The siege of Amphipolis in 357 was an early
victory for Philip II of Macedon, and saw him capture a key foothold in Thrace,
although at the cost of permanently damaging his relationship with Athens.
Amphipolis was an important city just inland from the coast, to the east of
Chalcidice. It had been founded by the Athenians in an attempt to control the
Thracian coast, and the trade routes into the Black Sea. Possession of
Amphipolis was a long-term Athenian aim, although the city had only been in
their hands for a short time (between the city's foundation in 437 and its loss
to the Spartans in 424 (followed by the Athenian defeat at the battle of
Amphipolis in 422 ).
In 359 Athens had agreed an alliance with Philip II, perhaps in the belief that
he had promised to support their claim to the city. According to Demosthenes
Philip had promised to hand Amphipolis over to Athens once he had taken in, in
return for Pydna, a Macedonian port that had been in Athenian hands since
c.364. However this was a secret treaty, This alliance freed Philip to
concentrate on his northern and western borders. First he defeated the Paeonian
tribes, to the north of Macedon, and then in 358 he defeated King Bardylis of
Illyria (battle of the Erigon Valley or Lyncus Plain). These victories pushed
the Macedonian frontier further away from the Macedonian heartland. In 357
Athens was weakened by the outbreak of the Social War (357-355),
triggered by a series of revolts against Athenian rule. Soon afterwards Philip
attacked Amphipolis, either taking advantage of the Athenian weakness, or
because that weakness reduced the value of the Athenian alliance. His pretext
was that the people of Amphipolis were ill disposed towards him.
Diodorus gives us a brief account of the siege (Diodorus 16.8.2). Philip
brought up his siege engines, and used battering rams in a severe and
continuous assault on the wall. He soon created a breach in the wall and his
troops stormed the city. After the fall of the city he exiled those who opposed
him, but treated the rest of the inhabitants leniently.
Demosthenes tells us that two envoys from Amphipolis (Hierax and Stratocles)
reached Athens during 357 and asked the Athenians to take over their city,
Philip's success worried Olynthus, the leader of the Chalcidic League. Olynthus
made overtures to Athens, but without success. They also entered into
negotiations with Grabus, an Illyrian king. Philip responded with a counter
offer. He promised to help restore League control of Potidaea, which had been
an Athenian cleruchy since 361 and hand over the border territory of Anthemus.
The Olynthians accepted Philip's offer, and agreed an alliance with him. One of
the terms was an agreement not to enter into an alliance with Athens without
Soon after taking Amphipolis, Philip further expanded his power in the area.
The Thracian king Cersobleptes attempted to capture the mining centre of
Crenides, around the Pangaean Mountain. This was a centre of gold production,
and so when the Crenideans appealed to Philip he was happy to help.
Cersobleptes was forced back, and the scattered communities of Crenides were
concentrated in one city, with the new name of Philippi. Soon after these
events Philip captured Pydna, at least according to Demosthenes with the help
of traitors within the city. Athens responded to the fall of Amphipolis by
declaring war on Philip, triggering the ten year long 'War of Amphipolis'. Over
the next decade the Athenians often planned to help Philip's enemies, but their
forces almost always arrived too late to help, and the war was eventually ended
by the Peace of Philocrates (346), the same agreement that led to the end of
the Third Sacred