Chaeronea: Philip Confirms His Domination Over Greece

The Battle of Chaeronea

Source Diodorus Siculus XVI.86
Date 2nd August 338 BC
In his book The Generalship of Alexander the Great (Da Capo Press, 1960), J.F.C. Fuller also suggests 1st September as a possible date of the battle; the Notes to the Loeb (1963) translation of Dio. XVI.86 also suggest 4th August
Combatants: Macedonian Army under Philip II vs A Greek Alliance comprising principally of Athenian and Theban soldiers
Location West of Thebes on the map below

Source: Wikipedia

The Battle

  • The two armies ‘deployed at dawn’
  • Philip II stationed Alexander, then 18 years old, ‘on one wing’. In the Loeb translation, Diodorus does not specify which wing it was but scholars believe it to have been the left (NB In his translation of Diodorus XVI, Robin Waterfield also does not specify which wing Alexander was on)
  • Philip put ‘his most seasoned generals’ with Alexander. The prince had already seen combat (e.g. against the Maedians in 340) but obviously still had much to learn
  • Philip directed the battle from ‘the other’ wing – presumably the right (see Notes below)
  • Diodorus says that ‘the Athenians assigned one wing to the Boetians (i.e. Thebans) and kept command of the other themselves. So, according to Diodorus, the Athenians were in charge of the alliance.
  • Once the battle started, it was ‘hotly contested for a long time’. There were many casualties on both sides
  • Finally, however, Alexander managed to break through the front line of the enemy right wing
  • Diodorus adds that Alexander was fired by a desire to show ‘his father his prowess’ and utter determination to win
  • Once Alexander broke through the enemy front line, the enemy soldiers fled for their lives
  • After Alexander had broken through the enemy front line, Philip advanced. Whether it was on foot or on horseback, Diodorus appears to suggest that Philip led his men from the front
  • Philip forced the enemy back. Overwhelmed, they began to flee

Notes

  • The Notes in Loeb say that ‘It seems certain that Philip, on the Macedonian right, did not engage the Athenians until the Thebans on the allied right, had been shattered by Alexander’
  • As you can see above, the Notes clarifies that the Thebans were Alexander’s opponents and the Athenians, Philip’s
  • The Notes assume Philip was on the Macedonian right because that is where Alexander usually fought during the battles of his war against the Persian empire (the right wing being the ‘traditional position of the Macedonian king’)
  • Among the Allied soldiers who fell in battle was a Theban general named Theagenes. In 335, his sister Timoclea was raped by the leader of some Thracian soldiers during the Macedonian attack on Thebes. After the assault, the leader demanded to know where her valuables were. Timoclea told him she had thrown them into a well. He went to look. As he did so, she pushed him in and then stoned him to death. The leader’s men brought her to Alexander. Although tied up, Timoclea approached and spoke to Alexander proudly and with dignity. Impressed by her, he gave orders for Timoclea and her children to be set free. This incident is recorded by Plutarch in his Life of Alexander 12
Categories: Diodorus Siculus, On Alexander, Plutarch | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

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