Wars of the Diadochi: Generals of Alexander the Great in the struggle for power

(ORDO NEWS) — When June 10-11, 323 BC. Alexander the Great died on his deathbed, the iconoclast emperor, whose outstanding achievements will be imitated by countless parodies throughout history, addressed the loyal generals around him with the last words: “for the better.”

It is likely that Alexander, who had no clear heir to take his place, understood that his death would spark a war for dominance over his conquests that stretched as far as Eshat of Alexandria in present-day Tajikistan, as his once unified empire broke up into several separate warring kingdoms. .

Being one of the brightest military minds in the world, he knew that only the “best” would be able to reunite his dominions, since after his death, numerous pretenders to the throne, the Diadochi, fought for dominance.

The Diadochi, who hoped to create their own independent principalities, included Pharaoh Ptolemy I Soter of Egypt, Lysimachus, a former bodyguard of Alexander, who settled in Thrace, as well as Antipater and later Cassander in Macedonia and Greece.

Elsewhere, Antigonius Monofathalmus in Asia Minor and Seleucus I Nicator in the east harbored even greater territorial aspirations, and a few decades after Alexander’s death they would both attempt to take the place of Alexander the Great by connecting the cracks of his once-great kingdom.

This was a task that would lead to a direct confrontation between the two claimants, the most dramatic and important of these clashes over the eastern lands during the Babylonian War of 310 BC. and the Battle of Ipsus in 301 BC.

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The Diadochi who fought for the empire that Alexander the Great united under his rule were almost all Macedonians. Depictions of ancient Macedonian warriors, weapons and weaponry, from the tomb of Agios Athanasios, Thessaloniki in Greece, 4th century BC e

The Appearance of the Diadochi: Possible Heirs of Alexander

After the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BC. power passed to his loyal lieutenant Perdiccas, whose original purpose was to choose a suitable successor to the illustrious conqueror.

The first choice was Alexander’s half-brother, Arrhidaeus, son of Philip II and Philinna of Larissa, who was presumably mentally handicapped. The second choice was the hereditary Tsar Alexander IV, who lived in the womb of Alexander’s wife, Roxana, and ended up being born two months after Alexander’s death.

A heated debate broke out within the royal household, as Alexander’s military leaders continued to disagree on his successor. Many were worried about the prospect of waiting for the birth of Alexander IV, others argued that Roxana and her child were not full-blooded Macedonians.

Although Arrhidaeus was mentally handicapped, his ancestry certainly was not, existing as Alexander’s most direct relative. As discussion progressed, royal intrigues escalated into open conflict when Meleager, an infantry commander, and his comrades staged a coup to forcibly put Arrhidaeus on the throne as King Philip III.

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This scene of Alexander the Great’s death marked the beginning of the struggle for his empire, with the so-called heirs of the Diadochi fighting each other and others for pieces of the empire

Perdiccas, who advocated the accession of Alexander IV, brutally suppressed the rebellion of Meleager, after which the generals decided to postpone their differences, at least for a while, until the birth of the infant Alexander IV.

Together with Arrhidaeus, Alexander and Roxana were transferred to Macedonia and placed under the protection of Antipater I, a devoted acolyte of Alexander the Great who had watched over Macedonia and Greece for him since 334, when the unstoppable warrior king began to slash his eastern provinces in Persia.

It was at this point that Roxana decided to eliminate petty rivals by killing Alexander’s second wife, Strateria, and her sister, Drypetis, and dumping their bodies into a well. As long as Arrhidaeus, the other heir, remained unscathed, the seeds of conflict grew.

Meleager’s rebellion set the tone, and shortly thereafter every prominent lord and magnate began to fight for a piece of Alexander’s kingdom.

The first was Leosthenes with his armies of Greek mercenaries who had returned from Bactria to seize the tempting opportunity to finally end Macedonian domination in Athens and Aetolia.

The Lamian War was ended when the combined forces of Antipater and Crater defeated the Greek renegades and reasserted power at the Battle of Crannon.

Shortly thereafter, the Babylonian partition divided the empire into five separate policies. Antigonius Monofathalmus, nicknamed “One-eyed”, and his son Demetrius received Asia Minor, Ptolemy I Soter – Egypt, Lysimachus received Thrace, Antipater, his faithful commander Crater, and later Cassander, received the lands of Macedonia and Greece, and Eumenes received Cappadocia.

Over the next few decades, these selected best men of Alexander will outlive and outlast almost everyone in their quest to be “the best.” The wars of these men, the Diadochi, continued for four separate wars throughout Alexander’s empire.

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The First Diadochi War, which took place between 322 and 321 BC. BC, arose because of the mutual hostility of Perdikka and the Egyptian ruler Ptolemy I Soter

First Diadochi War

The First Diadochi War, which took place between 322 and 321 BC. BC, arose because of the mutual hostility of Perdikka and the Egyptian ruler Ptolemy I Soter. Perdiccas wanted to wait for the birth of Alexander IV, and the impatient Ptolemy I Soter wanted to divide the kingdom as quickly as possible.

The other Diadochi also despised Perdiccas, who nurtured his own territorial ambitions after his attempted invasion of Asia Minor. Antigonius refused to help Eumenes keep his territory in Cappadocia, forcing Perdiccas to strike back.

As a result, the Diadochi, united by distrust of Perdiccas, united to overthrow the troublesome successor. Ptolemy I Soter undertook the first gambit by stealing the body of Alexander the Great from Perdiccas and taking it to his stronghold in Memphis.

Perdiccas’ counter-incursions into Egypt were unsuccessful, and after three unsuccessful Nile crossings and the death of 2,000 of his men after the defeat at the Camel Fort in Egypt, he was driven out and killed by his disillusioned army on the banks of the River Nile. The Diadochi remained relatively unscathed in this skirmish, and only Craterus, Antipater’s loyal general, met his death by falling off his horse.

Ptolemy I Soter received invaluable help from Antipater, Lysimachus, Antigonus, and Seleucus, Alexander’s eastern commander, who received the eastern territories of Babylonia as a reward. As a result, Seleucus entered the fray as another global player seeking to take over Alexander’s vast lands.

In the Treaty of Triparade, the boundaries of the territories of the Diadochi were once again confirmed under the rule of Antipater. In Babylonia, the power of Seleucus was established at the same time that the territories of Ptolemy in Egypt, Lysimachus in Thrace, and Antigonus in Asia Minor were settled.

Only in Macedonia and Greece, after the death of Antipater in 319, internal strife flared up. Ignoring his son Cassander, whom he considered not strong enough to rule, Antipater appointed Polyperchon as his successor, unwittingly starting a civil war over Macedonian and Greek dominions.

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The borders of the empire of Alexander in black lines and the kingdom of the Diadochi (colored)

Second and third Diadochian wars

The second and third Diadochi wars, from 318 to 311, were a period of intense conflict as the Diadochi fought to the point of exhaustion to expand and defend their dominions.

In Macedonia and Greece, Cassander finally ousted Polyperchon with the help of Antigonius, creating strongholds in Piraeus and the Peloponnese islands, and also legitimizing his power through marriage with the daughter of Philip II of Thessaloniki.

Polyperchon, who entered into an alliance with the Epirus king Olympius, also protected Roxana and Alexander IV. Roxana continued to crack down on potential rivals, killing Arrhidaeus in 316, and joined Polyperchon and his coalition to keep her son’s birthright.

Cassander, realizing that Roxana and Alexander IV remained an ongoing threat, killed them both in 310 along with Olympia, who was stabbed to death by his own soldiers. As a result, Cassander received unlimited power in the former heart of Alexander’s empire, since all his heirs were finally removed from power.

Elsewhere, Antigonius defeated the ruler of Cappadocia, Eumenes, who was executed in 316 after betraying his people, thus establishing sovereignty over much of Asia Minor.

Filled with confidence, Antigonius launched another attack, this time against Seleucus in Babylonia, successfully depriving the Persian monarch, who had fled under the protection of Ptolemy I Soter, of his eastern satrapies at the Battle of Gabiene.

In 312, Seleucus again entered Babylonia, this time with Ptolemy’s forces, causing Seleucus to retake Babylonia at the Battle of Gaza.

In addition, Lysimachus, lord of Thrace, who up to this point had avoided conflict with Diadochus, was also drawn into an alliance against Antigony in 311 after the invasion of the Asia Minor ruler in the Black Sea coastal regions.

A brief period of peace that year, called the Peace of the Dynasties, provided a welcome respite for the defeated armies of the Diadochi, who took advantage of this respite to further mobilize their armies.

However, trouble was brewing in the east: Antigonius was developing plans to retake Babylon from the Seleucids in a conflict that was called the Babylonian War.

In 310, Antigonius invaded Babylon, launching a guerrilla campaign in the streets of the mythical eastern bastion and then sacking and plundering the surrounding cities and countryside.

With Seleucus weakened, in April 309 Antigonius gained the upper hand after capturing the strategically important settlement of Kutkha and appointing an official governor of Babylon.

While Antigonius systematically devastated Babylonia, Seleucus, based in the city of Borsippa and experiencing a shortage of people, was waiting for reinforcements from the east, preparing to fight with his enemy.

In August 309, Seleucus took Antigonius’ camp by surprise just before dawn, and in the confusion Antigonius was forced to surrender and make an agreement.

From this point on, the aging Antigonius, now in his seventies, gave up his dream of an eastern wing of his empire, and Seleucus’ dominions were finally established at the Battle of Ipsus almost ten years later.

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The Battle of Ipsus was the decisive battle between the warring factions of the Diadochi: Antigonius and Demetrius faced Lysimachus, Cassander and Ptolemy

Fourth Diadochi War and Battle of Ipsus

For Ptolemy, Seleucus, Lysimachus, and Cassander, the fourth Diadochi war, from 308 to 301, was fought mainly to check the territorial expansion of Antigonius and his growing son Demetrius, who of all the Diadochi were most interested in reviving Alexander’s original dominions.

The basing of Antigonus in Asia Minor and Demetrius’ attacks on Greece illustrated the desire for an empire as the father-son duo attempted to create a western and eastern core of power.

To achieve his goals, Demetrius, the growing son of Antigonus, first directed his efforts to the conquest of Greece, and in 307 he managed to take the ancient city of Athens from the ruler of Cassander, Demetrius of Phalerum.

In 306, Demetrius was victorious again, effectively defeating Ptolemy’s fleets and taking control of the island of Cyprus, which had the added benefit of relieving pressure on Antigony in Asia Minor.

In 305 Demetrius continued his advances, this time at the siege of Rhodes. Demetrius bombarded the city with a deadly weapon called the “Governor of the City” – a multi-story wooden tower with protected holes, which fired deadly sharp darts and huge boulders at the city walls.

Despite Demetrius’ military superiority, Ptolemy, wanting to avenge his past failures, was able to effectively cut off and intercept Demetrius’ supply lines in the Mediterranean, forcing Demetrius to end the siege and enter into negotiations.

Demetrius remained unfazed as he continued to pursue Cassander’s possessions in Greece during 303 and 302. Cassander was so unsettled by the constant attacks of Demetrius that the only way out for him was to turn to Lysimachus for military support.

As a result, the Thracian ruler sent his troops to Asia Minor, and Demetrius was forced to abandon Greece in order to come to the aid of his father. During this period, after regaining his provinces in 309 after the Babylonian War, Seleucus quietly fortified his eastern borders.

It was here that Seleucus made contact with the great Indian emperor Chandragupta, who gave Seleucus 500 war elephants to cement their friendship. Unknown to the wider world, the fruits of Seleucus’s inconspicuous diplomacy determined the course of history as the culmination of the Diadochian Wars unfolded.

The Battle of Ipsus in 301 was a decisive battle between the warring factions: Antigonius and Demetrius faced Lysimachus, Cassander and Ptolemy.

When the battle began, Seleucus and his son Antiochus suddenly appeared with a huge army of men and a squadron of war elephants, presented to them by the Indian Maharajas, and suddenly the armies of both sides were even, as Demetrius rushed to Antiochus to start a bloody slaughter.

Demetrius successfully ousted Antiochus from the field, but his overzealousness proved to be his undoing. Since Demetrius’ contingent was far away, Antigonius’ flank was left unprotected and Seleucus attacked him, resulting in a large number of surrenders.

Then Seleucus blocked Demetrius’ path to his father with his war elephants, and Antigonius was left without sufficient support. A volley of spears tore Antigonius to pieces, and Demetrius, realizing that all was lost,

Legacy of the Babylonian War and the Battle of Ipsus

The Battle of Ipsus set the stage for the creation of two major dynasties that would dominate history for the next few centuries. In Egypt, the Ptolemaic dynasty held power until 30 BC, and under Seleucus, the Seleucid Empire, the mortal enemy of the first Romans, was born.

Demetrius, who became a wandering king without a kingdom, was not so fortunate, and although he became king of Macedon in 297 after the death of Cassander, he was overthrown only a few years later by a coalition of Lysimachus and Seleucus, dying ingloriously in captivity in 283.

After Lysimachus was killed at the Battle of Korupedia in 281, Seleucus became the last surviving Diadochus, but his dreams of an empire spanning two continents were soon shattered when he was slain by Ptolemy Cerenus, son of Ptolemy, at the end of that year.

Despite this, the foundations of the Seleucid Empire had already been laid thanks to Seleucus’ victories during the Babylonian War and the Battle of Ipsus, a series of battles that finally undermined the dominance of Antigonius and Demetrius.


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