Portrait of Philip II of Macedon, found at Vergina

Philip II of Macedon (382 BC–336 BC; in Greek Φίλιππος=φίλος (friend) + ίππος (horse), transliterated Philippos) was the King of Macedon from 359 BC until his assassination. He was the father of Alexander the Great and Phillip III Arrhidaeus.

Philip II of Macedon (Macedonia) (382 BC - 336 BC), King of Macedon (ruled 359 BC - 336 BC), father of Alexander the Great (Alexander III of Macedon) and Philip III of Macedon.


Born in Pella in 382 BC, he was the youngest son of King Amyntas III of Macedon and Queen Eurydice. In youth (c. 368 BC - 365 BC) Philip was the hostage in Thebes, the leading city in Greece of that time. During his captivity in Thebes he received a military / diplomatic education from Epaminondas and was involved in a pederastic relationship with Pelopidas and lived with Pammenes. Pammenes was an enthusiastic advocate of the Sacred Band of Thebes. In 364 BC he returned to Macedonia. The deaths of his elder brothers, Kings Alexander II of Macedon and Perdiccas III of Macedon, allowed him to take the throne in 359 BC. Originally appointed Regent for his infant nephew Amyntas IV of Macedon (359 BC) the son of Perdiccas III, Philip managed to take the kingdom for himself that same year.

Gold Urn of Eurydice, Mother of Phillip II,

Philip's military skills and expansionist vision of Macedonian greatness brought him early success. The hill tribes were broken by a single battle in 358 BC, and Philip established his authority inland as far as Lake Ohrid. In 357 BC he took the Athenian colony, Amphipolis, which commanded the gold-mines of Mount Pangaion. In 357 BC, Philip married to Epirote princess Olympias, the daughter of the king of the Molossians. In 355 BC Philip conquered Crenides and renamed the town name in Philippi. Philip also attacked Abdera and Maronea, on the Thracian sea-board. He took Methone in 354 BC, which belonged to Athens. During the siege of Methone, Philip lost an eye.

Not until his armies were opposed by Athens at Thermopylae in 352 BC that he faced any serious resistance. Philip did not attempt to advance to central Greece because Athenians had occupied Thermopylae. In 352 BC the Macedonian army won a complete victory over the Phocians in battle of Crocus Field. This battle made Philip tagus of Thessaly, and he claimed as his own Magnesia, with the important harbour of Pagasae.

Gold Stater of Philip II, a) head of Apollo b) racing chariot with two horses, Archaeological Museum Dion

Hostilities with Athens did not yet take place, but Athens was threatened by the Macedonian party which Philip's gold created in Euboea. From 352 BC to 346 BC Philip did not again come south. He was active in completing the subjugation of the Balkan hill-country to the west and north, and in reducing the Greek cities of the coast as far as the Hebrus (Maritza). For the chief of these, indeed, Olynthus, he continued to profess friendship till its neighbor cities were in his hands.

In 349 BC Philip started the siege of Olynthus. Olynthus in first allied itself with Philip, but later shifted its allegiance with Athens. Athenians did nothing to help Olynthus and Philip took it in 348 BC and razed it to the ground. In 346 BC, he intervened effectively in the war between Thebes and Phocians, but his wars with Athens continued intermittently.

Macedonia and the regions adjoining it having now been securely consolidated, Philip celebrated his Olympian games at Dium. In 347 BC Philip advanced to the conquest of the eastern districts about the Hebrus, and compelled the submission of the Thracian prince Cersobleptes. Meanwhile Athens had made overtures for peace, and when Philip, in 346 BC, again moved south, peace was sworn in Thessaly. Later, the Macedonian arms were carried across Epirus to the Adriatic Sea. In 342 BC Philip led a great military expedition north against Scythians.

In 340 BC Philip started the siege of Perinthus and in 339 BC Byzantium. After unsucccesfull sieges, Philip's influence all over Greece was compromised. Philip defeated an alliance of Thebans and Athenians at the battle of Chaeronea in 338 BC. He erected a memorial of a marble lion to the Sacred Band of Thebes for their bravery that still stands today. Philip created and led the League of Corinth in 337 BC. Members of the League agreed never to wage war against each other, unless it was to suppress revolution. Philip was elected as leader (hegemon) of a army in invasion against Persian Empire. In 336 BC, when the invasion of Persia was in early progress, Philip was assassinated by a lover named Pausanias.

Philip's assassination

Pausanias' assassination of Philip II, Andre Castaigne

Vergina, Aigai, Theater and Palace, Google Earth

The murder happened in October of 336 BC, at Aegae, the ancient capital of the kingdom of Macedon. The court had gathered there for the celebration of the marriage between Alexander I, king of Epirus, and Philip's daughter Cleopatra. While the king was entering unprotected into the town's theatre he was killed by Pausanias, one of Philip's seven bodyguards. The assassin immediately tried to escape and reach his associates who were waiting for him with horses at the entrance of Aegae. He was pursued by three of Philip's bodyguards and died by their hands.

The reasons for Pausanias' assassination of Phillip are difficult to fully expound, since there was controversy already among ancient historians. The only contemporary account in our possession is that of Aristotle, who states rather tersely that Philip was killed because Pausanias had been offended by the followers of Attalus, the king's father-in-law.

Fifty years later, the historian Cleitarchus expanded and embellished the story. Centuries later, this version was to be narrated by Diodorus Siculus and all the historians who used Cleitarchus. In the sixteenth book of Diodorus' history, Pausanias had been a lover of Philip, but became jealous when Philip turned his attention to a younger man, also called Pausanias. His taunting of the new lover caused the youth to throw away his life, which turned his friend, Attalus, against Pausanias. Attalus took his revenge by inviting Pausanias to dinner, getting him drunk, then subjecting him to sexual assault.

When Pausanias complained to Philip the king felt unable to chastise Attalus, as he was about to send him to Asia with Parmenion, to establish a bridgehead for his planned invasion. He had also married Attalus's niece, or daughter, Eurydice. So he tried to mollify Pausanias, and elevated him within the bodyguard. Pausanias' desire for revenge seems to have turned towards the man who had failed to avenge his damaged honour; so he planned to kill Philip, and some time after the alleged rape, while Attalus was already in Asia fighting the Persians, put his plan in action. Other historians (e.g., Justin 9.7) suggested that Alexander and/or his mother Olympias were at least privy to the intrigue, if not themselves instigators. The latter seems to have been anything but discreet in manifesting her gratitude to Pausanias, if we accept Justin's report: he tells us that the same night of her return from exile she placed a crown on the assassin's corpse and erected a tumulus to his memory, ordering annual sacrifices to the memory of Pausanias.

Many modern historians have observed that all the accounts are improbable. In the case of Pausanias, the stated motive of the crime hardly seems adequate. On the other hand, the implication of Alexander and Olympias seems specious: to act as they did would have required brazen effrontery in the face of a military machine personally loyal to Philip. What appears to be recorded in this are the natural suspicions that fell on the chief beneficiaries of the murder; their actions after the murder, however sympathetic they might appear (if actual), cannot prove their guilt in the deed itself. Further convoluting the case is the possible role of propaganda in the surviving accounts: Attalus was executed in Alexander's consolidation of power after the murder; one might wonder if his enrollment among the conspirators was not for the effect of introducing political expediency in an otherwise messy purge (Attalus had publicly declared his hope that Alexander would not succeed Philip, but rather that a son of his own niece Eurydice, recently married to Philip and brutally murdered by Olympias after Philip's death, would gain the throne of Macedon).

Archaeological findings

On November 8, 1977, Greek archaeologist Manolis Andronikos announced that he had found unopened the tomb of Philip II at Vergina in the prefecture of Pieria. The finds from this tomb were later included in the traveling exhibit The Search for Alexander displayed at four cities in the United States from 1980 to 1982. While the discovery is of great archeological importance, the identification of the tomb with Philip has been disputed.


Nicholas Hammond , Philip of Macedon , Duckworth Publishing 1998, ISBN: 0715628291

Thomas Sundell , Bloodline of Kings: A Novel of Philip of Macedon , Crow Woods Publishing 2002. ISBN: 0966587189




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