most telling tactical innovation of the famous Macedonian phalanx was the introduction of the sarissa.

The sarissa was a large pike up to 18 feet long, twice as long as the Greek hoplite spears. To compensate for the size and weight of this weapon, the Macedonian soldiers wore lighter, cheaper and more maneuverable armour. This, combined with their famous rigorous training and discipline, proved to be decisive in the battlefield.

The military reforms of Philip were decisive, but without the internal strength and effective foreign policy built by his political reforms, Philip would not have been able to capitilise on his military supremacy.

It can be said that the might of the Macedonians came from their unity. After Philip came to power, he worked to strengthen and expand his large but weak kingdom by unifying them under the single influence of the monarchy. Roebuck (1966:317) says, “Philip II provided the leadership that welded the country into a national state, the first that had developed in the Aegean area”.

Philip achieved this sense of unity by centralising his political administration and establishing large cities, not unlike the Greek polis. The main difference between the two was the Macedonian cities were more dependent on royal control (Starr 1971:150). The establishment of these cities, mainly in Thrace, not only stabilised his control in the region but also enabled the potential of the agricultural and commercial benefits to be exploited.

According to Tritle (1997:181), “Philip’s greatest achievements no doubt lie in the realm of foreign policy. He remains one of the great figures in classical antiquity because he created a long-lasting hegemony over all the Greek states in the peninsula when no individual or state had ever succeeded in doing so before. The reasons for his success can be found in his pragmatism, seen not only in his approach to the problems that had been chronically ailing Macedonia, but also in his dealings with the Greeks and non-Greeks of the Aegean world.”

There was much opposition to Philip’s accession and it was through his foreign policy that he avoided conflict and made peace with Thrace, Paeonia and Athens during his early years. Philip single-handedly made all decisions concerning both domestic and foreign policy, although towards the end of his reign, Roebuck (1966:322) says, “Alexander’s tutor Aristotle supplied him with the detailed political knowledge to reorganise the power systems in Greece”. If it weren’t for these early peace settlements, he would not have been able to utilise his political skill, which later allowed him to take control over all of the Greek states.

With Macedonia reformed and strengthened both militarily and politically, Philip took steps toward conquering the Greek states

After defeating the Illyrians and prolonged barbarian opposition to the north and east, Philip moved to fulfill his foreign policy assumptions by expanding south into central and southern Greece. A turning point in his acquisition of power was during the Third Sacred War.

Although Macedonia’s initial entrance into the Sacred War in 356B.C was only via alliance to the Aleuads of Larissa, it was a major factor in Philip’s eventual hegemony over the Greek peninsula. The Aleuads made Philip tagos, leader of the Thessalian League and commander of its forces. He used these forces to great effect in the Sacred War. Tritle (1997:183) says that in 352B.C, “Philip defeated his enemies decisively and consolidated his control over Thessaly,” and by 348B.C, following his victories over Olynthus and the Chalcidian League, “Philip was the greatest power in the Aegean Greek world”. In 346B.C Philip ended the Sacred War and established himself as hegemon over Greece.

Philip’s expansion continued throughout Thrace, Thessaly and the Chersonesus, as well as the Peloponnesus and even Persia.

As Macedonia’s power grew, Athens was the main force in creating opposition to the hegemony of Philip. Athens was successful in conjuring up some support but it was their former arch-enemies, Thebes, that came to their aid when a final culmination of hostilities met at Chaeronea. “On August 2, 338B.C only the Thebans and Athenians stood for Greek freedom” (Starr 1971:150).

After a resounding victory due to superior training, tactics and cavalry (led by Alexander), Philip had completed his capture of the Greek world.

Instead of consolidating his power through extensive military force, Philip proposed terms of peace via the League of Corinth. Also known as the Greek Community, the purpose of the League was to “preserve, and not instill stability”. (Ellis 1976:205)

According to Hammond (1994:164), “Philip showed remarkable foresight. He realised that the desire for peace and independence was very strong. The significance of the Community is outlined in Hammond’s (1994:163) following statement: “To call the Greek Community the ‘League of Corinth’, as modern scholars have done, is to misrepresent its nature and belittle its importance. It was a self-standing state, which banned internal wars between its members and revolutionary party-strife within each member, and which insisted on the maintenance of peace and the rule of the law within its constituency?the Greek Community developed an agreed system of administration, which was far ahead of the present system of the European Community”.

As a member of the League, each participant was forced to refrain from intervening in the constitution of another state and avoid all forms of revolutionary measures within its own state, such as banishment, freeing of slaves or executions. Participants were not necessarily forced to leave their system untouched but each state was forbidden to allow any weakening or possible overthrow of the existing constitution.

Ellis (1976:206) puts it; “A state must bind itself to take no hostile action against any other member or against Philip or his descendents, by way of either military interference or of aid and encouragement to revolutionary movements in another’s state”.

Although Philip was elected hegemon, Macedonia remained free of the League and its conditions despite initiating its creation. The establishment of the League itself was a bold move considering “By 337B.C, the Greek Community had an army vastly greater than the Macedonian forces, consisting of 200 000 infantry and 15 000 cavalry” (Hammond 1994:164). However the League was successful, and in fact, Philip used the strength of the now unified Greece (except Sparta, who refused to attend the congress at Corinth and was therefore not a member of the Greek Community) combined with his own forces to launch an attack on Persia.

The internal reforms that took place under Philip, strengthened Macedonia and enabled him to conquer the Greek states. Philip used the League of Corinth to consolidate and maintain his power through terms of peace.

This hypothesis is valid. It could be argued that the power vacuum, created following the attempts of Athens, Sparta and Thebes to take control of Greece, aided Philip’s conquest. However, he would not have been able to fill this power vacuum if it weren’t for the internal strengthening of his kingdom via military and political reforms.

The League of Corinth, of which Philip was hegemon, was a consolidation of his power following his victory at Chaeronea. The League imposed terms of peace and aimed to unify Greece and preserve stability.

Therefore, taking into account: the major reforms in Macedonia under Philip; how Philip went about conquering the Greek states and the terms and policies under which the League of Corinth operated, this hypothesis is undoubtedly a valid statement.


Tritle, L.A (1997). The Greek World in the Fourth Century. London : Routledge

Roebuck, C (1966). The World of Ancient Times. New York : Charles Scribner’s Sons

Starr, C.G (1971). The Ancient Greeks. London : Oxford University Press

Ellis, J.R (1976). Philip II and Macedonian Imperialism. London : Thames and Hudson Ltd

Hammond, N.G.L (1994). Philip of Macedon. London : Gerald Duckworth & Co. Ltd