Until the middle of the 4th century BCE, Macedonia survived in the shadow of the powerful Greek city-states to its south, Athens, Sparta and Thebes. When it captured northern Thessaly, Thebes intervened and retook the key city of Larissa, also insisting on taking the Macedonian king’s son (the future Philip II) as hostage. When Philip II became king in 359 BCE, he revolutionized the Macedonian army, organizing it in phalanxes wielding the sarissa, or long pike. By a combination of military prowess and shrewd dynastic alliances, he went on to conquer much of Thrace and Chalcidice, becoming leader of the Thessalian league of city-states. The cities of southern Greece (excluding Sparta) then combined against him, but Philip crushed them at the Battle of Chaeronea, in 338 BCE. He then formed his vanquished adversaries into the Corinthian League, making himself its archon, or head, before being assassinated by his bodyguard.
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