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Wars of Alexander's Successors (Diadochi)

B.C. 321 to 280
Macedonian Generals — versus — Macedonian Generals

Death of Alexander — 323 B.C.     Overthrow of Perdiccas — 321 B.C.     
Macedonian Succession: Death of Antipater — 319-315 B.C.     Overthrow of Antigonus — 312-302 B.C.     Death of Cassander — 298-285 B.C.     Lysimachus vs. Seleucus, Invasion of the Gauls — 285-275 B.C.    

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 commanded 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 BC), the Seleucid Dynasty in Persia (which fell to the Parthian empire, starting around 250 BC), and the Antigonid Dynasty in Greece and Macedonia (which fell to Rome in 168 BC). A fourth empire, that of Lysimachus in Asia Minor, existed for the duration of the Diadochi wars, but fell to the Seleucids in 280 BC.

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


Commander
Short Biography
Antigonus I Allied with Antipater and Ptolemy I in early Diadochi Wars. Won control of Asia Minor and Syria.
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.
Antipater One of Philip's most trusted generals. Left in charge of Macedonia during Alexander's conquests.
Perdiccas Took over the empire of Alexander at his death, but couldn't keep it.
Craterus Popular General of Alexander. Allied with Antipater after the death of Alexander.
Polyperchon One of Alexander's Generals. Allied with Craterus and Antipater. Fought Cassander for control of Macedonia.


Death of Alexander : 323 B.C.

Alexander the Great
DEATH OF ALEXANDER
Alexander the Great died suddenly in 323 BC 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.

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Death of Alexander the Great  in  The Story of the Greeks  by  H. A. Guerber
Death of Alexander  in  The Story of Greece  by  Mary Macgregor
Alexander the Great  in  The Story of the Greek People  by  Eva March 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.



DateBattle Summary
321 BC  
Battle of Pelusium (First War ) Ptolemy victory
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.


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Olympias and Antipater  in  Pyrrhus  by  Jacob Abbott
Division of the Realm  in  The Story of the Greeks  by  H. A. Guerber
Ptolemy  in  Famous Men of Greece  by  John H. Haaren and A. B. Poland


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.



DateBattle Summary
318 BC  
Battle of Byzantium (Second War ) Antigonids victory
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.
  
316 BC  
Battle of Paraetakene Mountains (Second War ) Eumenes victory
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.
  
316 BC  
Battle of Persepolis (Second War ) Antigonids victory
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.
  
316 BC  
Battle of the Copratus (Second War ) Eumenes victory
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.


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Last of the Athenians  in  The 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 BC), and his territory split between Lysimachus and Seleucus. The four remaining generals all declared themselves King, and some stability settled onto the region.



DateBattle Summary
312 BC  
Battle of Gaza (Third War ) Ptolemy victory
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.
  
307 BC  
Battle of Salamis (Fourth War ) Antigonids victory
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.
  
302 BC  
Battle of Ipsus (Fourth War ) Seleucids victory
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.


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

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.



DateBattle Summary
281 BC  
Battle of Corupedium (More War ) Seleucids victory
Fought B.C. 281, between the Macedonians under Lysimachus, and the Syrians under Seleucus. The two generals met in single combat, in front of their armies. and Seleucus, though 81 years of age, defeated and slew his ancient comrade in arms. The two armies then engaged, and the Syrians gained a complete victory.
  
280 BC  
Battle of Sardis (More War ) Pergamus victory
Fought B.C. 280, between the troops of Pergamus, under Eumenes, and the Syrians, under Antigonus Soter. Eumenes gained a signal victory, and annexed a large part of the dominions of Antigonus.
  
262 BC  
Battle of Ephesus (Gallic Invasion of Asia ) Gauls victory
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.


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Family of Lysimachus  in  Pyrrhus  by  Jacob Abbott
Reconquest of Macedon  in  Pyrrhus  by  Jacob Abbott
Apollo the Defender  in  Helmet and Spear  by  Alfred J. Church