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Parmenion (also Parmenio) (in Greek, Παρμενίων, c. 400 – Ecbatana, 330 BC) was a Macedonian general in the service of Philip II of Macedon and Alexander the Great, murdered on a suspected false charge of treason.
Parmenion was a nobleman and father of Philotas. His early career is unknown. During the reign of Philip II, Parmenion obtained a great victory over the Illyrians in 356 BC; ten years later, Parmenion vanquished the town of Halos. He was one of the Macedonian delegates appointed to conclude peace with Athens in 346 BC, and was sent with an army to uphold Macedonian influence in Euboea in 342 BC.
Parmenion rose to become Philip's chief military lieutenant and Alexander's Strategos, plural strategoi, (Greek: στρατηγός, pl. στρατηγοί; Doric Greek: στραταγός, stratagos; literally meaning "army leader") is used in Greek to mean military general.
General of Alexander
In 336 BC Phillip II sent Parmenion, with Amyntas, Andromenes and Attalus and an army of 10,000 men, to make preparations for the reduction of Asia. After Alexander was recognized as king in Macedonia, Parmenion himself became Alexander's second in command of the army. He is said to have acted as a foil to his commander's innovative strategies, by expertly formulating the orthodox strategy. For instance, according to Arrian's Anabasis of Alexander, at the Battle of Granicus, Parmenion suggested delay before the attack, as the army had already marched all day as well as for other political and geographical issues. Alexander attacked across the river regardless of this counsel and gained a victory nevertheless; however, Diodorus Siculus contradicts Arrian by stating clearly that Alexander accepted the advice. One historian, Peter Green, reconciling the accounts, has suggested that the Greeks were initially repulsed, and then stole a march on the Persians and crossed the river at night. This brought the Persian cavalry onto the field first against the Greeks the next morning, setting up a defeat in detail, as is reported in the accounts from that time. In summary, given the positions reported, either something like this occurred along with a royal cover-up, or the Persians were tactically incompetent. In any event, the outcome may have tempered any youthful brashness on the part of Alexander, for he proceeded very cautiously the next six months or so, almost dawdling as he liberated Greek cities in Asia Minor, and that muting of his aggressiveness is more in line with a near defeat.
The same source stated that Parmenion counseled a night attack in 331 BC on Darius's assembled superior forces at the Battle of Gaugamela, which Alexander took as evidence that Darius would keep his troops at the ready through the night and offer the Macedonians some advantage if they rested for a battle in daylight. Parmenion would continue to be a significant influence and commander up until the conquest of Babylon, commanding the left wing in both the battles of Issus and Gaugamela. A steady hand commanding the left was a critical in the overall Macedonian scheme and philosophy of battle, allowing the king to strike the decisive blow.
Fall of Parmenion
After the conquest of Drangiana, Alexander was informed that Philotas, son of Parmenion, was involved in a conspiracy against his life. Philotas was condemned by the army and put to death. Alexander, believing the consequences if he were to allow the father to live, sent orders to Media for the assassination of Parmenion. There was no proof that Parmenion was in any way implicated in the conspiracy, but he was not even afforded the opportunity of defending himself. In Alexander's defense, a disaffected Parmenion was a serious threat, especially since he was commanding an army and was stationed near Alexander's treasury and on his supply lines. Also, as head of Philotas' family Parmenion would have been held responsible for his actions, despite a lack of evidence connecting them to him. Alexander therefore acted swiftly and sent Cleandor and Sitalces on racing camels across the desert by the most direct route possible to assassinate Parmenion. Before the news reached Parmenion of Alexander's order, the two officers arrived and stabbed Parmenion to death.
In the 1956 film Alexander the Great, directed by Robert Rossen, Parmenion was played by Irish actor Niall MacGinnis.
David Gemmell's novels Lion of Macedon and Dark Prince concern the life of Parmenion, although the fiction illustrates Parmenion as the son of a Spartan warrior and a Macedonian commoner and raised as a Spartan, though despised by his peers for his mixed blood. The story also suggests that Parmenion may have been Alexander's true father as opposed to Philip.
Steven Pressfield's novel The Virtues Of War depicts Parmenion as a loyal and brilliant servant of Macedon and a personal friend of Alexander, who only once openly protests Alexander's orientalisation.
In the 2004 film Alexander, directed by Oliver Stone, Parmenion (played by John Kavanagh) is depicted as a trusted but conservative commander and is slightly marginalised. His execution is performed (inaccurately) by Cleitus the Black.
The Hasbro board game Heroscape includes a Parmenion figure.
Saying in English Language
You are thinking of Parmenio, and I of Alexander—i.e., you are thinking what you ought to receive, and I what I ought to give; you are thinking of those castigated, rewarded, or gifted; but I of my own position, and what punishment, reward, or gift is consistent with my rank. The allusion is to the tale about Parmenio and Alexander, when the king said, “I consider not what Parmenio should receive, but what Alexander should give.”
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
- Livius, Parmenion by Jona Lendering
- Anabasis Alexandri by Arrian of Nicomedia.
- 2004 Film at the Internet Movie Database.