The Epic Father-Son Battle: Phillip Ii Versus Alexander the Great

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The Epic Father-Son Battle:
Phillip II versus Alexander the Great

Chris L.

Word Count: 1595

During the times of ancient Greece, perhaps one of the most influential and known powers was Macedonia. Macedonia’s empire existed from the 800s BC to 146 BC and is principally known for the accomplishments of it’s leaders: Phillip II and his son, Alexander the Great. Phillip II worked internally in the regions near Greece strengthening his country, while Alexander operated very far from Greece, conquering much of the known world. Both of these leaders are two very different people, which makes them hard to compare, but a question arises; to what extent was Alexander greater than Phillip II? The purpose of this essay is to examine both leaders’ accomplishments in order to decipher which one was more distinguished. The two major historiographical views concerning this subject are that: a) Alexander was greater and was a superior commander because of the sheer amount of land he conquered, which was strikingly more than Phillip had, and b) Phillip had forged both a united country and an unstoppable army, which Alexander depended on for his conquests. Over the course of this essay, this historical debate will be addressed by examining both Phillip’s triumphs and Alexander’s triumphs. Phillip II and Alexander the Great are equally great, as Alexander defeated the Persians and conquered most of the known world, but it would have been impossible for him to do it, had Phillip not created an unbeatable army and a united country.

Phillip was in large part, responsible Alexander’s success as he developed the unsurpassed army and military tactics that Alexander used, which is what makes him better. Many steps went into the development of Macedonia’s famous army. From 370 to 360 BC, Phillip was held hostage in Thebes and during this time, he observed the military techniques of the Thebans under the great tactician Epaminondas. After he was released from the Thebans, he made a crucial move to reorganize the Macedonian army into a powerful phalanx that could counter the Thebans. He introduced new weapons such as the 14-21 foot sarissa (two handed spear), which reinforced the phalanx. Phillip made the military a way of life for his soldiers and paid them enough so that they didn’t need to leave to farm; in return he got a very loyal and dependable army. During the Illyrian invasion of Macedonia c. 359 BC, Phillip successfully perfected his newly developed Phalanx and expelled the Illyrians with no trouble. Phillip’s phalanx was especially dominant because it offered melee strength with discipline, to create a quick but powerful force. Because of his victory over the Illyrians, he liberated northern Macedonian cantons, which in return became loyal to him and joined his army. Nearly overnight, Phillip’s army grew, which allowed him to successfully invade Illyria all the way to the Adriatic coast. Phillip created the distinctive Macedonian phalanx, but he also trained some of the world’s greatest generals of that time, such as Antigonus Cyclops, Antipater, Nearchus and Parmenion, who were key figures in Alexander’s campaigns later on. Phillip not only commanded an innovative army force, but he was also a military genius. He created the new tactic of siege-craft. Phillip left his mark on siege warfare by advancing the development of torsion catapults, which helped him assemble an advanced siege train. These advancements not only helped Phillip during his campaigns but also were used by Alexander during his major sieges, such as the siege of Tyre, which in turn brought him victory. Although Phillip II did not do much conquering outside of the regions of Greece, he developed the incredible Macedonian phalanx, he amassed loyal soldiers and generals, and revolutionized siege warfare. Most importantly, Alexander’s campaigns would not have been possible without these developments. Phillip II united his country and through doing so, he gained...
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