History of the Macedonian People - Philip II - The Greatest of the Kings

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History of the Macedonian People from Ancient times to the Present

Part 5 - Philip II - The Greatest of the Kings

by Risto Stefov rstefov@hotmail.com

Philip II was born in Pella, the capital of ancient Macedonia, in the year 382 BC and ruled Macedonia from 359 to 336 BC. Philip was the youngest son of King Amyntas III and Eurydice.

After the death of Amyntas III, Macedonia's stability began to decline as Alexander II and later Perdiccas III unsuccessfully fought to keep it intact.

The instability was triggered mainly by external attacks from the neighbouring Thracians, Illyrians and Greeks. The Thracians occupied parts of eastern Macedonia while the Illyrians were making their threats from beyond northwestern Macedonia. Thebes, the mightiest military power at that time, often interfered in Macedonia's affairs while the Greek colonies in Chalcidice posed obstacles to Macedonia's economic prosperity and were often a threat to Macedonia's security.

From what Diodorus Siculus tells us, while the Thebans held him hostage between 368 and 365 BC, Philip showed extraordinary interest in studying their military techniques and weapons. Philip was especially interested in understanding the fighting style of the Theban elite Sacred Band, which would become important to him later in his career while reforming his own military.

After Philip was released from Thebes, at his brother's (Perdiccas III) request, he immediately began to implement his reforms and reorganize the Macedonian military.

Unfortunately, before Philip was finished he lost his brother. While fighting the Illyrians in northwestern Macedonia, Perdiccas III was mortally wounded and died in battle. Worse yet, during the same battle, the Macedonians suffered a demoralizing defeat losing about 4,000 soldiers, which constituted most of the Macedonian army.

Victorious, the Illyrians moved in and occupied northwestern Macedonia. Perched on the mountains of Lyncus they became a threat to the very existence of the Macedonian kingdom.

Appointed by the Macedonian army, after his brother's death, Philip ascended to the Macedonian throne in the most difficult times. His kingdom was virtually on the brink of collapse and his neighbours, hovering like vultures, were poised to put an end to his existence.

Besides the usual threats from outside, Macedonia was further weakened by internal strife. There were pretenders from inside who wanted to usurp the Macedonian throne for themselves. Some of them were encouraged and supported by foreign powers.

Despite tremendous pressure, the 21-year-old king was not discouraged and soon demonstrated his abilities, not only as a competent ruler but also as a skilful diplomat.

Soon after taking control of his kingdom he bribed the Thracian king with gifts and convinced him to execute the first Macedonian pretender who, at the time, was hiding in the Thracian court. The second pretender, supported by Athens, he defeated in battle. Careful not to upset the Athenians, he appeased them by signing a treaty ceding Amphipolis to them.

In a little more than a year he removed all internal threats and secured his kingdom by firmly establishing himself on the throne.

Determined to free northwestern Macedonia, in 358 BC Philip put his improved army to the test and fought the Illyrians face to face in a fierce battle. Setting aside all fears from the previous battle, the mighty Macedonian army faced the legendary Illyrians and won an overwhelming victory. The Illyrians fled in panic leaving 7,000 dead behind, almost three-quarters of their entire army.

"Without delay he (Philip) convened an assembly, raised the war-spirit of his men by suitable words, and led them into the territory held by the Illyrians, his army numbering not less than 10,000 infantry and 600 cavalry. Bardylis (the Illyrian chief) had not yet mustered the huge forces he had intended to lead into lower Macedonia. He therefore offered peace on the basis of the status quo. Philip replied that peace was acceptable only if Bardylis would evacuate his troops from all the Macedonian cities. This Bardylis was not prepared to do. Confident in the marvelous record and the numerous victories of his elite Illyrian troops, numbering 10,000 infantry and 500 cavalry, he advanced to engage in the open plain of Lyncus. The battle-cries of 20,000 voiced resounded from the hills.

Whether there was a preliminary cavalry engagement or not, Bardylis realized that he was outclassed in cavalry. In order to protect the flank and rear of his spearmen-phalanx from attacks by the enemy cavalry, he made his infantry form a hollow rectangle, of which the front facing the enemy was held by his best men and the other sides by less skilled troops, all facing outwards. The disadvantage of this formation was its immobility. The initiative lay now with Philip, who saw at once the merit of an attack on the enemy's leftmost front and left-hand side. He marched his phalanx forward at an oblique angle to the enemy's front, his right being advanced and his left retarded, and he massed his cavalry on his right. The king and the Royal Guardsmen were the leading infantrymen of the Macedonian right. As they approached the stationary Illyrians, they charged the enemy's left front with their massed pikes lowered (pikes never before seen by the Illyrians), smashed the corner of the square completely and let the cavalry in to attack the disrupted formation in flank and rear. The Illyrians broke and fled. The pursuit by the cavalry over the plain caused huge casualties: 7,000 out of 10,500. Bardylis sent envoys to sue for peace. Philip buried his dead on the battlefield in accordance with Macedonian custom, and made terms for peace, which included not only the recovery of all Macedonian cities but also the cession of territory up to the north-east shore of Lake Lychnitis. The peace with Bardylis was cemented by the marriage of Philip to an Illyrian princess, Audata". (Page 62, Nicholas G. L. Hammond, The Miracle That Was Macedonia).

Northwestern Macedonia was now free, all the Upper Macedonia cantons, including Lyncestia, the birthplace of Philip's mother, were now firmly under Macedonian control and loyal to their liberator Philip II.

Philip was aware that with a small army of 10,000 he could not defend his kingdom, not even against the defeated Illyrian chief who had even more reserve troops at his disposal. To secure his kingdom and create a pool of new recruits, Philip convinced the chiefs of the smaller kingdoms to join him. To those who did he offered honourable positions in his court.

With his western frontier secure, Philip moved on to the east to secure the Struma basin north of Chalcidice. His presence there alarmed the Greek colonies, especially Amphipolis, and sent them in panic complaining to Athens. But Athens, having problems of her own, was powerless to act and allowed Philip to conduct his operations unabated.

After unsuccessfully trying to secure an alliance by peaceful means, Philip amassed a larger army and attacked Amphipolis. By using his improved siege-train he was able to quickly break through the city's heavily fortified barriers. "In 357, after breaking through the walls with his siege engines (Diod. 16.8.2), he took Amphipolis, thereby accomplishing in a few weeks what the Athenians failed to achieve in more than sixty years". (Page 213, Eugene Borza, In the Shadow of Olympus The Emergence of Macedon).

As promised before the siege and true to his word, Philip after occupying her, gave Amphipolis independence under the supervision of Macedonian overseers.

During the same year (357 BC), Philip, in spite of Athenian opposition, acquired the city of Potidaea in Chalcidice. Turning northward Philip also conquered Pydna, a Greek colony on the Macedonian coast.

A couple of years later, Philip acquired the city of Methone, a long time Athenian base located near Pydna. Unfortunately, this particular victory was bittersweet as Philip, during the siege, lost his sight in one eye to an arrow. In the same year, the Macedonian army advanced eastward into Thracian territory and took the town of Crenides (located near modern day Drama) which its residents later renamed Philippi.

Crenides was not just an ordinary outpost; it was also the processing headquarters for the hinterland and mountain gold mines, which Philip added to his Macedonian possessions.

Some of the revenues derived from gold mining were reinvested to drain the nearby marshlands making the region around Philppi a showcase for new development.

The Macedonian eastern frontier extending to the River Mesta was now secure.

Before I continue with Philip's exploits to the south, I want to digress for a moment and talk about Philip's many marriages.

The Macedonian tradition of securing alliances by marriage was practiced long before Philip's time. It was probably invented during the Stone Age to strengthen family ties.

According to Borza, the best source to explain Philip's complicated marriages is the biographer Satyrus. I doubt however, if Satyrus ever understood the true meaning of this tradition.

I also want to make it clear that ancient behaviour towards marriages has nothing to do with our modern perception and values of marriage.

Here is what Borza has to say:

"He married Audata the Illyrian and had from her a daughter, Cynna. And then he married Phila, the sister of Derdas and Machatas. The, he wanted to appropriate the Thessalian people as well, on grounds of kinship, he fathered children by two Thessalian women, one from whom was Nikesipolis of Pherae, who bore him Thessalonike, and the other, Philinna of Larisa, by whom he fathered Arrhidaeus. Then he acquired the kingdom of Molossians as well, by marrying Olympias. From her he had Alexander and Cleopatra. And then, when he conquered Thrace, Cothelas, the King of the Thracians, came over to him bringing his daughter Meda and many gifts. Having married her too, he brought her into his household besides Olympias. Then, in addition to all these, he married Cleopatra, the sister of Hippostratus and niece of Attalus, having fallen in love with her. And when he brought her into his household beside Olympias, he threw his whole life into confusion. For immediately, during the actual wedding celebration, Attalus said, 'Now surely there will be born for us legitimate kings and not bastards.' Now Alexander, when he heard this, threw the cup, which he was holding in his hands, at Attalus; thereupon he too threw his goblet at Alexander. After this Olympias fled to the Molossians and Alexander to the Illyrians. And Cleopatra bore Philip the daughter named Europa." (Page 206-207, Eugene Borza, In the Shadow of Olympus The Emergence of Macedon).

The following quote is a small part taken from the book "The Daughter of Neoptolemus" describing Olympias's wedding to Philip, masterfully conceptualized and dramatized by Michael A. Dimitry.

"Guests were arriving from not only Epirus, but also Macedonia, lliyria, Paeonia, Thessaly, Athens, and Sparta. Polyxena and Sophia had nearly gone insane with preparations since Polyxena had resigned herself to being a priestess and thus had not prepared much of a trousseau. Troas, her elder sister, did as little as possible to help and merely went through the public actions which were required of a sister at this time.

Because Arybbas also did as little as he could get away with since he liked neither Polyxena nor Philip, the Macedonians who had arrived began holding their own celebrations. Some of these customs seemed strange to Polyxena, but sweet in their intent. For Polyxena had been curious as to why Philip would go to such elaborate extremes since this was his fourth marriage, not his first. Sophia then explained that it was because Philip wanted his bride to know how special she was to him and that she would not be just another mistress. 'Philip,' Sophia said at each opportunity, 'loves you which is why he is paying attention to every custom and superstition no matter how silly. He wants to insure that your marriage is not cursed as the others but fruitful.'

Sophia was right. Besides, all were enjoying themselves.

The night before the wedding, for example, there was a lot of commotion in the hall outside of Polyxena's chamber. Sophia opened the door and welcomed a small band of dancers who apparently had arrived to entertain the bride. Sophia, little Alexander Amaxis, who had remained close to his sister's side since her return from Dodona, and the other servants began to laugh. When Polyxena looked more closely at the dancers, she realized why; they were men dressed as women! One elderly male/female played the flute as the others twirled and gyrated like maenads in a frenzy. When they had at last finished their dance, Sophia served them honey-cakes and wine before sending them on their way.

When the Macedonians had gone, Sophia explained, 'It is an ancient custom. The purpose of the visit is to distract the bride's family so that the groom's side can steal something from the house. Perhaps this represents the groom stealing the bride from the father's house since the superstition decreed that if the raiding party were successful at stealing the object, the marriage would be successful too. If they fail, so does the marriage.'

Everyone immediately looked around and with relief discovered that a small vase which had allegedly been passed down from Achilles by means of his son Neoptolemus through generations of Molossians was missing.

'The marriage will be a success!' Sophia shouted and she along with the other women present offered repeated toasts to the bride.

But the evening's festivities soon faded and Polyxena, left alone in her bed and rooms, stripped of her belongings which had been packed for her journey, could not rest. Something inside her would not let her rest and the short time she did sleep a nightmare tormented her. When Sophia and Troas arrived in the morning to help Polyxena get ready for the day's long awaited event, the bride was unwilling.

'I cannot marry Philip,' she announced.

Troas rolled her eyes but Sophia replied, 'Of course you can. Everything is ready. You have nothing to fear.'

'No!' Polyxena snapped back crying into her pillow.

Sophia ran over and grabbed Polyxena by the shoulders to turn her around. 'What is it? What is wrong?

'She's a stupid, selfish girl,' interrupted Troas who had walked to the end of the bed. 'She only went through with the preparations to make fools of her uncle and me as well as our ancestors. Why, I've often said...'

But Sophia's stare stopped Troas's words in her throat. Sophia turned to face Polyxena again and began to wipe the tears off her young face.

'I've had a dream,' Polyxena began, 'a warning. I will not offend the gods.'

'What dream?' asked Sophia. 'Share it with us.'

'Yes, share it with us,' mocked Troas.

Looking deep into Sophia's warm eyes, Polyxena began, 'I was lying here, trying to rest when there was a loud clap of thunder and a flash of light.'

'Too much wine,' Troas added.

'Will you shut up?' Sophia snapped back.

'I had very little wine last night. No, it was Him. The Oak-god I am to serve. He appeared in his youthful form as Dionysus, god of epiphanies, but in the same instant, he disappeared. There was silence for a moment, then another crash of thunder. Just then a lightning bolt struck my womb. There was a blinding flash and flames exploded in every direction. I was in the flames and yet not harmed by them. I felt the whole world burning because of me until it finally burned no more.'

Polyxena, Sophia, and Troas were all silent.

'Don't you see?' Polyxena begged Sophia. If I marry Philip, I am ruined. Many will suffer.'

'Especially Philip,' Troas quipped. 'You are a curse to your family, you will be a curse to your husband's, but you will marry and you will leave Passaron for good. You have no choice.'

Polyxena began to cry. Sophia stood up and rushing over to Troas, grabbed her by the arm and pulled her out of the room.

'Who's the queen here?' Troas protested as a timid warning. 'Who is the slave?'

'I am a servant, but I am no more a slave than you are truly a queen,' Sophia shouted back as she slammed the door shut.

Polyxena heard Sophia approach the bed again and felt her friend's arms go around her to offer her comfort. 'Ignore your sister,' Sophia said. 'She wants you out of Passaron because you and your brother are a threat to her rule. You'll avenge yourself someday.'

'But what of my dream?' Polyxena asked.

'It may well be from the gods, but it is not the kind of warning you believe. Dreams like lightning are sent by the gods and both have meaning. You said the bolt struck you in the womb and there lies its significance; you will become pregnant and your child, like its ancestor Achilles, will have a short but glorious life.'

'How do you know this?'

'Trust me. Now let's get you ready for your wedding. It's normal to have cold feet, but we can't let it keep you from going to your future husband.'

Polyxena climbed out of bed and gradually followed Sophia through the motions of the day.

First, after breakfast, Polyxena with Sophia and the other women of the palace, went to the household altar with her childhood possessions. One by one, Polyxena dropped her toys, clothing, and other belongings of youth into the fire and watched them burn. Last, she placed a doll that her father Neoptolemus had given her into the flames.

'You are now no longer to be known as the Daughter of Neoptolemus,' the women said. 'You are now the wife of Philip of Macedonia.'

After spending the rest of the afternoon greeting well-wishers in her chamber, it was time to get dressed. Sophia managed to get everyone else out of Polyxena's quarters and Polyxena, feeling the anticipation of seeing Philip overwhelm her, was grateful for Sophia's help. After bathing, Sophia brought out the wedding dress and veil that she had made herself for Polyxena out of a shiny, soft purple cloth that the bride had never seen before. As she put it on, Polyxena couldn't help but stop repeatedly to admire the beauty of the gold embroidery on it. Finally, Sophia attached the soft veil to Polyxena's hair.

'We can't forget this,' Sophia said suddenly as she rushed to open a nearby package. 'This is from your future husband.'

Polyxena watched as Sophia slowly pulled a crown made of gold beaten into the form of an oak-leaf garland from the package. Its leaves were so thin that Polyxena could see the light shining through them as Sophia placed it on her head.

'Now do you believe you will live as Philip's queen?' Sophia asked.

Polyxena smiled weakly.

'Now there is one more gift...' Sophia said as she pulled a plain, gold-chain necklace from her pocket. 'This was a gift from my mother to me. It was to be passed down again to my daughter on her wedding day. I am giving it to you because you are like my own flesh and blood.'

Sophia began to cry and Polyxena joined her in an embrace of tears. After a few minutes, Sophia stepped back, and said, 'Well, it must be nearly time. I'd better go check if everything is ready.'

Polyxena watched Sophia leave the room. She stood there alone in her nearly empty room. A melancholy sadness began to overcome her. What would happen when she left Passaron? What would life in Pella be like? Would Philip keep his promise not to make her just another mistress? And if he did keep his word, how could she possibly know how to be a good wife and 'queen' in a more sophisticated society like that in Macedonia?

And what about the dream? Was she betraying the god for the weak mortal need of love? Would she be punished again? Would Sophia's prediction come true? Or Troas's?

But, no. There is no turning back now. Polyxena knew that the treaty had already been signed and she, whether for love or alliance, was a part of the agreement. She would have to marry Philip. She would have to live in his house according to his customs and traditions. 'I am no longer the Daughter of Neoptolemus,' Polyxena told the room, 'I am the wife of Philip of Macedonia.' Still, she was glad that Sophia would be going to Pella with her.

A knock at the door interrupted her thoughts. She opened it to find Arybbas standing there. Without saying a word, he hooked his arm under hers and led her down the hall and down the stairs into the banquet hall where the wedding was taking place.

As she descended the steps with her uncle, for the first time in her life, Polyxena felt like a princess. She looked out over the hall with its garlands, ribbons, flowers, and other elaborate decorations and couldn't help but feel proud. She was a Molossian princess, a descendant of Achilles, the greatest warrior who had ever lived, a daughter of one of the most noble kings of Epirus, and now, the wife of the new leader of the Macedonians. When Polyxena came into view, all the guests stood up in honor of the bride. Loud cheers and applause broke out and rang through the hall as she took her seat next to Philip.

Briefly as she approached her couch and turned to lie upon it, her eyes met Philip's. In the two years which she had not seen him, he had become even handsomer. His dark piercing eyes seemed a bit more recessed and he had been hardened by his recent wars and troubles at home. He had even grown a beard which made him look more dignified and serious. As she sat next to him she could feel the same excitement radiating from him as she had felt at Samothrace what seemed like an eternity ago. She wanted to touch him or to look at him as she had then but resisted so as not to disgrace her family in public at seeming anxious for this union for a lower reason.

But the ceremony itself seemed to be taking place in a fog. Polyxena barely remembered the symbolic yoking of the couple with its ritual blessing by the priest, the cutting and sharing of the bread by she and her husband, the dancing, the food, the wine, or the endless jokes and toasts. As soon as each of these events occurred, it became a hazy memory due to her love for Philip. At last Philip stood up to end the evening. Offering his wish that this marriage would provide a fruitful union of their two nations as well as of their two families, Philip thanked everyone for coming to help him celebrate one of the happiest occasions of his life. Polyxena forgot to raise her glass to the toast when, at it conclusion, Philip turned toward her and winked. After Philip and his groomsman had departed to bring the wedding coach to the front of the palace, Arybbas again took his niece by the arm and led her gently through the crowd to the front doors of the palace. The procession was interrupted briefly by the crying of little Amaxis. Polyxena wanted to run to him, to hold him one more time before leaving, but she knew she could not. They had said their goodbyes earlier and she had promised to send for him as soon as she could.

Polyxena thought briefly, as she walked by him, of her silly childhood wish to marry her Uncle Leonidas but as they reached the outside and Arybbas gave her hand to Philip, she forgot the past.

Philip then led Polyxena down the stairs to the street and helped Polyxena into the coach. Philip then climbed in and as the couple waved goodbye to the crowd, Philip introduced Polyxena to his groomsman, Antipater. Without taking his eyes from her, Philip explained how Antipater had been a loyal page to Philip's father, Amyntas and later a general to Philip and his three brothers who preceded him as leader of the Macedonians. Antipater, Polyxena was told, was about fifteen years older that Philip and had been like a father to him since his own father's death. Antipater seemed to enjoy the role and had fulfilled it during the wedding by giving Philip his final shave before the celebration and had even sat in the place of honor that evening holding a tray for collecting gifts from well-wishers. 'Antipater even cried!' Philip exclaimed to Polyxena. All the while, however, she knew why he rattled on so about Antipater. Each had a number of questions for the other that they were asking with their eyes and the answer to the most important one was reciprocated over and over again: Yes, I still love you.

The night was warm and there was a gentle breeze as the coach progressed through the streets to the guest-house Polyxena and Philip would consummate their marriage in. Molossians, Macedonians, and others lined the route to throw garlands and flowers in their path.

Finally, as they reached the house and stopped in front of its doors, Antipater handed Polyxena down to Philip according to tradition, and Philip carried his new bride across the threshold to begin their new life together. After two lonely years, thought Polyxena, Philip had fulfilled his promise to take as his wife the Daughter of Neoptolemus." (Pages 42-50, Michael A. Dimitri, The Daughter of Neoptolemus). If you wish to obtain the book, click on http://www.michaeladimitri.com/.

From the union of Philip and Polyxena (nicknamed Olympias by Philip), in 356 BC, was born Alexander who in a few short years would become king Alexander III.

Before I continue with Philip's story, I want to take you to Dura-Europos, to a time before the arrival of the Romans, to a place where only Macedonian soldiers ventured and dared to leave their mark. Unbelievable as it may sound, that mark buried for centuries and long forgotten has recently surfaced and speaks to us not in ancient Greek but in ancient Macedonian, the very same language that the modern Macedonians speak. The same language that the modern Greeks have tried so hard to extinguish. The very language that the modern Greeks claim does not exist.

How is it possible that Alexander's army spoke the same Macedonian language spoken today, when according to "mainstream history" the modern Macedonian language is the language of the Slavs, a people who did not arrive in the Balkans until after the 6th century AD?

You may believe what you like but you can't deny the evidence, which in spite of all denials, points to one truth which is that the modern Macedonians did not come from anywhere but rather have always been where they are today.

It is well documented that the ancient Macedonians spoke a different language, an unknown language that was NOT Greek.

We now know that the language of the ancient Macedonians is the same language the modern Macedonians speak today.

Here is what Ambrozic has to say:


The Spoof

This graffiti which appears clearly near the head of a soldier in a votary representation at Dura-Europos is a mocking spoof of the reverence shown in the solemn scene found on the north wall of the anticum in the temple of the Palmyrian gods.

Division and Alphabetization:




"The horse, it did not waste its portion; the horse, it did not become bone."

Loose Translation:

"The horse ate every morsel; therefore, the horse did not become skin and bones."


KON (KONJ) - "horse" -dialectal form of the literal KONJ - still very much in current use

ON - "it" - Since the reference is to KON which is masc., ON has to agree in gender.

NI - "not, did not" - still the same dialectally and literally

KOS - "portion, share, piece"

TRATOJ - "waste, squander" - very archaic - past tense, third prs., sing. form from TRATITI - "to waste, to squander"

KOST - "bone" - still exactly the same now - By underlining OST, the inscriber of the graffiti indicates that the second time KOST comes around it is not to be split up.

RATOJ - "became" - very dialectal third prs., sing., past tense form from RATATI - "to become"]

(Pages 77-78, Anthony Ambrozic, Adieu to Brittany a transcription and translation of Venetic passages and toponyms)

It is most curious to be able to find evidence of Slav heritage in the ancient Macedonians, especially since we have all been brainwashed for so long to believe that the ancient Macedonians were Greek.

Fortunately at last, there is "evidence" that proves that the ancient Macedonians were not only "non-Greek" but had a "Slav" heritage, which was passed on to the modern Macedonians of today. The so-called "unknown" language the ancient Macedonians spoke has now been identified and has many elements of the same language the modern Macedonians speak today!

Strange as this may sound it is "natural" and makes "perfect sense" that Macedonians live where they always lived, speak the same (but evolving) language they always spoke and share in the same traditions that the ancients practiced and enjoyed.

In spite of all evidence, ironically modern Greeks today still insist that the ancient Macedonians were 100% Greek and that the modern Macedonians are not at all (0%) related to them. What is even more ironic is that while denying the modern Macedonians their heritage, modern Greeks, proven to be of mixed races, are officially still claiming to be homogeneous and pure descendants of the ancient Greeks. Worse yet the Pontic Turks, forcibly relocated from Asia Minor to Macedonia in the early 1920's, are now claiming to be more Macedonian than the Macedonians they displaced. Bizarre as this may sound, the new generations of the transplanted people now fully Hellenized and poisoned by Greek propaganda are themselves claiming to be "pure Hellenes" and direct descendants of the ancient Macedonians.

And now back to Philip's story.

Early in his career Philip realized that in order to defend against ongoing aggression he needed a full time army. He built his army by making the military a way of life for the ordinary Macedonian. Soldiering became a professional occupation that paid well enough to make a living, year-round. Unlike before when soldiering was a part-time job, something that men would do during their free time, Philip's soldiers could be counted on at all times. The new Macedonian soldier was given the opportunity to develop team skills, unity, cohesion and trust in his peers, the kind of qualities a part time soldier would lack.

The Macedonian soldiers were not the only ones to benefit from Philip's reforms. A full time army required arms, shelter, food and clothing. To support it, a whole new industry had to be developed employing a variety of people and skills.

I also want to point out that we must not forger the general contribution of the Macedonian population who not only supplied their king with soldiers but also provided the labour to cultivate his lands and feed his army, build his roads, weapons, siege engines and ships. Philip would have been powerless without the support and loyalty of the Macedonian people.

With his army reorganized, full of confidence, and equipped with modern weapons, Philip turned his attention south. He first went to Thessaly where he won an easy victory and by 352 BC, was in firm control of a region extending as far south as the pass of Thermopylae. As part of the peace deal with the Thessalians, Philip married Nicesipolis, a local woman of prominence. Nicesipolis bore Philip a daughter whom he named Thessalonika to commemorate his victory over Thessaly.

With Thessaly on his side Philip was now staring down at the northern gate of Greece, which at the time, was well guarded by powerful Athenian, Spartan and Achaean forces.

With his southern frontier secured, Philip returned to Macedonia to take care of business closer to home. In 348 BC, he sent his Macedonian army to the Chalcidice peninsula and cleared out some of the Greek encroachments, starting with the city-state of Olynthus. Olynthus was the grand city of the northern Greeks, a symbol of Greek power that stood in Macedonia's way. Philip sacked Olynthus and sold its population into slavery, a practice which at that time was expected of Greeks but not of Macedonians. Like Methone before, Olynthus and some 31 other Chalcidician cities were cleared of intrusions and their lands were redistributed to the Macedonians. One of the cities sacked was Stageira, the birthplace of Aristotle.

When Philip was finished, he ended foreign encroachment and reclaimed the entire Chalcidice peninsula for his Macedonians.

Up until 348 BC, even though Philip controlled virtually everything north of the Lamian Gulf, he was never a real threat to the powerful Greeks in the south. He may have annexed Greek colonies, cut off access to some of the Greek markets but was never a threat to the Greek way of life or existence.

In 348 BC, however, things started to change. It began with Philip's intervention, on Thessaly's behalf, to free Delphi from rebel elements. Delphi was a religious center whose neutrality was guarded by the Amphictyonic League, an ancient and mainly religious association of central Greeks. When a rebellious splinter faction of the Amphictyonic League broke away and threatened the center's neutrality, Philip was called in to sort things out.

Philip was more than willing to oblige his Thessalian allies but at the same time he had to be cautious not to upset the Athenians and Thebans who opposed each other but also had vested interests in Delphi. At this stage, an Athenian-Theban alliance would have been catastrophic for Macedonia and had to be avoided at all costs.

Being already allied with Thebes, Philip considered a diplomatic move with Athens by offering the Athenians joint participation in removing the rebels. Unfortunately, the Athenians in Athens, being suspicious of Philip's motives, declined and among themselves proposed to take countermeasures to stop Philip from intervening altogether, even by force if necessary. Fortunately, before any damage was done, wisdom prevailed and the Athenians decided to talk to Philip before attacking him. Being a master of diplomacy, the wily Philip convinced his elder Athenians that he meant no harm and only wished to see this matter solved peacefully. To appease the Athenians he went a step further and personally offered guarantees of Athenian hegemony over several regions near Attica, something the Athenians had desired for a long time.

Philip's latest proposal was a success and gained full Athenian acceptance. It even gained support from Demosthenes, Philip's staunchest critic.

Unfortunately, what was viewed as fair by Athens was obviously viewed as unfair by Thebes and problems began to arise.

To get himself out of this, Philip turned to the Amphictyonic Council and asked the council members to disbar the rebel group by vote and replace it with the Macedonian king.

In a stroke of genius Philip evaded an impending war with Athens, ended the rebellion at Delphi, saved the Amphictyony, averted a war with Thebes, made an alliance with Athens and made himself a voting member of the Amphictyonic League. This indeed was a diplomatic victory, worthy of the Macedonian king


Philip's antagonists unfortunately, viewed what was good for Macedonia with suspicion. This included the great Athenian orator, Demosthenes.

Demosthenes in 351 BC delivered his first Philippic, a series of speeches warning the Greeks about the Macedonian threat to their liberty. His second Philippic was delivered in 344 BC, his third in 341 BC and his three Olynthiacs in 349 BC, all directed to arouse Greece against Philip.

Demosthenes's most famous oration was the third Philippic which speaks of Philip as being "not only not Greek, nor related to the Greeks, but not even a barbarian from any place that can be named with honors, but a pestilent knave from Macedonia, whence it was never yet possible to buy a decent slave" (Third Philippic, 31). Words which echo the fact that the ancient Greeks regarded the ancient Macedonians as "dangerous neighbors" but never as kinsmen.

Despite Demoshenes's castigation, peace held out, at least for now, and having an equal seat in the council of Greek power, Philip was free to return to Macedonia.

Most of 345 BC, Philip spent leading his army against the Illyrians, Dardanians, and the Thracians and generally quelling rebellions. In 344 BC the Thessalians rebelled but were put down swiftly. In 342 BC, Philip marched into Epirus and replaced King Arybbas with his young protégé and brother-in-law Alexander (Amaxis).

Sensing growing discontentment in the Athenians, Philip estimated that it would be a matter of time before war would break out between Macedonia and Athens, especially since Athens amended the Macedonian-Athenian peace agreement hoping it would be unacceptable to Philip.

Determined to attract Greek states to his side, Philip continued to make alliances with the smaller cities. He was determined to attract the cities that were hostile to the more powerful states in hopes of dividing and weakening the Greeks.

By 340 BC, a point of no return was reached with Athens when Philip could no longer accommodate Athenian demands to sustain the peace treaty, especially after Athens sponsored anti-Macedonian uprisings in the northern Aegean.

In retaliation for this latest Athenian treachery, in 340 BC while campaigning against internal rebellions in the east, Philip captured the Athenian grain fleet. This was the last straw for Athens and under the personal leadership of Demosthenes the Athenians persuaded the Thebans to jointly declare war on Macedonia. The weaker states, having little choice in the matter, also joined the declaration. What Philip tried to avoid at all costs was now unavoidable.

Before Philip could accommodate the Greeks to the south, he had some unfinished business to take care of in the north. He quickly assembled a large army and marched deep into Thracian territory and by 339 BC, conquered most of Thrace. Unfortunately, he was unable to subdue the eastern coastal cities of Byzantium and Perinthus, which withstood even his most severe sieges. It was certain that neither city would have survived had it not been for the assistance received from the Greeks and Persians. Ironically, even though Persia, for more than a century, had been the most hated nation in Greece, still the Greeks sided with the Persians against the Macedonians.

Responding to a Scythian challenge Philip abandoned the eastern city sieges and, in the spring of 339 BC, led his Macedonians beyond Thrace. There, near the Danube River, he clashed with the Scythians and won a stunning victory crowned only by the death of Areas, the Scythian king.

Unfortunately, on his return trip home Philip's convoy was attacked and his booty was lost to Thracian Triballians. During the skirmish, Philip suffered a severe leg injury, which left him lame for life. After returning home he spent several months recovering.

While Philip was recovering, the Greeks to the south were making alliances and amassing a great army to invade Macedonia.

On hearing this, Philip decided it was time to meet the Greek aggression head on and end this treachery once and for all.

On August 2nd, 338 BC, in the shallow Cephisus River valley near the village of Chaeronea on the road to Thebes, the two opposing armies met face to face.

On the north side stood Philip's Macedonians with 30,000 infantry and 2,000 cavalry, the largest Macedonian army ever assembled. Among Philip's commanding generals was his 18 year-old son, Alexander, in charge of the cavalry.

On the south side, stood the united Athenians, Thebans, and the Achaeans who assembled 35,000 infantry and 2,000 cavalry, the largest army ever assembled since the Persian invasion.

Closely matched, the armies clashed and while the battle ensued the Macedonian right flank fell back and began to retreat. Seeing the Macedonians weakening, the Greek general gave orders to push on and drive the Macedonians back to Macedonia. As the Macedonians retreated, the Greek flanks broke rank and began the pursuit. Not realizing it was a trick, the Greeks found themselves surrounded and slaughtered by Alexander's cavalry.

When it was over, the majority of the Greek army, including the elite Theban Sacred Band lay dead in the fields of Chaeronea.

Philip erected a statue of a lion to commemorate the sacrifice of the Theban Sacred Band who upheld their tradition and fought to the last man.

Ancient Greek and Roman historians consider the battle of Chaeronea as the end of Greek liberty, history and civilization.

Victorious, soon after the battle, Philip proceeded to secure his newest conquests by strategically placing Macedonian garrisons in Thebes, Chalcis, Ambracia, Corinth and the Peloponnesus. He then summoned the representatives of all Greek states to a grand peace conference at Corinth where he made peace with each one of them. Sparta was the only one that abstained. Being no threat to him, Philip decided to leave Sparta alone.

Philip organized the Greek City States into an alliance known as the "League of Corinth". It was an alliance among the Greeks and an alliance between the Greeks and the king of Macedonia. The league formed a separate alliance with Macedonia, but Macedonia itself was not a member of the Greek league. This was an alliance that treated all nations great and small as equals. Conversely, the lesser states looked up to Macedonia, as a great power, to guarantee their rights and existence among the greater states.

Living in peace with his neighbours is what Philip had envisioned ten years earlier. It could have been achieved through diplomacy. Even at this stage I believe Philip wanted to secure his kingdom by peaceful means and only resorted to war when all other means were exhausted. If there is any blame to be placed, it should be placed on the Athenians for their suspicions and mistrust.

Having secured peace with the Greeks, Philip was now looking at neutralizing the next major threat, Persia. The idea of subduing Persia appealed to some but not all Greeks. Those who favoured the idea, especially those who belonged to the League of Corinth, elected Philip as the commander-in-chief of the Asian expeditionary force. Those who opposed the idea, especially the Greek military and its commanders who were now out of work, made their way to Persia to swell the ranks of the Persian mercenary and fight for pay against the Macedonians.

According to the Roman historian Curtius, by the time the Macedonian army set foot in Asia, a force of 50,000 Greeks had joined the Persian king's army and lay in wait to face the Macedonians.

Philip, being more or less satisfied with the conclusion of Greek affairs, returned home to prepare for the Asian campaign.

It has been said that if Philip ever made a mistake, it was in "marrying for love", a rare luxury for any monarch let alone one that had been married not once but six times before. The woman of his desire was Cleopatra, a Macedonian girl of nobility.

Blinded by his love for young Cleopatra, Philip neglected to see that his marriage to her would lead to his break up with Olympias and the estrangement of his son Alexander. Olympias was a proud woman and very protective of her son. Philip's marriage to a younger woman and a Macedonian at that, made her feel both unwanted and an outsider in her own home. To her, Philip's latest marriage was a dishonour to her reputation as a wife and a threat to her son's legitimacy as heir to the Macedonian throne.

Not knowing what else to do, Olympias and Alexander left for Epirus. Immediately after taking his mother home, Alexander left Epirus and went to the Illyrians. From there he negotiated his way back to Pella where his father forgave him for his misdeeds.

Unfortunately for Olympias, Philip's marriage to Cleopatra lasted longer than expected and she bore him a child.

During the following spring (336 BC), in preparation for the Persian offensive, Philip decided to send ahead an advance force. Commanded by generals Attalus and Parmenio, 10,000 Macedonian soldiers were prepared and sent across to Asia Minor to pave the way for the next spring's offensive.

While the soldiers were making their way across the Hellespont, the Macedonians in Aegae were preparing for a grand celebration. Philip's daughter Cleopatra was about to be wed to Prince Alexander (Amaxis) of Epirus. It was indeed going to be a lavish festival with much entertainment and games. Philip had invited various guests from all over his kingdom to partake in the activities and witness the marriage of his daughter. Also among the invited was Olympias. Being the sister of the groom, Olympias was obliged to attend. At first, she was apprehensive, but after being assured that Philip would welcome her, she accepted the invitation. True to his word, Philip was courteous and made up with her the same day she arrived.

It has been said that after the first day's activities, Philip visited with Olympias and among other things discussed Olympias's concern about Alexander's chances for the throne. Philip promised her that she had nothing to fear and reassured her that Alexander was his first choice to replace him, when the time came.

The first day's activities concluded without incident, but disaster struck on the second day. During a procession in the theater at Aegae while standing between his son Alexander and his new son-in-law Alexander, a member of the royal guard named Pausanias, struck and killed Philip with a dagger thrust. Pausanias ran to escape, towards some waiting horses, but tripped and fell down. His pursuers caught up to him and speared him to death.

The "Greatest of the Kings of Europe" who liberated Macedonia from foreign occupation, brought her back from the edge of extinction and made her into a world power, now lay dead in his own palace, killed by his own body guard.

Philip II King of Macedonia from 360 BC to 336 BC died a senseless death and was succeeded by his son Alexander.

Many historians have laboured looking for reasons to explain why Philip was murdered. Was it a foreign plot? A conspiracy premeditated by his son Alexander? Was it an act of rage by a demented soldier? Or was it Olympias's revenge for embarrassing her by marrying Cleopatra? I guess we will never know for sure.

Philip's plans for Persia now lay in the hands of his successor. He did whatever he could to make Macedonia great but even he couldn't have imagined how great she would become.

To be continued...

And now I will leave you with this:

Modern Greece has once again shown that "the more things change, the more they remain the same".

Greece in July 2003 sent a letter of protest to the United States of America, protesting the use of the word "Macedonia". The United States and the Republic of Macedonia recently signed an agreement where the Republic of Macedonia is to provide U.S. citizens immunity from prosecution by the International Criminal Court under Article 98.

Yet again, Greece has shown her true feelings for her neighbour Macedonia and contempt for the Macedonian people.

What is most disturbing about this is not that the Greeks are upset, but why they are upset?

Why are the Greeks so upset over such a minor and unimportant issue that doesn't even concern them?

It is obvious why the word "Macedonia" is of vital importance to the Macedonians. It identifies their place of origin and defines who they are! Without "Macedonia" the Macedonians have no home, no history and no place to call their own. Without Macedonia they might as well be extinct.

What's not so obvious is why the name "Macedonia" is so important to the Greeks? The Greeks already have their own country and a name, with which they identify and defines who they are!

So why are the Greeks so eager to take "Macedonia" and push the Macedonians into extinction?

The name "Macedonia" is important to the Greeks for two significant reasons:

1. By claiming the name "Macedonia" exclusively for themselves, Greeks falsely believe that they have the right to the Macedonian territory they forcibly occupied in 1912-1913. 2. 3. By claiming that "Macedonia is Greek" on historical grounds, i.e. ancient Macedonia belonged to the ancient Greeks; modern Greeks falsely believe they can lay claim to Macedonia's ancient heritage. 4. In reality, it is well known that Greece never existed as a sovereign state prior to 1829 AD. The so-called ancient "City-States" were a patchwork of states with different governments, languages and cultures and were never consolidated as a single state. Also, the modern Greeks are not the same people as the ancient Greeks. Despite Greek denials, modern Greece is a multinational state made up of various nationalities, just like any other Balkan State.

As for Macedonia, any reputable historian who can't be threatened or bought off by the Greeks, will tell you that ancient Macedonia was a single state governed by a central monarchy and was never considered to be Greek, not even by the ancient Greeks themselves. Furthermore, Macedonia "conquered" the Greeks in 338 BC, not the other way around. Ancient Macedonia was never Greek and neither was modern Macedonia (not until 1912-1913 when she was forcibly invaded and partitioned by Greece, Serbia and Bulgaria).

Ancient Greece, on the other hand, was a Macedonian province from 338 BC until Rome invaded Macedonia some two and a half centuries later.

If the Greeks have reached a stage of desperation to challenge the USA over the "name issue", imagine what they are capable of doing to lesser nations or people who get in their way!

There is enough room for all of us to live peacefully in the Balkans and it will take brave leadership to make that happen. Until it does, however, the Macedonian people will continue to be victims of Greek aggression, arrogance, stupidity and greed.


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Eugene N. Borza, In the Shadow of Olympus, The Emergence of Macedon. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1990.

Michael A. Dimitri, The Daughter of Neoptolemus. Fort Wayne, Indiana: Alexandra Publishing, 1993.

Michael A. Dimitri, The Radiance of Ancient Macedonia, 1992.

Josef S. G. Gandeto, Ancient Macedonians, The differences Between the Ancient Macedonians and the Ancient Greeks.

Nickolas G. L. Hammond, The Miracle that was Macedonia, London: Sidwig and Jackson, 1991.

George Nakratzas M.D., The Close Racial Kinship Between the Greeks, Bulgarians and Turks, Macedonia and Thrace.

Jozko Šavli, Matej Bor, Ivan Tomazic, VENETI: First Builders of European Community.

John Shea, Macedonia and Greece The Struggle to Define a New Balkan Nation. McFarland

You can contact the author at rstefov@hotmail.com