Ian Worthington

 

On his book Philip II of Macedonia

Cover Interview of April 24, 2009

The wide angle

Philip II of Macedonia did not conquer on the scale Alexander did.  And so Philip is not the household name that Alexander is.  But Philip changed the course of Greek history forever, and he made Macedonia a superpower in the ancient world.  Before Philip’s reign, Macedonia was in a terrible state.  With no centralized government, no army other than a weak, conscript one, no economy, no unity, the country was teetering on the brink of utter collapse.  Macedonia had been victim to invasions and dynastic interference from neighboring tribes and Greek states further afield, such as Athens and Thebes.  The chaos was intensified when Philip’s immediate predecessor and 4,000 troops were killed in battle, two powerful tribes massed to invade, and the Athenians and Thracians supported two different pretenders to the throne.

Philip saved Macedonia in its hour of need, and forged what would be the first nation state in Europe.  He left Alexander a united Macedonia for the first time in its history, with an empire stretching from Greece to the Danube; a centralized monarchy; thriving, urban centers; a formidable, a first class army that became the best in the Greek world and advances in siegecraft that opened the way for Alexander’s great military successes; a strong economy; and the plan to invade Asia.  He crushed the Greeks at the Battle of Chaeronea, ending their autonomy, and so laid the foundations of what would become the vast Macedonian empire under Alexander.

How he did all of this in a reign of only 23 years is a remarkable story.  It is a combination of diplomacy, military skill, speed, ruthlessness, several polygamous marriages, and an uncanny knack of knowing what his enemies would do before they did.  In battles and sieges he lost an eye, shattered a collarbone and suffered a near fatal wound in his leg, but he remained the traditional warrior king to the end.  As a man, he lived hard, loved hard, and was utterly loyal to his kingdom and its position in the Greek world.