Third Sacred War

Infobox Military Conflict
conflict=Third Sacred War
date=c. 356 BC– 346 BC
place=Mainland Greece
result= King Philip of Macedon establishes himself in Greece.
combatant1=Thebes, Boeotia, Macedon
combatant2=Phocis, Pherae
commander1=Philip II of Macedon
commander2=Philomelus, Onomarchus, Phayllus, Phalaecus
The Third Sacred War (356 BC- 346 BC) was fought between the forces of Thebes and Phocis for control of Delphi. Compared to the Second Sacred War it was longer, more bitter and more violent.

Philomelus takes control of Delphi

After the Second Sacred War Thebes dominated the Amphictyonic League. They fined Phocis heavily for a trivial offense, which enraged Philomelus, the current leader of Phocis, who took control of Delphi. The army of Phocis was relatively small and weak, so Philomelus recruited a mercenary army from the neighboring Greek states. The mercenary army was said to have had problems with loyalty and morale. Philomelus was using the temple's treasures at Delphi to support the mercenaries until he was defeated at the Neon by Boetia in 354 BC and committed suicide.

Onomarchus becomes leader of Phocis

After Philomelus was defeated Phocis found a new leader, Onomarchus. Onomarchus defeated Boetai and allied himself with the Pheraeans. However, this alliance was defeated by King Philip II of Macedon, who had allied with Thebes. Philip's professional army crushed Onomarchus at the Battle of Crocus Field in 352 BC, and after the battle Onomarchus committed suicide.

Defense of Thermopylae

After the defeat at the Crocus Field, Phocis was left with a greatly reduced army. While King Philip II of Macedon was preparing to attack at Thermopylae, Onomarchus's brother Phayllus took command of Thermopylae and began the defense. Phayllus managed to keep Philip out with a heroic stand. The successor of Phoecis was Phalaecus, but he stood little chance of turning the war around as the fatal alliance of King Philip and Thebes was formed.


By the year 347 BC, the temple treasures were starting to run out, and Phalaecus could no long afford to keep his army to a high standard. Nine years had passed since the start of the war, and both sides were exhausted. Philip announced that he would end the war in the following year, 346 BC. Despite Athenian efforts to keep Philip out by using the Peace of Philocrates, he came against no military opposition. Phalaecus was said to have arranged a secret deal with Macedon. Philip ended the Third Sacred War in 346 BC as he had promised, by destructing almost every Phokian city. [For an account of the destruction see: Diodorus Siculus XVI 59-60; Pausanias Χ 3.1-3] In reality Philip had also settled Greece, as the Golden age of Greek history came to close and the Macedonians began to take control.


[1] For an account of the destruction see: Diodorus Siculus XVI 59-60; Pausanias Χ 3.1-3. Among the destroyed Phokian cities were: Ambryssos, Antikyra, Daulis, Elateia, Lilaia, Panopeus and others.


*J. Buckler. "The Theban Hegemony". Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1980.
*H. W. Park and D. W. Wormell. "The Delphic Oracle". Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1956.

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