Second Diadoch War, 319-316 BC

Second Diadoch War, 319-316 BC

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Second Diadoch War, 319-316 BC

The Second Diadoch War was triggered by the death of Antipater, the regent of Alexander the Great’s empire. His death was probably always going to trigger a new round of conflict, but his choice of successor virtually guaranteed it. Rather than appoint his son Cassander, who he felt to be too young, Antipater selected another of Alexander’s former generals, Polyperchon.

Cassander was suitably offended by this choice, and travelled to join Antigonus, commander of the Macedonian armies of Asia and satrap of large parts of Asia Minor. In the aftermath of the First Diadoch War, Antigonus had been given the task of defeating Eumenes of Cardia. Antigonus had pushed Eumenes back to Nora, in Cappadocia, and was conducting a siege of that fortress. Cassander’s arrival triggered Antigonus’s own ambitions. He abandoned the siege of Nora after apparently converting Eumenes to his side, and formed an alliance with Cassander, Lysimachus (satrap of Thrace) and Ptolemy, already the virtually independent ruler of Egypt. Polyperchon’s only senior ally in the upcoming conflict would be Eumenes, who soon reverted to his normal loyalty to the Macedonian royal family.

There is some disagreement as to dating of the events of the Asian part of this war. Thus the battle of Paraetakena is dated to either 317 or 316 BC, the death of Eumenes to 316 or 315. For simplicity I will be adopting the dating scheme used by the Cambridge Ancient History (2nd Edition), which tends to favour the earlier dates.

Fortunately this disagreement on dates has little impact on the narrative of the war. The Second Diadoch War was essentially two wars, one in Greece between Polyperchon and Cassander, and one in Asia between Eumenes and Antigonus. This separation was made more complete in 318 BC, when Antigonus defeated a loyalist fleet at the battle of the Bosporus.

The war in Asia is the easier to follow. Eumenes was forced out of Asia Minor into Phoenicia, where he planned to build a fleet. Antigonus pushed him out of Phoenicia towards Persia, where the two men fought at least two major battles, at Paraetacene in 317 and Gabiene in 316. Eumenes could claim a slight victory at Paraetacene, and a draw at Gabiene, but despite that he was betrayed by his own soldiers after Gabiene, handed over the Antigonus and executed.

Further south Ptolemy invaded Syria, intending to secure his borders. He was unable to hold on to his conquests at this time, but his actions are widely seen to indicate that he was already acting as an independent ruler of Egypt rather than as one of the rivals for the rule of Alexander’s empire.

The war in Greece and Macedonia was more complex. Polyperchon made an attempt to win support in Greece by promising to restore the liberties of the Greek cities. This briefly won him the support of Athens, but Cassander soon expelled him from that city, imposing his own form of government on that city in 317. Polyperchon was soon restricted to the Peloponnese.

While he was struggling in the south, back in Macedonia a dynastic bloodbath unfolded. In an act that must have been inspired by desperation, Polyperchon had invited Alexander’s ruthless mother Olympias back from virtual exile. She appeared on the border of Macedonia later in 317, at the head of an army. She then captured and murdered Alexander’s half brother Philip III Arrhidaeus and his wife Eurydice. Her purpose in this was to secure the succession for her grandson Alexander IV.

Her actions had the opposite result. Cassander invaded Macedonia, where Olympias had alienated all possible supporters. She was condemned by the Macedonia army, and then besieged in Pydna (217-216 or 215 BC). Olympias was finally starved out, and executed by the families of her victims.

The Second Diadoch War ended with Antigonus in command of most of Alexander’s Asian conquests, Ptolemy ruling in Egypt and Cassander in Macedonia. The only remaining member of the Macedonian royal family was Alexander the Great’s infant son Alexander IV, who was unlikely to let him reach adulthood.

The Second Diadoch War was followed almost immediately by the Third. This time it was Antigonus who triggered the fighting in an attempt to unit Alexander’s empire under his own rule.

Wars of the Diadochi

Alexander’s unexpected early death placed his recently conquered empire at the mercy of his squabbling generals. His heirs were few: Alexander left a half-brother, Philip Arrhidaeus, the mentally challenged, epileptic bastard son of Philip II, and an as yet-to-be born child behind. With neither of these choices capable of taking command of the army, now milling about in the middle of Mesopotamia, the generals reluctantly agreed to recognize Perdiccas, commander of the companion cavalry, as regent of Arrhidaeus. If the unborn child proved to be a son, they would recognize him as king. Almost simultaneous revolts by several Greek cities (led by Athens) and Macedonian veterans in Bactria were put down: civil war seemed to have been averted.

Shifting Alliances

In fact, 323 bc was merely the calm before a storm of wars that would last for several decades and completely dissolve Alexander’s empire (although Hellenic culture left lasting legacies in nearly every part of it). The wars of the Diadochi (the “successors”) witnessed a conflicting, shifting web of alliances between Alexander’s former generals, some of whom wanted to reunify the empire and others who wanted to carve out their own. In this period of aggressive warfare conducted by veteran generals, army size grew, the ubiquitous pike lengthened (from 14 to more than 20 feet), and decorum vanished entirely from the battlefield.

The first war broke out in 322 bc when the question of succession in Macedonia created an armed conflict and when Ptolemy, named satrap of Egypt by Perdiccas, stole Alexander’s body for entombment in his own territory. Joining Ptolemy in rebellion were Antipater (regent of Macedonia) and his ally Craterus, Antigonus Monophthalmus (satrap of Phrygia, Pamphylia, and Lycia), and Lysimachus (governor of Trace). Perdiccas rushed to Egypt, sending Eumenes-one of the few who remained loyal to the notion of a united empire-to defeat and kill Craterus in Anatolia. Perdiccas lost the Battle of Pelusium in 321, however, whereupon his soldiers revolted and his lieutenant Seleucus killed him.

With the end of the war, Antipater of Macedonia seized regency of the entire empire and rewarded Seleucus by naming him satrap of Babylonia (Seleucus’s accomplices earned satrapies in Media and Elam), while Antigonus Monophthalmus (“one-eyed”) added Lycaonia to his territory.

The Second War

This state of affairs lasted barely two years, during which Antipater died, naming a loyal officer named Polyperchon over his own son, Cassander, as his successor. Predictably, Cassander revolted. Ptolemy, eager to establish full independence for Egypt, joined him. They found a third, less likely, ally in Antigonus, who simply wished to take Polyperchon’s place. All three wanted Polyperchon and his charge, King Philip Arridaeus, removed. While Cassander took over Macedonia, Antigonus Monophthalmus faced off against Eumenes, who had been turned away by Seleucus at Babylon and retreated to Susa. Antigonus caught up at Gabae in 316 BC, defeated Eumenes, and killed him. Antigonus started throwing his weight around, convincing Seleucus to make a run for it. He found sanctuary with Ptolemy in Egypt.

The Third War

Peace lasted for another two years, but when Ptolemy, Seleucus, Lysimachus, and Cassander formed an official coalition, Antigonus invaded Syria (held by Ptolemy). While he was busy besieging Tyre, Seleucus conquered Cyprus for Ptolemy. Antigonus now allied himself with his old enemy, Polyperchon, whose Peloponnesian holdings threatened Cassander, but while he and Ptolemy fought each other to a standstill in the Levant, Seleucus slipped away and regained control of Babylon in 312 BC. During 311, he reconquered Media and Elam and began a two-year, successful defense of his regained satrapy with Antigonus.

The Fourth War

While Seleucus consolidated his eastern territories, the Fourth War of the Diadochi broke out in 307 bc when Demetrius, son of Antigonus, “liberated” Athens and stole Greece from Cassander. The following year he seized Cyprus, thus cutting both Cassander and Ptolemy off at the knees. Antigonus now declared himself king (Alexander’s heir), but this provoked the remaining Diadochi to assume royal titles for themselves. From 305 to 302, fighting concentrated in the Aegean Sea, but in 302 Lysimachus of Trace invaded the Anatolian possessions of Antigonus. This bold move nearly ended in disaster, for Demetrius, coming from Greece, and Antigonus, arriving from the east, surrounded him. Cornered in Ipsus, Lysimachus was rescued by the armies of Seleucus. The Battle of Ipsus was the decisive moment in the Wars of the Diadochi. The infantry of Antigonus and Demetrius outnumbered that of Seleucus and Lysimachus and the Anatolians fielded heavy cavalry while their opponents fielded light cavalry, but Seleucus had recently obtained five hundred war elephants from India, while Antigonus had only seventy-five. These allowed Seleucus to divide father and son, shattering their armies and their power. Although the Diadochi continued to scuffle over territory for another twenty years, the Battle of Ipsus closed the period of the Diadichi wars since it forever ended the hope of reconstituting Alexander’s empire.


Diadochi is the Greek word for “successors” and refers the successors of the empire of Alexander the Great. At first there was initial agreement to the unity of the empire, but this soon turned into wars between rival rulers. These included Macedon, Egypt under Ptolemy as Africa, and the Near East under Seleucus as Asia.


Alexander the Great died on June 11, 323 b. c. e., in Babylon. His leading generals met in discussion. Alexander had a half brother, Arridaeus, but he was illegitimate and an epileptic and thought unfit to rule. Perdiccas, general of the cavalry, stated that Alexander’s wife, Roxane, was pregnant. If a boy was born, then he would become king. Alexander had named Perdiccas successor as regent, until the child was of age. The other generals opposed this idea. Nearchus, commander of the navy, pointed out that Alexander had a three-year-old son, Heracles, with his former concubine Barsine. The other generals opposed this because Nearchus was married to Barsine’s daughter and related to the young possible king. Ptolemy wanted a joint leadership and deemed that the empire needed firm government and jointly the generals could assure this. Some thought that a collective leadership could lead to a division of the empire. Meleager, the commander of the pikemen, opposed the idea. He wanted Arridaeus as king to unite the empire. The final decision was to appoint Perdiccas as regent for Arridaeus, who would become Philip III, and if Roxane gave birth to a boy, he would take precedence and become King Alexander IV.

Alexander’s father, Philip of Macedon, had led his armies south and conquered all of Greece. Alexander was king of Macedon and Greece and had left a general there to rule. The Greeks saw that Alexander and his generals had taken on the customs of their hated enemies, the Persians. The people of Athens and other Greek cities staged revolts as soon as they heard that Alexander had died. Antipater led forces south and battled in what would became the Lamian War. Craterus arrived with reinforcements. Craterus led the Macedonians to victory against the Greeks at the Battle of Crannon on September 5, 322 b. c. e. As the Macedonians captured Athens, Demosthenes, the leader of the revolt, died by taking poison.

Perdiccas ruled as regent, and there was peace for a time. His first war was with Ariarathes, who ruled in Cappadocia in the central part of modern-day Turkey. The First Diadoch War broke out in 322 b. c. e., when Craterus and Antipater in Macedonia refused to follow the orders of Perdiccas. Knowing that war would come, the Macedonians allied with Ptolemy of Egypt. Perdiccas invaded Egypt and tried to cross the Nile, but many of his men were swept away. When Perdiccas called together his commanders Peithon, Antigenes, and Seleucus for a new war strategy, they instead killed him and ended the civil war. They offered to make Ptolemy the regent of the empire, but he was content with Egypt and declined. Ptolemy suggested that Peithon be regent, which annoyed Antipater of Macedon. Negotiations were held and succession was finally decided: Antipater became regent Roxane’s son, who had just been born, was named Alexander IV. They would live in Macedonia, where Antipater would rule the empire. His ally Lysimachus would rule Thrace, and Ptolemy would remain satrap of Egypt. Of Perdiccas’s commanders, Seleucus would become satrap of Babylonia, and Peithon would rule Media. Antigonus, in charge of the army of Perdiccas, was in control of Asia Minor.

War was again initiated when Antipater died in 319 b. c. e. He had appointed a general called Polyperchon to succeed him as regent. At this, his son, Cassander, organized a rebellion against Polyperchon. With war breaking out Ptolemy had his eye on Syria, which had historically belonged to Egypt. There was an alliance between Cassander, Ptolemy, and Antigonus of Asia Minor, who had designs against the new ruler Polyper- chon. Ptolemy then attacked Syria. Polyperchon, desperate for allies, offered the Greek cities the possibility of autonomy, but this did not gain him many troops. Cassander invaded Macedonia but was defeated. During this fighting the mother of Alexander, Olympias, was executed in 316 b. c. e.

Polyperchon had the support of Eumenes, an important Macedonian general. Polyperchon attempted to ally with Seleucus of Babylon. Seleucus refused, and the satraps of the eastern provinces decided not to be involved. Antigonus, in June 316 b. c. e., moved into Persia and engaged the forces of Eumenes at the Battle of Paraitacene, which was indecisive. Another battle near Gabae, where the fighting was also indecisive, led to the murder of Eumenes at the end of the fighting. This left Antigonus in control of all of the Asian part of the former empire. To cement his hold over the empire, he invited Peithon of Media and then had him executed. Seleucus, seeing that he would no longer have control over Babylon, fled to Egypt.

Antigonus Monophthalmus was now powerful and had control of Asia. Worried about an invasion of Egypt, Ptolemy started plotting with Lysimachus of Thrace and Cassander of Macedonia. Together they demanded that Antigonus hand over the royal treasury he had seized and hand back many of his lands. He refused, and in 314 b. c. e. war broke out. Antigonus attacked Syria and tried to capture Phoenicia. He lay siege to the city of Tyre for 15 months. Meanwhile, Seleucus took Cyprus. On the diplomatic front Antigonus demanded that Cassander explain how Olympias had died and what had happened to Alexander IV and his mother, in whose name Cassander held rule. Antigonus made an alliance with Polyperchon, who held southern Greece.

Ptolemy sent his navy to attack Cilicia, the south coast of what is now Turkey, in the summer of 312 b. c. e. With his forces in Syria, Ptolemy worried that Egypt might be attacked and retreated. Seleucus, who was a commander in the Ptolemaic army, marched to Babylon and was recognized as satrap in mid-311 b. c. e. the previous satrap, Peithon, was killed at Gaza.

Antigonus realized that he could not defeat Ptolemy and his allies. A truce was agreed to in December 311 b. c. e. Cassander held Macedonia until Alexander IV came of age six years later Lysimachus kept Thrace and the Chersonese (modern-day Gallipoli) Ptolemy had Egypt, Palestine, and Cyprus Antigonus held Asia Minor and Seleucus gained everything east of the river Euphrates to India. The following year (310 b. c. e.), Cassander murdered both the young Alexander IV and his mother, Roxane.

Peace lasted until 308 b. c. e. when Demetrius, a son of Antigonus, attacked Cyprus at the Battle of Salamis. He then attacked Greece, where he captured Athens and many other cities and then marched on Ptolemy. Antigonus sent Nicanor against Bablyon, but Seleucus defeated him. Seleucus used this opportunity to capture Ecbatana, the capital of Nicanor. Antigonus then sent Demetrius against Seleucus, and he besieged Babylon. Eventually, the forces of Antigonus and Seleucus met on the battlefield. Seleucus ordered a predawn attack and forced Antigonus to retreat to Syria. Seleucus sent troops ahead, but with little threat from the West he attacked Bactria and northern India. When Antigonus attacked Syria and headed to Egypt, his column was attacked by the troops sent by Seleucus.

Demetrius’ Agema fighting Ptolemy’s Companions at Gaza, 312 BC.

In 307 b. c. e. the Fourth Diadoch War broke out. Antigonus was facing a powerful Seleucus to his east and Ptolemy to the south. Egypt was secure with the protection of a large navy. Ptolemy attacked Greece, motivated largely by a desire to ensure that Athens and other cities did not support Antigonus.

Demetrius in a diversion attacked Cyprus and continued with his siege of Salamis. This pulled Ptolemy out of Greece, and his navy headed to Cyprus. Ptolemy lost many of his men and ships. Menelaus surrendered Cyprus in 306 b. c. e., once again giving Antigonus control of the city. Antigonus proclaimed himself successor to Alexander the Great. Antigonus did not view Seleucus as a threat, so instead marched against Ptolemy. His army ran out of supplies and was forced to withdraw. Demetrius had attacked the island of Rhodes, held by Ptolemy. Ptolemy was able to supply Rhodes from the sea, and so Demetrius withdrew. Cassander, then attacked Athens. In 301 b. c. e. Cassander, aided by Lysimachus, invaded Asia Minor, fighting the army of Antigonus and Demetrius, with Cassander capturing Sardis and Ephesus. Hearing that Antigonus was leading an army, Cassander withdrew to Ipsus, near Phrygia, and asked Ptolemy and Seleucus for support. Ptolemy heard a rumor that Cassander had been defeated and withdrew to Egypt. Seleucus realized that this might be the opportunity to destroy Antigonus. Earlier he had concluded a peace agreement with King Chandragupta II, in the Indus Valley, and had been given a large number of war elephants. Seleucus marched to support Cassander.

Hearing of his approach, Antigonus sent an army to Babylon hoping to divert Seleucus. Seleucus marched his men to Ipsus and joined Lysimachus. There, in 301 b. c. e., a large battle ensued. Seleucus, with his elephants, launched a massive attack that won the battle. Antigonus was killed on the battlefield, but Demetrius escaped. This left Seleucus and Lysimachus in control of the whole of Asia Minor. Seleucus and Lysimachus agreed that Cassander would be king of Macedonia, but he died the following year. Demetrius had escaped to Greece, attacking Macedonia and, seven years later, killed a son of Cassander. A new ruler had emerged, Pyrrhus of Epirus, an ally of Ptolemy. He attacked Macedonia and the forces of Demetrius. Demetrius repelled the attack and was nominated as king of Macedonia but had to give up Cilicia and Cyprus. Ptolemy urged on Pyrrhus, who attacked Macedonia in 286 b. c. e. and drove Demetrius from the kingdom, aided by an internal revolt. Demetrius fled from Europe in 286 b. c. e. With his men he attacked Sardis again. Lysimachus and Seleucus attacked him, and Demetrius surrendered and was taken prisoner by Seleucus. He later died in prison.

This left Lysimachus and Pyrrhus fighting for possession of Europe, while Ptolemy and Seleucus owned rest of the former empire. Ptolemy abdicated to his son Ptolemy Philadelphus. An older son, Ptolemy Keraunos, sought help from Seleucus to try to take over Egypt. Ptolemy died in January 282 b. c. e. In 281 b. c. e. Ptolemy Keraunos, decided that it would be easier to take Macedonia rather than to attack Egypt. He and Seleucus attacked Lysimachus, killing him at the Battle of Corus in February 281 b. c. e. Ptolemy Keraunos then returned to Asia, and prior to leaving for Macedonia again in 280 b. c. e., he murdered Seleucus.

By the end of the Diadochi wars, Antigonus Gonatas, the son of Demetrius, ruled Greece Ptolemy II Philadelphus was king of Egypt and Antiochus I, son of Seleucus, ruled much of western Asia. Ptolemy Keraunos held the lands of Lysander in Thrace. The Diadochi wars came to an end with the death of Seleucus, but wars between the kingdoms continued.

Further reading: Bosworth, A. B. The Legacy of Alexander the Great: Politics, Warfare and Propaganda under the Suc- cessors. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002 Doherty, Paul. Alexander the Great: The Death of a God. London: Constable, 2004 Kincaid, C. A. Successors of Alexander the Great. Chicago: Ares, 1985 Paveley, J. D. Lysimachos, the Diadoch. Ph. D. thesis, University of Swansea, Wales, 1988.

Revolt in Greece, 323-322 BC

Meanwhile, the news of Alexander's death had inspired a revolt in Greece, known as the Lamian War. Athens and other cities joined together, ultimately besieging Antipater in the fortress of Lamia. Antipater was relieved by a force sent by Leonnatus, who was killed in action, but the war did not come to an end until Craterus's arrival with a fleet to defeat the Athenians at the Battle of Crannon on September 5, 322 BC. For a time, this brought an end to Greek resistance to Macedonian domination. Meanwhile, Peithon suppressed a revolt of Greek settlers in the eastern parts of the Empire, and Perdiccas and Eumenes subdued Cappadocia.

Second partition 321 BC and death of Antipater [ edit | edit source ]

War soon broke out again, however, following the death of Antipater in 319 BC. Passing over his own son, Cassander, Antipater had declared Polyperchon his successor as Regent. A civil war soon broke out in Macedon and Greece between Polyperchon and Cassander, with the latter supported by Antigonus and Ptolemy. Polyperchon allied himself to Eumenes in Asia, but was driven from Macedonia by Cassander, and fled to Epirus with the infant king Alexander IV and his mother Roxane. In Epirus he joined forces with Olympias, Alexander's mother, and together they invaded Macedon again. They were met by an army commanded by King Philip Arrhidaeus and his wife Eurydice, which immediately defected, leaving the king and Eurydice to Olympias's not so tender mercies, and they were killed (317 BC). Soon after, though, the tide turned, and Cassander was victorious, capturing and killing Olympias, and attaining control of Macedon, the boy king, and his mother.

In the east, Eumenes was gradually driven back into the east by Antigonus's forces. After great battles at Paraitacene in 317 BC and at Gabiene in 316 BC, Eumenes was eventually betrayed and murdered by his own troops in 315 BC, leaving Antigonus in undisputed control of the Asian territories of the empire.

The Diadochi That Failed To Establish A Dynasty

A rendering of a Macedonian phalanx in formation post-military reform, via

Starting with Perdiccas, the empire’s first regent, and Antipater, its second one, there is a long series of Diadochi who did not manage to establish their own dynasty and secure the lastingness of their bloodline.

As we saw, Perdiccas was assassinated in 321 BCE. Antipater however, died of old age in 319 BCE. Paradoxically he did not appoint his son, Cassander, as his successor but Polyperchon, an officer who took Macedon under his control and kept fighting for the dominance of the area until the early 3 rd century.

Alexander the Great’s son Alexander IV died in 309 BC at the age of 14 assassinated by Cassander. However, until his death, Alexander IV was considered the legitimate successor of Alexander, although he never exerted any real power.

Philip III Arrhidaeus was the brother of Alexander the Great. However, he suffered from severe mental health issues that never allowed him to rule. Philip was initially destined to be a co-ruler of Alexander IV. He married Eurydice, a daughter of Cynane who was a daughter of Philip II, Alexander the Great’s father. Eurydice was extremely ambitious and sought to expand Philip’s power. However, in 317 BCE Philip and Eurydice found themselves in a war against the mother of Alexander the Great, Olympias. Olympias captured them, murdered Philip, and forced Eurydice to commit suicide.


Hercules (obverse) and lion (reverse), coin issued under Cassander, 317-306 BCE, British Museum

Cassander, Antipater’s son, was notorious for murdering Alexander’s wife, Roxana, and only successor, Alexander IV, as well as his illegitimate son Heracles. He also ordered the death of Olympias, Alexander’s mother.

Cassander married Alexander’s sister Thessalonica to strengthen his royal claim as he fought mainly for Greece and the kingdom of Macedonia. Eventually, he became the king of Macedonia from 305 until 297 BCE when he died of dropsy. His children Philip, Alexander, and Antipater proved incapable heirs and did not manage to maintain the kingdom of their father which soon passed to the hands of the Antigonids.

Cassander founded important cities like Thessalonica and Cassandreia. He also rebuilt Thebes, which had been razed to the ground by Alexander.


Alexander (obverse) and Athena (reverse), Silver tetradrachm issued under Lysimachus, 305-281BCE, the British Museum

Lysimachus was a very good friend of Philip II, Alexander’s father. He later became a bodyguard of Alexander during his campaign against the Achaemenid Empire. He founded the city of Lysimachia.

After Alexander’s death, Lysimachus ruled Thrace. In the aftermath of the battle of Ipsos, he expanded his territory which now included Thrace, the north part of Asia Minor, Lydia, Ionia, and Phrygia.

Towards the end of his life, his third wife, Arsinoe II who wanted to secure the succession of her own son on the throne forced Lysimachus to kill his first-born son, Agathocles. This murder caused Lysimachus’ subjects to revolt. Seleucus took advantage of the situation invaded and killed Lysimachus at the battle of Kouropedium in 281 BC.

Coin with Seleucus I, ca 304-294 BCE, Metropolitan Museum of Art Coin with Ptolemy I, issued under Ptolemy II, 277-6 BCE, British Museum Horned head of Pan, issued under Antigonus II Gonatas, ca. 274/1-260/55 BCE, via Heritage Auctions Kingdoms of the successors of Alexander: after the Battle of Ipsus, Library of Congress

The age of the diadochi of Alexander the Great was one of the bloodiest pages of Greek history. A series of ambitious generals attempted to secure parts of Alexander’s empire leading to the creation of the Kingdoms that shaped the Hellenistic World. This was a period of intrigue, treachery, and blood.

Alexander IV

Alexander IV (323-310): son of Alexander the Great.

When Alexander the Great died on 11 June 323 BCE in Babylon, he was succeeded king of Macedonia and the former Achaemenid Empire by his brother Arridaeus, who accepted the throne name Philip. However, the new king was mentally unfit to rule, and the influence of his regent, Perdiccas, was immense.

Still, he may have been a bit disappointed. During the first meeting of the Macedonian generals, he had proposed not to choose a king, but to wait (text). After all, queen Roxane, an Iranian lady, was pregnant, and if she bore a son, he was the best successor. Of course, this would have given Perdiccas even more power, but he met too much resistance to reach this aim. Not many Macedonians wanted to serve a halfblood king. Not much later, Roxane gave birth to a son, who was called after his father: Alexander.

During his first years, the boy, his mother, and king Philip Arridaeus were in the company of Perdiccas, who tried to keep the empire united (First Diadoch War), but was in 320 assassinated by his officers when he was unable to defeat Ptolemy, who had made himself independent in Egypt. At Triparadisus (Baalbek?), the royal family received a new guardian, Antipater, who took the royals to Macedonia and died soon after (319).

It is not clear what Alexander's position was at this moment. Greek sources call him king, but they were all written long after the events, and it would be a constitutional novelty if Macedonia had two kings. Perhaps it is better to trust the contemporary sources from Babylonia, in which only Philip Arridaeus is called king. However this may be, as long as Alexander was a child, the real man in charge was his regent: Perdiccas, Antipater, or the man appointed by Antipater, Polyperchon.

The wisdom of this appointment has been debated, because Antipater's son Cassander felt that he had the right to be the next regent, and aligned himself with a general named Antigonus Monophtalmus, hoping that this old war horse would make him guardian of the royal family. Polyperchon now alligned himself with a former ally of Perdiccas named Eumenes, and the Second Diadoch War broke out. Alexander was now about five years old.

In the autumn of 318, Polyperchon's navy was defeated by Antigonus' fleet in the Bosphorus, and Polyperchon lost control of the Aegean Sea. Cassander benefitted: he secured the support of Athens and in the spring of 317, he was officially recognized as ruler in Macedonia and regent of Philip Arridaeus.

But not of Alexander. Polyperchon had made his escape to Epirus in the west, together with Roxane and the boy. Here, they were joined by Olympias, the mother of Alexander the Great, and king Aeacidas of Epirus. It was not a very powerful coalition, but it could play one trump card: Alexander was the lawful successor of the great Alexander, whereas Philip Arridaeus was a mere bastard of Philip.When they invaded Macedonia in October 317, Philip Arridaeus and his wife Eurydice met them at the frontier -Cassander was campaigning in the Peloponnese- but their entire army deserted them and joined the invaders. Arridaeus was immediately executed (25 December). Many supporters of Cassander were massacred as well (text).

However, Cassander was approaching and besieged Olympias in Pydna, a harbor at the foot of the holy mountain Olympus. Although both Polyperchon and Aeacidas tried to relieve her, she was forced into surrender. Cassander promised to save her life, but had her executed (early 316). Roxane and Alexander now accepted Cassander as regent, and that was the end of the Second Diadoch War in the west. Whatever Alexander's former status, he was now certainly called king.

In the east, Antigonus had defeated Eumenes and had reorganized the eastern satrapies of the Macedonian Empire. Several semi-independent ruler grew afraid of Antigonus' power, and as a result, the Third Diadoch War broke out (314), in which Antigonus had to fight against Ptolemy, Lysimachus, and his former ally Cassander. At first, Antigonus was successful (he allied himself to his former enemy Polyperchon, and gained the Peloponnese), but he lost the east to Seleucus, an ally of Ptolemy. This was a very serious setback, and in 311, Antigonus and his rivals concluded a peace treaty. They would retain power until Alexander would become sole ruler of the entire empire when he came of age, in 305.

Although in Babylonia and Egypt, people continued to date letters according to the regnal years of the boy-king Alexander IV, the main result of the treaty was that Roxane and the twelve year old Alexander were killed: neither Cassander, nor his enemies could allow the boy to live. According to Diodorus of Sicily, the executioner was a man named Glaucias.

Background [ edit | edit source ]

When Alexander the Great died (June 10, 323 BC), he left behind a huge empire which comprised many essentially independent territories. Alexander's empire stretched from his homeland of Macedon itself, along with the Greek city-states that his father had subdued, to Bactria and parts of India in the east. It included parts of the present day Balkans, Anatolia, the Levant, Egypt, Babylonia, and most of the former Persia, except for some lands the Achaemenids formerly held in Central Asia.

"The first rank" [ edit | edit source ]

Perdiccas [ edit | edit source ]

Perdiccas served as a commander of the Macedonian phalanx during Alexander's campaigns against the Persian Empire. When Hephaestion unexpectedly died in 324 BC, Alexander appointed him as his successor as commander of the elite Companion cavalry and chiliarch, a position akin to the modern office of prime minister. With the Partition of Babylon after Alexander's death in 323 BC, Perdiccas was selected to serve as Regent of the Empire and supreme commander of the imperial army. While the general Craterus was officially declared Guardian of the Royal Family, Perdiccas effectively held this position as the joint kings Philip III of Macedon (the epilptic son of Alexander's father Philip II of Macedon) and the unborn child (the future Alexander IV of Macedon) of Alexander's wife Roxana were with Perdiccas in Babylon.

Perdiccas' authority as Regent and his control over the royal family were immediately questioned. Perdiccas appointed Leonnatus, one of Alexander's Royal Guards, as Satrap of Hellespontine Phrygia on the western coast of Asia Minor. However, instead of assuming that position, Leonnatus sailed to Macedonia when Alexander's sister Cleopatra, widow of King Alexander I of Epirus, offered her hand to him. Upon learning of this, in spring 322 BC Perdiccas marched the imperial army towards Asia Minor to reassert his dominance as Regent. Perdiccas ordered Leonnatus to appear before to stand trial for disobedience, but Leonnatus died during the Lamian War before the order reached him. At the same time, Cynane, Alexander's half-sister, arranged for her daughter Eurydice II to marry Philip III, Alexander's half-brother and nominal joint king of Macedon. Fearful of Cynane's influence, Perdiccas ordered his brother Alcetas to murder her. The discontent expressed by the army at the murder and their respect for Eurydice as a member of royal family induced Perdiccas to not only to spare her life but to approve of the marriage to Philip III. Despite the marriage, Perdiccas continued to hold a firm control over the affairs of the royal family.

To strengthen his control over the empire, Perdiccas agreed to marry Nicaea, the daughter of Satrap of Greece Antipater. However, he broke off the engagement when Olympias, mother of Alexander, offered him the hand of Alexander's sister Cleopatra. Given the intellectual disability of Philip III and the limited acceptance of the boy Alexander IV due to his mother being a Persian, the marriage would have given Perdiccas a claim as Alexander's true successor, not merely as Regent. However, Antigonus I Monophthalmus, Satrap of Pamphylia and Lycia in northern Asia Minor, learned of this secret plan and fled to Antipater in Greece.

Craterus [ edit | edit source ]

Craterus was an infantry and naval commander under Alexander during his conquest of Persia. After the revolt of his army at Opis on the Tigris River in 324, Alexander ordered Craeterus to command the veterans as they returned home to Macedonia. Antipater, commander of Alexander's forces in Greece and regent of the Macedonian throne in Alexander's absence, would led a force of fresh troops back to Persia to joined Alexander while Craterus would assume become regent in his place. When Craeterus arrived at Cilicia in 323 BC, news reached him of Alexander's death. Though his distance from Babylon prevented him from participating in the distribution of power, Craterus hastened to Macedonia to assume the protection of Alexander's family. The news of Alexander's death caused the Greece to rebel in the Lamian War. Craeterus and Antipater defeated the rebellion in 322 BC. Despite his absence, the generals gathered at Babylon confirmed Craterus as Guardian of the Royal Family. However, with the royal family in Babylon, the Regent Perdiccas assumed this responsibly until the royal household could return to Macedonia.

Antipater [ edit | edit source ]

Antipater was an adviser to King Philip II, Alexander's father, a role he continued under Alexander. When Alexander left Macedon to conquer Persia in 334 BC, Antipater was named Regent of Macedon and General of Greece in Alexander's absence. In 323 BC, Craterus was ordered by Alexander to march his veterans back to Macedon and assume Antipater's position while Antipater was to march to Persia with fresh troops. Alexander's death that year, however, prevented the order from being carried out. When Alexander's generals gathered in Babylon to divide the empire between themselves, Antipater was confirmed as General of Greece while the roles of Regent of the Empire and Guardian of the Royal Family were given to Perdiccas and Craterus, respectively. Together, the three men formed the top ruling group of the empire.

The Diadochi Somatophylakes of Alexandros III

It is interestesting to verify among all the commanders subordinated to Alexandros III which factors might have predicted their respective success as succesor rulers after the latter's death.

It seems clear that it was not always the most prominent military career under Alexandros, not even their personal closeness to this King.

When one checks out the antecedents of the major Alexandros' successors, it becomes evident the significant number of them that had previously been among the ranks of the somatophylakes basilikos, the elite Royal Makedonian guards.

Traditionally seven in number (and restored to that number after the death of Hephaistion a little before the demise of Alexandros III himself) the members by the 2nd year of the 114th Olympiad were:

- Aristonous s/Peisaeos of Eordaia, a loyal partisan of Perdikkas executed seven years later by Kassandros Antipatrou.

- Leonnatos s/Anteas of Lynkestis, KIA the next year in the Lamian War against the Athenians.

- Lysimaxos s/Agathokles, the famous future king of Thracia.

- Peithon s/Krateuas of Eordaia, eventual satrap of Media until Antigonos Monophtalmos executed him nine years later.

- Perdikkas s/Orontes of Orestis, eventual regent of the Kings Philippos III Arrhidaios & Alexandros IV, assassinated by his own subordinates Seleukos s/Antioxos (the future Nikator, king of Syria & most of Asia), Antigenes & Co after being defeated by Ptolemaios s/Lagos (see below).

- Peukestas s/Alexandros of Mieza, already the Satrap of Persis and seemingly forgotten after the definitive defeat of his ally Eumenes of Kardia seven years later.

- Ptolemaios s/Lagos of Eordaia, the future Soter, the famous king of Egypt.

The overrepresentation of the somatophylakes among the Diadoxoi is evident.
This fact is particularly noteworthy given that their strict functions and faculties seem to be still far from clear.

Their respective careers under Alexandros III were mostly unnoticed, except for personal acts of heroism, their involvement in the control of conspiracies, or when they occupied any major position in the battle front (especially as Hipparchs).

Any commentary or contribution on this fascinating topic will be highly welcomed thanks in advance


Hmm that was fairly impenetrable at first, all that Greek! Definitely had to look up what a Somatophylakes was.

It would have been quite tricky to protect Alexandros, considering how reckless he was. I'm under the impression that during some fighting in India he raced ahead and jumped over the wall before anyone else, but I will have to of course verify such a story.


Hmm that was fairly impenetrable at first, all that Greek! Definitely had to look up what a Somatophylakes was.

It would have been quite tricky to protect Alexandros, considering how reckless he was. I'm under the impression that during some fighting in India he raced ahead and jumped over the wall before anyone else, but I will have to of course verify such a story.

Somatophylakesor Bodyguards: Greek and Macedonian court officials.

As it is in our own time, important persons in Antiquity had a bodyguard to protect them and clear the road when they were approaching. For example, the king of Sparta could command 300 hippeis ('horsemen').

In Macedonia, there was a distinction between the real protectors (the hetairoi or 'companions') and the seven men who were merely called bodyguard (somatophylax) but were in fact adjutants.

It is likely that the Macedonian kings were following a Persian example the great king also had an elite corps of anûšiya ('companions'), and seven men who were his principal advisers.

During the reign of Alexander the Great, especially after the fall of his generals Parmenion and Philotas (330), he increasingly used the somatophylakes for special missions.

In the third century, the title 'somatophylax' was given to high court officials.
Higher officials could receive the rank of archisomatophylax, 'archbodyguard'.



Really, being an adjutant-like figure would yield you an enormous amount of influence in a post-Alexandrian world, you worked closely with Alexander, a trusted associate, any such figure would be seen by the rank and file as a great candidate. Although Antigonus wasn't a Somatophylakes (what is the singular of that title by the way?), and quite a few others.

Anyways, that is my rambling incoherent collection of thoughts on this interesting matter, thanks sylla


Really, being an adjutant-like figure would yield you an enormous amount of influence in a post-Alexandrian world, you worked closely with Alexander, a trusted associate, any such figure would be seen by the rank and file as a great candidate. Although Antigonus wasn't a Somatophylakes (what is the singular of that title by the way?), and quite a few others.

Anyways, that is my rambling incoherent collection of thoughts on this interesting matter, thanks sylla

You're right, several notable Diadoxoi (successors) were never somatophylakes for example:

- The formidable Antigonos Philippou of Pella aka Monophtalmos was an old noble veteran of the era of Philippos II who after commanding a mercenary force and conquering the cities of Priene & Kelainai under Alexandros was appointed circa the winter of the 3rd year of the 111th Olympiad (333 BC) Satrap of the Greater Phrygia (often including neighboring satrapies too) he distiguished hismself in the combat against the remnants of the Persian forces, particularly between the battles of Issos & Gaugamela even so, he was never promoted any further by Alexandros III and seemed to have never been close to this king.
- . his celebrated son Demetrios aka Poliorketes succeeded him and eventually became the king of Makedonia and the founder of a long dynasty.

- The succesful Seleukos Antioxou of Europos (later aka Nikator) was promoted to the hipparchy of the royal hypaspistai basiliskos (royal elite infantry corps) replacing Hephaistion circa the 2nd year of the 113th Olympiad (330 BC) at least from then onwards he was a close companion of the King until the latter's death.

- The perennial Antipatros Iolaou of Paliura was a prominent hetairoi of Philippos II who served as regent of Makedonia & Hellas all along the reign of Alexandros III, distinguishing himself in the control of both great Hellenic revolts under Agis III and the Lamian War (the latter after Alexandros' death) he became the epimeletes of the Kings Philippos III Arrhidaios & Alexandros IV .
- . he was eventually succeeded by his famous son Kassandros, who meticulously decimated the Argead House and their allies to become king of Makedonia.

- The respected Polyperxon s/Simmias of Tymphaea commanded the Tymphean taxis ("battalion") of pezhetairoi (regularly the fourth position from right to left) from Gaugamela onwards, serving regularly under Krateros command in India and later, sent back home as a distinguished veteran from Opis circa August of the 1st year of the 114th Olympiad (324 BC) he eventually became co-epimelet (regent) of the Kings with the aforementioned Antipatros.

- The prominent Krateros Alexandrou of Orestis was a close friend of the King he commanded a taxis of pezhetairoi (on the extreme left) and eventually the whole left wing of the infantry he also commanded an hipparchy of hetairoi (companion) cavalry in India he was in Kilikia in his way back to Makedonia with the discharged veterans when Alexandros III died he later became strategos (general) of Makedonia & Hellas under Antipatros (see above) and distinguished himself at the Lamian War, but was eventually KIA against Eumenes (see below).

- The brave Neoptolemos the Aecidae was a noble Molossian (exceptionally a non-Makedonian, the same as the following case) who distinguished among the hypaspistai (particularly during the siege of Gaza) and was promoted as archihispapistes (commander) circa the late 3rd year of the 113th Olympiad (330 BC) after the death of Alexandros III became the Satrap (or strategos?) of Armenia, he was KIA while facing Eumenes one or two years later.

- The amazing Eumenes s/Hieronymos of Kardia, the only Hellene proper of the group, was also atypical for not being a professional soldier he was a hetairos (companion) of Philippos II and presumably grammateus (secretary) of the same king and his son Alexandros III after the latter's death he became Satrap pf Kappadokia, surprisingly defeating Neoptolemos and even more amazingly Krateros (see above) however, he was eventually defeated and executed by Antigonos (see above) circa the 1st year of the 116th Oplympiad (316 BC).


The victory of Eumenes was as surprising as it was meaningless for everyone involved. The defeated troops of the Krateros surrendered to him and vowed to serve him from now on but as soon as the next opportunity presented itself they withdrew unnoticed and joined Antipater. This had meanwhile arrived in Cilicia . But instead of turning to face Eumenes, he continued his march to support Ptolemy against Perdiccas. After arranging the honorable burial of the Krateros, with whom he was friends in Alexander's time, Eumenes moved to Sardis to have his army camped there and to await the further course of events. His victory had given the cause of the "Perdiccans" a great strategic advantage, since he had cut off Antipater from his power base Macedonia. And yet it was fought for in vain, since Perdiccas failed at about the same time at the crossing of the Nile at Pelusium and was soon murdered by his own officers. For the first representatives of the monarchy, the first Diadoch war ended with their defeat. Antipater, Ptolemy and their allies met at the Triparadeisus Conference , at which Antipater was promoted to the position of the new Imperial Regent and Commander-in-Chief. The surviving followers of Perdiccas were declared enemies of the empire and sentenced to death in absentia. Eumenes and Alketas were thus declared outlaws by defenders of the kingdom, and the fight against them was entrusted to Antigonus Monophthalmos, who was appointed strategos of Asia.

Eumenes had until the autumn of 320 BC. To vacate his position at Sardis, on which Antipater, who led half of the imperial army and the royal family with him, marched. He wintered to the year 319 BC. In Kelainai , but also had to withdraw from there soon when Antipater followed him. During this time, several troops deserted from Eumenes, but 20,000 Macedonians experienced in combat remained loyal to him, and thanks to his mobile cavalry and his superiority in strategic planning he was able to escape his pursuers to Cappadocia, which served him as a safe base. His escape forced respect from the militarily superior Antipater, to his disgrace to his own men, who refrained from further pursuit and began the march to Macedonia.

After that Eumenes had to deal with Antigonus, who defeated him with the other half of the imperial army in a battle near Orkynia and then besieged him in the mountain fortress of Nora until the fall of 319 BC. BC Antipater hardly arrived in Macedonia died, which led to the outbreak of the Second Diadoch War. Eumenes was appointed by the new regent Polyperchon to defend the kingship against the now opponents Cassander and Antigonus, with whom he exchanged blows all over Asia.

Watch the video: Diadochi Wars: Battles of Paraitakene and Gabiene 317316 BC