History of the Macedonian People - The Aftermath of Alexander's Empire

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History of the Macedonian People from Ancient times to the Present

Part 9 - The Aftermath of Alexander's Empire

by Risto Stefov rstefov@hotmail.com

Alexander's sudden death at Babylon in June 323 BC came as an unexpected surprise and threw the empire into upheaval. Alexander had made himself irreplaceable but had never considered the idea of appointing a qualified successor should the tragically unexpected ever happen. After all, he was a soldier and soldiers do get killed. If Alexander had a weakness, this was it. There are those who say that it was Alexander himself who brought this tragedy upon his empire. Had he appointed a successor, his empire may have survived to endure the Roman onslaught. Better yet, had he not ventured into Asia he could have followed in his father's footsteps and made Macedonia even greater. By allowing the empire to be split, however, Alexander's successors weakened Macedonia enough to fall prey to the Romans.

The stage was set for the Great Macedonian Empire to decline when the army failed to appoint a single strong leader. It was apparent from the start that Arrhidaeus, Philip II's epileptic and dimwitted son and Alexander III's unborn child were not chosen for their leadership skills but rather for their non-interference. Who then was truly going to rule the empire? Obviously Alexander had surrounded himself with men who were more interested in their own careers than the fate of the empire. For the next fifty years or so, the most powerful and influential military leaders fought each other for control of the empire. After fifty years of struggle and strife they partitioned the empire into three pieces. In the end, the Antigonids took Macedonia and Greece, the Ptolemies took Egypt and the Seleucids took Asia. Many died senselessly before the conflicts reached equilibrium and the partitioned lands assumed a sense of normalcy (see Arrian). There was one positive result even though the empire was partitioned and ruled by different dynasties. For centuries Macedonians ruled the empire and traveled freely throughout their world, which stretched from the Adriatic to the Punjab and from Tadzhikistan to Libya. They maintained contact with each other and with their homeland as many traveled back and forth to seek employment and visit family and friends.

On their way back to Macedonia, Craterus and the discharged veterans received news of Alexander's death and the army's order for Antipater to remain general of Europe. Craterus in the meantime was to assume the position of protector of the kingdom of Arrhidaeus. Roxane did give birth to a baby boy who was named Alexander IV and both he and Arrhidaeus were summoned to Asia in the care of Perdiccas.

According to Diodorus, the most influential players remaining in Babylon after Alexander's death were Perdiccas, the most senior cavalry officer, bearer of Alexander's ring and guardian of the two kings, Meleager, the most senior phalanx leader, Ptolemy, Leonnatus, Lysimachus and Peucestas, all of whom held relatively important positions in the empire. Less important at the time but who later rose to the ranks of important players were Seleucus, commander of the crack guards' regiment, Eumenes, Alexander's secretary and only foreigner among the leading Macedonians, Antipater's son Cassander and Antigonus the one-eyed, the influential satrap of Phrygia. Absent were Craterus and Antipater, who as I mentioned earlier were still in Macedonia.

The struggle for control of the empire began right after Alexander's death and lasted for more than fifty years. During the first few years or so Perdiccas was the first to make a serious attempt at gaining control of the empire. By offering a compromise settlement to the others he hoped to gain power for himself. Unfortunately he made too many diplomatic errors and his scheming landed him in hot water. He was assassinated by his own men the day before he was planning to attack Ptolemy at the Nile Delta.

Before I continue with Perdiccas's story, I want to mention that Leonnatus had also met his demise. In the spring of 322 BC, while Antipater and Craterus were busy putting down the Greek rebellions, Leonnatus brought his army across the Hellespont hoping to lay claim to Macedonia through marriage. Alexander's sister Cleopatra had written him with an offer of marriage. Unfortunately, Leonnatus was killed in battle and did not achieve his ambitions.

Perdiccas's decline began back in the palace of Babylon when he attempted to assert his own authority above the others by announcing a purification of the army after Alexander's death. This was in response to Meleager who was attempting to assert Arrhidaeus's authority over Perdiccas by force. A squabble broke out and Meleager's supporters were rounded up and executed, on Perdiccas's orders. Meleager was spared at the time only to be murdered later, no doubt by Perdiccas's assassins. It was also at Perdiccas's insistence that Antipater was left in charge of Europe and Craterus was given the administrative role of guardian of the kings. Perdiccas was well aware of Craterus's popularity with the infantry and wanted him as far away from it as possible. Perdiccas was also secretly plotting to overthrow Antipater through intrigues and by attempts to marry into power. When all this was revealed, Antipater as well as Craterus, Lysimachus and Antigonus lined up against him.

His problems did not end there. Macedonian custom decreed that to be king one had to bury the predecessor and Alexander was not yet buried. In fact, Perdiccas no longer had possession of Alexander's body. To curb Perdiccas's chances of becoming king, Ptolemy had bribed the commander of the funeral cortege to hide the body. It is still unknown where Alexander was buried. His body was neither taken home to the royal tombs at Aigai nor was it conveyed to the Siwah oasis. According to Peter Green, Ptolemy took the body first to Memphis for a pharaoh's burial and then to Alexandria where it was put on permanent display in a gold coffin.

In the spring of 320 BC Perdiccas left Asia for Egypt to attack Ptolemy. However, Ptolemy was ready for him and sabotaged his chances at a victory. A few days after Perdiccas's death, word came that Eumenes fought a great battle against Craterus near the border of Cappadocia and won an overwhelming victory, which unfortunately left Craterus dead. Before leaving for Egypt, Perdiccas had appointed Eumenes in charge of Asia and now that Perdiccas was dead, Eumenes made a bid for Perdiccas's portion of the empire. The army, however, did not agree with Eumenes's actions and, during an assembly in Egypt, formally condemned Eumenes and his supporters to death. It was now a matter of time before they were hunted down and executed.

The power vacuum left by the loss of Craterus and Perdiccas created some concern for Alexander's successors who in 320 BC again assembled the army, this time in Syria. After some deliberation the assembly decided to appoint Antipater guardian of the kings with full powers and gave Antigonus command of the troops in Asia with a specific assignment to hunt down Eumenes.

For the next twenty or so years, it was Antigonus who dominated the Asian front. He made a great effort to bring as much of the whole empire as possible under his control but he too unfortunately paid for his ventures with his life.

Before his appointment, Antigonus had shown himself to be very ambitious and Antipater did not trust him with all that power in his hands. Antipater's son Cassander, however, was comfortable with the choice and convinced his father to allow the appointment. To safeguard Antigonus's loyalty Antipater married off his daughter Phila, Craterus's widow, to Antigonus's son Demetrius. As a further safeguard, Cassander attached himself to Antigonus's staff as cavalry commander and remained in Asia. Antipater returned to Macedonia to resume his former duties and to bring the two kings back to their homeland.

It took Antigonus about five years to catch up to Eumenes. It was not Antigonus who caused the death of Eumenes but his own soldiers who let him down in battle. Here is what Peter Green has to say. "He was destroyed in the end only by repeated betrayals (the price of reliance on over-independent and quasi-mercenary commanders), and by the fundamental greed-cum-xenophobia of Macedonian troops, who at heart resented being led by a smooth Greek intellectual, especially one who failed to bring them loot as well as victories. They may on one occasion have greeted him in Macedonian, as a kind of backhanded compliment, but they let him down badly during their first campaign against Antigonus in Cappadocia." (Page 17, Peter Green, Alexander to Actium The Historical Evolution of the Hellenistic Age).

Being humiliated by his defeat, Eumenes and about six hundred of his followers fled to the fortress of Nora in the northern Taurus range. Antigonus at once took over both of Eumenes's satrapy and his army and laid siege to Nora. Antigonus did not stop with Eumenes but continued to pursue his allies with much success. It was during these campaigns that Antigonus began to seriously consider taking over the entire empire.

Late in 319 BC Antipater, who was in his seventies, died of old age. His death gave Antigonus encouragement to pursue his dream but, unfortunately, like Perdiccas before him he began to make diplomatic blunders.

During his last hours of life, Antipater passed on his authority to a loyal Macedonian officer named Polyperchon who was a good soldier but had very little experience in diplomatic matters. The new appointee's first mistake was to bring back Alexander III's mother Olympias from Epirus and appoint her royal guardian of young Alexander. The first to react to this appointment with outrage was Antipater's son Cassander who had expected the appointment himself and did not agree with the present arrangement. Cassander immediately formed a coalition with Ptolemy of Egypt, Antigonus of Asia and Lysimachus of Thrace against Polyperchon.

The alliance with Cassander had possibilities for Antigonus but first he had to conclude the siege of Nora. Not being able to seize the impregnable fortress by force, Antigonus turned to diplomacy and offered Eumenes an alliance. Being anxious to get out of his current predicament, Eumenes agreed to the terms of the alliance and swore allegiance to Antigonus. In early summer of 318 BC the siege was lifted. A few months later Eumenes received an offer of alliance from Polyperchon and Olympias, who at the time were enemies of Antigonus and Cassander. Eumenes accepted their offer and switched sides. Antigonus made a counter offer but it was rejected. Not too long afterwards war broke out in Asia between Antigonus and Eumenes which lasted two years. Then in the fall of 316 BC, during the battle of Paraetacene, Eumenes was again betrayed by his men which resulted in his capture by Antigonus, who in turn had him executed.

In Macedonia, meanwhile, Polyperchon made attempts to gain the support of the Greek city- states against Cassander but without much success. Olympias, on the other hand, made matters worse for Polyperchon by invading Macedonia from Epirus. Bent on seeing her grandson on the throne, Olympias, in early 317 BC, invaded Macedonia with a small force. She was provoked by Philip Arrhidaeus's wife Eurydice who had openly declared her support of Cassander as regent of Macedonia. With the threat of invasion, Eurydice came out, in full armour, at the head of her troops to meet Olympias at the Macedonian-Epirot frontier. However, seeing Alexander's mother she backed off and laid down her arms. Olympias unfortunately was not the forgiving type and got back at her by executing her husband Philip Arrhidaeus. Without her husband's support Eurydice could not bear the pain of being a widow and in the fall of 317 BC she committed suicide.

Olympias's revenge did not stop with the murder of Philip Arrhidaeus. Believing that her son Alexander III was poisoned by the cupbearer, Iolaus (Antipater's son), she had his corpse exhumed from the grave and his ashes scattered. She also executed hundreds of supporters of Philip Arrhidaeus and Eurydice. Fortunately, her killing spree was short lived. After making amends with Athens, Cassander invaded Macedonia and had the Macedonian army pronounce a death sentence on Olympias, which drove her back to Pydna. Starved of support she surrendered in the spring of 315 BC and was executed by stoning. Young Alexander was now left in Cassander's custody, which itself may just as well have been a death sentence. Cassander in time began to act as king of Macedonia and had no intention of stepping down for anyone. He made his intentions clear by giving Philip Arrhidaeus and Eurydice a royal burial at Aigai and by marrying Philip II's daughter Salonica.

As I mentioned earlier, Antigonus's pursuit of Eumenes allowed him to exercise his influence over the vastness of Asia. With Eumenes out of the way, Antigonus was now in charge of all the lands from Asia Minor to the uplands of Iran. He exercised his powers like an independent monarch, appointing satraps at his own discretion and even taking money from the empire's treasuries to shore up support and hire mercenaries for his army. He used bribery and favouritism to dispose of his enemies and those who did not agree with his policies. He even ordered an audit of Seleucus's accounting hoping to find indiscretions so he could get rid of him. Seleucus at the time was satrap of Babylonia and sensing that his life was in danger, fled to Egypt leaving Antigonus in control of almost all of Alexander's Asian empire.

Antigonus's actions, however, did not go unnoticed and in fact created great alarm in his rivals. His pursuit of Alexander's old officers was enough cause for concern which prompted not only Seleucus, who lost his lucrative position, but also for Ptolemy, Cassander and Lysimachus to serve him an ultimatum. While making his rounds raiding treasuries and collecting tributes in Syria, the envoys sent by Ptolemy, Cassander and Lysimachus met up with Antigonus. They served notice, ordering Antigonus to restore Seleucus to his former satrapy in Babylon and to surrender Syria to Ptolemy, Hellespontine Phrygia to Lysimachus and Lycia and Cappadocia to Cassander. Of course these were outrageous demands which Antigonus flatly rejected. But they were serious enough that if ignored would lead to war which Antigonus felt confident he could win. Antigonus had one weakness in not having a fleet but that could easily be remedied in the future because he had the money to build one.

Antigonus built shipyards at various port cities including Tripolis, Byblos and Sidon. He also secured alliances with Cyprus and sent troops to guard the Hellespont against a possible crossing by Cassander. He even tried to buy help from Polyperchon in the Peloponnisos encouraging him to start a war with Cassander. To rally their support, Antigonus even made a pitch to his troops accusing Cassander of the murder of Olympias, of marrying Salonica by force and of trying to make a bid for the Macedonian throne. In his propaganda communiqué, in a bid to gain more support, Antigonus offered the Greeks a number of concessions including freedom, autonomy and the removal of the Macedonian garrisons. The actual communiqué that was handed down to the Greeks by Polyperchon, however, was revised and the words "freedom" and "autonomy" were removed.

In 311 BC, war did break out and Antigonus found himself fighting on two fronts, one in Syria and the other at the Hellespont. A war also broke out in Susa, which involved Antigonus's son Demetrius and his army on one side against Ptolemy's superior forces reinforced with elephants, on the other. In battle Demetrius was no match for Ptolemy and was easily defeated. Ptolemy's victory opened the door for Seleucus to regain his satrapy. With borrowed troops (from Ptolemy), Seleucus marched in and recaptured Babylon, Media and Susiana, thus restoring himself to his former glory.

The conflict with Ptolemy drew Antigonus to Syria but in view of Ptolemy's victory Antigonus decided now was not the right time to pursue matters further. Antigonus's withdrawal signaled an end to the aggressions. Terms of a peace agreement were renegotiated and each of the players was reconfirmed. Cassander was to remain general of Europe until young Alexander came of age, Lycimachus was to remain in Thrace, Ptolemy in Egypt and Antigonus was to be first in rank in Asia. Seleucus and Polyperchon were not present at the peace talks and therefore were not included in any of the agreements. So, technically, Antigonus was still at war with Seleucus. Of all the promises made to the Greeks, event though a great deal of discussion took place about them, nothing concrete materialized.

In 311 BC, after the conclusion of the peace treaty, Alexander's empire still remained intact but was now controlled by Ptolemy, Antigonus, Lycimachus, Seleucus and Cassander, all of them Macedonians.

As it turned out, however, the 311 BC peace agreement was nothing more than a temporary truce, a break in a never-ending struggle for power. Antigonus, Lycimachus and Seleucus each still possessed ambitions to unite Alexander's empire but under their own rule.

No sooner were the details of the peace agreement worked out than each of the protagonists went back to work preparing for the next round of conflict. Ptolemy's wish was to recover the satrapy of Syria and Phoenicia. Demetrius busied himself rebuilding his base of power and Antigonus could not wait to deal with Seleucus.

By 310 BC a new round of conflict was about to erupt, propagated by Ptolemy's accusations of Antigonus's infringements on the freedom of the Cilicians. Not to be outdone, rumours were coming out of Macedonia that young Alexander and his mother Roxane were dead, executed by Cassander. It is unknown whether Cassander carried out the executions immediately or later but their deaths were confirmed in 306 BC.

While this was going on Antigonus and Polyperchon were scheming and revealed that Alexander III had an illegitimate son named Heracles born to a woman named Barsine. Heracles at the time was sixteen years old. Armed with this new information, Polyperchon was ready to march on Macedonia and claim the throne for Heracles. When confronted by Cassander, however, all Polyperchon wanted was to be confirmed general of Peloponnisos. Cassander was more than willing to oblige him in return for the murder of Heracles. After that nothing more was heard of Polyperchon until his death in 302 BC.

With Heracles out of the way, the only remaining living descendant of the Argead line was Alexander III's sister Cleopatra, who at the time was living in Sardis looking for a husband. Unfortunately she too was murdered around 309 BC, no doubt by Antigonus's henchmen, which brought the Argead line of Philip II and Alexander III to an end.

Having lost his chances at making gains in Macedonia, Antigonus turned his attention to Seleucus. Around 309 BC, he sent general Nicanor to attack Seleucus at his home base but instead of obtaining a victory Nicanor met with defeat and soon afterwards Antigonus agreed to sign a non-aggression pact with Seleucus. The struggle between Antigonus and Ptolemy over control of the Mediterranean waters continued until around 308 BC when Ptolemy invaded a small region of coastal Peloponnisos. Demetrius, in 307 BC, was dispatched by Antigonus to free Athens from Cassander. Conflict between Antigonus and Ptolemy broke out in Cyprus and the victorious Demetrius was once again dispatched and in 306 BC pushed Ptolemy back to Egypt.

To celebrate his victory in Cyprus, Antigonus took the title of king for himself and for his son Demetrius. Antigonus was the first of Alexander's old marshals to declare himself king and establish the idea of forming a new dynasty. By 305/304 BC, both Ptolemy and Seleucus followed suit and they too proclaimed the title king and began their own dynasties. Not to be outdone Lysimachus and Cassander followed suit.

With Demetrius delivering victory after victory, Antigonus was growing stronger and bolder. In 302 BC, he refused Cassander's peace offer and dispatched Demetrius to finish him off. Facing a call for an unconditional surrender or an all out war, Cassander turned to the other Macedonian marshals Ptolemy, Seleucus and Lysimachus and asked for assistance. By now just about everyone had had enough of Antigonus and welcomed the idea of forming a coalition against him. They developed a plan together and put it into action.

They needed to draw both Antigonus and Demetrius out to Asia Minor. Ptolemy struck first with a diversionary invasion of Syria. This prompted Antigonus to abandon his campaign in Europe and quickly dispatch Demetrius to Syria. But soon after Demetrius arrived in Asia he and his father were drawn into a battle in Phrygia. Lysimachus, Seleucus and Cassander were waiting for them at Ipsus. Sensing a victory, Demetrius charged with his cavalry and broke through the enemy battle lines.

His immediate success gave him confidence to pursue his fleeing opponents beyond the battleground. Seleucus then sought the chance to plug up the gap with his Indian elephants, virtually cutting off Demetrius's chances of returning to the battle. Antigonus fought vigorously but, without Demetrius, was no match for his opponents. To make matters worse, Antigonus himself was mortally wounded and died while the battle raged on.

Without Antigonus or Demetrius to lead, Antigonus's army was easily defeated. Demetrius, with about 9,000 of his troops, managed to escape and flee to Ephesus but the humiliating defeat left him without much of an army. Demetrius did not lose everything however. He had his father's navy and was still in control of Cyprus and some scattered coastal cities nearby. The victorious allies, on the other hand, now possessed the vastness of Asia and all its wealth.

In 301 BC, at the dawn of the 2nd century, after twenty years of struggling to rebuild Alexander's empire another great Macedonian marshal came to pass. Antigonus was dead and his share of the empire went to his surviving colleagues who showed no hesitation in carving it up for themselves. Lysimachus, with the exception of parts of Lycia, Pamphylia and Pisidia, took most of Asia Minor up to the Taurus Mountains. Ptolemy's diversionary invasion won him all of Syria and Phoenicia. Seleucus received the eastern portion of Asia but was not quite satisfied and also asked for Coele-Syria. Ptolemy who was in control of it at the time refused to give it up. Cassander made no claims in Asia but expected to be given full concessions in Europe.

Before I continue with the main story, I would like to take a small diversion and talk a little bit about one of the Seven Wonders of the World.

It has been said that the so-called Colossus of Rhodes, which stood at the entrance of the harbour, was a statue of Helios built by the people of Rhodes. The story begins with Antigonus's desire to control and dominate the sea-lanes in the Aegean and Eastern Mediterranean waters. In order to achieve this, Antigonus had to take control of all ports including the neutral and fiercely independent port of Rhodes Island. The traders of Rhodes, who at the time were allowed to do business throughout the Mediterranean waters, were exceptionally wealthy and even though they were neutral had leanings towards Ptolemy because most of their business was done in places under his control.

Knowing the situation that they would be in, at first, the Rhodians refused to surrender. But the threat of war caused them to reconsider and they did surrender without a fight. Unfortunately, Antigonus did not trust them and wanted one hundred of their noblest citizens as hostages. The Rhodians refused to part with their noblest citizens and thus rescinded the offer to surrender. Antigonus immediately dispatched Demetrius with a strong force of four hundred ships and great siege engines and began the siege. A compromise was reached after a year of fighting with no result. The hostages were surrendered and in return the Rhodians received autonomy and were allowed possession of their own revenues.

The agreement forced the Rhodians to ally themselves with Antigonus except in campaigns against Ptolemy. In gratitude for Ptolemy's unwavering military and economic support during the siege, the Rhodians established the cult of Ptolemy the Saviour. To commemorate their struggles during the siege they commissioned a giant 105 foot high statue of Helios which took 12 years to complete and which later was recognized as one of the Seven Wonders of the ancient world.

What is remarkable is that with the exception of some minor battles between Seleucus and the Indians, in the twenty years after Alexander's death, no power rose to challenge the Macedonians.

The battle of Ipsus was a turning point for the Macedonian protagonists who by their rivalry had pushed away any real chance of reuniting the empire. What was even worse is that with each new generation assuming power, the chances of reuniting the empire became more remote. In the next twenty-five years the protagonists would be facing different challenges but their rivalries would be a constant. The old guard would pass on but the empire would still remain in Macedonian hands.

Demetrius may have been down but he was not out. In the next fourteen years or so between 301 BC, and 286 BC, he tried to restore his power but without success. He still possessed the strongest fleet in the Aegean and held Cyprus, Tyre and Sidon. After establishing himself in Corinth around 295 BC he managed to take Athens. His gains, however, did not go unnoticed. If Demetrius were to take Greece and Macedonia then he could use them to invade Asia. None of his rivals was prepared to accept that so while Demetrius was busy playing politics in Athens, they lost no time in taking his few possessions. Lysimachus took the Ionian ports, Seleucus took Cilicia and Ptolemy took Cyprus.

In Macedonia meanwhile, Cassander died in 298/297 BC, and was succeeded by his eldest son Philip IV who also died soon afterwards. Cassander had two younger sons named Antipater and Alexander who under Salonica's (their mother and Philip II's daughter) guidance became rivals. Salonica favoured her younger son Alexander and insisted that her sons equally divide up their father's empire so that each could have his own place to rule. Antipater, however, insisted that, according to Macedonian law, being the oldest male he had priority over all others and it was his right alone to rule his father's empire.

His disagreements with his mother caused him to resent her so much that he had her murdered. He then appealed to Lysimachus for assistance against his brother. The younger Alexander, on the other hand, did not take well to the situation and decided to oppose his brother by forming alliances with their two closest neighbours Demetrius and Pyrrhus. Pyrrhus was a new player in the Macedonian games, installed by Ptolemy as the king of Epirus. Before his installation as king, young Pyrrhus was a hostage of Ptolemy's given to him by Demetrius. Ptolemy took a liking to Pyrrhus and made him his protégé. After Cassander's death, Ptolemy supplied Pyrrhus with an army and restored him to the Epiriot throne.

While Demetrius was busy in Athens, Pyrrhus quickly acted on Alexander's appeal and began to acquire lands on his western frontiers. Demetrius, who at the time was fighting battles in the Peloponnisos, abandoned his immediate plans and began to move northward. Demetrius came to Alexander's aid too late. Pyrrhus had already done the job and convinced Alexander to inform Demetrius that his services were no longer required. Demetrius did not take Alexander's high and mighty attitude lightly so the moment he got his chance he had him murdered.

Demetrius lost no time and had his supporters in the Macedonian army proclaim him king of Macedonia. Then in 293 BC, he turned southwards, conquered Thessaly and established a new port city, today's modern Volos which he named Demetrias. Around 292/291 BC he made some gains in Greece and destroyed Thebes twice. By 291 BC he again came into contact with Pyrrhus and a new round of conflict was about to erupt.

All the while Demetrius was campaigning, Pyrrhus was not sitting idle. Sensing Demetrius's growing strength Pyrrhus decided to bolster his own defenses by forming alliances. In 290 BC he allied himself with the Aetolians, seized the Phocis and banned Demetrius and his allies from the Pythian games at Delphi. This brought him in direct conflict with the Athenians. It seemed that war was inevitable, only a matter of time. Pyrrhus was not the only threat for Demetrius. Ptolemy, Seleucus and Lysimachus were also not content with Demetrius's gains and wanted him out of the way.

Lysimachus and Pyrrhus, in the spring of 288 BC, were first to strike from the east and the west catching Demetrius off guard. Even though Demetrius possessed the strongest fleet and had in excess of 100,000 soldiers, his support quickly crumbled and by mid-summer of the same year he lost everything. When it was over, Macedonia went to Pyrrhus while the region around the Strumitsa Valley, including Amphipolis, went to Lysimachus. Demetrius himself escaped and went into hiding at Cassandra in the Chalcidic Peninsula.

Once again Demetrius was down but not out. While in hiding he continued to campaign for support and he got it. It was not too long before he whipped up enough support to build an army and invade the Peloponnisos. His appearance at the gates of Greece prompted the Athenians to act but they were no match for Demetrius's formidable army so they called Pyrrhus for help. When Pyrrhus arrived, along with Ptolemy's powerful fleet, neither Pyrrhus nor Demetrius wanted war so a settlement was reached. By mid 287 BC, a peace agreement was signed removing Demetrius from Athens but allowing him to keep the fortress of Corinth, Chalcis and a few other regions around Attica.

With the loss of Athens, Demetrius for the moment lost his appetite for conquests in Greece and left for Asia Minor, leaving his son Antigonus Gonatas in charge. Demetrius unfortunately could not sit still and started causing trouble for Lysimachus, which again landed him into hot water. By the spring of 286 BC, Demetrius built an army and was attacking cities in Asia Minor and taking them by force. After capturing Sardis he got Lysimachus's attention. Lysimachus then sent his son Agathocles in pursuit of Demetrius. In the meantime, Lysimachus invaded Demetrius's rear, cut him off from his fleet and blocked his communication lines.

Demetrius was literally trapped but instead of turning back he decided to go deeper into Asia past the Taurus Range and into the hands of Seleucus. Unable to take on Seleucus, Demetrius, in the spring of 285 BC, surrendered and was taken to Apamea on the Orontes and left there to live in luxury. Unfortunately a luxurious life in confinement did not agree with Demetrius and by late summer 283 BC, at age fifty-four he died of drunkenness and boredom.

Without his father Demetrius, Antigonus Gonatas was not a threat to anyone and for the time being kept to himself. Unfortunately, that was not the case with Lysimachus who, in the power vacuum left by Demetrius, sought the opportunity to enlarge his own domain but at the expense of Pyrrhus. In 285 BC, Lysimachus proceeded to seize both western Macedonia and Thessaly. Pyrrhus, the weaker of the two rivals, retreated to Epirus.

With Pyrrhus out of the way, Cassander's son Antipater had great expectations of being restored to his father's throne. That unfortunately did not happen. Lysimachus, who now was in control of Macedonia, convinced his loyal supporters in the Macedonian army to proclaim him king instead. As the new king of Macedonia Lysimachus's first act was to execute young Antipater for protesting his claim. Antipater's death literally ended Cassander's rule.

Having very few assets, Antigonus Gonatas could not pay his father's navy for services rendered and most of it, along with his western port cities, went to Ptolemy. With Pyrrhus and Antigonus Gonatus down, the clear winners of this bout, at least for the moment, were Ptolemy, Lysimachus and Seleucus.

Ptolemy was a clever man who knew that too much ambition was dangerous and managed to stay out of trouble and gained just as much from sitting on the sidelines as the others did from being in the center of focus. Ptolemy was getting old and unlike his rivals prepared an heir to take his place when he was gone. Two years before his death, in 285 BC, Ptolemy appointed Ptolemy II as his co-ruler and successor. Unfortunately his appointment did not go well with another son, from a different wife, named Ptolemy Keraunos.

Immediately after Ptolemy II's appointment, Keraunos took his grievance to Seleucus. Seleucus recommended he wait until Ptolemy died before taking any action but unfortunately that was not what Keraunos wanted so he left Seleucus and went to Lysimachus for help. Lysimachus did offer him help but again it was not what Keraunos expected. In fact, after Ptolemy's death in 283 BC, Lysimachus changed his mind and instead of helping Keraunos he attempted to gain an alliance with his rival, Ptolemy II by offering him one of his daughters in marriage. Even though he was disappointed by Lysimachus's move, having no other options for the moment, Keraunos decided to stay with him as one of his lieutenants and carry on his agitation from there.

Lysimachus was now over eighty years old and it was a matter of time before he died but he had yet to select an heir. So before things could be settled, Seleucus, in 282 BC, decided to attack him and strip him of his domain. The attack was not only successful, but it encouraged some of Lysimachus's governors to switch alliances voluntarily. By 281 BC, most of Anatolia was surrendering to Seleucus. Lysimachus retaliated with a counter attack giving everything he had, gambling that he would win a decisive victory in a single battle. A great battle was fought at Curapedion. Like his old rival Antigonus before him, Lysimachus lost everything including his life. Keraunos was captured but was not harmed and Seleucus continued to ignore his pleas for assistance to regain the Egyptian throne.

Victorious, Seleucus set out for Europe so he could lay claim to his homeland, Macedonia. But on his way, during a heated argument with Ptolemy Keraunos, he was stabbed to death. Raging with anger Keraunos instantly killed the old Seleucus.

With Seleucus's demise so ended the line of all of Alexander the III's marshals. Unfortunately their legacy and rivalry continued to live on in their offspring.

From the cheerful reception Ptolemy Keraunos received in Macedonia, it would have appeared that either Lysimachus was missed or Seleucus was not popular at all.

Soon after his arrival, Lysimachus's veteran soldiers acclaimed Keraunos king of Macedonia. Afterwards he married Lysimachus wife and adopted his children as his own. One of the sons, young Ptolemy, refused to go along with the marriage and fled to Illyria, with good reason. Soon after his mother's wedding to Keraunos, his siblings were murdered. His mother barely escaped her demise and went into hiding in Samothrace.

Not being satisfied with Macedonia alone, Keraunos attacked Antigonus Gonatas and with the exception of Demetrias (port of Volos) he also took all of Gonatas's possessions. But as luck would have it, being the miserable man he was, Keraunos was attacked by the Gauls. When Lysimachus was defeated, his frontier defenses were broken and left undefended. This gave the Gauls an opportunity to invade and sack Macedonia, killing Keraunos in the process. It has been said that the Gauls cutoff Keraunos's head, impaled it on a stake and carried it wherever they went.

The Gauls continued to plunder Macedonia, especially the countryside, until there was no more to plunder. Then they moved on to the south and eventually invaded Asia Minor. With Keraunos out of the way, Cassander's young nephew Antipater reappeared for a brief time in an attempt to retake the Macedonian throne but without success.

In an attempt to fill the power vacuum in Macedonia two new rivals appeared. The first was Seleucus's son and successor Antiochus I who wanted the Macedonian crown. Opposing him was Antigonus Gonatas who also was claiming Macedonia for himself. Personal rivalries soon broke out and escalated into a full-scale war.

While Seleucus and Antigonus were fighting each other, a new champion rose to the task and occupied Macedonia, deposing young Antipater in the process. He was a mere general who fought the Gauls and won but did not really want Macedonia for himself.

Antigonus finally reached his turning point when he defeated the Gauls in a single decisive battle. While on patrol, his forces by accident ran into a vast column of over eighteen thousand Gauls marching through Thrace towards the coastal city of Chersonese. By a clever move, Antigonus outmaneuvered, trapped and massacred the Gauls, winning a bloody but decisive victory. This gave him the recognition he needed to reassert himself in the power game and won the Macedonian throne he so desired. It didn't take him too long to drive young Antipater and the other rivals out. But before he could sit contentedly on the Macedonian throne he had yet to face Pyrrhus.

By 276 BC, the old rivalries of who was going to replace Alexander III as supreme ruler of the whole Macedonian empire no longer mattered and the Antigonids, Seleucids and Ptolemies had reached a balance of power.

While Antigonus was basking in his glory in Macedonia, Pyrrhus had some matters to attend to in Italy but by late 275 BC, he was back again. It took him a good part of the winter to prepare and by early spring he invaded Macedonia. His reasons for the invasion were personal and a matter of necessity. Pyrrhus wanted to pay back Antigonus for refusing him assistance during his war with Rome. His campaigns in Italy had reduced Pyrrhus to a pauper and he needed loot to pay his soldiers and what better place to get it than from his old rival Antigonus. Most importantly however, Pyrrhus wanted Macedonia for himself.

Antigonus Gonatas's forces were attacked and defeated. Antigonus himself fled with some of his cavalry to Salonika. The rest of his army surrendered to Pyrrhus. Like his father before him, Antigonus was down but not out. He still had some coastal cities and a powerful fleet in his possession. And most importantly he was still a king.

Pyrrhus managed to recover Macedonia and Thessaly but was not popular with the Macedonian people, especially since he allied himself with the Gauls and let them plunder the Royal tombs at Aigai. When Pyrrhus completely lost his popularity with the Macedonian people he left Macedonia to do some campaigning in Greece. While he was away his son Ptolemaeus was left in charge of Macedonia.

While campaigning in Greece Pyrrhus was too busy fighting to notice Antigonus's return. With Macedonia firmly in his hands, Antigonus, during the summer of 272 BC, dispatched his fleet to Greece and went in pursuit of Pyrrhus. When the opposing armies met a battle ensued and Pyrrhus himself was knocked unconscious. While lying down an enemy soldier recognized him, lopped his head off and took it to Antigonus.

Soon after Pyrrhus's death, the battle was over and there was no further resistance from Pyrrhus's allies. With Pyrrhus out of the way, Antigonus had an opportunity to retake all of Greece and bring it under his control but like Ptolemy before him, he exercised caution and did not allow his ambitions to get hold of him.

From here on, with some minor clashes at the frontiers, Alexander's empire was to be ruled by three dynasties, the Antigonids, the Seleucids and the Ptolemies. Fifty years after his death, Alexander's empire remained intact and was still ruled by Macedonians.

By 268 BC, things were stirring up again as Ptolemy II incited the Athenians into ejecting the Macedonians and declaring war on Antigonus. Antigonus was planning to bolster his naval power in the Aegean, which would have become a direct threat to Ptolemy's naval trade. Ptolemy had no intention of helping the Greeks but their desire to free themselves from Macedonian rule was so great that many of the city-states, including Sparta, ignored the risks and began preparations for war.

The situation escalated and Antigonus decided to take action. He met the Spartan army outside Corinth where a battle ensued and the Spartans lost. To quell the situation completely Antigonus put Athens, the main instigator, under siege. Ptolemy's promise of naval assistance never materialized and Athens was left to starve into surrender. After its surrender, Athens lost its autonomy and Macedonians were once again put in control of its affairs.

With the Greeks put down, Antigonus, in 261 BC, attacked Ptolemy's navy in the Aegean and scored a major victory. To reinforce his positions, Antigonus also placed strategic defensive posts along the Attic coastline.

In Asia meanwhile, Antiochus I of the Seleucid Dynasty was having problems of his own. Unable, sometimes unwilling to hold his empire together Antiochus I began to lose some of his frontiers to secession. He had lost Cappadocia, Pontus and Bithynia and the satrapies of Bactria and Sogdiana were about to go independent. Then as things began to slide, in 261BC, at the age sixty-four Antiochus I died and was succeeded by his son Antiochus II. Antiochus II quickly formed a welcomed alliance with Antigonus Gonatas. Together they were now able to check Ptolemy and keep him at bay. Unfortunately this alliance gave Antigonus and Antiochus an advantage over Prolemy and prompted them to take action in recovering some of their lost possessions.

While Antigonus continued to build his naval power, Antiochus began his own campaigns against Ptolemy, prompting the so-called second Syrian war. Sensing that he was about to lose ground, Ptolemy II, in 253 BC, made his peace with Antiochus II. To seal the dynastic alliance, Antiochus married Ptolemy's daughter Berenice Syra who in the process brought him a vast dowry. Unfortunately Antiochus was already married to Laodice whom he had to repudiate with a sizable payoff, to which she refused consent.

While playing good politics with Antiochus, Ptolemy II was playing bad politics with Antigonus by backing a revolt against him in Corinth. In 253/252 BC, Antigonus's nephew Alexander, the governor of Corinth, revolted against Antigonus and proclaimed himself king. As it turned out, however, before any of these matters could be fully settled both Ptolemy and Antiochus died. Ptolemy II died in January 246 BC, and Antiochus II died in August of the same year.

While Ptolemy II was replaced by his son Ptolemy III, Antiochus did not leave an heir. It has been said that Antiochus died prematurely, probably from poison. His ex-wife, Liodice, who at the time of his death was visiting the palace, may have poisoned him. In any event, after Antiochus's death hostilities broke out between his new wife Berenice, who had just born him a son, and his ex-wife Liodice, who claimed that on his deathbed Antiochus had appointed her son Seleucus as his heir. Berenice, feeling the pressure from Liodice, made an appeal for help to her brother Ptolemy III in Alexandria who quickly came to her aid only to find her and her child dead.

As a result of the assassinations, hostilities broke out between the Seleucids and the Ptolemies and escalated to a full scale war, termed the Third Syrian War which lasted until about 241 BC, with Seleucus II as victor. His victory however did not save his empire, especially from his own brother who, encouraged by his mother Liodice, wanted co-regency. When Seleucus II refused him, the young Antiochus Hierax set himself up as an independent sovereign. With all the rebellions and dynastic rivalries going on, the future of the Seleucid empire did not look very bright.

Also in 241 BC, there was a turn of events in Europe where Antigonus Gonatas had to make amends with the Achaean League which year after year was gaining strength. His rebellious nephew Alexander died in 246 BC and by 245 BC Antigonus recovered his losses in Corinth. Satisfied with his accomplishments in one lifetime, Antigonus Gonatas died early in 239 BC, at age eighty. His tough and ambitious son Demetrius II, another Macedonian, succeeded him.

Before I continue with the main story, I want to take a small diversion here and explore development in the west, with Rome in particular.

As I mentioned earlier, had Alexander lived longer he would have attacked Carthage and the Cartagean-Roman conflict and Punic Wars would have not taken place. Carthage was sister-city to Tyre and helped Tyre defend herself against Alexander's prolonged siege. Tyre's prolonged resistance cost Alexander, men, resources, money and time. Alexander was not the forgiving type and would have made Carthage pay dearly for her meddling in his affairs. Unfortunately, Alexander died, his plans were abandoned and none of his successors had the foresight to see the impending dangers lurking in the west.

During and after Alexander's time there was very little interaction between the Macedonian rulers and those of the west. There were Greek cities along the coastline, Sicily in particular but for the most part, they were left alone to fend for themselves. The first major encroachment by Rome on the east was in Sicily during the first Punic War which started in 264 BC and ended in 241 BC. After that Rome occupied Sicily and in 212 BC made it a Roman province, an ideal staging ground for carrying out campaigns against the Great Commercial Empire of Carthage.

Sicily, at the time, was a region full of barbaric states where violence, mass executions, torture, rapes, pillaging and enslavement, with the Romans as the worst offenders, were commonplace. Before the Roman encroachment, Sicily served as a barrier or a neutral zone between the major powers and both east and west tended to interfere in its affairs. Sicily was also the staging ground for much of the piracy taking place in the Mediterranean waters.

The city of Syracuse played an important role during these times because it was a place where the exiled, deposed and tyrants usually ended up after being evicted from their own homelands. For those with power and influence, rule was an easy grasp and the Sicilians had their share of good times and bad, but mostly bad. After the Romans made Sicily their province, life for the ordinary Sicilian took a turn for the worse. Romans cared not for the Sicilians or for human values for that matter. They only cared for profit and pillaged Sicily to no end. But this was only the beginning. The Romans were just acquiring a small taste for what was about to come.

As I mentioned earlier, one of the power players from the Macedonian world to venture westward and make a significant impact on Rome was Pyrrhus. Pyrrhus was summoned to Italy in 280 BC, by a plea for help from the Tarentines who had problems of their own with the Romans. Pyrrhus answered their call and was even given assistance by the other Macedonian rulers who were happy to see him go and stay out of their affairs. Pyrrhus, using the elephants given to him by the Macedonian rulers, scored a number of victories in Sicily but caused a chain of events to occur that would have repercussions in the future.

His presence and series of victories caused much concern for Carthage to a point were she was willing to set her differences with Rome aside and formed a temporary alliance with her against Pyrrhus. To prevent him from carrying out campaigns in Africa, Pyrrhus's fleet was attacked and sunk by the Carthegians. Then after crossing into Italy, Pyrrhus spent the winter in Taras, with plans for a north offensive in the fall, which never materialized. During the summer of 275 BC he was attacked and beaten by the Romans who by now had learned how to deal with elephants. During the same year the Romans invaded and took Taras, which brought them yet another step closer to Macedonia. With Pyrrhus beaten and out of the way there was no formidable force outside of Carthage to stand against Rome in the west or to challenge her at her home base.

After Alexander's death and the conclusion of the Lamian Wars, most of what we refer to today as Greek city-states lost the privileges granted to them by Philip II and Alexander III. For the fifty or so years after Alexander's death, they were ruled by Macedonians and were used as pawns in a power struggle for dominance. During the later years, however, some of the states organized themselves into leagues but unfortunately they were never able to hold alliances for too long. This was partly due to the characteristic politics they played internally and mainly due to outside influence from the rich and powerful Macedonian rulers. The Ptolemies never hesitated to supply Athens with grain just to stir trouble for the Antigonids. Almost every conflict was initiated in the name of restoring the rights of the Greeks and ended with more rights lost than gained.

While the southern Greeks were unsuccessfully attempting to shore up alliances among themselves, Antigonus Gonatas's son and successor Demetrius II was busily shoring up his own alliances. In 239 BC, to shore up support against the Illyrians on his western frontiers, he married an Epiriot princess named Phthia. In 238 BC Phthia bore Demetrius a son whom he appropriately named Philip who in the future would become Philip V of Macedonia. Right about this time the Greek leagues were beginning to gain ground in the development of their alliances and with strength came anti-Macedonian sentiment.

Determined to intervene, Demetrius, due to internal conflicts, lost his support from Epirus and was unable to do it alone. If that was not enough, the Leagues were now threatening his former allies with severe punishments should they intervene. Determined to turn the tide, Demetrius sought help from the Illyrians who were eager to assist only to help themselves. Paid by Demetrius, the Illyrians first invaded Epirus then the Adriatic coast and looted everything in their path. They managed to invade some of the League's territories and looted them as well. By 229 BC, they crossed over and invaded the Italian coastline and by now had attracted Rome's attention.

In the Peloponnisos in the meantime, the Illyrians started to form alliances with some of the Greek Leagues and were considering invading all of Greece. In the meantime complaints were being generated from both sides of the Adriatic. Italian traders feeling the pinch from the constant raids took their complaints to Rome. Rome in turn sent envoys to investigate with recommendations to make a move. They attacked violently with devastating speed and crushing numerical superiority. The Illyrians, whose true aim in all this was to make profit and not war, quickly collapsed and in 228 BC consented to a treaty. Demetrius's messy problems were solved without him having to lift a finger but his inaction allowed Rome to gain a foothold in Illyrian affairs. Even though Rome, at the time, had no ambitions of expanding her sphere of influence east of Italy she did demonstrate her military might and will to fight.

To be continued...

And now I will leave you with this:

As a mere observation, I want to comment that in my research for the last few articles I have never run into or seen a single reference where an author has written "the Athenians and Greeks". It has always been "the Athenians and OTHER Greeks". Conversely, there are many references where authors have written "the Macedonians and Greeks" but rarely (I have not found one yet) where an author made reference to "the Macedonians and OTHER Greeks". Why is that? I believe that in spite of all the modern Greek propaganda no historian in all earnest can say that the ancient Macedonians were ever Greek.

After reading this article or any other unbiased source for that matter, one cannot help but reach the inescapable conclusion that the so-called Hellenistic period refers to the Macedonians and only to the Macedonians. The so-called Greeks or Hellenes were no more that an enslaved people, ruthlessly ruled and politically manipulated by Macedonians. Since the Macedonians were the true masters of the Hellenistic period isn't it more appropriate and accurate to call it the Macedonistic period?

How can Macedonia be Greek when obviously it was the Macedonians who conquered and enslaved the Greeks? Is this not a fact? Isn't it more accurate then to say Greece belongs to Macedonia?


Michael A. Dimitri, The Daughter of Neoptolemus, 1993, Alexandra Publishing.

Michael A. Dimitri, The Radiance of Ancient Macedonia, 1992.

Josef S. G. Gandeto, Ancient Macedonians, The differences Between the Ancient Macedonians and the Ancient Greeks, Writers Showcase, New York.

M. M. Austin, The Hellenistic World from Alexander to the Roman Conquest, London, Cambridge University Press, 1981

F.W. Walbank, The Hellenistic World, Fontana History of the Ancient World, Fontana Press, 1992.

Peter Green, Alexander to Actium, The Historical Evolution of the Hellenic Age, University of California Press, Berkley Los Angeles, 1990.

You can contact the author at rstefov@hotmail.com