DIADOCHI: MACEDONIAN GAME OF THRONES (PART 8)

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Long before George R.R. Martin penned his tale of war, intrigue and treachery the ancient world was scene to its own version of Game of Thrones.

(This is the eighth  in a series concerning the Wars of the Diadochi. 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. The previous installment, Part 7, can be found 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!)

It was now early summer, 320, three years after the death of Alexander the Great [1]. Perdiccas, to whom on his death-bed Alexander had passed his signet ring; and who had ruled the empire ever since was now likewise dead. He had played the “game of thrones” to win, gambling all and coming up short. He had been killed by his own officers while trying to defeat the renegade satrap, Ptolemy son of Lagos in Egypt.

The day after his death, there was an assembly of the Macedonian Royal Army. Ptolemy, the erstwhile enemy of yesterday, was invited to speak [2]. This invitation so close on the heals of Perdiccas’ murder may suggest his collusion with the officers responsible.

Ptolemy was well received, and  the soldiers offered him the regency for the two kings. But the politically canny son of Lagos refused to step into Perdiccas sandals, thereby making himself the focus of every ambitious general’s envy. Instead, he nominated to be custodians of the  kings two other officers:  Peithon, Alexander’s former Bodyguard, satrap of Media and Perdiccas’ former senior sub-commander (as well as one of his three killers); and Arrhidaeus, the officer who’d aided Ptolemy in the bringing of Alexander’s corpse to Egypt. They were given the mission to take the Royal Army out of Egypt and back to Syria; to where Antipater was enroute from Asia Minor.

It is likely that all understood that with Perdiccas gone, primacy now belonged to Craterusor Antipater; allies of Ptolemy against the late Regent. It had already been agreed between these two men that Antipater would rule in Europe, while Craterus acted as guardian for the Kings and Regent in Asia.

The soldiers agreed enthusiastically to Ptolemy’s proposals; and the army and court prepared for its trek back to Syria; while Ptolemy returned to Memphis, where he continued to organize Egypt into his own personal kingdom, and base of power. Here he would bide his time, watching and waiting for opportunities to expand his power, one careful bit at at time. He was a gambler who only made safe bets, never risking all on a single throw of the dice.

But  just two days after the murder of Perdiccas, before the Royal Army could break camp and begin the march back, word came that there had been a momentous battle between Craterus and the late Perdiccas’ lieutenant, Eumenes of Cardia, in Asia Minor; one that would once again change the game and reset the pieces on the board.

EUMENES AND NEOPTOLEMUS

When Perdiccas set off for Egypt, he left his philoi, the wily Eumenes of Cardia in command in Anatolia; with instructions to block Antipater and Craterus from crossing theHellespont into Asia. To help him in this endeavor Perdiccas instructed his hotheaded brother, Alcetas, satrap of Pisidia; and Neoptolemus,  satrap of Armenia to obey Eumenes, and join their forces to his. Together, their combined armies would be approximately equal to that of the Europeans (Antipater and Craterus). Further, he had dispatched the imperial fleet, under Cleitus the White (who had successfully commanded at sea against the Greek allies during the Lamian War) to the Hellespont; to help Eumenes in preventing Antipater and Craterus from crossing into Asia. Operating from ports along the Asian side of the strait, Cleitus’ fleet [3] could have made transporting Antipater and Craterus’ forces across the straits potentially suicidal. For this reason, the Regent felt safe in marching the bulk of the Royal Army to Egypt; his arrangements for defending his rear in Anatolia strategically sound.

But his plans relied upon his commanders staying loyal; and working together in harmony. As events would show, this was an unrealistic expectation…

(To continue reading, go here)

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