War and Military History
History of Europe
Ancient Greece

Why was Greece so easily conquered by Macedonia?

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April 19, 2017 6:56AM

Macedonia never conquered Greece in the context that this loaded question implies. Macedonia united Greece (Hellas), under Macedonian Hegemony and together they conquered Persia.

  • Quote: It is difficult to imagine that Philip II's policy toward Greece was an end in itself. Once his Balkan borders had been secured his general course seems to have been directed toward the establishment of stability in Greece, NOT CONQUEST.

~ E.N.Borza, "On the Shadows of Olympus" (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1990) page 230

One of the main falsifications of ancient Macedonian history has to do with the mistaken claim, used mostly by propagandists from the Former Yugoslav Republic (FYROM) that Macedonians confronted a "united" Greek army in Chaeronia and 'conquered Greece'.

Put in context:

The opposing sides in Chaeronea were:

Side A'

Macedonia, Thessaly, Epirus, Aetolia, Northern Phocis, Epicnemidian Locrians*

Side B'

Athens, Beotian League (Thebes, etc), Euboean League, Achaean League, Corinth, Megara, Corcyra, Acarnania, Ambracia, Southern Phocis.

Neutral sides

Sparta, Argos, Arcadia, Messene. The three last had alliances both with Athens and Philip but their pro-Macedonian activity of 344/3 BEC showed they were leaning towards Philip. However they didn't sent aid to Chaeronea in Philip's side because of the blocking in Isthmus by Corinth and Megara. Sparta had withdrawn almost entirely from Greek affairs in 344 BCE.

[*] Elis had an alliance with Philip though they didn't take part in Chaeronea but showed their pro-macedonian feelings by joining their forces with Philip in the invasion of Laconia in the autumn of 338 BCE.

If this is translated by the propagandists of the Former Yugoslav Republic to mean that Macedonians confronted a "United" Greek army then in Coronea Spartans also confronted a "United" Greek army.

Battle of Coronea (394 BCE)


Sparta Vs Thebes, Argos, and other Greek allies

  • As the eminent historian J. B. Bury writes:
    • If the chances of another issue to the battle of Chaeronea have been exaggerated, the significance of that event has been often misrepresented. The battle of Chaeronea belongs to the same historical series as the battles of Aegospotami (405 B.C.) and Leuctra (371B.C.).
    • As the hegemony or first place among Greek states had passed successively from Athens to Sparta, and to Thebes, so now it passed to Macedon. The statement that Greek liberty perished on the plain of Chaeronea is as true or as false as that it perished on the field of Leuctra or the strand of the Goat's River. Whenever a Greek state became supreme, that supremacy entailed the depression of some states and the dependency or subjection of others. Athens was reduced to a secondary place by Macedon, and Thebes fared still worse; but we must not forget what Sparta, in the day of her triumph, did to Athens, or the more evil things which Thebes proposed.
  • THE BATTLE OF CHAERONEA - Philip called the Congress of Corinth, during which all the Greek states, except Sparta, entered a Hellenic League against Persia, under Macedonian hegemony. The league council had proportional representation and was presided over by a chairman, replaced by the Macedonian king in wartime. The autonomy of the members was guaranteed, existing constitutions were not to be altered, and no private property was to be confiscated. There was no tribute required and no more than four garrisons-Thebes, Corinth, Chalcis, and Ambracia. The king had supreme military command, and the Amphictyonic Council served as a court of appeals. Philip announced plans for a campaign against the Persian Empire.

~ "Encyclopaedia of World History" 6th Edition 2001