(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 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; 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.
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.
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.
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.
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”; 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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.]