Philip II of Macedon

May 2 19:53:27 2009
Philip was a cunning politician. He played the Greek city-states off each other, manipulated them with bribes, and took advantage of opportunistic acquisitions to prevent any coordinated and timely opposition (Justin, Epitome, VII.4,6 & IX.3 and Demosthenes, Philippic III, 9-14). The general weakness of the individual city-states prevented any one of them from enforcing a hegemonic, imperial or voluntary league or coalition against Philip.

However, Plutarch suggests that they actually did form a significant alliance. “Greece was now wrought up to a high pitch of expectation at the thought of her future, and her peoples and cities all drew together, Euboeans, Achaeans, Corinthians, Megarians, Leucadians, and Corcyreans.” The main force missing was the Thebans “at the time they were regarded as the finest soldiers in Greece” who Demosthenes soon convinced to join (Plutarch, Demosthenes, 17).

In the end I don’t think it really mattered. Philip changed the way wars were fought and I think the Greeks were helpless to stop him. Their lack of unity, if that even was the case, only made things faster and easier.

Macedon was not Persia. Philip did not need hundreds of thousands of troops and an extensive supply train. When the Persians were on the march there was still time for the Greeks to react. The Persian army traveled slowly and came from a great distance. The Macedonian army was smaller, traveled lighter, and moved faster (Frontinus, Strategemata, 4.1.6 & 4.2.4). This, combined with Philips political skill and geographic proximity, could keep the Greeks off-guard and uncertain of his intentions until it was too late. But even with better preparation I don’t think the Greek states, with their part-time citizen hoplites, would have the resources and social structure needed to support a defense against Philip’s full time professional army.

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~ by severalfourmany on May 2, 2009.

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