The Sources Speak: Diodorus on Ptolemy Pt 3

  • An index of the other posts in this series can be found here
  • I am using the Loeb Classical Library’s edition of Diodorus’ Library of History (Harvard University Press, 2004) for this post.

322/21 BC
Antipater and Craterus were fighting Aetolia when Antigonus joined them. He brought bad news – Perdiccas intended to overthrow Antipater and use his regency of Alexander IV and Philip III Arrhidaeus to make himself master of Macedon.
Antipater and Craterus summoned their senior officers and held a meeting with them to discuss this unpleasant development. Fortunately, there was total agreement on what needed to be done: 1. Make peace with the Aetolians. They could be left for another day. 2. Antipater and Craterus to take their armies to Asia Minor as quickly as possible thereafter so as to meet the threat posed by Perdiccas. 3. An embassy to be sent to Ptolemy,

… to discuss concerted action, since he was utterly hostile to Perdiccas but friendly to them…
(IX. 8. 25. p. 85)

This is Diodorus’ first reference to Ptolemy since his account of the help that Ptolemy gave to the Cyrenian exiles (as mentioned in the last post).
While Antipater, Craterus and Antipater were holding their council, Perdiccas was in a meeting of his own with his ‘friends and generals’ (Ibid, p. 87). During it, he asked them,

… whether it was better to march against Macedonia or first to take the field against Ptolemy.
(IX. 8. 25. p. 87)

Perdiccas’ counsellors favoured fighting Ptolemy first so that ‘there might be no obstacle in the way of their Macedonian campaign’ (Ibid). Given Ptolemy’s enmity, and the fact that Antipater and Craterus had decided to ask him for his help, this was a wise move.
Having said that, in this age of fluid alliances and friendships, I must admit that a part of me is a little surprised that Perdiccas did not make any effort to form an alliance with Ptolemy. Not only would it have removed any danger that he posed but it would have also isolated Antipater and Craterus that little bit more.
322/21 BC
Diodorus tells us that Arridaeus (a Macedonian officer, not Philip III) ‘spent nearly two years’ making Alexander’s funeral carriage. It was a vehicle of great splendour and, it seems, even quite technologically advanced on account of being fitted with some kind of suspension system.
Once the vehicle had been finished, he led it out of Babylon along with its bodyguard and ‘a crowd of roadmenders and mechanics’ (p.95). According to Diodorus, Arrhidaeus,

… brought the body of the king from Babylon to Egypt. Ptolemy… doing honour to Alexander, went to meet [the cortege]… receiving the body [he] deemed it worthy of the greatest consideration. He decided for the present not to send it to Ammon, but to entomb it in the city that had been founded by Alexander himself…
(IX. 8. 28. p. 95)

He decided… not to send it to Ammon‘. By Ammon, I presume that Diodorus means Siwa.
I have always understood that the intention was to send Alexander’s body to Macedon but now that I think about it I don’t know the origin of this view. Arrian and Plutarch don’t seem to mention what happened to his body at all, while Curtius says simply that ‘Alexander’s body was taken to Memphis by Ptolemy’ and from there transported to Alexandria.
Have I got it wrong? I don’t thinks so, because Livius says,

In December 322, Perdiccas sent the remains of Alexander to the tomb that had been prepared in Macedonia’s religious capital, Aegae.

Where did Livius get its information? Perhaps it is Justin. I don’t have a copy of his Epitome of the Philippic History of Pompeius Trogus so can’t check. If you know the answer to this question, I’d be delighted to hear it; do leave a comment in the combox.
Once Ptolemy had taken Alexander’s body to Egypt, he had to prepare for Perdiccas’ coming. The following passage from Diodorus will not come as a surprise to anyone who has read the previous two posts in this series.

… men, because of [Ptolemy’s] graciousness and nobility of heart, came together eagerly from all sides to Alexandria and gladly enrolled for the campaign, although the army of the kings was about to fight against that of Ptolemy; and, even though the risks were manifest and great, yet all of them willingly took upon themselves at their personal risk the preservation of Ptolemy’s safety. The gods also saved him unexpectedly from the greatest dangers on account of his courage and his honest treatment of all his friends.
(IX. 8. 28. p. 95)

At this point, I have to remind myself that Diodorus wrote his history three hundred years after Ptolemy’s death, based it mainly on Cleitarchus (not Ptolemy’s more self-serving work as used by Arrian) and had no reason that I can think of to praise Ptolemy so highly, except because that is how he is presented by his sources who – ultimately – were Macedonian soldiers. Can you think of another reason?
Ptolemy’s popularity gives me an excuse to mention the following. If Hephaestion had lived, he rather of Perdiccas (his successor as chiliarch) would have divided the empire up at the Babylon Conference. Whether or not the senior officers and phalanx still (almost) came to blows, I think that Hephaestion would eventually have become the latter’s natural leader. The phalanx was pro-Argead; Hephaestion was the philalexandros, how could they not join together? But as Diodorus indicates, Ptolemy was the man with the bravery and grace. He and Hephaestion would have made either very interesting (powerful) allies, or sharply contrasting and yet alike, enemies.
Sadly, Hephaestion didn’t live, so we have to return to what actually happened. Namely, that seeing how powerful Ptolemy had become (Ibid) Perdiccas decided that he would lead the war against him himself. Perhaps it was Ptolemy’s popularity that caused Perdiccas to reject any possibility of a rapprochement with him: he feared that if they joined up he risked his authority being undermined by the more popular man. That fear was justified, as we’ll find out in the next post.

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