League of Corinth for Kids and Teachers
Ancient Macedonia was a powerful kingdom to the north of the ancient Greek city-states. Alexander the Great, the young king of Macedonia, briefly conquered the ancient Greek city-states.
Here's how he did it: His father, Phillip II, king of Macedonia (Macedon), created the League of Corinth, using the threat of another possible Persian invasion to encourage and justify a common peace between the Greek city-states and Macedonia. In times of war, they would team up to defend each other.
Macedonia created a document that all the Greek city-states were supposed to sign - a binding, legal document. It was very smart to use the name Corinth in the title of the agreement and the league. If Macedonia could get one of the powerful Greek city-states to sign, like Corinth, other smaller city-states would be more likely to follow. As Macedonia assured the Greek city-states, anyone who joined would have a representative at meetings of the League. What they did not mention is that those representatives would not have a voice unless the Macedonians agreed with them.
There were many ground rules in this tricky document that sounded fair but that actually benefited only Macedonia. For example, if a Greek city-state did not follow the rules, Macedonia could, by the terms of this agreement, send their army in to crush them. Macedonia did not need to discuss this decision with other members of the league or look at options. Interestingly, Macedonia did not sign this document, so they were not subject to any of the rules they created.
Athens refused to join this League. Thebes refused. Sparta refused. But the smaller Greek city-states were eager to sign. The Greeks loved deals. This certainly sounded like a good one. To many, the thought of having the Macedonian army on their side in times of war sounded absolutely terrific. The fear of a Persian invasion was a real one. And Macedon was huge!
(Macedon is pictured in orange below. Persia is in purple.
Each Greek city-state is a little dot in the yellow area.)
After his father died, and Alexander took over as king of Macedonia, he warned the Greek city-states that anyone who did not join the League of Corinth and comply with the terms of the League would face his army. He meant it. He crushed Thebes. He was more gentle with Athens, but still, he conquered them by force. Sparta, for the protection of their people, finally caved in and joined. So, Macedonia, first using the fear of a Persian invasion, along with some tricky agreement terms, and then by force, managed to control and conquer the Greek city-states.
Alexander was ruthless with anyone who stood in his way - he intended to conquer the world. But, Alexander admired the Greek culture. While he was out and about, conquering other civilizations in Europe, Africa, and Asia, he built trade routes and spread Greek knowledge and ideas.
Note to our students: A discussion has been raging in scholarly circles for decades over whether or not Macedonia was a Greek city-state or a separate empire. For our purposes in this class - you will not find this question on any test. What we care about is that Alexander the Great, in his 13 years as the king of Macedonia, first controlled the Greek city-states, and then, "Over the next eight years, in his capacity as king, commander, politician, scholar and explorer, Alexander led his army a further 11,000 miles, founding over 70 cities and creating an empire that stretched across three continents, and covered around two million square miles. The entire area from Greece in the west, north to the Danube, and south into Egypt, and as far to the east as the Indian Punjab, was linked together in a vast international network of trade and commerce. This was united by a common Greek language and culture, while the king himself adopted foreign customs in order to rule his millions of ethnically diverse subjects." Alexander the Great, BBC
This is important because after Alexander's death, his empire fell apart, but the Greek culture he spread remained, as did the international trade routes. His death was the end of the period historians call ancient Greece, but it was the beginning of the next step in Greek history, the Hellenistic Period. The Greek city-states were once again free and independent, and other civilizations that Alexander had conquered entered a cultural period of copying Greek ideas, with the trade of ideas and knowledge. That historical period lasted 200 years, until the Romans came to town and conquered the Greek city-states, and most of the Mediterranean civilizations, including Egypt.