Battle of Chaeronea Paved the Way for Alexander the Great's Incredible Career
This Battle Paved The Way for Alexander the Great’s Incredible Career

This Battle Paved The Way for Alexander the Great’s Incredible Career

Patrick Lynch - April 14, 2018

This Battle Paved The Way for Alexander the Great’s Incredible Career
Tactics at the Battle of Chaeronea 338 BC – Wikimedia Commons

Philip Crushes Athens & Thebes at Chaeronea

The Athenian army was already in grave danger after falling into the Macedonian trap but its fate was sealed the defection of its allies in the center. Meanwhile, Alexander’s cavalry surrounded the Theban Sacred Band and utterly obliterated it. The legendary Band was apparently wiped out at Chaeronea and buried under a stone lion. If you’re a tourist in the area, you can visit the lion which still exists across from a modern road.

On the other flank, Philip refrained from launching his major attack until the enemy was exhausted. Once he ordered a general advance, the Athenian army fell apart, panicked, and retreated. Sources suggest that the allied forces lost 12,000 men, 4,000 died and 8,000 were captured. It was a devastating defeat for Athens and its allies as the Battle of Chaeronea confirmed Macedon’s position as the most powerful Greek state. After Chaeronea, Philip gathered the bodies for burial, offered sacrifices to the gods to thank them for the victory, and honored the fallen men who had fought bravely. It was the beginning of Alexander’s military career, and close to the end of Philip’s.

This Battle Paved The Way for Alexander the Great’s Incredible Career
Map of Macedonian Empire upon death of Philip II in 336 BC – Wikipedia

Like Father, Like Son

The relationship between Philip and Alexander began to crumble in the aftermath of Chaeronea. The precise reason is unknown although the king’s decision to marry Cleopatra, a lady from a high-ranking Macedonian family, was likely the main reason. Alexander was possibly jealous that his father could finally sire a male heir with his young wife. Plutarch wrote about the drunken altercation between Alexander and Philip at the wedding where Alexander supposedly said “Villain, do you consider me to be a bastard?” The king allegedly drew his sword to confront his son but drunkenly fell over.

Soon after the wedding, the royal court gathered at Aegae to celebrate it. In October 336 BC, Philip was murdered by Pausanias of Orestis who was one of his bodyguards. Pausanias was killed by three of his fellow bodyguards as he tried to escape the scene. Although Alexander was the main beneficiary of the crime, there is no evidence that he was involved in the plot. Whatever the reason, it was an assassination that changed history because as the king, Alexander began a series of military campaigns which have had few equals.

Meanwhile, Philip remains a somewhat underrated general. His victory at the Battle of Chaeronea was a tactical masterpiece because of his positioning on the battlefield. Instead of being preoccupied with fighting, Philip was able to coordinate the movement of his light infantry and phalanx while keeping an eye on his son and cavalry. He was legitimately one of the best commanders of the ancient world and his son Alexander derived the greatest benefit. While Alexander was a magnificent leader, his father’s hard work paved the way. By the time the young legend became king, he had benefited from a well-drilled, battle-hardened army with excellent equipment; he also had the help of brilliant generals such as Parmenion.


Where Do We Get This Stuff? Here is a List of Our Sources

“Philosopher Prince to Islamic Prophet: 9 Surprising Legends About Alexander the Great”. Alexander Meddings, History Collection, October 22, 2017.

“Philip II of Macedonia: Greater Than Alexander.” Richard A. Gabriel. Potomac Books, 2010.

“Alexander the Great: Selections from Arrian, Diodorus, Plutarch, and Quintus Curtius.” Edited by James S. Romm and Pamela Mensch. Hackett Publishing Company, Inc, 2005.

“1001 Battles that Changed the Course of History.” R. G. Grant. Chartwell Books, 2011.

“Battle of Chaeronea.” Donald L. Wasson in Ancient History Encyclopedia. September, 2009.