1902 Encyclopedia > Greece > Greek History: The Reigns of Philip and Alexander, 359-323 B.C.

(Part 8)



VI: The Reigns of Philip and Alexander, 359-323 B.C.

Three years after the death of Epaminondas Philip came Decay of to the throne of Macedon. His power rapidly grew. A °f Greek warlike people, ruled by an able and ambitious king, was C1V1C lfe' now the northern neighbour of Greece. The most obvious vice of Greek politics at this period was disunion ; but the disunion itself was only the symptom of a deeper decay. No one city of Greece any longer retained the vigour re-quired in a leader. Had either Athens or Sparta now possessed such vital force as they showed in the Persian wars, no local or temporary feuds would have prevented the organization of national defence. Nothing marks the decay of the Greek commonwealths more significantly than the fact that they did not even recognize the urgency of the danger. Demosthenes had the old Greek spirit; but he Demo-stood almost alone. The principles on which he constantly sthenes. insisted, and which give unity to his entire career, are mainly

two :—first, the duty of the Athenian citizen to sacrifice personal ease and gain to the service of Athens; secondly, the duty of Athens, as the natural head of free Greece, to consult the interests of all the Greek cities. The energy of Demosthenes was not first roused by the progress of Philip. Before there was danger from the quarter of Macedon, Demosthenes had seen clearly that the decay of public spirit threatened the destruction of Hellenic life. As he said to the Athenians afterwards, if Philip had not existed they would have made another Philip for themselves. And the condition of Athens was at least not worse than that of any other city which could have aspired to lead. Philip. A strategist so keen-sighted as Philip must early have perceived that he had little to fear from combined resistance, so long as he was careful not to attack too many separate interests at the same time. Greeks, he saw, were past fighting for each other as Greeks. This was the key-note of his policy to the last. While making aggressions on one Greek city or group of cities, he always contrived to have others on his side. First Philip's career in relation to Greece has two periods, period of xhe end of the first period is marked by his admission to Hon to Axnphictyonie Council; the end of the second, by the Greece battle of Chaeronea. During the first period Philip is still 359-346 a foreign power threatening Greece from outside. He takes B-c- Amphipolis from the Athenians; he destroys Potidaea; he acquires towns on the Thracian and Messalian coasts; he defeats the Phocians under Onomarchus, and even advances to Thermopylae, to find the pass guarded by the Athenians; finally, he destroys Olynthus and the thirty-two towns of Second its confederacy. In the second period he is no longer a period, _ foreign power. Having intervened in the Sacred War and crushed the Phocians, he has taken the place of Phocis in the Amphictyonic Council, and has thereby been admitted within the circle of the Greek states. The First Philippic and the three Olynthiac speeches of Demosthenes belong to the first of these periods. The speeches On the Peace, On the Embassy, On the Chersonese, and the two later Philippics, belong to the second. In the Third Philippic, the climax of his efforts before Chaeronea, Demosthenes reviews the progress of Philip from the Hellenic, not merely from the Athenian, point of view. Philip has destroyed Olynthus, he has ruined Phocis, he has sown dissensions in Thessaly; Thebes is afraid of him; he has gained Eubcea and the Peloponnesus; he is supreme from the Adriatic to the Hellespont; and the last hope of Greece is in Athens. Demosthenes succeeded in winning back Byzantium to the Athenian alliance, and in persuading Thebans to fight by the side of Athenians; but he could not avert the cata-strophe of Chaeronea. Philip After the victory which made him master of Greece, president Philip deprived Sparta of her conquests in the Pelopon-H vT ' n63US- The Messenians, Arcadians, Argives, recovered league, their old possessions. A congress was then summoned at the isthmus of Corinth. Macedonia and the Greek states were united in a federal league. A federal council was constituted to guard the federal laws; and the Delphic Amphictyony was recognized as a tribunal to which this council should refer any breach of those laws. Philip, representing Macedonia, the most important member of the league, was acknowledged as its head or president. His position in regard to the Greek cities was thus in form much the same as that of Athens or Sparta in former days. It was nominally an hegemony, with somewhat more stringent powers, corresponding to the more systematic organization of the league; in practice it was military kingship over Greece, Yet Demosthenes had not failed. The condition of the Greek states under Philip was favour-able in proportion as they had given him trouble. Thessaly had actively helped him, and had been completely subju-gated. The Peloponnesian rivals of Sparta had not been active either in helping or resisting him, and they were now more dependent on Philip than they had formerly been on Sparta. Athens alone had effectively resisted him, and Athens was treated by him with the prudent respect due to a serious antagonist.

If Greek liberty had received a fatal blow in Greece Sicily, proper, there was another part of Hellas in which, almost Timoleon. simultaneously, it had been vindicated with splendid suc-cess. While Demosthenes was making his heroic resistance to the designs of Macedon, the enemies of Hellenic free-dom in Sicily had been encountered with equal vigour and happier fortune by Timoleon. A few years after the defeat of the Athenian armament in 413, Sicily had suffered two invasions of the Carthaginians. Selinus and Himera, Agrigentum, Gela, and Camarina, had successively fallen. The first Diouysius, in consolidating his own tyranny at 405—367 Syracuse, had been content to leave half the island in the B.C. hands of the foreign foe. The feeble misrule of his son, Dionysius II., produced a series of revolutions. A party at Syracuse invoked the aid of Corinth. Timoleon was sent with only 1200 men (343 B.C.). His first work was to deliver Syracuse from the contending forces of Dionysius and a rival named Hicetas, and to restore the Syracusan democracy. His next work was to drive the Carthaginians out of Sicily. He defeated them with crushing effect at the river Crimesus (340 B.C.). The Sicilian Greeks were now free. Sicily entered on a new period of prosperity, which lasted until Agathocles became tyrant of Syracuse (317 B.C.). Thus the brightest days, perhaps, of Hellenic Sicily coincided with those in which the cities of the Hellenic mainland were learning to bear the Macedonian yoke.
The time seemed now to have come for an enterprise which, since the retreat of the Ten Thousand, had been the dream of many Greek captains, but which none had yet been in a position to attempt. Philip, in the forty-seventh year of his age, had declared war against Persia, and was preparing to invade Asia at the head of an army gathered from all Greece, when he was assassinated by a young Macedonian noble in revenge for a private affront (336 B.C.). Death of Alexander, Philip's son and successor, was only twenty. Philip. Marching into Greece, he promptly repressed an insurrec- Alex-tionary movement, and was recognized by a new assembly ander. at Corinth as commander-in-chief of the Greek armies. He next marched against the tribes on the northern borders of Macedonia. While he was absent on this expedition, the Thebans rose against the Macedonian garrison. Alexander returned, took Thebes, and razed it to the ground (335 B.C.). At Corinth he received the homage of the Greek states, and then returned to Macedonia.
Alexander was now free to execute the design of Philip. As captain-general of Hellas, he sets forth to invade the Persian empire, and to avenge the wrongs suffered by Greece at the hands of the first Darius and of Xerxes. The army with which he crossed the Hellespont in 334 B.C. Alex-numbered perhaps about 30,000 infantry and 4000 cavalry, ander It was composed of Macedonians, Greeks, and auxiliaries A^des from the barbarian tribes on the Macedonian borders. The devotion of native Macedonians to their hereditary king was combined with the enthusiasm of soldiers for a great general. Even if the military genius of Alexander had not been of the first order, his personal authority over his Macedonian troops, and through them over the rest, would still have been greater than was ever possessed by a Greek citizen commanding fellow-citizens.
Alexander's career of conquest has three stages, marked Three by his three great battles. The victory at the Granicus stages (334 B.c) gave him Asia Minor. The victory at Issus (333 B.c.) opened his path into Syria and Egypt. The victory

at Arbela (331 B.C.) made him temporary master of the whole East. In accomplishing the first two of these stages Alexander was not compelled to assume any new character. The king of Macedon, the elective captain-general of Greece, needed no other titles by which to hold the lands to which he came as a deliverer from Persia. The later history of these lands is the proof. Asia Minor was by degrees thoroughly Hellenized, and remained Greek till the Turks came in the 11th century. Syria and Egypt were not indeed Hellenized as whole countries, but their capital cities, Antioeh and Alexandria, were Hellenic; and the control established by Alexander was retained by Macedonia or by Rome for centuries. At the third stage, however, Alexander's conquests entered upon an entirely new phase, and compelled him to take up an altogether new position. Neither in his Hellenic nor in his Macedonian capacity could he put forward any effective claim to hold the Persian empire proper,—the empire stripped of its Egyptian, Phoenician, and Hellenic dependencies. He could hold Persia only as a Persian king, as the successor of those Achsemenid kings whose dynasty he had overthrown. The constitutional king of Macedonia, with limited prerogatives, the elective captain of Greece, must now assume a third and distinct character. He must be also a Persian king, a constitutional despot. The merely European influences re-presented by Alexander might leaven the East, but they could not lastingly possess or transform it. Hellenic culti-vation, like Roman power, was not permanently introduced over any wide area east of the Euphrates. This fact is enough to illustrate the enormous difficulty of the task which Alexander had undertaken. It seems not impossible that policy may have been mingled with vanity in his ex-action of divine honours. Greeks or Macedonians could never pay him the slavish homage which Persian subjects rendered to their king. But the contrast between European and Asiatic royalty would at least be less glaring if the master of Persia were also acknowledged as the son of Zeus Ammon.
Greek The colonies planted by Alexander in his progress settle- through Asia make the beginning of a new period in ments ni Hellenic history. Hitherto we have had to do with a people whose Hellenic unity rests, not merely on community of language and civilization, but also upon community of blood. Now, by the side of this natural Hellenic nation, there arises an artificial Hellenic nation, with a common language and civilization, but not exclusively of Hellenic blood. The Macedonians may be regarded as the founders of this artificial nationality. They were doubtless of a stock kindred to the Hellenic; in what degree, it is less easy to say—but (with the exception of their kings) they were generally regarded by the Greeks as standing half-way between Greeks and barbarians. Philip did much to Hellenize Macedonia; and the Macedonian colonies of Alexander became in their turn centres from which the influence of Hellenic civilization was diffused through Asia. Henceforth there are two Hellenic types: the Greek of Greece proper, who preserves in some degree the marked individuality of the old Greek character; and the Asiatic Greek, more readily affected by foreign surroundings, more pliant and less independent. The history of the modern Greek nationality dates from the days of Alexander. Kesults The results of Alexander's conquests were beneficent of Alex- chiefly in two ways: first, by liberating the hoarded ander s treasures of the Eastern kings, and so stimulating industry quests an<^ commerce; secondly, by opening Asia to a new civiliza-tion, which helped to promote intellectual and moral progress, even in those places where its influence was limited or transient. In the process of doing this much that was valuable may have been destroyed. But it can hardly be questioned that on the whole the gain far outweighed the
loss. If Alexander had not died at the age of thirty-two, leaving his work unfinished, it would perhaps have been easier to judge how far he deserves the credit of having con-templated these benefits to mankind. There is nothing to show that he intended to govern otherwise than as an absolute ruler, with a better machinery for controlling his subordinates than had been possessed by the Persian kings. Such a view is not inconsistent with the fact that his colonies enjoyed municipal freedom. Nor can it be proved that he meant his colonies to be anything more than military strong-holds or commercial centres. But it may at least be said that, if his object had been to diffuse Hellenic cultivation over Asia, he could have adopted no more effectual means. It is conceivable that, in his vision of that complex empire which imposed such almost irreconcilable tasks upon its ruler, the idea of engrafting Eastern absolutism on Greek politics may have co-existed with the idea of Hellenizing Asiatic society.
In that period of Hellenic history which closes with
Alexander we are tracing the gradual development of a
race with special gifts of mind and body, which strongly
distinguish it from all other races. The Hellenes set the
Hellenic stamp on everything which they create,—first, on
their language itself, then on their politics, their literature,
and their manners. Every element of their life receives its
mature shape from themselves, even when the germ has
been borrowed; the Hellenes are an original people in the
sense that they either invent or transform. At a very
early time they have the political life of cities, and they
never rise from the conception of the city to the higher'
unity of the nation. Their love of clear outline and their
sense of measure shrink from every vague abstraction; the
principle of order itself is by them identified with " the
limit" ; the indefinite is a synonym for disorder and evil.
The city, an easily comprehended whole, satisfies this
instinct; but there is room within its framework for the
gradations of monarchy, oligarchy, democracy; for the
various modes of acting and thinking which characterize
Achaeans, Dorians, Ionians. As the leading commonwealths
grow to maturity, two principles of government stand out
in contrast,—oligarchy and democracy. Each is represented
by a great city round which the lesser states are grouped.
The inevitable collision comes, and the representative of
democracy is at last vanquished But in the hour of victory
oligarchy is discredited by the selfish ambition of its cham-
pion. A time of political confusion follows, in which no one
city can keep a leading place. Separate interests prevail
over principles; public spirit declines. The disunion of
the cities—incurable, because arising from a deep inner
decay—enables the crafty king of a half-barbarian country
to make himself the military dictator of Greece. But just
when the better days of Hellenic civilization seem to be
over, a new career is opened to it. Men who are not of
Hellenic blood help to diffuse the Hellenic language,
thought, and manners over a wider field; and the life of
the modern Greek nation begins. (R. C. J.)

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