Philip II of Macedon  [382-336 BCE; assassinated]

Macedonian king who created the military, political & cultural order that his son, Alexander, used to transform the history of the eastern Mediterranean & western Asia. Philip was himself personally responsible for reversing the crumbling political power of Macedonia in the central Balkan peninsula through his reorganization of the army & invention of the long pike [sarissa], a weapon that gave his phalanx a formidable advantage over enemy forces. Though initially regarded by Greeks as a barbarian, Philip--a master of diplomacy as well as military tactics--became the self-appointed peace-keeper among the feuding city states of Greece. As champion of a Pan Hellenic order, he forged a league to expel Persians from Greek cities in western Asia Minor. Though Philip himself was killed before achieving that goal, Alexander quickly turned his father's achievements & vision into a whirlwind campaign that gave Macedonians control of the whole Persian empire.

Prior to his unexpected accession to the Macedonian throne in 359 BCE, none would have anticipated such a pivotal role for the third son of Amyntas III, a ruler whose kingdom was disintegrating due to insubordination & invasions. Philip had himself spent the previous decade (370-360 BCE) as a hostage in Thebes, the strongest Greek city state at the time, where he learned Greek military tactics.  Soon after his return to Pella [the capitol of Macedonia] at age 22, Philip had to use experiences learned from the Greeks to retrain & rebuild a Macedonian army that had suffered a defeat in which their king [Philip's older brother] had been killed. In the following decade he not only regained control of territory lost by his predecessors but he intervened in Greece to resolve the so-called "sacred war" between Greek city states over the control of the temple of Apollo & oracle of Delphi (346 BCE). As reward for having established peace at the religious center of the Greek world, he was not only admitted to membership in the Delphic confederacy but elected leader of its council--an unprecedented honor for a foreigner. Some, including the Athenian Isocrates, urged him to lead a Greek coalition against Persia.

Philip's growing influence in Greece, however, earned the resentment of Athenian leaders who saw him as a threat to their preeminent role in Greek politics. Inflamed by the anti-Macedonian rhetoric of Demosthenes, Athens declared war on Philip in 340 BCE. When Thebes joined the Athenians to block Philip's army from reaching Athens, Philip crushed their combined forces at Chaeronea (2 August 338 BCE), due in part to the young Alexander's shrewd deployment of the cavalry to outflank the larger Greek army. Though a triumphant Philip occupied Thebes [only a dozen years after his release as its hostage], he spared Athens.  To commemorate his victory Philip erected a shrine [called the Philippeon] at Olympia containing gold & ivory statues of himself & his family,  to claim a place among the heroes & gods of Greek myth. Instead of seeking reprisals against Greek opponents, he formed the Corinthian League (337 BCE), a council with representation from all Greek city states [except Sparta] with himself as its leader [hegemon].  Yet this peace-making role of the Corinthian league was only a means for Philip to unite Greek forces to drive the Persians out of Ionia [Greek Asia Minor]--a plan he devised but did not live to realize. 

Unfortunately, Philip's impressive military & political achievements demonstrating his uncommon restraint & foresight in public policy were offset by incautious folly in his personal life.  In 338 BCE he repudiated Alexander's non-Macedonian mother, Olympias, to marry the younger Cleopatra, the daughter of a powerful Macedonian noble. Alexander left Macedonia with his mother, jeopardizing the line of succession.

A lusty bon vivant noted for excessive drinking & debauchery, Philip's end came unexpectedly at a lavish celebration he had staged for his daughter's wedding to the king of Epirus--Alexander's uncle. The wedding feast concluded with a festal procession bearing statues of the 12 Olympian gods followed by a statue of Philip himself enthroned. Ironically, the procession that implied his inclusion among the Greek pantheon of immortals had barely concluded, when Philip was assassinated by Pausanius, a disgruntled favorite, as he entered the theater. Though rumors that Olympias and/or Alexander instigated Philip's murder were accepted by some ancient biographers [e.g., Satyrus], modern critical historians generally consider such a conspiracy to be improbable.

References: Josephus, Antiquities 11.304, 12.354. 
                  
_____, War
2.360.
                   Justin, Epitome 7.4-9.8

Other resources on line: 

Like other rulers in the Hellenic world Philip claimed descent from a hero of classic Greek mythology, in his case: Heracles, mortal son of Zeus who attained immortality as a result of his feats. Though Philip did not overtly claim divinity his erection of the Philippeon among the shrines at Olympia & the procession of idols that preceded his death are evidence of his desire to be counted among the gods like his legendary forbearer. The same aspiration is reflected in the coins he issued. The face bore the image of Zeus (above) or Apollo [whose temple Philip liberated] or Heracles, all with features like Philip's. The reverse side with the simple inscription Philippou ["of Philip"] bore the the image of a horse & rider [or a chariot], designed to immortalize Philip's own victory in the equestrian events at the Olympic games in 356 BCE, the year of Alexander's birth.

For high resolution images of this & other coins of Philip II see Ancient Coinage of Macedonia, Kings, Philip II in David Surber's excellent ancient coins website: Wildwinds.

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