Lamian War

Lamian War
The Macedonian Empire at the time of the Lamian War.
Date323–322 BC
Result Macedonian victory
Aetolian League,
Commanders and leaders
Menon IV

The Lamian War, or the Hellenic War (323–322 BC) was fought by a coalition of Greek cities including Athens and the Aetolian League against Macedon and its ally Boeotia. The war ended in a Macedonian victory.

In 323 BC, Alexander the Great died leaving the empire to be governed by his generals for his unborn son, Alexander IV. Athens revolted against the control of Macedon and took the opportunity to form a coalition of Greek cities in an attempt to detach Greece from Macedon. The Greek forces commanded by Leosthenes had some initial successes defeating the Boeotians at Plataea before advancing north where at Thermopylae they defeated the Macedonian army of the regent Antipater. The defeated Macedonians fled to Lamia where they were besieged by the Greeks as Antipater waited for reinforcements to arrive from Asia.

The success of the Greeks on land was offset by the defeats of the Athenian fleet at the Hellespont and Amorgos by the Macedonian navy. The Macedonians, now with control of the sea were able to transfer troops to Europe. Though the Greeks defeated the Macedonian reinforcements at Rhamnus, the Macedonians were able to leave from Lamia and unite with the remnants of the defeated army. The combined Macedonian forces were assisted by the arrival of more troops from Asia and defeated the Greeks at the Crannon and effectively ended the revolt of the Greeks.


In 324 BC, Alexander the Great had the Exiles Decree proclaimed in Greece. The effect of this decree was that citizens of Greek cities that had previously been exiled would be able to return to their cities of origin. Though this affected many of the cities of Greece, two regions where this had a major effect were Athens and the Aetolian League. This was a problem for the Aetolians as they had previously occupied the city of Oeniadae and evicted the original inhabitants of the city, settling it with their own citizens. Similarly, the Athenians had taken over and colonized the island of Samos. The outcome of the decree was that the Aetolians and Athenians would be required to surrender control of these occupied territories. The hostility to Macedonian suzerainty was compounded by a grain shortage in Greece, worsened by the fact the Alexander was requisitioning supplies for his campaigns in the East.


The death of Alexander in 323 BC left Macedon in the midst of a succession crisis, with there being no universally accepted successor to the throne. While awaiting the birth of the child of Alexander, a regency headed by Perdiccas was formed for the yet unborn child and the mentally deficient brother of Alexander, Philip III. News of his death was considered by the Athenians as an opportunity to shatter the Macedonian hegemony over Greece. After vigorous debate in the ecclesia, it was determined – despite the opposition of prominent individuals such as Demades and Phocion – that Athens would wage war against Macedon.

Making use of the 5,000 talents that had been seized from Harpalus, the treasurer of Alexander who had fled to Athens, the Athenians sent the commander Leosthenes to Taenarum with the aim of engaging mercenaries. Leosthenes was given the order by the ecclesia to make it appear that he was engaging the mercenaries on his own behalf, so as to give Athens additional time to prepare for the upcoming war.


The total Greek force at the outset of the war appears to have been 25,000 strong and was composed of up to 10,000 Athenians, 12,000 Aetolians and various contingents of mercenary forces.[1]

Antipater, commander of the Macedonian forces in Europe, meanwhile scrambled to assemble Macedonian troops, most of which were engaged in Asia or in transit to or from that continent. He set out against the rebels with an initial force of some 13,000 troops, with messages sent to various commanders to bring reinforcements.[2]

The Thessalians originally sided with Antipater, but were quickly persuaded to join the Athenians as allies. This sudden shift in strength led to some early confederate successes against Antipater, and he was constrained to seek refuge in the fortified city of Lamia. The Athenians and her allies, despite their early successes, were bogged down in their siege of Lamia. The well-walled town proved impregnable to the Athenians, and their commander Leosthenes was mortally wounded during a sallying forth from the city by the Macedonians who sought to harass their ditch-digging besiegers. His death prompted the Athenians to retreat.[3]

That year Hypereides pronounced the funeral oration over the dead including his friend Leosthenes. Antiphilus [4] was appointed as his replacement. Soon after the Athenian retreat from the walls of Lamia, Macedonian reinforcements—20,000 infantry and 1,500 cavalry—arrived from Asia under the command of Leonnatus. The Athenian naval fleet had been defeated at the Battle of Amorgos (322 BC) and had not succeeded in preventing these reinforcements’ supporting Antipater.[5]

The Athenian and allied forces were finally defeated in 322 at the Battle of Crannon in central Thessaly after Antipater had managed to join with Leonnatus and Craterus. Together they beat back the weary Athenians in a long series of cavalry and hoplite engagements. While the allied forces were not routed, the outcome was decisive enough to compel the Athenians and her allies to sue for peace on Antipater’s terms.[6]


Antipater made peace treaties with the rebellious cities separately and on generous terms. The Athenians were made to dissolve their government and establish a plutocratic system in its stead, whereby only those possessing 2,000 drachmas or more could remain citizens. This was done in the belief that the poorer elements of the society had compelled the war in the first place.[7] Hypereides was condemned to death, fled, and was probably captured and killed in Euboea. Demosthenes was forced to commit suicide by Antipater for his role in supporting the Hellenic War.[8]


  1. ^ For questions surrounding the nomenclature in antiquity see Ashton (1984); Walsh (2011).


  1. Westlake, H. D. The Aftermath of the Lamian War. "Classical Review 63" (1949) 87
  2. Diodorus Siculus. XVIII.12. Penelope- U Chicago
  3. Diodorus Siculus.XVIII.12-13. Penelope- U Chicago
  4. Not to be confused with Antiphilus the famous painter, active in the same period.
  5. Diodorus Siculus.XVIII.13-15. Penelope- U Chicago
  6. Diodorus Siculus.XVIII.16-17. Penelope- U Chicago
  7. Diodorus Siculus.XVIII.17-18. Penelope- U Chicago
  8. (Oxford Classical Dictionary (1970).pp 535. Dobson. J. & pp 331. Cawkwell, G.


Ancient sources

Modern sources

"The Lamian War-stat magni nominis umbra" The Journal of Hellenic Studies, Vol. 104, (1984), pp. 152–157

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