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Wars of Alexander's Successors (Diadochi)

B.C. 321 to 280

Macedonian Generals — versus — Macedonian Generals


Introduction : 


There is scarcely any series of wars more mind-boggling to follow than those of the Diadochi, or successors of Alexander. For twenty years after the death of Alexander his generals fought for control of his empire, and even after the critical Battle of Ipsus, which settled the division of much of the old Persian Empire, wars raged for control of Macedonia and Asia Minor for another generation. The principals involved in these wars were Macedonian Generals who served under Alexander, and their descendents. They were not fought between states or principalities, but between armies, sometimes composed of regional troops or mercenaries, but always officered by Greek and Macedonian officers. Also, the regions controlled by the various dynasties changed during the war years, so in several cases one cannot even form a permanent association of a particular dynasty with a fixed sphere of influence.

It is helpful, before discussing the course of the wars, to identify the surviving dynasties. There were dozens of generals involved in the fighting, some of whom controlled powerful territories, but later fell by the wayside. Of the original Generals who gained important territories at the time of the death of Alexander, only Ptolemy was able to maintain his kingdom over the course of the wars. The three major surviving dynasties, were therefore, the Ptolemies in Egypt (which fell to Rome in 47 B.C.), the Seleucid dynasty in old Persia (which gradually fell to the Parthian empire, starting around 250 B.C.), and the Antigonid Dynasty in Greece and Macedonia (which fell to Rome in 168 B.C.). A fourth empire, that of Lysimachus in Asia Minor, existed for the duration of the Diadochi wars, but fell to the Seleucids in 280 B.C.

The principal contenders involved in the Wars of the Diadochi were as follows:


Antigonid DynastyAntigonus I Originally governor of Phrygia. Fell out of favor with Perdiccas, and fought Eumenes (the successor of Perdiccas), for Syria and Persia, but later lost this territory. His descendents, including Demetrius, and Antigonus II established the Antigonid kingdom in Greece and Macedonia.
Ptolemy Dynasty Ptolemy I Appointed governor of Egypt soon after the death of Alexander. He instigated the rebellions against Perdiccas, and later Antigonus, and was involved in virtually all of the Diadochi wars. His descendents were all named Ptolemy.
Seleucid DynastySeleucus I As an aide to Perdiccas, he treacherously murdered his master and thereby was granted the Satrapy of Babylon by Ptolemy. He increased his empire by warring with Antigonus. Many of his descendents were named Antiochus.
  Lysimachus Appointed Governor of Thrace after the death of Alexander. Eventually he made himself King of Greece, Macedonia, and Asia Minor, but abruptly lost his kingdom to Seleucus when they were both in their 70's.
  Antipater Trusted Minister of both Philip and Alexander, he was left in control of Greece and Macedonia while Alexander campaigned in Asia. His son Cassander, regained his kingdom, but his grandsons were unable to hold onto it.
  Perdiccas Regent for all of Alexander's Empire for several years after his death. Many of his generals conspired against him, and he was assassinated. His principal ally Eumenes held onto his kingdom for several years until being killed by Antigonus.
  Craterus Highly esteemed General of Alexander, who was Alexander's choice to rule Macedonia. He allied himself with Antipater, but was killed in early fighting.
  PolyperchonAllied himself with Antipater, and became regent for Greece and Macedonia after his death. Eventually lost control of the empire to Antipater's son Cassander.

Death of Alexander : 323 B.C.


diadochi
 Death of Alexander

Alexander the Great died suddenly in 323 B.C. at the age of 34. He did have an infant son and a brother, but neither was capable of ruling, so for almost ten years, the generals under him jockeyed for territory under the pretense of governing under a unified regency. Immediately after the Death of Alexander, the primary characters were Perdiccas, regent of the entire realm, Antipater, governor of Greece and Macedon, and Ptolemy, who was appointed Satrap of Egypt. Antipater was the most senior administrator, but Perdiccas had been with Alexander at his deathbed, and so had received his signet ring. Perdiccas intended to rule the empire himself, and had many jealous enemies, so several ambitious generals allied themselves with Antipater, including Craterus, Polyperchon, and Antigonus.


Story LinksBook Links
Death of Alexander the Great  in  Story of the Greeks  by  H. A.  Guerber
Death of Alexander  in  Story of Greece  by  Mary  Macgregor
Alexander the Great  in  Story of the Greek People  by  E. M.  Tappan



First War—Overthrow of Perdiccas : 321 B.C.


Eventually Ptolemy joined the rebellion and war broke out in both Asia Minor and Egypt. Eumenes, the most faithful ally of Perdiccas, won a great victory in Asia minor, but at the same time, Perdiccas himself was murdered by Seleucus, one of his own generals. After the death of Perdiccas, Antipater was made regent of the Empire, Ptolemy retained Egypt, Lysimachus retained Thrace, Seleucus was granted Babylon, and Antigonus was granted Asia Minor.


Battle / Outcome
Description
Battle of Pelusium
Ptolemy defeat Perdiccas
Fought B.C. 321, between the Macedonians, under the Regent, Perdiccas, and the Egyptians, under Ptolemy Lagus. Perdiccas attacked the fortress, but was driven off with heavy loss, including 1,000 drowned in the Nile. Perdiccas was later killed by a conspiracy of his generals, lead by Seleucus.



Commander
Short Biography
Ptolemy I General of Alexander, founded Egyptian Dynasty that lasted for 300 years.
Perdiccas Took over the empire of Alexander at his death, but couldn't keep it.

Story LinksBook Links
Olympias and Antipater  in  Pyrrhus  by  Jacob Abbott
Division of the Realm  in  Story of the Greeks  by  H. A.  Guerber
Ptolemy  in  Famous Men of Greece  by  J. H.  Haaren




Second War—Macedonian Succession: Death of Antipater : 319-315 B.C.


The peace held until the death of Antipater. Instead of passing the regency onto his own son, Cassander, Antipater entrusted it to Polyperchon. This soon led to war between Polyperchon, allied with Eumenes in Asia, and Cassander, Antigonus, and Ptolemy, who refused to recognize Polyperchon as regent. Eventually Polyperchon was driven from Greece and fled to Epirus, while in Asia, Antigonus led a long campaign against Eumenes. Eventually, Antigonus defeated Eumenes, and had him killed. Antigonus was now in undisputed control of Asia, Cassander controlled Greece and Macedon, Lysimachus controlled Thrace as well as Asia Minor, and Ptolemy held Egypt and much of Syria.


Battle / Outcome
Description
Battle of Byzantium
Antigonids defeat Eumenes
Fought B.C. 318, between the Macedonian fleet under Antigonus, and that of the Asiatic rebels under Clytus. The Asiatics were surprised at anchor, most of the crews being ashore, and, after a feeble defense, the whole of their fleet was destroyed or captured, with the exception of the admiral's galley, in which Clytus succeeded in escaping.
Battle of Paraetakene Mountains
Eumenes defeat Antigonids
Fought B.C. 316, between the Macedonians, 30,000 strong, under Antigonus, and an equal force of Asiatics, under Eumenes. Eumenes attacked the Macedonian camp, and after a severe engagement, in which the Asiatics held the advantage, Antigonus, by successful maneuvering, withdrew his army without serious loss, leaving Eumenes a barren victory.
Battle of Persepolis
Antigonids defeat Eumenes
Fought B.C. 316, between the Macedonians, 31,000 strong, with 65 elephants, under Antigonus, and 42,000 Asiatics, with 114 elephants, under Eumenes. At the first onslaught, Antigonus' infantry was overwhelmed, but his cavalry retrieved the day, and seizing the enemy's camp, threw Eumenes' phalanx into confusion. Upon this the Macedonian infantry rallied, and gained a complete victory, Eumenes being captured.
Battle of the Copratus
Eumenes defeat Antigonids
Fought B.C. 316, between the Macedonians under Antigonus, and the Asiatics under Eumenes. Each army was about 30,000 strong, and Eumenes fell upon the Macedonians as they were crossing the Copratus, and signally defeated them, though Antigonus was able to retreat in good order.



Commander
Short Biography
Eumenes Enemy of Antigonus, allied with Perdiccas; controlled Asia Minor until killed by Antigonus.
Polyperchon One of Alexander's Generals. Allied with Craterus and Antipater. Fought Cassander for control of Macedonia.
Antigonus I Allied with Antipater and Ptolemy I in early Diadochi Wars. Won control of Asia Minor and Syria.
Cassander Son of Antipater. Wrestled control of Macedonia from Polyperchon. Enemy of Olympias.
Lysimachus Bodyguard of Alexander. Took control of Thrace on his death. Engaged in Wars of Diadochi.

Story LinksBook Links
Last of the Athenians  in  Story of the Greeks  by  H. A.  Guerber
Eumenes  in  Our Young Folks' Plutarch  by  Rosalie  Kaufman




Third War and Fourth Wars—Overthrow of Antigonus : 312-302 B.C.


diadochi
 Demetrius

The third Diadochi war broke out when Antigonus, who already controlled all of Asia, invaded Ptolemy's Syria. Cassander and Lysimachus allied themselves with Ptolemy, and Seleucus took the opportunity to win more territory in the East. Cassander's territory did not border that of Antiochus, but Polyperchon, who allied himself with Antiochus, tried to raise a rebellion in Greece. Eventually Antigonus and his son Demetrius made peace with Ptolemy, Lysimachus, and Cassander, but continued to fight with Seleucus in the East. Also during this war, the son of Alexander and most of Alexander's other relatives were murdered, so there was no longer even a pretense of regency, or a unified empire.

The fourth war of the Diadochi was just a continuation of the third. Antigonus and his son Demetrius were at war simultaneously with Ptolemy in the South, Seleucus in the East, and Lysimachus in the North. After many battles, Antigonus was utterly defeated at the battle of Ipsus (302 B.C.), and his territory split between Lysimachus and Seleucus. The four remaining generals all declared themselves King, and some stability settled onto the region.


Battle / Outcome
Description
Battle of Gaza
Ptolemy defeat Antigonids
Fought B.C. 312, between the Syrians and Egyptians under Seleucus and Ptolemy Soter, 25,000 strong, and an equal force of Macedonians under Demetrius Poliorcetes. The Macedonians were routed, losing 5,000 killed, 8,000 wounded, and all their treasure and baggage.
Battle of Salamis
Antigonids defeat Ptolemy
Fought B.C. 307, between the Macedonian fleet, under Demetrius Poliorcetes, and the Egyptians, under Ptolemy Soter. The Egyptians were routed, with the loss of 100 ships captured and the rest sunk, and 30,000 prisoners.
Battle of Ipsus
Seleucids defeat Antigonids
Fought B.C. 302, between the Syrians, 32,000 strong, under Seleucus, and the Macedonians, 30,000 in number, under Antigonus. Seleucus utterly routed the Macedonians, Antigonus being among the slain. Demetrius Poliorcetes, who now took command, only succeeded in rallying 8,000 men, after fleeing for 200 miles.



Commander
Short Biography
Ptolemy I General of Alexander, founded Egyptian Dynasty that lasted for 300 years.
Seleucus Son of a general of Alexander. Founded Seleucid Dynasty, in Syria and Central Asia.
Lysimachus Bodyguard of Alexander. Took control of Thrace on his death. Engaged in Wars of Diadochi.
Cassander Son of Antipater. Wrestled control of Macedonia from Polyperchon. Enemy of Olympias.
Demetrius Son of Antigonus, active in the wars of the Diadochi.
Antigonus I Allied with Antipater and Ptolemy I in early Diadochi Wars. Won control of Asia Minor and Syria.

Story LinksBook Links
Cassander  in  Pyrrhus  by  Jacob Abbott
Wars in Macedon  in  Pyrrhus  by  Jacob Abbott
Golden Shoes and Two Crowns  in  Children's Plutarch: Tales of the Greeks  by  F. J.  Gould
Colossus of Rhodes  in  Story of the Greeks  by  H. A.  Guerber
Battle of Ipsus  in  Story of the Greeks  by  H. A.  Guerber
Demetrius and the Athenians  in  Story of the Greeks  by  H. A.  Guerber
Demetrius  in  Our Young Folks' Plutarch  by  Rosalie  Kaufman




Fifth War—Macedonian Succession: Death of Cassander : 298-285 B.C.


The Fifth war of the Diadochi involved the succession to the throne of Macedon and Greece, when Cassander died. Neither of his two sons was fit to rule, but they did manage to instigate a civil war. The younger son brought in Demetrius to assert his claim, but soon enough both Pyrrhus, and Lysimachus jumped into the fray. Eventually Demetrius was driven out, and then Lysimachus split with Pyrrhus, who was preoccupied elsewhere, and seized the Macedonian throne for himself.


Commander
Short Biography
Demetrius Son of Antigonus, active in the wars of the Diadochi.
Lysimachus Bodyguard of Alexander. Took control of Thrace on his death. Engaged in Wars of Diadochi.
Pyrrhus Renowned general, won victories in Macedon, Italy, and Greece, but failed to follow up wins.

More War—Lysimachus vs. Seleucus, Invasion of Gauls : 285-275 B.C.


So far, so good, but now things get really complicated:

As we begin the next chapter, there were only three Diadochi kingdoms: Ptolemy in Egypt, Seleucus in Asia, and Lysimachus in Macedonia. Demetrius and his dynasty were out of the picture in Asia Minor, but still held some territory on the Greek mainland. But now succession problems begin. In Egypt there was contention between two sons of Ptolemy, Philadelphia and Ceranus for the throne. Ceranus was bypassed and fled to Seleucus. In Asia Minor, the second wife of Lysimachus arranged for the murder of his eldest son to clear the way for her son. The wife of the murdered son then took refuge with Seleucus, and induced him to declare war on Lysimachus. After leaving his successor Antiochus Soter, on the throne in Asia, 81 year-old Seleucus marched to meet Lysimachus and defeated him at Corupedium. Lysimachus was killed in battle, but Seleucus was also murdered by Ptolemy Ceranus who then seized the throne of Macedonia. He did not hold it for long though, since he was soon killed by Gauls who had crossed the Danube and invaded Thrace.

After the breakup of the empire of Lysimachus, there was much confusion in Asia Minor. Philetaerus, a general of Lysimachus seized the region of Pergamon, and established the Attalid dynasty there that lasted until Roman time. His son Eumenes contended with Antiochus Soter for control of Asia Minor, and won a good deal of territory there, but the Gauls continued to wreak havoc for several years in the region. After five year of chaos, most of the Gauls were finally driven out of Thrace (although some settled done in the "Galatian" region of Asia Minor). The general who successfully drove the Gauls out of Macedonia was none other than Antigonus Gonatas, son of Demetrius. It was therefore, the Antigonid Dynasty, originally founded in Syria by Antigonus I, that ended up on the throne of Macedonia, and it was that family that ruled Greece until it fell to Rome in 146 B.C.

Finally, nearly fifty years after the death of Alexander, relatively stable dynasties ruled Alexander's kingdom. The Ptolemies ruled Egypt and Southern Judea until the Age of Cleopatra, the Attalids ruled in Asia Minor, became allies of Rome and eventually voluntarily became a Roman province, and the Seleucid Dynasty, ruled much of the old Persian empire until being gradually conquered by the Parthians in the East, and Rome in the west.


Battle / Outcome
Description
Battle of
defeat
Battle of Sardis
Ionian Greeks defeat Persians
In 498 the Greek cities of Asia minor revolted from Persia, and burned Sardis, the regional capital, to the ground.
Battle of Ephesus
Gauls defeat Antigonids
Fought B.C. 262, between the Syrians, under Antigonus, and the Gallic invaders. Antigonus was disastrously defeated.



Commander
Short Biography
Lysimachus Bodyguard of Alexander. Took control of Thrace on his death. Engaged in Wars of Diadochi.
Seleucus Son of a general of Alexander. Founded Seleucid Dynasty, in Syria and Central Asia.
Eumenes of Pergamon Son of Philetaerus, who took control of Pergamon when Lysimachus was killed.
Antiochus I Soter Son of Seleucus I, reigned from B.C 282 to 261.


Story LinksBook Links
Family of Lysimachus  in  Pyrrhus  by  Jacob Abbott
Reconquest of Macedon  in  Pyrrhus  by  Jacob Abbott
Apollo the Defender  in  Helmet and Spear  by  A. J. Church



Map Links
Kindoms of the Diadochi
Macedonian Empire after the Battle of Ipsus (301 B.C.)