Philip II was the father of Alexander the Great and the youngest son of King Amyntas III. He took the throne in 359 BCE upon the death of his elder brothers, at a time when Macedonia was a poorly organized, economically insignificant, and militarily weak kingdom.
Philip’s leadership and vision of Macedonia’s future allowed him to succeed in unifying the intensely fragmented city-states of Greece under his rule in little more than 20 years.
Early in his reign, Philip focused on conquering the town of Crenides, quickly succeeding and renaming it to Philippi. He established a significant military presence to control their mines which provided him the financial backing for his future expansion. He converted his newly acquired bullion into a vast supply of coins; his tetradrachms and staters became some of the best known currencies of the day.
Despite being the king of Macedonia, Philip faced an uphill battle: the Greeks feared but did not respect him. Macedonians spoke a different language and were considered less cultured than the Greeks, thought to be barbaric, uncouth, and boorish.
The contemporary historian Demosthenes documented Philip’s struggles, describing him as “the finest orator” and a “Greek of Greeks” but that “ill-conditioned fellows in Athens” continued to “call him a barbarian.”
Only “true” Greeks were allowed to participate in the Olympics, and Philip was determined to convince his Athenian opposition that he was indeed worthy to be considered Greek. After successfully uniting Macedonia and Thessaly, Philip could make a legitimate claim to membership in Greek organizations and was no longer technically considered a barbarian, although this did not convince the public.
Philip entered his horse into the keles, a 1.2km horseback race, in the 106th Olympics in 356 BCE and won. This was a two-fold victory: having been admitted officially into the games and winning, he solidified his standing as a true Greek.
He proceeded to win two more times, in the 107th Olympics in 352 BCE in the four-horse chariot race and in the 108th Olympics in 348 BCE in the two-horse chariot race.
The fastest way to spread current news and political messages was through coinage as modern paper wasn’t invented in Europe until the 1700s and lambskin, vellum, and papyrus were expensive. Philip chose his coin types carefully. By minting ancient greek coins commemorating his Olympic success, Philip was producing propaganda which popularized his claim as a true Greek and noted his favor with the gods.
From sculptures uncovered in the excavation of Philip’s tomb in 1977, it has become evident that there are some subtle but clearly intentional similarities between Philip’s actual appearance and that of Zeus on his tetradrachms. The artist adopted some of Philip’s facial attributes in the depiction of Zeus, likely intending to further assert Philip’s divinity and claim to the broader throne of Greece.
Measurements: Diameter 17cm with a weight of 458gr