Battlefield Blog: Chaeronea

Blood slaps wetly against stone. For a long moment, the three of us stare in silence. Carried by the buffeting wind, the blood paints a gruesome red mosaic against the ancient wall.

“That’s not good”

Steven and I nod sagely in agreement, our eyes shifting to the deep laceration across Mike’s wrist. He tries to cover the wound, but the blood soon wells from between his clamped fingers.

I take off my belt and tightly bind his wrist “That dislodged stone must have hit an artery, keep the pressure on and keep it elevated.” Already a dark stain has spread along the belt’s felt material. “you’ll probably need stitches”

Mike cradles his arm, casting an accusatory glance at the ancient remnants of the Hellenistic lookout tower beside him. The hilltop fortification overlooks the plains of Boeotia in Central Greece. To the south lies the large town of Lavadia, where we spent the night. To the north lies the battlefield of Chaeronea.

As Mike and Steven start retracing their steps to Lavadia, the only nearby town with a hospital, I shield my eye’s from the sun’s glare and make a final appraisal of the landscape. In 338 BCE, king Philip II of Macedon had marched his forces through the valley to attack the Greek coalition. Led by Athens and Thebes, the Greeks had take-up position between the base of Mount Thurion and the Kephisos River. I could see the river far below, meandering lazily toward the natural chokepoint before disappearing from view.

I imagine the Macedonian Phalanx hammering into the Greek line; the clash of shields and the snapping of spears ringing through the valley. How much blood had already been spilled across these plains? The limited survival of firsthand accounts have led to several plausible reconstructions of the battle. The results, however, remains indisputable. Philip II’s highly trained and experienced Macedonian army had battered the Greeks into submission.

I grind my teeth in frustration, wanting to see firsthand the landscape responsible for shaping the battle’s outcome. Wrenching away my gaze, I follow Mike and Steven downhill. It’s a five hour hike back in the simmering summer heat, but I hardly notice, already making planes for tomorrow. The fallen of Chaeronea would wait another day.

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