The Wars of the Successors: Cassander Takes Greece

Post updated on 24.8.13
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See previous chapters here
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This post is the third in my series on the forty-two year struggle between Alexander’s successors for control of his empire, either in part or whole. By successors I mean not only his senior officers at his death (Perdiccas, Craterus etc) but, as we shall see in subsequent posts, the sons of those same officers. Due to the length of the post, I have split it in two – ‘Cassander Takes Macedon’ and ‘Antigonus Wins The East’.
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I am writing these posts because I recently finished reading Robin Waterfield’s Dividing the Spoils* (OUP 2011) on the subject. The posts are based on the timeline of events that I wrote down as I did so. While my information is based on Waterfield, any mistakes I have made are, of course, my own. If you spot any, do please let me know in the comments box.
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* Link goes to Amazon. Please consider supporting your high street book shop, though, and buying it there
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318 – 315 The Second War of the Diadochi
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Year / Principle Combatants / Location / Victor

  1. 318 Antigonus vs Cleitus – Cius, Asia Minor – Antigonus wins
  2. Summer 317 Adea Euridike vs Polyperchon – Macedon – Polyperchon wins*
  3. Summer/Autumn 317 Polyperchon vs Cassander – Eprius and southern Macedonia – Cassander wins
  4. Summer 317 Antigonus vs Eumenes (I) – Coprates (modern day Dez) River – Eumenes wins
  5. October 317 Antigonus vs Eumenes (II) – Paraetacene** (modern day Yezd-i-Khast) – Draw
  6. October 317 Antigonus vs Eumenes (III) – Between Paraetacene and Gabene***- Eumenes wins
  7. December/January 317-6 Antigonus vs Eumenes (IV) – Gabene – Antigonus wins
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    * by default as Adea’s army deserted her before the battle could took place
    ** Also known as Paraitacene
    *** Also known as Gabiene

Outcome

  • Cassander wins control of Macedon
  • The death of Olympias and imprisonment of Alexander IV
  • Antigonus wins control Alexander’s empire from the Bosphorus to eastern satrapies (excluding Egypt)

The dust had barely settled on the First War of the Diadochi (322-320/19) when the Second broke out. It lasted three years and several battles, including some near misses.
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There were two principle theatres of war – Greece and the East – and four principle combatants – Polyperchon and Cassander in Greece, Antigonus and Eumenes in the East. This post looks at Polyperchon’s battle with Cassander. For Antigonus and Eumenes, click here.
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Polyperchon vs Cassander
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Cassander contra Polyperchon
In 319, Antipater died. In accordance with his wishes, Polyperchon – rather than Antipater’s son, Cassander – became Alexander IV’s and Philip Arrhidaeus’ regent, and ‘supreme commander’ of the whole empire (source: Livius).
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Unsurprisingly, Cassander was not very happy about this, and tried to turn the Macedonian nobility against the new regent. He met with little success. His attempt to win the support of Ptolemy and Lysimachus was only slightly more successful. Waterfield states that Cassander’s brother-in-laws* ‘were otherwise engaged’ and could only ‘give him their tacit blessing’ (Waterfield, p. 73). Lysimachus was probably busy fighting the habitually unruly natives in Thrace; I’m not sure what Ptolemy was up to.
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All was not lost for Cassander, though, as Antigonus responded to his requests for help more favourably. Thus, after leaving Macedon (in the autumn of 319), he made his way to the Antigonid court in Calaenae, Phrygia.
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At the time of Cassander’s arrival, Antigonus was busy making Asia Minor safe for himself by expelling the neighbouring satraps whom Antipater had appointed in order to check his power. He kindly took time, however, to lay the groundwork for a future war against Polyperchon by denouncing Antipater for unlawfully appointing Polyperchon as his successor.
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* Ptolemy had married Cassander’s sister Euridike (c. 321), while Lysimachus had married his sister Nicaea (c. 321)
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Polyperchon’s Alliances
What was Polyperchon doing while Cassander and Antigonus were trash talking Antipater
? Building alliances of his own, that’s what. I imagine he would have preferred to have Ptolemy and Lysimachus on his side but with their ties to Cassander they were unreliable. For what it was worth (they don’t appear to have played an major rôle in the war later on), Polyperchon did manage to get the expelled satraps of Asia Minor on his side. He also won the support of Aristonous – the former somatophylax, and man who had first proposed Perdiccas for the regency in Babylon..
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The satraps and Aristonous were useful allies to have but not particularly powerful ones. Polyperchon pulled off a potential masterstroke, though, when he decided to ask Olympias to become Alexander IV’s regent. Alexander the Great’s mother! Who could resist the man who had her on his side? Olympias refused to commit herself though. Indeed, she wrote to her ‘truest friend’ (Waterfield, p. 75) Eumenes to ask him for his advice.
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Olympias and Eumenes. True friends. Who knew? Well, not surprisingly, given that he was an Antigonid partisan, Eumenes wrote back and told Olympias to hold back for the time being.
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Polyperchon’s Offer to Eumenes
Olympias was not the only one writing to Eumenes at this time. Polyperchon did so as well. In his letter, he offered him a title – Antigonus’. The chance to be Royal General of Asia was too good for Eumenes to resist and, despite having recently sworn loyalty to Antigonus, he now went over to Polyperchon*.
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Don’t be fooled into thinking that Eumenes betrayed Antigonus merely for a title, he was seduced by the the power that came with it, for being Royal General of Asia gave Eumenes the right to take money from the treasury at Cyinda, and have all the Asia Minor satraps, plus Antigenes and his 3,000 veterans, under his command. Being the Royal General of Asia was Eumenes chance to be a major player in the post-Alexandrine world.
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* We left Eumenes in the last post (here) under siege in a Cappadocian mountain fort; to find out how he emerged to become an Antigonid, click here
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Eumenes’ Flight
Once Eumenes had accepted Polyperchon’s offer he wisely fled east before Antigonus could be told what he had done. On hearing the bad news, Antigonus sent an army after Eumenes but it was too late; he had passed into Cilicia (where he joined Antigenes). He was out of sight, therefore, but not out of mind. After Antigonus had settled the rest of Asia Minor in his image, he would leave Cassander to deal with Polyperchon while he went east in pursuit of his erstwhile ally. It was all fair – the deal that Cassander and Antigonus had made with each other gave all power in Asia to Antigonus, and the same in Europe to Cassander.
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The battle for heart and minds in Greece
The impending war between Polyperchon and Cassander moved a step closer when they wrote letters to the Greek cities asking for/implicitly demanding their support. Cassander had started it, demanding that the cities submit to him as his father’s true heir. In response, Polyperchon urged the cities to claim back their freedom and ally themselves behind him against the tyrant. Don’t think that Polyperchon really believed all that freedom nonsense, though – his letter ended with the warning that he would ‘not tolerate any failure to carry out’ his orders (Waterfield, p. 76).
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Polyperchon’s aggressive language was not wholly successful. For example, Piraeus had come out for Cassander and did not now change sides. This was probably not a surprise, though, as it was under the control of an officer named Nicanor, a close friend of Cassander’s.
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At the request of the Athenian democrats, Polyperchon sent his son, Alexander, to remove the city’s Antipatrid rulers. When Cassander landed in Piraeus – intending to use the port as his springboard for an attack on Macedon – Polyperchon came south himself to blockade him. He might as well not have bothered because, if you can believe it, he had no ships to blockade the city from the sea. Talk about schoolboy errors.
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Realising that he could not blockade the port, Polyperchon left a detachment behind – under the command of his son – and marched into the Peloponnese where he ‘oversaw’ the removal of numerous Antipatrid rulers. He also put Megalopolis under siege but failed to enter the city.
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First Battle
White Cleitus vs Antigonus

While in the Peloponnese, Polyperchon sent White Cleitus back to Asia Minor (see below) to relieve Arrhidaeus* whom Antigonus had trapped in Cius. White Cleitus not only raised the Antigonid siege but defeated Nicanor (not the son of Antipater who was still in Macedon; this Nicanor is a different man whose family we know nothing about) who had come from Piraeus to help Antigonus.
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Despite this success, the battle was not yet over; that night, Antigonus counter-attacked. During the battle, Nicanor destroyed** White Cleitus’ fleet. Cleitus was put to flight. We don’t know what happened to Arrhidaeus – he was either killed or forced to surrender; either way, we do not hear of him again. As for White Cleitus, he managed to escape to Thrace – where he was killed by Lysimachus’ soldiers.
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For the events leading up to White Cleitus’ return to Asia Minor, see the next post
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* Arrhidaeus had been given the satrapy of Hellespontine Phrygia at Triparadeisus and was one of the Antipatrid satraps that Antigonus was in the process of removing from office when Cassander joined him
** Waterfield (p. 83) states that the fleet was disabled
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Aftermath
You remember how I said Nicanor was a close friend of Cassander? Well, he was such a close friend that when he returned to Piraeus following the defeat of Arrhidaeus and White Cleitus, Cassander rather meanly, I think it is fair to say, had him executed for being too ambitious. So much for gratitude.
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The End of Athenian Democracy
Back in Greece, Polyperchon continued his tour of the Peloponnese getting rid of Antipatrid rulers. Realising that he would not be coming to their aid against Cassander (who, I expect, was using his control of Athens’ port to stop food supplies from reaching the city) Athens surrendered to Antipater’s son. In the summer of 317 Cassander installed Demetrius of Phalerum as his governor of the once powerful city.
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As Waterfield notes, (p. 85), Demetrius’ arrival in the city marked the end of democracy in Athens and, I suppose, the world, until it was reinvented two thousand years later in America et al. Unless you want to be pedantic and say that America is a Republic, in which case, I would say fie!
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Olympias Enters the Game
By the time of Athens’ fall, Polyperchon was in Epirus. Perhaps influenced by Eumenes’ volte-face, Olympias had finally agreed to become Alexander IV’s regent. At the same time as overseeing the arrangements for Olympias’ return to Macedon, Polyperchon was also negotiating an alliance with Aetolians. Things were going well for Polyperchon at last; he must have been overwhelmed.
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Adea Euridike’s Scheme
As is well known, Philip Arrhidaeus had some kind of mental deficiency. I have seen it described as simply a learning difficulty and him as a half-wit so how serious an impediment it was I don’t know. I think it must have been quite a serious deficiency; if he had been any way capable of sitting on the Macedonian throne, Alexander would surely have had him killed during the post-Accession purges in 336.
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Perceiving Polyperchon to be a weak leader, Philip Arrhidaeus’ wife Adea Euridike formed an alliance with Cassander and used her husband’s weakness of mind to  ‘persuade’ him to write to the Diadochi to inform them that he was sacking Polyperchon as regent in favour of Cassander. As this letter winged its way to the various courts, Cassander – having got past Polyperchon’s son, Alexander, though I am not sure how – returned to Macedon to take up his position as the new regent. Straight afterwards, though, he returned south to continue his campaign to recover the cities who had overthrown their Antipatrid rulers after receiving Polyperchon’s letter the previous year. Annoyingly for him, a campaign that he wanted to get over and done with quickly became drawn out after his siege of Tegea failed to open the city.
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Second Battle
Polyperchon vs Adea Euridike

Due to the loss of Macedon Polyperchon marched to war against Adea at the head of a mostly Molossian army. With him were the army’s nominal heads, Olympias and Alexander IV, as well as the latter’s mother, Roxane. Adea lead – in person – a Macedonian army. She had good credentials to do so for she was Alexander the Great’s half-sister; she might even have inspired her men to victory had it not been for Olympias. Her presence persuaded the Macedonian soldiers to desert Adea and go over to the younger king; they did so before the battle even began. Adea and Philip Arrhidaeus were both captured and handed over to Olympias by Polyperchon; she imprisoned them in Pydna.
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Olympias’ Revenge
After the battle that really never was Olympias returned to Macedon. It was a triumph for her and very bad news for everyone else. She launched a purge of the Macedonian nobility. Claiming that Antipater’s sons, Nicanor and Iolaus, had poisoned Alexander, she executed the former, and – as the latter was already dead (we don’t know where or how he died) – vindictively had his grave opened, his ashes removed, and scattered.
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Olympias’ bloodlust was not limited to rival nobles and Antipater’s sons for most significantly she also had Philip Arrhidaeus murdered. That left Adea Euridike. In rather horrible fashion, Olympias sent Alexander’s half-sister hemlock, a noose and a sword so that she could choose her own manner of death. Defiant to the last, Adea hanged herself, but using her own belt as a noose. She was 19 years old.
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As morbid as it is I can’t help but wonder how Philip Arrhidaeus died. Did he even realise he was about to be executed? Maybe he smiled and laughed with his executioners before the event.
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Third Battle
Cassander vs Polyperchon and Olympias

Hearing about Olympias’ return to Macedon, Cassander broke off his Peloponnesian campaign, and marched back north. After bypassing Thermopylae (which was held by the Polyperchon’s new allies, the Aetolians) he split his army into three:

  • The western division went to Epirus where it pinned down – and in due course, deposed – the Molossian king (Aeacides)
  • The southern division pinned down Polyperchon on Macedon’s southern border
  • The central division marched north into Macedon

Seeing Cassander coming, Aristonous fled to Amphipolis. As for Polyperchon, Cassander dealt with the former supreme commander of the empire by… bribing his army to change sides, which it did. This prompted poor old Polyperchon, who I think it is fair to say was really not up to being  a Successor, to flee south once more where he joined his son. Olympias didn’t follow. Instead, she took the Macedonian court to Pydna, where Cassander put her under siege.

Olympias vs Cassander
By late 317, or early 316, Cassander’s siege of Pydna had led to a state of starvation in Olympias’ army. Soldiers started to desert. Realising that further resistance really was useless, Olympias surrendered, ordering Aristonous to do likewise. Cassander assured both that they would not be hurt, only to have Aristonous quickly murdered and 
Olympias executed following a show trial..
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Cassander’s victory over Polyperchon, and his seizure of Olympias, won him the right to become Alexander IV’s regent. He proved his loyalty to the young king by having him and his mother Roxane put under house arrest in Amphipolis where they remained until their deaths in 309. Having acted so decisively against the Argeads Cassander now sought to persuade everyone that really he was for them, so he held state funerals for
 Philip Arrhidaeus, Adea Euridike and Cynnane, and married Thessalonike, another of Alexander’s half-sisters. It worked, and Cassander would hold power in Macedon until his death in 297 BC.

  • Cassander’s victory over Polyperchon and Olympias marks the end of the Second War of the Diadochi in Greece. To read about how Antigonus defeated Eumenes to take control of the eastern empire click here.
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