Perdiccas

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For other uses, see Perdiccas (disambiguation).
Deathbed of Alexander, illustration in Codex 51 (Alexander Romance) of the Hellenic Institute. The figure in the center is Perdiccas, receiving the ring from the speechless Alexander.

Perdiccas (Greek: Περδίκκας, Perdikkas; died 321/320 BC) was one of Alexander the Great's generals. At the moment of Alexander's death in June 323 BC, Alexander's imperial state and all offices within it ceased to exist. The most powerful former officers at Babylon, the place of Alexander's death, or anywhere else suddenly became Diadochi in the future historical sense of the word. The leaderless army could not remain as it was. Alexander's soldiers made the first move by ignoring all orders to the contrary from Alexander's former staff officers and electing Arridaeus king. Not daring to oppose them, the Diadochi on hand appointed Perdiccas as regent offering the argument that Arridaeus' learning disabilities impaired his judgement. Some of the sources relate the story that the speechless Alexander had given his signet ring to Perdiccas. Other credible sources do not relate the story. Perdiccas' position was not intended to be either permanent or absolute. He was a sort of chairman over a committee of Diadochi allocating interim governorships. The new appointments were to supersede Alexander's. There were many more provinces than appointments. If the committee did not dispatch a successor, the previous governorship was to remain in effect. The distribution and its powers were shortly to change radically as the Diadochi Wars began.

Family background[edit]

Arrian tells us he was son of Orontes,[1] a descendant of the independent princes of the Macedonian province of Orestis.

Hetairos[edit]

As the commander of a battalion of the Macedonian phalanx, heavy infantry, Perdiccas distinguished himself during the conquest of Thebes (335 BC), where he was severely wounded. When Hephaestion unexpectedly died in 324 BC, he was appointed his successor as commander of the Companion cavalry and chiliarch. Also in 324, at the nuptials celebrated at Susa, Perdiccas married the daughter of the satrap of Media, a Persian named Atropates. Subsequently he held an important command in the Indian campaigns of Alexander.

Diadochus[edit]

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. An epileptic son of Alexander's father Philip III of Macedon, and the unborn child of Alexander's wife Roxana (the future Alexander IV of Macedon) were recognized as joint kings. While the general Craterus was officially declared "Guardian of the Royal Family", Perdiccas effectively held this position, as the joint kings were with him in Babylon. Perdiccas soon showed himself intolerant of any rivals, and, acting in the name of the two kings sought to hold the empire together under his own hand. He had Meleager, the infantry commander, arrested and murdered.

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 in 322 BC 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.

Perdiccas' most loyal supporter was Eumenes, governor of Cappadocia and Paphlagonia. These provinces had not yet been conquered by the Macedonians. Antigonus (governor of Phrygia, Lycia and Pamphylia) refused to undertake the task when Perdiccas ordered him to. Having been summoned to the royal presence to stand his trial for disobedience, Antigonus fled to Europe and entered an alliance with Antipater, Craterus and Ptolemy against him.

Leaving the war in Asia Minor to Eumenes, Perdiccas marched to attack Ptolemy in Egypt. He reached Pelusium but failed to cross the Nile. A mutiny broke out amongst his troops, who were disheartened by failure and exasperated by his severity. Perdiccas was assassinated by his officers (Peithon, Antigenes, and Seleucus) some time in either 321 or 320 BC. Problems with the chronology of Diodorus have led to uncertainty as to the year in which Perdiccas died.[2]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Austin, M.M. (1981). The Hellenistic World from Alexander to the Roman Conquest: A Selection of Ancient Sources in Translation. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-29666-3. 
  2. ^ Anson, Edward M (Summer 1986). "Diodorus and the Date of Triparadeisus". The American Journal of Philogy (The Johns Hopkins University Press) 107 (2): 208–217. doi:10.2307/294603. JSTOR 294603. 

References[edit]

  • Austin, M. M. (1994). The Hellenistic world from Alexander to the Roman conquest: a selection of ancient sources in translation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 
  • Peter Green, 1990, Alexander to Actium, pp. 3–15

External links[edit]