On a pillar is a statue of Isocrates, whose memory is remarkable for three things: his diligence in continuing to teach to the end of his ninety-eight years, his self-restraint in keeping aloof from politics and from interfering with public affairs, and his love of liberty in dying a voluntary death, distressed at the news of the battle at Chaeronea. Pausanias
The Battle of Chaeronea (338 BC), fought near Chaeronea, in Boeotia, was the greatest victory of Philip II of Macedon. There, Philip (with 32,000 men) defeated the smaller combined forces of Athens and Thebes, securing Macedonian hegemony in Greece.
The battle itself pitted the classical phalanx of the Athenian and Theban confederates and the Macedonian phalanx of Philip. The confederate battle line formed with the Athenians holding the left wing and the Thebans holding the right wing (with the all-important extreme right flank protected by the Sacred Band). Athenians and Thebans occupied the center of the line. In the Macedonian line, Philip commanded the right wing, while Alexander commanded the left wing albeit supervised by the best Commanders of the King. The famed Companion Cavalry was situated to the rear of the Macedonian line.
Ancient sources tell us that the two sides fought bitterly for a long time. It would appear that Philip deliberately withdrew his troops on the right wing, in order to break up the Greek lines. Most sources are agreed in saying that Alexander was the first to break into the Theban lines, followed by a courageous band (presumably his kinsmen and friends); upon seeing this, Philip urged his forces to attack with great fury and the Athenians ardent but untrained were unable to resist his Macedonian veterans. With the rout of the Athenians, the Thebans were left to fight for themselves and crushed. Of the famed 300-strong Sacred Band of Thebes, 254 fell on the field of battle, while 46 were wounded and captured.
According to Diodorus Siculus, the battle was hotly contested for a long time, until finally Alexander forced his way through the enemy line and put his opponents to flight. 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.
A different account of the battle was advanced by the Alexander historian Nicholas G. L. Hammond which has established itself as the popular version in latter years. He speculated that it was Alexander, in person, who at the head of the Companion cavalry drove into the gap and outflanked the Greek lines; however none of the sources we have (the main ones being Plutarch, Frontinus and Diodorus) mention this feature of the battle. It should be noted that Hammond never pretended that this was anything more than speculation, but the story has subsequently been propagated in many history books and web sites as historical fact.
The Battle of Chaeronea, 338 B.C.
Macedon's supremacy over the Greek city-states was finally established, that was later sanctioned that year by the birth of the League of Corinth, dominated by Philip.
The battle is also of great importance in the fact that it signed the decline of the city-state institution, and the rise of the territorial states; to this it can be added that it prepared the ground to the Macedonian conquest of the Persian Empire a few years later.
Memorial to the Sacred Band of Thebes at Chaeronea, marking the communal grave (πολυανδρειον / polyandreîon) in which they were burried. Philip II of Macedon erected the tribute to commemorate the bravery of the conquered batallion.
Region of the Battle of Chaeroea
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