Vol. VIII. Book XVII Ch. 48 (Loeb Classical Library)
Read the other posts in this series here
Agis Hires Issus Mercs
Agis Conquers Crete
Amyntas son of Antiochus killed in Memphis
Alexander Storms Gaza
Around the time that Alexander was engaged in Tyre, King Agis of Sparta hired eight thousand mercenaries – veterans of the Battle of Issus. To try and free his country from Macedonian rule? Well, Diodorus says rather that he wanted ‘to change the political situation in Greece in favour of Dareius’.
Darius sent money and ships to Agis who used the latter to sail to Crete where he successfully ‘captured most of the cities’. There, and with great suddenness, Diodorus breaks off his narrative. The Footnotes assure us, though, that we will meet Agis again in Chapter 62.
In Agis’ place, we meet Amyntas son of Antiochus. This is his first mention by Diodorus, though he appears chronologically earlier in the pages of Arrian (1. 17) and Curtius (3. 18).
Amyntas was a Macedonian deserter. He took part in the battle at Issus, fleeing with four thousand mercenaries when the Persian army was routed. His next destination was Tripolis. There, he requisitioned enough ships for his men and set fire to the rest. He sailed to Cyprus for more men and ships before heading south to Pelusium in Egypt.
Upon his arrival, Amyntas told the people that ‘he had been sent by King Dareius as military commander because the satrap of Egypt had been killed fighting at Issus’. The death of the satrap at any rate is true.
Amyntas did not stay in Pelusium for long. He sailed up the Nile to Memphis, that most ancient and venerable of cities, which in the years to come would serve as Ptolemy’s first capital and the first city to hold Alexander’s body.
After defeating a Memphite (?) army, Amyntas let his soldiers plunder the local estates. It was a fatal error, for when the Egyptians regrouped and launched a second offensive, his army was too scattered to resist. Amyntas and all his men were killed.
Diodorus concludes the story of Amyntas by adding that other Persian officers who escaped from Issus also took control of cities for their king and raised new forces from various tribes.
Back in Greece, the League of Corinth ‘voted to send fifteen envoys with a golden wreath’ to Alexander in honour of his victory at Issus.
It is only in the last three lines of this chapter that Diodorus returns to Alexander. He reports that after leaving Tyre he marched down to Gaza ‘which was garrisoned by the Persians, and took the city by storm after a siege of two months’.
Usually we start at the top but this time let’s start at the bottom – Gaza. I wonder why Diodorus treats it in such a cursory fashion. Had he had enough of sieges after Tyre? I am being flippant. Perhaps he passed over it for literary reasons; having spent several chapters recounting what happened at Tyre, he felt his audience would be bored by another siege so soon afterwards.
Or maybe his sources didn’t mention it so Diodorus couldn’t. Livius tells me that Diodorus’ (sole?) source was Cleitarchus, who himself wrote his account of Alexander’s life based on what Macedonian soldiers told him. I find it hard to believe that they would not have given Gaza greater prominence in their accounts; the siege went on for two months, after all, it must have made some impression upon them.
Let’s work our way back through the narrative. The story of Amyntas son of Antiochus is an instructive one for all would-be warlords. If you are going to defeat a city in battle make sure you garrison it, afterwards! His failure to do so really was the proverbial schoolboy error.
By-the-way, Tripolis is not to be confused with Tripoli. The latter is, of course, the capital of Libya. While Tripoli did exist in Alexander’s time, Amyntas visited Tripolis in Phoenicia. It still exists today; here is its Wikipedia page.
Diodorus’ mention of Agis acts as a kind of verbal teaser for the king’s story. Let’s hope Diodorus gives it more time than he did the Siege of Gaza. Given that Agis lead a revolt against Antipater, of course, he ought to. Having said that, Diodorus has shown that he is not afraid to cut a particular narrative thread short when he wants to; which, rather neatly, brings us back to Gaza.
In light of Diodorus’ failure to tell us what happened at Gaza, The Second Achilles invites you to decide yourself through through this exciting ‘choose your own adventure’ story.
1. You are Alexander. Approaching Gaza you decide to,
> Lay siege to it, break in and kill Batis by by dragging his body around the city just as your hero Achilles dragged Hector’s body around Troy GO TO TWO
> Leave it in peace and go on your way. If you choose this option you have just given the Gazans the opportunity to wipe your army out from the rear. GO BACK TO ONE
2. Congratulations. You have taken the city. Proceed to Egypt and world domination