When Philip had entirely subdued the Thracians and Olynthians, he helped the Thessalians to get rid of their tyrant; and, adding their cavalry to his infantry, he boasted of as fine an army as the Greeks had ever been able to muster. He was very anxious to find a pretext to march into Greece at the head of this force, because he thought that, once there, he would soon manage to become master of all the towns. And the excuse for which he longed so much soon came.
A contest known as the Sacred War was going on in Greece at that time. It had arisen because the Phocians had taken possession of lands that were left waste in honor of the god Apollo. The Amphictyonic Council said they should pay a fine for this offense; and the Phocians, angry at being thus publicly reproved, defied the council. To show how little they intended to obey, they not only kept the land they had taken, but robbed the temple at Delphi. Then they used the money thus obtained to win over some allies, and soon began to make war against the people who obeyed the council.
The loyal Greeks fought against the Phocians for a long time, but were unable to conquer them: so Philip proposed to come and help the council. In their anxiety to win in this war, the Greeks gladly allowed him to bring his army into their country, and he soon completely subdued the rebels. In reward for his help, Philip was made president of the council,a position he had long coveted,and leader of the Pythian games held in honor of Apollo.
When the war was ended, Philip quietly went back to Macedon. He was, however, merely waiting for a favorable opportunity to re-enter Greece, and punish the Athenians for listening to Demosthenes’ speeches against him. In the mean while, Philip’s gold had been very busy, and he was buying up as many friends and allies as he could. Many of his gifts had the desired effect, and were not like the gold cup which he sent to Demosthenes. This, you know, had wholly failed in its purpose, for the orator went on talking more eloquently than ever against the Macedonian king.
He finally roused the Athenians to the point of arming to meet Philip, when they heard that he was really coming at last to make himself master of Greece. Their allies, the Thebans, joined them; and the two armies met at Chaeronea, in Boeotia, where a terrible battle was fought. Demosthenes had joined the army; but as he was no soldier, and was not very brave, he fled at the very first onset. Dashing through the bushes, he was suddenly stopped by some spiky branches that caught in his cloak and held him fast. The orator was so frightened that he thought the enemy had captured him, and, falling upon his knees, he began to beg that his life might be spared.
While Demosthenes was thus flying madly, his friends and fellow-citizens were bravely meeting the Macedonians; but, in spite of all their courage, they were soon forced to yield to the Macedonian phalanx, and the battlefield was left strewn with their dead. Alexander, Philip’s son, who was then only eighteen years of age, commanded one wing of his father’s army, and had the glory of completely crushing the Sacred Battalion of the Thebans, which had never before been beaten.