The Babylonian Conference in 323 B.C.

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The Ishtar Gate

The Ishtar Gate

After Alexander’s death the Macedonian army was divided over who should take charge of his empire. The phalanx supported his half-brother, Arrhidaeus, but this was opposed by the ‘most influential of the [late king’s] Friends and… Bodyguard’ (Diodorus Bk 8. 2). They joined forces with the Companion Cavalry and sent Meleager to the phalanx to order it to submit to their will.
Meleager, however, had other ideas. Upon meeting the phalanx, he took its side; moreover, he incited the soldiers against the senior officers.
The phalanx rewarded Meleager’s treachery by making him their leader before marching against the senior officers. Diodorus tells us that Alexander’s Bodyguard withdrew from Babylon and prepared for a fight. It was averted, however, by doves, who managed to bring the two sides together.
Thus started the Babylonian conference. From the outset it was agreed that Arrhidaeus would become king. His name was duly changed to Philip. But Philip III, as he now was, suffered from a mental illness of some sort and was unfit to rule by himself. In light of this, Perdiccas – to whom Alexander had given his ring – was made his regent. It was also decided that the most senior of Alexander’s officers would take over the various satrapies ‘and obey the king and Perdiccas’ (Ibid).
Diodorus doesn’t quite give us the full picture of what happened at the conference. For example, while Perdiccas was indeed the sole regent, it was decided that he would share power with Craterus. Meleager, meanwhile, was made his deputy. I owe these facts to Russel M. Geer who translated this Loeb Classical Library edition of Diodorus that I am using.
Something – or rather, someone – else that Diodorus omits to mention is Alexander’s widow, Roxane. She was pregnant with their child at the time of his death. If she had given birth to a daughter, I imagine that Philip III would have been removed (i.e. killed) sooner rather than later and that the Successors would then have begun the post-Argead carve up. As it was, Roxane gave birth to a son, Alexander IV, and the Successors were forced to become caretakers – looking after the boy’s empire until he came of age and inherited it. Or rather, if he did.
Diodorus records that after the conference Perdiccas ‘took counsel with the chief men’ (Bk 8. 3) before announcing who he was giving the satrapies to. Here is the list:

  • Antigonus Monophthalmus  Pamphylia, Lycia and ‘Great Phrygia’
  • Antipater  Macedon and ‘adjacent peoples’
  • Arcesilaus  Mesopotamia
  • Archon  Babylonia
  • Asander  Caria
  • Eumenes  Paphlagonia and Cappadocia ‘and all the lands bordering on these, which Alexander did not invade’
  • Laomedon of Mitylene  Syria
  • Leonnatus  Hellespontine Phrygia
  • Lysimachus  Thrace ‘and the neighbouring tribes near the Pontic sea’
  • Menander  Lydia
  • Peithon  Media (i.e. Media Major; Atropates was given north west Media) and neighbouring lands next to Taxiles and Porus
  • Peucestas Persia
  • Philip  Bactria and Sogdia
  • Philotas  Cilicia
  • Ptolemy  Egypt
  • Stasanor Aria and Drangine
  • Tlepolemus  Carmania

Perdiccas confirmed the eastern satraps (or kings in the case of Porus and Taxiles) in their positions. I’m listing these men separately as I don’t regard them as successors of Alexander.

  • Atropates  (north west or Lesser) Media
  • Oxyartes  Paropanisadae
  • Phrataphernes  Parthia and Hyrcania
  • Porus – Allowed to retain his kingdom
  • Taxiles – Allowed to retain his kingdom
  • Sibyrtius  Arachosia and Gedrosia

In his notes, Geer states that Diodorus’ list agrees with that given by Arrian, Curtius and Dexippus, except as follows:

  • Antipater and Craterus Macedon


  • RhadaphernesParthia and Hyrcania
  • Neoptolemus  Carmania

In the case of Dexippus, are these men but Phrataphernes and Tlepolemus under different names? Unfortunately, I don’t know.
One final point; there is one source here whom I have not used – Justin. Geer describes his list of who got what at Babylon as being ‘very innacurate’.

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