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The Lamian War, or the Hellenic War (323–322 was fought by a coalition of cities including Athens and the Aetolian League against Macedon and its ally Boeotia. The war broke out after the death of the King of Macedon, Alexander the Great, and was part of a series of attempts to challenge Macedonian hegemony over mainland Greece. The war takes its name from the protracted siege of the Macedonian forces at Lamia. Although the Athenian coalition was initially successful against the Macedonian forces in Europe, their inability to take the city of Lamia and their failure to retain control of the sea gave the Macedonians time to bring reinforcements from Asia and secure victory

Opponents: Athens, Aetolian League, Locris, Phocis, Argos, Thessaly versus Macedonia, Boeotia, Amfissa
Commanders and leaders:
Athens - Leosthenes † Antiphilus Menon IV Phocion
Macedonia - Antipater Leonnatus † - Craterus Cleitus

In 324, 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.

Outbreak of war:
The death of Alexander in 323 left Macedon in the midst of a succession crisis, with 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. 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 50 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 anti-Macedonian 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. The Athenian forces commanded by Leosthenes had some initial successes defeating the Boeotians at Plataea. 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 Athenians with an initial force of some 13,000 troops, with messages sent to various commanders to bring reinforcements. The Thessalians originally sided with Antipater, but were quickly persuaded to join the Athenians as allies. Together, they defeated Antipater at Thermopylae. The defeated Macedonians fled to the fortified city of Lamia, where they were besieged by the Athenians as Antipater waited for reinforcements to arrive from Asia. The Athenians and their 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. That year Hypereides pronounced the funeral oration over the dead including his friend Leosthenes. Antiphilus 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 in 322. Once the Macedonians had control of the sea, Leonnatus was able to transfer troops from Asia to Europe. Though the Athenians defeated Leonnatus and his reinforcements at an unknown location in Thessaly, Antipater was able to escape from Lamia. Combined with the remnants of the defeated army and with further forces brought from Asia by Craterus, the Macedonians finally defeated the Athenian coalition in 322 at the Battle of Crannon in central Thessaly. Together they beat back the weary Athenians in a long series of cavalry and hoplite engagements. Although the allied forces were not routed, the outcome was decisive enough to compel the Athenians and their allies to sue for peace on Antipater’s terms.

Earlier, Antipater made peace treaties with the defeated cities separately on generous terms, in order to disband the Greek alliance against Macedonia. The Athenians and Aetolians were left on their own. The Athenians were forced to dissolve their democracy and establish a plutocratic system in its stead, whereby only the 9,000 richest citizens were left in exclusive possession of the city. The 12,000 poorest men, or 60% of the entire citizenship, were permanently exiled. Many other Greek cities met a similar fate. Antipater often installed in each a subservient oligarchy and a Macedonian garrison, and executed democrats and champions of self-determination. Hypereides was condemned to death, fled, and was probably captured and killed in Euboea. Demosthenes committed suicide to avoid being captured and tortured by Macedonian exile hunters.
George Grote considers the outcome of the Lamian War a calamitous tragedy, marking the extinction of an "autonomous Hellenic world." It extinguished free speech in Greece and dispersed the Athenian Demos to distant lands. Nevertheless, the war, in spite of its disastrous result, was a "glorious effort for the recovery of Grecian liberty, undertaken under circumstances which promised a fair chance of success."


Ancient sources:
Diodorus Siculus.
Penelope - U Chicago Hypereides, Funeral Oration
Plutarch, Lives, Phocion 23–29 and Demosthenes 27–30.

Modern sources:
Ashton, N. G. "The Lamian War. A false start?" Antichthon 17 (1983) 47-63.
Ashton, N. G. "The Lamian War-stat magni nominis umbra" The Journal of Hellenic Studies, Vol. 104, (1984), pp. 152–157
Brill's New Pauly vol.7 (2005) pp. 183:
Errington, R. M. "Samos and the Lamian war." Chiron 5 (1975) 51-57.
Martin, G., "Antipater after the Lamian War: New Readings in Vat. Gr. 73 (Dexippus fr. 33)".
The Classical Quarterly, New Series, Vol. 55, No. 1 (2005), pp. 301–305
Oikonomides, A. N. "Athens and the Phokians at the outbreak of the Lamian War (=IG II 367)."
The Ancient World 5 (1982) pp. 123–127.
Schmitt, O., Der Lamische Krieg (1992)
Walsh, J., "Historical Method and a Chronological Problem in Diodorus, Book 18" In P. Wheatley and R. Hannah (eds), Alexander and His Successors: Essays from the Antipodes (Claremont: 2009) 72-88.
Walsh, J., "The Lamiaka of Choerilus and the Genesis of the term 'Lamian War'." Classical Quarterly (2011) 61.2: 538–44.
Westlake, H. D. "The Aftermath of the Lamian War." Classical Review 63 (1949) 87-90




How to cite this article: Rickard, J (4 June 2007), Lamian or Hellenic War, 323-321 BC, http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/wars_lamian.html.


The Lamian War was one of the first serious revolts to break out in Alexander the Great’s empire after his death. Alexander’s unexpected death left a power vacuum which would soon result in a series of wars between his generals (the diadochi, or successors). This apparent weakness was noticed in Athens, already resentful of Macedonian control after Alexander forced them to take back all of their political exiles in 324. With Alexander gone, and no clear heir to his empire, Athens decided the time was right to make a bid for freedom. She certainly had the money to fight a war. Alexander’s treasurer Harpalus had fled to the city after Alexander returned from India with at least some of Alexander’s plunder. There were also a large number of mercenaries cheaply available in the aftermath of Alexander’s stunning victories in Persia. Athens raised a sizable army, created a fleet of 200 warships and appointed Leosthenes to command. In 323 the Aetolians and Thessalians joined the rebellions, soon to be joined by Corinth and Argos. Leosthenes took up a defensive position in the pass of Thermopylae, and then advanced north to besiege Lamia. There he trapped Antipater, the regent of Macedonia, but was then himself killed by a slingshot fired from the walls of the town. The Greeks had moved too soon. Enough of Alexander’s former generals still saw each other as colleagues (or rivals) rather than as enemies, and when Antipater sent out a call for help, Leonnatus and Craterus both responded.
Leonnatus had been allocated Hellespontine Phrygia (the north-west corner of Asia Minor) in the division of commands at Babylon after Alexander’s death. He was now planning to marry Alexander’s sister Cleopatra, and possibly to claim the Macedonian throne. In the first half of 322 he led his army into Europe, but was defeated and killed in a cavalry battle against the Thessalians.
Craterus was both more cautious and more successful. He had been allocated the honorary guardianship of the monarchy in the division of commands. However, prior to Alexander’s death he had been on his way to replace Antipater as regent of Macedonia, and had been dispatched back home with 10,000 veteran troops. When Alexander died he had reached Cilicia (south-east Asia Minor). When the news of Alexander’s death reached him, he stopped where he was to wait for events to unfold at Babylon. When news reached him of the Greek revolt, Craterus sent one of his officers, Cleitus, to take command of the powerful Macedonian fleet. For the final time Athens had created a powerful fleet of her own, hoping to win control of the Aegean, and perhaps prevent reinforcements reaching Antipater from the rest of the empire. This fleet suffered two defeats at the hands of Cleitus, close to Abydos (on the south coast of the Hellespont) in the spring of 322, and then decisively off the island of Amorgos (south west of Samos) in July 322. Athenian naval power would never rise again. With the Athenian fleet gone, Craterus was free to transport his army across the Aegean to Greece. There the combined Macedonian forces inflicted a defeat on the allied Greek army at Cronnon in August 322.
Faced with the prospect of a siege, Athens surrendered. Her constitution was re-written to reduce the franchise, and a Macedonian garrison placed in the Piraeus. The orator Demosthenes, who had played an important role in provoking the revolt committed suicide, his colleague Hyperides was captured and executed. The Aetolians managed to hold out until 321, at which point Macedonian politics intervened to save them. Antigonus and Craterus needed to cross over into Asia Minor to deal with Perdiccas, another of Alexander’s generals with pretensions to the throne of Macedonia, and so arranged a truce with the Aetolians. The Lamian War was the last time Athens would play an important military role in Greece, although the city would retain her democratic traditions for longer, and would continue to produce writers and philosophers into Roman times.


Antipater’s Dynasty:
Alexander the Great’s Regent and his Successors, John D Grainger . A useful study of the short-lived dynasty founded by Antipater, Alexander the Great’s deputy in Macedonia during his great campaign, and continued by his son Cassander, who overthrew Alexander’s dynasty and declared himself to be king of Macedonia. A good choice of topic, filling a gap in the history of the period, and demonstrating just how significant this pair of father and son were in the creation and then the destruction of Alexander’s empire.


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