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Philip Ii's Reforms Of The Macedonian State Notes

Classics Notes > Alexander the Great and his early Successors (336 BC – 302 BC) Notes

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How important were Philip's achievements and reforms for the development of the Macedonian State?
The achievements and reforms of Philip were crucial for the development of the Macedonian state; in fact it was because of him that it was first truly able to be called a nation state. In his description of the area some seventy years early Thucydides had distinguished between the upland Macedonians and the lowland Macedonians as two distinct peoples, but it was Philip who changed all this, integrating them into a powerful military and economic power. Without his achievements and reforms it is almost certain that Alexander would not have been in such a strong position to invade Asia as quickly as he did after his accession; this led Diodorus to call Philip, "the greatest of the Kings in Europe." Before the arrival of Philip it seems that Macedonia, from what can be gathered from the relatively sparse evidence, was an altogether backward and isolated country viewed with a certain degree of contempt by the rest of the Greeks. They looked down on what they saw as the primitive customs preserved by the Macedonians such as marching their armies through a dog cut in half and their system of kingship which saw them torn apart internally by court intrigue and plots. Not only were they backward but they had a poor record in terms of loyalty and trustworthiness. Alexander the first had collaborated heavily with the invading army of Xerxes and Perdiccas the second frequently changed sides during the Peloponnesian war. Furthermore Athens viewed the weak Macedonia as simply a buffer region between her and the more powerful Thrace; such was the weak state of the country at the time just before Philip. Amyntas desperately tried to keep back the Illyrians with a heavy annual tribute and he enjoyed little or no control over the eastern frontier. There was further division between the lowlands and the uplands, which were even more backward and isolated than the rest of Macedonia; it seemed likely that this region would be totally lost to Illyrian control as their troops prepared to invade Macedonian just before Philip took the throne. It was these regions which Philip managed to successfully incorporate into his kingdom; these lands which were previously only tenuously held by his predecessors were now a secure western frontier for Macedonia. In the east he did the same by capturing the entire Strymon basin and bringing the area up to the river Nestos under his control. Again in the north he secured the frontier by sacking Olynthua in 348. The security of his borders was further enhanced with strong bases of Macedonians at Pythion near Mount Olympus, Philippoupolis and at Emathia. Plutarch's Life of Alexander has a comment attributed to Alexander after hearing of another of his father's victories which shows the extent and success of Philip's expansion, "Boys, my father will forestall me in everything. There will be nothing great or spectacular for you and me to show the world." This is clearly an exaggeration on Alexander's part, Philip could not possibly defeat every nation, but it is revealing of the perception of his remarkable success, it is as if he could go on to conquer the world.

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