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Battle of Chaeronea, August 338 BC

Battle of Chaeronea, August 338 BC


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Battle of Chaeronea, August 338 BC

The battle of Chaeronea (August 338 BC) was the final major battle in the career of Philip II of Macedon, and saw him defeat a Greek alliance led by Thebes and Athens, in the process establishing his dominance over the states of central and southern Greece.

Philip was officially present in central Greece in response to a call from the Delphic Amphictyony, for his help against Amphissa (Fourth Sacred War, 339-338 BC), but his main object always appears to have been to settle the affairs of central Greece and in particular to defeat Athens, which had been at war with him since the previous year.

Philip's first moves were entirely in keeping with his official duty. Instead of trying to force his way through the pass at Thermopylae, he led his men over the mountains to Cytinium in Doris, on the northern side of Mount Parnassus. This put him on the road to Amphissa, but in early September he moved east to Elatea in Phocis. The sudden appearance of the Macedonian army of over 30,000 men only a few days march from Athens caused a panic within the city.

This was Demosthenes's great moment. He had long believed that the only way to defeat Philip was to form an alliance with Thebes, but the two cities were traditional enemies. The sudden threat of attack convinced the Athenian assembly to support his suggestion that envoys should sent to Thebes to try and win them over. Demosthenes was appointed head of this embassy. At the same time Chares and Lysciles were appointed as generals, and given the task of taking the Athenian citizen army towards the Boeotian frontier.

At this point Philip still hoped to have Thebes on his side. Both sides sent envoys to Thebes - when Demosthenes arrived he found Philip's ambassadors already present. Philip's envoys spoke first. They asked Thebes to either grant them free passage across Boeotia or to actually support the invasion of Attica. In his speech 'On the Crown' Demosthenes brushes over the offer he used to gain Theban support, perhaps knowing that it would have been unpopular in post-war Athens. He offered to accept Thebes's dominance of the Boeotian League, abandoning Athens's long standing allies in the area. Athens would pay for two thirds of the land war and all of the naval war, but Thebes would command on land. The military headquarters for the war would be based in Thebes. This was too good an offer for the Thebans to resist, and they abandoned their alliance with Philip and chose to side with Athens,

After this dramatic start to the campaign, there was now a prolonged standoff. The Allies occupied key passes blocking Philip's routes into Boeotia or to Amphissa, and over the winter there was little movement. Demosthenes reported a 'winter battle' and the 'battle by the river', probably minor skirmishes.

Philip's next move probably came in the spring of 338 BC. He is said to have sent a letter to his general Antipater, informing him that a revolt had broken out in Thrace, and Philip would have to move north to deal with it. The defenders of the pass heading to Amphissa relaxed their guard, and Philip was able to advance over the pass and take Amphissa. The Greek defensive line was thus broken, and they were forced to retreat to Chaeronea. Another standoff followed, before in the summer of 338 BC Philip advanced towards the new Greek position, triggering the inevitable battle.

The Battle

According to Plutarch the battle took place on the 7th day of the month of Metageitnion, probably placing it on 2 August or 1 September 338 BC. Philip had over 30,000 men in his army, a big increase on the 10,000 men he could raise early in his reign. The Greeks managed to get close to 30,000 men themselves, but they were made up of a large number of different contingents, not used to fighting together.

The battle was probably fought close to the River Cephisus, on a line running from close to the Macedonian burial mound, south-west to an opening in the hill of Thurium, caused by a stream called Molos. The Macedonians would have had their left flank near the river and been facing east, the Allies their right flank near the river.

Diodorus gives us a very short account of the battle. Philip's son Alexander was given command on one wing, despite his young age (with Philip's most experienced generals for support). Philip was on the other wing at the head of 'picked me' (other sources tell us that Alexander was on the left and Philip on the right). On the allied side the Athenians were on one wing, the Boeotians on the other (again other sources place the Athenians on the Allied left, facing Philip, and the Thebans on the allied right, facing Alexander). The battle itself is described as 'hotly contested for a long time and many fell on both sides, so that for a while the struggle permitted hopes of victory to both'. The key breakthrough came on the Macedonian left, where Alexander, determined to impress his father, broke the solid Theban line. Gaps opened up in the Theban force, and eventually it was put to flight. On the other flank Philip then attacked with his own men, and forced the Athenians to retreat. More than 1,000 Athenians were killed and another 2,000 captured in the battle. Diodorus is much vaguer about the Theban losses, with 'many' killed and 'not a few' captured.

Other sources provide some more details. The Thebans were commanded by Theagenes, the Athenians by Stratocles, Lysicles and Chares. Demosthenes listed Euboea, Achaea, Corinth, Thebes, Megara, Leucadia and Corcyra as Athens's allies. Aeschines added Acarnania to the list.

The battle probably began with a fierce struggle on Alexander's flank, before he was eventually able to force a breakthrough. Philip carried out a feigned retreat on the other flank (see below), before counterattacking at the right moment. The Macedonians then turned on the isolated Greek centre. The Achaean contingent suffered very heavily in this fighting,.

According to Diodorus after the battle Lysicles was tried and condemned to death. Demosthenes was present at the battle, but escaped. Stratocles may have been killed in the battle. Chares doesn't get mentioned in the ancient sources.

The Theban Sacred Band was wiped out in the battle, and was buried under a stone lion that still survives next to the modern road across the battlefield.

Polyaenus gives two details from the battle, both relating to Philip's flank. The first was that he carried out a shame retreat. The Athenian general Stratocles ordered an attack, shouting 'we will pursue them to the heart of Macedonia'. The retreating Macedonians kept their formation, until the Athenians had come down from their advantageous position. Once the Macedonians had reached higher ground he ordered the retreat to stop, and ordered a counterattack, which the Athenians were unable to resist. The second is that he knew the Athenians were less experienced than his men, and would probably have less stamina, and so deliberately left his main attack until the enemy were tired out.

The victory was probably due to a combination of Philip's superior leadership, his more modern and more experienced army, and the divided Allied command. One of the best of the Athenian generals, Phocion, was away with the fleet.

Aftermath

In the aftermath of the battle Athens prepared for a siege, but Philip wasn't interested in destroying the city. Instead he wanted to have its support for his planned invasion of Persia, and so he offered generous terms.

According to Diodorus on the evening after the battle he got drunk, and gloated at his captives, until the captured orator Demades shamed him into behaving better. Once Philip settled down, he was able to use Demades to begin peace negotiations with Athens. He then sent Alexander with the Athenian dead, and an offer to return the prisoners for no ransom. This encouraged the Athenians to enter into peace negotiations, which resulted in the Peace of Demades. Athens was left free and independent, with no Macedonian garrison. She was allowed to keep the key islands of Lemnos, Imbros, Delos, Scyros and Samos, and gained Oropus on the Boeotian border. She had to surrender the Chersonese and dissolve what was left of the Athenian league, and agree to become a friend and ally of Macedon. Despite this leniency Demosthenes was still able to lead an anti-Macedonian faction in Athens.

Thebes suffered more harshly. The leaders involved in the decision to change sides were executed or exiled. A new oligarchy of 300 trusted men was placed in charge. She lost all power of the Boeotian league. The Theban prisoners were sold as slaves, and she struggled to get permission to bury her dead. Finally a Macedonian garrison was left in the citadel.

Philip went on to form the League of Corinth, one of the more successful attempts to produce a lasting peace settlement in Greece. His main aim was to use this league to aid his upcoming invasion of Persia, but before he could carry that out he was murdered (336 BC). In the aftermath of his death the settlement of Greece looked to be unravelling, but the young Alexander the Great turned out to be more than capable of restoring the situation. He also proved to be rather less lenient than his father, and in 335 BC, after a failed revolt, he destroyed the city of Thebes. Although the battle of Chaeronea is often said to have marked the end of the liberty of the Greek city states, that is probably better dated to the reign of Alexander the Great, and in particular the reigns of his successors, the 'Diadochi'.


Battle of Chaeronea (338 BC)


The Battle of Chaeronea was fought in 338 BC, near the city of Chaeronea in Boeotia, between the Macedonians led by Philip II of Macedon and an alliance of some of the Greek city-states led by Athens and Thebes. The battle was the culmination of Philip's campaign in Greece (339–338 BC) and resulted in a decisive victory for the Macedonians.

Philip had brought peace to a war-torn Greece in 346 BC, by ending the Third Sacred War, and concluding his ten-year conflict with Athens for supremacy in the north Aegean, by making a separate peace. Philip's much expanded kingdom, powerful army and plentiful resources now made him the de facto leader of Greece. To many of the fiercely independent Greek city-states, Philip's power after 346 BC was perceived as a threat to their liberty, especially in Athens, where the politician Demosthenes led efforts to break away from Philip's influence. In 340 BC Demosthenes convinced the Athenian assembly to sanction action against Philip's territories and to ally with Byzantium, which Philip was besieging. These actions were against the terms of their treaty oaths and amounted to a declaration of war. In summer 339 BC, Philip therefore led his army towards South Greece, prompting the formation of an alliance of a few southern Greek states opposed to him, led by Athens and Thebes.

After several months of stalemate, Philip finally advanced into Boeotia in an attempt to march on Thebes and Athens. Opposing him, and blocking the road near Chaeronea, was the allied Greek army, similar in size and occupying a strong position. Details of the ensuing battle are scarce, but after a long fight the Macedonians crushed both flanks of the allied line, which then dissolved into a rout.

The battle has been described as one of the most decisive of the ancient world. The forces of Athens and Thebes were destroyed, and continued resistance was impossible the war therefore came to an abrupt end. Philip was able to impose a settlement upon Greece, which all states accepted, with the exception of Sparta. The League of Corinth, formed as a result, made all participants allies of Macedon and each other, with Philip as the guarantor of the peace. In turn, Philip was voted as strategos (general) for a pan-Hellenic war against the Persian Empire, which he had long planned. However, before he was able to take charge of the campaign, Philip was assassinated, and the kingdom of Macedon and responsibility for the war with Persia passed instead to his son Alexander.


Battle of Chaeronea (338 BC)

The Battle of Chaeronea was fought in338 BC, near the city of Chaeronea in Boeotia, between the forces of Philip II of Macedon and an alliance of Greek city-states (the principle members of which were Athens and Thebes).

The Battle of Chaeronea was one of the most important battles in the history of Greece, and the last real stand of the old Greek states against the new Macedonian power from the north. Phillip’s victory and his eventual establishment of a unified Greece marked the end of the city-state and beginning of the imperial age.

The battle was the culmination of Philip’s campaign in Greece (339-338 BC) and resulted in a decisive victory for the Macedonians.

The Allies had a large force of more than 35,000 men from Athens, Corinth, Euboea, Megara and Thebes, among others, Philip’s forces numbered a little less at about 30,000 but he had 1,800 cavalry.
The forces of Athens and Thebes were destroyed and continued resistance was impossible the war therefore came to an abrupt end.

Thousands of the Greek allies lost their lives at Chaeronea, and Philip took several thousand more prisoners.

Philip was able to impose a settlement upon Greek, which all states accepted, with the exception of Sparta.
Battle of Chaeronea (338 BC)


History Games 19: the battle of Chaeronea (338 BC), with the Mortem et Gloriam wargame rules

In 338 Philip II of Macedonia brought his army south into Boeotia. The Greeks –Thebans, Athenians, Acarnanians, Megarans and Corinthians – unwisely gave battle. Philip, with pikemen with 22-foot sarissas and small shields facing Greek hoplites with 12-foot spears and big shields, with his 18 year old son Alexander commanding the left with bravura, won.

In eastern Mediterranean military history it’s the moment when one battle-winning heavy infantry technology was supplanted by another. I’ve been interested in this battle for a while. I refought it in 2017 using the De Bellis Antiquitatis rules (see https://paulhhodson.wordpress.com/2017/09/12/the-fled-wonders-the-battle-of-chaeronea-338-bc/). Alexander, leading the Companion cavalry, died in that battle, but otherwise the game went with history. The Macedonian phalanx was too strong for the hoplites. On that occasion I depicted the battlefield as being too constricted to give the Greeks room to get round the flanks with heavy troops.

The quote from Patrick Leigh Fermor that I put in my record of the battle is beautiful enough to cite again:

“The end of Athens at the battle of Chaeronea used to be the signal for Greek scholars to put back their books with a Milton quotation and a sigh. It was closing time. They forgot that Philip’s dishonest victory opened another lustrous age across the water of course, a more garish one, a shade second-rate and not to be mentioned in the same breath as the fled wonders. But when the victor’s son, with all the East at heel, had led the defeated Greeks to Bactria and the Indies, who could blame their descendants for a certain vainglory? Alexander had founded cities as others throw coins the language was universal marble acanthus leaves opened in thousands above the dunes. Letters, poetry, all the arts and all the pleasures throve in the half-Oriental afternoon of the Ptolemies and the Seleucids.”

This July, at the Amsterdam Six-Shooters wargames club, we refought Chaeronea using the Mortem et Gloriam (MeG) rules. Like most figure wargame rules for some reason their author, Simon Hall, is British.

Both refights were with three players a side. Because we were playing the MeG battle during this time of social distancing, I made a plan to space us out along a long (3 metre) table. In doing this I followed Fred Eugene Ray, Jr (Greek and Macedonian land battles of the 4 th century B.C., 2012). He believes that the main battle was fought purely on foot. The Macedonian cavalry did not fight under Alexander on the left wing, instead taking part in cavalry skirmishing much further left, on the other side of the Cephissus river (nearest the camera in the picture).

Two of the six commanders fought this skirmish. It was unsatisfactory – the rules, which have strong maneouvre formalities, seem to be designed for lines meeting, not skirmishes in open territory.

The other four players led the long battle lines in the main part of the battle. As in DBA, pike vs. spear in MeG is a grind that the pikes should eventually win. But oh it was slow. We played for three or four hours and were nowhere near a resolution.

This was my first game with these rules. It was a bit of a disappointment.

Aesthetically it was a joy with lots of troops on a big table. We had about 80 bases per side, compared to 36 with big battle DBA.

As a game I found the command and movement rules overcomplicated and slow. I didn’t think advantage was taken of having units composed of 6-9 bases of troops, rather than one. It would’ve been possible to depict them flowing around obstacles or become irregularly shaped as they met enemy. Instead, they tended to remain in rectangular arrangements.

Did the outcomes feel historical? In the skirmish, not. The units careered around too much, could easily run past each other. Reasonably so in the main battle – lots of shoving between the heavy infantry. I liked how bowmen, slingers and javelinmen were treated differently, unlike in DBA. To get a definite view I would have to play other battles.

Did you have a clear sense of who you, the player, represent? No. You’re commanding a wing of a large army, but you are also making micro-movements of your troops.

Based on this play of the rules I can only give the rule set 4 points, I’m afraid.

I looked for board wargames of the Chaeronea campaign. I found out about only one: Hegemon (2002). It’s out of print. Because it was the game of the first issue of a famous wargames magazine, Against the odds, you have to pay a lot ($495 on ebay) to get a copy. If anyone reading this has played it, I would be interested to hear about it.


Battle of Chaeronea (338 BC)

The Battle of Chaeronea was fought in 338 BC, near the city of Chaeronea in Boeotia, between the Macedonians led by Philip II of Macedon and an alliance of some of the Greek city-states led by Athens and Thebes. The battle was the culmination of Philip's final campaigns in�–338 BC and resulted in a decisive victory for the Macedonians.

Philip had brought peace to a war-torn Greece in 346 BC, by ending the Third Sacred War, and concluding his ten-year conflict with Athens for supremacy in the north Aegean, by making a separate peace. Philip's much expanded kingdom, powerful army and plentiful resources now made him the de facto leader of Greece. To many of the fiercely independent city-states, Philip's power after 346 BC was perceived as a threat, especially in Athens, where the politician Demosthenes led efforts to break away from Philip's influence. In 340 BC Demosthenes convinced the Athenian assembly to sanction action against Philip's territories and to ally with the Achaemenids in Byzantium, which Philip was besieging. These actions were against the terms of their treaty oaths and amounted to a declaration of war. In summer 339 BC, Philip therefore led his army towards South Greece, prompting the formation of an alliance of a few southern Greek states opposed to him, led by Athens and Thebes.

After several months of stalemate, Philip finally advanced into Boeotia in an attempt to march on Thebes and Athens. Opposing him, and blocking the road near Chaeronea, was the allied army, similar in size and occupying a strong position. Details of the ensuing battle are scarce, but after a long fight the Macedonians crushed both flanks of the allied line, which then dissolved into a rout.

The battle has been described as one of the most decisive of the ancient world. The forces of Athens and Thebes were destroyed, and continued resistance was impossible the war therefore came to an abrupt end. Philip was able to impose a settlement upon southern Greece, which all states accepted, with the exception of Sparta. The League of Corinth, formed as a result, made all participants allies of Macedon and each other, with Philip as the guarantor of the peace. In turn, Philip was voted as strategos (general) for a pan-Hellenic war against the Achaemenid Empire, which he had long planned. However, before he was able to take charge of the campaign, Philip was assassinated, and the Kingdom of Macedon and responsibility for the war with Persia passed instead to his son Alexander.


Strategic and tactical considerations

The Greek army had taken up a position near Chaeronea, astride the main road. [34] On the left flank, the Greek line lay across the foothills of Mount Thurion, blocking the side-road that led to Lebedea, while on the right, the line rested against the Kephisos River, near a projecting spur of Mount Aktion. [34] The Greek line, which was about 2.5 miles in length, was thus secure on both flanks. Moreover, the Greek line seems to have slanted north-eastwards across the plain in between, so that it did not face the direction of Macedonian advance full-square. [34] This prevented Philip from attempting to concentrate his force on the Greek right wing, since the advanced position of the Greek left wing would then threaten Philip's right. Although Philip could attempt to concentrate his force against the Greek left, the troops there occupied high ground, and any attack would be difficult. [34] Since the Greeks could remain on the defensive, having only to prevent Philip's advance, their position was therefore strategically and tactically very strong. [34]


Chaeronea (338 BCE)

Battle of Chaeronea (338 BCE): decisive battle in which king Philip II of Macedonia overcame Athens and Thebes, which meant, essentially the end of Greek independence.

The war between the Greek city states and Macedonia became inevitable when, in 340, king Philip of Macedonia was besieging Perinthus - on the west bank of the Sea of Marmara - and the Macedonians captured a food convoy headed for Athens. Immediately, Athens declared war and started a blockade of the Macedonian ports. Philip, who had already discovered that Perinthus received supplies from the Persian Empire, and found himself fighting against Persian armies in Europe, broke off the siege, and decided to invade Greece. He spent some time in Macedonia, and then, unexpectedly, moved to the south, at lightning speed. The Greek allies found it impossible to block the road at Thermopylae, and met the Macedonians at Chaeronea, along the road from Thermopylae to Thebes. It was August 338.

According to Polyaenus, the Macedonians used a stratagem:

Map of the Battle of Chaeronea

After drawing up his formation against the Athenians at Chaeronea, Philip yielded and gave way. An Athenian general, Stratocles, shouted "We must not stop pressing them until we shut the enemy in Macedonia," and he did not give up the pursuit. Philip, saying "The Athenians do not understand how to win," retreated gradually, keeping his phalanx drawn together and protected by shields. A little later, gaining some high ground, encouraging his troops, and turning around, he attacked the Athenians vigorously and, fighting brilliantly, he conquered. note [Polyaenus, Stratagems 2.2.2 tr. P. Krentz & E.K. Wheeler.]

A different story is told by Diodorus of Sicily:

The armies deployed at dawn, and the king stationed his son Alexander, young in age but noted for his valor and swiftness of action, on one wing, placing beside him his most seasoned generals, while he himself at the head of picked men exercised the command over the other individual units were stationed where the occasion required. On the other side, dividing the line according to nationality, the Athenians assigned one wing to the Boeotians and kept command of the other themselves. Once joined, the battle was hotly contested for a long time and many fell on both sides, so that for a while the struggle permitted hopes of victory to both.

/> The battlefield Parnassus in the distance

Then Alexander, his heart set on showing his father his prowess and yielding to none in will to win, ably seconded by his men, first succeeded in rupturing the solid front of the enemy line and striking down many he bore heavily on the troops opposite him. As the same success was son by his companions, gaps in the front were constantly opened. Corpses piled up, until finally Alexander forced his way through the line and put his opponents to flight. Then the king also in person advanced, well in front not conceding credit for the victory even to Alexander he efficient forced back the troops stationed before him and then by compelling them to flee became the man responsible for the victory.

/> Macedonian tumulus

More than a thousand Athenians fell in the battle and no less than two thousand were captured. Likewise, many of the Boeotians were killed and not a few taken prisoners. After the battle Philip raised a trophy of victory, yielded the dead for burial, gave sacrifices to the gods for victory, and rewarded according to their deserts those of his men who had distinguished themselves. note [Diodorus of Sicily, World History 16.86 tr. C. Bradford Welles.]

It is possible to harmonize these accounts. It seems that the right wing of the Macedonian army slowly moved backwards, and that the Athenians (on the Greek left wing) moved forwards. This created a gap in the Greek lines the Athenians lost contact with the Thebans on the Greek right wing. When this gap opened, Alexander, who commanded the Macedonian left, charged and broke through. He attacked the Greek right wing, which was occupied by the famous "Sacred Band" of Thebans, which was massacred. This was the end of the battle - and the beginning of the spectacular military career of Alexander.

After the battle, Philip reorganized Greece. On several places (Corinth, Thebes. ) he laid garrisons, and he proceeded to Sparta, to show the power of his weapons on the Peloponnese as well. This action was broken off when news arrived that in the Persian Empire, king Artaxerxes III Ochus had died. Because a new Achaemenid king would need some time to establish his power, the Macedonians had a golden opportunity to invade Asia. Therefore, Philip forced the once independent cities to conclude a common peace and become members of the Corinthian League, which declared war against the Persian Empire. The Macedonian army would be enlarged by regiments of the Greek allies, which would - of course - also serve as hostages.

/> Funerary stela of an Athenian hoplite, killed in action

Alexander was now about eighteen years old, and had already been portrayed on Macedonian coins. Philip now gave him even more "visibility" by erecting a group of statues, in which he himself was shown as charioteer, Alexander standing next to him (the "Rondanini Alexander"). This turned out to be a clever move, because Philip was assassinated before he could join the Persian war, and Alexander had already been recognized by almost everyone as Philip's successor, especially now that he had proved himself to be a superior warrior.

It must be remarked that the importance of the battle has been overestimated. It is often said that the significance of "Chaeronea" was that the freedom of the Greek cities came to an end. However, the Third Sacred War (354-346) had probably done the real political damage.

Writing several centuries after the battle, Greek writer Pausanias noted that

near the city of Chaeronea is the communal grave of the Thebans who were killed in action. It contains no epitaph, there is just a statue of a lion, which was perhaps chosen to commemorate the courage of the men. The absence of an inscription is, in my view, because their courage was not rewarded with good fortune. note [Pausanias, Guide to Greece 9.40.4.]

The remains of the statue have been found and the monument has been restored.


The Battle of Chaeronea in Diodorus Siculus

Chaeronea is the site of the famous Battle of Chaeronea (338 BCE) Phillip II of Macedon's decisive defeat of the Greek city-states. At Chaeronea in Boeotia (north of Corinth) Phillip and his allies from Thessaly, Epirus, Aetolia, Northern Phocis and Locrian defeated the combined forces of Athens and Thebes. Phillip commanded the right wing while his eighteen-year old son, Alexander lead the left. Alexander is credited with breaking the Theban lines and winning the battle (he was also entrusted with negotiating a peace after the battle). The result of the the Battle of Chaeronea was the unification of the Greek city-states under Macedonian rule. It is cited by later historians as the first battle in which Alexander took part and where he showed, at the early age of eighteen, that military genius which would define his later campaigns and earn him the name Alexander the Great.

In the following excerpt, the historian Diodorus Siculus (1st century BCE) chronicles the famous Battle of Chaeronia of 338 BCE, in which Phillip II of Macedon, his son Alexander and their allies defeated the Greek forces of Athens and Thebes resulting in the unification of the Greek city-states under Macedonian rule. As Alexander's contribution to the battle has been disputed (he is traditionally credited with breaking the Theban lines and winning the battle) it is of interest to read an earlier historian's account of the battle:

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In the year Charondas was first archon in Athens, Philip, King of Macedon, being already in alliance with many of the Greeks, made it his chief business to subdue the Athenians, and thereby with more ease control all Hellas. To this end he presently seized Elateia [a Phocian town commanding the mountain passes southward], in order to fall on the Athenians, imagining to overcome them with ease since he conceived they were not at all ready for war, having so lately made peace with him. Upon the taking of Elateia, messengers hastened by night to Athens, informing the Athenians that the place was taken, and Philip was leading on his men in full force to invade Attica.

The Athenian magistrates in alarm had the trumpeters sound their warning all night, and the rumor spread with terrifying effect all through the city. At daybreak the people without waiting the usual call of the magistrate rushed to the assembly place. Thither came the officials with the messenger and when they had announced their business, fear and silence filled the place, and none of the customary speakers had heart to say a word. Although the herald called on everybody "to declare their minds"—-as to what was to be done, yet none appeared the people, therefore, in great terror cast their eyes on Demosthenes, who now arose, and bade them to be courageous, and forthwith to send envoys to Thebes to treat with the Boeotians to join in the defense of the common liberty for there was no time (he said) to send an embassy for aid elsewhere, since Philip would probably invade Attica within two days, and seeing he must march through Boeotia, the only aid was to be looked for there.

The people approved of his advice, and a decree was voted that such an embassy should be sent. As the most eloquent man for the task, Demosthenes was pitched upon, and forthwith he hastened away [to Thebes. —-Despite past hostilities between Athens and Thebes, and the counter-arguments of Philip's envoys, Demosthenes persuaded Thebes and her Boeotian cities that their liberty as well as that of Athens was really at stake, and to join arms with the Athenians.] . . .When Philip could not prevail on the Boeotians to join him, he resolved to fight them both. To this end, after waiting for reinforcements, he invaded Boeotia with about thirty thousand foot and two thousand horse.

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Both armies were now ready to engage they were equal indeed in courage and personal valor, but in numbers and military experience a great advantage lay with the king. For he had fought many battles, gained most of them, and so learned much about war, but the best Athenian generals were now dead, and Chares—-the chief of them still remaining—-differed but little from a common hoplite in all that pertained to true generalship. About sunrise [at Chaeronea in Boeotia] the two armies arrayed themselves for battle. The king ordered his son Alexander, who had just become of age, yet already was giving clear signs of his martial spirit, to lead one wing, though joined to him were some of the best of his generals. Philip himself, with a picked corps, led the other wing, and arranged the various brigades at such posts as the occasion demanded. The Athenians drew up their army, leaving one part to the Boeotians, and leading the rest themselves.

At length the hosts engaged, and the battle was fierce and bloody. It continued long with fearful slaughter, but victory was uncertain, until Alexander, anxious to give his father proof of his valor—-and followed by a courageous band—-was the first to break through the main body of the enemy, directly opposing him, slaying many and bore down all before him—-and his men, pressing on closely, cut to pieces the lines of the enemy and after the ground had been piled with the dead, put the wing resisting him in flight. The king, too, at the head of his corps, fought with no less boldness and fury, that the glory of victory might not be attributed to his son. He forced the enemy resisting him also to give ground, and at length completely routed them, and so was the chief instrument of the victory.

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Over one thousand Athenians fell, and two thousand were made prisoners. A great number of Boeotians, too, perished, and many more were captured by the enemy.

[After some boastful conduct by the king, thanks to the influence of Demades, an Athenian orator who had been captured], Philip sent ambassadors to Athens and renewed the peace with her [on very tolerable terms, leaving her most of her local liberties]. He also made peace with the Boeotians, but placed a garrison in Thebes. Having thus struck terror into the leading Greek states, he made it his chief effort to be chosen generalissimo of Greece. It being noised abroad that he would make war upon the Persians, on behalf of the Greeks, in order to avenge the impieties committed by them against the Greek gods, he presently won public favor over to his side throughout Greece. He was very liberal and courteous, also, to both private citizens and communities, and proclaimed to the cities that he wished to consult with them as to the common good.' Whereupon a general council [of the Greek cities] was convened at Corinth, where he declared his design of making war on the Persians, and the reasons he hoped for success and therefore desired the Council to join him as allies in the war. At length he was created general of all Greece, with absolute power, and having made mighty preparations and assigned the contingents to be sent by each city, he returned to Macedonia where, soon after, he was murdered by Pausanius, a private enemy.


The fled wonders: the battle of Chaeronea, 338 BC

Last week, six of us refought the battle of Chaeronea (338 BC). In history it was the end of classical Greece. Their spear-armed hoplites (on the right in the first picture, the left in the second) were defeated by the sarissa-armed phalanxes of Philip II of Macedon, father of Alexander the Great.

In our battle Alexander was killed in the same rash cavalry charge that in reality swept away the Theban Sacred Band, on the Greeks’ right flank – with implications for the next bits of history! But the rest of the battle went the way of the records (and three of the four other refights I found on line). This makes sense. Sarissas are longer than spears, so the Macedonian phalanx can bring more ranks to bear when the two meet. The phalanxes need to go deep to take advantage of this. The hoplites could go wide and encircle them. But the width of this battlefield is limited by a river and a marsh on the Greek right flank, a town on the left, so the Greeks can’t take advantage of their extra width.

Both armies have a smattering of light troops to occupy the broken terrain on each flank. If we fight this battle again I would let the Greeks hold their light troops back behind their hoplite line. After the Macedonians deploy, they could rush them all to one flank and try and win an outflanking victory there.

Patrick Leigh Fermor has this to say:

“The end of Athens at the battle of Chaeronea used to be the signal for Greek scholars to put back their books with a Milton quotation and a sigh. It was closing time. They forgot that Philip’s dishonest victory opened another lustrous age across the water of course, a more garish one, a shade second-rate and not to be mentioned in the same breath as the fled wonders. But when the victor’s son, with all the East at heel, had led the defeated Greeks to Bactria and the Indies, who could blame their descendants for a certain vainglory? Alexander had founded cities as others throw coins the language was universal marble acanthus leaves opened in thousands above the dunes. Letters, poetry, all the arts and all the pleasures throve in the half-Oriental afternoon of the Ptolemies and the Seleucids.”

I’m with the Greek scholars. But I would still like to see the relics of the Bactrian Greek kingdoms that survived for hundreds of years in Afghanistan.


GBoH: Chaeronea 338 B.C.

Hi gang! Rob Tyson from over at BGG has shared his first ever After Action Report!

Featuring a classic game from the Ancients era – Alexander Deluxe:

This is my AAR for the Battle of Chaeronea 338 B.C. using GMT’s Great Battles of Alexander Deluxe. I’m fairly new to the system (used to play Simple GBoH previously), but I decided to add in the optional rule for The Hellenic Law of Inertia since I think it makes sense.

Here is a link to some info on the battle:

The Greeks, seeing that they are outnumber in terms of cavalry, order the light cavalry unit on the left flank to move their ass to the right flank to join the only other Greek cavalry unit. Peltasts (a cross between light infantry and skirmishers) are sent forward. Otherwise, they hang tight to see what develops.

Philip of Macedon, commanding the phalanxes, moves them up to the stream, but doesn’t cross over, looking to use the steep slopes on certain sections to bolster his line. Alexander first orders his peltasts and light cavalry forward, with the Companions following behind.

Rout Points accumulated:

Greeks: 0/75
Macedonians: 0/105

(For those unfamiliar, the number to the left of the slash is the number of rout points an army has against it, due to the destruction of units/leaders. The number to the right is the point at which the army will Withdraw, thus conceding defeat.)

The Greek Allies (all forces other than those of Athens and Thebes) see the opening in the Macedonian line between the phalanxes and the Companions, and decide to move forward, exploiting the hole. This action, to the consternation of the Athenians and Theban leaders, causes them to also move forward in order to maintain their lines and protect their flanks. This causes a problem for Athens and Thebes as their Hoplite formations must cross a steep sloped stream, inflicting cohesion hits and causing some units to slow down.

Alex sends his Peltasts across the stream, hoping that they will be able to harass and slow down the Thebans. The Companions remain in place mainly because of the damned edge of the map is secured by the Thebans. Though they may be heavy cavalry, stirrups did not exist at this time in the West, and as a result, charges into the front of infantry units will tend to be bad for cavalry. Gotta get around the flank! Meanwhile, Philip, seeing the Greek City states moving forward, trumps their leaders (an way to steal the initiative and prevent your opponent from gaining momentum) so as to prevent his right flank from being hit.

Greeks: 0/75
Macedonians 0/105

The Thebans take the lead and send this Hoplites out against the Peltasts. This forces the Peltasts back over the stream with the Hoplites hot on their tails (accumulating Cohesion Points along the way). The fight looks like it should go well for the Thebans, but the Pre-Shock cohesion checks go poorly, with one Hoplite formation routing, and in the ensuing combat, though most of the Peltasts are routed, Theagenes, the Theban commander, is mortally wounded, causing his units to lose control of their situation. Alexander rallies the routed Peltasts, and gets the remaining Peltasts and light cavalry units to use hit and run tactics with their javelins, eventually causing two more Hoplite formations to break under the stress. (Note: in this game, double length Hoplite/Phalanx units cannot be rallied once they break. Powerful units, but once they hit their breaking point, due to some bad die rolls, getting them back in order is just too much to handle in the time span of the scenarios.)

Meanwhile, the Greek City States move forward again, but are once more trumped by Philip, who sends half of his Phalanx units over the low banked streams to confront the Hoplites. They ended up locked in combat, with the denser Phalanx units getting the upper hand slowly but surely.

Greeks: 56/75
Macedonians: 0/105

Turn 4 – Macedonian Victory:

With the Thebans in collapse, the Greek allies push on. They move one of their Hoplite formations (mislabeled as a Phalanx in the photo) and hit one of the Macedonian Phalanxes in the flank, causing it to rout. This however, is balanced out by one of the previously engaged Hoplite formations collapsing at the left end of the Greek allied line.

The Athenians hold back, straightening their lines and reorganizing (i.e., removing cohesion hits) after crossing the stream. The Athenians have yet to enter combat, which I’m sure will be the source of rumors in years to come.

With the Thebans in disarray, young Alex (finally!) sends to Companion Cavalry into the now porous Theban lines, causing further units to rout. With the Macedonian heavy cavalry now having free run of the field, the final nail is hammered into the anti-Macedonian coffin.