LIEGNITZ, 1241: THE MONGOL TERROR REACHES POLAND

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cGenghis  Khan (properly pronounced, “Chinghis”) was one of history’s greatest conquerors. After uniting the nomadic tribes north of the Great Wall, he created the most mobile army the world has ever seen. To this day, no armies have traveled further and faster (on average) than the Mongols. While the travels and conquests of others are measured in miles, those of Genghis Khan and his successors must be calculated by lines of longitude and latitude; spanning the whole of Eurasia.

Though Genghis Khan died in 1227, the juggernaut he created rolled on under his sons and grandsons. In 1230, the Mongol general Chormaqan Noyan invaded Persia. Within a couple of short years, he had smashed all opposition. Operating out of Tabriz in Azerbaijan, he reduced Georgia and Armenia to client-status.

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Mongol army on the march

This control of the Caucuses region opened communications with another Mongol army under the Mongol generalissimo, Subutai “the Invincible” and Batu Khan, a grandson of Genghis Khan. With 130,000 fast-moving Mongol horsemen, these were given the task of invading Russia; a prelude to the conquest of eastern Europe. In 1236 the Mongol army crossed the Volga, and within a year had crushed the Volga Bulgars; and subdued (and incorporated) the Kipchak and Alani tribes north of the Caucasus, and taken them into their army. Between 1237 and 1238, the Mongol tumans (divisions ordynskiedospeni2zl8hc5of 10,000 men) conquered the Rus principalities of southern Russia. Of the great towns and cities only Smolensk,  Novgorod and Pskov survived sack and slaughter; the former because it submitted to the Mongols and agreed to pay tribute, the latter two because they were two far north, protected by forest and swamp. The nomadic Cumans of the Ukraine (part of the now-destroyed Kipchak Confederation) fled before the Mongol terror; finding refuge across the Carpathian Alps, in the Kingdom of Hungary.

Russia subdued, the Mongols prepared in 1240-41 for the next thrust westward; this time following the Cumans into Hungary. As part of his planned winter campaign (the Mongols preferred to campaign in the dead of winter, when militia armies had disbanded back to their farms and villages; and the great rivers were frozen hard, presenting no barrier),  Subutai and Batu sent a force of two tumans through Poland; to cover their northern flank. This force was led by the Imperial Mongol princes, Baidar, Orda and Kadan; grandsons of Genghis Khan.

1 Mongol and PoleAfter defeating smaller Polish forces at the battles of Tursko and the Chmielnik and burning Kracow; the Mongols engaged the main Polish army, under Duke Henry “the Pious” of Silesia, at Legnica, on April 9, 1241.

Henry’s forces are estimated as high as 25,000 and as low as 2,000. Along with his own Polish forces Henry’s army included small contingents of French Knights Templars (500?) and Hospitallers; as well as a force of Teutonic Knights, who held lands in northern Poland.

In the resulting battle, the Mongols created confusion and covered their movements with a smoke screen; produced by burning reeds. The Mongol light cavalry horse archers (armed with a powerful composite bow) poured arrows into the Polish ranks, goading the never-patient knights into charging them. Feigning flight, the nimble Mongol light horsemen drew the Polish cavalry far from its supporting infantry. The Mongols then surrounded the pursuing knights as their heavy horses tired; and killed their horses with showers of arrows. The dismounted knights were then slaughtered by a charge of Mongol heavy cavalry.

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Duke Henry, severely wounded in the armpit by an arrow, was surrounded with just four retainers. These were cut down, and the Duke was pulled from his horse and decapitated.

The Polish infantry was then attacked, and broke after attempting to stand.

Duke Henry’s head was displayed on Mongol lance as the invaders advanced, ravaging the countryside. Within days of Duke Henry’s defeat at Legnica, Subutai and Batu Khan engaged and defeated the main Hungarian army at Mohi.

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The Mongols were masters of maneuver warfare. Unlike most of the nomadic hordes of Eurasia, they were also accomplished in the art of besieging fortified places; and carried with them a sophisticated siege train. The Feudal armies of Medieval Europe would have had a very hard time resisting Subutai and Batu’s tumans had they continued their offensive. Fortunately for Europe and the future of Western Civilization, the unexpected death of the Great Khan Ögedei (third son of Genghis Khan) in December of 1241 stopped the Mongol advance; as the royal princes and their army had to return to Mongolia to attend the election of his predecessor.

 

Though the Mongols soon withdrew, Batu established a new Khanate in Russia, centered north of the Caspian Sea: the Golden Horde. It would be many centuries before Russia would free itself from the “Mongol yoke”.

What made the Mongols so devastatingly effective?

Several factors.

First, already mentioned, was their unequalled mobility. An all cavalry army, they were not slowed by infantry or a cumbersome baggage train. Even their siege equipment was broken-down and carried on pack animals. Every Mongol rider led a string of ponies, so that he could switch mounts frequently; keeping the animals from fatiguing. Practically born in the saddle, a Mongol could remain in the saddle for weeks on end if necessary; dismounting briefly only to relieve themselves.

The second factor was the tactics and weapons of the Mongol soldiers. The mix of light cavalry horse-archers (armed with a powerful composite bow) with heavy cavalry lancers was not unique to the Mongols. Every Eurasian steppe nomad army from the ancient Scythians onward were much the same. But as historian John Keegan has noted, it was perhaps the most effective tactical system till the perfection of European musketry and field artillery in the 18th century. Against a heavier foe, they horse archers could maintain their range and weaken the enemy with long-distance archery. Only when a foe was sufficiently weakened and demoralized by archery were the lance-armed heavy horse (which comprised as much as 40% of the Mongol army) unleashed to finish them at close-quarters. As seen at Legnica, they were also adept at the tactic of feigning flight, only to draw an impetuous foe into a prepared ambush.

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Third, the Mongols (unlike similar armies of steppe nomads) were skilled at sieging walled places. They could quickly assemble their artillery, dismantled and carried on pack animals; and begin battering walls. When necessary, the Mongols would erect a ramp leading up to the top of the enemy’s walls. When ready, they would the terrible “endless storm” tactic. Day-and-night, working in relays without let, Mongol warriors would assault the enemy position with sword and spear. Often prisoners captured from the local countryside were herded in front of the Mongol attackers; human shields to dampen the defender’s fire, forcing them to kill their own countrymen.

Fourth, the Mongol army was a highly organized structure. Their army was divided into tumans (or toumans) of 10,000 riders; then further subdivided utilizing the decimal system all the way down to squads of 10 men. These combat formations were supported by engineers and medical personnel (recruited from the more educated and urbane subjects of the empire). The whole was commanded by a general staff of sorts provided by the royal family of the Khans, and their trusted lieutenants. Under Genghis Khan and his immediate successors, the veteran Mongol army and its officers were as accomplished at making war as any army in history. Genghis Khan himself and his chief subordinate, Subutai must be ranked among the greatest captains of war in history.

Finally, it was the nature of the Mongols themselves that gave them an advantage. They were incredibly tough, hardy people; raised in a harsh environment (the Siberian steppes) and inured to hardship. They were also disciplined soldiers: the Yasa (the Mongol code of laws established by Genghis Khan) made fleeing in the face of the enemy, or disobeying the orders of a superior officer a capital offense. Even the squad members of a coward could be executed for that single man’s dereliction of duty.

For all their virtues as soldiers, the Mongols were also utterly savage and without remorse. They took brutality and callous disregard for life to a level not seen since the Roman Republic. Resistance or rebellion was met with wholesale slaughter. Terror was a weapon employed to great effect, and such was their reputation that strong places surrendered rather than face the inevitable destruction met out to those who resisted.

In the end, they created a vast empire stretching from the Dnieper River to the Pacific Ocean. However, in their wake they left (literally) pyramids erected with the skulls of their victims.

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For further reading:
The Devil’s Horsemen: The Mongol Invasion of Europe//


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PHALANX vs LEGION: CLOSING THE DEBATE

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With the popularity of such films as Alexander,  300, and its sequel 300: Rise of Empire a broader audience is being introduced (sometimes for the first time) to the warriors of ancient Greece. These films are generally poor educational tools, leaving the audience with many misconceptions; and often more questions than answers.

From the Persian Wars (499–449 BC) till the Battle of Chaeronea (338 BC) the Greek phalanx was the dominant battle formation of the ancient Mediterranean and Near East. Against Persians, Carthaginians, and Etruscans the Greeks warriors triumphed. At Chaeronea, however, the Greeks met a superior tactical system: the Macedonian. While the Macedonian army was a well-balanced, combined-arms force of light and heavy infantry and cavalry (as were most Greek armies by this time, though to a lesser degree) it is the Macedonian phalanx that revolutionized warfare for the following century-and-a-half, superseding the earlier Greek hoplite version. The Macedonian phalanx dominated the battlefield until the coming of the Romans, who fought in a very different formation, utilizing a markedly different tactical system: the legion. The Romans defeated phalanxes at nearly every encounter; and with the growth of their empire the phalanx as a tactical system largely disappeared.

Polybius and Livy examined the difference and advantages of each tactical system in depth; and they were MUCH closer to the events than we are, so their opinions should be given much weight. Based upon their analysis and that of other sources as well, we will briefly compare and contrast the three dominant tactical systems of the Classical World; from the Persian Wars to the Roman conquest of the Hellenistic Kingdoms.

HOPLITE VS PHALANGITE

It is important to understand that the Greek hoplite phalanx that defeated the Persians at such battles as Marathon (490 BC) and Plataea (479 BC) was a formation consisting of citizen-soldiers. They fought primarily as “heavy” (close-ordered, close-quarter fighting) infantry. The citizen-soldier heavy infantryman of the Greek city-state (polis) was referred to as a hoplite (man-at-arms).

His weapons and equipment consisted of a large round shield (aspis), 36″-40″ in diameter; and a long, heavy (modern reconstructions are from 4-5lbs) thrusting spear (dory) 7-9 feet in length. A sword (xiphos) was his backup weapon, and for additional defense he wore various pieces of armor, collectively referred to as his panoply.

Hoplite - Early 25th century Greek hoplite. 1-11: shield, deconstructed into various parts. 12: Corinthian-style helmet, with crest. 13: arming cap of felt, worn under helmet. 14: “lineothorax” style of cuirass. May have been made of layers of glued line, or leather covered with linen. 15: bronze greaves. 16: garters tied around ankle to support greaves, and limit chaffing. 17: “dory” (spear), with leather wrapped around grip.

These hoplites fought in a tightly-packed rectangular formation called a phalanx. Within the phalanx, each man’s shield overlapped that of the man to his left, and he partially sheltered behind the shield of the man to his right. The hoplites in phalanx deployed typically in anything from 6 to 12 ranks deep; though the later Theban phalanx was famed for the greater depth upon which it relied, deploying in anywhere from 24 to 50 ranks (referred to as “shields”) deep.

The Classical Age hoplite phalanx relied on a tactic called othismos (the push of shields), a shoving contest in which the hoplites braced and pushed their opliti_grecishields into the backs of their comrade in the rank in front of them in the phalanx; and the weight of the phalanx as a whole attempted to bowl the enemy over or push them back. In this formation only the first and perhaps the second rank could actually use their spears (or swords); the rest merely added their weight to the shoving contest. Pushing the enemy back was more important than actually killing them during this initial phase of the melee. Once large formations of soldiers began to stumble backward, they lost cohesion and began to crumble. So the point of othismos was to drive the enemy backward, and eventually to shatter their formation. Once shattered and routed, the hoplites would pursue, cutting down the fleeing enemy from behind. It was during this later phase of the fighting that the most number of casualties were inflicted and sustained.

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A segment of a Greek hoplite phalanx, 8 ranks deep. Note the flute player in the rear: hoplites marched to flute music, rather than drums. These men are advancing in a looser order than used when facing another phalanx; at which time they was all push to the right and brace the man in front of them with the flat of their shield pressing into his back

If a hoplite found himself engaged during this later stage of the fighting in personal combat, he relied on his thrusting spear, sword and shield; utilizing a method of combat called hoplomachia. It is suggested by the scenes of hoplites in combat depicted upon ancient Greek vase paintings that the spear was used in both over and under-handed methods of thrusting. The face and throat were the main target areas using the overhand thrusting method, while the enemy’s inner thigh and groin were prime targets for the latter (underhanded) thrust. The edge of the shield may, too, have been used as a weapon. Modern tests have shown such shield strikes to be very deadly, indeed[1].

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Note the different methods of spear-handling in these ancient paintings showing hoplite duels. While scholars often suggest “artistic license” on the part of the painters, it is important to remember that every free-born Greek city-state citizen fought in the phalanx (or some other supporting arm). So even the painters of these images likely had first-hand experience in hoplite training and warfare

A Greek hoplite phalanx was usually unable to change direction once deployed; and would advance forward into the enemy in a rectangular block. However, the Spartans, who were well drilled professionals, divided their phalanx into companies, battalions, and regiments; and were quite capable of complicated maneuver and change of face or front. Phalanxes tended to “drift” obliquely to the right as they advanced, the tendency of hoplites to shelter under the shield of their comrade to their right causing this phenomenon. So the right-wing of opposing phalanxes tended to overlap the left of their opponents.

The hoplite phalanx was bested by the Macedonian phalanx in the 4th century at Chaeronea, Issus, and Megalopolis; during the reigns of Philip II and Alexander the Great. The Macedonian version of the phalanx largely replaced the spear-armed hoplite version of the 5th century, till by the time the Romans arrived on the scene in Greece (at first as allies of the Greeks against the Macedonians, later at conquerors) they were facing armies whose infantry component was either lighter infantry, or Macedonian-style phalangites.

Unlike the hoplites of the earlier phalanx, the Macedonian (and later Macedonian-style) phalangite was armed with a 15-21 foot, two-handed pike (called a sarissa); and carried a smaller shield (only 22″-24″ in diameter) than their Greek hoplite counterparts. The size of both pike and shield varied from the time of Philip II to that of Perseus I; but was largely within that range (though the shield of Alexander’s infantry does not appear to have differed much from that of the southern Greek hoplites of his day; being about 34”-36” in diameter).

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Macedonian phalangite, mid-late 4th century BC. Philip and Alexander called their phalangite infantrymen “pezhetairoi” (Foot Companions). They were armed with the 15′-18′ sarissa; which was made in two pieces, joined together for battle with a metal sheath. Note the figure on the left is phalangite on the march; with his sarissa disassembled.

Unlike the Greeks who relied upon the push of shields, with every man pushing against the comrade in the rank in front of himself; the Macedonian phalangite relied upon the “push of pike”; driving his heavy sarissa into the shield or body of the enemy before him and pressing forward in mass. The longer sarissa allowed 4-5 ranks to engage the enemy at a distance, with subsequent ranks raising their pikes over the heads of the ranks ahead of them; partially sheltering them from in-coming missiles.

Army1aA syntagma (company) of the phalanx: 256 men, 16 deep and as many shields across. The first four to five ranks could engage the enemy at various ranges; while subsequent ranks raised their sarissas above the heads of their comrades; creating partial cover against missile attack

While the Greeks typically formed their hoplite phalanx 12 ranks deep, the Macedonian phalanx drew up in 16 ranks. In certain circumstances, it could double to 32 ranks; or spread out to give greater frontage, deploying in only 8 ranks.

LEGION VS PHALANX

The RomanRepublic, in the hills of central Italy, developed a very different tactical system. From the 4th century onward, the Romans relied upon self-contained units called legions (legiones) instead of phalanxes of spear or pike-armed infantry. These legions were composed of citizen-soldiers, who enlisted only for the duration of each campaign. However, Roman citizens of the middle and upper classes trained on Mars Field, just outside the walls of the city, from the time they reached adolescence. As many reenlisted for long-duration campaigns, and had served in the army since the start of the Second Punic War; the men who faced the Macedonians in the first decade of the 2nd century BC were long-serving veterans, professional soldiers in all but name.

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Roman soldiers, 3rd century BC. The man on the left with the red shield is a principe of the second line; and has discharged his pilum and drawn his gladius. The man on the right is a veteran triari, carrying a thrusting spear. The man behind both is an Italian allied infantryman.

The legion changed throughout the long history of the RomanRepublic and Empire. But what we will describe is the legion that fought the Macedonian and other Hellenistic phalanxes, from the late 3rd through the 2nd centuries BC; as described by Polybius.

Each legion formed up in three distinct lines; each behind the other. These lines were comprised of tactical units called maniples (handfuls), ten maniples in each of the three lines; and 30 maniples total composed a legion. Each maniple was commanded by a pair of centurions, tough and seasoned under-officers. These maniples were further divided into two centuries. It was the use of so many small, well-organized sub-units that allowed the legion the great flexibility it displayed in battle.

The first line of maniples consisted of young men, and were called Hastati. The second line of maniples, men in the prime of their lives, were called Principes. Both of these first two groups were equipped in the same fashion: with a short sword and javelins, and a large oval shield (scuta). The third line was comprised of half-maniples of older veterans, called Triarii. Unlike the first two ranks of maniples, the Triarii were armed with a longer thrusting spear. All were supported by 10 half-strength maniples of light, javelin armed skirmishers, called Velites; recruited from the teenage boys just beginning their military service. The maniples of Hastati and Principes were each 120 men strong; while those of the Triarii and Velites were only half that number.

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The maniples were compact, deep formations meant to melee with the enemy. The usual order for the first two lines of Hastati and Principes was 10 men per rank, with the maniple overall 12 ranks deep. Thus the first two lines of the legion were each 12 ranks: as deep as a typical Greek phalanx. The third line of Triarii were only half as deep, and were meant to be a final reserve that could cover the withdrawal (in order) of the first two if they were unsuccessful in defeating the enemy.

Unlike the phalanx that fought in a single line, engaging simultaneously across the front, the legion deployed its maniples in a checkerboard pattern; leaving deliberate gaps between each maniple equal to its frontage. These gaps were covered by the successive line of maniples; so that when a legion engaged, it did so in waves, delivering multiple successive charges against the enemy all along the front. When the Hastati had begun to weaken the enemy line, the Principes could come up through the intervals and deliver yet another wave of attacks. Or, if the Hastati were in real trouble, these could withdraw in order back through the gaps in the second line of Principes. If the attack was a complete failure, both the first two lines could withdraw, in turn, through the final reserve of veteran Triarii; who could be counted upon to stand firm and cover their withdrawal.

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It was a hallmark of Roman warfare that a fortified camp was always prepared; and the Romans never fought far from it. So if defeat was immanent, the legions could retreat back into their camp, covered by the steady Triarii, and regroup for another day. Thus a tactical defeat was seldom turned by the enemy into a major disaster by a prolonged pursuit.

Unlike the Greeks and Macedonians, the Roman legionary fought as an individual within a larger formation. Unlike his Hellenic opponent, the Roman didn’t lock shields or stand shoulder-to-shoulder. Each Roman soldier maintained a space around him of three feet; room to maneuver and wield his sword, either to cut or thrust.

Now, a Roman soldier in full armor also requires a space of three square feet. But as their method of fighting admits of individual motion for each man—because he defends his body with a shield, which he moves about to any point from which a blow is coming, and because he uses his sword both for cutting and stabbing—it is evident that each man must have a clear space, and an interval of at least three feet both on flank and rear if he is to do his duty with any effect.[2]

While the Greek hoplite phalanx of old relied on the massive shoving contest known as othismos, and the Macedonian phalanx upon the “push of pike” to overbear their opponents; the Romans relied on a combined-arms tactical system revolving around the sword and javelin.

The Roman sword (the gladius hispanicus, or “Spanish Sword”) was a finely tempered steel weapon, 24” long, effective both for stabbing or cutting. In fact, it was sharp enough to hack through a limb, and was feared for the ghastly wounds it inflicted[3]. The legionary also carried two special javelins, one light and one heavy. These were called pilum (pila). They were made of a wooden shaft with a long iron shank ending in a small head. It resembled the 19th century whaler’s harpoon; and can be characterized accurately as a sort of anti-personnel harpoon. The construction was such that the pila tended to imbed itself in the shields of the enemy soldiers; and to either break or malform on impact, so as to be difficult to pull out of the shield or impossible to throw back at the Romans. The lighter pilum was for longer range, the heavier to be used just before closing with sword, at about 20 paces from the enemy. The Roman heavy infantryman of this period was also supported by maniples of light skirmisher, velites; who used an even lighter javelin, called a verutum. So enemies facing the Romans in battle were showered with javelins throughout the engagement.

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Roman legionaries of the late Republic

Before closing to sword range, however, the heavy infantrymen of the maniples would hurl their pilum into the ranks of the enemy. It would imbed itself in man or shield; and if stuck in the enemy’s shield would encumber or disable it altogether. As the enemy was coping with the shower of pila, the maniples would smash into their ranks just seconds later, driving forward with large shield and deadly swords. All along the line, individual maniples would make impact with the enemy line; causing shock and disruption.

The Romans faced a Macedonian-style phalanx first at the Battle of Heraclea in 280 BC, when warring against King Pyrrhus of Epirus; a kinsman of Alexander the Great. In this as in the subsequent encounter at Asculum, the phalanx was unable to make headway against the push of the legions. Pyrrhus gained success in these first two battles against the Romans not by the push of pike, but because of the destruction and chaos his elephants caused to the unprepared Romans (who had never encountered these great beasts before). In his third, unsuccessful battle against them, at Beneventum the Romans were able to defeat or trap the elephants in bad ground; and went on to defeat the phalanx (some of which entered the battle exhausted from a night march through bad terrain). In all of these three battles, the legions inflicted terrible carnage upon the hitherto invincible phalanx; though receiving heavy casualties of their own in the process.

legio_kl (2)Later, in their wars against first the Macedonians, and then against the Seleucids and the Pontians the Romans defeated phalanxes through superior maneuverability; and because of the phalanx’s unfortunate weakness when it lost cohesion. Either because of bad terrain (as at Pydna in 168 BC); because of “extenuating circumstances” (such as elephants routing back through and disrupting its order, as at Magnesia in 190 BC); or because the unique checkerboard formation of the maniples caused the phalanx to lose order as some were pushed back while others advanced into the gaps; the phalanx always tended to become disordered against the legions. Then the swordsmen would close to close-quarters, where their training and equipment was superior to that of the phalangite.

The Romans do not, then, attempt to extend their front to equal that of a phalanx, and then charge directly upon it with their whole force: but some of their divisions (maniples) are kept in reserve, while others join battle with the enemy at close quarters. Now, whether the phalanx in its charge drives its opponents from their ground (as initially at Cynoscephalae and Pydna), or is itself driven back, in either case its peculiar order is dislocated; for whether in following the retiring, or flying from the advancing enemy, they quit the rest of their forces: and when this takes place, the enemy’s reserves can occupy the space thus left, and the ground which the phalanx had just before been holding, and so no longer charge them face to face, but fall upon them on their flank and rear.[4]

 In theory the phalanx could keep the legionaries at a distance, but in nearly every battle the Romans found ways to penetrate the wall of pikes and close with the phalangites. At very close quarters, the larger shield and better sword-training of the Romans always proved decisive.

1 Legionare of the RepublicCONCLUSION

While modern historical aficionados and gamers debate the relative effectiveness of spear-armed hoplite phalanx vs pike-armed Macedonian phalanx; and of phalanx vs legion, the verdict of history is certain and unarguable. Pike phalanx bested and replaced that of the hoplite spear; and the Roman system proved superior to the pike phalanx.

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. It is telling that after a century of experience against the Macedonians in battle (both as enemies and as occasional allies) the Greeks by-and-large adopted the Macedonian-style of phalanx; replacing their own traditional spear-armed hoplite phalanx. (Though, in even more cases, the citizen-levy of the Greek states fought as light-infantry thureophoroi, armed with spear-and-javelin.) Similarly, by the mid-2nd century BC the Seleucids were retraining a portion of their elite Silver Shields (Argyraspides) as “imitation Roman” legionaries[5].

By the 1st century BC, the Ptolemaic army of Egypt had abandoned the phalanx altogether, and were using troops who were equipped with spears and javelins as either thureophoroi or imitation legionaries (scholars debate this point). Or they were hiring Roman veterans wholesale as mercenaries[6]. The last pseudo-Successor state to challenge Rome, the Pontians in the Mithradatic Wars of the 1st century BC, started with a Macedonian phalanx of Chalcaspides (“Brazen Shields”) as the core of their infantry. But after very rough handling by Sulla’s legions, Mithradates rearmed his infantry in the Roman fashion; even hiring renegade Roman soldiers as trainers.

Clearly, the men on the ground at the time recognized which tactical systems were superior. They adopted these as best they could, as their very life (and the safety and independence of their nations) depended upon it.

While the debate will no doubt go on, the verdict of history is, I submit, final and should be accepted.


[1] While working on the television show, “The Deadliest Warrior”, the author worked on the scientific testing of the Greek/Spartan aspis. The targets used for the testing were human skull replicas surrounded by an appropriate amount of ballistic gel to simulate the soft tissue of the head; and impact “crash” dummies, as used by experts in the Transportation Safety Administration and the automotive industry. The results showed a tremendous amount of impact delivered by the edge of Greek aspis against a human skull when utilizing the method invented by the author (though based upon research of ancient vase paintings); enough to snap the human neck or cause a depressed skull fracture at the impact site.

[2] Polybius, The Histories, Book XVIII, Chapters 28-32

[3] Titus Livius: Books XXXI-XLV describes vividly the terrible wounds inflicted by the Roman gladius on its Macedonian victims in early skirmishes with the legions; and the shock of Philip’s troops when they saw the hacked and maimed bodies of their dead comrades.

[4] Polybius, The Histories, Book XVIII, Chapters 28-32

[5] See my earlier article, Armies of the Macedonian Successor States: The Seleucids, posted here.

[6] See my earlier article, Armies of the Macedonian Successor States: The Ptolemies, posted here.

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300: RISE OF AN EMPIRE – REVIEW

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2006′s blockbuster film 300 introduced theater-going audiences to Frank Miller’s artistic envisioning of the Battle of Thermopylae. It was a world that bore only a tangential similarity to the historical reality of Ancient Greece and the Persian Wars; well documented by such historians as Herodotus (called the “Father of History”). It displayed a gloomy world of monochromatic colors punctuated only by the brilliantly bright crimson cloaks of its Spartan heroes; and by the buckets of bright, splattering blood. It was a world of seven foot tall, cross-dressing God-Emperors; treacherous, deformed hunchbacks; battle rhinos; and Spartan heroes with magnificently chiseled physiques wearing little more than very brief leather breechcloths.

A fantastical retelling of an immortal tale, it grossed $210,614,939 domestically. Its art-style and innovative stunts and special effects have influenced similar historical-based projects ever since (the most obvious of which was the Starz television miniseries, Spartacus). Now, eight years later comes the sequel.

300: Rise of an Empire (presumably the Athenian Empire) is an entertaining and interesting film, from a historian’s perspective. It provides a much broader view of the Persian Wars, providing much back-story to the original. The audience discovers the (fantasy) origins of  the Persian God-King Xerxes’ supposed divinity. It shows the earlier attempt by his father, Darius the Great to subdue Athens 10 years before the events of 300; and show the defeat of that expedition at the Battle of MarathonRise of Empire  also displays such interesting bits of historical fact as the bridge of boats constructed by Xerxes’ engineers to cross the straits known as the Hellespont (the modern Dardanelles), which separated Europe from Asia; a bridge that allowed his vast horde to cross into Greece.

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This film intersects the first most directly in showing the three day naval battle at Cape Artemisium; which took place simultaneous to the fight at Thermopylae. Here we see the last of the 300 dead on the field, and the corpse of the Spartan king Leonidas (Gerald Butler, hero of the first film) beheaded by Xerxes. We see Athens soon after sacked and burned by the Persians.

The new film intersects at several other places with the original film; and together they make a very nice, internally consistent package.

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So, that is the good.

The bad?

Much like the first film, Rise of Empire takes considerable “artistic license” with history. To the point that its resemblance to history is superficial, at best. Characters are credited with actions their historical selves never took part in. A particularly egregious example is in putting the hero of the film, the Athenian statesman and commander, Themistocles (played by actor Sullivan Stapleton, of Cinemax’s series Strike Back),  at the Battle of Marathon; leading the Greeks to victory (the true victor was a leader named Miltiades) and personally slaying the Great King, Darius (who was not even present at Marathon, much less slain there)!

300-rise-of-an-empire-official-trailer-2014-hd

Another prominent example of taking extreme license is in the female antagonist of the film. Here we see in this film the colorful but fairly minor historical character, Queen Artemisia of Halicarnassus, playing the key role as Xerxes chief admiral and something of a King-Maker.

Historically, Artemisia commanded a small naval squadron from her own city (5 ships) within the greater Persian fleet of some 1,200 ships (at the start of the campaign). She was a trusted advisor of King Xerxes, and may have been his mistress. She warned him not to fight the fateful Battle of Salamis; but when it came to the fight her squadron acquitted itself well.

As portrayed by the striking Eva Green, this Artemisia is more than just a political figure. She is a kick-ass Amazon warrior; a trained killing machine out for vengeance against the Greeks. Unlike her historical self, she DEMANDS the Persians fight at the Greek fleet at Salamis, and far from being Xerxes’ mistress she is a contemptuous and bloody-minded power behind his throne. In the final battle, she cuts down Greeks with a sword in either hand, and would seemingly give even a Spartan a run for his money!

300rise-29

Speaking of which, this film gives undue credit to the Spartans for winning the Battle of Salamis (they played a very minor role, with the Athenians providing the bulk of the Greek fleet and its leadership). It also turns that decisive historical battle into a bitch-fight, as Queen Gorgo of Sparta (played here as in the original film by the very capable Lena Headey) arrives at the head of the Spartans with sword swinging (yes, in this film she, too, is a warrior chick)!

The gloomy, monochromatic art-style (which makes this seen as though it were staged in Hades, the Greek underworld!) has, frankly, gotten old. The whole look of this is SO 2006! The dialogue and stunts are all hyperbolic and comic book. But, then, the “Graphic Novel” by Frank Miller is the root of all this. So, if you aren’t looking for realism or are a fan of Miller’s original, you might like this.

This is definitely NOT your father’s (or great-great-great-grandfather’s) Persian Wars! But it is a fun (if often ridiculously over-the-top) historical fantasy, very loosely based upon real events.

I give it two-and-a-half out of five stars!

2 and a half out of five

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For a historically accurate version of these events, go here to my series on the Spartans!

Pre-Order this film at Amazon:
300: Rise of an Empire (Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD UltraViolet Combo Pack)

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DIADOCHI: MACEDONIAN GAME OF THRONES (PART 7)

agryi(This is the seventh in a series concerning the Wars of the Diadachi. Part 1 can be read here, and includes comprehensive biographies of the players in this drama. It is strongly advised that you start there before reading on here. Stay tuned to this blog for future installments! Special thanks to Michael Park for his indispensable help in filling in the gaps in the sources and putting-up with my incessant questions!)

The First War of the Diadochi had begun. It pitted Perdiccas against an alliance of Antipater, Craterus, and Ptolemy.

In light of Ptolemy’s actions, seizing Alexander’s body and allying with his enemies in Europe,  Perdiccas was forced to reassess his plans. Though he had at his command the Royal Army, and could defeat any other force brought against him by any coalition of satraps; he was now forced to fight on two fronts.

Moving into Europe as he’d planned, and declaring himself king, was out of the question. For one thing, his enemies Antipater and Craterus had a powerful fleet, commanded by White Cleitus; which could block passage across the Hellespont or (further east) at the Bosporus. Even were he to be able to bring a fleet from Phoenicia to aid in crossing into Europe, Craterus and Antipater were supremely skilled generals, with a large and experience army. They knew the land more intimately than did he (Perdiccas had not seen Macedon or Greece since 334, when he’d crossed into Asia with Alexander’s invasion force), and had long-established relations with (or garrisons in) most all of the Greek and Macedonian cities.

They could be expected to maneuver and delay a decisive encounter till it was in their favor; or to buy time while their ally, Ptolemy, sallied forth from Egypt and created chaos and disaffection deep in his rear. Ptolemy, left to his own devices to run amok throughout the empire, might even sway more-and-more satraps in the heart of the empire to rise against Perdiccas as well.

Perdiccas’ (in consultation with his Synhedrion Philoi, his Counsel of Friends) decided to let Antipater and Craterus come to him in Asia for now; while eliminating the weakest member of the coalition, Ptolemy. This made good strategic sense. Let the “Europeans” cross into Asia, which would take time; while he secured his rear and the empire’s heartland by destroying Ptolemy. Then, gathering to his side the eastern satraps, he could return to Anatolia to deal with his other enemies.

Meanwhile, to delay Antipater and Craterus he gave his loyal philos, Eumenes (partial author of most of the current discord) instructions to interfere with Antipater and Craterus’ crossing into Asia; and delay them if they did. The wily Greek, still in Sardis, was given authority over the satrapies that had belonged to Leonnatus and Antigonas (Hellespontine and Greater Phrygia), Asander (Caria), and Menander (Lydia). The first of these satraps was dead; the rest either unreliable or openly in rebellion. This commission gave Eumenes command over most of western Anatolia.

However, Eumenes forces were limited to a small (unknown) number of Macedonians and what he could raise locally, from his own newly conquered satrap of Cappadocia and the Antatolian satrapies loyal to Perdiccas. To help Eumenes maintain their position in Anatolia, Perdiccas further instructed his willful and hotheaded brother, Alcetas, satrap of Pisidia; and Neoptolemus (possibly satrap of Armenia, though that is uncertain) to obey Eumenes, and join their forces to his.

Perdiccas also opened negotiations with the Aetolians; in an attempt to open a second front for his enemies in western Greece. In this he was successful: the following year, they would break the peace they’d made with Antipater and invade Thessaly; overpowering a Macedonian garrison along the way at Amphissa.

PERDICCAS’ EGYPTIAN CAMPAIGN

In early spring of 320, the Royal Army marched first to Cilicia, where Perdiccas arranged the government; removing partisans of Craterus. While there he learned that the various petty-kings of the island of Cyprus had made alliance with Ptolemy, and were besieging the loyal town of Marium. He arranged an expedition to go over to Marium’s relief, and take over the island; comprised of 800 infantry and 500 horse. Sosigenes of Rhodes was appointed as admiral of the fleet of 200 Phoenician ships that would convey the force to Cyprus; Medius of Larissa (who’d been a friend of Alexander’s, and at whose drinking party the late king had first become ill) to command the mercenary foot; and Aristonus the Bodyguard (who we have not heard of since Babylon following the death of Alexander) over-all commander of the expedition.

Diadachi 320 egyptian campaign

Not waiting for the outcome of this secondary campaign, Perdiccas and the Royal Army set-off from Cilicia to Damascus; and then south to the Egyptian frontier. With him were Peithon the Bodyguard, satrap of Media and Perdiccas’ senior sub-commander; Seleucus, commanding the cavalry (including the elephants); and Antigenes, who commanded the 3,000-strong Argyraspides (“Silver Shields”), the elite veteran unit of the phalanx.  It was a vast force, both military and civilian. With the Regent came the Kings and the Court; a moveable city of courtiers and servants, carried by a vast number of draft animals. Horse, mules and oxen aside, the Royal Elephant herd[1] added its great grey mass to the spectacle. Moving though Syria, the Royal Army passed Gaza; whose walls were still being repaired of the damage done by Alexander’s siege and capture twelve years earlier.

In Egypt, Ptolemy prepared to defend his satrapy. After executing Cleomenes of Naucratis and seizing the treasury he’d hired mercenaries to augment the garrison left in Egypt by Alexander. While he had no chance against the Royal Army in open battle, Ptolemy understood two underlying facts about the coming campaign.

First, that Egypt was essentially an island, protected on all sides by natural obstacles. Deserts protected her on three sides, and the Mediterranean defended it from the north. For the modern reader this mat seem less-than persuasive as measures of formability. After all, modern armies have traversed this very terrain in our memories; and with Perdiccas (and the other Diadochi) possessing fleets of warships and transports, the sea can hardly have been a barrier.

But whereas modern armies rely on petrol for their vehicles (which can carry water and food supplies sufficient to keep their soldiers alive and combat effective), ancient armies relied on water and forage for the draft beasts that carried their food supply. Neither of which were readily available in the desert. The sea approach to Egypt had its own risks. Ancient oar-powed fleets needed to hug the coast, where the crews beached and slept every night. The coast of Sinai, along which a seaborne invasion from Syria must come was rocky and formidable; covered by dangerous shoals and waterless beaches. Antigonas would discover this in 306 BC, when he in turn tried to eliminate Ptolemy from the competition. Once past the desert coasts an invasion force faced the labyrinthine marshes of the Nile Delta; which, as the Sea Peoples discovered when they attacked Egypt during the reign of Pharaoh Ramses III, were difficult to navigate and easy to defend.

Ptolemy, who had been in Egypt now for two years, seems to have understood all this. The only practical way for his enemy, Perdiccas, to gain entry into Egypt was to march by land along the northern coast of Sinai, to the outpost at Pelusium on eastern extreme of the Nile Delta; a fortress garrisoned by Ptolemy. Here he would have to sit down and siege the place, a difficult proposition considering the difficulties of supplying the great royal host in that inhospitable land. Or, he could at that point turn southwest, and arrive at the Nile further down.

ptolemaicegypt 320bce - Perdiccas invasion

The Nile itself posed yet another barrier. A force as large as Perdiccas’ could not cross on a few seized fishing boats. Perdiccas would need to find a ford to cross at; and these Ptolemy knew well and now defended with earthworks manned by well-paid garrisons.

What is more, he had secured all the most important points in Egypt with garrisons of considerable size, which had been well equipped with every kind of missile as well as with everything else.[2]

We don’t have a complete picture of Ptolemy’s strategy for this campaign, but we can assume based on the events as they unfolded that he backed these strong points up with a mobile force led by himself; ready to march to any threatened sector.

At Pelusium the Royal Army halted and established a camp. Here Perdiccas experienced his first set-back: while clearing a canal (that assumedly blocked the army’s approach to the fortress) the “river broke out violently and destroyed his work”[3]. This passage by Diodorus begs the question: was the canal deliberately flooded by the opening of a sluice gate upriver; a stratagem of Ptolemy’s? It was the first of several setbacks that began to erode the army’s confidence in Perdiccas’ leadership.

While Perdiccas was camped by Pelusium, Ptolemy sent men loyal to his cause to infiltrate the Royal Army at night. Wandering through the darkness between the soldier’s campfires, they called out to friends and comrades from better days, sitting around the fires. Being invited to join them, they shared drink with their fellow countrymen, remembered past glories, and quietly reminded them that they faced not enemies; but old friends. These partisans of Ptolemy mentioned how well they faired serving the son of Lagos, who paid on time and treated them not as subjects but as old comrades. This had become a common complaint against Perdiccas: after two years as Regent of the empire he had grown increasingly imperious and high-handed.

Diodorus tells us that men began to desert to Ptolemy in small numbers, including officers.

early War elephants

Macedonian war elephants in the late 4th century were without howdah; and sported a single sarissa-armed Macedonian soldier, along with the Indian mahout. Alexander sent 200 back from India; and most would have survived the journey to take part in the wars that followed.

Abandoning any attempt to secure Pelusium first, Perdiccas now ordered the army to break camp one evening and set out. He disclosed his plans to none. The army moved southeast, to the Nile in search of a crossing point. After marching all night, they came to a place called “The Fort of Camels”; which was defended by earthworks and a garrison. As dawn brightened the sky, Perdiccas ordered the army to force a crossing.

(With) the elephants in the van, then following them the shield-bearers and the ladder-carriers, and others whom he expected to use in the attack on the fort. Last of all came the bravest of the cavalry, whom he planned to send against the troops of Ptolemy if they happened to appear.[4]

As his lead elements were crossing the river to attack the Ptolemaic earthworks on the opposite bank, Ptolemy did indeed appear with his main army. They threw themselves into the earthen fort, the fanfare of trumpets announcing Ptolemy’s arrival to all. Diodorus provides a rousing account of the fighting that day:

At once the shield-bearers[5] set up the scaling ladders and began to mount them, while the elephant-borne troops were tearing the palisades to pieces and throwing down the parapets. Ptolemy, however, who had the best soldiers near himself and wished to encourage the other commanders and friends to face the dangers, taking his long spear and posting himself on the top of the outwork, put out the eyes of the leading elephant, since he occupied a higher position, and wounded its Indian mahout. Then, with utter contempt of the danger, striking and disabling those who were coming up the ladders, he sent them rolling down, in their armor, into the river.  Following his example, his friends fought boldly and made the beast next in line entirely useless by shooting down the Indian who was directing it. The battle for the wall lasted a long time, as the troops of Perdiccas, attacking in relays, bent every effort to take the stronghold by storm, while many heroic conflicts were occasioned by the personal prowess of Ptolemy and by his exhortations to his friends to display both their loyalty and their courage.  Many men were killed on both sides; such was the surpassing rivalry of the commanders, the soldiers of Ptolemy having the advantage of the higher ground and those of Perdiccas being superior in number. Finally, when both sides had spent the whole day in the engagement, Perdiccas gave up the siege and went back to his own camp.

Morale was understandably low following this reverse. Grumbling was widespread, and  no doubt some openly questioned their purpose in attacking Ptolemy. Some even talked of changing sides. Arrian tells us that Perdiccas “treated those who were inclined to go over to Ptolemaeus with great severity, and in other respects behaved in camp more arrogantly than became a general”.

Perdiccas had never been well-liked: his aristocratic temperament grated on the average Macedonian; used to being treated as comrades even by their kings. He failed to comprehend what was becoming the underlying truth of the Successor Wars: that the Macedonian soldiers had no stake in who won these conflicts, and little loyalty to anyone but themselves. They fought because soldiering was all they knew, after a lifetime of campaigning under first Philip, and then Alexander. It was a life spent in marching camps; with only each other, their wives or mistresses and children for company. All they had in way of worldly wealth marched with them; a life-time’s accumulation of plunder and pay. Though they remained remarkably loyal to their native “Argead” dynasty as long as it lasted, they were growing increasingly indifferent to the pedigree of their commander; and even less to his ambitions (beyond his loyalty to the Kings). The successful general who promised great rewards and treated them with respect would be followed, so long as he was successful. But one that administered harsh discipline or demanded unquestioning obedience was risking desertion, mutiny or worse.

Perdiccas must have understood he needed to reverse the momentum of the campaign, which thus far had shifted to Ptolemy. His forces greatly outnumbered that of his enemy. If he could but cross the Nile and bring them to battle in the open field victory was assured. To this end, Perdiccas set out with a “flying column” at night, using the cover of darkness to conceal his movements from enemy observation. The size of his force is unknown, but must have been larger than what he expected Ptolemy to field against him; so perhaps 12-15,000[6].

Near Memphis, capital of the Egyptian satrapy, Perdiccas again attempted to cross. Here the broad river was divided into an east and a west channel by a broad island; large enough for his army to camp upon. To slow the current and allow the infantry to cross the east channel onto the island, Perdiccas used a trick Alexander had once employed (albeit with horsemen alone). Perdiccas placed his elephants upstream, in a line across the channel, to break the current. Downstream he had horsemen form another line, to catch those men who nevertheless got washed downstream.

By this expedient a vanguard of several thousand passed onto the island. However, the tramping of many feet progressively eroded the soft body of the river bed; causing it to grow deeper-and-deeper. What started as a waist-deep channel became deeper until it was over the heads of the men yet to cross.

Seeing that he could not get the bulk of his army across in this manner, Perdiccas ordered those already on the island to come back across and rejoin the army. The result was disaster.

Many drowned trying to get back. Those who did succeed were mostly those men who could swim, and had to abandon their armor and equipment to do so. Apparently the numbers washed down stream were too great for the horsemen to rescue. Nile crocodiles, larger and more ferocious than those the Macedonians had encountered along the Indus, devoured many of those struggling in the waters; a terrible and demoralizing site for their comrades watching on from the river bank, helpless to save them.

Perdiccas on the nile 2

The death toll was over two thousand (half that many being devoured by crocodiles): more men than had been lost in any of Alexander’s battles; and perhaps as many as were lost in all of his four great battles combined. The army, already unhappy with the campaign in general, was now furious at what seemed an unnecessary loss of so many of their comrades.

Ptolemy, for his part, collected what bodies had washed up on his side of the river, and gave them a funeral; cremating the bodies and returning the ashes to their comrades. By this gesture he greatly increased the already high regard in which he was held by the Macedonians.

For the soldiers, this reverse turned out to be the final straw. That night the Royal Camp “was filled with lamentations and mourning, so many men having been senselessly lost without a blow from an enemy”[7]. Greif turned to anger, anger to rage and mutiny; the officers as well as the rank-and-file turning against the Regent’s authority.

Perdiccas was in his tent when three of his senior officers, Peithon, Seleucus, and Antigenes, entered. They came with grim countenance and murder in their eyes. Whatever bodyguard normally defended his person had deserted him, and Perdiccas was left alone to face his killers. Perhaps he fought back, briefly and hopelessly; or perhaps he accepted the inevitable with stoic fatalism.

Murder of Perdiccas

Detail from the so-called Alexander Sarcophagus from Sidon. For whom it was made is disputed; it was made shortly after Alexander’s death. It shows various scenes of Macedonian soldiers and courtiers. This panel shows the murder of a man by three soldiers. Could this depict the death of Perdiccas?

So died Perdiccas, to whom Alexander had passed his signet ring; and whom had ruled the empire for two years. He had played the “game of thrones” to win, gambling all against his rivals. He had failed through no great failing of generalship; in fact he handled the campaign correctly in many respects. But luck was not with him; and as Napoleon observed, luck plays a very great part in war. His greatest failing was in not understanding better the psychology of his soldiers, and in maintaining their loyalty and confidence.

The next day there was an assembly of the army, to which Ptolemy was invited. He was well received, and brought much-need food supplies for the now hungry soldiers. He refused to step into Perdiccas sandals, as guardian of the Kings (a move that would have instantly alienated his allies, Craterus and Antipater). Instead, he nominated Peithon and Arrhidaeus (the officer who’d aided in the bringing of Alexander’s corpse to Egypt) to be custodians of the Kings; and to command the Royal Army as it returned from Egypt. It is likely that all understood that with Perdiccas gone, primacy now belonged to Craterus or Antipater. As these two had already come to an agreement that Craterus should rule in Asia, the army would return north; and turn the Kings over to the universally popular Craterus, and itself over to his command.

The soldiers agreed enthusiastically to Ptolemy’s proposal. But before they could begin the long march back to Anatolia, word came that there had been a momentous battle between Craterus and Eumenes; that would shake up the chess board and reset the game once again.

NEXT: EUMENES AND CRATERUS

 

Recommended further reading:
1 Divided Empire Dividing the Spoils: The War for Alexander the Great’s Empire (Ancient Warfare and Civilization)

 

 

 

 

 


[1] We have no exact number of beasts, but Alexander left India with some 200. How many were lost since then is unknown, but likely few.

[2] Diodorus, xviii.33.3

 [3] Diodorus xviii.33.2

[4] Diodorus xviii.33.6

[5] Diodorus may be referring to the “Silver Shields” (Argyraspides); who were originally, before Alexander’s Indian Campaign, called “hypaspists”, which means “shield bearer”. He may also be referring to a new corps of hypaspists that could have been formed to replace the aging Argyraspides in their old role as rapid-moving special purpose infantry. We are told in later passages that in 316 BC, just four years later, that “the youngest of the Silver Shields were about sixty years old, most of the others about seventy, and some even older; but all of them were irresistible because of experience and strength, such was the skill and daring acquired through the unbroken series of their battles.” While still extremely able in the phalanx role, their days as a “special forces” unit were behind them; and though no evidence exists it is very probable that a new unit of hypaspists (“shield-bearers”) had been formed to take their place; and it is these that Diodorus refers to as forming the assault force at the Fort of Camels.

[6] We have no good count of Ptolemy’s forces in 320, but he is unlikely to have had more than 8,000 under his banner to face Perdiccas’ (estimated) 15-25,000 strong Royal Army. Perdiccas would have had a crushing advantage in cavalry, and Ptolemy at this time had no elephants of his own to oppose the 150-200 in the Royal herd.

[7] Diodorus xviii.36.3

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DIADOCHI: MACEDONIAN GAME OF THRONES (PART 6)

fame-amaz-sarcophagus4 (This is the sixth in a series concerning the Wars of the Diadachi. Part 1 can be read here, and includes comprehensive biographies of the players in this drama. It is strongly advised that you start there before reading on here. Stay tuned to this blog for future installments! Special thanks to Michael Park for his indispensable help in filling in the gaps in the sources and putting-up with my incessant questions!)

KYNANE

Philip II, the father of Alexander the Great, had married seven times and fathered at least 6 children. His first (or perhaps second[1]) marriage, contracted shortly after his accession to the throne in 359 was to an Illyrian princess, Audata daughter of Bardyllis. She took the royal queenly name, Eurydice; and was likely for a time Philip’s “queen”, not merely another wife. From this union was born his eldest child, a daughter: Kynane.

Perhaps taking after her “barbarian” Illyrian mother (and given the freedom of a first child by a proud and likely bemused father) Kynane practiced “the manly arts”. She was a fierce huntress and warrior, allegedly slaying an Illyrian queen in battle while accompanying Philip on campaign; perhaps in 344/3, when she was only 14! Had she been a boy, instead of a girl, she would likely have been groomed as Philip’s heir, and been as much a warrior as her famous brother. However, she was not; and was passed over in the succession by her half-brother Alexander, Olympias’ son, a year her junior.

amazon

Though depicted in Greek art and featured in their mythology, true Amazon-like warrior women were exceedingly rare in history. However Kynane, daughter of Philip and half-sister of Alexander the Great was one of these. As a young teenage girl, she slew an Illyrian queen in battle. She raised her daughter to be a warrior and a huntress like herself.

At 17 or 18 she was married to her own cousin, Amyntas; whose father Perdiccas III (Philip’s elder brother) had been King of the Macedonians till he was killed by the Illyrians in 359. Too young to assume the throne on his father’s death, Amyntas had been passed over by the Macedonians in favor of his uncle. Philip had raised his nephew at court, and now married his eldest daughter to him. They had one child, a daughter, Adea; whose birth date is unknown.

Upon becoming king in 336, Alexander had his brother-in-law and cousin, Amyntas executed on charges of treason; along with two princes of Lynkestis (in the Macedonian highlands) and Philip’s last father-in-law, Attalus. Coins struck in Amyntas name (as Amyntas IV) may come from this time, and be proof of a plot by some to bypass Alexander and crown Amyntas as king after Philip assassination. In any case, Kynane found herself a widow. Alexander attempted to marry her to his friend, Langarus the ruler of the allied Agrianians; but this prince died before the wedding could be arranged. After this, Kynane retired to her own estates to raise her daughter; preferring to remain unwed as Amyntas’ widow. Her daughter Adea was brought up in the same “manly” way as was her mother. She was taught to hunt and to fight, and throughout her life was as bold and courageous as befitted one of her blood and rearing.

In 321 Alexander had been dead for two years. As shown earlier (See previous parts) Olympias, his mother, had been heavily involved with the intrigues between the rival Diadachi (“Successors”); along with her daughter, Cleopatra. We have no information as to what Kynane’s relationship had been with her step-mother, Olympias. It is likely the palace at Pella was too small for two such strong royal women; which may explain why Kynane left Pella to live on her own estate. We also don’t know what she may have thought as she watched Olympias’ newest intrigue, that of sending her daughter Cleopatra to Sardis in Asia, to offer herself as bride to the Regent, Perdiccas.

What we do know is that shortly after Cleopatra departed Macedon, Kynane followed. With her were her teenage daughter, Adea[2], and an escort of mercenaries raised at her own expense. Antipater, too late to stop Cleopatra, tried to prevent Kynane and Adea leaving the kingdom. He sent troops to bar their passage at the River Strymon (the modern Struma), the ancient border between Macedon and Thrace. She was able to force her way across, and though no details survive it is likely she did so without resort to violence, but by the shear force of her indomitable personality. Being the daughter of the revered Philip carried perhaps even more weight among the old-fashioned Macedonians than being Alexander’s half-sister.

In the summer she approached Sardis, satrapal capital of the Lydian province. (There is reason to suspect that the court may have made its way there after the conclusion of the Pisidian campaign.[3]) There she found her path blocked by Alcetus, brother of Perdiccas; with a force of soldiers. The Regent wanted her stopped and turned back, for he had gotten news of her mission: Which was nothing less than to arrange for her daughter, whose blood was royal on both maternal and paternal sides, to be married to the King; her half-uncle, Philip Arrhidaeus.

Ivory-Phillip-II

This ivory portrait, found in a royal tomb at Vergina, in Macedonia is believed to depict Philip II. It has been argued (most notably by Dr. Eugene N. Borza,  professor emeritus of ancient history at Pennsylvania State University) that it actually may be Philip III Arrhidaeus. As he was said to closely resemble his father, regardless of which Philip (father or son) this depicts it gives us a good idea of what the brother of Alexander the Great might well have looked like when he married Adea-Eurydice.

We don’t know where the confrontation took place; it was somewhere in the vicinity of Ephesus. The willful Kynane, a woman in full at 37, refused to be deterred. Before the armed Macedonian soldiers, she proclaimed her mission, that her daughter be taken to the King, and that this granddaughter of Philip be married to him and be queen of the Macedonians. A vitriolic argument between Kynane and Alcetus followed, with her accusing Alcetus of betraying Philip’s blood. Alcetus, who would show over the next couple of years a arrogant lack of judgment, grew angry and insistent. When the proud Kynane refused to stand down, he killed her[4].

The death of their princess was met with horror and revulsion by Alcetus’ own soldiers. Immediately they surrounded her body and took her daughter into their protective custody. She was taken to Perdiccas, and the court. When word spread to the Royal Army of what had occurred, they rioted, furious at Kynane’s murder. They demanded that her final wishes for her daughter be respected, and the girl Adea be married to King Philip Arrhidaeus.

Perdiccas had no choice, if he wanted to restore his authority over the Macedonians. Alcetas hot-headed foolishness had painted him into a corner. Putting as good a face on it as he could, he arranged for Adea to be immediately married to her uncle, the King. Adea assumed the royal queenly name, Eurydice; and it is by this that she will henceforward be referred.

This was a blow to Perdiccas’ power, prestige, and ultimately a challenge to his authority. Eurydice, who seems to have gotten on well with her new husband, had in mind a very active role as queen. This granddaughter of Philip had the goodwill of the soldiers, the ultimate source of authority; and would very soon begin to exert her influence. An active queen exerting her own and her husband’s independence put Perdiccas’ control in question; which derived from his guardianship of two kings unable to govern on their own: Alexander IV, Roxane’s son, only an infant; and Philip Arrhidaeus being mentally deficient (perhaps autistic). As Regent and Guardian (prostates) he spoke in the king’s name. But now he would face a challenge to this guardianship from a spirited young queen. For as events would show, Eurydice wanted no one but her to speak for her husband!

atalanta-1908
Upon her marriage to  Philip Arrhidaeus  the courageous Adea-Eurydice exerted her will, refusing to be a mere puppet of the strong-men who were attempting to dominate the Macedonian Empire

In light of this new player on the stage, Perdiccas was forced to reexamine his options.

The status quo, with himself as Regent in Asia while Antipater and Craterus ran affairs in Europe, was inherently unstable and (from Perdiccas’ point of view) an ultimate dead end. First, Craterus with Antipater’s support expected to return to Asia as soon as the rebellious Aeolians were brought to heal. He would come expecting to share the guardianship of King Philip Arrhidaeus (whatever young Eurydice might have to say about the matter). It was for this reason that Antipater had given his daughter Nicaea as bride to Perdiccas: to form a marriage bond between them all. But for Perdiccas this power-sharing proposal had little appeal.

Ultimately time was not on his side. The infant Alexander would, in just 16 years, be a man in his own right. A Regent’s power was on loan, till the king could assume his duties. And with the entry of Queen Eurydice upon the stage, his continuing control of the other-wise pliant Philip Arrhidaeus was in question.

Eumenes once again proposed the alternative solution: The princess Cleopatra was still in Sardis, and still available. If Perdiccas wanted to hold onto power, Cleopatra provided a way. Marry Alexander’s sister and seize the throne; king rather than temporary regent. Back in Babylon, the elaborate funeral cart (catafalque) that would carry Alexander’s body to its final resting place in Egypt was at last finished. Bring it to the court in Anatolia, and with it return to Macedon and bury their fallen hero with magnificent ceremony. It was an ancient rite of succession, that a new Macedonian king buries his predecessor. By this act, and marriage to Cleopatra, Perdiccas would proclaim himself the legitimate king of Macedon.

Though Eumenes’ plan was both alluring and compelling, Perdiccas was unprepared for so drastic a step as repudiating his new wife, the daughter of Antipater, and directly reaching for the crown. Such a move would certainly lead to war against the “Europeans”, Antipater and Craterus. For now, Perdiccas chose to walk a middle road: send presents and letters of felicitation to Cleopatra, wooing her while remaining married to Nicaea.

An unscrupulous solution to a sticky problem; but one that gave Perdiccas’ some breathing room to prepare. If he was going to play the game of thrones, he needed time to clear the game board of potential obstacles.

The first of these was old Antigonas, satrap of Phrygia.

THE POT BOILS OVER

A minor player at this stage, Antigonas was no threat to Perdiccas. But he had disobeyed one command already, when the previous year he’d been ordered to aid Eumenes in attaining Cappadocia. Such disobedience must not go unpunished. War was looming, and in the coming struggle Perdiccas had to be sure of his satraps’ loyalty. Antigonas had been too independent for too long; it was time to remove him from the board. Antigonas was summoned to appear before the Regent in Pisidia[5] and answer for his actions.

The 60 year old Antigonas was no fool. He knew that such a journey would be a “one-way” trip. He let it be known that he was eager to defend himself against all charges, to put Perdiccas off guard. Instead, he fled Celaenae with his closest friends and his teenage son, Demetrius; to the coast, where they boarded Athenian ships. In these he crossed the Aegean, likely to Athens. From there he hastened on to Aetolia, where he found to his old comrade-in-arms from the days they’d both served King Philip, Antipater.

That summer and autumn of 321, Craterus and Antipater campaigned in Aetolia. Diodorus describes Craterus as playing the main role in this. They invaded Aetolia with an army of 30,000 infantry and 2,500 cavalry. Against this strong force the recalcitrant Aetolians could muster only 10,000 men. They made no attempt to meet the Macedonians on level ground, where they would have stood no chance against the superb Macedonian war machine. Instead, like highlanders everywhere and in every age, they sought refuge in the fastness of their mountains; abandoning the undefended towns in the lowlands and garrisoning the strong places. But Craterus had learned a thing-or-two about mountain warfare at the master’s feet. While Antipater with the bulk of the cavalry and a portion of the foot remained in the lowlands, reducing the Aetolian strongholds and occupying their towns; Craterus took the remaining forces and pursued their fighting men into the highlands.

Aetolia 2

The wild and beautiful mountains of Aetolia were the scene of Craterus’ 321 campaign to reduce these last remaining belligerents; after the close of the Lamian War.

Aetolia

Idyllic forest scene in Aetolia, near the ancient meeting-place of the Aetolian League council at Thermo

Diodorus tells us the fighting was fierce, the Aetolians crafty opponents who knew the terrain and used it to their advantage. In the next century, they would become famous for the warlike qualities of their light infantry. But as the snows of early winter set in, they found themselves hemmed in and short of supplies. Craterus’ men refused to withdraw as expected, but instead bivouacked in their mountains, building shelters for themselves. After Afghanistan, the mountains of Aetolia were but a minor inconvenience.

By these tactics Craterus soon had the Aetolians on the ropes. They were on the verge of submitting when Antigonas arrived from Asia. He brought news that startled and enraged his hosts.

battle 2

He told them of Perdiccas overweening ambitions, and he spoke at of length of the murder of Kynane; elaborating (and no doubt exaggerating) the horrid details. All this may have angered Antipater and Craterus. But then he produced letters from his friend Menander, satrap of Lydia. In the Lydian capital of Sardis, Menander was well-placed to observe the Regent’s intrigues with Cleopatra; and he had provided Antigonas with the proofs he needed. This included compelling evidence that Perdiccas had sent gifts to Cleopatra; of his plans to repudiate his wife, Nicaea; to marry Cleopatra, and then come to Macedon and claim the throne.

This startling information tipped the scales, and the generals agreed to end the war in Aetolia on the best terms possible (while swearing to return at a future date and finish what they had started; namely reducing the Aetolians to submission, and then deporting them in mass to a far-off exile somewhere in Asia). They would move the army with all dispatch against Perdiccas, upon whom they now declared war.

They also reached out to Ptolemy in Egypt. Antipater had been corresponding with the Son of Lagos for some time; and had offered him another daughter in marriage. Now it was time for Ptolemy, who had never been happy with Perdiccas in charge, to join the game.

PTOLEMY MAKES HIS MOVE

That year, 321, a civil war broke out in neighboring Cyrene. Cyrene was a Greek colony west of Egypt, its eponymous capital city located on the coast between modern Benghazi and Tobruk. Ptolemy was invited to intervene by the oligarch faction. He sent his general, Ophellas, to do so; and came himself by ship in the end to accept the city’s surrender. This independent ally of the empire was annexed to Ptolemy’s satrapy, in the late summer or early autumn of 322 or early in 321; without official sanction from Perdiccas and the central government.

Diadachi 322-320 b

It was a move Perdiccas could not have approved of; and the Regent no doubt monitored Ptolemy’s activities with suspicion. He had left Cleomenes of Naucratis in Egypt to control Egypt’s finances, and to act as his “eyes” in Egypt. But that year, 321, Ptolemy had arrested and executed Cleomenes on corruption charges. This cannot have pleased Perdiccas; especially as Ptolemy then took charge of the treasury and began hiring mercenaries to augment the garrison left in Egypt by Alexander. It is likely Perdiccas was also informed of Antipater’s marriage offer, and though this might have drawn the two men closer had Perdiccas remained loyal to Nicaea; now with his plans to repudiate her it put them at odds.

Ptolemy would need to be dealt with, no doubt; like Antigonas he had been allowed to grow too independent and too powerful. Like a weed, he needed to be pulled. However, first things first: of far more immediate importance was to bring the body of Alexander to Macedon, and take the throne. To this end he sent orders to his custodian of Alexander’s body in Babylon, an officer named Arrhidaeus (not the king); to escort the catafalque to the court in Anatolia.

The catafalque that was to bear Alexander’s body had taken two years to finish. It was beautifully designed, sculptured and decorated with gold and precious jewels. It was said to surpass in magnificence anything of its kind previously known in history or legend. It would need to carry the king’s body nearly 2000 miles from Babylon to its proposed final resting place at Aigai (modern Vergina) in Macedon. It would be pulled by a team of 64 matching mules, and accompanied not only by an armed escort (led by Arrhidaeus) but by a troop of road workers and engineers, to smooth the way and ensure its progress.

Alexander's_catafalque_based_on_the_description_by_Diodorus

Alexander’s magnificent funeral cart (catafalque) took two years to construct. It was covered with gold and precious gems. Within was Alexander’s body, carefully preserved by the best efforts of the day.

The procession set off from Babylon in early September 321, following the worst of the Mesopotamian summer heat. However, it never made it any closer to Perdiccas in Anatolia than the city of Damascus. There it was met by Ptolemy and a small army.

It appears that the Regent’s authority over his officers was beginning to crumble. Arrhidaeus colluded with Ptolemy, and delivered the catafalque to the satrap of Egypt.

Why did he do so?

It is possible that he did so out of loyalty to Alexander’s own wishes; to be buried at Siwa, regardless of Perdiccas’ desires to the contrary. It could be that he merely accepted a bribe from Ptolemy, or had some grudge against the Regent. We will never know one-way-or-another. Certainly he was taking a great risk; for in 321 Perdiccas stood tall upon the world stage, and to go over to Ptolemy was both an act of rebellion and one likely to end in death or exile.

For Ptolemy, by this act, had thrown down the gauntlet. Looked at without modern hindsight, this must have been seen as unlikely to succeed as had Antigonas’ disobedience; and likely to end in the same result. But the die was cast, and his lot was thrown in with Antipater and Craterus, against Perdiccas’ plan to seize the royal diadem.

At Damascus, Ptolemy seized the body of Alexander and returned with it to Egypt. Along the way his forces skirmished with a small force sent by Perdiccas to escort the catafalque; but which had arrived in Damascus too late (and too small) to prevent the abduction. Once in Egypt, Ptolemy temporarily interred the body of his old friend, king, and possibly half-brother (see Part One) at Memphis, the capital of the satrapy. In time, he would move it to the new city of Alexandria and an elaborate tomb, now under construction.

In Greece, Antipater and Craterus were on the march to the Hellespont; while Antigonas was preparing to take ship for Caria, to open another front in the war. Perdiccas was waiting for Spring in Cilicia, to march on Ptolemy. And Ptolemy was hiring mercenaries in anticipation of defying the Regent’s power.

The First War of the Diadochi had begun.

NEXT: THE FIRST DIADOCHI WAR


[1] Athenaeus names Phila of Elimeia as Philip’s second wife. However, Elis argues that this marriage predated Philip’s ascension to the throne; likely in 360 BC. See Elis, J.R.: Philip II and Macedonian Imperialism; Thames and Hudson, 1976; Ch. II, P.46

[2] We don’t know Adea’s age in 321; but she cannot have been born later than 335, as her father was executed on Alexander’s orders in 336. The sources say only that she was of “marriageable age” in 321. If we assume her mother Kynane was married at 18 to Amyntas, and Adea was born the following year (339?), then Adea would be 17-18 in that fateful year, 321.

[3] The sources are mute at to where Perdiccas, the Royal Army and the court (including the two Kings) were in the summer/early autumn of 321. We know there was much intrigue concerning Eumenes, Cleopatra, and Perdiccas at this time; including presents given by the Regent to Cleopatra. While the easiest answer is that Perdiccas remained in Pisidia during this time, it is reasonable to suppose that he moved to Sardis, where the “action” was.

[4] Alcetus may have ordered her executed by his soldiers, but it is likely he killed her with his own hands. The sources say she was killed by Alcetus, but in what manner it is unclear. It is easy to imagine Alcetus losing his temper and cutting down the proud, stubborn princess himself. The shocked and angry response of his own soldiers to her killing would seem to point in this direction; as if they had done it themselves, even on his orders, it would be hard to understand their shock at the deed.

[5] Assuming the court was in Pisidia, and hadn’t moved to Sardis. See note [3] above.

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DIADACHI: MACEDONIAN GAME OF THRONES (PART 5)

olympias(This is the fifth in a series concerning the Wars of the Diadachi. Part 1 can be read here, and includes comprehensive biographies of the players in this drama. It is strongly advised that you start there before reading on here. Stay tuned to this blog for future installments! Special thanks to Michael Park for his indispensable help in filling in the gaps in the sources and putting-up with my incessant questions!)

THE SITUATION AT THE END OF THE LAMIAN WAR

With the Lamian War (and the revolt of the Greek settlers in Bactria) crushed, and the Greeks once more reduced to submission, any external threat to the Macedonian Empire was gone. No new existential threat to Macedon and Macedonian supremacy would arise till the coming of the Celts, 41 years later. Now the leaders could turn all of their attention to the matter of who would rule the Empire bequeathed to them at the death of Alexander.

322 ended in Greece with Antipater and Craterus busy pacifying the city-states; establishing client oligarchies and, as in Munychia overlooking the port of Athens, garrisons. Key Macedonian garrisons seem to have been at Athens, Chalcis (across a narrow strait, on the island of Euboea); Corinth, whose broad and lofty mountain-top acropolis, the Acrocorinth was perhaps the strongest fortress in Greece and the key to passage in-and-out of the Peloponnese; and the Cadmeia of Thebes.

Temple_of_Apollo_Ancient_Corinth

acro

Two views of the impregnable Acrocorinth: Looming above the ruins of Corinth (top), and approaching the northwestern battlements. Nature and man combined to make this the strongest fortress in Greece.

This latter needs explanation, as Thebes was destroyed by Alexander in 335. However, the citadel, known as the Cadmeia, appears to have been restored and garrisoned as a Macedonian fortress; to keep Boeotia and central Greece under their thumb.

Only Sparta, isolated and isolationist in the south; and Aetolia in the mountainous west remained free of Macedonian dominance. Antipater and Craterus (now acting as first-and-second in command of Macedonian forces in Europe) planned a campaign in the west to reduce Aetolia that year (321).

At this stage in the game, both men had relatively good relations with the Regent, Perdiccas, in Asia; and there was yet no hint of the trouble to come. As a sign of both good faith and acceptance of the Regent as spokesman for the Kings, Antipater had deferred to Perdiccas’ judgment the settlement of the Samian issue; important to Athens, now governed by Antipater’s men. Antipater would soon make moves to tie his house  closer to the Regent; as well as the other great men of the empire. Perdiccas, perhaps as early as autumn of 323, insecure in his position and looking to shore it up with a marriage alliance had negotiated with Antipater for his daughter Nicaea’s hand. While still pending, it was likely the two houses would be united in marriage; making war between them unlikely.

Craterus’ position vis-à-vis the Regent was more ambiguous. At Babylon he had been named Guardian (“prostates”) of Philip Arrhidaeus kingship. This would seem to imply regency for the king, and in the past this term had been used nearly synonymously with “regency”. This ambiguity in their respective roles and duties was perhaps deliberate: at the time of the Babylonian Settlement (see Part 2), Perdiccas was not yet secure enough in his authority to alienate Craterus; who some argued was the man Alexander had actually named as his regent (see Part 1). With Craterus waiting in Cilicia with an army of his own, it behooved Perdiccas to placate him with a position seemingly on a par with his own. In theory, they were joint regents for the kings.

But now, eighteen months later, Craterus was in Europe, reduced to Antipater’s subordinate; while Perdiccas had solidified his power and position with a successful campaign in Cappadocia (see below). [1] With the king(s) in Perdiccas custody, he had to assert himself if he wished to gain a measure of the authority that should have been his. Craterus needed Antipater’s help.

Returning to Macedon for the winter of 322-321, the two men cemented their relationship with a marriage alliance. Craterus now married Phila, Antipater’s second (and very wise) daughter. Together, now one family, they hoped to reach a peaceful accommodation with Perdiccas; through yet another marriage alliance.

1347454070_Ancient-Pella Pella 2 Pella view

Views of the ruins of Pella, capital of the Macedonian kingdom. Located on the central plain of Macedon, Pella was a thriving city and seaport into the 2nd century BC; after which it declined as Thessaloniki, capital of the new Roman province, grew in importance. It was here that Craterus married Antipater’s daughter, Phila, in the winter of 322-321 BC; cementing their alliance.

That winter, Antipater agreed to Perdiccas earlier request for the hand of Nicaea; uniting him through marriage to himself and (indirectly) Craterus. Antipater hoped in this way that peace would be kept, that he would remain in power in Europe, and that Perdiccas would come to an accommodation with Craterus in Asia. Just in case this failed, however, the wily old player also made overtures towards Ptolemy, offering him his youngest daughter, Eurydice.

But the if push came to shove (as it ultimately would), Antipater and Craterus were in no weak position. They had a strong and victorious army at their disposal; as well as the Macedonian fleet (some 200-250 keels) that now controlled the Aegean, under the command of their admiral, Cleitus the White, victor of Amorgos.[2]  They had the Macedonian homeland and Thessaly at their disposal, from which to recruit first-class infantry and horse (though Macedon was beginning to show signs of the coming exhaustion of manpower that was to be acutely felt in the next century). And, perhaps most importantly in the internal struggle to come, both men were highly esteemed by the rank-and-file Macedonian solders; ultimate arbiters of all power in the empire. No leader, in fact, was more respected than Antipater; and none more beloved among the Macedonians than Craterus.

But war was the last resort in order to secure their rightful place in the empire. First Antipater hoped this web of marriage alliances to his house would guarantee the peace. However, two arch-schemers were at work to upset this arrangement: Olympias and Eumenes. Both had a vested interest in thwarting Antipater’s plan; and had a move of their own to make upon the game board.

PERDICCAS COMES NORTH

While the Lamian War raged in Greece events did not stand still in the rest of the empire. As we have already discussed, in the Upper Satrapies a rising by the Greek settlers left there by Alexander had been crushed on Perdiccas’ order by Peithon, satrap of Media. Peithon then returned to Babylon, where he would serve as the Regent’s (ambitious and not all-together happy) subordinate.

In Egypt, another leader beloved by the Macedonians had consolidating his position.

Ptolemy had secured Egypt as his province at the Babylonian Settlement. Upon arriving there he took charge from Cleomenes of Naucratis, the former satrap; appointed by Alexander and tasked with building Alexandria-in-Egypt, at the mouth of the Nile. Perdiccas left Cleomenes in place as Ptolemy’s subordinate, in charge of finances and likely charged by Perdiccas with keeping an eye on Ptolemy. By fair dealing with the natives and subordinates, Ptolemy made himself well-liked in his province; and was beginning to attract to himself a force of Macedonians and Greek mercenaries.

In Asia Minor (Anatolia) Antigonas sat in Phrygia, the satrapy he’d held since Alexander had conquered the land in 333. One of the oldest of the senior Macedonian leaders, he had watched as the tide of events passed by. First while Alexander conquered the east, his province had been a crossroads. At his satrapal palace at Celaenae, the old soldier (and the handsome lad that was his young son, Demetrius) had entertained men and detachments going from Macedon to the King’s far-off ; or disabled men returning home, bearing fantastic tales of mighty deeds, strange lands and even stranger animals. Now the great king was dead, and Antigonas had watched as first Leonnatus and then Craterus had passed through on their way to Greece, taking leading parts in the great events of the day. Antigonas watched, and contemplated his own place in this new world of opportunities opening before them all. We can only guess but that he looked at those “great men” in the center of the stage; and thought himself no less capable then the best of them.

Celaenae today

Western Anatolian plain near Dinar, Turkey; site of ancient Celaenae, capital of Antigonas’ satrapy 

dinar_resimleri_8

Dinar, Turkey, site of ancient Celaenae. Once a crossroads town for travel from the Aegean coast to the Anatolian highlands, Celaenae was made the satrapal seat by Alexander of his province of Phrygia. Here his chosen satrap, Antigonas “One Eyed” sat out Alexander’s wars, keeping this vital communications hub open.

At this point Antigonas was a minor player, at best a mere knight on the chess board. But like the knight, he was tricky and capable of sudden and unexpected attack. Antigonas waited; utilizing that great gift that comes to some men over time and age: patience.

But now, at the end of 322, Antigonas at Celaenae was nervous. He had disobeyed the Regent in the matter of aiding Eumenes to capture Cappadocia; an order likely impossible with the slender means available to him at the time (his satrapal army, if army it could be called, numbered no more than a few thousand mercenary horse and foot), and considering that the Cappadocian king, Ariarathes, had an army numbering perhaps 30,000 strong. But Perdiccas was not one to countenance disobedience lightly; and Antigonashad reason to be nervous.

For the Regent had come north from Babylon, and was now on his doorstep.

Diadachi 322-320 a

In the summer of 322, while Craterus was crossing into Europe to come to Antipater’s aid, Perdiccas with the two kings, the court and the royal army marched north against Cappadocia. Here Ariarathes had maintained independence for some years, building up an army of some 30,000. With Perdiccas was Eumenes, the designated satrap of the province (yet to be conquered). Eumenes had returned to the court bearing news of Leonnatus’ plans to seize the Macedonian throne, in the spring of 322 (riding some 2,300 kilometers to do so, a notable feat). Of course, by the time the royal army arrived in Cappadocia, Leonnatus had perished in battle in southern Thessaly. But by this act of loyalty Eumenes had earned a place in Perdiccas’ inner circle of advisors (synhedrion philoi). Perdiccas was rewarding him now by conquering his satrapy for him (as well as removing a strong and independent threat in the heart of Anatolia).

Cappadocian Campaign remains. We know only that he defeated Ariarathes in two battles. Numbers on both sides would have been largely comparable. The Cappadocians had excellent and numerous very heavily armored cavalry, and would provide Eumenes some 6,000 of these a year later. Likely the imperial war elephants Perdiccas brought with him were able to counter these, and along with the incomparable Macedonian phalanx gave victory to the Macedonians.

Cappadocian cavalryThe Cappadocian nobility and their retainers fought as very heavily armored cavalry

This campaign saw out the summer of 322. Ariarathes was defeated and captured; and subsequently executed by Perdiccas. (Accounts of his death differ, stating alternately that the Cappadocian pretender was put to death by either hanging or by being burned at the stake. Neither of these methods were traditional Macedonian means of execution. Judged along with the use of elephants to execute the rabble rousers among the infantry at Babylon in 323, we see a creeping of eastern cruelty into even this earliest of Macedonian Successors.)

In the autumn 322, Perdiccas and the court moved to Cilicia, where he ousted the governor, a partisan of Craterus; while Eumenes remained in Cappadocia, arranging his province. There they sat out the winter of 322-321.

ROYAL SCHEMERS AND ROYAL WOMEN

321 began with Perdiccas firmly in control of events, the reins of power tightly in his grip. He had proved himself in the Cappadocian campaign as a capable commander; always the first requisite for one wishing to establish himself as more than merely Primus inter pares in Alexander’s Empire, where skilled and ambitious generals abounded. In Macedon, his chief rival Craterus was reduced to a mere client of the House of Antipater, with no clear place of his own in the current political landscape.

Perdiccas spent the spring and summer of 321 sorting out the recalcitrant hill tribes of Psidia; a hard-fought campaign of storming hill-forts and chasing brigands through the mountains. These hillmen were, like their kind across the world, expert light infantry. Adept with javelin and sling, they were past-master at ambush and hit-and-run tactics. Every hilltop had its own tribal fortress; and some were quite large towns, protected by nature by in their inaccessibleness. Alexander’s former Bodyguard and governor of Cilicia, Balacrus had been slain trying to subdue them just a few years prior. Now they fought Perdiccas with desperate courage. At one of their strongholds, Isaura, the Isaurians fired their own town rather than surrender to the Macedonians; choosing death in the flames to submission.

Pisidian hillman

The tough hill tribesmen of Cilicia, Lycia and Pisidia defied conquerors and provided light infantry mercenaries (and acted as pirates) in the eastern Mediterranean for centuries. (Image by Christos Giannopoulos)

While so engaged during the summer of 321, a delegation arrived at the royal court from Europe. It was led by Iollus, Antipater’s son and Alexander’s former royal Cup-Bearer. He came with his sister Nicaea in tow, and presented to Perdiccas his betrothed.

At this point the pieces were lined up quite to Antipater’s liking.

Then Olympias made her move.

The previous year she had seemed on the verge of “queening” her pawn (though Leonnatus would never have acknowledged or likely even understood that he was Olympias pawn in her game against Antipater). But Leonnatus expedition into Thessaly had backfired on the old Basilissa. He’d thrown his life away in battle, with (from Olympias’ view-point) the unfortunate side-effect of freeing Antipater from his confinement in Lamia. It had been a bitter series of events for Olympias; her play thwarted and the “Old Rope”[3] once again on top.

Never one to give up a fight, Olympias sat in Epirus and plotted her next play. Now it had come; and once again it involved her daughter, Cleopatra.

This most-eligible of royal widows now arrived in Sardis. With Eumenes, long friend and now confederate of Olympias acting as intermediary, Cleopatra was offered to Perdiccas as an alternative bride.

1 OlympiasMacedonian beauty, thought to be Olympias. Cleopatra in 321 could well have looked like this.

An embarrassment of riches for Perdiccas, it would seem. In truth, it posed a dangerous and tempting choice. Go through with his marriage to Antipater’s daughter, and there would likely be peace in the empire. His European flank would be secure with Antipater as his father-in-law (and Craterus, his greatest potential rival for power, as brother-in-law by marriage). Yet Cleopatra offered something else: royal legitimacy. The same promise she’d held out to the late Leonnatus: her husband would have a strong claim on the Argead throne of Macedon.

Being Regent and Protector of the Kings gave Perdiccas royal power in all but name. But such power was inherently temporary. Even if Philip Arrhidaeus would forever need someone guiding him, soon enough Alexander and Roxane’s son would grow to manhood. As his parent’s son, he was sure to be both strong-minded and likely hot-tempered; and would demand his royal prerogatives. Perdiccas would be lucky to be allowed to retire to a quite obscurity. In Macedon’ bloody history few had given up power without losing their lives.

So his choices were clear: Marry Nicaea and maintain the peace, though at best only a temporary hold on power. Or marry Cleopatra, and claim the kingship himself. This would certainly lead to war against Antipater, who would be mortally insulted at the rejection of his daughter; and against many other Macedonian leaders across the empire, who would turn against him either out of loyal to the current “Kings” or simple jealousy of Perdiccas.

Perdiccas’ advisors were divided. His younger brother, Alcetus, argued for Nicaea and keeping the peace. Eumenes, who was friend to both Olympias and Cleopatra made the case for a royal bride. Why Eumenes pushed for a course that would lead to civil war is understandable on personal terms. As a partisan of Olympias, he inherited her grudge against the House of Antipater. He also had his own, more personal reasons to stand against the Antipatrids: One of the many tyrants and oligarchs maintained in power among the Greek cities by Antipater’s patronage was Hecataeus, the ruler of Eumenes own home city, Cardia.

A personal enemy of Eumenes, Hecataeus was safe so long as Antipater ran affairs in Europe. To bring his enemy down and restore liberty to Cardia, Antipater must be brought down as well. We will never know how strongly such personal motives played into Eumenes counseling Perdiccas to marry Cleopatra; but it is possible that in aiding Olympias in her schemes he secretly harbored his own, very personal agenda.

Perdiccas was sorely tempted by Cleopatra’s offer, but he was not prepared as of yet to make so bold a move. For now, he maintained the peace, and married Nicaea. However, he sent Eumenes to reassure Cleopatra (and through her Olympias) that this was only a temporary expedient; and that he would soon repudiate her in favor of the princess.

At about this same time, an unexpected threat to Perdiccas’ authority appeared from Macedon. Another royal princess, another daughter of old king Philip; a new player in the game arrived in Asia. She was Kynane, Alexander’s elder half-sister. She brought with her a teenage daughter, Adea, whose grandfather on both her maternal and paternal sides had been kings of Macedon. And she came demanding a royal match for this twice-royal princess!

Antipater

NEXT: THE POT BOILS OVER


[1] Errington argues that Craterus’ move from Cilicia into Macedon in summer 322 was in part due to his deteriorating political power in Asia, vis-à-vis the Regent. That Craterus waited deliberately in Cilicia with his veterans, through 323, an implied threat to Perdiccas and the leaders in Babylon; watching how the settlement fell out. That it was Perdiccas’ leading the royal army north towards Cappadocia (and Cilicia),  that impelled Craterus to throw in his lot with Antipater in Europe; putting distance between himself and Perdiccas.  (R. M. Errington, The Journal of Hellenic Studies, Vol. 90 (1970), pp. 49-77)

[2] Cleitus had been an officer under Craterus’ command since the return from India. His assignment to command the fleet and its dispatch to the Aegean in the summer of 322 may be attributed to Craterus; and Cleitus’ defeat of the Athenian fleet and clearing of the Hellespont at Abydos opened the way to Craterus to cross into Europe. In this we can perhaps see Craterus’ clear strategic vision and grasp of the operational art. He had been Alexander’s chief subordinate for a reason, and was a general to be reckoned with.

[3] The derogatory term used by Olympias and her partisans for Antipater. The meaning is likely that he (Antipater) had long kept Olympia from doing  as she saw fit; binding her actions like an (old) rope. But this is just speculative.

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DIADACHI: MACEDONIAN GAME OF THRONES (PART 4)

2a8nuc5(This is the fourth in a series concerning the Wars of the Diadachi. Part 1 can be read here, and includes comprehensive biographies of the players in this drama. It is strongly advised that you start there before reading on here. Stay tuned to this blog for future installments!)

REVOLT IN BACTRIA

The winter of 323-322 BC passed, with Antipater the Regent bottled-up in Lamia; besieged by a Hellenic League army commanded by Leosthenes the Athenian. His agents in Macedon were raising mercenaries for the coming campaign season. Meanwhile, across the Hellespont, the ambitious Leonnatus was planning to march as soon as weather permitted; to Antipater’s rescue and, he hoped, to military glory. Further east, in Cilicia (or perhaps a bit closer, in Phrygia*) the popular Craterus was also planning a spring march back to Macedon. He had started home from Babylon, with 10,000 discharged veterans, before Alexander’s death. Aside from leading these veterans home, his personal mission to Macedon had been to relieve Antipater of his command and take over the governorship of Macedon. However, the king’s death and the rising of the Greeks had thrown such plans into question. Always the selfless soldier, he was prepared to return and serve Macedon (and Antipater) in whatever capacity was needed.

In the east, the Greek settlers left by Alexander in the Upper Satrapies were also in revolt. It had been his policy to found settlements of aging veterans and Greek mercenaries throughout the east, as Hellenizing agents. Settling these Greek mercenaries in the east might also have been Alexander’s attempt to solve the issue of a surplus of Greek soldiers which had been a constant source of problems in the Greek world since the end of the Peloponnesian War. If so, it went counter to the interests of the professional class of mercenary captains (such as Leosthenes) whose living was dependent on the easy availability of such men. But Macedonian leadership was never popular among the Greeks, and such captains were able to play upon their simmering resentment.

It showed its head as early as Alexander’s Indian campaign; when false rumors spread of his death upon the Indus. At that time some 3,000 revolted, led first by Athenodorus and then by Biton, and marched all the way home to Greece. Now in 323 a more widespread rising occurred, throughout the Upper Satrapies. Reminiscent of Xenophon and the 10,000 eighty years earlier, they were preparing to attempt a “march to the sea”, and return home to Greece. According to Diodorus, they numbered 20,000 foot and 3,000 horse; and elected Philon, an Aenian, as their commander.

Was this eastern rebellion timed to coincide with, and perhaps be part of the general Greek rising known as the Lamian War? We have no way of knowing from this distance, but this possibility needs to be considered; as does the composition and numbers given in the sources.

Starting with the last of these, the numbers given[1] for these Greek rebels in the Upper Satrapies seems high, particularly in cavalry. 20,000 Greek foot is twice the number of hoplites that Athens, the largest city in Greece throughout the 5th century (its “Golden Age”), could field. Alexander had a total of 16,400 mercenary infantry and 2,600 mercenary cavalry with him in Bactria in the winter 329-328 BC[2]; and even if he had left all of them behind as garrisons (unlikely), the total falls short of the number given for the rebels. They may have been reinforced by locals. But if it was a purely Greek movement, bent on returning home, this cannot have been the case. However, if this was part of a general anti-Macedonian conspiracy (linked to Leosthenes’ actions in Greece), perhaps resentful Bactrians were induced to join the Greek settlers against their new Macedonian rulers.

Eastern Empire

The eastern territories of Alexander’s Empire; showing the Upper Satrapies

Peithon the Bodyguard, appointed Satrap of Media at the Babylon partition that summer (see Part 2), was given orders by Perdiccas to crush this dangerous rebellion. He took with him 3,800 Macedonians (almost certainly phalangites), with authorization from Perdiccas to raise an army from the Macedonian satraps of the east. He did so, mustering a further 10,000 foot and 8,000 horse. The bulk of these were Iranians, the cavalry including men who’d served Alexander on the Indus.

Like most of the Macedonian leaders, Peithon had plans for his own aggrandizement. He hoped to create a fief of his own out of the sprawling Upper Satrapies. As a Bodyguard and Satrap of the large and strategically placed province of Media, he had more auctoritas than any of the other Eastern governors. To make his scheme work in the long run, he needed a large number of European (Macedonian or Greek) heavy infantry loyal to himself. To this end, he entered negotiations with the rebels.

He succeeded in detaching one of the rebel leaders, named Letodorus. When the clash of arms was imminent, this captain led his 3,000 man detachment over to Peithon’s forces. Already intimidated by the vast cavalry force arrayed against them, this sudden desertion caused the collapse of the rebel army, which surrendered on terms. Peithon promised them their lives and property if they laid down their arms. No doubt, this clemency was meant as a first step to recruiting them to his own service. However, Perdiccas had ordered the rebels to be destroyed; and to incentivize them, had promised the Macedonians he’d lent to Peithon their property as booty. The Macedonian soldiers, Peithon helpless to stop them, now took matters into their own hands and massacred the prisoners.

killing merceneries
Macedonians murder captured Greek mercenary

This was both an incalculable blow to Peithon’s ambitions and to the general cause of Hellenism in the east. We don’t know what became of Letodorus’ detachment, but they may have been the only survivors of the Greek army in the east. They may have taken service with Peithon as garrison troops in Media; or returned to their erstwhile homes in Bactria. Peithon himself returned to Perdiccas in Babylon, temporarily chastened. His relation with his fellow eastern satraps was damaged by this incident, and from this point forward they looked upon him with suspicion.

LEONNATUS’ GAMBIT

As spring 322 approached, the Greek cause was further, perhaps mortally, wounded by the death of their commander. Leosthenes, who with Hyperides had been the leader of the rising against Macedon, had bottled up Antipater in Lamia the previous autumn. He had refused Antipater’s offer of terms, demanding unconditional surrender. Perhaps unaware that  Peithon had defeated the Bactrian rebels, he was expecting a larger rising across the Macedonian Empire to spread. Then he was killed before the siege works at Lamia, repulsing a sally. His replacement, Antiphilus the Athenians, was competent but did not have the authority to make the ad hoc coalition of mercenaries and city-state contingents work well together. From then on, the Greek cause lost the initiative.

With spring coming the way was clear for reinforcements to move to Antipater’s aid.

Across the Hellespont, Leonnatus prepared to cross into Europe. His aim was two-fold: to defeat the Greeks and win a name for himself as a successful commander; and to wed Alexander’s widowed sister, the princess Cleopatra.

Throughout the winter, negotiations had gone on between Cleopatra in Macedon and her scheming mother, Olympias, still in Epirus, on the one hand; and Leonnatus in Hellespontine Phrygia on the other. He was their first choice for husband/consort for the princess; and with her at his side (and a military victory under his belt) he could claim the Macedonian throne. That throne was now held in name by absentee kings; Alexander’s mentally-defective (perhaps autistic) older half-brother, Philip Arrhidaeus, and Alexander’s infant son by his “barbarian” wife, Roxane. As these were both in Babylon, in the custody of Perdiccas, the schemers were hoping that the famously provincial Macedonians in Europe would reject these two in favor of a true Macedonian prince and princess of the royal house.

Alexander - Leonnatus

Two busts of Alexander. The one on the right is a copy of one carved by Lysippus; which the conqueror sat for. It is thought to be the best likeness of Alexander, in the last years of his life. The bust on the left, carved later, bears many of Alexander’s characteristics, but is not a good likeness. Leonnatus, a kinsmen of Alexander’s, bore a resemblance and accentuated it by wearing his hair long and consciously aping Alexander’s mannerism.  The man on the left looks unpleasant, arrogant and harsh. Could this actually be Leonnatus?

Leonnatus had come from Babylon with Eumenes, who’d been appointed as satrap of Cappadocia, with a mandate to subdue that independent satrapy-turned-kingdom. But he was given no army to do so, only orders from Perdiccas to Leonnatus and  Antigonas, in Greater Phrygia, to lend him assistance in this endeavor. However, help was forthcoming from neither.

Antigonus, perhaps keeping an eye on events in Greece, chose to stay where he was and see how events played out. In any case, his forces were few, likely less than a few thousand mercenaries; insufficient to the task. By contrast, Ariarathes, the Persian noble who had proclaimed himself as king of Cappadocia, had raised an army of some 30,000 (at least some of which were Greek mercenaries), and could rely on the superb heavy cavalry provided by the Cappadocian nobility and their feudal retainers.

In any case, the events in Greece now rendered Perdiccas’ orders obsolete. Subduing Cappadocia must take a back-seat to restoring the situation in Greece. Besides, Leonnatus had larger ambitions. He now tried to enlist Eumenes in his plans for taking the Macedonian throne.

A long-time friend and servant of the Macedonian Royal House, Eumenes had entered Philip’s service as a young secretary, and continued in this capacity under Alexander. He also maintained a long-time friendship and loyalty to Olympias. Perhaps Olympias (or Cleopatra) had advised Leonnatus that he was a likely ally. However, if this was his expectation than Leonnatus was to be disappointed. While loyal to the royal house, Eumenes’ new patron was the Chiliarch Perdiccas; and his loyalty now extended to Alexander’s infant son (and perhaps Philip Arrhidaeus as well). He was taken aback by Leonnatus’ ambitious scheme to seize the throne, and perhaps tried to talk him out of it. In any case, he was a Greek, and felt that “as a foreigner had no business to meddle in the differences between Macedonians”;[3] and could offer Leonnatus no help.

Afraid that his plans would be revealed prematurely to either Antipater or Perdiccas, Leonnatus now tried to murder Eumenes; the details of which are  lost. But in this he failed, and the Greek escaped.

Leonnatus now crossed into Europe, and marching through southern Thrace (gathering troops along the way) he came to Macedon. We don’t know what forces he brought from Asia, but he soon was prepared to move to Antipater’s relief with an army of 20,000 (though only 1,500 horse). That he didn’t wait for Craterus, who was also marching to Macedon and at most two months behind him, can be interpreted as evidence that he wished to keep the laurels of victory to himself, and not share them with a colleague. Or, alternately, it may simply have been that Antipater’s besieged forces in Lamia were in dire straights. Food supplies had to be running low after a long winter’s confinement; and time may well have been of the essence. On this subject, the sources are silent.

At Pella, the Macedonian capital, he likely met with Cleopatra, his intended. They had grown-up together, but hadn’t seen each other since her wedding to her uncle, Alexander of Epirus in 336 BC. Then she had been but a girl of 20 (and he about the same age). Now she was a 35 year old widowed queen, and though we have no idea if she took after her mother (as had Alexander) and was a beauty, or instead resembled her father; she was perhaps (based upon the status she would convey upon any man she married) the most desirable woman in the empire. It is not unlikely that they renewed their friendship and confirmed their coming alliance before he moved south with his army.

Through the Vale of Tempe, the gateway into Greece, and on into Thessaly Leonnatus marched toward Lamia and a fateful engagement with the Greeks. For Antiphilus, commanding the Greek coalition, his approach placed the Greeks on the horns of a dilemma.

The besieging forces numbered some 22,000 infantry and 3,000 cavalry, most of the latter being the excellent Thessalian horsemen under Menon of Pharsalus. With a clear numeric and (most importantly) cavalry advantage, it would behoove them to meet Leonnatus on an open plain. However, the area immediately north of Lamia was mountainous. To maintain the blockade and give battle north of the city at the same time, would mean engaging Leonnatus in the hills that ringed the town to the north. This would not only mean meeting the excellent Macedonian infantry in broken terrain unsuitable to cavalry; it risked being attacked in their rear by Antipater’s forces, sallying from the city. The old Regent had a considerable force within; and though we don’t know how many of his original 13,000 remained, even a few thousand sallying forth at the wrong moment could turn the tide of a desperate battle.

This left Antiphilus with only two other options: retreat south, perhaps offering battle on the plain of Trachis; or to march hurriedly north, through the passes of the Orthys Mountains and meet Leonnatus on the plains of southern Thessaly. However, either of these options would mean either lifting the siege of Lamia entirely; or leave a skeleton force to try and hold Antipater within.

Thessalian Cavalryman

Thessalian cavalrymen, from tomb found in Thessaly. His equipment was little different than that of the Macedonian Companion cavalry; and were second only to these in prestige and ability in the Macedonian army. During the Lamian War, with the Companions in the east, they gave the Greek forces a cavalry edge that was never completely overcome.

We can deduce from what followed that Antiphilus (following the advice of a council of leaders) chose this latter course. Leaving as many men as could safely be left around Lamia without sacrificing numerical advantage in the coming battle, the Greeks crossed the mountains and deployed on the edge of the Thessalian plains. There, they met Leonnatus and the relieving army from Macedon.

We have virtually no details of the ensuing battle. Not even its name survives. But once again, the Thessalian cavalry under Menon of Pharsalus carried the day. Leonnatus’ force was defeated on its flank(s), and Leonnatus himself slain in the fighting. It was a second disaster for Macedonian arms.

However, the force left to leaguer Antipater in Lamia was insufficient to keep the old fox contained. Using his opportunity, Antipater broke out. He marched with those forces that remained to him north, with the intent of intervening in the battle. He was too late to save Leonnatus, but he arrived in time to take command of the survivors and unite these forces with his own. Unwilling to continue what may have been a difficult fight with the united Macedonian forces, Antiphilus allowed the Macedonians to retreat north, back to Macedon.

The death of Leonnatus must have come as a severe blow to Olympias and Cleopatra. Once more, fate had taken a hand in overturning the chessboard just as they seemed ready to checkmate their old adversary, the Regent. It must have been particularly sad and disheartening for Cleopatra to watch old Antipater (with his detested son, Cassander, at his side) ride back into Pella at the head of the returning army; instead of her now dead betrothed.

For Antipater the matter could not have concluded any better. Informed of the intrigues that had gone on between Leonnatus and Cleopatra (and Olympias), he was doubtless glad Leonnatus was out of the game and his troops now at his (Antipater’s) disposal.

Lamian War_Map

CRANNON AND AMORGOS

These events likely occurred in the late spring or early summer of 322. For the Greeks, this was the high-water mark of their war of liberation. For the rest of that summer, one event after another went against them. Though having enjoyed some successes, the Greek cause was showing signs of trouble.

The Hellenic League should have been able to raise 40,000 men, as well as a considerable fleet. But it never succeeded in raising more than half that many. Aetolia and Athens were largely left to bear the brunt of the effort alone.

While moving to oppose Leonnatus in Thessaly, Athens dispatched its fleet (200 triremes and 40 of the larger quadremes) under the Athenian admiral, Euetion, to close the Hellespont and prevent further Macedonian forces from crossing from Asia. They won over Abydos, and were in place to prevent Craterus from joining Antipater in Macedon. However, Antipater had 110 ships of his own, and these were reinforced by a part of Alexander’s imperial fleet under Cleitus the White. These reinforcement included pentērēs/quinqueremes, the largest galley available at the time (though from this time forward larger-and-larger ships would appear in the naval battles of the Successors). The Macedonian fleet entered the Hellespont, and at Abydos Cleitus defeated the Athenians. No details survive; but it is likely that the larger Macedonian pentērēs made the difference.

pentere_seleucide_voile

The pentērēs (more commonly referred to as the Quinquereme, the Roman name) was a bireme (two oars to a bank) in which 3 rowers pulled on sweep; and two rowers the other. It was the workhorse battleship of the Successor and later Roman and Carthaginian fleets; replacing the trireme as the main warship of the ancient world from the late 4th century till the Battle of Actium, in 31 BC 

The way was opened for Craterus to cross into Europe. He did so with 1,500 horse and 1,000 Asiatic light-infantry archers; and, most importantly, a force of 10,000 Macedonian veterans of Alexander’s long campaigns. Though perhaps too long-in-the-tooth to be climbing siege ladders in the Punjab; there was enough fight left in these grizzled veterans to sort out the Greeks. When he arrived in Pella, Craterus put himself and his troops under Antipater’s command. There would be no arguing over the supreme command when Macedon itself was threatened.

The Athenians responded by regrouping, and a second fleet of some 170 ships was ready by mid-late summer. Euetion took station at Samos; likely to be in position to interdict seaborne Macedonian reinforcements coming from Syria. However, Cleitus with 240 ships engaged the Athenians once again off nearby Amorgos; and won a decisive victory. Athenian sea power was broken forever; and would never again be a factor in naval affairs. It was the end of an era that began with Themistocles. For the next century, the Eastern Mediterranean was a Macedonian lake.

In August of 322, Cleitus’ fleet moved into the Saronic Gulf and blockaded Piraeus, the port of Athens. At the same time, Antipater and Craterus marched south into Thessaly, to engage the League army. The sources claim they led 43,000 foot and 5,000 horse (this latter figue almost certainly an exaggeration). At Crannon they engaged Antiphilus and Menon’s army of  23,000 foot and 3,500 horse. The battle supposedly was fought on the anniversary of the Battle of Chaeronea, where Philip had cemented Macedonian dominance of Greece. With Athens blockaded by Cleitus’ fleet, the League needed a decisive victory.

Thessaly

Instead, the battle was a draw, or perhaps a minor defeat for the Greeks. In the following days, Antiphilus and Menon (as spokesmen for the Hellenic League forces) asked Antipater for terms. Antipater announced he would only treat with the various cities individually. At first the League resisted, till the Macedonians stormed several nearby Thessalian towns. The League collapsed as most of its members then sought peace.

The Lamian War was over, and Macedon had once again asserted its dominance.

All the former states of the Hellenic League surrendered or were captured. In September, 322, a Macedonian garrison was installed in Munychia, overlooking the port of Piraeus; and Athens would be so occupied for the next 15 years. As with the rest of the captured towns and cities, oligarchies friendly to Antipater were installed. The enemies of Macedon were condemned, and many fled. Hyperides was captured at the temple of Poseidon on Aegina, and put to death. Demosthenes, a long-time enemy of Macedon who had returned to Athens only at the commencement of the Lamian War, now committed suicide before his enemies could take hold of him.

View of Athens and the Long Walls from Piraeus
The port of Athens, Piraeus. In late summer or autumn of 322 BC, the port was blockaded by the Macedonian fleet under Cleitus the White. After the end of the Lamian War, the hilltop fortress of Munychia (on the right) was held by a Macedonian garrison for the next 15 years

Only Aetolia fought on, isolated and alone. Antipater and Craterus invaded the western hill country the following autumn. However, their invasion was soon interrupted by events in Asia.

NEXT: PERDICCAS COMES NORTH AND THE GAME BEGINS IN EARNEST

[* Craterus’ progress in 323 is a question-mark. He was in Cilicia in June, when Alexander died. It is often written that he was in Cilicia when the Lamian War broke out in September; but it seems unlikely that he would have made no further progress between June and September, 323. Even considering that he was leading a force of aged veterans, he should have been able to at least make it to Phrygia by winter. If so, one wonders if he spent the time with the satrap, Antigonas; perhaps making plans for the future.]


[1] Diodorus XVIII, vii

[2] Curtius VII.X.11; and Arrian IV.viii.2

[3] Plutarch, Eumenes iii

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