Vergina Macedonian tomb.
generals established herself
temporarily as the leading power in Greece. By defeating the Spartans in open
warfare she freed the helots, thereby reducing Sparta forever to the rank of a
second- or third-rate power. But away in the north from 359 b.c. onward, a new
power was rising in Greece. This was Macedon, ruled by a shrewd and crafty
semi-barbarian named Philip. Philip perceived very clearly that if he could keep
the Greeks disunited he could pick them off one by one.
Thebes never did come to realize the dangerous nature of Philip,
nor the threat that he presented to Greece. The Athenians were divided in their
opinions, one party thinking it best to collaborate and "appease" Philip;
other, led by Demosthenes, believing that the only safe policy was to stop
Philip before he became too strong. Philip himself did his best to win support
in both cities, spending lavishly of the gold which he had won in northeastern
Greece, while at the same time building himself a small but strong and effective
army, with new military formations hitherto unknown in Greece Though Demosthenes
was able to persuade the Athenians to send an expedition to Olynthus, which
Philip was threatening, the expedition was too small and arrived too late to be
of any great assistance. Philip, after capturing Olynthus, destroyed it utterly,
thereby providing an example to the rest of the Greeks which he hoped would
Philip's barbarity incensed Demosthenes but cowed most of the
Athenian statesmen. Indeed, a writer of speeches named Isocrates even urged
Philip to unite the Greeks and engage in a great expedition against Persia.
Philip in fact intended to make such an expedition, but the means by which he
proposed to unite Greece were not calculated to please any Athenian democrats.
In fact Philip's diplomacy paid off handsomely. Although he was not himself
regarded as a Greek by the other Greeks, who thought they could use him for
their own ends, he was made head of a Greek religious league and invited to
chastise some Greek cities which had been accused of sacrilege. Philip, nothing
loath, came down into Greece, and suddenly confronted Thebes, which realized at
last that there was nothing to hinder him if he wished to turn upon Thebes
itself. Demosthenes hastily organized an alliance between Athens and Thebes, but
it was too late. Philip defeated the united armies at the battle of Chaeronea in
338 b.c, and thereafter was the
undisputed leader of Greece.
Philip, however, had not forgotten his intention of invading
Persia. He wished to be supported by the Greeks so that the attack would appear
to be a Greek expedition as a revenge for the fifth century invasion by Xerxes,
even though it was headed by a Macedonian. The Greeks had no objection to
making him their formal leader, though they had no intention of supplying him
with any forces. It was, after all, possible that he would meet his death in
Asia! Philip returned to his country to prepare for the expedition, but was
shortly thereafter murdered. At once all the Greek cities revolted. However,
Philip was succeeded not by a nonentity like most of his ancestors, but by
Alexander the Great. As soon as his hands were free, Alexander descended upon
the rebellious Greeks and destroyed the city of Thebes. Athens, fearing the same
fate, submitted abjectly, even going so far as to congratulate Alexander on his
destruction of Thebes. Alexander's terms were mild, though he insisted that
Demosthenes should be sent into exile. But he was so much more interested in his
expedition to Persia than he was in the affairs of Greece that he left a
military governor in Greece and immediately embarked on the Persian expedition.
Like his father, he was made head of the expedition by the Greeks. But most of
the latter postponed any serious military support until it could be seen whether
Alexander was likely to be successful.