THE BATTLE OF CHAERONEA

 

Philip

KING PHILIP II

 

 

 

 

When Philip II acendid the throne of Macedonia in 359 BC, he had inherited a country which was militarily weak and subserviant to it’s neihbours. In the decade following, Philip had slowley rebuilt his citizen soldiers into a strong profesional army.

Philip reorganized the old traditional phalanx, replacing the hoplite shield and spear with the sarissa, a twenty foot reinforced spear, a weapon which allowed Philip to rapidly expanded his kingdom eastward to include Thrace and the northern coast of the Aegean Sea.

In 352 BC, Philip won a decisive victory over the Phocians at the Battle of Crocus Field in Thessaly. In the aftermath, Philip consficated the rich treasury of the Thessalian Confederation thereby greatly increasing his power.

In 346 BC when it became apparent that Philip was preparing to march south into central Greece. Athens was not militarily capable of facing the Macedonians alone and instead struck a peace treaty with Philip thus making her a reluctant ally of Macedon.

Philip continued to increase his dominance over Greece by capturing the cities of Methone, Olynthus and Crenides, the latter of which he garrisoned and renamed Philippi. There occupation greatley affected Athens grain shipments which Philip profited from by increasing tax’s on thier distribution.

The threat to Athens food supply and Phillips increasingly harsh dictatorial behavior, forced Athens to break the peace treaty and openly concluded a military alliance with the Thebans. Although long considered enemies, they both had a common foe which they now rallied round with the aim of preserving democratic liberty for all Greece.

Within days of the treaty being agreed upon the Athenian army joined with there new allies at Boeotia near Mount Helicon to block any aggressive moves by Philip once he became aware of the alliance. In August an enraged Philip assembled his forces and marched straight down the main road from his base at Phocis to attack and destroy the Allied army defending the approaches to Chaeronea.

The Macedonian army numbered 30,000 Infantry and 2,000 Cavalry. Philip took command of the right wing, while General Parmenion commanded the left. He also placed his eighteen year old son Alexander (The future conqueror of the Persian Empire) in command of the 1,000 strong elite Companion Cavalry.

The Greek allies numbered 35,000 Infantry and 1,400 Cavalry. 18,000 Athenians, 14,000 Thebans along with the 300 strong elite Sacred Band. The Greek army also included small contingents from six other city states totaling 3,000 men.

 

Macedonian phalanx

MACEDONIAN PHALANX

 

Greek Hoplites

GREEK HOPLITES

 

 

 

 

The Athenians, under the dual command of Generals Lysicles and Chares positioned themselves on high ground comprising the left wing astride the main road blocking Chaeronea, while the city states and Thebans commanded by General Theagenes occupied the center and right flank stretching three miles across the open plains to the Kephisos River, where the Sacred Band protected the extreme right.

Although slightly larger than Philips army, the Macedonians enjoyed two huge advantages over there Greek adversaries. Philips Sarrissa Phalanx army comprised veteran soldiers, battle hardened after twenty years of conflict.

The Greek Hoplite army was made up of inexperienced youths and old soldiers well beyond there fighting prime. The Greek commanders also lacked experience for they as well had not fought a battle in nearly twenty five years.

The Athenians began the battle by advancing in line towards Philip. As the two forces engaged, Philip had his entire right wing perform a feint withdrawal to match the Athenian enthusiasm. General Lysicles, believing they were close to flanking the Macedonian army pressed home the attack. As the Athenians continued to push forward a dangerous gap of a half mile developed between themselves and there Theban allies.

When Philip felt his troops had taken most of the bite and punch out of the Athenians attack, he ordered his Phalanx to stop and begin to push forward. He then also ordered Parmenion to advance against the Thebans.

As Philips left wing Phalanx reached the Theban lines, Alexander took the Companion Cavalry and charged into the center gap created by the advancing Athenians then swung in behind there formations in what Philip referred to as the (Hammer and Anvil) attacking the Athenians from behind.

 

Alexander

ALEXANDER

 

 

 

 

The Athenian position now quickly deteriorated as troops began to flee in all directions from the battlefield. On the Greek right flank the Thebans were holding Parmenio’s advance, but witnessing the complete destruction of there allies, they too followed suite and fled the field.

Only the three hundred strong Sacred Band continued fighting, refusing to surrender. Alexander now intervened and had his Cavalry surround then destroy the formation to the last man.

The Battle of Chaeronea was now over. Macedonian losses numbered 3,000 killed. Athenian casualties totaled 3,000 dead with 4,000 taken prisoner. The Thebans suffered 1,000 killed with 2,000 prisoners. The contingent of city states lost 500 men.

After the battle, Philip had no intention of advancing any further into Greece, he immediately ordered the release of the prisoners and pardoned all men who had participated in the battle against him. This is because (He wanted the Greeks as allies to support his planned campaign against the Persians).

However Philip would never see these plans to fruition as he was assassinated in 336 BC. Alexander now became king and in a series of campaigns and battles lasting from 334 to 323 BC, He conquered the vast and powerful Persian Empire as far reaching as India.

 

Sacred Band

THE SACRED BAND

 

 

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