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The Diadochi (from Greek: Διάδοχοι Diadokhoi meaning "Successors") were the rival generals, families and friends of Alexander the Great who fought for control over his empire after his death in 323 BC. The Wars of the Diadochi mark the beginning of the Hellenistic period.
- 1 Background
- 2 Diadochi
- 3 Struggle for unity (323–319 BC)
- 4 Wars of the Diadochi (319–275 BC)
- 5 Kingdoms of the Diadochi (275–30 BC)
- 6 Decline and fall
- 7 Historical uses as a title
- 8 References
- 9 External links
When Alexander the Great died on June 10, 323 BC, he left behind a huge empire which comprised many essentially independent territories. Alexander's empire stretched from his homeland of Macedon itself, along with the Greek city-states that his father had subdued, to Bactria and parts of India in the east. It included parts of the present day Balkans, Anatolia, the Levant, Egypt, Babylonia, and most of the former Persia, except for some lands the Achaemenids formerly held in Central Asia.
Perdiccas served as a commander of the Macedonian phalanx during Alexander's campaigns against the Persian Empire. When Hephaestion unexpectedly died in 324 BC, Alexander appointed Perdiccas as Hephaestion's successor as commander of the elite Companion cavalry and chiliarch, a position akin to the modern office of prime minister. With the Partition of Babylon after Alexander's death in 323 BC, Perdiccas was selected to serve as Regent of the Empire and supreme commander of the imperial army. While the general Craterus was officially declared Guardian of the Royal Family, Perdiccas effectively held this position as the joint kings Philip III of Macedon (the epileptic son of Alexander's father Philip II of Macedon) and the unborn child (the future Alexander IV of Macedon) of Alexander's wife Roxana were with Perdiccas in Babylon.
Perdiccas' authority as Regent and his control over the royal family were immediately questioned. Perdiccas appointed Leonnatus, one of Alexander's Royal Guards, as Satrap of Hellespontine Phrygia on the western coast of Asia Minor. However, instead of assuming that position, Leonnatus sailed to Macedonia when Alexander's sister Cleopatra, widow of King Alexander I of Epirus, offered her hand to him. Upon learning of this, in spring 322 BC Perdiccas marched the imperial army towards Asia Minor to reassert his dominance as Regent. Perdiccas ordered Leonnatus to appear before to stand trial for disobedience, but Leonnatus died during the Lamian War before the order reached him. At the same time, Cynane, Alexander's half-sister, arranged for her daughter Eurydice II to marry Philip III, Alexander's half-brother and nominal joint king of Macedon. Fearful of Cynane's influence, Perdiccas ordered his brother Alcetas to murder her. The discontent expressed by the army at the murder and their respect for Eurydice as a member of royal family induced Perdiccas not only to spare her life but to approve of the marriage to Philip III. Despite the marriage, Perdiccas continued to hold a firm control over the affairs of the royal family.
To strengthen his control over the empire, Perdiccas agreed to marry Nicaea, the daughter of Satrap of Greece Antipater. However, he broke off the engagement when Olympias, mother of Alexander, offered him the hand of Alexander's sister Cleopatra. Given the intellectual disability of Philip III and the limited acceptance of the boy Alexander IV due to his mother being a Persian, the marriage would have given Perdiccas a claim as Alexander's true successor, not merely as Regent. However, Antigonus I Monophthalmus, Satrap of Pamphylia and Lycia in northern Asia Minor, learned of this secret plan and fled to Antipater in Greece.
Craterus was an infantry and naval commander under Alexander during his conquest of Persia. After the revolt of his army at Opis on the Tigris River in 324, Alexander ordered Craterus to command the veterans as they returned home to Macedonia. Antipater, commander of Alexander's forces in Greece and regent of the Macedonian throne in Alexander's absence, would lead a force of fresh troops back to Persia to join Alexander while Craterus would become regent in his place. When Craeterus arrived at Cilicia in 323 BC, news reached him of Alexander's death. Though his distance from Babylon prevented him from participating in the distribution of power, Craterus hastened to Macedonia to assume the protection of Alexander's family. The news of Alexander's death caused the Greeks to rebel in the Lamian War. Craeterus and Antipater defeated the rebellion in 322 BC. Despite his absence, the generals gathered at Babylon confirmed Craterus as Guardian of the Royal Family. However, with the royal family in Babylon, the Regent Perdiccas assumed this responsibly until the royal household could return to Macedonia.
Antipater was an adviser to King Philip II, Alexander's father, a role he continued under Alexander. When Alexander left Macedon to conquer Persia in 334 BC, Antipater was named Regent of Macedon and General of Greece in Alexander's absence. In 323 BC, Craterus was ordered by Alexander to march his veterans back to Macedon and assume Antipater's position while Antipater was to march to Persia with fresh troops. Alexander's death that year, however, prevented the order from being carried out. When Alexander's generals gathered in Babylon to divide the empire between themselves, Antipater was confirmed as General of Greece while the roles of Regent of the Empire and Guardian of the Royal Family were given to Perdiccas and Craterus, respectively. Together, the three men formed the top ruling group of the empire.
Non-Macedonian satraps and generals
Sons of the Diadochi
Struggle for unity (323–319 BC)
Partition of Babylon
Without a chosen successor, there was almost immediately a dispute among Alexander's generals as to who his successor should be. Meleager and the infantry supported the candidacy of Alexander's half-brother, Arrhidaeus, while Perdiccas, the leading cavalry commander, supported waiting until the birth of Alexander's unborn child by Roxana. A compromise was arranged – Arrhidaeus (as Philip III) should become King, and should rule jointly with Roxana's child, assuming that it was a boy (as it was, becoming Alexander IV). Perdiccas himself would become Regent of the entire Empire, and Meleager his lieutenant. Soon, however, Perdiccas had Meleager and the other infantry leaders murdered, and assumed full control.
The other cavalry generals who had supported Perdiccas were rewarded in the partition of Babylon by becoming satraps of the various parts of the Empire. Ptolemy received Egypt; Laomedon received Syria and Phoenicia; Philotas took Cilicia; Peithon took Media; Antigonus received Phrygia, Lycia and Pamphylia; Asander received Caria; Menander received Lydia; Lysimachus received Thrace; Leonnatus received Hellespontine Phrygia; and Neoptolemus had Armenia. Macedon and the rest of Greece were to be under the joint rule of Antipater, who had governed them for Alexander, and Craterus, Alexander's most able lieutenant, while Alexander's old secretary, Eumenes of Cardia, was to receive Cappadocia and Paphlagonia.
In the east, Perdiccas largely left Alexander's arrangements intact – Taxiles and Porus ruled over their kingdoms in India; Alexander's father-in-law Oxyartes ruled Gandara; Sibyrtius ruled Arachosia and Gedrosia; Stasanor ruled Aria and Drangiana; Philip ruled Bactria and Sogdiana; Phrataphernes ruled Parthia and Hyrcania; Peucestas governed Persis; Tlepolemus had charge over Carmania; Atropates governed northern Media; Archon got Babylonia; and Arcesilas ruled northern Mesopotamia.
Revolt in Greece
Meanwhile, the news of Alexander's death had inspired a revolt in Greece, known as the Lamian War. Athens and other cities joined together, ultimately besieging Antipater in the fortress of Lamia. Antipater was relieved by a force sent by Leonnatus, who was killed in action, but the war did not come to an end until Craterus's arrival with a fleet to defeat the Athenians at the Battle of Crannon on September 5, 322 BC. For a time, this brought an end to Greek resistance to Macedonian domination. Meanwhile, Peithon suppressed a revolt of Greek settlers in the eastern parts of the Empire, and Perdiccas and Eumenes subdued Cappadocia.
First War of the Diadochi (322–320 BC)
Soon, however, conflict broke out. Perdiccas' marriage to Alexander's sister Cleopatra led Antipater, Craterus, Antigonus, and Ptolemy to join together in rebellion. The actual outbreak of war was initiated by Ptolemy's theft of Alexander's body and its transfer to Egypt. Although Eumenes defeated the rebels in Asia Minor, in a battle at which Craterus was killed, it was all for nought, as Perdiccas himself was murdered by his own generals Peithon, Seleucus, and Antigenes during an invasion of Egypt.
Ptolemy came to terms with Perdiccas's murderers, making Peithon and Arrhidaeus regents in his place, but soon these came to a new agreement with Antipater at the Treaty of Triparadisus. Antipater was made regent of the Empire, and the two kings were moved to Macedon. Antigonus remained in charge of Phrygia, Lycia, and Pamphylia, to which was added Lycaonia. Ptolemy retained Egypt, Lysimachus retained Thrace, while the three murderers of Perdiccas—Seleucus, Peithon, and Antigenes—were given the provinces of Babylonia, Media, and Susiana respectively. Arrhidaeus, the former Regent, received Hellespontine Phrygia. Antigonus was charged with the task of rooting out Perdiccas's former supporter, Eumenes. In effect, Antipater retained for himself control of Europe, while Antigonus, as leader of the largest army east of the Hellespont, held a similar position in Asia.
Partition of Triparadisus
Death of Antipater
Soon after the second partition, in 319 BC, Antipater died. Antipater had been one of the few remaining individuals with enough prestige to hold the empire together. After his death, war soon broke out again and the fragmentation of the empire began in earnest. Passing over his own son, Cassander, Antipater had declared Polyperchon his successor as Regent. A civil war soon broke out in Macedon and Greece between Polyperchon and Cassander, with the latter supported by Antigonus and Ptolemy. Polyperchon allied himself to Eumenes in Asia, but was driven from Macedonia by Cassander, and fled to Epirus with the infant king Alexander IV and his mother Roxana. In Epirus he joined forces with Olympias, Alexander's mother, and together they invaded Macedon again. They were met by an army commanded by King Philip Arrhidaeus and his wife Eurydice, which immediately defected, leaving the king and Eurydice to Olympias's not so tender mercies, and they were killed (317 BC). Soon after, though, the tide turned, and Cassander was victorious, capturing and killing Olympias, and attaining control of Macedon, the boy king, and his mother.
Wars of the Diadochi (319–275 BC)
Kingdoms of the Diadochi (275–30 BC)
Decline and fall
This division was to last for a century, before the Antigonid Kingdom finally fell to Rome, and the Seleucids were harried from Persia by the Parthians and forced by the Romans to relinquish control in Asia Minor. A rump Seleucid kingdom limped on in Syria until finally put to rest by Pompey in 64 BC. The Ptolemies lasted longer in Alexandria, though as a client under Rome. Egypt was finally annexed to Rome in 30 BC.
Historical uses as a title
Ironically in the formal 'court' titulature of the Hellenistic empires ruled by dynasties we know as Diadochs, the title was not customary for the Monarch, but has actually been proven to be the lowest in a system of official rank titles, known as Aulic titulature, conferred – ex officio or nominatim – to actual courtiers and as an honorary rank (for protocol) to various military and civilian officials. Notably in Ptolemaic Egypt, it was reported as the lowest aulic rank, under Philos, during the reign of Ptolemy V Epiphanes.
- Shipley, Graham (2000) The Greek World After Alexander. Routledge History of the Ancient World. (Routledge, New York)
- Walbank, F. W. (1984) The Hellenistic World, The Cambridge Ancient History, volume VII. part I. (Cambridge)
- Alexander's successors: the Diadochi from Livius.org (Jona Lendering)
- Wiki Classical Dictionary: "Successors" category and Diadochi entry
- T. Boiy, "Dating Methods During the Early Hellenistic Period", Journal of Cuneiform Studies, Vol. 52, 2000 PDF format. A recent study of primary sources for the chronology of eastern rulers during the period of the Diadochi.