Historum - History Forums  

Go Back   Historum - History Forums > Blogs > Duke Valentino
Register Forums Blogs Social Groups Mark Forums Read

Rate this Entry

Philip II Military Reforms - some references

Posted August 28th, 2017 at 05:02 PM by Duke Valentino
Updated September 19th, 2017 at 10:13 PM by Duke Valentino


Philip's First Year/s as King

Adopting the most difficult and precarious position any king has faced in history. When he became regent/king (the sources differ on whether he was immediately voted king or was regent for some time for his nephew) he was king over a country with barely any centralization. He was also a first among equals, he had to deal with the barons or land owners. He faced many exterior threats. Athens was coming with a force to dethrone him, the Illyrians were constantly raiding his territory and defeated the Macedonian army in battle, the Paeonians and the Thracian kingdoms were also coming for him. He dealt with all of these threats with what he had. What did he have? He had an empty treasury, he had remnants of an army that wasn't remotely professionally trained except for the personal bodyguard, their morale extremely shaken from losing a battle in which 4000 of their 10,000 men were killed, along with their king, and no real equipment. Philip had to make speeches to increase their morale. More importantly, with barely any money, he raised and equipped an army. He created the pike phalanx (emphasis on the word, created), he took the barons and their cavalry, the companions, and trained them to fight in squadrons, not independently. He warded off his many opponents through battles and smart diplomacy and restored Macedonia to it's original borders. He engaged the Illyrian king, 10,000 against 10,000 with a new inexperienced army, and won. From this victory he seized a good deal of mines that netted him a very good annual revenue. This is a very impressive record for the first year or so as king.

The Army

Taken from my own personal copy of The Prince, It is easy to discover how to organised one's own forces .... and if one understands how Philip, the father of Alexander the Great ... have armed and organised themselves: I will willingly defer to the wisdom of what they have instituted.


Philip didn't equip his men as hoplites. Why? Surely he was familiar with hoplite warfare, he lived in Thebes for years. We know that the original foundation of his echelon tactics came from his time in Thebes. Well, Macedonia was not urbanised, it had no middle class with the money to purchase the hoplite arms and armor. Secondly, he had no money in the treasury. Thirdly, he didn't have time to drill his man in hand to hand fighting. What is the solution to all this? The pike. It was cheap and easy to produce in large numbers, it allowed raw conscripts to fight effectively without a lot of training, and it had insane capabilities both in offense and defense.

From Gabriel's book, In a sense, Philip found himself in the same situation as Napoleon when the latter reformed the French army. Both needed large numbers of troops and had to quickly fashion them out of raw conscripts. Both solved their dilemma by creating new formations that were simple to assemble and control and required only limited training on the recruits' part to be used effectively on the battlefield. Napoleon's marching column and Philip's Macedonian phalanx were different solutions to the same problem.

Also, Philip's original phalanx was designed for weight and power more than maneuver [the Diadochi later reverted back to this ~note from myself~]. Later, it would become the most maneuverable infantry formation to take the field until the legions of imperial Rome.

The Macedonian phalangite were equipped with the same helmet as a Greek hoplite, carried the xiphos or straight, double-edged infantry sword, leg greaves and a complete kit weighed 40 pounds, almost ten pounds less than the armor and weapons of a hoplite.

It could, offensively, penetrate hoplite armor, and the hoplite could not react, since the man attacking him was far out of reach. We also know that even the Romans couldn't get past all the spear points. Take Pydna as an example. Plutarch tells us that, "the Macedonians, wielding their pikes with both hands, drove them through their opponents [Romans], armor and all; for the door shaped shields and breastplates could not withstand the force of the pike.". Paullus also is quoted to have said "At the sight of the bristling rampart of outstretched pikes, I was smitten at once with astonishment and terror; never before had I seen such a fearful spectacle." Gabriel also says "By the time it fought at Pydna, the Macedonian phalanx had been in the field for almost two centuries. One can only imagine its impact on the morale of Greek hoplites who faced it for the first time against Philip."

In regards to how quickly Philip raised this infantry force to face Bardylis, When Philip took the field against the Illyrians in 358 BCE, he deployed... or six regiments of pike infantry. Philip had raised that force from almost nothing within a single year ater the Illyrians had destroyed the Macedonian army in 359 BCE. This achievement certainly suggests the rapidity with which raw recruits could be trained in Philip's new organizational and tactical system of infantry combat. (Gabriel)

As for the maneuverability of the phalanx, Gabriel demonstrates that under Philip the phalanx was at it's most flexible. Polyaenus gives a demonstration when Philip was under attack from Thracians, "He ordered the rear rank, when the trumpeter sounded the retreat, to lower its spears and remain in place...". Gabriel says about this that "This order required the front ranks to pass through the rear rank, no easy task when under attack from the front." We also know that at Gaugamela, Alexander ordered his phalanx to split apart and let chariots run harmlessly through to the rear, where troops posted for the purpose dealt with them.

Finally, I'll quote Arrian from Alexander's Balkan campaign to demonstrate the maneuverability of the phalanx that Philip devised and created (taken from my copy of The Campaigns of Alexander):
Alexander drew up his phalanx with a depth of 120 men. He ordered the men to keep silent and act smartly at his word of command. The first signal was to raise their pikes upright; then at his word to bring them down for the charge;
and then to swing their pike heads in close order now to the right and now to the left.
Concurrently, he was moving the phalanx to one flank and then the other. After going thus through many formations and changing them in quick time, he formed as it were a wedge of the phalanx [open hollow formation] on the left. He began to lead it against the enemy.
To conclude the phalanx's offensive capabilities, a battalion or regiment was able to form a wedge, or a hollow wedge, the latter of which "attacked the enemy with double the number of spear points of the solid formation, not only head-on but laterally as well, so that the individual hoplite could not rescue the comrade to his side." We have an example of this, when at Gaugamela, Alexander formed his phalanx into a hollow outward-facing rectangle, ordered to reform into two similar rectangles if broken (according to Hammond in his book, Philip of Macedonia).

The phalanx was also extremely useful defensively. At Crocus Field Philip used the phalanx as a holding force. At Chaeronea, Gabriel points out that "He [Philip] accomplished what Napoleon regarded as the most difficult maneuver for any army, to stop its retreat and regain the offensive."

Other Infantry

From Gabriel, "Not all of Philip's infantry were pikemen. Demosthenes notes that 'you hear of Philip marching unchecked not because he leads a phalanx of heavy infantry, but because he is accompanied by skirmishers, cavalry, archers, mercenaries, and similar troops'."

According to Hammond, Philip employed Agrianian javelineers, Scythian archers, Thracian peltasts and various tribal units.

Philip was used mercenaries extensively, usually for doing the hand to hand fighting in sieges to save the lives of his own troops.

As for the Hypaspists, Philip formed a small bodyguard when he came into power, we know this because they're mentioned in his fight against Bardylis. At the end of his reign, and throughout Alexander's, they were divided into three 1000 strong brigades.


Macedonia had large plain and surplus grain production, along with the introduction of Persian breeds of horses, which were stronger than Greek horses.

Philip's major innovation (cavalry wise) was the organisation of his cavalry into squadrons. Previously the companion cavalry fought as individual fighters. He also integrated squadrons of light cavalry from his vassals states to serve as scouts and for use in light operations.

Gabriel posits that the cavalrymen of the companions were armed very interestingly, in that they seemed to be more suited to fighting infantry. The equipment was standardized. Their xyston spears were nine to ten feet long, giving an advantage in reach over most other cavalry in existence.

Philip was the first in Europe to use his cavalry as the arm of decision, and also the first to arm and train his cavalry to actually engage infantry head on. Added onto this is Philip's use of the Thracian wedge for his cavalry squadrons, giving them addition penetrating power.

Very importantly, Philip carried out a lethal pursuit strategy not typically seen before his time. After breaking an enemy, he'd set his cavalry loose to run down and kill as many important officers and figures of the enemy as possible to lessen their chance of further resistance, as well as purely killing as many enemies as possible.

Demosthenes, the arch enemy of Philip, admitted that the Companions "had a reputation as admirable soldiers, well-grounded in the science of war.".


Finally, we'll talk about Philip's logistical reforms.

Macedonia had massive manpower reserves, which Philip was able to use, similar to Napoleon. He was able to keep a regular army of ultimately 30,000~ Macedonians in the field all year round, with a strategic reserve of men who were assigned to town and village militias, trained in the Macedonian phalanx way, reserve manpower, if you will. Philip granted fiefs to important Macedonians and allies, who then served as Companions, raising his cavalry forces significantly. At the start of his reign Philip had 600 Companion cavalry, at the end of his reign he had something like 2000 Companion cavalry in all.

Philip's troops were also very highly paid. The officers were battle hardened veterans, and there are no recorded mutinies under Philip.

Diodorus tells us that Philip, held continuous maneuvers under arms and training exercises under combat conditions", he continues to say that Philip's army was unprecedented in the Greek world in terms of degree of training.

Now for the pure logistics. We know that the Greeks raised armies for a single battle or campaign that usually happened in certain seasons, after which they were disbanded. As Gabriel puts it, "Greek armies had limited logistical capabilities and could neither remain in the field for an extended period of time nor support themselves over long marches."

Philip completely innovated a new logistical system. His first innovation, according to Sextus Julius Frontinus, "When Philip was for the first time putting an army together, he forbade the use of carts for anyone."

Philip also replaced use of oxen, and instead instituted horses as pack animals instead. Both of these simple reforms increased Philip's ability to move from one place to the next at a far greater speed. His early wars were in mountainous terrain, upper Macedonia, Illyria and Paeonia, where he was likely to be harassed and ambushed. In his campaigns in these countries, he was utterly successful.

~I will note that the Persian army used the horse as the dominant pack animal first, Philip may have copied this from them. We know from his reforms of the government that his appointment of viceroys for example is very similar to that of the Persian satrap.~

Philip had his army build a fortified camp each night, as the Romans would later do, to avoid ambush. These camps were protected with protective ditches and a wall of sharpened stakes as a palisade. In the mountainous terrain, where there were no trees, Philip had the wood brought on pack animals. Philip planned this out in advance, and this highly impressive example shows that this method was probably innovated by Philip by himself.

Even more importantly, Frontinus says that the later Roman practice of making a fortified camp every night was adopted from the Macedonians, making Philip the innovator of fortified camps after ever march. Considering how important this was to the Romans, this makes Philip's legacy huge.

To further make his army travel even faster, he made his troops carry their own equipment, weapons, and rations. Polyaenus says the Macedonian soldier carried helmet, shield, greaves, sarrisa, and utensils, along with personal possessions in his backpack. Curtius adds that they also carried the sword, blankets, road-building tools and medical supplies. This load approached 50 pounds. Add to that the is the 33 day supply of flour that each man himself carried, another 40 pounds. Therefore, the Macedonian soldier carried 80-90 pounds on his back. In comparisant, the Roman soldier (according to Vegetius) carried 75 punds pounds. Gabriel suggests that when Marius reformed the Roman army in 99 BCE, forcing his men to carry everything themselves, he may have been copying Philip. That's a second major practice used by the Romans that was innovated by Philip.

Philip lightened the logistic train of his army even further by banning all women and civilians from accompanying the army. Frontinus says that Philip, "permitted the cavalrymen to have but one attendant each, and to the infantrymen one for each deka [ten man file] who might carry the mills [for grinding grain] and ropes." Therefore, according to Gabriel, an army of 10,000 would have additionally 1600 men. These men were used to forage, build roads etc. when the soldiers were too tired and also guarded the camp and were utilized by Philip as light infantry.

According to Engel's estimates for pack animals in, Philip's army in the Illyrian campaign needed only 200 pack animals for 10,000 men.

In a single day, Philip could cover 15 miles, and on forced march usually 20. Overall, Philip could march 300 miles before having replenish its supplies, and still had a 50 day reserve of food for men and animals.

That made Philip's strategical range quite impressive. He could cover 150 miles in 10 days, almost a week and a half.

Philip established forts and towns throughout his empire to be used as a future supply depots, showing a keen strategic mind. This allowed his army to have reliable supply lines wherever he needed to campaign.

Also, throughout his campaigns, there's no sign on Philip's part of difficulty crossing rivers. This is remarkable considering his overall theater of operations were criss crossed with major rivers. It's very possible that the methods we see Alexander use in Arrian's accounts of his campaigns were innovated by Philip.


Finally, we will look at siegecraft. According to Gabriel, "Philip was the first Western general to create a permanent engineering corps with a siege capability as an integral part of his army.".

Now, I've talked about siegecraft under Philip previously, so I won't go into massive detail. However, it's worth noting that in the three years covering 357 to 354 BCE, he succesfully conducted 6 sieges against fortified cities. In a little less than a year, Philip captured Amphipolis, Pydna and Potidea, in 354 BCe he took Methone, Pagasae and Olynthos. He took Amphipolis in 5 months and Olynthos in 3.

~It should be noted that the Persians introduced siege towers to Greece, but the Greeks never used them afterwards anyway. Philip was the one who chose to integrate these into his army.~

~It's also worth noting that Philip created an intelligence service, much like the modern secret police.~

Economic and Demographic Reforms

A quote from my copy of Machiavelli's Discourses of Livy, "Whoever becomes Prince either of a City or a State, and more so if his foundations are
weak, and does not want to establish a civil system either in the form of a Kingdom or a Republic, (will find) the best remedy he has to hold that Principality is ((he being a new Prince)) to do everything anew in that State; such as in the City to make new Governors with new titles, with new authority, with new men, (and) make the poor rich, as David did when he became King, who piled good upon the needy, and dismissed the wealthy empty-handed. In addition to this he should build new Cities, destroy old ones, transfer the inhabitants from one place to another, and in sum, not to leave anything unchanged in that Province, (and) so that there should be no rank, nor order, nor status, nor riches, that he who obtains it does not recognize it as coming from him; he should take as his model Philip of Macedonia, father of Alexander, who, by these methods, from a petty King became Prince of Greece. And those who write of him tell how be transferred men from Province to Province, as the Mandrians (Shepherds) move their sheep."

Note the phrase, petty King, and the ultimate result, Prince of Greece.

Gabriel says that when Philip became king, "The country was barely recognizable as a political entity." This section I won't go into exhaustive detail on, even though Philip's reforms in this sector were never before seen. Partly because this has gone on long enough, and secondly, it's not as relevant to the discussion, since this thread is mainly a military one.

Suffice to say, Macedonia was not like Greece, in that the people didn't consider people from newly added territories that Philip required as 'foreigners' or non-citizens. All people conquered or added to Philip's expanding kingdom were automatically given all the rights as actual blooded Macedonians, allowing Philip to create the first national state in Europe, Asia and possibly in history. In other words, national identity.

Gabriel writes, "Thinking of Macedonia proper and its acquired territories as one national unit permitted Philip to develop his kingdom along national lines. To this end, he established new cities, transplanted populations to live in them, drained swamps, constructed roads, fortified key passes through mountains,"

Alexander himself said to his troops, according to Arrian, "He [Philip] brought you down from the mountains to the plains, making you a match in battle for the neighboring barbarians, trusting for your salvation no longer in the natural strength of places so much as in your courage. He made you dwellers of cities and graced your lives with good laws and customs."

Ultimately, "Philip of Macedonia created the first nation-state in the West." (Gabriel).
Posted in Ancient History
Views 115 Comments 0 Edit Tags
« Prev     Main     Next »
Total Comments 0



Remove Ads

Copyright © 2006-2013 Historum. All rights reserved.