Famous Greeks: Xenophon, Plato and Philip

After Socrates’s death, his pupils Xenophon and Plato came to believe that Athens had a perverted form of government. Xenophon espoused the idea that monarchy was the best form of government, while Plato developed the ideal of a monarchical government ruled by a philosopher-king. With Philip of Macedonia (382–336 B.C.), monarchy emerged as the dominant political form in the Greek world. As his contemporaries understood, Philip was one of the greatest statesmen in history. He was a master of diplomacy and warfare, cunning, and courageous. He transformed Macedonia from a weak, half-civilized land on the frontiers of Greece into the supreme power in the Greek world. His victory at the Battle of Chaeronea in 338 B.C. marked the end of the era of the city-state. Of modern political leaders, Philip most calls to mind the German Chancellor Bismarck. Through “blood and iron,” he unified his country. The supreme opportunist, he was nonetheless guided throughout his career by a vision of personal and national power. To the student of leadership, Philip offers one of the most instructive examples in all antiquity.

Questions to Consider:

1. Do you believe that great statesmen follow a consistent vision or are they mere opportunists?

2. Why do you think the response of the Athenians after Chaeronea was so different from their response to Xerxes’s offer of peace?

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