Alexandria's founded by Alexander

Alexandria's founded by Alexander the Great (by year BC): 334 Alexandria in Troia (Turkey) - 333 Alexandria at Issus/Alexandrette (Iskenderun, Turkey) - 332 Alexandria of Caria/by the Latmos (Alinda, Turkey) - 331 Alexandria Mygdoniae - 331 Alexandria (Egypt) - 330 Alexandria of the Prophthasia/in Dragiana/Phrada (Farah, Afghanistan) - 330 Alexandria in Areia (Herat, Afghanistan) - 330 Alexandria in Arachosia (Kandahar, Afghanistan) - 330 Alexandria in Caucasus (Begram, Afghanistan) - 329 Alexandria of the Paropanisades (Ghazni, Afghanistan) - 329 Alexandria Eschate or Ultima (Khodjend, Tajikistan) - 329 Alexandria on the Oxus (Ai-Khanoum, Afghanistan) - 329 Alexandria in Margiana (Merv, Turkmenistan) - 326 Alexandria Nicaea (on the Hydaspes, India) - 326 Alexandria Bucephala (on the Hydaspes, India) - 325 Alexandria Sogdia - 325 Alexandria Rambacia (Bela, Pakistan) - 325 Alexandria Oreitide - 325 Alexandria in Opiene (confluence of Indus & Acesines, India) - 325 Alexandria on the Indus - 324 Alexandria-on-the-Tigris/Antiochia-in-Susiana/Charax (Spasinou Charax on the Tigris, Iraq) - 325 Alexandria Xylinepolis (Patala, India) - 325 Alexandria in Carminia (Gulashkird, Iran) - ?Alexandria of Carmahle? (Kahnu)


Tuesday, July 26, 2011

King Philip, one year later - Macedonia forged by Philip II - 3

King Philip, one year later (358 BC)
But, returning to the year 358 BC after one full year of kingship, Philip had to secure his border with the Paeonians once again and he defeated them easily. As a result Paeonia became sort of buffer zone between Macedonia and the tribes of the Danube to the north, which in fact was the trade route up the Axios valley and beyond. Philip’s army now numbered 10,000 infantry and 600 cavalry, no small achievement if you consider that only a year or two earlier the Illyrians had defeated nearly the entire Macedonian army. He was completely confident to march into Illyria and bluntly refused to accept old king Bardylis’ terms. Both armies met near today’s Lake Ochrid, maybe close to the town of Heraklea Lyncestis and by the end of the day the Macedonians had killed 7,000 Illyrians soldiers.

Philip seemed to have it all planned. He demanded that the Illyrians pulled out of Upper Macedonia all the way north to Lake Lychnitis including the tribes of Orestis which until now were controlled by the Molossian King of Epirus. This way he had a open route into Epirus to the south and to Orestis in the east. A surprising fact is that Parmenion, one of the Paeonian chieftains, was made a general soon after coming over to Philip’s side – an interesting background for this man who served both Philip and Alexander for many years. At this stage Philip started training recruits from these newly conquered territories, the non-nobles as infantrymen and the nobles as cavalry – a practice that stayed in place far into our 20th century!

This latest victory also meant that Macedonia virtually doubled in size, that the size of Philip’s army increased substantially in only one year’s time, and most of all that Upper and Lower Macedonia were united as never before. Philip, still married to the Illyrian princess Audata found it wise to change her name to Eurydice to mask her origin, and their common daughter Cynnana later married Amyntas, the original heir to the Macedonian throne.

Time now to switch attention to the southern borders with Thessaly and two of its cities in particular, Pherae with its harbor Pagasae controlling the coastal states, and Larissa which controlled the inland states. Strangely enough both cities were bitter enemies. It so happened that Larissa turned to the king for an alliance against Pherae. Philip agreed, be it for his own reasons, i.e. to incorporate the expert Thessalian cavalry into his new army (estimated to 3-6,000) and to consolidate Macedonia’s southern borders. This alliance was cemented by Philip’s (third) marriage with Philinna from Larissa. She was to bear him a son, Arrhidaeus the next year.

After these events in 358-357 BC, Philip planned to include Epirus in his endeavor to consolidate his borders. Three large tribes dominated that country, the Thesprotians, the Chaonians and the Molossians who spoke a kind of Greek dialect and were the most powerful and most prosperous. Since Epirus had also suffered from the Illyrians, a treaty with Philip was rather easy and it was sealed by his marriage to princess Olympias, Philip’s fourth wife. So in 357 BC Philip’s borders were mostly secure but there were still two major enemies to deal with: Athens and the Chalcidian League, who luckily were not on friendly terms with each other!

The Chalcidian League had a powerful army counting 10,000 infantrymen and nothing less than 1,000 cavalry. We should not forget that the Chalcidice thanked its economic importance to the mines of the Crenides. The Athenians meanwhile had established settlements at Potidaea (on the neck of the Kassandra peninsula), close to Olynthus, and had captured Torone at the tip of the middle finger of the Chalcidice. And, of course, they still had an eye on Amphipolis which was a most important crossing on the trading route with Thrace, including the rich mines of Crenides, the waterway to the Strymon River and to the Danube beyond. To send help to Amphipolis, Athens needed a nearby base for their fleet, and they eventually found one on the island of Thasos.

Philip’s attack of Amphipolis was however quickly settled and the city capitulated in the late summer of 357 BC. Additionally he also attacked Athens’ ally Pydna, which fell to him very easily. Just as a reminder, we should not forget that Philip was only 26 years old at that time.

Tensions between Philip and Athens ran high at this point and it seems that both parties sought an alliance with Olynthus because of the forces it could muster. Olynthus apparently was blinded by Philip’s promises and a treaty was made in the winter of 357-356 BC. Copies were set up in Delphi, at the Temple of Zeus in Olympia, in Dion and at the Temple of Artemis in Olynthus. As a consequence, Philip besieged Potidea and occupied the city.

He had no time to take a break for now the king of eastern Thrace besieged the strategic and precious city of Crenides. It was only about 40 miles east of Amphipolis, just above the port of Neapolis (today’s Kavala), a valuable naval base in the region. Philip immediately marched in and defeated the Thracian forces, in spite of their sudden coalition with Illyria and Paeonia. Philip was determined to stay and to put his stamp on this place, he changed its name to Philippi. He fortified the city walls and towers, and increased the output of silver coinage. The marshy plain was drained and cultivated, meaning another boost for the local economy.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Start of Philip's reign - Macedonia forged by Philip II - 2

Start of Philip’s reign (359 BC)
At twenty-four, Philip II became king of Macedonia. That is only four years older than Alexander was when he succeeded to his father, but the Macedonia he inherited was a coherent one whereas Philip was facing a formidable and nearly impossible task. He had to set his priority, and quickly too.

The most urgent threat came from the Illyrians who had just defeated his brother, and it seems that Philip managed some treaty which may have included his marriage with Audata (Philip’s second wife), King Bardelys’ granddaughter. He then turned towards the Paeonians, which he corrupted with gifts and generous promises to reach a peace agreement. Athens with Argaeus was a far more serious problem and Philip tricked them into believing that he was giving up any claim on Amphipolis by withdrawing his Macedonian soldiers. The Athenians took the bait and their commander stayed in Methone with his troops. Argaeus meanwhile tried to gain support for his cause from Aegae, the Macedonian capital, but left unsuccessfully for Methone also. En route, Philip and a small force surprised him and Argaeus disappeared from the scene. To settle this matter, a peace treaty was signed with Athens, stipulating clearly that Amphipolis no longer would be claimed by Macedonia. Another potential danger however was coming from the Chalcidians who sent an embassy from the main city of Olynthus to Athens for support against Philip, but now that Athens had made peace with Philip they rejected this request.

Within a year, Philip had accomplished the miracle of putting an end to the four major threats that had led to his accession to the throne. The means he used were to become his trademark: diplomacy, deceit, bribery and political marriage as well as the lightning speed of his actions. He must have known however that these arrangements were only buying him time. His priority now was to get his kingdom and his army organized.

Philip began by switching the main attacking force of his army from infantry to cavalry as had always been the common practice. He had the cavalry attack the flanks of the enemy lines where his infantry would push down in the centre. He also equipped his infantry with the new sarissa, a long pike of about 4.25 to 5.50 meter long made of cornel wood. The shape of the head was designed in such a way that it would penetrate the armor and the body of the enemy as the previous conventional pikes were meant only to wound the opponent. The cavalry on the other hand was set up in a wedge formation instead of the usual frontal charge lines, which Philip had copied from the Thracians and Scythians. Thus the Macedonian soldiers became highly trained and learned also to carry their own arms, equipment and food – ensuring them to be self-sufficient at all times. Instead of poorly trained farmers and unreliable mercenaries, Philip put in place a full-time army in which the soldiers received regular pay for the first time in history.

Philip was also keen to introduce new war machines. Where he originally used the mechanically drawn catapults (see Olynthus in 348 BC and Perinthus in 340 BC), he used a new type of siege craft, the torsion catapult that was far more powerful than the other catapults as proven during the siege of Byzantium in 340 BC.
In addition, he created the new body of Royal Pages, i.e. boys (at least two hundred of them) who entered service at the age of fourteen for four years. They were the personal attendants to the king, meaning that they prepared his horse, accompanied him on his hunting or warring expeditions, and watched over him at night. It was an enviable position which at the same time meant that the boys lived and were educated at the Macedonian court and served as hostages to ensure the loyalty of their families.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Philip's Boyhood - Macedonia forged by Philip II - 1

Philip’s boyhood (383-382BC)
Although we have a pretty good idea of what Macedonia looked like when Alexander succeeded his father in 336 BC, we have only a vague vision of this country when Philip became king some twenty years earlier. Since it was Philip who put Macedonia on the map to start with (something we generally tend to forget), I decided it was high time to investigate this chapter of history. Without his relentless efforts and strong ambition he would not have succeeded – and let’s not forget his excellent judge of characters and his evaluation of political and military situations which have largely contributed to achieving his goal.

Macedonia was hardly a country to be reckoned with and the only envy of the surrounding enemy tribes was its fertile lowlands. Greece as such did not exist yet, only leading city-states and dispersed bands of tribes constantly at war with one another. And Macedonia was no exception. However, the situation was going to change dramatically after the death of King Perdiccas III in 359 BC.

At that time, Macedonia covered a rather restricted area which started north of Mount Olympus and was squeezed between the valleys of the rivers Haliacmon in the west and Axius in the east to where they flow into the Thermaic Gulf. The most fertile part and the very heart of Macedonia was, of course, this rich coastal plain, also called Lower Macedonia, whereas Upper Macedonia stretched vaguely to the west into the remote cantons of the Illyrians. The Illyrians envied the good agricultural land and lush grasslands of the Macedonian floodplains and invaded the country on a more or less regular basis. It was during such an attack by the Illyrian King Bardylis that Perdiccas III was killed and with him 4,000 brave Macedonian soldiers. This incursion left the door open for further invasions for not only could the Illyrians push all the way down to the Thermaic Gulf but neighboring tribes like the Paeonians from the north and the Thracians from the east could also seize this opportunity. And we shouldn’t forget Thebes who was the dominant military power at that time and Athens who had an eye on several harbors up north serving as safe havens for their wheat ships on their way home from the Pontus Euxinus.


The situation in Macedonia at this point was rather dramatic. The borders were open game, its manpower was very much depleted with so many men killed in action, and to make things worse they had lost their King and leader. Perdiccas’ son Amyntas, the heir to the throne was only an infant, so all eyes were turned toward Philip, Perdiccas’ youngest brother who according to the ruling laws should be named regent until Amyntas’ coming of age. However, hard decisions had to be made and very quickly so. Instead of being called to the regency, Philip then 24 years of age, was proclaimed King by the Macedonian Assembly. King Philip II of Macedonia made his entry on the stage of history.

Now, who was this Philip? Philip was born in 383 or 382 as the third son of King Amyntas III and Queen Eurydice. The eldest son, Alexander II lost the battle against mighty Thebes who demanded the surrender of 50 sons of noble Macedonians as hostages, including his youngest brother Philip. Philip must have been about 13 years old at that time, just a year or so older than Alexander when he tamed Bucephalus when he was led to Thebes. He must have spent about 3 years there at the house of Pammenes, a leading general and statesman during the days that Thebes was the dominant power in Greece. According to Justin, Philip learned much about military strategy from Pammenes’ friend Epaminondas, especially when it came to the use of shock tactics and the combined attack from infantry and cavalry. He must have watched when the famous Sacred Band was training, the elite corps made of 300 Theban soldiers – supposedly 150 pairs of lovers who would fight to death to defend their partner in battle. Epaminondas, in spite of Thebes being so far inland, also had solid plans to build a naval force in order to face mighty Athens in due time, a tactical important prowess that certainly was not lost on Philip. And there was the fact that Thebes was a polis, a true city with its benefits and shortcomings, something that was not known in Macedonia yet.

Although Philip was only a teenager, we should not forget that Macedonian princes learned by example. From an early age, they were trained in warfare, to admire courage and to aspire to excellence, schooled in the great battles of the Illiad, no doubt. Philip was no exception. We will remember how the story goes that Alexander at the age of seven inquired with the Persian envoys about their communication routes and their army. Philip would not have done less.

Living the daily life of a city like Thebes, Philip had witnessed the importance of military power and although this was essential, he was also aware that a state needed to be unified and able to keep actual and potential opponents from uniting with others against him. Securing its borders was an important component of this complex pattern.

After the death of Alexander II (who was killed by his mother’s lover, Ptolemy), his brother Perdiccas III took over after murdering this Ptolemy and during this time Philip apparently returned to Macedonia. From the little that is known from that period, it seems that Perdiccas gave his brother part of his kingdom, probably not to rule in his place but merely to rule on his behalf. According to speculations, he would be entrusted with the territory of Amphaxitis, a strategic stretch of land between the Axius river and the Thermaic Gulf. At this time, Philip married his first wife, Phila, the daughter of Derdas II of Elimeia, probably a diplomatic alliance arranged by Perdiccas as was his right as king. Macedonia was in turmoil and Philip may have done his share in the fights to secure its borders especially with the Peonians and the Thracians. It is not impossible that he experimented with some of the military tactics he had picked up in Thebes.

So, when in 360/59 BC Perdiccas III is killed in a battle against the invading Illyrians as mentioned above, Macedonia was faced with several threats to the kingdom’s security. And there was also the matter of succession to the throne since the dead king’s son Amyntas was still a youngster. The Athenians tried to interfere pushing forward a certain Argaeus and the Thracians with a certain Pausanias who already marched towards the capital city of Pella. Given all these threats, the Macedonian Assembly unexpectedly proclaimed Philip as King, and the people swore their oath of allegiance to him. There is no question (according to Ian Worthington) that Philip was more experienced in military and administrative affairs than either the infant Amyntas or Philip’s three half-brothers (the sons of Gygaea) whose interference if any was inconsequential. It is possible that at this point Philip had his oldest half-brother, Archelaus, killed as a warning to the others who found shelter at Olynthus which Philip besieged later on.

Click here to read the full story about Philip II from the beginning