Chapters 87-90


In the days when Thebes was the strongest city in Greece, and when Epaminondas was the leader in his native country, he received in his house a young Mac-e-do´-ni-an prince called Philip. This young man had been sent to Greece as a hostage, and was brought up under the eye of Epaminondas. The Theban hero got the best teachers for Philip, who was thus trained with great care, and became not only quite learned, but also brave and strong.

Mac´e-don, Philip’s country, was north of Greece, and its rulers spoke Greek and were of Greek descent; but, as the people of Macedon were not of the same race, the Greeks did not like them, and never allowed them to send any one to the Amphictyonic Council.

Two years after the battle of Mantinea, when Philip was eighteen years old, he suddenly learned that the king, his brother, was dead, and had left an infant to take his place. Philip knew that a child could not govern: so he escaped from Thebes, where he was not very closely watched, and made his way to Macedon.

Arriving there, he offered to rule in his little nephew’s stead. The people were very glad indeed to accept his services; and when they found that the child was only half-witted, they formally offered the crown of Macedon to Philip.

Now, although Macedon was a very small country, Philip no sooner became king than he made up his mind to place it at the head of all the Greek states, and make it the foremost kingdom of the world.

This was a very ambitious plan; and in order to carry it out, Philip knew that he would need a good army. He therefore began to train his men, and, remembering how successful Epaminondas had been, he taught them to fight as the Thebans had fought at Leuctra and Mantinea.

Then, instead of drawing up his soldiers in one long line of battle, he formed them into a solid body,—an arrangement which soon became known as the Macedonian phalanx.

Each soldier in the phalanx had a large shield, and carried a spear. As soon as the signal for battle was given, the men locked their shields together so as to form a wall, and stood in ranks one behind the other.

The first row of soldiers had short spears, and the fourth and last rows very long ones. The weapons of the other rows were of medium length, so that they all stuck out beyond the first soldiers, and formed a bristling array of points which no one dared meet.

Philip not only trained his army so as to have well-drilled soldiers ready, but also found and began to work some gold mines in his kingdom. As they yielded much precious metal, he soon became one of the richest men of his time.

This wealth proved very useful, for it helped him to hire a great force of soldiers, and also to buy up a number of allies. In fact, Philip soon found that his gold was even more useful than his army, and he was in the habit of saying that “a fortress can always be taken if only a mule laden with gold can be got inside.”

Philip was so kind and just that he soon won the love of all his subjects. It is said that he listened to the complaints of the poor and humble with as much patience as to those of his noblest courtiers.

Once, after dining heavily and drinking too much, Philip was suddenly called upon to try the case of a poor widow. As the king’s head was not very clear, he was not able to judge as well as usual: so he soon said that she was in the wrong, and should be punished.

The woman, who knew that she was right, was very angry; and, as the guards were dragging her away, she daringly cried, “I appeal!”

“Appeal?” asked Philip, in a mocking tone, “and to whom?”

“I appeal from Philip drunk to Philip sober!” replied the woman.

These words made such an impression upon Philip, that he said he would try the case again on the next day, when his head was quite clear. He did not forget his promise on the morrow; and when he found that the woman was right, he punished her accuser, and set her free.



As we have already seen, when Philip found himself in the wrong, he was not afraid to admit his mistake, and to try to do better. He was also very patient and forgiving. On one occasion he heard that a man named Ni-ca´nor was always speaking ill of him.

He therefore sent for the man, who came in fear and trembling, thinking that the king would either imprison or slay him. Philip, however, received him kindly, made him sit at his own table, and let him go only after giving him many rich gifts. As the king had not found fault with him in any way, Nicanor was greatly surprised, and vowed that he would not speak another word against so generous a man.

As soon as Philip had made sure of his authority at home, drilled his army, and piled up enough gold, he began to carry out his bold plans. First of all, he wished to subdue a few of his most unruly neighbors, such as the Thracians and O-lyn´thi-ans.

An archer named As´ter came to him just before he began this war. This man offered his help to the king, and began to boast how well he could shoot. Philip, who believed only in spears for fighting, sent the man away, after saying that he would call for his help when he began to war against starlings and other birds.

This answer made Aster so angry that he went over to the enemy and enlisted in their ranks. Philip soon came to besiege the city where Aster was stationed; and as soon as the archer heard of it, he got an arrow upon which he wrote, “To Philip’s left eye.”

Aster then went up on the wall, took careful aim, and actually put out the king’s left eye. Philip was so angry when he heard of the writing on the arrow, that he ordered another shot into the city. On this arrow was written, “If Philip takes the city, he will hang Aster.”

The city was taken, and the archer hung; for Philip always prided himself upon keeping promises of this kind. The Olynthians, finding that they would not be able to resist long, now wrote a letter to the Athenians, begging them to come to their rescue.

The Athenians read the letter in the public square, so that every one could hear it, and then began to discuss whether they should send any help. As was always the case, some were for, and others against, the plan, and there was much talking. Among the best speakers of the city was the orator De-mos´the-nes, a very clear-sighted man, who suspected Philip’s designs. He therefore warmly advised the Athenians to do all they could to oppose the Macedonian king, so as to prevent his ever getting a foothold in Greece. Indeed, he spoke so eloquently and severely against Philip, and told the people so plainly that the king was already plotting to harm them, that violent speeches directed against any one have ever since been called “Philippics,” like these orations against the King of Macedon.



As you have seen in the last chapter, Philip had one great enemy in Greece, the orator Demosthenes. He had distrusted Philip from the very first, and had kept warning the Athenians that the King of Macedon was very ambitious, and would soon try to become master of all Greece. When the Olynthians asked for aid, he had warmly urged the Athenians to give it, saying that they ought to bring on the conflict with Philip as soon as possible, so that the fighting might be done outside of Greece. In spite of his good arguments, however, Demosthenes failed.


Philip took not only O-lyn´thus, but all the towns which formed the Olynthian union, and destroyed them so completely that a few years later one could not even find out where these once prosperous cities had been.

Demosthenes made three very fine speeches in favor of the Olynthians, and several against Philip. These were written down, and have been translated time and again. You may some day read and admire them for yourselves.

Of course, when Philip heard of Demosthenes’ speeches, he was very angry; but he thought that his gold could do wonders, so he sent a beautiful cup of that precious metal to the orator. The gift was accepted; still Demosthenes, instead of remaining silent as Philip had expected, went on talking against him as openly as before.

As Demosthenes was such a great man, you will like to hear how he learned to speak so well. He was an orphan, but very ambitious indeed. He saw how eagerly the Athenians listened to the best speakers, and he thought that he too would like to become an orator.

Unfortunately, he could not talk very plainly, and instead of listening to him, even his playmates made fun of him. But instead of crying, sulking, or getting angry, Demosthenes sensibly made up his mind to learn how to speak so well that they could no longer laugh at him. He therefore learned a great deal of poetry, which he recited daily as distinctly as possible. To be able to do this without attracting any attention, he used to go down to a lonely spot on the seashore, where he would put some pebbles in his mouth, and then try to recite so loud that his voice could be heard above the noise of the waves.

To make his lungs strong, he used to walk and run up hill, reciting as he went; and, in order to form a pleasant style, he copied nine times the works of the great Greek historian Thu-cyd´i-des.

When a young man, he shut himself up in the house to study hard. Then, as he was afraid of being tempted to go out and amuse himself, he shaved one side of his head, and let the hair grow long on the other.

You see, he was bound to succeed, and his constant trying was duly rewarded, as it always is. He became learned, eloquent, and energetic; and whenever he rose to speak in the public places of Athens, he was surrounded by an admiring crowd, who listened open-mouthed to all he said.

The Athenians were too lazy at this time, however, to bestir themselves very much, even for their own good. So, in spite of all that Demosthenes could say, they did not offer any great resistance to Philip, who little by little became a very powerful king.



When Philip had entirely subdued the Thracians and Olynthians, he helped the Thessalians to get rid of their tyrant; and, adding their cavalry to his infantry, he boasted of as fine an army as the Greeks had ever been able to muster. He was very anxious to find a pretext to march into Greece at the head of this force, because he thought that, once there, he would soon manage to become master of all the towns. And the excuse for which he longed so much soon came.

A contest known as the Sacred War was going on in Greece at that time. It had arisen because the Pho´cians had taken possession of lands that were left waste in honor of the god Apollo. The Amphictyonic Council said they should pay a fine for this offense; and the Phocians, angry at being thus publicly reproved, defied the council.

To show how little they intended to obey, they not only kept the land they had taken, but robbed the temple at Delphi. Then they used the money thus obtained to win over some allies, and soon began to make war against the people who obeyed the council.

The loyal Greeks fought against the Phocians for a long time, but were unable to conquer them: so Philip proposed to come and help the council. In their anxiety to win in this war, the Greeks gladly allowed him to bring his army into their country, and he soon completely subdued the rebels.

In reward for his help, Philip was made president of the council,—a position he had long coveted,—and leader of the Pyth´i-an games held in honor of Apollo.

When the war was ended, Philip quietly went back to Macedon. He was, however, merely waiting for a favorable opportunity to reënter Greece, and punish the Athenians for listening to Demosthenes’ speeches against him.

In the mean while, Philip’s gold had been very busy, and he was buying up as many friends and allies as he could. Many of his gifts had the desired effect, and were not like the gold cup which he sent to Demosthenes. This, you know, had wholly failed in its purpose, for the orator went on talking more eloquently than ever against the Macedonian king.

He finally roused the Athenians to the point of arming to meet Philip, when they heard that he was really coming at last to make himself master of Greece. Their allies, the Thebans, joined them; and the two armies met at Chær-o-ne´a, in Bœotia, where a terrible battle was fought.

Demosthenes had joined the army; but as he was no soldier, and was not very brave, he fled at the very first onset. Dashing through the bushes, he was suddenly stopped by some spiky branches that caught in his cloak and held him fast. The orator was so frightened that he thought the enemy had captured him, and, falling upon his knees, he began to beg that his life might be spared.

While Demosthenes was thus flying madly, his friends and fellow-citizens were bravely meeting the Macedonians; but, in spite of all their courage, they were soon forced to yield to the Macedonian phalanx, and the battlefield was left strewn with their dead.

Alexander, Philip’s son, who was then only eighteen years of age, commanded one wing of his father’s army, and had the glory of completely crushing the Sacred Battalion of the Thebans, which had never before been beaten.

This brilliant victory at Chæronea made Philip really master of all Greece; but he generously refrained from making the Athenians recognize him openly as their lord, although he made their government do whatever he pleased.

As Greece was now obedient to him, the ambitious Philip began to plan the conquest of Asia and the downfall of the Persian Empire. To get as large an army as possible, he invited all the Greeks to join him, artfully reminding them of all they had suffered at the hands of the Persians in the past.

His preparations were nearly finished, and he was on the point of starting for Asia, when he was murdered by Pausanias, one of his subjects, whom he had treated very unkindly.

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