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320 – 239 BC





Chapter I. The Teachers of Antigonus

Chapter II. The Empire of Demetrios on Land

Chapter III. The Empire of Demetrios over the Sea

Chapter IV. The Fall of Demetrios.

Chapter V. Antigonus as Pretender

Chapter VI. The Coming of the Celts

Chapter VII. Antigonus and Macedonia

Chapter VIII. Antigonus and his Circle

Chapter IX. The Reckoning with Pyrrhus

Chapter X. The First War with Egypt

Chapter XI. The Lost Years

Chapter XII. The Second Struggle with Egypt

Chapter XIII. The Reckoning with Egypt 

Chapter XIV. The Younger Generation 


A. Bouche-Leclerq, Histoire des Lagides (1903-7).

t. 1. Les cinq premiers Ptolémées (323-181 avant J.-C.)-

t. 2. Décadence et fin de la dynastie (181-30 avant J.-C.)-

t. 3. Les institutions de l'Egypte ptolémaique.

t. 4. Les institutions de l'Egypte ptolémaique, suite et fin


W. S. Ferguson, Hellenistic Athens

The international law and custom of ancient Greece and Rome, 1

The international law and custom of ancient Greece and Rome, 2



No part of Greek history should come home to us like the third century B.C. It is the only period that we can in the least compare with our own; indeed, in some ways it is quite startlingly modern. We meet with half the things that we ourselves do, half the problems that we ourselves know. The days of Salamis or of Sophocles are as remote from the men of that time as the days of Shakespeare or the Spanish Armada from ourselves. All the horizons have widened and opened out; civilization pulsates with new life, and an eager desire to try all things. Almost all the barriers are already down. Men may think as they please, speak as they please, believe as they please. An astronomer who proclaims that the earth goes round the sun risks nothing worse from the orthodox than a few hard words. No man’s religion is anyone else’s matter, save for a lingering feeling, occasionally translated into action by some Government, against anyone who proclaims himself altogether an atheist, acknowledging no god at all. Amid the clash of creeds old and new, solicited alike by the philosophies of the West and the more intimate worships of the East, each man is free to choose his own guide, whether for this life or another.

But he is, as a rule, thinking rather of this life than of any other. For there is so much to be done; nothing less than the conquest, material, social, intellectual, of a whole new world. In his desire to master that world, he shrinks from no effort, and he achieves. The dark places of the earth contract before him; one language now takes him from the Rhone to the Indus, from the Caspian to the Cataracts. He measures the planet on which he live; he is taking the first tentative steps to reduce it to its true insignificance in the heavens. He despises its distances. A modern general might hesitate to raid Babylon from a base in Syria, as did Demetrios; a modern contractor might think twice about bringing five hundred fighting elephants overland from the Punjab to the Mediterranean, as did Seleucos. And while Pyrgoteles of Cyprus is building that triakonteres which no modern shipyard would care to try and reconstruct, a philosopher is asking how it would affect man, could he fly.

Socially, the man of the third century creates with both hands. His world, like ours, is a complex of states, big and little, almost all bound together by the tie of one dominant civilization. Asiatic peoples too are adopting that civilization; Asiatic men are thronging to his universities. Every form of constitution shall be experimented with; and the little orthodox republics see Kingship stand forth as a vital formative principle and Federalism take to itself new scope and activity; see too, as we see today, an experiment in the combination of both. Here and there, timidly emerging from Federalism, and doomed to be stifled almost as soon as born, can be traced what looks like the germ of representative government itself. The balance of power has become a reality and a preoccupation; and because the sea unites, every State turns its thoughts to the sea. The great land powers are taking eagerly to the water; and the Governments are contending with each other in the provision of larger and ever larger warships. But while war at sea, with its triple risk of steely fire, and water, is no less terrible than it has always been,—danger, ran the proverb, is the forward bench of the fighting galley,—war on land, though still half of the business of mankind, is gradually losing something of its pristine horror. The old rules indeed survive, but a strict application of them to the vanquished now raises fierce protest. Arbitration has taken on a new spirit, and is rapidly gaining upon war; and though there is no Geneva Convention, there is a great and growing movement at work to exempt temple after temple and town after town from liability to attack, to create a series of centres of immunity. National and social antipathies are still plentiful enough and fierce enough; but in their despite a few have already begun to preach the brotherhood of man. With the brotherhood of man comes the emancipation of woman; queens apart, it moves slowly as yet, but it moves; and no one will ever more openly defy more conventions than the well-to-do and respectable Hipparchia.

Intellectually, the movement is all toward reality, to get closer to actual life as lived by men, not in this or that compartment of their existence, but in every way possible. Imperfect as yet, and cumbered with much rubbish, naturally; but men’s faces are set in the right direction. The best brains are at work on two very great things: one is the philosophy of conduct, of which something will have to be said later; the other is physical science. Science has indeed thrown wide her gates; her disciples are numerous and devoted; insatiable is men’s thirst for the fact. There is everything to know, and some of it becomes known; it is but a few years since a third-century text-book was still used in English schools. And with science comes much else. There is a new outburst of poetry, pouring itself into many strange moulds and unaccustomed forms, but always with that one aim, to get closer to some aspect of life. The old formal oratory, the grand style, is passing away, as today; men have too much to do for set speeches. There are various schools of history, and much debate as to how it should be written; and if but few of its exponents are prepared to sacrifice everything to the truth, that too has a flavour, if not of today, at any rate of yesterday. Universities,—properly incorporated and endowed societies for the worship of the Muses,—are in full working order. Scholarship is already held in honour; here is Dryasdust,—Chalkenteros they will presently call him,—there the first Corpus of Inscriptions; the Homeric question shyly dawns on the sacrilegious Separatists. Expert wars with expert, and rejoices. In one sphere, philosophy, the popularizer is already at work, giving attractive lectures for those who have not the time, or the inclination, for real study, and preaching in all its glory the modern gospel of the short cut. It takes, at times, something of an effort to realize that this world is, after all, alien and far distant; a world in which our industrialism was replaced by slavery, in which no sea and few coasts were ever safe from the slave-raider, and half mankind lived a travesty of a life; a world in which, in place of great machines, there were giants, men grown so great that their fellow men could only express it by worshipping them as gods; strangest perhaps of all, a world of which the rulers, rough soldiers whose thrones had been won by their own or their fathers’ swords, generally held wealth or long descent in less honour than intellectual distinction.

The record of this world is a wreck, the worst wreck in all Greek history. For eighty years we have no attempt at a continuous narrative, unless such wretched stuff as Justin’s compilation can be dignified by that name; for large sections of these eighty years we have no attempt at a narrative at all. Even the epigraphical material is sometimes wasted through utter uncertainty where to place it. But it was not always so. If some part of that eighty years seems never to have been covered by any really good narrative, so far at least as concerns Macedonia, for another part of it the material was once abundant and of good quality, indeed almost uniquely so. It still remains for someone to investigate the causes which have led to this very complete destruction of the history of the third century, and to ascertain whether it may not be the case that some part of the loss is not entirely due to accident.

Of the third-century kings, Antigonus Gonatas is undoubtedly the most interesting. For he was a good deal more than the second founder of the Macedonian monarchy, the head of the dynasty that for over a century shielded Greek civilization from the flood of northern barbarism, till Rome was able and willing to take up the work. He was the one monarch before Marcus Aurelius whom philosophy could definitely claim as her own, and to whom she could and did look to translate into fact what she envisaged as theory. And the curious thing about Antigonus’ reign is, that the scraps and fragments of our tradition, mutilated as it is, do nevertheless combine, not into larger scraps and fragments, but into a sort of definite whole; and it is as a whole that the attempt is made here to represent it. This is the sufficient reason for treating it by itself; in any general history of the period its unity must, and does, become obscured. It is, too, only of very recent years that new material from Delos has enabled us to form any idea, however imperfect, of this reign in its relations to the sea.

The natural starting-point is the year 294, when Demetrios became king of Macedonia, rather than the year 288, when he was expelled from that country. But Antigonus’ own activity dates from before 294; and as regards the relations of the Antigonid dynasty to the sea, the events of the years 315 to 245 form one connected whole. It may be advisable, therefore, while treating 294 as the starting-point, to give here a very brief outline of the fortunes of Antigonus’ house from the death of Alexander; as regards the sea, certain points in this outline will have to be filled in later.

Alexander died at Babylon in the summer of 323. He left no heir to his huge empire, but his queen Roxane was expecting the birth of a child: a regency was formed under Perdiccas, to whom he had, when already past speech, given his ring. Owing to the action of the army, the kingship became vested jointly in two persons, Philip Arrhidaios, an illegitimate half-witted son of Philip II, and the son, Alexander, to whom Roxane soon afterwards gave birth. Antipatros, the contemporary and trusted minister of Philip II, continued to govern Macedonia and so much of Greece as was Macedonian, as he had done during Alexander’s lifetime; while Krateros, the best loved of Alexander’s generals, received the special office of ‘protector of the kingdom of Philip’, a post of which the meaning is obscure. But irreconcilable differences lost no time in showing themselves among the generals. Perdiccas made himself unpopular; and matters came to a head in the autumn of 322, when Antigonus the One-eyed, satrap of Phrygia, had to fly for his life from the regent.

Antigonus, like Antipatros, belonged to an older generation than that of Alexander. The tradition says that he was not even a member of the Macedonian aristocracy, but was a yeoman farmer; and the tradition may be true, for, in spite of his enormous ability, Alexander had not taken him with him to the conquest of Asia, but had left him behind as governor of the not particularly important province of Phrygia. Antigonus now fled to Antipatros; and when, in the spring of 321, Krateros fell in battle, Antigonus sought and obtained for his son Demetrios the hand of Antipatros’ daughter Phila, Krateros’ widow. Of this marriage, which must have taken place in the winter of 321/0, were born two children; a son Antigonus, called Gonatas, and a daughter Stratonice.

On the murder of Perdiccas in the spring of 321 Antipatros became regent of the empire. He meant honestly by the kings, and had them brought to Europe; to everyone else, unless it was to the Greek Eumenes, who now led the remains of Perdiccas’ party, they were only pawns in the game. In the summer of 321 Antipatros made a new distribution of provinces, and, among other things, restored Antigonus to his Phrygian satrapy, considerably enlarged, with the commission to carry on the war against Eumenes; this gave Antigonus control of a large army. Antipatros himself died in 319, a blow to Alexander’s house that nothing could make good. He nominated as his successor in the regency Polyperchon, a good soldier but an incapable states­man; Antipatros has been blamed for his selection, but in fact he had little choice, for the ambitions of the more capable men were too manifest. The struggle between Antigonus and Eumenes, who was supported by Polyperchon in Macedonia, was waged with varying success, and lasted till the winter of 316, when Antigonus captured Eumenes and had him executed; this success left Antigonus at the head of a devoted army of veterans and in the strongest single position of any one of the Successors. He practically controlled Asia from the Hellespont to India.

Great changes had meanwhile taken place in the position of the royal family in Europe. Antipatros’ son Kassandros had successfully established himself in Macedonia, and Philip Arrhidaios, or rather his ambitious wife Eurydice acting in his name, had in 317 purported to depose Polyperchon from the regency and to nominate Kassandros in his place. Thereupon Polyperchon called to his aid Alexander’s terrible mother, the Epirot Olympias, who had been kept in the background while Antipatros lived. She saw in Philip’s existence an insult to herself and a threat to her grandson, whom she was ready to champion. Her name was still a power in Macedonia; supported by Aiakides of Epirus, she entered the country in Kassandros’ absence; the Macedonians refused to fight against her, and she seized and murdered Philip and Eurydice and many of Kassandros’ friends. But Kassandros was too strong for the coalition; he captured Olympias, together with Roxane and her son; and sentence passed by the army ended the old queen’s life. It is said that the proud woman refused to plead her cause, and that Kassandros could find none to execute the sentence but the actual relatives of the men she had murdered.

Two tendencies had been clearly manifested among the Successors from the beginning. There were those who, like Ptolemy, the satrap of Egypt, saw clearly that the huge shapeless empire, nominally the heritage of an infant and an idiot, must break into fractions, and resolved to obtain a definite fraction as a kingdom for themselves. There were those, on the other hand, who desired, whether genuinely (as Antipatros and doubtless Eumenes), or as a colourable pretence (as Perdiccas), to attempt to hold the empire together for the kings. A third tendency was now to show itself, in the person of Antigonus; a desire to grasp the whole inheritance of Alexander for himself, without any reference to the royal family at all. In fact, as soon as Eumenes was disposed of, Antigonus’ inordinate ambition at once became visible, and led to a coalition against him in 315 of Ptolemy, Kassandros, and Lysimachus, satrap of Thrace. Four years of hard but indeterminate fighting followed; the most important event was the restoration by Ptolemy of Seleucos to his satrapy of Babylon, from which he had been driven by Antigonus. In 311 the war ended in a general but short-lived peace.

The results of ten years’ constant warfare on a great scale were by now taking shape. Polyperchon, though still controlling an army, had lost all authority and could do no more than maintain himself in the Peloponnese. The great satraps had become kings in all but name; the smaller men were nearly all eliminated, and the definite realms were taking shape. The far-seeing Ptolemy was firmly established in Egypt, with his capital at Alexandria. Babylon, and the east beyond the Euphrates, appeared definitely to be Seleucus; he was building himself a new capital, Seleucia on the Tigris. Lysimachus of Thrace had formed a strong realm in the north, with its centre in the Thracian Chersonese, where he was soon to build himself a new capital, Lysimacheia. Kassandros held Macedonia, and had brought part of Greece, including Athens, under his sway; he had built himself a new capital, Kassandreia, on the spot where Potidaia had once stood. In the centre of these four states lay the huge realm of Antigonus. He held Syria and the Asiatic provinces from the Hellespont to Egypt, from the Euphrates to the Mediterranean; at sea he had the strongest fleet; and he could strike where he would at the circle about him. But it was a circle; he was ringed in.

The year after the peace saw the end of the nominal kingship of Alexander’s son; he and his mother, Roxane, were murdered by Kassandros. None living was likely to strike an honest blow for the house of Alexander. In spirit it was dead already; Kassandros only translated thought into action. The odium fell on him alone; all alike reaped the benefit. Antigonus’ position, in particular, became absolutely clear. Whether he was deliberately aiming at the sole dominion of the whole empire or not, the other rulers certainly believed that he was, and believed that his ambition threatened their very existence. All drew together in face of the coming storm.

In 307 the storm burst. Antigonus’ son Demetrios, now a man of twenty-nine or thirty, sailed for Greece with a great force, swept Kassandros out of Athens and the Megarid, and received the warmest of welcomes from the Athenian democracy. In 306, while Antigonus was building his new capital in Syria, Antigoneia on the Orontes, Demetrios turned his attention to Ptolemy; with a fleet 118 strong he sailed for Cyprus, and audaciously blockaded the Egyptian fleet of 60 ships in the harbour of Salamis with only io galleys, while with the remainder he put to sea to meet the relieving fleet of 140 ships, which was being brought up by Ptolemy in person. In the ensuing battle Demetrios succeeded in putting into practice at sea aversion of the tactics introduced by Epaminondas on land; massing his strength on his left wing, he crushed Ptolemy’s right, and then turned successfully against the centre; the Egyptian fleet was all but annihilated, and the squadron in Salamis surrendered. Demetrios never had again to fight at sea. His father and he each took the title of king; for the moment it must have seemed that they held the destinies of the world in their hands. An invasion of Egypt by land and sea followed, but Fortune turned her face, and the undertaking failed; while the next year, 305, was wasted over the siege of Rhodes, an heroic struggle that brought no less renown to Demetrios the Besieger than to the stubborn and successful islanders, but of which the results, from Antigonus’ point of view, were quite incommensurate with the expenditure of men, material, and time. Peace was not made with Rhodes till 304; and the delay enabled Kassandros to advance and lay siege to Athens, while Polyperchon was conquering the Peloponnese. Demetrios, whose energy at this period of his life was not inferior to that of Alexander himself, flew back to Greece; he drove off Kassandros, and by 303 had conquered Boeotia, mid-Greece, and a large part of the Peloponnese. Thereupon he carried out two measures of great political importance; he married the Epirot princess Deidameia, sister of Pyrrhus, who as a child had been selected to be the future bride of Alexander’s son and empress of the world; and he revived the League of Corinth, the league which Philip II had founded, and at whose head Alexander had conquered Asia. The Greek states, assembled at the Isthmus, elected Demetrios general by sea and land in the war against Kassandros; armed with this mandate, he invaded Thessaly in the next year; the conquest of Macedonia looked but a question of time. Time, however, was the one thing no longer at Demetrios’ disposal. While he had tarried over the siege of Rhodes, the fate of his house had been settled on the banks of the Indus. Seleucus of Babylon, unable to make head against Chandragupta, the new monarch of a united Northern India, had come to terms; he had ceded his provinces along the Indus, which doubtless he could not have held in any case, in return for 500 trained war elephants. The beasts were successfully marched across Asia, and with their arrival the crisis came. Antigonus was ringed by a world in arms; Seleucus was moving against him from the east, Lysimachus from the north; Ptolemy from the south was invading Hollow Syria. He was forced to recall Demetrios from Europe; and Demetrios, hastily arranging a truce with Kassandros, returned to Asia. Kassandros succeeded in throwing across some of his troops to the aid of Lysimachus; and the king of Thrace, his army thus stiffened, by a series of brilliant marches outmanoeuvred Antigonus, who sought to crush him while unaided, and effected his junction with Seleucus. Demetrios, too, had joined his father; and in the late summer of 301, at Ipsos in Phrygia, the two armies met in one of the great struggles of history, to decide the fate of half the world. Antigonus is said to have had over 70,000 infantry, 10,000 cavalry, and 75 elephants; Seleucus and Lysimachus had 64,000 foot, 10,500 horse, 120 chariots, and 480 elephants. Demetrios, charging at the head of the cavalry massed on the left wing, as usual scattered his immediate opponents; doubtless he designed to repeat the victorious tactics of Salamis. But he found, as so many cavalry leaders in antiquity found, that a great mass of horsemen, riding without stirrups, and once fairly launched, could not, like galleys, be turned at a signal; the impetus of his men swept him on too far; and he returned to find the battle over. Seleucus’ elephants had trampled out the hopes of the house of Antigonus; the old king himself lay dead on the lost field.

No longer king of kings, Demetrios fled with a small force to Ephesus, and sailed for Europe, giving up Asia as lost, save for a few fortresses; while Seleucus and Lysimachus divided the Asiatic empire of Antigonus, on terms that Lysimachus took the provinces to the north of Tauros and Seleucus those to the south, except Cilicia, which was given to Kassandros’ brother, Pleistarchos. Demetrios turned first to Athens, the city where six years before he had been welcomed as a deliverer and worshipped as a god; there he had left his treasure, his ships, and his wife Deidameia; in the goodwill of Athens was sure refuge. The Athenians sent Deidameia to Megara, handed over the ships and the treasure, and closed their gates upon the fugitive: it is recorded that the Besieger felt this as a worse blow than the field of Ipsos. With Athens went Euboea and central Greece; but Demetrios’ garrisons saved for him Corinth and a good deal of the Peloponnese, while his command of the sea was still absolute. Leaving his brother-in-law, Pyrrhus, the future king of Epirus, to command for him in Greece, he sailed at the head of his fleet to the Thracian Chersonese, and there succeeded in inflicting some damage on Lysimachus, who was his irreconcilable personal enemy, and whom he bitterly hated. Lysimachus, a very good soldier with a reputation for meanness, had come off very well in the division of Antigonus’ kingdom; he was on good terms with Kassandros, and Ptolemy, whose daughter, Arsinoe, he was presently to many, was already making advances to him. For Ptolemy had sent no troops to Ipsos, but had occupied Hollow Syria while the other kings were fighting; and as he had no intention of returning it to Seleucus, to whom by right it belonged, he was looking for friends against a possible day of reckoning. Seleucus suddenly found himself isolated in the face of an informal league of Ptolemy, Lysimachus, and Kassandros; and as he could not take direct measures against Ptolemy, to whom he had lately owed both life and kingdom, he looked about for a makeweight, and found it in Demetrios.

The alliance of the two was celebrated at Rhossos in Syria with great ceremony. Demetrios summoned Phila to join him, and gave their daughter, Stratonice, in marriage to Seleucus; Seleucus feasted him in his camp, and he Seleucus on his flagship, the largest vessel of war yet known. In spite of his possessions in Greece and the islands—he still held Cyprus and the islands of the Aegean, and soon after reconquered Cilicia—Demetrios’ true kingdom now was his overwhelming fleet, based on a few great fortresses—Corinth, Ephesus, Tyre, Sidon. But kingship at this time was a matter that was personal and not territorial; it resided in the individual dynast; the particular country which that individual ruled was quite an accidental matter. The essential thing here was the man Demetrios, who had ruled a great realm before, and might do so again. Seleucus and Demetrios sent a joint embassy to Ephesus, and no doubt to the other cities that still held to Demetrios, announcing the alliance; and Seleucus showed his appreciation of Demetrios’ real position as a sea-king by dedicating to Apollo of Delos two silver models of war-vessels, in honour of the share he had gained in the kingdom of the sea. He also brought about peace between Demetrios and Ptolemy; but whether the other kings recognized Demetrios as again king of a fifth realm beside their own may be doubted.

However, this arrangement did not last long. In 297 the balance of power was rudely upset by the death of Kassandros; his eldest son, Philip, who succeeded him, was consumptive, and died soon after. About the same time, too, Demetrios and Seleucus fell out, apparently over a refusal of Demetrios to sell to Seleucus Tyre and Sidon, which he held with strong garrisons. The result was a recrudescence of the great war of 302/1. Ptolemy, Seleucus, and Lysimachus formed a new combination, with the object of annexing and dividing up everything that Demetrios still held in Asia: Ptolemy acquired Cyprus, Seleucus Cilicia, Lysimachus Ephesus and other towns, leaving to Demetrios only a few scattered fortified places—Tyre, Sidon, Miletus, Kaunos. On the other hand, Demetrios crossed to Europe, apparently with the object of renewing the undertaking that he had been compelled to break off in 302, before Ipsos. Which came first in time, the coalition against him or his attack on Athens, cannot be said; but in 295 he appeared with a great fleet before Athens, ruled at the moment by Kassandros’ friend Lachares as tyrant, and formed the siege of the city. No doubt he was invited by his friends within the walls. An attempt by Ptolemy to relieve the city failed, and after a heroic resistance Athens, in the first half of 294, was starved into surrender. Demetrios showed every kindness to the citizens, and poured in corn as fast as possible ; but he made sure of the future by garrisoning the Mouseion and Mounychia. Perhaps now, perhaps a little later, he also recovered Euboea.

Demetrios already held a good deal of the Peloponnese; and in 295, before forming the blockade of Athens, he had attacked and been beaten off from Messene. He now attacked Sparta, but was recalled by an opening in the north. Kassandros’ two younger sons, Antipatros and Alexander, had divided Macedonia, and were fighting. Antipatros, the elder, who had married a daughter of Lysimachus, and perhaps was supported by him, murdered his mother Thessalonice, the last surviving daughter of the great Philip, for favouring his brother; whereon Alexander sought help from Pyrrhus, now king of Epirus, and Demetrios. Pyrrhus arrived first, drove off Antipatros, and installed Alexander as king, receiving or taking a large cession of territory in return for his assistance. Demetrios came up too late to influence the arrangement; Alexander received him with courtesy, but explained that he no longer required his help; and Demetrios, accompanied by Alexander, retraced his steps to Larisa in Thessaly. What happened there is quite uncertain. The version of events that afterwards found favour at the court of Pella was, that Alexander laid a plot to assassinate Demetrios, and that the latter discovered and anticipated the treacherous act. Another version, which perhaps originated at Lysimacheia, says that there was no plot, but that Antipatros’ father-in-law, Lysimachus, had effected a reconciliation between the brothers, which would have checkmated Demetrios’ designs. It is hardly worth remarking that a statement about Demetrios originating from Lysimachus’ court is absolutely valueless. All that is certain is the crude fact, that Alexander at a banquet was cut down by Demetrios’ guards, and that his army, probably tampered with beforehand, thereon hailed Demetrios as ‘ king of the Macedonians’, and escorted him over the border into Macedonia. There was no resistance; Antipatros escaped to Lysimachus; and Demetrios was once again king of a great kingdom.