Alexander vs. Philip II: Who’s More Responsible?

Alexander the Great is famous for his conquering of Greece, the lands surrounding the Mediterranean Sea, and the Persian Empire. He campaigned with an adept army that was able to out fight their opponents, utilizing expert tactics and unrelenting force. Alexander was a charismatic and powerful ruler who knew how to overpower his opponents through strategy and cunning tactics, and is well-deserving of the respect that he earned through his campaigns. However, not all of the credit for his successes belongs to him, for his father, Philip II, set the groundwork for the battle strategies that Alexander used that gave him an advantage. If it were not for the many advancements Philip II made in the military, such as the improvement of the hoplite phalanx and the addition of horses to the military,  Alexander the Great may not have been able to achieve such a title for himself.

Alexander’s campaign was heavily dependent on the military tactics created by his father. The addition of the cavalry to the military was a major upgrade that gave Alexander an obvious upperhand in battle. Even when fighting against India’s forces, who used elephants as a fighting force, the hetairoi proved to be a more devastating fighting force, especially when coupled with the phalanx. Although the Macedonians struggled to counter the brutality of the Indian beasts in the beginning of the battle, they were able to tire out the enemy and effectively counter their force with their speed, strength in numbers, and greater fighting experience. The phalanx acted to slow the progression of the Indian army while the cavalry worked to fight the elephants and riders. As the cavalry weakened the riders and elephants, the phalanx pushed them back to the point of retreat. The Macedonians won the engagement (Arrian 5.17.2-7.25). Without the highly effective battle tactics that his father originally put into place, Alexander would not have been victorious in this battle. However, what he can be credited with doing is seeing when to strike the enemy during the battle; his experience allowed him to know exactly when to strike: “Alexander, seeing his opportunity exactly in this redeployment of the cavalry, attacked those on his front with such effort that the Indians… were broken and driven back to their elephants…” (Arrian 5.17.2-7.25). The combination of Alexander’s fighting prowess and Philip II’s military improvements allowed Alexander and the Macedonians to walk away triumphant in this case, as well as for the rest of his campaign. In addition to other notable improvements to the military, it is no wonder that Alexander was able to dominate the battlefield and conquer so many lands.

Stories like Alexander’s, where his successes largely were thanks to his father’s work, are situations that are not uncommon in history. America is an excellent example of a successful nation that had a foundation laid down by another nation – Britain. It began as a colony of Britain’s that gained its independence and established itself as its own nation. Although America’s system of government differs greatly from that of Britain’s, Britain set a good example of what America did not want in government, from which they built the democratic republic of America. Additionally, they utilized the goods they had and the allies they obtained from Britain in order to trade and grow as an independent nation. Britain’s foundation allowed America to become the nation it is now; otherwise, it might not have reached such heights as it has today.

-Isaac Thompson
Word Count: 581

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