While Alexander the Great is one of the most successful leaders in our world’s history, he benefited greatly from his father and predecessor, Philip II. It is often forgotten that when Philip II took over, Macedonia was weak and largely irrelevant. However, Philip II molded them into a national power that would ultimately set up Alexander for much success.
As Macedonia had just recently suffered many losses in war and was being threatened once again, Philip II made extensive military reforms that would bring the Macedonian empire to power. Diodorus tells us that through Philip’s forceful oratory, “he built up their courage.” Additionally, Diodorus states that he “reorganized the military formations and equipped them suitably with weapons” (Diodorus 16.3.1-3). Thus, the Macedonian military, now strategically and morally improved, went from what was considered a loosely organized force to, as Nagle and Burstein write, “the most powerful force in the Balkans.” These reforms allowed Philip II to set a baseline for which Alexander the Great would inherit. While Philip II had to worry about training his troops and improving military strategy and weaponry, Alexander inherited a ready force, thus it would be much easier for him to be successful in battle. While Alexander the Great is still one of, if not the most accomplished leaders of all time, I believe that Philip II was mostly responsible for his successes. Ultimately, it is harder to build an elite military force from the ground up than to have success by inheriting the best military in the world. Philip II exhibited great leadership capabilities by not only gathering men and then training them, but also by sparking motivation in his men that fostered the birth of an empire.
The relationship between Alexander and his father is similar to that of the United States presidents and the founding fathers. While there have been countless phenomenal leaders in our nation’s history, they have all inherited a system that has an established military, court of law, and founding documents that lay out the values which we hold dear. Similarly to Philip II, the founding fathers were not afforded this luxury. They had to build our nation from the ground up. For example, George Washington had to gather a loosely organized military force and was tasked with defeating the most powerful force in the world, which he did. Additionally, the founding fathers had to create a system of government, as they were the founders of the nation which had no prior system of law or leadership. Ultimately, it is important that we give credit where credit is due. Philip II and the founding fathers built great nations from essentially nothing, and they created successful powers whose leaders greatly benefited from their work.
Nagle, D. Brendan, and Stanley Mayer. Burstein. Readings in Greek History: Sources and Interpretations. Oxford University Press, 2014.
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