Erin has taught English and History. She has a bachelor's degree in History, and a master's degree in International Relations
Where and When
Located just north of Ancient Greece and its city-states, Ancient Macedonia existed from about 808 BC until 146 BC when Macedonia was officially conquered and absorbed by Romans. For a long time, Greece considered Macedonia a backwater, but the kingdom of Macedonia was eventually able to rise up and conquer Greece, and then much of the known world!
Ancient Macedonia is a bit tricky to point it out on a modern map. Today, there is a region in Northern Greece called Macedonia, where you'll find the great city of Thessaloniki. Just over the northern Greek border, you'll find a country called the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. Both claim some Ancient Macedonian heritage.
Unlike Greek city-states that had a kind of democratic government, Macedonia was a hereditary monarchy. That means that the kingship was handed down to another member of the family. Kings were often polygamous, meaning they had many wives, and succession was sometimes controversial, with various children from various mothers all rivals to be the heir.
The king was the head of state, the commander of the armed forces, and also the head of the religion. He also had the power to mint coins and circulate money. Even though the king had ultimate power, he did convene a council called the synedrion. The synedrion was made up of high-ranking Macedonian men, and they would meet to discuss issues and give the king advice. The king didn't get to choose the members of the synedrion because some of them had been guaranteed a spot by birthright.
The first known Macedonian king is Caranus, and King Amyntas III was the first to really unify all of the regions of Macedonia. The major ruling dynasty of Macedonia was the Argeads, who gave us King Philip II and Alexander the Great, who expanded and strengthened Macedonia.
Early on, the Macedonian economy relied on its timber resources. Then, they began to acquire some gold and silver mines, and charge port duties.
There was a big gap between the rich elites and the poor, but as Philip II expanded Macedonian lands, the economy grew. Under Philip II and Alexander the economy became monetary, which means that coins were issued and used everywhere as money. That's a sign of a much more prosperous economy because coins make business transactions go much faster than negotiating and bartering a stack of timber for some sheep.
Most of the information we have about Macedonian society is focused on the elites and upper classes. The Macedonian elite were called hetairoi, or companions. The hetairoi met at symposia, or big meetings, where they would come together and compete for influence and the king's favor. These symposia were notorious for drunken brawls, orgies, and other debauchery. A murder or two may have happened at a symposium!
Macedonian women had limited rights. But they were a little better off than women in Greek city-states like Athens, who were almost always secluded at home. Macedonians also tended to own fewer slaves than the Greeks.
Rule of Philip II
Philip II ruled from 360 until 336 BC, and his reign was a major turning point for Macedonia. He was the third son of King Amyntas III and grew up as a captive in Thebes where he actually got a great education. When his two older brothers died, he became the heir, and eventually took the throne.
One of Philip's most important achievements was reforming the Macedonian army. He introduced lighter weaponry and an extra long pike or spear called a sarissa.
Philip took the soldiers on forced marches carrying their gear to get them in battle shape. He improved some tactics he learned in Greece like the phalanx, in which soldiers marched together in a tight formation like a finger. He improved siege warfare with better catapults and used cavalry forces together with ground troops in a revolutionary way.
Diplomacy and war
King Philip II had grand visions of taking over all of Greece and parts of Asia, but he knew that he would have to be clever and patient. He used all sorts of diplomatic strategies, and even bribes, to placate and conquer Greek city-states. You may have heard the expression divide and conquer--this comes from our man, Philip! He was brilliant at playing city-states against one another, inflaming their rivalries so that they would not unite against him. When the time was right, he would strike with his elite military.
Opposition from Demosthenes
One of the loudest voices of warning and opposition to Philip II was Demosthenes of Athens. He clearly saw that Philip wanted to conquer all of Greece. One of the greatest orators of history, Demosthenes delivered scathing speeches against Philip called the Philippics. In the Philippics, he told Athenians to wake up, and join with other city-states to stop Philip. But Philip was clever, and he charmed other Athenians while waiting patiently for the right moment to conquer. By the time Athenians took Demosthenes seriously, it was too late. Athens allied with Thebes to try and stop Philip in 338 BC at the Battle of Chaeronea. However, the Macedonians crushed the Greek forces, and Philip became the ruler of all of Greece.
After Philip conquered Greece, he turned his sights on Asia, but he was murdered in 336 BC when he was just 45 years old. We know that the assassin was one of his bodyguards, Pausanias of Orestis, but his reason why is debated among historians. Philip's death meant that his son Alexander would inherit the throne, and the military his father had made into one of the finest in history. He would complete his father's dream by conquering the Persian Empire, and ruling over most of the known world as Alexander the Great.
Ancient Macedonia, which existed from about 808 BC until 146 BC, was located in modern-day Northern Greece. Macedonia's greatest dynasty, the Argeads, gave us Philip II and Alexander the Great. Macedonia was a hereditary monarchy. The king was the head of state, of the armed forces, and of the religion, but consulted the synedrion for advice and counsel. The Macedonian economy utilized timber and mining resources; as it grew bigger and stronger, it became a monetary economy under Philip II. Elites were called hetairoi and at symposia they competed for influence and power. Under King Philip II, Macedonia was transformed. He reformed the armed forces, introducing new weapons like the sarissa and new tactics. He was clever at diplomacy and was able to divide and conquer the Greek city-states. Even with Demosthenes speaking against him in his Philippics, Philip was able to conquer Athens and become the ruler of Greece. He was suddenly assassinated by one of his own bodyguards in 336 BC, which handed the throne to his son Alexander.
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