The Greeks of the 4th century simply couldn't stop fighting with one another.  With Persian gold flowing just to make sure the fighting never stopped, what's going to happen? Well, a house divided against itself cannot stand, and, sooner or later, an outside invader is going to take over.

Enter: Philip of Macedon.

Philip marks an important turning point in both Greek and world history.  Both he and his son Alexander both deserve the nickname “the great” if one understands “great” to mean important.  But were he and his son great in any other sense?  Maybe—or maybe not.

I haven’t mentioned Macedon much in this course: with good reason!  The Macedonians weren’t very important.  To the rest of the Greeks, they were just barbarians who happened to speak Greek.  

Macedon had been a simple warrior society.  The soldiers elected as king whoever they felt was the best leader, not very advanced at all.  But this had begun to change about 50 years before the time of Philip.  Macedon began trading extensively with Athens, and with trade came culture as well.  Art and poetry begin to develop: Euripides himself went to Macedonian capital, Pella.  

But Macedon was still not very powerful…not until Philip.  

Philip took the throne in 359 BC at age of 23.  He had been a hostage at Thebes where he learned from Epaminondas and from Pelopidas.  If fact, Philip apparently was apparently “inspired” by Pelopidas.  Philip later adopted Epaminondas ideas, but he added innovations of his own including the sarissa, a long spear, and the Macedonian phalanx.  He centralized government, created a powerful army with which he subdued his immediate neighbors, got access to sea, and secured control of gold mines.

Philip was not just a fighter, but a shrewd diplomat.  He married Olympias of Epirus—a shrewd move, but political marriage is really nothing new.

Where Philip’s diplomacy was innovative was in the way he used the Sacred Wars, wars that involved the oracle at Delphi.  It was the Sacred Wars that gave Philip the excuse to deal with another threat, the threat that came from that perennial Greek power, Phocis.  

Phocis?  Where does Phocis come from?

Well, as religion broke down among the Greeks, religious taboos broke down too.  Apollo’s oracle is rich: but if Apollo isn’t really there, if the oracle is just a Delphian scheme, why not help oneself?  Phocis seized the treasury at Delphi—then hired enough mercenaries to make sure they are a military powerhouse.

Philip first managed to get himself admitted to confederation protecting Delphi, then took out Phocis in a “just cause.” Somewhat refreshing to have a leader who cares about such things again…at least in appearance, if nothing else.

With the defeat of Phocis, Philip was now a power in Greece itself: and certainly there was a possibility he might dominate all of Greece.  Not everyone welcomed this proposal:

In Athens, the orator Demosthenes delivered a series of Philippics, warnings about the danger to freedom Philip posed.  But Demosthenes said that Philip wasn’t the real problem.  More worrisome, the deteriorating character of Athenian democracy. Among the negatives:

1.    Politicians who tell you what you want to hear rather than truth.
2.    Slander of those in public office/leaders who have to fight legal challenges
3.    Bribery
4.    Citizens who prefer what’s palatable to truth
5.    Apathy to public affairs “no new taxes”

But Philip found it easy enough to counter Demosthenes.  He simply paid another orator (Aeschines) to make the case that Philip was a good guy… and, even if Aeschines was completely convincing, he didn’t find it all that hard delay action by people who didn’t really want to act anyway.

Aeschines had an easy job defending Philip.

1.    Philip will make peace.
2.    Philip’s intentions are good.
3.    If we get behind Philip, we can fight the real enemy: Persia.

In 338, Philip moved south. Thebes and Athens decided to oppose him.  At Chaeronea, Philip won convincingly.  He treated Athens leniently, but no so the Thebans, though, interestingly, he built a monument to the Sacred Band, a monument that still stands.

Chaeronea left him in a very strong position.  But conquering is one thing, consolidating one’s conquests is something else.  And here Philip again show his versatility.

He called a congress at Corinth, where he formed the Corinthian League and dissolved all other Greek leagues.  He took the title hegemon (leader), and (wisely) left Sparta (weak but proud) alone.

Earlier, he had sent the Spartans a message, "You are advised to submit without further delay, for if I bring my army into your land, I will destroy your farms, slay your people, and raze your city." Their reply, "If."

Leaving the Sparta issues aside for another time, Philip unites the Greeks by promising them they are now going to beat the real enemy—Persia.  He then puts together the army that will do just that…but not under his leadership.

Philip had some real weaknesses.  He was constantly drunk, and constantly unfaithful to his wife.  Both these problems contributed to his downfall when he fell in lust with Cleopatra, a Macedonian girl of too high a rank to make a concubine.  Philip decided to divorce Olympias and marry Cleopatra.  

A problem: Epirus was too important to alienate, so Philip had to create a counter marriage.  He proposed giving his daughter as wife to the king of Epirus.  This was good enough, apparently, and Philip proceeded with his marriage to Cleopatra.

But at a celebration of the marriage, Philip got drunk as a  skunk.  One of the Macedonians proposed a toast: may this marriage produce a legitimate heir (casting aspersions on Alexander’s legitimacy).  Alexander tossed a cup of wine in the face of the man making the toast, and Philip was angry.  He drew his sword, but  tripped.  Alexander mocked the man who would conquer Persian but couldn’t even cross the room.

Olympias and Alexander were both alienated: not good enemies to have.  Sometime later, Philip, at a wedding celebration for his daughter is assassinated.  Was Olympias behind it?  Probably. Alexander too?  Maybe.

The actual assassination was carried out by a man named Pausanias. Texts (at least the discreet old texts) will tell you only that the man had a private grudge against Philip.  Diodorus Siculus (a Greek historian who lived 300 year later) tells us what the grudge was.

Pausanias, a “hearer” of Philip’s, lost his favored place to another man. Pausanias insulted the new “hearer,” apparently provoking him to a rash action causing his death. Attalus (another figure in the lovers’ triange/quadrangle, now pentagon) was angry with Pausanias, got him drunk and raped him.  Pausanias complained to Philip who wouldn’t do anything about it, so Pausanias was ready to assassinate Philip.

Ok.  So Philip is dead, and all his work would have done for nothing had it not been for an even greater man, his son Alexander.

We’ve got all sorts of admiring stories of Alexander.  The stories mark him out as perceptive and brave (e.g., the Bucephalus story) and well-educated (a man who had Aristotle for a tutor, and carried around with him the Iliad as his most prized possession).

He certainly was precocious in terms of military leadership, commanding the Macedonian cavalry at Chaeronea—at the age of 18!).  He reacted quickly—and reacted rightly: great instincts.

This is shown by his reaction to Philip’s death in 336. Alexander’s position on the Macedonian throne wasn’t at all secure. Illyrian was ready to attack Macedonia, Thessaly is up in arms, and the Greeks revolt.

Alexander headed south, found the Thessalians holding the pass, maneuvered behind them, and forced their submission without bloodshed.  He then moved quickly to the south, stopping the Greek revolt before it could even get organized, and only then then head north and to take-on and defeat the Illyrians: the threat closest to home and the one most of us would have thought it right to deal with first.

After the Illyrian victory, the rumor spreads in Greece that Alexander had died, and so they launch new revolts. Alexander has his army on the spot in the south again before they even figure out he’s not dead!

Alexander offers the Thebans mercy if they surrender. They refuse.  He beats their army, and then destroys Thebes, killing 6,000, enslaving the rest, and dividing Theban territory.  He then heads toward Athens…and the Athenians beg his pardon.  Which he gives them.

Alexander then Unites the Greeks by preparing a war with Persia.  With 30,000 foot soldiers and 5,000 cavalry he’s going to take on the largest empire the world had ever seen.

He crosses into Persia, wins at the Granicus river, cuts the Gordian knot, wins antother battle at Issus, capturing tons of  Persian treasure.  He then heads to Egypt where he is welcomed as a liberator: a new pharaoh.  At the Siwah Oasis, the priest declare him the son of Ammon.

Alexander now heads into Persian territory, winning at Gaugamela (Arbella).  This leaves wide open Susa, and Persepolis: all of Persia is in his hands. He pushes farther on, even into India.  He wanted to go farther, but his men forced him to turn back.  Wounded and sick from Malaria—he dies in Babylon.  

He had created the largest empire the world had ever seen.  A great conqueror?  Certainly.  A great man?  Well….maybe.

It’s hard to evaluate him fairly since he died so young, too young to consolidate his empire.  But he tried!

Everywhere he went he spread Greek culture and encouraged trade.  He created all sorts of new cities (Alexandrias!).

He valued other cultures as well.  He married Roxanne, a Persian princess, and encouraged his Macedonians likewise to intermarry with Persians.

Ancient historians wrote admiringly of his conduct toward women and boys.  He had Macedonians executed for rape.  He married a princess he could simply have taken without marriage, and he considered it insulting when he was offered boys for his use.

But consolidating his empire wasn’t easy.  Persian and Macedonian royal customs were drastically different.  A Macedonian king was first among equals.  His closest associates were hetairoi, companions.  Persian royals were, if not gods, the next thing to it.

Alexander adopted Persian royal dress and royal customs: perhaps necessary adornments for his Persian subjects, but offensive to his Macdeonians.  In particular, they objected to proskunesis, “bowing the knee,” a word we usually translate as worship.

The Siwah incident seemed to go to Alexander’s head; he was a god, and wanted to be treated as such.  Callisthenes, Aristotle’s nephew, refused: and fell into disfavor.  Flatterers like Anaxarchus (who told Alexander that a King does whatever they want) grew in importance.

Naturally enough, Alexander’s conduct provoked plots against him, and like all people with power, he was determined to get them before they got him.  Calisthenes was killed with no evidence.  The son of Parmenio (Alexander’s finest general) actually was plotting.  Alexander ordered him killed…and ordered Parmenio killed too.  

Further, Alexander had his father’s tendency to drunkenness.  At a drinking party, the courtesan Thais suggested burning Persepolis to avenge the burning of Athens.  And that’s what they did.  At another party, Alexander offered a prize to one who could drink the most.  The winner polished off 12 quarts of wine.  He got the prize, but died of alcohol poisoning!  At another drinking party, those present began praising Alexander as the son of Zeus and belittling Philip.  Clitus, a man who had saved Alexander’s life, started praising Philip.  Alexander thought it an insult and killed Clitus.  Alexander felt guilty: but the flatterers stepped in; a King does whatever he wants said Anaxarchus.

And the truth of the matter is that the positive picture we have of Alexander’s character is derived in large part from flatterers.  In truth, he was not always the admirable man they portray.  

After the capture of Tyre, he had 2000 Tyrians crucified. He was sometimes a cruel man, no matter what the flatterers say. And then there’s his persecution of the Zoroastrians and his burning of their ancient books.  Alexander is remember by both Zoroastrians and Moslems as a devil

But perhaps Alexander’s greatness is best judged not by such failings, but by the lasting results.  Here, in part, Alexander failed.  His empire did not survive him.  At his death, Alexander’s generals ended up splitting the empire: and for three centuries they and their descendents fought one another to see who would be the next Alexander.

But what did survive: Alexander’s spreading of Greek culture, and his attempts to mix it with other cultures. Alexander’s conquests led to what we call the Hellenistic age, a period in which many non-Greeks pick up aspects of Greek culture.  

The most important feature of the Hellenistic age, the widespread use of koine (common) Greek.  This somewhat simplified version of Greek allowed Greek culture to spread, and, later, the New Testament (written in koine) spread far more quickly because so many people in the eastern Mediterranean had koine as a common language.

Plutarch in his “On the Fortune of Alexander” praises Alexander as exceeding the philosophers in terms of actual results.

Take a view of Alexander's discipline, and you shall see how he taught the Hyrcanians the conveniency of wedlock, introduced husbandry among the Arachosians, persuaded the Sogdians to preserve and cherish—not to kill—their aged parents; the Persians to reverence and honor—not to marry—their mothers. Most admirable philosophy! which induced the Indians to worship the Grecian Deities, and wrought upon the Scythians to bury their deceased friends, not to feed upon their carcasses. We admire the power of Carneades's eloquence, for forcing the Carthaginian Clitomachus, called Asdrubal before, to embrace the Grecian customs. No less we wonder at the prevailing reason of Zeno, by whom the Babylonian Diogenes was charmed into the love of philosophy. Yet no sooner had Alexander subdued Asia, than Homer became an author in high esteem, and the Persian, Susian, and Gedrosian youth sang the tragedies of Euripides and Sophocles. Among the Athenians, Socrates, introducing [p. 480] foreign Deities, was condemned to death at the prosecution of his accusers. But Alexander engaged both Bactria and Caucasus to worship the Grecian Gods, which they had never known before. Lastly, Plato, though he proposed but one single form of a commonwealth, could never persuade any people to make use of it, by reason of the austerity of his government. But Alexander, building above seventy cities among the barbarous nations, and as it were sowing the Grecian customs and constitutions all over Asia, quite weaned them from their former wild and savage manner of living. The laws of Plato here and there a single person may peradventure study, but myriads of people have made and still make use of Alexander's. And they whom Alexander vanquished were more greatly blessed than they who fled his conquests.

So that if the same Deity which hither sent the soul of Alexander had not too soon recalled it, one law had overlooked all the world, and one form of justice had been as it were the common light of one universal government; while now that part of the earth which Alexander never saw remains without a sun.

Too much praise?  Well, that depends on your attitude toward Greeks and Greek culture—and toward Western civilization in general.

Athens and Jerusalem—the Greeks and the Hebrews.  These are the two major sources of what we call Western civilization—we’ve looked at the first of those sources in this course, next semester for me—it’s on to Ancient Israel.  I hope many of you will join me.