Dr. Manuela Mari 

By Mattanja Bakker

Comparing Macedonian colonization strategies from Philip II to the Hellenistic period: Temporal and regional differences?

On Friday, the 17th of December 2021, I had the privilege of participating in a conference regarding ancient colonialism from a comparative perspective. One of the speakers was Professor Manuela Mari, a researcher and a current faculty member of the university of Bari, who held a lecture discussing Macedonian ‘colonization’, both within and outside of Macedonia from the time of Philip II to the early Hellenistic period. 

Precisely because the (Hi)story of Alexander the “Great” is one of the most well-known topics, comparable to the life of Caesar, and often deemed as unique, unexpected and entirely caused by the men themselves, Manuela Mari decided to discuss the build-up efforts and colonization strategies employed by Philip II. Under Philip II efforts were undertaken to both relocate populations and to refound cities in newly conquered territories (Figure 1). The King managed to turn a disorganized set of fragile territories into a unified kingdom, with a unified people, setting the stage for his successor. In fact, according to Mari, Philip II developed the idea that an already existing state needed to expand to a full extent, in accordance with the writings of Thucydides. But what to do with the conquered peoples? There are three options: extermination, removal, or absorption. Though to some extent the Macedonians practiced all three, it is the absorption or integration of the newly conquered people which is of interest. Mari proceeds with demonstrating, by use of primary sources such as decrees, that the conquered people were integrated by creating more than one “type” of Macedonian, both legally and linguistically. The Macedonian kingdom integrated the new peoples but distinguished between native Macedonians and new Macedonians, such as those in northern Macedonia. In return the new Macedonians were committed to fight with the native Macedonians but ranked lower in the hierarchy. 

But how did this new class of Macedonian come about? And what were the consequences of Philip II conquests for the native Macedonians? Of primary consequence to both groups was the reorganisation of the Macedonian army. There was a great need for additional manpower, both to maintain and to expand the kingdom. In order to meet the needs of the army, both the social base and the military pool were increased. By serving, or pledging to serve in the army, the soldiers were allotted plots of land including the necessary hoplite equipment. This, in addition to the salary, allowed many Macedonians to join the hoplite class. Through Philip’s reforms a large part of the poorer Macedonians became both lot-holders and hoplites. The use of these military settlers facilitated the control of the new territories.

Aside from the army reorganisation, there were several strategies the Macedonians employed when dealing with newly conquered cities. The city of Philippi was refounded, but the citizens enjoyed a special status, being designated only by their city ethnic. According to Mari the calendar of Amphipolis was modified to include Macedonian months. In addition, the settlers received Macedonian names. The case of Pydna, which had been an autonomous polis, deviated slightly, as it retained much of its autonomy. However, as demonstrated by Mari, the citizens received a dual-ethnic. The fate of Olynthus was altogether different. The city was not rebuilt, rather the inhabitants and perhaps the territory was added to Kassandreia. 

The strategy of incorporation, reorganisation and restructuring of both the military, colonies and other poleis was aimed towards the full exploitation of the agriculture. A sensible strategy, considering the fact that the army must have increased significantly under the reign of Philip II. The enlargement of the citizen body served a similar purpose, and formed the second pillar of the royal strategy, with the addition of increasing the number of potential soldiers. The third reason, as illustrated by Mari, was the fact that the distribution of land was a means of both building and expanding a ruling class as well as establishing relationships. Those who received grants of land were indebted to the king. Mari continued to elaborate on the aspect of relationships by discussing some of the primary sources that are available. For example, it is possible to trace the geographic origin of some of the Macedonian officers stationed in Amphipolis. Among other locations Crete was mentioned, which demonstrates the transfer of poorer Macedonians to newly conquered territories as well as the fact that large estates were given to members of the Macedonian elite. The latter shows that the king distributed land to Macedonians of different classes. Unfortunately, according to Mari the evidence is quite fragmentary. Furthermore, even though Macedonians received land in another city this does not mean that they would automatically gain citizenship, as a letter of Philip V to Archippos, a magistrate from Kozani, attests. The letter discusses a matter involving a Macedonian with the status of metic.

The strategies employed by Philip II did not appear out of thin air. In fact, Mari states, the king adopted and learned from the dealings of the Athenian empire, as a result of the annexation of Athenian territory, just as Alexander would eventually adopt Philips’s policies. It is therefore vital not to study Alexander the “Great” in a vacuum, nor to separate history into a before and after Alexander. The final point made was that the terminology and separation of new and old Macedonians did not maintain a rigid division. Rather the terms became more flexible and expanding, as the decrees from Macedonian cities of Kos, such as the Pella decree, confirm. In the decree, the terms are treated as synonyms. This last point is of interest especially with regard to the later Hellenistic kingdoms. The numbers of Macedonian soldiers are subject to debate as they seem inflated. However, if, as discussed here, the term is indeed more flexible than initially assumed, the discrepancy disappears.

Concluding, the lecture of Manuela Mari, demonstrates the importance of comparative analysis both in terms of chronology as well as geography. The colonial and military strategies employed by the Hellenistic kingdoms preceded the reign and conquest of Alexander. Studying reigns, kingdoms, events and regions in isolation can and has led to a lot of “unique” history. However, if the “uniqueness” is a result of uniquely studying and focusing on a subject in isolation, everything is “unique”.