Ancient History of Macedonia 1


Ancient History of Macedonia

George Rawlinson M.A, Canon of Canterbury and Camden Professor of Ancient history at the University of Oxford

Ancient History of Chaldaea, Assyria, Media, Babylonia, Lydia, Phoenicia, Syria, Judaea, Egypt, Carthage, Persia, Greece, Macedonia, Parthia, and Rome., The Colonial Press, New York, 1899.

PART I (ca. B.C. 700 to B.C. 323)

From the Commencement of the Monarchy to the Death of Alexander the Great

According to the tradition generally accepted by the Greeks, the Macedonian kingdom, which under Philip and Alexander attained to such extraordinary greatness, was founded by Hellenic emigrants from Argos. The Macedonians themselves were not Hellenes; they belonged to the barbaric races, not greatly differing from the Greeks in ethnic type, but far behind them in civilization, which bordered Hellas upon the north. They were a distinct race, not Paeonian, not Illyrian, not Thracian; but, of the three, their connection was closest with the Illyrians. The Argive colony, received hospitably, gradually acquired power in the region about Mount Bermius; and Perdiccas, one of the original emigrants, was (according to Herodotus) acknowledged as king. (Other writers mentioned three kings anterior to Perdiccas, whose joint reigns covered the space of about a century.) The period which follows is one of great obscurity, little being known of it but the names of the kings (p.164-165)

With Amyntas I., who was contemporary with Darius Hystaspis, light dawns upon Macedonian history. We find that by this time the Macedonian monarchs of this line had made themselves masters of Pieria and Bottiaea, had crossed the Axius and conquered Mygdonia and Anthemus, had dislodged the original Eordi from Eordia and themselves occupied it, and had dealt similarly with the Alm6pes in Almopia, on the Rhaedias. But the advance of the Persians into Europe gave a sudden check to this period of prosperity. After a submission which was more nominal than real, in B.C. 507, the Macedonians, in B.C. 492, became Persian subjects, retaining, however, their own kings, who accepted the position of tributaries. Amyntas I., who appears to have died about B.C. 498, was succeeded by his son, Alexander I., king at the time of the great invasion of Xerxes, who played no unimportant part in the expedition, B.C. 480 to 470.

The repulse of the Persians set Macedonia free; and the career of conquest appears to have been at once resumed. Crestonaea and Bisaltia were reduced, and the Macedonian dominion pushed eastward almost to the Strymon. The authority of the monarchs of Pella was likewise extended over most of the inland Macedonian tribes, as the Lyncestis, the Eleimiots, and others, who however retained their own kings.

But Macedonia was about this time herself exposed to attacks from two unquiet neighbors. The maritime confederacy of Athens, which gave her a paramount authority over the Greek cities in Chalcidice and even over Methone in Pieria, brought the Athenians into the near neighborhood of Macedon, and necessitated relations between the two powers, which were at first friendly, but which grew to be hostile when Athens by her colony at Amphipolis put a check to the further progress of Macedon in that direction; and were still more embittered by the encouragement which Athens gave to Macedonian chiefs who rebelled against their sovereign. About the same time, a powerful Thracian kingdom was formed under Sitalces, B.C. 440 to 420, which threatened destruction to the far smaller Macedonian state with which it was conterminous. Macedonia, however, under the adroit Perdiccas, escaped both dangers; and, on the whole, increased in prosperity.

The reign of Archelaus, the bastard son of Perdiccas H., though short, was very important for Macedon, since this prince laid the foundation of her military greatness by the attention which he paid to the army, while at the same time he strengthened and improved the country by the construction of highways and of forts. He was also the first of the Macedonian princes who endeavored to encourage among his people a taste for Greek literature. Euripides the tragedian was welcomed to his court, as also was Plato the philosopher, and perhaps Hellanicus tile historian. He engaged in wars with some of the Macedonian princes, as particularly with Arrhibaeus; but he was relieved from all hostile collision with Athens by the Sicilian disaster. The character of Archelaus was sanguinary and treacherous; in his habits lie was licentious. After reigning fourteen years, lie was assassinated by the victims of his lust, B.C. 399.

The murder of Archelaus introduced a period of disturbance, both internal and external, which lasted till the accession of Philip, B.C. 359. During this interval the Macedonian court was a constant scene of plots and assassinations. The direct line of succession having failed, numerous pretenders to the crown sprang tip, who at different times found supporters in the Illyrians, the Lacedaemonians, the Thebans, and the Athenians. Civil wars were almost perpetual. Kings were driven from their thrones and recovered them. There were at least two regencies. So violent were the commotions that it seemed doubtful whether the kingdom could long continue to maintain its existence; and, if the Olynthian league had been allowed to constitute itself without interference, it is not unlikely that Macedon would have been absorbed, either by that confederacy or by the Illyrians.

The reign of Philip is the turning-point in Macedonian history. Hitherto, if we except Archelaus, Macedonia had not possessed a single king whose abilities exceeded the common average, or whose aims had about them any thing of grandeur. Notwithstanding their asserted and even admitted Hellenism, the " barbarian " character of their training and associations had its effect on the whole line of sovereigns; and their highest qualities were the rude valor and the sagacity bordering upon cunning which are seldom wanting in savages. But Philip was a monarch of a different stamp. In natural ability lie was at least the equal of any of his Greek contemporaries; while the circumstances under which he grew to manhood were peculiarly favorable to the development of his talents. At the impressible age of fifteen, he was sent as a hostage to Thebes, where he resided for the greater part of three years (B.C. 368 to 365), while that state was at the height of its prosperity under Pelopidas and Epaminondas. He was thus brought into contact with those great men, was led to study their system, and emulate their actions. He learnt the great importance of military training, and the value of inventiveness to those who wish to succeed in war; he also acquired a facility of expressing himself in Greek, which was uncommon in a Macedonian.

The situation of Philip at his accession was one of extreme embarrassment and difficulty. Besides Amyntas, his nephew, for whom he at first professed to be regent, there were at least five pretenders to the throne, two of whom, Pausanias and Argaus, were supported by the arms of foreigners. The Illyrians, moreover, had recently gained a great victory over Perdiccas, and, flushed with success, had advanced into Macedonia and occupied most of the western provinces. Paeonia on the north, and Thrace upon the cast, were unquiet neighbors, whose hostility might be counted on whenever other perils threatened. Within two years, however, Philip had repressed or overthrown all these enemies, and found himself free to commence those wars of aggression by which he converted the monarchy of Macedon into an empire.

Hitherto it had been the policy of Philip to profess himself a friend of the Athenians. Now, however, that his hands were free, it was his first object to disembarrass himself of these near neighbors, who blocked up his coast-line, watched his movements, and might seriously interfere with the execution of his projects. Accordingly, towards the close of B.C. 358, when Athens was already engaged in the " Social War," he suddenly laid siege to Amphipolis. Having taken the town, while he amused Athens with promises, he proceeded to attack and capture Pydna and Potidaea, actual Athenian possessions, making over the latter to Olynthus, to foment jealousy between her and Athens. He then conquered the entire coast district between the Strymon and the Nestus, thus becoming master of the important Thracian gold-mines, from which he shortly derived an annual revenue of a thousand talents!

The year after these conquests we find Philip in Thessaly, where he interferes to protect the Aleuadae of Larissa against the tyrants of Pherae. The tyrants call in the aid of the Phocians, then at the zenith of their power, and Philip suffers certain reverses; but a few years later he is completely victorious, defeats and kills Onomarchus, and brings under his dominion the whole of Thessaly, together with Magnesia and Achaea Phthiotis. At the same time, he conquers Methone, the last Athenian possession on the coast of Macedon, attacks Maroneia, and threatens the Chersonese. Athens, the sole power which could effectually have checked these successes, made only slight and feeble efforts to prevent them. Already Philip had found the advantage of having friends among the Attic orators; and their labors, backed by the selfish indolence which now characterized the Athenians, produced an inaction, which had the most fatal consequences.

The victory of Philip over Onomarchus roused Athens to exertion. Advancing to Thermopylae, Philip found the pass already occupied by an Athenian army, and did not venture to attack it. Greece was saved for the time; but six years later the fully of the Thebans, and the fears of the Athenians, who won driven to despair by the ill success of the Olynthian and Euboic wars, admitted the Macedonian conqueror within do barrier. Accepted as head of the league against the impious Phocians. Philip in a few weeks brought the " Sacred War " to an and, obtaining as his reward the seat in the Amphictyonic Council of which the Phocians were deprived, and thus acquiring a sort of right to intermediate as much as he liked In the affairs of Central and even Southern Hellas.

The main causes of Philip's wonderful success were twofold: -Bettering the lessons taught him by his model in the art of war. Epaminondas, he had armed, equipped, and trained the Macedonian forces till they were decidedly superior to the troops of any state In Greece. The Macedonian phalanx, invincible until it came to be opposed to the Romans, was his conception and his work. Nor was lie content with excellence In one arm of the service. On every branch he bestowed equal care and thought. Each was brought into a state nearly approaching perfection. His cavalry, heavy and light, his peltasts, archers, slingers, darters, were all the best of their kind; his artillery was numerous and effective; his commissariat service was well arranged. At the same time, he was a master of finesse. Taking advantage of the divided condition of Greece, and of the general prevalence of corruption among the citizens of almost every community, he played off state against state and politician against politician. Masking his purposes up to the last moment, promising, cajoling, bribing, intimidating, protesting, he advanced his interests even more by diplomacy than by force, having an infinite fund of artifice from which to draw, and scarcely ever recurring to means which he had used previously.

Philip had made peace with Athens in order to lay hold on Thermopylae a hold which he never afterwards relaxed. But it was far from his intention to maintain the peace an hour longer than suited his, purpose. Having once more chastised the Illyrian and Paeonian tribes, lie proceeded to invade Eastern Thrace, and to threaten the Athenian possessions in that quarter. At tile same time, lie aimed at getting into his hands the command of the Bosphorus, which would have enabled him to starve Greece into submission by stopping the importation of corn. Here, however, Persia (which had at last come to feel alarm at his progress) combined with Athens to resist him. Perinthus and Byzantium were saved, and the ambition of Philip was for the time thwarted.

But the indefatigable warrior, balked of his prey, and obliged to wait till Grecian affairs should take a turn more favorable to him, marched suddenly northward and engaged in a campaign on the Lower Danube against a Scythian prince who held the tract now known as Bulgaria. Victorious here, he recrossed the Balkan with a large body of captives, when he was set upon by the Triballi (Thracians), defeated, and wounded in the thigh, B.C. 339. The wound necessitated a short period of inaction; but while the arch-plotter rested, his agents were busily at work, and the year of the Triballian defeat saw the fatal step taken, which was once more to bring a Macedonian army into the heart of Greece, and to destroy the last remaining chance of the cause of Hellenic freedom.

Appointed by the Amphictyons as their leader in a new Sacred War," Philip once more passed Thermopylae and entered Phocis. But he soon showed that he came on no trivial or temporary errand. The occupation of Nicaea, Cytinium, and more especially of Elateia, betrayed his intention of henceforth holding possession of Central Greece, and roused the two principal powers of the region to a last desperate effort. Thebes and Athens met him at Chaeronea in full force; with contingents from Corinth, Phocis, and Achaea. But the Macedonian phalanx was irresistible; and the complete defeat of the allies laid Greece at Philip's feet. The Congress of Corinth (B.C. 337), attended by all the states except Sparta, which proudly stood aloof, accepted the headship of Macedon; and the cities generally undertook to supply contingents to the force which he designed to lead against Persia.

This design, however, was not executed. Great preparations were made in the course of B.C. 337; and early in B.C. 336 the vanguard of the Macedonian army was sent across into Asia. But, a few months later, the sword of Pausanias terminated the career of the Macedonian monarch, who fell a victim, in part to his unwillingness, or his inability to execute justice upon powerful offenders, in part to the quarrels and dissensions in his own family. Olympias certainly, Alexander probably, connived at the assassination of Philip, whose removal was necessary to their own safety. He died at the age of forty-seven, after a reign of twenty-three years.

It is difficult to say what exactly was the government of Macedonia under this prince. Practically, the monarch must have been nearly absolute; but it would appear that, theoretically, he was bound to govern according to certain long-established laws and customs; and it may be questioned whether he would have dared at any time to transgress, flagrantly and openly, any such law or usage. The Macedonian nobles were turbulent and free of speech. If accused of conspiracy or other crime, they were entitled to be tried before the public assembly. Their power must certainly have been to some extent a check upon tile monarch. And after the formation of a great standing army, it became necessary for the monarch to consult the feelings and conform his acts to the wishes of the soldiers. But there seems to have been no such regular machinery for checking and controlling the royal authority as is implied in constitutional government.

The reign of Alexander the Great has in the history of the world much the same importance which that of his father h in the history of Macedonia and of Greece. Alexander revolutionized the East, or, at any rate, so much of it as was connected with the West by intercourse or reciprocal influence. The results of a conquest effected in ten years continued for as many centuries, and remain in some respects to the present day. The Hellenization of Western Asia and North-eastern Africa, which dates from Alexander's successes, is one of the most remarkable facts in the history of the human race, and one of those most pregnant with important consequences. It is as absurd to deny to the author of such a revolution the possession of extraordinary genius as to suppose that the Iliad could have been written by a man of no particular ability.

The situation of Alexander, on his accession' was extremely critical; and it depended wholly on his own energy and force of character whether lie would retain his father's power or lose it. His position was far from assured at home, where he had many rivals; and among the conquered nations there was a general inclination to test the qualities of the new and young prince by the assertion of independence. But Alexander was equal to the occasion. Seizing the throne without a moment's hesitation, he executed or drove out his rivals. Forestalling any open hostility on the part of the Greeks, he marched hastily, at the head of a large army, through Thessaly, Phocis, and Boeotia, to Corinth, and there required, and obtained, from the deputies whom he had convened to meet him, the same " hegemony," or leadership, which had been granted to his father. Sparta alone, as she had done before, stood aloof. From Corinth, Alexander retraced his steps to Macedon, and thence proceeded to chastise his enemies in the North and West, invading Thrace, defeating the Triballi and the Getae, and even crossing the Danube; after which he turned southward, and attacked and defeated the Illyrians under Clitus and Glaucias.

Meanwhile, in Greece, a false report of Alexander's death induced Thebes to raise the standard of revolt. A general insurrection might have followed but for the promptness and celerity of the young monarch. Marching straight from Illyria south, he appeared suddenly in Boeotia, stormed and took Thebes, and, after a wholesale massacre, punished the survivors by completely destroying their city and selling them all as slaves. This signal vengeance had the effect intended. All Greece was terror-struck; and Alexander could feel that lie might commence his Asiatic enterprise in tolerable security. Greece was now not likely to rebel, unless he suffered some considerable reverse.

In the spring of B.C. 334 Alexander passed the Hellespont with an army numbering about 35,000 men. The usual remissness of the Persians allowed him to cross without opposition. A plan of operations, suggested by Memnon the Rhodian, which consisted in avoiding an engagement in Asia Minor, and carrying the war into Macedonia by means of the overwhelming Persian fleet, was rejected, and battle was given to Alexander, on the Granicus, by a force only a little superior to his own. The victory of the invader placed Asia Minor at his mercy, and Alexander with his usual celerity proceeded to overrun it. Still, he seems to have been unwilling to remove his army very far from the Aegean coast, so long as Memnon was alive. But the death of that able commander, in the spring of B.C. 333, left him free to act; and he at once took the road which led to the heart of the Persian empire.

The conflict at Issus between Alexander and Darius himself was brought on under circumstances peculiarly favorable to the Macedonian monarch. Darius had intended to fight in the plain of Antioch, where his vast army would have had room to act. But, as Alexander did not come to meet him, he grew impatient, and advanced into the defiles which lie between Syria and Cilicia. The armies met, almost without warning, in a position where numbers gave no advantage. Under such circumstances the defeat of the Persians was a matter of course. Alexander deserves less credit for the victory of Issus than for the use lie made of it. It was a wise and farseeing policy which disdained the simple plan of pressing forward on a defeated foe, and preferred to let him escape and reorganize his forces, while the victory was utilized in another way. Once possessed of the command of the sea, Alexander would be completely secure at home. He therefore proceeded from Issus against Tyre, Gaza, and Egypt. Twenty months sufficed for the reduction of these places. Having possessed himself of all the maritime provinces of Persia, Alexander, in B.C. 331, proceeded to seek his enemy in the heart of his empire.

In the final conflict, near Arbela, the relative strength of the two contending parties was fairly tried. Darius had collected the full force of his empire, had selected and prepared his ground, and had even obtained the aid of allies. His defeat was owing, in part, to the intrinsic superiority of the European over the Asiatic solder; in part, and in great part, to the consummate ability of the Macedonian commander. The conflict was absolutely decisive, for it was impossible that any battle should be fought under conditions more favorable to Persia. Accordingly, the three capitals, Babylon, Susa, and Persepolis, surrendered, almost without resistance; and the Persian monarch became a fugitive, was ere long murdered by his servants.

The most remarkable part of Alexander's career now commences. An ordinary conqueror would have been satisfied with the submission of the great capitals, and would have awaited, in the luxurious abodes which they offered, the adhesion of the more distant provinces. But for Alexander rest possessed no attractions. So long as there were lands or men to conquer, it was his delight to subjugate them. The pursuit of Darius and then of Bessus, drew him on to the north-eastern corner of the Persian Empire, whence the way was open into a new world, generally believed to be one of immense wealth. From Bactria and Sogdiana Alexander proceeded through Afghanistan to India, which be entered on the side whence alone India is accessible by land, viz., the northwest. At first he warred with the princes who held their governments as dependencies of Persia; but, when these had submitted, he desired still to press eastward, and complete the subjugation of the continent, which was believed to terminate at no great distance. The refusal of his soldiers to proceed stopped him at the Sutlej, and forced him to relinquish his designs, and to bend his steps homeward.

It was characteristic of Alexander, that, even when compelled to desist from a forward movement, he did not retrace his steps, but returned to the Persian capital by an entirely new route. Following the course of the Indus in ships built for the purpose, while his army marched along the banks, lie conquered the valley as lie descended, and, having reached the ocean, proceeded with the bulk of his troops westward through Gedrosia (Beloochistan) and Carmania into Persia. Meanwhile his admiral, Nearchus, sailed from the Indus to the Euphrates, thus reopening a line of communication which had probably been little used since the time of Darius Hystaspis. Alexander, in his march, experienced terrible difficulties; and the losses incurred in the Gedrosian desert exceeded those of all the rest of the expedition. Still lie brought back to Persepolis the greater portion of his army, and found himself in a position, not only to maintain his conquests, but to undertake fresh ones, for the purpose of rounding off and completing his empire.

It was the intention of Alexander, after taking the measures which lie thought advisable for the consolidation of his empire, and the improvement of his intended capital, Babylon, to attempt the conquest of the peninsula of Arabia-a vast tract inconveniently interposed between his western and his eastern provinces. A fleet, under Nearchus, was to have proceeded along the coast, whilst Alexander, with an immense host ' traversed the interior. But these plans were brought to an end by the sudden death of their projector at Babylon, in the thirteenth year of his reign and the thirty-third of his age, June, B.C. 323. This premature demise makes it impossible to determine whether, or no, the political wisdom of Alexander was on a par with his strategic ability-whether, or no, he would have succeeded in consolidating and uniting his heterogeneous conquests, and have proved the Darius as well as the Cyrus of his empire. Cut off unexpectedly in the vigor of early manhood, he left no inheritor, either of his power or of his projects. The empire which he had constructed broke into fragments soon after his death; and his plans, whatever they were, perished with him.

The policy of Alexander, so far as appears, aimed at complete fusion and amalgamation of his own Greaco-Macedonian subjects with the dominant race of the subjugated countries, the Medo-Persians. He felt the difficulty of holding such extensive conquests by garrisons of Europeans, and therefore determined to associate in the task of ruling and governing the Asiatic race which bad shown itself most capable of those high functions. Ultimately, he would have fused the two peoples into one by translations of populations and intermarriages. Meanwhile, he united the two in the military and civil services, incorporating : 20,000 Persians into his phalanx, appointing many Persians to satrapies, and composing his court pretty equally of Persian and Macedonian noblemen. His scheme had the merits of originality and intrinsic fairness. Its execution would undoubtedly have elevated Asia to a point which she has never yet reached. But this advantage could not have been gained without some counterbalancing loss. The mixed people which It was his object to produce, while vastly superior to ordinary Asiatics, would have fallen far below the Hellenic, perhaps even below the Macedonian type. It is thus not much to be regretted that the scheme was nipped in the bud, and Hellenic culture preserved in tolerable purity to exercise a paramount influence over the Roman, and so over the modern, world.

The death of Alexander has been ascribed by some to poison, by others to habitual drunkenness. But the hardships of the Gedrosian march and the unhealthiness of the Chaldaean marshes sufficiently account for it.

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