Philip II of Macedon: Greater Than Alexander

Article excerpt

Philip II of Macedon: Greater than Alexander

by Richard A. Gabriel

Washington, DC: Potomac Books, 2010

318pages

$29.95

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In Philip II of Macedon: Greater than Alexander, historian Richard Gabriel seeks to elevate Alexander's father, Philip II, to a "greater general and national king" than was his son. He is a member of a growing number of historians who seek relevant insights to present problems from the distant accounts of Greek and Roman wars. Gabriel is a distinguished professor in the Department of History and War Studies at the Royal Military College of Canada and in the Department of Defence Studies at the Canadian Forces College in Toronto. He has written numerous books and articles on military history.

What Gabriel seeks in this work is to examine "Alexander's inheritance" in detail. The author claims that "Philip's legacy was so significant that without it, there would have been no Alexander the Great." He goes on to state that "Philip was a military genius who invented the military instrument that allowed Alexander to carry out his conquest of Asia."

The book's first three chapters are short and readable accounts of Philip's personality, his strategic environment, and the Macedonian war machine. Gabriel also argues that "Philip was a supreme strategist in that he understood the place of war in policy, and he knew its limits." Philip had a manifest preference for political solutions over military ones, and was flexible in his willingness to change course politically or militarily when events required. Philip's grand strategy had two aims: to unify the Macedonian state into an effective national entity, and to expand Macedon's hegemony over all of Greece. When Philip came to power after the defeat and death of his brother Aymtas, for all practical purposes, the Macedonian Army had ceased to exist. Over the next 24 years Philip innovatively created a balanced and modern Macedonian war machine that transformed warfare itself. Gabriel states that "Philip's creation of the first competent corps of Macedonian infantry was not only an achievement of military genius but also an experiment in social engineering." This Macedonian phalanx employed a longer spear, or sarrisa, than Greek hoplites, also elevated peasants to paid members of the king's "foot companions and changed infantry combat completely by providing a unit with greater combat power, flexibility, and maneuverability than the traditional hoplite phalanx." Philip also reformed his cavalry from a noble mob incapable of defeating infantry hoplites to arguably the most effective cavalry arm in antiquity capable of breaking opposing infantry by employing penetrating wedge formations. In addition, Philip created a logistics service capable of supporting distant expeditionary operations and an engineering arm capable of successfully conducting sieges. …