Philip II of Macedon (382–336 BCE), was king (basileus) of Macedon from 359 BCE until his assassination in 336 BCE. He was the father of Alexander the Great and Philip III.
Philip II was born in 382 BC, in Pella, the capital of the ancient Macedonian kingdom, as the youngest son of king Amyntas III. After his father’s death, Macedonia slowly disintegrated. His elder brothers and future kings Alexander II and Perdiccas III, unsuccessfully fought against the continuous attacks of the neighboring Thracians, Illyrians, and Greeks.
Philip II was himself a hostage of the Greeks at Thebes, between 368 and 365 BC. But while in captivity there, he observed the military techniques of then the greatest power in Greece. When he returned to Macedonia he immediately set forth in helping his brother Perdiccas III, who became king of Macedonia after the death of Alexander II, to strengthen and reorganize the Macedonian army. But in 359, when king Perdiccas III set out to battle the Illyrians to free north-western Macedonia, the Macedonian army suffered a disastrous defeat. Philip ascended on the Macedonian throne in the most difficult times, after the death of Perdiccas III. The country was virtually at the brink of collapse, its neighbors ready to put an end to its existence. The Macedonian state was further weakened by internal turmoil, Paeonia was independent of Macedonian control, and additional claimants to the throne now supported by foreign powers were a serious threat to Philip's reign.
Despite the tremendous danger, the 21-year-old king was not discouraged, and will soon demonstrate his diplomatic skills. He bought off the Thracian king with gifts and persuaded him to put to death the first Macedonian pretender to the throne who had found a refuge at the Thracian court. Then he defeated in battle the second pretender who was supported by the Greek power of Athens. Careful not to upset the Athenians, he made a treaty with them, ceding the city of Amphipolis on the Macedonian coast to them. Thus in little more then a year he removed the internal treats and secured the safety of his kingdom by firmly establishing himself on the throne.
In 358 BC he met them in battle with his reorganized Macedonian phalanx, and utterly defeated them. The Illyrians fled in panic, leaving 7,000 dead (3/4 of their whole force) on the battleground. North-western Macedonia was free, and all of the Upper Macedonia cantons, including Lyncestia, the birthplace of Philip’s mother, were now firmly under Macedonian control, loyal to their liberator. The Macedonian army grew in size overnight and invaded Illyria itself, conquering all Illyrian tribes deep into the country, stopping short near the Adriatic coast.
Philip provided his Macedonian solders in the phalanx with sarissa, a spear which was long 6 meters, about 18 feet. The sarissa, when held upright by the rear rows of the phalanx (there were usually eight rows), helped hide maneuvers behind the phalanx from the view of the enemy. When held horizontal by the front rows of the phalanx, it was a brutal weapon for people could be run through from 20 feet away. Philip made the military a way of life for the Macedonian men. It became a professional occupation that paid well enough that the soldiers could afford to do it year-round, unlike in the past when the soldiering had only been a part-time job, something the men would do during the off peak times of farming. This allowed him to count on his man regularly, building unity and cohesion among his men.
In 357 BC he married princess Olympias from the neighboring country of Epirus. A year later Olympias gave him a son which he named Alexander. Philip also allowed the sons of the Macedonian nobles to receive education at the court in Pella. Here these young men would develop a fierce loyalty for the king, while the king kept their parents from interfering with his authority.
After the defeat of the Illyrians, Macedonia’s policy became increasingly aggressive. Paeonia was already forcefully integrated into Macedonia under Philip's rule. In 357 BC Philip broke the treaty with Athens and attacked Amphipolis which he surrendered to the Greeks when he came to power. The city fell back in the hands of Macedonia after an intense siege. Then he secured possession over the gold mines of nearby Mount Pangaeus, which will enable him to finance his future wars. The Macedonian silver tetradrachms and gold staters mined during Philip's rule became a recognized currency not only in the entire Balkans but far into northern Europe among the Celts, who made poor copies of the same.
In 356 the Macedonian army advanced further eastward and captured the town of Crenides (near modern Drama) which was in the hands of the Thracians, and which Philip renamed after himself to Philippi. The Macedonian eastern border with Thrace was now secured at the river Nestus (Mesta).
Philip next marched into northern Greece. In Thessaly he defeated his enemies and by 352, he was firmly in control of this northern Greek region. In 348 BC, the Macedonian army attacked the Chalcidice peninsula and defeated the city-state of Olynthus. Like Methone, Olynthus and the other 31 Greek cities in Chalcidice were utterly demolished and razed to the ground, their Greek citizens sold as slaves, and their land distributed to the Macedonians. Among these Greek cities was Stageira, the birthplace of the Greek philosopher Aristotle. The whole of Chalcidice peninsula was annexed to Macedonia, marking an end of Greek settlements on Macedonian soil. The great Athenian orator Demosthenes, already in 351 BC delivered the first of his Philippics, a series of speeches warning the Greeks about the Macedonian menace to Greek liberty. His Philippics (the second in 344 BC, the third in 341 BC) and his three Olynthiacs (349 BC, in which he urged aid for Olynthus against Philip), were all directed in arousing Greece against the foreign conqueror. In the third of the Philippics, which is considered the finest of his orations, the great Athenian statesman spoke of Philip II as of:
"not only no Greek, nor related to the Greeks, but not even a barbarian from any place that can be named with honors, but a pestilent knave from Macedonia, whence it was never yet possible to buy a decent slave" (Third Philippic, 31)
These words echo the fact that the ancient Greeks regarded the ancient Macedonians as dangerous neighbors, never as kinsmen. They viewed them and their kings as barbarians (non-Greeks), a manner in which they treated all non-Greeks. Long before Philip II, the ancient Greek historian Herodotus, related how the Macedonian king Alexander I (498-454 BC), the Philhellene, that is "a friend of the Greeks" and naturally a non-Greek, wanted to take a part in the Olympic games. The Greek athletes protested, saying they would not run with a barbarian. Historian Thucydides also considered the Macedonians as barbarians and Thracymachus explicitly referred to the Macedonian king Archelaus (413-399 BC) as barbarian.
In 340 BCE, Philip started the siege of Perinthus. Philip began another siege in 339 of the city of Byzantium. After unsuccessful sieges of both cities, Philip's influence all over Greece was compromised. However, he successfully reasserted his authority in the Aegean by defeating an alliance of Thebans and Athenians at the Battle of Chaeronea in 338 BCE, while in the same year, Philip destroyed Amfissa because the residents had illegally cultivated part of the Crisaian plain which belonged to Delphi.
Philip created and led the League of Corinth in 337 BCE. Members of the League agreed never to wage war against each other, unless it was to suppress revolution. Philip was elected as leader (hegemon) of the army of invasion against the Persian Empire.
In 336 BCE, when the invasion of Persia was in its very early stage, Philip was assassinated, and was succeeded on the throne of Macedon by his son Alexander III.
The great Macedonian conqueror was dead, the men who liberated his country from foreign occupation and brought if from the edge of the abyss into a world power during his reign from 359 to 336 BC. Philip's dream for conquering the Persian Empire laid on his successor, his son king Alexander III.