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The Crisis of 336 BCE (Athenian Legacy)

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The Crisis of 336 BCE
Part of The Macedonian War (Athenian Legacy)
Alexander the Great in the Temple of Jerusalem
Alexander is crowned in the Pantheon
Date 336 BCE
Location Athens, Greece
Result Alexander Victory;

Helmetrus is assassinated

Eurphanes is assassinated

Krolpols is executed

Alexander is crowned King of Athens

Belligerents
Supporters of Helmetrus Supporters of Krolpols
Commanders and leaders
Helmetrus

Alexander

Eurphanes

Archon Krolpols

Epistates Unamen

Casualties and losses
Helmetrus

Eurphanes

210 others

Krolpols

400 others

The Crisis of 336 BCE was a brief period of political strife and upheaval in the Greek city of Athens, transforming the city from a democracy, to an autocratic kingdom.

Background

Athenian Democracy had long since been the beacon of pride and power throughout the Athenian territories and states, representing one of the earliest free nations in human history. However, the Democracy was fragile, usually relying on a selection of powerful Athenians to dominate the system and guide the people. Usually, these were military tribunes, ranging from officials to war-time "dictators" (dictator was never a term, but sometimes individuals held such power that it resembled a dictator).

The First Peloponnesian War had been proof of this, and given near total power to Pericles, who would "reign" until mid-way through the Second Peloponnesian War. As the Athenian territory continued to expand, the democracy, though still strong, became reliant on a line of Generals, known as the Conon Dynasty. Initially, generals such as Conon and his son Timotheus, were able to "rule" unopposed, as both men were shown as honorable, and worthy men. As a result, they Athenian democracy and magistrates did not resist their power, as it was clearly beneifiting the state.

It was indeed though, the young and ambitious Helmetrus who disrupted the system. As Timotheus drifted away from Athens, fighting wars across the Aegean, his son gathered support in the Assembly, winning stunning victories against rebellious kingdoms. Following a decisive conflict against the Peloponnesian League, Helmetrus returned home the greatest conquereror in Athenian history, and would continue to expand Athens territorial empire against the northern kingdom of Macedonia and their aggressive leader, Phillip. However, as Helmetrus's victories continued to enlarge, many political leaders began to grow jealous and worrried over his increasing power. Following the bestowing of the "First General" title, which effectively gave Helmetrus total control of the Athenian Military, the people of the great city split in opinion. Over time, the opposition grew, eventually escalating around the Macedonian Civil War, when Helmetrus adopted his long time hostage and Macedonian Prince, Alexander. When Amyntas, the King of Macedon demanded Alexander's return and execution for being a pretender, Helmetrus outright refused. Eventually, efforts for peace fell apart, and Amyntas moved against northern Athenian colonies.

Initially, Helmetrus was unable to rally the war-weary people back into another conflict. Supported by the Archon, Krolpols, Helmetrus polticial enemy, the people of Athens pulled away from his Helmetrus's jingoistic opinion. Krolpols victory however, was shadowed by his underhanded tactics of keeping peace. Using his puppet, the Epistates of Athens, Krolpols secrtely shifted funds to the King of Macedon, in order to maintain his position and peace in Athens. Many Athenians aware of this system were not concerned, as long as it kept Athens away from another conflict. Eventually, some Athenian poltiicans involved in the motion became skeptical, and sometimes threated to tell the opposition the system unless monetary payment was made.

In order to save his own skin, Krolpols framed the Epistates publicly for the system, furthering his own opinion in the public eye. But, Athenian spies in the employment of Helmetrus uncovered the conspiracy, shifting the Assembly back in favor of the First General. Helmetrus assumed command of this "new" government, completely replacing magistrates and sometimes entire councils to his own favor. Soon enough, with no more tributes reaching Macedon, Athens was plunged into war.

After nearly two years of bitter fighting, Amyntas snatched the upper-hand, winning a decisive victory on the Sithonian Pensiular and decimating the Athenian army. When Helmetrus returned to Athens, we was received silently. In his absence, it became clear that Krolpols had launched a total smear campaign against Athens, mostly stressing the First Generals decisive defeat in the Siege of Torone. Only Helmetrus's poltical ally, First General Eurphanes (who gained the title in the Second Syracusan War), restricted the rapid growth of the Archon's authority. However, Krolpols was able to manipulate the Assembly to send Eurphanes back to his post in Sicily, effectively ending any resistance against the Archon's control. Eventually, the assembly revoked the "First General" titles of Helmetrus and Eurphanes on unconstitutional grounds (Both titles were essentially "against the constitution"). With the only two "First General" titles gone, Krolpols, though still only a Archon, prepared to lead his supporters in a call for peace.

After another series of Macedonian victories, Eurphanes and Krolpols settled on a political alliance to end the war. Initially offering a reunited Macedonia under a tributary system to Athens. Amyntas outright refused, unwilling to pay any tribute to Athens. In response, Amyntas announced an intention to carry the war deeper into Athenian territory unless Alexander was forfeited to the Macedonian King. Once again, Helmetrus did not budge. 

The Crisis of 336

The Crisis of 336 was a series of polticial disruptions and domestic failures that eventually cultivated in an overthrow of the Athenian Democracy.

The Unamen Motion

The threat of a Macedonian invasion of Thesally by Amyntas brought the Athenian people to immedeate distress. As long as Alexander, though young and intelligent, remained in Athens, thousands more would die. Helmetrus, who rightly proved that giving up a Athenian citizen as a hostage was illegal, forced the people of the city to prepare for another war. Psychologically, Amyntas was pulling the people apart. With little options left, and not a substantial military force to be raised, Unamen (the ex-epistate who had been "stealing" money for tribute"), arrived at the Assembly with a proposition. It was early in the morning, and Helmetrus and Alexander were currently in the barracks, attempting to decifer ways to raise a large enough force to hold back the Macedonians.

Unamen's proposition was as decent as it was evil, and desperate as it was necessary. The motion declared that the Assembly's motions declaring Alexander as a legitmate citizen was void, as few of the necessary requirements had been layed out, most importantly a large monetary payment. It had been stated in the past motions, that Helmetrus's dedication to then state was indeed his "pay-off" and that Alexander could be rightfully made a citizen based off of a honor code. Unamen argued that this motion was a result of Helmetrus's manipulation of the assembly, and that once again, the granting of citizenship to Alexander was completely unconstitutional. Krolpols publicly endorsed Undamen's proposition (though Krolpols had crafted it himself), and the Assembly reluctantly agreed.

With time not on Athen's side, the motion was rushed from the assembly to the Nomothetai who would vote on the motion. Indeed though, the juries had been puppetized by Krolpols, and the Nomothetai passed the motion without delay.

However, former Helmetrus supporters flocked to the assembly house, attempting to delay the motion being carried out. As the mob enlargened, Athenian guards were rushed to calm the people down. Thousands of protestors against the motion signed numerous petitions, therefore forcing Krolpols to call a re-vote in the Assembly.

The Assassination of Helmetrus

Though the supporters of Helmetrus and Krolpols were easily balanced in size, Helmetrus supporters arrived at the Assembly first, filling up the seats before the opposition arrived. The Juries decreed that move illegal, and instead called for a second assembly to be formed two weeks later.

On the day of the re-vote, Krolpols held a slight advantage in the Assembly, but not enough to completely override the will of the other half. Helmetrus and Krolpols argued back and forth for several hours, as Alexander looked on calmly. Eventually, Helmetrus called for a vote on the Unamen motion, and the pottery shards were handed out. Fearing a possible defeat, Krolpols quickly fled to the comfort of the Juries, secretly bribing them to declare the Assembly's motion void. He returned to the Assembly with the votes being counted, still near a tie. However, as Helmetrus marched up to his supporters, confident of victory, three citizens attacked Helmetrus from behind with their pottery shards, stabbing him to death.

The assembly erupted into a chaotic stampede, some dying under the trampling feet of the fleeing crowd. Alexander, stunned, charged to his father, who was left on the floor with the imprints of the fleeing Athenian's feet. Some loyal supporters pulled Alexander away from the fray, guiding him through a separate exit and practically saving his life from another assassination attempt.

The fallout of the assassination was pure anarchy. Supporters of both sides rushed to their homes and local taverns, rallying the people to their sides. It seemed, for a brief moment, that Athens was to be plunged into civil war.

Arrival of Euphranes and Assassination

As prospect of war began to grow, Euphranes and 2,000 of his Sicilian soldiers were rushed back home to Athens. He arrived a month later, with a temporary magistrate government in control of the city. As Euphranes marched through the city, he received temporary poltical control from the Magistrates (controlled by Alexander's supporters) and the Juries (controlled by the Archon). With a newly created Military government, order was briefly restored. However, as Euphranes had been a poltical ally of both Helmetrus and Krolpols had separate time, he remained unbiased and therefore furthered worsened the situation.

As both sides had split the city (Alexander's supporters had control of the Agora while Krolpols and his men commanded from the Limnai neighborhod), Euphranes was forced to constantly shuttle between sections in an attempt to negiotiate with opposing leaders.

Finally, Euphranes ordered a re-shuffling of the Magistrate positions along with the Juries, disrupting the balance of power. As neither side was willing to give up authority, Euphranes attempted to storm the Juries. With many believing that the former First General had sided with Alexander, he quickly became a target. Nearly a hour after occupying the new Jury area on the Acropolis, several members of the Heliasts attacked Euphranes with clubs and javelins, inpaling him to death.

From here, fighting erupted in the streets, with both sides accusing the other of the assassination. Nearly 50 people died in the following two weeks, as military forces under command of the local Taxiarchs retained command of the city.

Division of Local Garrison

Eventually, Euphranes Athenian garrison divided and splintered. Unable to sustain the peace, most of the soldiers picked sides in a hope to end the fighting with a larger quantity of supporters. Initially, Krolpols held the advantage, and Alexander's supporters demanded a withdrawal from the city, prompting him to wage a civil war against his father's killer. Alexander refused to abandon his position, and instead fortified the Agora (the birth place of democracy) with his 900 supporters. After a brief week of training, Alexander's forces were put to the test.

Krolpols and his 1200 men marched directly onto the Agora in the early summer morning, estimated around the 11th of May. Alexander quickly shifted his partial civilian force into a fighting unit, organizing them as best he could into a strict phalanx formation. Heavy fighting on nearly all entrances forced Alexander to retreat to the center, where his forces could best hold their ground. They drove back Krolpols and his superior forces through discipline, chasing them back out of the Agora.

Krolpols still maintained a numerical superiority, and initiated a siege of the Agora in hopes to starve Alexander out.

The Bloody Week

While many Athenians thought that Alexander was beaten, his personal supporters had begun to see the true valiance and courage in their young leader. Now confident in Alexander, the civilian-force of Alexander prepared for a surprise attack. Late in the evening, on the 1st of June, after several weeks of siege, Alexander and his men sallied forth in a nightly surpise attack. Completely caught off guard, slaughter ensued. Through military intelligence, Alexander managed to catch Krolpol's forces in a rout, completely changing the course of the brief military conflict.

Alexander's force chased the enemy all the way back to the Acropolis, where they massacred the remains of the enemy supporters, capturing Krolpols and his highest supporters. It was here though, that Alexander, upon the Parthenon, gave a rallying and honest speech, famously saying:

"Democracy is a corrupted, flawed way of life."

Though he encouraged debate amongst his supporters, most of them threw themselves at the feet of Alexander, who had effectively saved their lives. In a moment of both despiration for order and loyalty for their leader, the Athenian people offered Alexander the title of "King" before the gods of Olympus.

For the next five days, Alexander waged a purging war against Krolpols highest supporters but forgave the common man who had turned away from Helmetrus. Krolpols was executed in the Assembly, which over time would be transformed into a monarchial palace.

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