The Lamian War, or the Hellenic War (323–322 BC)[1] 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.

Lamian War
The Macedonian Empire at the time of the Lamian War.
Date323–322 BC

Macedonian victory

Aetolian League,
Commanders and leaders
Menon IV

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.


In 324 BC, 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 warEdit

The death of Alexander in 323 BC 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 the 5,000 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.[2] 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.[3]

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.[4]

That year Hypereides pronounced the funeral oration over the dead including his friend Leosthenes. Antiphilus[5] 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 (322 BC).[6]

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.[7]


Antipater made peace treaties with the defeated cities separately and on generous terms. The Athenians were made to dissolve their government and establish a plutocratic system in its stead, whereby only those possessing 2,000 drachmas or more could remain citizens. This was done in the belief that the poorer elements of the society had compelled the war in the first place.[8] Hypereides was condemned to death, fled, and was probably captured and killed in Euboea. Demosthenes was forced to commit suicide by Antipater for his role in supporting the war.[9]


  1. ^ For questions surrounding the nomenclature in antiquity see Ashton (1984); Walsh (2011).
  2. ^ Westlake, H. D. The Aftermath of the Lamian War. "Classical Review 63" (1949) 87
  3. ^ Diodorus Siculus. XVIII.12. Penelope- U Chicago
  4. ^ Diodorus Siculus.XVIII.12-13. Penelope- U Chicago
  5. ^ Not to be confused with Antiphilus the famous painter, active in the same period.
  6. ^ Diodorus Siculus.XVIII.13-15. Penelope- U Chicago
  7. ^ Diodorus Siculus.XVIII.16-17. Penelope- U Chicago
  8. ^ Diodorus Siculus XVIII 17-18. Penelope- U Chicago
  9. ^ Oxford Classical Dictionary (1970) p. 535 (Dobson. J.) & p. 331 (Cawkwell, G).


Ancient sourcesEdit

Modern sourcesEdit

  • 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