The Siege of Perinthus in 340 was an
unsuccessful attempt by Philip II of Macedon to defeat the Athenian forces at
Perinthus, and take the city. The siege was conducted alongside an unsuccessful
siege of Byzantium. Both sieges took
place in the period just before the
Macedonia under Philip II:
In 357, Philip II
of Macedon marched against the Illyrians, and crushed them, killing about
7,000 Illyrians. Later that year, Macedonia and Athens came to an agreement,
that Macedonia would give Athens Amphipolis and, in return, Athens would give
Macedonia Pydna. Philip broke his promise by keeping both cities. This led to
Athens declaring war on Macedonia. Many other campaigns were conducted against
Athens. In 356, Philip conquered the town of Crenides and changed its name to
Philippi. In 349, Philip started the siege of Olynthus. Olynthus was formerly allied with Macedonia
but then had later switched their allegiance to Athens. In 345, Philip
conducted another campaign against the Ardiaei, under their King Pleuratus I,
during which Philip was seriously wounded in the lower right leg by an Ardian
In 342, Philip led a great military expedition north against the Scythians,
conquering the Thracian fortified settlement of Eumolpia which he renamed after
himself, Philippopolis (modern-day Plovdiv)
Siege of Perinthus:
In the early spring of 340, Philip started his campaign to besiege Perinthus.
The city stood on a peninsula, connected to the land by a 200 yard wide heavily
fortified isthmus. The coast was protected by cliffs, making any naval attack
nearly impossible. The defenders of the cities were supported by Byzantium, as
well as the Achaemenid Empire. The Athenian
navy, under the control of
Chares of Athens,
kept the Macedonians out of the seas and helped maintain naval superiority.
Reinforcements and supplies reached the city from its allies, and the
Macedonian fleet was unable to stop the reinforcements from reaching the city.
After several weeks laying siege to the city, the Macedonians finally broke
through the outer wall. But to their dismay, they reached a new wall inside the
city that the defenders had built between the houses.
This new wall was much more solid and stronger than the previous one. Philip's
army was more numerous and had siege engines. However, since Perinthus was
receiving constant aid from Byzantium and the Achaemenids, the siege was
difficult to maintain. Eventually, Philip had found the challenges of
successfully besieging the city too much, and so withdrew.
After the failed siege of Perinthus, Philip focused most of his attention on
Byzantium. In the late summer of 340, he led half of his army to
Byzantium, but the city refused to
surrender to him and prepared to resist. Most of the Byzantian army was still
at Perinthus, but the defenders who remained at Byzantium managed to survive
the initial attack. The Byzantines received aid in the form of weaponry and men
from their allies at Chios, Cos, and Rhodes. After several weeks of laying
siege to Byzantium, Philip decided to launch one last surprise assault on the
walls, using nothing but moonlight to aid the night attack. However, the
barking of dogs was said to have betrayed the attack, and Philip decided once
again, to give up and withdraw. The summer of 338, Philip successfully defeated
Athens and Thebes at the Battle of Chaeronea in 338. After Philip's death,
Philip's son, Alexander, later defeated the Achaemenids on several occasions
and conquered the entirety of the Achaemenid Empire, greatly expanding the
The siege of Perinthus in 340-339 was an unsuccessful attempt by
Philip II of Macedon to defeat a wavering ally, and was conducted alongside an
equally unsuccessful siege of Byzantium.
Both sieges took place in the period just before the
War. Perinthus was officially allied with Philip, and in 340, when Philip
decided to support his allies in the Chersonese against the local Athenian
commander, he asked Perinthus and Byzantium to help. Both cities refused to
offer support, and Philip decided to reduce them to obedience before dealing
with the Athenians.
Perinthus was a difficult target for a siege. The city stood on a promontory,
connected to the land by a 200 yard wide heavily fortified isthmus. The coast
was protected by cliffs, making any amphibious assault impossible. The
promontory was covered by houses rising steeply on terraces, and the promontory
was protected by strong fortifications.
Philip had an impressive siege train, created by the Thessalian siege engineer
Polyeidus. He built 120ft high siege towers, topped with catapults, battering
rams and mines, and battered the outer walls. The defenders were supported by
Byzantium, which sent men and catapults. The Athenian fleet, under
Chares, managed to
keep the Macedonian fleet out of the Propontis, so the defenders had control of
the seas around the city. The Persians also sent help, a force of Greek
mercenaries under the Athenian Apollodorus.
Philip decided to send part of his army to escort the fleet through the
Hellespont. Probably at about the same time he sent a letter to Athens,
condemning the city's hostile attitude and appealing for restraint. This was
never likely to have any impact at Athens, but any chance was eliminated by the
progress of a Macedonian army along the coast of the Athenian territory in the
Chersonese. Although this did allow Philip to get his fleet into the Propontis,
that didn't make any difference.
The defenders were now getting support from the Persians, after
ordered his satraps to send aid. Reinforcements and supplies reached the
city, and the Macedonian fleet was unable to intervene. After several weeks of
active siege work the Macedonians finally breached the outer wall, but to their
dismay they discovered that the defenders had walled up the gaps between the
first line of houses, creating a fresh, almost equally strong line of defences.
Philip now decided to shift his attention to Byzantium, in the hope that the
aid she had sent to Perinthus would make her vulnerable. He left part of his
army to blockade Perinthus, and moved the rest of it to attack Byzantium.
Early in this siege he intercepted a Athenian merchant fleet, capturing 180
Athenian ships. This move finally triggered a declaration of war by Athens, and
the Athenians provided open support to the defenders of Byzantium. Philip
continued with both sieges across the winter of 340-339, but after one last
failed assault on Byzantium decided to abandon both and instead carried out a
campaign in the Balkans. Perinthus was soon forced to come to terms to Philip,
probably after the Athenians and Thebans suffered their great defeat at the
battle of Chaeronea in 338, but retained
some independence, and continued to issue her own coins.