The Wars of the Successors: The Rise of the Kings

For the previous posts in this series, click here.
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This chronology is based on my reading of Robin Waterfield’s splendid Dividing the Spoils, which is available at Amazon here. I am sure your local bookshop will either have it or be willing to order it for you.
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307 – 301 The Fourth War of the Diadochi
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Year / Principle Combatants / Location / Victor
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306 Antigonid Navy vs Ptolemaic Navy – off Cyprus – Antigonid Navy wins
306 Antigonus & Demetrius vs Ptolemy – Egypt – Draw: Antigonus calls off his attack
305/04 Demetrius vs Rhodes – Rhodes – Draw: Demetrius called away ending his attack
301 Antigonus & Demetrius vs Lysimachus, Seleucus & Prepelaus – Ipsus River – Coalition win

Outcome

  • The Successors become kings
  • The death of Antigonus and the end of Demetrius as a player in the wars of the successors
  • Territorial gains for Lysimachus
  • Territorial security for Cassander, Ptolemy and Seleucus

307
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I
Demetrius in Greece
As we saw a couple of posts ago, Seleucus sent Antigonus into retirement after inflicting a heavy defeat on him in Babylonia. Two years later, however, Antigonus decided to get back into the game – albeit in an indirect manner – by sending his son Demetrius to take Athens in the name of democracy.
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Demetrius duly delivered the city from its tyrant, namely, Demetrius of Phalerum. He would eventually end up in Alexandria as a trusted member of Ptolemy’s court.
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Demetrius took Athens in June. Two months later, Piraeus also fell to him.
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Where was Cassander at this time? Thanks to Polemaeus’ decision to defect from the Antigonid cause in 310, which removed central Greece from Antigonid control, and then his decision a year later to leave mainland Greece to join Ptolemy on Cos, which created a power vacuum that Cassander was able to fill, he had control of the country. Unfortunately for Cassander, Demetrius’ arrival took place in the middle of a campaign against Epirus and he did not have the manpower to divide his army up, so Athens was allowed to fall into Antigonid hands.
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Once Athens had been taken, the city voted to grant Antigonus and Demetrius divine honours. They were also recognised as being kings.
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Demetrius did not rest on his laurels in Athens but began preparations to make war on Cassander. Just as he was about to commence it, however, Demetrius was ordered by Antigonus to lead an invasion of Cyprus.
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306
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II
THE BATTLE FOR CYPRUS
Demetrius wintered in Athens before leaving for Cilicia early in the year. There, the Antigonid army awaited him.
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The invasion of Cyprus was carried out sucessfully, and it wasn’t long before Demetrius’ army was banging on the gates of Salamis, the island’s principle city. Inside, Ptolemy’s brother Menelaus, lead the defence.
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In an effort to save Salamis, Ptolemy sent his fleet to meet Demetrius’, which had taken control of the harbour mouth. A major battle  took place, and it ended in a crippling defeat for the Ptolemaic navy. As its remnants fled back to Egypt, Menelaus bowed to the inevitable and surrendered. Fortunately for him, Ptolemy had returned Demetrius’ ‘regalia and captured courtiers’ (Waterfield, p.142) after defeating him at Gaza, so Demetrius was pleased to now do likewise. In due course, Menelaus and his family were on their way to Egypt.
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Robin Waterfield reports that the battle for Cyprus involved nearly four hundred ships and and cost Ptolemy half of his army (Ibid). As you might expect, the defeat cost him control of the Aegean. The loss of Cyprus also meant that his supplies of timber would be affected meaning that it would take him longer to rebuild his navy. Waterfield concludes, ‘[w]e will find Ptolemy playing a reduced role [in the wars of the successors] for the next few years’ (Ibid).
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III
On Ptolemy’s Ambition
Ptolemy had suffered a bad reverse but I wonder how much he really cared. Waterfield says that rather than seeing him as a man of ‘moderate aims’ we should see him as simply being very ‘patient’ (p. 132). I don’t know. In the seventeen years up to 306 Ptolemy had limited himself to taking power in Egypt and creating ‘buffer zones’ around her. Yes, he had ‘invaded’ Greece in 309/08 with the intention, it seems, of setting up his own League of Corinth, but when the Greek poleis did not respond to his overtures, he simply upped sticks and went home. I could well be talking nonsense, and my mind remains open on the matter, but I really would have expected Ptolemy to do much more over the years if he was as ambitious as Waterfield suggests.
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IV
Kings
Once Demetrius had won Cyprus, Antigonus was proclaimed king by Aristodemus of Miletus (who we last saw in 315 buying Polyperchon’s support, and the following year securing central Greece for his father). Once his army had given its approval to Aristodemus’ acclamation, Antigonus sent a second diadem to his son; they would rule jointly; the founders of a dynasty.
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Antigonus had been called a king once before – by his Persian followers following the defeat of Eumenes in 317/16. Then, he had let the Persians speak as they would but did not call himself a king in case his Macedonian army took offence.
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When Aristodemus made his historic proclamation, the Antigonid army might still have been insulted, but Alexander IV was dead now, and if the army was not aware of this already the time was rapidly approaching when it would have to be told, for in 305 Alexander IV would have turned 18, and therefore of age to take his throne.  Antigonus could have waited, I suppose, until after the projected Egyptian campaign but he must have known that it would be difficult and he was old.
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Whatever Antigonus’ motivation for allowing himself to be proclaimed king now, and whatever the army knew beforehand, they fully supported Aristodemus and acclaimed their leader their king.
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V
THE BATTLE FOR EGYPT
The battle for Egypt began in November of 306 and, if truth be told, was a bit of a damp squid.
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There is no doubt about Antigonus’ commitment. He marched south with 90,000 men, 83 war elephants and with 150 warships at sea (Waterfield, p. 146). As he awaited in Pelusium for the arrival of this huge force, Ptolemy could perhaps have been forgiven for thinking his time as satrap of Egypt might have been up. Actually, it was, but not in the way he expected.
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The Antigonid assault was meant to be two pronged: Demetrius would sail the fleet behind Ptolemy’s lines and attack him from the rear, giving Antigonus the chance to cross the Nile safely and fall upon him from the front. It was a good plan but was thwarted by the Ptolemaic sea defences, which prevented Demetrius from landing.
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Unable to achieve its objective, the fleet sailed back to Antigonus’ army; it was still at sea when a fierce storm struck; a hundred ships were sunk. I suppose Antigonus could have charged ahead with his army anyway but as Waterfield states, he knew ‘especially from the example of Perdiccas, how hard it was to force the Nile’* (Ibid) and the desert was no place to stay, so he decided to withdraw. But only till the next summer…
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* Perdiccas’ fatal invasion is covered in this post
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306/05
Around this time, Cassander, Lysimachus, Ptolemy and Seleucus were acclaimed, or proclaimed themselves, king of Macedon, Thrace, Egypt and Babylonia etc respectively.
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VI

THE BATTLE FOR RHODES

While Antigonus was busy with Ptolemy, Rhodes was equally hard at work fighting off an Antigonid attempt to take control of its grain trade. Antigonus tendentiously used this as an excuse to declare war on the island. The Rhodian campaign was supposed to be a quick one but Rhodes fought hard and was able to keep the Antigonid army at bay for over a year.
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305
In the end, however, the arrival of Demetrius and his fleet in the summer of 305 convinced the island to make peace. Rhodes agreed to become an Antigonid ally. The end of the matter? No. Demetrius ‘added unrealistic… demands’ (Waterfield, p. 147) to the peace deal, and Rhodes withdrew its support. Demetrius put the island under siege. The Rhodians asked the other successors for help, and according to Waterfield (Ibid) they all replied, but none more so than Ptolemy, who wanted the siege ‘to go on for as long as possible, to give him time to recover’ (Waterfield, p. 148) from Antigonus’ aborted assault.
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304
At the beginning of 304, Demetrius changed tactics. Having failed to break into the city of Rhodes by sea he now laid siege to it on land using siege towers of terrible height and power. The outer wall of Rhodes fell; street fighting followed, but the Rhodians managed to push back the Antigonid forces.
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Demetrius regrouped his men and prepared to launch another assault – the one that he hoped – not unreasonably, perhaps – would be enough to break the Rhodian resistance once and for all. Yet, just as he prepared to move in, he received orders from his father to break the siege off: the casualty rate was too high, and Greece urgently required his attention (see Waterfield, p. 149).
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Before leaving, Demetrius made an agreement with the Rhodians: Their autonomy in exchange for an alliance with the Antigonids. The islanders agreed on condition that they would not be asked to join in the assault on Egypt.
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Ptolemy I Soter
As Demetrius sailed away, the Rhodians thanked Ptolemy for his help by proclaiming him Soter – Saviour.
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Demetrius Poliorcetes
Demetrius also earned a nickname as a result of his siege – Poliorcetes The Besieger. The Rhodians were not yet done, though; in thanksgiving for their freedom, they raised a great statue of Helios in the harbour. The Colossus, one of the seven wonders of antiquity, would stand there until an earthquake brought it tumbling down in 226 BC (Waterfield says that the ruin remained in the harbour until the seventh century AD – p. 150).
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As for Antigonus; well, the cost of his siege of Rhodes had been so high that he was no longer able to continue his campaign against Ptolemy in Egypt. Greece, however, was another matter.
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VII
Demetrius in Greece

Why was Demetrius required in Greece? Well, earlier in the year, Cassander had presumably beaten or come to terms with Epirus, crossed the country and put Athens under siege. Seeing Demetrius return, however, he abandoned the siege and returned to Macedon.
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Demetrius wintered in Athens. Modestly? You bet not. He took the Parthenon as his house and it appears he now began to have megalomaniac fantasies about being an ‘avatar’ (Ibid) of Dionysus. The Athenians responded in kind by setting up three cults dedicated to him.
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303
When, in the spring of 303, Demetrius marched on Sicyon and expelled the Ptolemaic garrison there, the city gave Demetrius his fourth cult. No doubt feeling jolly chuffed, he then marched against Pleistarchus in the Peloponnese, and defeated him.
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At some point between 309 and 303 Polyperchon had managed to make his way back into the Peloponnese and take up residency in Messenia again. There was nothing he could do about Demetrius, though, and he died not long later. I wonder if any of the successors noticed or cared. Perhaps Cassander did.
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Demetrius concluded his successful Peloponnesian campaign by marrying Deidameia, the sister of Pyrrhus of Epirus (he of the Pyrrhic victory) and returned to Athens for the winter.
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That winter, Cassander – seeing Greece turn to the Antigonid cause – sues for peace. Scenting his blood, the Antigonids demanded his ‘unconditional surrender’ (Waterfield, p. 151).
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Robin Waterfield identifies the defeat of Pleistarchus as the end of the fourth diadoch war, but as it began with the Antigonids invading Greece, I am going to say that for me it ends in 301 with the Antigonids’ final attempt to take Greece, which occurred, funnily enough, in Asia Minor. This will allow me to wrap this post up with the great battle at Ipsus.
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302

In the spring of 302, Demetrius re-founded the League of Corinth with himself and his father as the joint Life Presidents. You can probably guess who declined the opportunity to join the League (begins with ‘S’ and ends with ‘parta’). But as has been said before, they were a people and country of no consequence any more so were let be. Instead, Demetrius marched north for the final showdown with Cassander.
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THE BATTLE OF IPSUS
Preliminaries
As Demetrius marched north, Cassander appealed to Lysimachus for his help. The Antigonids tried to persuade the latter to stay put but knowing that if Macedon fell, Thrace would be next, Lysimachus answered Cassander’s call.
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More good news for the beleaguered Antipatrid came with the news from Ptolemy and Seleucus (who by now had come to terms with Chandragupta in the east) that they would also support him – with men, in the case of Seleucus.
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The Phony Battle
The first engagement between Cassander and Demetrius’ forces came in Thessaly; despite a numerical advantage of over 20,000 men in favour of Demetrius, it ended without a battle actually taking place. ‘They built enormous military camps and eyeballed each other, but both armies were so terrifyingly huge that neither was in a hurry to start the offensive’ (Waterfield, p. 152). In a strange way this reminds me of the arms race between the USA and USSR, where both sides become simply too powerful with their nuclear bombs to actually be able to fight.
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Taking Asia Minor
Early in the summer, Lysimachus invaded Asia Minor. Together with Prepelaus, he set about winning as many cities as possible taking control of as many cities as possible before the Antigonid forces could move in.
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Antigonus’ Last March
When they did, they came with the ageing Antigonus at their head. As he marched west, Lysimachus and Prepelaus retreated to northern Asia Minor, helpfully pulling Antigonus away from Seleucus’ arrival point in the region – Cappadocia – by doing so.
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Winter stopped any further action, either in Greece or Asia Minor. Antigonus wintered in Celaenae, while Lysimachus and Prepelaus settled just south of Hereclea Pontica.
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In Celaenae, Antigonus knew that he didn’t have enough men ‘to be certain of victory’ (Waterfield, p.153), which is funny because one of the reasons why Lysimachus and Prepelaus didn’t confront him earlier in the year was because they knew they wouldn’t have enough men to do so until Seleucus arrived. To be fair, there is a big difference between not having enough men to challenge and not having enough to be certain of victory. Anyway, Antigonus sent word to Demetrius – make peace with Cassander and join me. Demetrius did just that. Arriving in Asia Minor, he took back the cities won by Prepelaus before stopping in Chalcedon.
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Pleistarchus followed Demetrius at Cassander’s behest. Unlike Poliorcetes, however, his journey was compromised by bad weather and enemy attacks, and he lost 6,000 of his 20,000 before finally reaching Heraclea.
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Back in Greece, Cassander took advantage of Demetrius’ departure by taking back Thessaly; further east, Ptolemy takes possession once more of Phœnicia. Upon being told that the war was going badly for his allies, however, he withdrew once more back into Egypt.
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301
Lysimachus joins Seleucus.
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Battle is Joined
Lysimachus, Seleucus and Prepelaus met Antigonus and Demetrius at the Ipsus River in Phrygia. The combined size of their armies was a mammoth 160,000. Ipsus represented Antigonus’ chance to become Alexander, for if Lysimachus and Seleucus had fallen, he would have recaptured the east and been able to march into Greece with ease. That would leave Ptolemy, isolated in Egypt. However, in what was, no doubt, a ferocious battle, Antigonus died in a hail of javelins. The Antigonid army was smashed. Demetrius escaped – just.
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Aftermath
In the traditional post-battle carve up, Lysimachus was given Asia Minor as far as the Halys River in the east of the region. Within his realm, a number of cities (e.g. Heraclae) and countries (e.g. Bithynia) kept their independence to one degree or another.
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Despite having given Lysimachus and Prepelaus troops. Cassander gained nothing from the after battle division. Seleucus, however, was given Mesopotamia and Syria. Ptolemy, having had no direct involvement with Ipsus was also given nothing.
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As for Demetrius, he escaped from the battlefield to Ephesus where he took up a life of piracy, moving between his various possessions in the Aegean and Phœnicia (he still ruled over Tyre and Sidon), etc.
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Seleucus returned east. On the way he took the decision to demolish Antigonea and build five cities of his own, all named after his family; collectively, they would be known as Seleucis. Watefield (p. 176) states that the five cities were a reminder to Ptolemy that his possession of Phœnicia was illegal and and that Seleucus would make an attempt to drive him out of the region.
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The fifth war of the successors, however, would not be Ptolemy vs Seleucus but an epilogue to this war – the Anti-Antigonid alliance vs Demetrius.
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Successors killed between 307-01
Antigonus Monophthalmus – Ipsus – 301
Polyperchon (dies in his bed) – Messenia – 303

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