Type of Government
The kingdom of Macedon was governed by a powerful centralized monarchy in which the king made all executive, legislative, and judicial decisions. The king was supported by an entourage of assistants, bodyguards, and advisers known as the Companionate. Macedon participated in the League of Corinth, a council of Greek city-states that deliberated foreign policy and decided matters of federal government.
Macedon was a kingdom located on the northeastern plain of ancient Greece. It comprised two distinct geographic regions: Lower (ancient) Macedon, a fertile region between the Aliákmon and Vardar rivers, and Upper Macedon, an upland region of forests and mountains rich in mineral deposits. The area was settled in 700 BC by King Perdiccas I (fl.700 BC), whose descendants ruled Macedon until the fourth century BC.
Until the accession of King Philip II (382–336 BC), Macedon was an unstable kingdom threatened by foreign enemies and powerful local leaders. Philip’s greatest achievement was the unification not only of the kingdom of Macedon but of all of Greece. Employing diplomatic and military tactics, Philip brought most of the Greek city-states under Macedonian control and expanded the size of the kingdom, taking over Thessaly to the south and territories as far east as the Black Sea. His most significant act of foreign policy was to convince the Greek states to approve plans for war against Persia. Before the campaign got under way, however, Philip was assassinated.
Philip’s expansionist policy set the stage for the achievements of his successor, King Alexander the Great (356–323 BC). Under Alexander, Macedon reaffirmed its domination of the Greek world and overthrew the mighty Persian Empire. By the time of Alexander’s death in 323 BC, his empire was the largest and strongest in the ancient world, encompassing Egypt and the Mediterranean coast to the south and stretching across the Middle East into India. Under Alexander, centralized monarchies were established throughout Egypt and Persia that persisted for centuries.
The kingdom of Macedon was governed by a powerful centralized monarchy. In contrast to the more democratic governments of other Greek city-states, particularly Athens, the Macedonian kings were autocrats who were subject to few constitutional limitations. The king made all executive, legislative, and judicial decisions, and he represented the kingdom in foreign affairs. The king was surrounded by an entourage of noblemen known as the Companionate, who served as assistants, bodyguards, and advisers. Each king selected his own companions, and he could appoint them to any post he saw fit. The Companionate alone had direct access to the king.
An Assembly of citizens was composed entirely of soldiers, as they alone had the vote. The Assembly met to hear addresses from the king and had the power to elect or depose the king. There was no intermediate body between the king and the Assembly.
Macedon participated in the League of Corinth. The league was organized by King Philip in 337 BC as a military alliance of Greek city-states, with the noticeable exception of Sparta. Each state elected representatives to a synedrion (congress) that deliberated foreign policy and decided matters of federal government, and the states supplied troops in proportion to their voting power. Philip (and later Alexander) served as hegemon (leader) of the league. According to its provisions, the league could pass binding decrees on member states, had the power to arbitrate disputes among members, and could try individuals accused of subverting the league’s goals. In addition, members pledged mutual nonaggression and military aid in the event of an attack.
Political Parties and Factions
The Argead dynasty ruled Macedon from 700 to 311 BC. According to legend, the Argead house was descended from the Greek hero Heracles. The dynasty was established by Perdiccas, who is said to have led the Macedonian people eastward from the Aliákmon River basin to found the kingdom of Macedon; the dynasty ended with Alexander IV (323–310 BC), the son and successor of Alexander the Great. The dynasty’s two great rulers were Philip II and Alexander the Great.
The beginning of Macedonian dominance was marked by King Philip’s victory at the Boeotian city of Chaeronea against the allied armies of Athens and Thebes in 338 BC. This event signaled the end of the Theban hegemony and cemented Macedon’s position as a Greek superpower.
Under Alexander the Great, the Macedonians, leading an allied Greek army, invaded and conquered the Persian Empire, a campaign that Philip had planned before his death. The Macedonians’ first victory was achieved at the battle of Granicus in 334 BC. Alexander achieved a decisive blow at the battle of Issus in 333 BC and took the Persian capital of Persepolis in 330 BC. Alexander and his Greek army continued to march eastward, establishing the most powerful empire in the ancient world. The decline of Macedonian hegemony was marked by Alexander’s death in 323 BC.
The lasting legacy of the Macedonian Empire was to usher in what become known as the Hellenistic Age (323–30 BC), during which time Greek culture and influence spread throughout the Mediterranean and Asia. The vast empire was united by the use of the Greek language, and the cities that Alexander established, particularly Alexandria in Egypt, established a continued Greek presence in those areas.
Bradford, Alfred S., ed. Philip II of Macedon: A Life from the Ancient Sources. Westport, CT: Praeger, 1992.
Green, Peter. Alexander of Macedon, 356–323 B.C.: A Historical Biography. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1991.