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XXI

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The Diadochi

(Work in Progress)

Alexander the Great, undefeated in battle and one of the greatest military commanders of all time, through conquest created one of the largest empires in ancient history.  He died, unexpectedly, at only 32 years of age.  After a night of heavy drinking which continued into the following day, he developed a fever, which grew steadily worse until he died 12 days later, on 10 or 11 June 323 B.C.  According to Diodorus, when Alexander was on his deathbed, his companions asked to whom he bequeathed his kingdom; his laconic reply was, "to the strongest."

The Diadochi (from the Greek diadoxoi = successors) were the strongest, the men in power that controlled and fought over Alexander's Empire following his unexpected death.  The struggle would be ruthless and began almost immediatly.  Alexander's family and his military leaders split the empire, and the quarreling, murder, and war lasted for decades, for as long as the Diadochi lived.  Even after their deaths, their descendants, the Seleucid and Ptolemaic kings continued sporadic fighting until the 2nd Century B.C.  In the end, only the Pax Romana would end the violent struggles of Alexander's successors. 

Phillip III Arrhidaeus

Silver tetradrachm, Price P225, Mller -, Choice VF, 17.238 g, maximum diameter 27.3 mm, die axis 255 degrees, uncertain Eastern mint, c. 323 - 300 B.C.; obverse head of Herakles right, clad in lion head headdress; reverse FILIPPOU right, BASILEWS in ex, Zeus seated left on throne, feet on footstool, holding eagle and scepter, monogram in left field

Arrhidaeus was Alexander's closest living relative (his half-brother) and many of the leaders of the infantry, including Meleager, the phalanx commander, supported him to succeed Alexander as king.  Arrhidaeus was the bastard son of Philip II and Philinna of Larissa, said to be a Thessalian dancer.  He was, however, mentally disabled, and incapable of actually ruling.  Alexander's mother Olympias, Arrhidaeus' step-mother, allegedly poisoned Arrhidaeus, intentionally disabling him to prevent him from being a rival to Alexander.  Although poisoning a child to make him mentally disabled is so despicable that it is difficult to believe, Alexander's family and the rest of the Macedonian nobility were ruthless people who would scheme and stop at nothing to gain and hold power. 

Perdiccas, the cavalry commander, disagreed with Meleager and demanded they wait for Alexander's wife Roxanne to deliver Alexander's child; if she had a son, he should be king.  Most likely Perdiccas' true intention was to grab as much power for himself as he could and he believed the infant and his foreign mother would be easier for him to control than Arrhideus and his rich and royal relatives.  If that was his motive, he was later proven right.   

A compromise was reached, Arrhideus was made king under the new name of Philip, and he would be joined in co-rule by Alexander's child if he had a son.  Periccas would be the regent and Meleager would be his lieutanant.  But compromise was not the the nature of these butal people, Periccas soon had Meleager and the other infantry leaders assassinated to assure himself full control.  Arrhideus was, of course, just a pawn.  

To reward them for supporting him, Perdiccas made his cavalry generals satraps of various parts of the empire; most important to the rest of this story, Ptolemy received Egypt; Laomedon received Syria and Phoenicia; Philotas took Cilicia; Peithon took Media; Antigonus received Phrygia, Lycia and Pamphylia; Asander received Caria; Menander received Lydia; Lysimachus received Thrace; Leonnatus received Hellespontine Phrygia; and Neoptolemus had Armenia. Macedon and the rest of Greece were to be under the joint rule of Antipater, who had governed them for Alexander, and Craterus, Alexander's most able lieutenant, while Alexander's old secretary, Eumenes of Cardia, was to receive Cappadocia and Paphlagonia.

When Alexander's sister, Cynane, learned that Arrhidaeus was king, she schemed to marry her daughter Eurydice to the feeble king.  Knowing that Perdiccas would see through her grab for power and oppose the marriage, she attempted to bypass him.  But Perdiccas learned of her plan and had her murdered.  His brutal response backfired on Perdiccas and the troops demanded he accept the marriage.  Eurydice, as scheming as the rest of the Macedonian nobility, was determined to bolster her husband's power, or rather her own since he was completely under her control.

Eurydice's chance came when the first war of the Diadochi sealed the fate of Perdiccas, making a new settlement necessary; settlement that was made at Triparadisus in Syria in 320 BC. Eurydice moved deftly enough to obtain the removal of the first two designed regents, Peithon and Arrhidaeus, but was powerless to block the too powerful Antipater: the latter was made new regent and Philip Arrhidaeus and his wife were forced to follow him to Macedon. The regent died of natural causes the following year, nominating as his successor not his son Cassander, but a friend of his, Polyperchon. Cassander's refusal to accept his father's decision sparked the second war of the Diadochi, in which Eurydice saw once again a chance to free Philip from the control of the regent. An opportunity presented itself in 317 BC, when Cassander expelled Polyperchon from Macedon: Eurydice immediately allied herself with him and made her husband nominate him new regent, and Cassander reciprocated by leaving her in full control of the country when he left to campaign in Greece. Another important designation was that of Eumenes as new commander of the Macedonian forces in Asia, dismissing in this way Polyperchon's strongest ally, Antigonus Monophthalmus. But all this was to prove exceedingly volatile: that same year (317) Polyperchon and Olympias, allied with the king of Epirus Aeacides, invaded Macedon, while the Macedonian troops refused to fight the son of Alexander, whom the invaders had brought with them. Philip and Eurydice had no choice but to escape, only to be captured at Amphipolis and thrown into prison. It soon became clear that Philip was too dangerous to be left alive, as many enemies of Olympias saw him as a useful tool against her, and so on December 25 317 BC she had him executed, while his wife was forced to commit suicide. The following year, when Cassander reconquered Macedon and avenged Philip's death, he interred the bodies of Philip and Eurydice with royal pomp at Aegae, and celebrated funeral games to their honour. In 1977 important excavations were made near Vergina leading to the discovery of a two-chambered royal tomb, with an almost perfectly conserved male skeleton. Manolis Andronikos, the chief archaeologist on the ground and the majority of archaeologists, decided it was the skeleton of Philip II, but many have disputed this attribution and instead proposed it to be the remains of Philip Arrhidaeus.

Arrhideus married his niece Eurydice (against the regent's will), a determined woman determined to consolidate her husband's position. When regent Antipater died in 319 B.C. nominating Polyperchon as regent, his son Cassander rebelled allied with Eurydice. The pair was given full control in Macedonia, but soon Olyampias and Polyperchon returned bringing Alexander IV with them. The troops refused to fight and Philip was imprisoned and soon executed (317 B.C.)

Ptolemy I Soter

Silver tetradrachm, Svoronos 146, SNG Cop 18, SGCV II 7749, gVF, 15.644 g, maximum diameter 26.9 mm, die axis 0 degrees, Egypt, Alexandria mint, 323 - 305 B.C.; obverse Alexander the Great, head right, wearing elephant skin headdress and aegis, D before elephant's ear; reverse ALEXANDROU, Athena Alkidemos advancing right, holding shield and brandishing javelin; PA monogram to left, two monograms and eagle in right field; a couple old light scrapes on obverse and "Z" graffiti on the reverse, attractive old toning.

Ptolemy, only a few year older than Alexander (and rumored to be his half brother) was one of his most trusted generals and a personal bodyguard.  At the Babylon partition of 323 B.C. he was appointed satrap of Egypt.  When Perdiccas sent the golden sarcophagus containing the body of Alexander to Macedonia, Ptolemy stole it and deposited it at Memphis, and joined the other rebellious satraps.  Perdiccas led the army into Egypt but failed to force the Nile losing a large number of soldiers and two officers murdered him. Ptolemy refused to succeed as regent and preferred to strengthen his base in Egypt. In the following wars he occupied intermittently the surrounding regions of Cyrenaica, Cyprus and Syria.

In 316 B.C. Antigonos Monophtalmos gained control of all Asia Minor and moved into Persia. Seleukos, the satrap of Babylon fled to Egypt and together with Ptolemy, Lysimachos and Cassander formed a coalition against Antigonos and his son Demetrios. Demetrios was defeated in the battle of Gaza (312 B.C.) After a short peace the war broke out again, Ptolemy conquering parts of Asia Minor and Greece but losing Cyprus after the naval battle of Salamis. Following the example of Antigonos and Demetrios, the other generals took the title of king, Ptolemy styling himself as pharaoh as well in 305 B.C.

During the final war between Antigonos and the other generals, Ptolemy occupied Syria only to withdraw again upon hearing of a victory of Antigonos. After Lysimachos definitively defeated Antigonos at Ipsos (301 B.C.), Ptolemy's move was regarded as desertion and Syria was awarded to Seleukos, a cause of war between the two kingdoms for a long period.

A well thought cautious man, Ptolemy died in 283 B.C. aged 84.  He founded the Library of Alexandria, wrote a history of Alexander (now lost), and founded a kingdom and dynasty that would last until Cleopatra VII's defeat with Mark Antony and her sucide on 12 August 30 B.C.

Seleukos I Nikator

Silver tetradrachm, SNG Spaer 109, ESM 4, VF, 17.108 g, maximum diameter 27.2mm, die axis 45 degrees, Seleukeia on the Tigris mint, obverse head of Herakles right, clad in lion-skin head-dress; reverse BASILEWS SELEUKOU, Zeus enthroned left, holding eagle and scepter, monogram left, DI under throne; attractive bold style; rare.

About the same age as Alexander, Seleukos led an elite infantry unit during the Indian campaign, facing Pakor's elephants. After 323 B.C. He remained under Perdiccas' command and after the failed invasion of Egypt he was appointed satrap of Babylon. In the following war between Antigonos and Eumenes, Seleukos helped the former, but soon relations degraded and feeling threated fled to Egypt. Seleukos became Ptolemy's admiral and after the battle of Gaza returned to Babylon, date regarded as the beginning of the Seleukid Era (311 B.C.) After dealing with the repeated invasions of Demetrios and Antigonos, Seleukos took control over all Eastern provinces as far as the Indus river. In 307 or 305 B.C. he founded his new capital Seleukeia on the Tigris. Moving again East he crossed into India without being able to win a decisive victory. He returned with a large number of elephants however in exchange for land.

The last major war of the diadochi was fought between Antigonos and Demetrios on one side, and Cassander, Lysimachos and Seleukos on the other. Aged 81, Antigonos died on the battle field at Ipsus (301 B.C.), putting an end to the dream of a reunited Alexander's empire. Seleukos' elephants proved to be decisive during this war.

After decisively defeating Demetrios (286 B.C.) and Lysimachos (281 B.C.), Seleukos now the only Alexander contemporary diadoch to survive proceeded to conquer Macedonia and Greece, probably with the intent of ruling Europe and leaving Asia for his son Antiochos, but he was murdered by Ptolemy Keraunos, Ptolemy's banished son.

Antiochos followed as the second Seleukid king. His mother was Persian princess Apama Seleukos was the only high-ranking Macedonian not to repudiate the eastern wife awarded by Alexander.

Seleukos can also be noted for founding the great city of Antioch, soon to become one of the largest in the world together with Alexandria and Rome.

Demetrios Poliorketes

Silver tetradrachm, Newell 81, gVF, 16.449 g, maximum diameter 30.0 mm, die axis 0 degrees, Amphipolis mint, obverse Demetrios' diademed head right with horns of a bull, the animal sacred to Demetrios' patron deity, Poseidon; reverse BASILEWS DHMHTRIOU, Poseidon standing left, right foot on rock, trident in left (apparently inspired by the Lateran Poseidon, a statue by Lysippos, court sculptor of Alexander); toned, high relief and nice style.

Demetrios was the youngest of the diadochi.  When Alexander died he was only a young boy, but son of the powerful Macedonian general Antigonos Monophtalmus.  In charge of Alexander's supply line, Antigonos received parts of Asia Minor after 323 B.C.  He soon entered in conflict with the other generals, and Demetrios, aged only 22 was defeated by Ptolemy in the battle of Gaza, losing Syria.  When Seleukos regained control of Babylon, Demetrios was sent against it in 310 B.C. with little success.  Later same year, his father marched on Syria and also failed, solidifying the establishment of a solid Seleukid empire and the end of Alexander's empire.

In the following years, father and son changed attention towards Ptolemy who was trying to conquer Greece. Demetrios liberated Athens and crushed Ptolemy's fleet in the battle of Salamis (306 B.C.) In the next year he laid the siege of Rhodes which made him famous. Demetrios use of gigantic siege weapons such a battering ram operated by 1000 men and an assault tower 125 feet tall (Helepolis) gave him the nickname Poliorketes (the Besieger).

He lost popularity in Greece due to his licentiousness and greed. While skirmishing Cassander, his father Antigonos was cornered in Asia Minor by Lysimachos and Seleukos. At the battle of Ipsus (301 B.C.) Antigonos perished. Demetrios escaped and later reconciled with Seleukos giving him his daughter in marriage. Demetrios also usurped the throne of Macedonia by murdering Alexander V, Cassander's son. Forced by the combined effort of Pyrrhos, Ptolemy and Lysimachos, Demetrios left for Asia attacking Lysmachos possessions and also conquering Cilicia. This was a direct threat towards Syria, and Seleukos army stepped in. Demetrios was deserted by his soldiers and died in captivity after three years. His son Antigonos II would rule Macedonia however, and the dynasty lasted until the Roman conquest.

Lysimachos

Silver tetradrachm, Thompson 29; Mller 331 (Tragilos), VF, ex jewelry, 16.559 g, maximum diameter 28.7 mm, die axis 45 degrees, Sestos mint, 297/6 - 282/1 B.C.; obverse diademed head of Alexander the Great wearing the horn of Ammon; reverse BASILEWS LUSIMACOU, Athena enthroned left, Nike crowning name in right, rests left arm on shield, transverse spear against right side, flower under arm; scarce

Lysimachos served as royal bodyguard under Philip II and Alexander. When Alexander died, he was granted control in Thrace and northern Asia Minor. He was a constant ally of Ptolemy and Seleukos agaisnt Antigonos and Demetrios. After the Ipsos battle his share of Asia Minor increased considerably, period during which he struck his wonderful tetradrachms. Trying to counterbalance Seleukos' power, Lysimachos married Ptolemy's daughter Arsinoe (even renaming Ephesos to Arsinoe). Demetrios was accepted as king of Macedonia for a while, but then driven out by an alliance with Pyrrhos.

In 284 B.C. Intrigues by Arsinoe and Ptolemy Keraunos determined Lysimachos to execute his eldest son Agathokles who was very popular. Many cities revolted. Seleukos seized the moment, invaded Asia Minor and Lysmachos died in the battle of Corupedium (281 B.C.), the last war of the diadochi. Although Seleukos now reigned over the entire Hellenistic world save Egypt, it did not last long at all, being soon murdered by the same Ptolemy Keraunos.