In the days when Thebes was the strongest city in Greece, and when Epaminondas was the leader in his native country, he received in his house a young Macedonian prince called Philip. This young man had been sent to Greece as a hostage, and was brought up under the eye of Epaminondas. The Theban hero got the best teachers for Philip, who was thus trained with great care, and became not only quite learned, but also brave and strong.
Macedon, Philip’s country, was north of Greece, and its rulers spoke Greek and were of Greek descent. Two years after the battle of Mantinea, when Philip was eighteen years old, he suddenly learned that the king, his brother, was dead, and had left an infant to take his place. Philip knew that a child could not govern: so he escaped from Thebes, where he was not very closely watched, and made his way to Macedon.
Arriving there, he offered to rule in his little nephew’s stead. The people were very glad indeed to accept his services; and when they found that the child was only halfwitted, they formally offered the crown of Macedon to Philip. Now, although Macedon was a very small country, Philip no sooner became king than he made up his mind to place it at the head of all the Greek states, and make it the foremost kingdom of the world.
This was a very ambitious plan; and in order to carry it out, Philip knew that he would need a good army. He therefore began to train his men, and, remembering how successful Epaminondas had been, he taught them to fight as the Thebans had fought at Leuctra and Mantinea.
Then, instead of drawing up his soldiers in one long line of battle, he formed them into a solid body,an arrangement which soon became known as the Macedonian phalanx. Each soldier in the phalanx had a large shield, and carried a spear. As soon as the signal for battle was given, the men locked their shields together so as to form a wall, and stood in ranks one behind the other.
The first row of soldiers had short spears, and the fourth and last rows very long ones. The weapons of the other rows were of medium length, so that they all stuck out beyond the first soldiers, and formed a bristling array of points which no one dared meet.
Philip not only trained his army so as to have welldrilled soldiers ready, but also found and began to work some gold mines in his kingdom. As they yielded much precious metal, he soon became one of the richest men of his time. This wealth proved very useful, for it helped him to hire a great force of soldiers, and also to buy up a number of allies. In fact, Philip soon found that his gold was even more useful than his army, and he was in the habit of saying that “a fortress can always be taken if only a mule laden with gold can be got inside.”