From the Back of the Class | Issue 4

From the Back of the Class | Issue 4

King Phillip II

K ing Phillip II of Macedon is nowadays most famous for having banged Angelina Jolie in that movie with all the snakes and then spawning Alexander the Great. However, if his son had not gone on to be such an overachieving Eurasian, Phillip himself would doubtless be remembered as one of the foremost military and political leaders of the day. He oversaw the rise of Macedonian hegemony, and his military reforms introduced the phalanx and sarissa to the Macedonian army, which formed the backbone of his son’s continent-conquering forces.

The sarissa was basically a really, really ridiculously long spear that Phillip invented. While everyone else on the Greek peninsula was messing around with a three-metre-long spear called a Dory, Phillip was, like, “Wait, what if I, like, doubled that? Then I could spike my enemies twice as soon as they could spike me.” So he did. Now, this might seem as obvious to you as someone else’s pubic hair on your bar of soap, but at the time it was the equivalent of going from one of those rubber-band guns you make with your fingers to an intercontinental ballistic missile.

Phillip learned much of his statecraft and militarism when he was a child hostage in Thebes. Being a hostage in the classical Grecian age was not quite what is in our modern barbaric times. Phillip lived comfortably, received military and diplomatic education from the master general Epaminondas and was the eromenos (the “bottom” in the Greek man-boy love tradition of pederasty) of the great athlete and statesman Pelopidas. Although he seemed to have an all right time of it, that didn’t stop his son Alex from going back in later years and obliterating Thebes.

Phillip also accomplished what doubtless many have wished for when he went to war with his wife’s relatives in 358BCE. He killed some 7,000 of her Illyrian countrymen in the process, creating many an awkward silence at the breakfast table.

Though a masterful general and statesman, Phillip was not immune to setting himself up for a classical Greek burn. After having declared war on the Spartans (of 300 fame), Phillip’s emissary carried the message, “If I win this war, you will be slaves forever.” The Spartans’ laconic response was simply, “If.” Wisely, Phillip and (later) his son Alexander decided to leave the Spartans alone to focus on their abs.

This article first appeared in Issue 4, 2015.
Posted 2:32pm Sunday 15th March 2015 by Finbar Noble.