In This Chapter
The Greek response to the fall of Thebes
News of Thebes’ fall spread throughout Greece, and the city-states who had been antagonistic towards Alexander rushed to reverse their position.
Arcadian troops had been sent by the city to aid Thebes; they had got as far as the Isthmus of Corinth before pausing to see how the battle went. Very useful. Upon seeing the Macedonians triumph, the soldiers condemned their leaders to death.
Elis recalled her (pro-Alexander) exiles.
Aetolia sent embassies to Alexander to ask forgiveness ‘for their own hint of revolution’.
Athens evacuated the countryside and closed the city gates. The Assembly passed Demades’ motion that ten ambassadors be sent to Alexander to congratulate him on his successful campaigns in Thrace and Illyria and Thebes.
The ambassadors were carefully chosen. There was only one criteria: they had to be men whom Alexander liked. Three years after Chaeronea, Athens knew she was in a sticky spot and was treading very carefully indeed.
After meeting the ambassadors, Alexander took no action against Athens but the city was not quite out of the woods. The king demanded the surrender of Demosthenes and eight of his associates. In his letter, Alexander blamed them for,
- Athens’ and Thebes’ defeat at Chaeronea
- the ‘subsequent wrongs committed on Philip’s death against both himself and Philip’ (I presume Alexander was accusing them of being part of the conspiracy to kill Philip here?)
- Thebes’ revolt
Athens did not fold, but very bravely asked Alexander ‘to forgo his anger’ against the nine men. He forgave eight of them. The ninth, Alexander said, had to go into exile. This was Charidemus, a naturalised Athenian citizen. Athens acquiesced and Charidemus went overseas where he joined Darius III’s war council.
Why did Alexander forgive any of the nine men? Arrian suggests it was either ‘out of respect’ for Athens or because he simply wanted to get the expedition to the east started.
I still can’t believe the Arcadian troops stopped to see how the battle was going before deciding to get involved or not! Given how cynical the ancient Greeks were about their treaties, I don’t suppose I should be surprised; but still -.
As you see above, the translation of Arrian’s Anabasis that I am using for these posts refers to the ‘hint of revolution’ in Aetolia. This makes their plea for forgiveness rather touching if a little pathetic. The Landmark Arrian omits any mention of hints. It says that the Aetolian tribes ‘had revolted on learning of the Thebans’ revolt’ (Landmark Arrian p.21).
I have to admit I am not quite sure why Alexander demanded above all else the exile of Charidemus. There is nothing in this chapter of Arrian that suggests he was any worse a person than, say, Demosthenes. Charidemus had been very powerful in Thrace; maybe Alexander feared the he might be again, or else simply wanted revenge for the trouble he had once caused Philip II.
Hammond, Martin (tr.) Arrian: Alexander the Great (Oxford, OUP, 2013)
Romm, James (ed.) The Landmark Arrian: The Campaigns of Alexander (New York, Pantheon, 2010)