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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8 Responses to DIADACHI: MACEDONIAN GAME OF THRONES (PART 5)

  1. Thanks for sharing all of this. It must take ages to sift through, sort and compile everything. The hard work shows.

    • barrycjacobsen says:

      Thanks, it has been a labor of love; emphasis on the “labor” part! ;-) Thank you for tuning-in and I hope you continue to enjoy the future installments as well…

      Barry

  2. Michael. says:

    “As for Demades, he had not long enjoyed his growing reputation when vengeance for Demosthenes brought him into Macedonia, whose people he had disgracefully flattered, only to be by them justly put to death. He had been obnoxious to them even before this, but now fell under a charge from which there was no escape. A letter of his, namely, leaked out, in which he had urged Perdiccas to seize Macedonia and deliver the Greeks, who, he said, were fastened to it only by an old and rotten thread (meaning Antipater)”.

    Plutarch, Demosthenes 31.4-5.

  3. ethanreilly says:

    Loving this series, Barry. I always thought the history of this period was compelling, but neglected by a lot of popular historians. Thanks for bringing it to the forefront.

    • barrycjacobsen says:

      Your quite welcome, Ethan! I am working on Part 6 at the moment, and will have it out by Monday (latest). So stay tuned…

      Barry

  4. bertie007 says:

    Inching ever closer to that famous, frightening proclamation across no man’s land…

    “Wicked men, are you sinning against your fathers, who conquered the whole world under Philip and Alexander?”

    To be followed by the reminder that “in a little while they would see that these veterans were worthy both of the kings and of their own past battles”.

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