After many years of continuous battles to see who would be and establish itself as the hegemonic power of Greece, the main belligerents, that is, Athens, Sparta and Thebes, had been greatly weakened. This weakening of the great Greek polis would not last long since its place would be occupied by a new emerging power that would mark the beginning of a new epoch that would put an end to the Greek classical period. It would be in the north of the Aegean, in Macedonia, where a prominent figure would emerge who had reached power and would become the arbiter of Greek autonomy. This figure would be that of Philip II of Macedonia who would begin a radical change in the ancient world, although ultimately the responsibility will fall on his son and successor Alexander. How did Macedonia conquer Greece?
Before Philip II, 20 years ago, an absolute monarch, Jason of Feras, existed in northern Greece. With speed and intelligence he managed to dominate and unite all the regions of Thessaly, he even had the ambition to undertake a great expedition against the Persians. However, his assassination in 370 would put an end to his project, but the intentions were those that would later be achieved later. Macedonia, like Greece, was not a unitary state. Thus, when someone was able to impose a solid central structure on the Macedonian state, he would find himself rewarded with the acquisition of a preeminent position in the Aegean world.
Background: Macedonia before Philip II
First of all, we must locate the region of Macedonia. It is located north of Thessaly, in the northern part of the Balkan Peninsula. To the west it bordered with Iliria; to the south and southwest with Epirus, Thessaly and the Chalkidian peninsula; to the east with Thrace. Of all the Greek states, Macedonia was the largest of all, however, it had little organization, without political, economic and cultural cohesion, which made it very vulnerable to its neighboring peoples.
On some occasions, the Greeks themselves included the Macedonians among the peoples they considered barbarians since their customs and political organization were different from those of the Greek cities, although, on the other hand, the Macedonians spoke Greek, but it was little evolved in comparison.
Going back to the s. VII BC, the rich territories of Macedonia, were populated by very diverse people, although with kings not very different from the Greeks. The main problem that these peoples presented is that they did not have any type of cohesion between them, they were fragmented, so as a whole they were very weak. Thus, in the s. VII the Argéadas tribe settled that would put its dominion over part of the territory, although, nevertheless, the native people of the place refused to recognize them, reason why diverse internal fights arose. How did Macedonia conquer Greece?
As the first prominent king of the Argéada dynasty we have Alexander I (498-454 BC). This monarch sought the consolidation of royal power as well as the extension of his dominions. To do this, he carried out a reform of the army to make it an effective instrument in his claims. In this way, he added to the army, in addition to the nobles who fought on horseback, the peasants as light infantry. Some of his military achievements was to subdue the region of Bisaltas located on the western bank of the River Estrimón. In addition, it is remarkable that he was the first Macedonian king to be admitted and recognized by the Greeks as a descendant of a Greek lineage, for which he was admitted to participate in the Olympic Games.
In addition, during his reign, Macedonia began to mint its own coins. The abundance of silver emissions shows the good development of the country’s commercial relations during the first half of the s. V BC
After the death of Alexander I, his sons Philip, Alcetas and Perdicicas fought each other, until the influence of Perdicicas prevailed over the others. After his death in 413, he left a fairly consolidated kingdom that would be inherited by his son Archelaus I (413-399 BC). He was a very prominent king for the entire series of reforms that he undertook to consolidate central power and consolidate the entire country. He managed to provide the kingdom with solid economic foundations; reorganized the army; I created a whole network of roads for the troops to move faster and trade more fluid.
He moved the capital to Pella where he attracted from Greece to his court a whole series of cultural references of the time such as the poet Euripides or the painter Zeuxis. With Athens it maintained good relations, which, helped him in the revolts that were in several Macedonian cities against the king; Furthermore, thanks to these good relations, they established a fluid trade.
In 399 the monarch would be assassinated. In the following 9 years, between 399-390 BC, three kings succeeded one another: Archelaus II, Amyntas II, and Pausanias. How did Macedonia conquer Greece?
Thus, the next important monarch will be Amyntas III (390-370 BC), which will be a country with great internal and external instability. As soon as his reign begins, he will have to face the Illyrians, who under King Bardilis entered Macedonia occupying part of the territory, specifically, the Lincéstida region.
This confrontation even led to King Aminitas having to leave the country. Thus, he asked for help from the Chalkidian Confederation, which restored him to power and also recovered their territories. However, they wanted to stay some cities on the coast so, thanks to the intervention of Sparta, they finally passed to Macedonia. Therefore, the foreign policy of Amyntas III gives us testimony of the links established between Macedonia and the Greek polis already during the first quarter of the s. IV BC How did Macedonia conquer Greece?
After the death of Amyntas III in 370 BC, during some years, internal fights took place between the pretenders to the throne, that is to say, between his sons Alexander, Perdicicas and Filipo. The first of them, Alexander II, seized power for a short time, during which he intervened in the internal affairs of Thessaly in an attempt to expand its external influence, occupying the cities of Larissa and Cranon under the pretext of expelling its ruler. Thus, the cities of Thessaly asked for help from Thebes, the new hegemonic power, whose troops forced Macedonia to withdraw. Finally, Alexander II would be assassinated in 368 BC.
Before his successor came of age to rule, a regent took over the government, until 365 BC Perdicicas III (365-359 BC) acceded to the throne. Although the reign of this monarch was also quite short, it was also important. In domestic politics he managed to end the autonomy of the Lincéstide region, while in foreign policy he weakened the Chalkidian Confederation by joining forces with Athens in the conquest of Torone and Potidaea. However, it would enter into open conflict with Athens because it wanted against the city of Amphipolis. However, the greatest danger came from the Illyrians, who defeated the Macedonian army, dying 4,000 soldiers along with Perdicicas himself.
The rise of Philip II
Filipo was born in 382 BC He was the third son of Amyntas III and would come to power very young, with only 23 years, as regent of his nephew since Amyntas IV, son of Perdicicas III, was still a child. Philip would take over the kingdom at a very delicate time, since his brother had just died in his confrontation with the Illyrians in 359 BC Macedonia was at a very difficult time, with external threats and internal struggles, for which, Philip , not only managed to remain on the throne but also consolidate the monarchy, turning Macedonia into a united, powerful and prosperous country. In this way, he knew that he had to expel the Illyrians from his territory and try to sign an alliance with Athens so that it would not make incursions down the coast from Amphipolis. How did Macedonia conquer Greece?
To achieve his objectives, the first thing he did was to carry out a profound reform of the army. During the three years that he had been held hostage in Thebes, he was able to see first-hand the warlike tactics of Pelópidas and Epaminondas. It improved the Macedonian armament and the disposition of the troops creating new phalanges of compact rows armed with sarissas , that is to say, long lances of almost 5 meters, and flanked by a great cavalry and light troops. Equally innovative was in the field of war machinery, creating new war machines. Thus, he would get a powerful army made up of some 20,000 light infantry soldiers and 8,000 more soldiers including horsemen and auxiliary troops, with which he would initiate an ambitious project of conquests.
On the other hand, in addition, it strengthened the ties of the monarchy with the noble families, attracting them as advisers, participating as knights in their conquests and including their children in the court to educate them and in turn hold them as hostages before some possible uprising. At the same time, with these actions, he managed to get rid of possible rivals and gather loyal servants around him.
The conquest of Greece
- After fixing the internal affairs, Filipo would embark on the enterprise of extending his dominions. Thus, at the end of 359 BC he crushed the Peonies of King Lyceum, located in the north, and in 358 BC he defeated the Illyrian army of Bardilis to regain the territories lost to this monarch.
- After these conquests, Filipo would carry out the first campaign of Thessaly, in which, he would manage to seize the gold mines of the Pangeo. In the spring of 357 BC he would get the city of Amphipolis. How did Macedonia conquer Greece?
- However, in order to understand how the conquest of Greece by Philip II began, first of all it is necessary to relate some events that were closely related. These are the ones that refer to the so-called Third Sacred War (357-346 BC). Long ago, the Phocidia had been enemies of the Thebans, while the inhabitants of Delphi were enemies of the Phocidia. After the Battle of Leuctra (see quote no. 8), the Phocians were forced to accept Theban supremacy. Thebes tried to impose an exorbitant fine on the Phocidians for having sacrilegiously exploited the lands of the temple of Delphi. Thus, they refused to pay and occupied Delphi. Thebes, faced with such an act, declared war on the Phocidians led by Filomeno, along with other cities. On Filomeno’s death, Onomarco would succeed him. Other cities, that of Thessaly, joined against Onomarco, these being the ones that would ask Philip for help. In principle, Philip will be defeated, however, in 352 BC he entered Thessaly definitively defeating Onomarco. Philip would impose his authority in Thessaly, although the war could not be ended between these cities until later.
- Philip’s next target will be Thrace. This region was divided into three kingdoms. Thus, both Macedonia by proximity and Athens by commercial reasons, had interests in the region. Both Athens and Macedonia, for their interests, it was convenient for them to maintain the political fragmentation of the Thracian territory. Thus, in principle, the situation in Thrace would continue for some years.
- From 351 BC the Athenians saw Macedonia becoming more and more important. In this year, Filipo entered the city of Epirus and forced to respect the rights to the throne of his brother-in-law Alexander and in turn take away the territory of Paravea, bordering Illyria. Therefore, the Athenians saw that their commercial interests were increasingly affected, since Philip had also increased his power by sea. How did Macedonia conquer Greece?
- And so, soon the cities of the Chalkidian Confederation would also suffer the consequences of the new Macedonian expansion. The hegemonic city of the same, Olinto, when seeing the increase of Macedonian power, they looked for an approach to Athens. In 349 BC, finally, Philip decided to go on the offensive. The olintos, faced with this threat, asked Athens for help, which sent support troops. However, a turn of events would cause Athens to be involved in two confrontations at the same time, since the city of Euboea had risen, so they gave priority to the latter. The Athenian troops went to Euboea, but, after several confrontations, they had to withdraw in 348 BC and accept the independence of the Euboeans. By the time the Athenians had put down the revolt,
- The failures of Euboea and Olinto, and the growing superiority of Macedonia, had created in Athens the opinion to enter into peace negotiations. In 346 BC, after successive failures to try to design a common front with other cities, an embassy of Athenians, Philocrates, Aeschines and Demosthenes left for Pela, who negotiated the so-called Peace of Philocrates on the basis of the status quo existing at the time of the signature, with which Filipo reserved the right to solve the problem of Phocis, still involved in the aforementioned Third Sacred War against the Thebans.
- Neither the Phocidians nor the Thebans had sufficient military strength to end the conflict. Faced with this situation, the Thebans asked Philip for help, who sent a small contingent. Thus, already in the spring of 346 BC the situation improved in favor of Philip’s interests, since a revolution broke out in Phocis that allowed Falaceo to seize power. Thus, Filipo went towards the zone obtaining that Falaceo surrendered. With the end of the war, the terms of the phocidian sentence had yet to be determined. The members of the Delphi amphiction were summoned to determine the punishment: in addition to the pertinent economic sanctions, the most prominent action is that the vote and place occupied by Phocis in the amphiction would be delivered to Macedonia. In this way, Not only was Macedonia recognized as another Greek state worthy of being heard in amphitonic assemblies, but it also had the ability to appoint its delegates to the Council. In conclusion, Philip now had in his hands the ability to act legitimately on many of the Greek problems. How did Macedonia conquer Greece?
- From 342 BC and with the aim of securing the Macedonian eastern borders up to the Danube, Philip began the conquest of this region. Such an act posed a threat to the interests of the Athenians in the Chersonese area. Thus, the Athenians sent a mercenary contingent that would attack allies of Philip like Cardia and also subjected many Thracian cities to sack. Faced with this situation, Philip immediately demanded his return, to which he refused. Philip reacted, and, as a supply convoy headed for Athens, attacked him and seized his cargo. In this way, the Athenians would officially declare war on Macedonia.
- Athens counted on maritime superiority, not terrestrial. Hence, the importance of the position that Thebes would take since it could hinder the advance of the Macedonian army through central Greece. However, the situation became more and more complex as a result of certain events: in 339 BC Athens, in the Delphic amphiction, was accused by the locrios of Amphisia of having committed sacrilege. At the same time, the Athenian envoy denounced Amphisia for having cultivated lands dedicated to the god Apollo on his own. The members of the host sent a contingent against Anfisia. While,
- However, Philip would enter central Greece and seize the Theban fortress of Elatea. Faced with this situation, Athens pact an alliance with Thebes in which the latter would lead the troops. The Athenians established a defensive line in Boeotia, and at the same time, asked other Greek cities for help to prevent the passage of Philip. Nevertheless, the army of Filipo managed to take Amphisia, Quereto and Naupacto. The Battle of Queronea in 338 BC will be a great victory for the Macedonians.
- After the Athenian defeat in this last battle, Philip offered peace, even returning the Greek prisoners. How did Macedonia conquer Greece?
- After these tumultuous events, Philip, with a great diplomatic capacity, gradually took control, in one way or another, of most of the Greek territory. Thus, in 337 BC a congress of each and every Greek community met in Corinth. The states that sent representatives to Corinth formed a League with powers to declare war and peace, impose taxes and decree the mobilization of troops, for which, Philip was elected supreme head of the army who should go to Asia to fight against the Persians, which the Macedonian monarch had long longed for, a Greece that would make a common front against the Persians who had caused them so many grievances for so long. However, his enthusiasm would not last long since in 336 BC he would be assassinated.