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The Fall of Democracy in Greece

Originally published on June 4, 2017, by Misty Smith for HIS-321 Ancient World of Greece & Rome at Southern New Hampshire University.

For thousands of years, the Greeks had survived, although not as a totally united society, numerous wars, both internal and external. Many believed that the Greeks would never be fully conquered, or even fully unified. [1,2] Classical Greeks had enjoyed democracy and the power to think for their own benefit in their polis age. After the ravishes of the Persian wars, many Greeks started to rethink their personal freedoms and many began to wonder if the right of individual freedoms could go hand in hand with the freedoms of entire cities. [3] However, with the emergence of Philip II of Macedon and eventually his son Alexander taking over the rule of Greece, everything changed in the Greek world as their individual freedoms were taken away.  

THE FALL OF DEMOCRACY IN GREECE.

King Philip II of Macedonia Conquers Greece

    In 382 BC, north of Greece, east of Illyria, and west of Thrace laid the land of Macedonia and the birthplace of Philip II. [4] During the reign of his brother Perdiccas III, Philip II had been taken prisoner by the Greeks at Thebes between 368 and 365 BC, during which time he was able to observe the Greek military strength and styles. After his release, he used his knowledge alongside his brother, King Perdiccas III, to reorganize the Macedonian military. [5] Philip took over the leadership of Macedonia after his brother Perdiccas III fell in battle in 359 BC against the Illyrians and used the newly reorganized army to conquer Greece. [6]

     Although he had succeeded where many others had failed in taking command of Greece his own rule did not come easily. For example, when he first took kingship of Macedonia after his brother’s death he faced numerous regional turmoils. However, he overcame the threats through his cunning and use of democracy: for example, he first bought off the Thracian king and persuaded him to execute a pretender to the Macedon throne. Next, he defeated another throne pretender who had been supported by the Greeks of Athens during a battle. However, in order to not upset the Athenians, with his victory, he made a treaty with them which gave the Athenians the city Amphipolis. [7] Furthermore, King Philip II cemented political alignments via marriages. His first wife was the Illyrian princess Audata, his second a  princess of the Macedonian canton of Elimea named Phila, with his third wife being Princess Olympias of Epirus and the mother of his son, Alexander. He eventually left Olympas and broke his bond with his son for his sixth wife, Cleopatra, who was a high-born of Macedonia. [8]

     Furthermore, King Philip II was also known for his use of deceptions when it came to his conquests and victories. For example, after the battle of  Chaeroneia in 338 BC the League of Corinth [9] was formed, in which Philip was to rule over a united Greece in peace. However, according to the historian Brad Cook, “Philip did not at all observe his agreements with them but he enslaved them all, acting unjustly and contrary to custom.” [10] His barbarism was not taken lightly as the Macedonians had always been taken as a threat to Greece, the Athenian orator Demosthenes pointed out that the Greeks needed to stand up and take back their liberties,

Does he not dictate to the Thessalians their form of government? Does he not send mercenaries, some to Porthmus to expel the Eretrian democracy, others to Oreus to set up the tyranny of Philistines? Yet the Greeks see all this and suffer it. They seem to watch him just as they would watch a hailstorm, each praying that it may not come their way, but none making any effort to stay its course. [11]

     Although Philip had done what others had tried and failed so many times, taking over Greece as a unified nation, his reign was not to last long; nor was his dreams of conquering Asia Minor to come to fruition. In 336 BC, at the wedding of his daughter Cleopatra to Prince Alexander of Epirus, King Phillip II was assassinated. [12] The title of King then fell to his son, Alexander III who had been tutored by none other than the famous Greek Aristotle himself [13] and who held not only Greece but the entirety of Asia in his sights.




The Rise of the Son

    Alexander III, the son of Philip and his third wife Olympias, was also known as the son of Jupiter took the throne of Macedonia after his father’s assassination. [14] However, upon hearing the news of the death of King Philip II the Greeks began a revolt of the Macedonian rule they had been subjected to. An enraged Alexander sent troops into Greece and immediately squashed the rebellion. “As soon as he restored Macedonian rule in northern Greece, he marched into southern Greece.  His speed surprised the Greeks and by the end of the summer 336 BC, they had no other choice but to acknowledge his authority.” [15] Alexander believed that Greece was secure and moved his troops back to other conflicts; however, that was not the case as a death rumor, this time of Alexander’s death, quickly spread throughout Greece and another revolt was set into motion. The uprising was quickly brought to an end by Alexander’s general Perdiccas at the city of Thebes, “…killing everyone in sight, women and children included. 6,000 Thebans citizens died and 30,000 more were sold as slaves.” [16] The swift actions taken to end the rebellion solidified Macedonian rule of Greece once more.

     With an army which consisted of “25,000 Macedonians, 7,600 Greeks, and 7,000 Thracians and Illyrians” [17] Alexander set his eyes upon conquering Asia Minor as his father Philip had always dreamed of doing. However, Alexander did not blindly trust that his Greek soldiers would be loyal to him in battle. Therefore, he used propaganda to ensure that their loyalty to his rule grew with his conquests. For example, he repeatedly freed Greek settlements as he marched his army across Asia Minor. As he went along doing so he would send victory announcements back to the people such as the “…three hundred suits of Persian armor” [18] he had sent to Athens as proof of victory with the messages of, “From Alexander, the son of Phillip, and the Greeks, except the Spartans,” [19] attached.

     As Alexander marched across Asia he surrounded himself with Greeks of higher learning such as the historian Callisthens of Olynthus and others who specialize in administration or science. [20] It was the duty of Callisthens to transcribe works into Greek and to write the histories of Alexander and his conquests. Although Alexander spread both Greek and Macedonian culture in his wake, he did not attempt to stifle out the cultural aspects of the people he conquered. Instead, he encouraged his soldiers and citizens to embrace Persian clothing, art, music, and even to marry Persian wives. [21] He encouraged the trading of culture and even embraced the Gods of those he came into contact with. This, again, was culturally different from the Greeks way of making everything they conquered in the past over into their image and was another start of a great change in Greek society as a whole. [22]

Conclusion: The End of a Free Greece.

   In conclusion, up until the conquest of Greece by Philip II, and the reunification of Greece by his son Alexander, the Greek society had been ruled as a polis-centered democratic society with individual towns and not one of an empire ruled by Kings and Queens. [23] The Greeks had long fought only for their own personal gains, and never under the banner of one nation or ruler. Although the Greeks did not wish for change, both Philip II and Alexander III solidified a change in political and cultural status in Greece by finally unifying all of Greece under the rule of King Philip II,  and III solidified the rule his father had established by curtailing rebellions after his father’s death. Alexander’s conquests in Asia and Egypt brought wealth and culture into Greece that was merged with their own. However, It would not be until the 19th century before the Greek civilization would be free to rule over themselves again.

Footnotes

  1. D. Brendan Nagle, The Ancient World: a Social and Cultural History, 8th ed. (New Jersey: Pearson, 2013), 60.
  2. Josiah Ober, The Rise and Fall of Classical Greece. (Princeton University Press, 2015).
  3. Nagle, The Ancient World: a Social and Cultural History, 94.
  4. HistoryofMacedonia.org, “Philip II of Macedon Biography (359 – 336 BC) King of Macedonia and Conqueror of Illyria, Thrace, and Greece,” (History of Macedonia, 2013).
  5. Ibid.
  6. Nagle, The Ancient World: a Social and Cultural History, 136.
  7. HistoryofMacedonia.org, “Philip II of Macedon Biography (359 – 336 BC) King of Macedonia and Conqueror of Illyria, Thrace, and Greece,” (History of Macedonia, 2013).
  8. Ibid.
  9. The Editors of Encyclopedia Britannica, “The Editors of Encyclopedia Britannica,” (Encyclopædia Britannica, n.d.).
  10. Brad L. Cook, “The Essential Philip of Macedon: A Byzantine Epitome of His Life.” Greek, Roman, And Byzantine Studies, Vol 45, Iss 2, Pp 189-211 (2010) no. 2 (2010): 189. (Directory of Open Access Journals, EBSCOhost).
  11. Demosthenes. Demosthenes with an English translation by J. H. Vince, M.A. Cambridge, MA, (Harvard University Press; London, William Heinemann Ltd. 1930).
  12. HistoryofMacedonia.org, “Philip II of Macedon Biography (359 – 336 BC) King of Macedonia and Conqueror of Illyria, Thrace, and Greece,” (History of Macedonia, 2013).
  13. Josiah Ober, The Rise and Fall of Classical Greece. (Princeton University Press, 2015.
  14. Claudius Aelianus Of Alexander’s magnificence to Phocion, and his to Alexander. http://penelope.uchicago.edu/aelian/varhist1.xhtml.
  15. HistoryofMacedonia.org, “Alexander the Great. King of Macedonia and Conqueror of the Persian Empire.,” (History of Macedonia, 2013).
  16. Ibid.
  17. Ibid.
  18. Nagle, The Ancient World: a Social and Cultural History, 138.
  19. Ibid.
  20. Josiah Ober, The Rise and Fall of Classical Greece. (Princeton University Press, 2015.
  21. Giotto, Alexander the Great and the Hellenistic Age.
  22. Nagle, The Ancient World: a Social and Cultural History, 140.
  23. Josiah Ober, The Rise and Fall of Classical Greece. (Princeton University Press, 2015).

Further Reading:




Bibliography

Brad L., Cook. “The Essential Philip of Macedon: A Byzantine Epitome of His Life.” Greek,  Roman, And Byzantine Studies, Vol 45, Iss 2, Pp 189-211 (2010) no. 2 (2010): 189. Directory of Open Access

     Journals, EBSCOhost (accessed May 18, 2017).

Claudius Aelianus Of Alexander’s magnificence to Phocion, and his to Alexander. http://penelope.uchicago.edu/aelian/varhist1.xhtml.

Demosthenes. Demosthenes with an English translation by J. H. Vince, M.A. Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press; London, William Heinemann Ltd. 1930.

Giotto, “Alexander the Great and the Hellenistic Age,” Mr. Giotto’s Online Textbook, accessed June 1, 2017, http://www.penfield.edu/webpages/jgiotto/index.cfm.

HistoryofMacedonia.org. “Alexander the Great. King of Macedonia and Conqueror of the Persian Empire.”History of Macedonia. Accessed May 30, 2017.

      http://www.historyofmacedonia.org/AncientMacedonia/AlexandertheGreat.html

HistoryofMacedonia.org. “Philip II of Macedon Biography (359 – 336 BC) King of Macedonia and Conqueror of Illyria, Thrace, and Greece.” History of Macedonia. 2013. Accessed May 28,

  1. http://www.historyofmacedonia.org/AncientMacedonia/PhilipofMacedon.html.

Nagle, D. Brendan, and the University of Southern California. The Ancient World: a Social and Cultural History. 8th ed. New Jersey: Pearson, 2013.

Ober, Josiah. The Rise and Fall of Classical Greece. n.p.: Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2015., 2015. SNHU Online Library Catalog, EBSCOhost (accessed June 3, 2017).

The Editors of Encyclopedia Britannica. “The Editors of Encyclopedia Britannica.” Encyclopædia Britannica. Accessed May 18, 2017. https://www.britannica.com/topic/League-of-Corinth.

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