Meleager, son of Neoptolemus, is first mentioned in the war against the Getae (335 BC). At the Battle of the Granicus in the following year (334 BC), he commanded one of the divisions (ταξεις) of the phalanx, a post which he afterwards continued to hold apparently throughout the campaigns in Asia. He was appointed, together with Coenus and Ptolemy, the son of Seleucus, to command the newly married troops which were sent home from Caria to spend the winter in Macedon, and rejoined Alexander at Gordium in the following summer (333 BC).
He was present at the battles of Issus and Gaugamela, and was associated with Craterus in the task of dislodging the enemy who guarded the passes into Persia. He took part in the passage of the Hydaspes and in various other operations in India.
Despite a long series of services, Alexander did not promote him to any higher or more confidential position, nor does Meleager take part in any separate command of importance.
After the death of Alexander (323 BC), he was the first to propose in the council of officers, that either Arrhidaeus or Heracles, the son of Barsine, should at once be chosen as king, rather than waiting to see if the pregnant Roxana would bear a son. The Roman historian, Curtius, states that Meleager broke out into violent invectives against the ambition of Perdiccas and then abruptly quit the assembly in order to encourage the soldiery to express their opposition against Perdiccas. The Greek historian, Diodorus, states that Meleager was sent by the assembled generals to appease the clamours and discontent of the troops, but instead of doing so, he joined the mutineers.
Meleager assumed the leadership of the opposition to Perdiccas and his party and placed himself at the head of the infantry, who had declared themselves (possibly at his instigation) in favour of the claims of Arrhidaeus to the vacant throne. Meleager ordered the execution of Perdiccas, but the implementation of this instruction was nullified by the boldness of the regent. The greater part of the cavalry, together with almost all the generals, sided with Perdiccas, and quitting Babylon, established themselves in a separate camp outside the walls of the city. A reconciliation between both sides was achieved, principally thanks to the intervention of Eumenes, and it was agreed that the royal authority should be divided between Arrhidaeus and the expected son of Roxana, and that in the meantime Meleager should be associated with Perdiccas in the regency.
It was impossible that Meleager and Perdiccas should long continue on friendly terms, and Meleager proved no match for Perdiccas. Perdiccas contrived to lull his rival into a sense of security, while he made himself master of Philip Arrhidaeus. Then he struck the first blow. The whole army was assembled under the pretence of a general review. Then the king, at the instigation of Perdiccas, suddenly demanded the surrender and punishment of all the leaders of the recent disorders. The infantry were taken by surprise, with 300 of the alleged mutineers being singled out and executed. Although Meleager was not personally attacked, he fled and took refuge in a temple, where he was pursued and put to death on the orders of Perdiccas.
- Smith, William (editor); Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology, "Meleager (1)", Boston, (1867)
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Smith, William, ed. (1870). "Meleager (1)". Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology.