Macedon and Philip II  ̶  Historical background


The OCR specification explicitly states that you need to know the 'Context' of Alexander's life ... by which, it tells us, it means 'Macedon and the Greeks'. 


You are especially required to know about 'the growth of Macedon as a political and military power in the region', and 'the battle of Chaeronea and its consequences'.



Here is a timeline which lists the main events:



The following websites will help you complete the task:

This document collects the relevant sections of the set
OCR Textbook.

This Map of Ancient Greece will help you understand the geographical context of events.


Ancient Greece was a muddle of warring city states, always threatened by the great Persian Empire:



A major invasion by the Persian king Xerxes was defeated (battle of Thermopylae and Salamis) – Greece and the Ionian cities remained independent.  Athens became the most powerful city-state.


Peloponnesian War (Sparta v Athens) – eventually, with Persian help, Sparta won and became the dominant power in Greece.


Corinthian War (Sparta v Athens, Thebes, Corinth and Argos); in 387 the Persian king brokered The King’s Peace and guaranteed it.  By this peace, Persia gained control over the Ionian cities.


Battle of Leuctra – Thebes destroyed the Spartan army and became the dominant city.


Macedonia at this time was a wild, turbulent state to the north, regarded by the Greeks as ‘barbarians’:



Reign of Alexander II:

·         The Illyrians invaded and Pausanias, a rival for the throne, rebelled.

·         When Alexander had regained control (with the help of an Athenian army), he attacked Thessaly.

·         He was defeated by the Thebans and forced to send 30 hostages (including Philip).

·         He was assassinated by his brother-in-law.


Philip II became king of Macedon.  He inherited a kingdom in chaos and in peril:

·         The Illyrians and the Thracians were invading.

·         The Athens had invaded with a pretender called Argeus and captured the port of Methone.

·         There were two more pretenders (Arrhidaeus and Menelaus) in Olynthus, which had broken free of Macedonian control.

Philip bought off the Thracians and strengthened his army, introducing the revolutionary phalanx with sarissas (ideas which he had developed while in Thebes).


Philip defeated the Illyrians, ending the danger from the north.


Philip conquered Amphipolis with its gold mines; this was crucial because it gave him unlimited money for his army.

He married Olympias, making an alliance with King Arymbas of Molossia; shortly after he exiled Arymbas and took control of the country.


Philip conquered Crenides, renaming it Philippi.  Alexander was born, and Philip’s horse won the Olympic horse race.


Philip conquered Methone and drove the Athenians out of Macedon (though it was here that he lost an eye).


Philip conquered Thessaly (Third Sacred War), defeating them at the Battle of Crocus Field.


Philip conquered Olynthus, razed it to the ground, and killed Arrhidaeus and Menelaus.


Philip threatened to invade Sparta, saying ‘If I bring my army into your land, I will destroy your farms, slay your people, and raze your city’ – Sparta’s one-word reply – ‘if’ – stopped him.


Arymbas died; Philip merged Molossia into Macedon.


Philip conquered Thrace (though he failed to capture Byzantium).


Battle of Chaeronea – Philip and Alexander destroyed the Theban army.

·         He marched to Thebes, installed a Macedonian garrison and fined them severely.

·         He was more lenient with Athens, but he controlled them because he controlled their grain routes from the Black Sea.

·         He marched round Greece establishing garrisons.


Philip formed the League of Corinth, and agreement to unite and attack Persia – with himself as Strategos (leader) – to regain the Ionian cities.


Philip was assassinated at his wedding to Cleopatra.


Use the worksheet and the 'Links' websites above to make your own notes on the Macedon and Philip I.