Diodorus Siculus

Where Did Darius Die?

I’m not sure if this is a post that will interest many people but I thought I would mention it, anyway, just in case.

In my last post, I referred to how Alexander caught up with Darius in Media and said that I thought the last Archaemenid king died in Hyrcania or Parthia. I added I would double check this – i.e. by looking at the sources rather than the Notes or on the Internet.

In Chapter 73 of his Library of History, Diodorus describes how Alexander found Darius dead but doesn’t say specifically where this happened. Alexander then sets out on his first, unsuccessful, pursuit of Bessus. Realising that the regicide has got too far away, ‘Alexander suspended the chase and returned’.

To where? Again, Diodorus doesn’t tell us. After a short digression in which we are told about the aftermath of the Battle of Megalopolis and Bessus’ arrival in Bactria, Diodorus returns to Alexander who now has to deal with his troops who think that with Darius’ death the campaign is over and that they can return home. He persuades his men to follow him, pays off his allies and then, from wherever he is, sets ‘out for Hyrcania’ (Chapter 75).

So much for Darius dying in Hyrcania, then. And as Parthia is east of Hyrcania, it is unlikely he set out for Hyrcania from there.

West of Hyrcania, however, are Persia… and Media.

Arrian is a little clearer on where Darius died, although he doesn’t give the specific location. After dismissing his allies in Ecbatana, in Media (III.19-20), Alexander sets out in pursuit of Darius (III.20). Eleven days later, he arrives in Rhagae, one day away from the Caspian Gates (III.21). After passing through the Caspian Gates, Alexander meets two Persian deserters, Bagistanes and Antibelus, who inform him that the Great King has been arrested. The Macedonian king immediately resumes the pursuit (Ibid).

Using Arrian, here is a day-by-day account of Alexander’s pursuit from the point he arrives at the Caspian Gates:

Day 1
Alexander camps close by the Caspian Gates
Day 2
He passes through Caspian Gates
Alexander stops at an unspecified location on ‘the limit of cultivated land’
Bagistanes and Antibelus bring news of Darius’ arrest
Alexander immediately starts riding again; he marches all night…
Day 3
… ‘and half the following day’, stopping at midday. Alexander keep riding through the afternoon and through the night
Day 4
… reaching a deserted Persian camp at daybreak
After receiving confirmation of Darius’ arrest, Alexander immediately sets out again
He rides all day, night…
Day 5
… and the next morning, reaching an unidentified village at midday
He leaves the village at dusk, and rides (50 miles) through the night
Day 6
Alexander reaches the fleeing Persians at dawn the next day
The Persian line is very drawn out. Seeing Alexander approach, Nabarzanes and Barsaentes are able to kill Darius and flee.

So, Arrian is very good in terms of recording how long the stages of the march took but not really with where specifically Alexander was.

To be honest, I could have said this without taking the time to write the day-by-day account. I’m glad I did, though, as it has given me a much better idea of how hard Alexander pushed himself, his men and their horses in order to capture Darius. It is easy to understand why. For as long as Darius remained alive, and free, he was a potential rival around which resistance to Alexander’s authority could form. Alexander could be a generous man, but he never, ever permitted his authority to be challenged.

What it means, though, is that I have run out of time to look at Curtius, Plutarch and Justin. I’ll come to them in my next post.

Categories: Arrian, Diodorus Siculus | Tags: | 1 Comment

The Wars of the Diadochi: The Macedonian Army Divides

Diodorus XVIII.2

In the Summer of 329 B.C., Alexander was shot in the leg by an arrow during offensive operations against a 20,000 strong native armed force (Curtius VII.6.2-3) in Sogdia.

The dart broke his fibula (Arrian III.30) leaving him unable to walk. Afterwards, members of the Macedonian cavalry and infantry argued over who should be given the honour of carrying their king in his litter (Curtius VII.6.8-9).

Both felt it was their right to do so. In the end, Alexander defused the increasingly tense situation by declaring that both cavalry and infantry would be permitted to carry him – on alternate days (ibid).

This dispute highlighted both how deeply the mounted and foot soldiers loved their king and the rights that they believed they had in relation to him. It also portended the first struggle after Alexander’s death.

(Wikimedia Commons)

On 11th June 323 B.C. Alexander died without an heir. Roxane was pregnant but, for all anyone knew, her child might turn out to be a girl. In the hours and days that followed, the phalanx – the most senior members of the infantry – took the logical but controversial step of declaring Alexander’s half-brother, Arrhidaeus, as king.

The reason why their declaration was controversial was two-fold. Firstly, they had acted unilaterally. The army had the right to elect its king but my understanding is that this meant the whole army. Secondly, Arrhidaeus suffered from a mental or physical disability, which was serious enough to render him unfit to be king. Had it been otherwise, Alexander would have had him killed in 336.

The reason why the phalanx still chose Arrhidaeus is because they wanted –needed – to be ruled by an Argead whoever it was. Arrhidaeus’ disability was inconvenient but the thought of there being no king – or that the crown might pass to a non-Argead was inconceivable.

Alexander’s most senior Friends and Bodyguards met to discuss the phalanx’s decision. Unsurprisingly, they decided to reject the choice of Arrhidaeus. They knew that a disabled king was, in a sense, twice as dangerous as an able-bodied one. If the latter made a bad decision, he alone was responsible – and could be made to answer – for it (keep Perdiccas in mind for an example of this). A disabled king like Arrhidaeus, however, was not only capable of making bad decisions but might be forced to do so by other people who would then hide behind his authority in order to avoid being called to account.

Stater of Philip III Arrhidaeus (Wikipedia)

Having rejected Arrhidaeus, the Friends and Bodyguards decided to bring the phalanx to heel. To ensure that this happened, they formed an alliance with the Companion Cavalry. A senior office named Meleager was sent to the phalanx to order it to submit.

What followed was the first of many turns and treacheries that would take place over the next forty years and, indeed, bring the Wars of the Diadochi to a close when Ptolemy Keraunos assassinated Seleucus.

Meleager, instead of delivering the senior officers’ ultimatum ‘praised’ the phalanx

… for the resolution that they had taken and sharpened their anger against their opponents.

As a reward for this, the phalanx made Meleager its leader and ‘advanced under arms’ against the senior officers.

Had the latter remained in Babylon, perhaps they would all have been killed and the bloodshed that followed avoided. But Meleager’s betrayal had been discovered and the men fled from the city.

Outside, they recovered themselves and made ready to fight the phalanx for the future. Battle was averted, however, when the doves on both sides persuaded the hawks to reconcile. As a result of this, Arrhidaeus was declared king and renamed Philip III. Perdiccas, Alexander’s deputy, and the man to whom he had given his ring – the symbol of his authority as king – was made Philip III’s regent. Finally, it was decided that

… the most important of the Friends and of the Bodyguard should take over the satrapies and obey the king and Perdiccas.

In his Who’s Who in the Age of Alexander the Great Waldemar Heckel explains which Successors were in the first and second rank at Babylon.

First Rank

  • Perdiccas
  • Leonnatus
  • Ptolemy

Second Rank

  • Lysimachus
  • Aristonus
  • Peithon
  • Seleucus
  • Eumenes

Had Antipater and Craterus been present they would undoubtedly have been in the first rank; I am not so sure about Antigonus. Did their absence matter? And who got where? We’ll find out in the next post.

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The Wars of The Successors: Funeral Games

Nota Bene I started this series on my Tumblr page and wrote just over twenty chapters before stopping last summer. I’d really like to continue it to give myself a reason to read Diodorus’ account of the Wars of the Successors in full so will re-publish the Tumblr chapters (edited as necessary) over the next few weeks before picking the series up thereafter.

Diodorus XVIII.1

When he was quitting life in Babylon and at his last breath [Alexander] was asked by his friend to whom he was leaving the kingdom, he said, “To the best man; for I foresee that a great combat of my friends will be my funeral games.”
(Diodorus XVIII.1)

In this series, I’ll be looking at Diodorus Siculus’ account of the Wars of the Diadochi (Successors), which he covers in Books 18-20 of his Library of History.

Alexander’s ‘funeral games’ stretched from east to west and two, even three, generations of men. It sucked in all of the great conquerors generals, leading to the fall of some whom you might have expected to survive, and the rise of others who in Alexander’s time were of minor account.

Three years ago I wrote a read through of Robin Waterfield’s excellent Dividing the Spoils for the blog. Up till now, however, I have not read Diodorus’ account itself all the way through so doing so now will be a new experience for me.

Whether or not you are familiar with Diodorus’ history of the Successors, I hope you enjoy what you read.

If you would like to know which Successors died when, where and how just click here


Ptolemy son of Lagus
For several years he was a minor officer in Alexander’s army. In 330 B.C. Alexander appointed him to the Royal Bodyguards. From then on, Ptolemy never looked back. Important commands followed. By the time of Alexander’s death, he had established himself as one of the king’s most senior officers.

Seleucus I Nicator
Seleucus only comes to any kind of prominence fairly late on in Alexander’s campaign. His first appearance in Arrian, for example, is at the crossing of the Hydaspes River (V.13). There, Seleucus is named as the commander of the ‘Royal Regiment of Guards’ (Penguin Classics text). After Alexander’s death, Seleucus was not given a satrapy indicating that he was not yet a senior officer.


The Death of Alexander
The event that kicked off the Successor Wars. Was he poisoned? Or did he die of natural causes? We’ll never know, but over the next forty years many people would come to wish that he hadn’t died at all, as his generals fought each other to the death to claim their part, or the whole, of Alexander’s kingdom.

Pictures Sources
The Korinthischer Krater (showing funeral games) – Wikimedia Commons
Ptolemy – Wikipedia
Seleucus – Wikipedia
Death of Alexander – Wikipedia

Categories: Diodorus Siculus | Tags: | 2 Comments

Perdiccas: The Great Betrayer?

Over on my Tumblr page I am currently writing a read-through of the eighteenth book of Diodorus Siculus’ Library of History – his account of the wars of Alexander’s successors. Today’s post covers the twenty-fourth and fifth chapters of the Library. You can read it here.

While writing the post I was very struck by the fact that Antipater and Craterus were not only surprised but ‘dumbfounded’ when Antigonus Monophthalmus informed them that Perdiccas intended to marry Alexander’s sister, Cleopatra, as a means to make himself king of her brother’s empire.

I’m not surprised by their shock. Perdiccas, after all, was the man to whom Alexander gave his ring of office on his deathbed (Diodorus XVII.117; Curtius X.5.4). The dying king must, therefore, have trusted Perdiccas to ensure that if it were possible for an Argead (e.g. his as yet unborn son) to inherit the throne his deputy – Hephaestion’s successor – would be able to make it happen. And if Alexander thought that, then surely the other generals did, too. It seems that Antipater and Craterus certainly did. Yet here Perdiccas was, all of a sudden, aiming to make himself king.

The title of my post is ‘Perdiccas’ Betrayal’. If there is an ounce of truth in Diodorus’ words I can’t think of how anyone could have betrayed Alexander more. For he betrayed him not only personally but surely by encouraging those other generals who were not so loyal to the idea of an Argead succession but who, had Perdiccas remained faithful to the late king, might have swallowed their ambitions all the same.


Of course, there is an objection to my dim view of Perdiccas, and it is sourced in the texts. According to Diodorus, Alexander was asked to whom he left his kingdom. He did not say ‘his son’ but ‘to the strongest’ (D. XVII.117) or ‘to the best man’ (Curtius X.5.5). My objection to this is that a. Arrian(VII.26) – taking his cue from Ptolemy and Aristobulos – says that Alexander could not speak at the end of his life and b. It would make no sense for Antipater or Craterus to be surprised by Perdiccas’ betrayal if they knew that Alexander wanted ‘simply’ the strongest or greatest man to inherit his throne rather than his son.

  • As visitors to this blog may have noticed, I have been very remiss in updating The Second Achilles for a while now. For this, I apologise; I am in a busy stage of life but have to admit I haven’t used my time as well as I could have to publish posts here. Within the time that I have I would like to change that. I’m not sure how I will yet, but one idea is to write short posts like this one giving my thoughts on Diodorus as I write the read through. If you find short posts like this one helpful, or not so, do feel free to let me know in the comments box or via e-mail thesecondachilles@gmail.com
Categories: Arrian, Diodorus Siculus, Quintus Curtius Rufus, The Wars of the Successors | Tags: , , , | 5 Comments

The Death of Alexander

Daily Diodorus
Vol. VIII. Book XVII Ch. 116-118 (Loeb Classical Library)
Read the other posts in this series here

The Headlines
Mystery in Palace as Prisoner Sits on Royal Throne
Alexander Lost in Swamps
King Found: Diadem Worn By Oarsman
* Inside: A round up of all recent omens
King Falls Ill Following Party
Alexander Dies

The Story
Chapter 116
Hephaestion’s funeral was now over. For relief, Alexander ‘turned to amusements and festivals’. To the world it looked like ‘he was at the peak of his power and good fortune’ but Fate had other ideas and immediately that the festivities began ‘heaven… began to foretell [Alexander’s] death’.

Diodorus gives the example of two omens that portended this. The first involved a native who was kept in chains. One day, as Alexander was receiving a massage, those chains suddenly fell off. The native – presumably a prisoner of some sort – ran away from his guards and entered throne room. There, he took Alexander’s clothes and diadem and put them on before sitting down on the throne itself.

Upon being told what had happened, Alexander ‘was terrified’. He went to the native and asked him what he was about. The man made no reply. Alexander turned to his seers and asked them to interpret what had happened.

Diodorus doesn’t give their response but it was clearly negative to Alexander as it made him order the native’s execution in the hope ‘that the trouble which was forecast by his act might light upon the man’s own head’.

Once the native had been taken away, Alexander retrieved his clothing ‘and sacrificed to the gods who avert evil’. This pious act, however, was not enough to remove his worry about what the incident portended.

We have seen once or twice before how Alexander could have his mind changed with absurd ease by those underneath him. Diodorus gives an example of this when he described how the king decided to stay outside Babylon (Chapter 112 here). Curtius gives another when he tells how Bagoas poisoned Alexander’s mind against Orsines (10:1:24-38).

It now happens again. Diodorus says that Alexander ‘recalled the predictions of the Chaldaeans’ and became angry ‘with the philosophers who had persuaded him to enter Babylon’. In consequence, he renewed his respect for the Chaldaeans and argued ‘railed’ at anyone ‘who used specious reasoning to argue away the power of Fate’.

Diodorus’ second omen came when Alexander was exploring the swamps around Babylon. His skiff became separated from the royal party. Upon a moment, it passed underneath some tall reeds, which caught Alexander’s diadem and threw it into the water. One of the oarsmen ‘swam after it’. Upon retrieving the ribbon, the oarsman placed it on his head for safe keeping.

Alexander was lost for three days and nights. Presently, he put his diadem on again. When he did so, the skiff came out of the swamp. What did it all mean? Alexander went straight to his soothsayers to find out.

Chapter 117
The seers told Alexander to ‘sacrifice to the gods on a grand scale’ and quickly. Before he could do so, however, the king was ‘called away by Medius… to take part in a comus’.

At the party, Alexander ‘drank much unmixed wine in commemoration of the death of Heracles’. He filled ‘a huge beaker’ and drank it in one go; suddenly, ‘he shrieked aloud as if smitten by a violent blow’. The king’s Friends came forward and took Alexander back to his quarters.

The royal physicians ‘were summoned’ but they could do nothing to take away the pain. Alexander ‘continued in great discomfort and acute suffering’.

After a while, he realised that he was dying. Alexander removed his ring of office and gave it to his chiliarch – Perdiccas. ‘His Friends asked: “To whom do you leave the kingdom?”‘ Alexander replied, simply, ‘”To the strongest.”‘ He then prophesied ‘that all of his leading Friends would stage a vast contest in honour of his funeral’.

At an unspecified point after speaking these words, Alexander died. He had reigned for ‘twelve years and seven months’ and ‘accomplished greater deeds than any… who had lived before him [or] who were to come later’.

Diodorus concludes the chapter with an acknowledgement that some historians believe that Alexander was poisoned. As this is so, ‘it seems necessary for us to mention their account also’.

Chapter 118
This chapter, therefore, is a coda of sorts to the main story, which is now finished.

Diodorus turns to Antipater. He served as Alexander’s ‘viceroy’ in Macedon while the king was abroad. During this time, he ‘was at variance with… Olympias’. That seems a very polite way of putting it.

To begin with, Antipater didn’t take Olympias seriously because Alexander ignored ‘her complaints against him’. Later, however, ‘as their enmity kept growing’ and Alexander ‘showed an anxiety to gratify [Olympias] in everything out of piety’ Antipater became worried.

When Alexander killed Parmenion and Philotas ‘terror’ entered Antipater’s heart. But not only his, also ‘all of Alexander’s Friends’. Antipater’s son, Iolaus, was Alexander’s wine-pourer. The viceroy gave him a poison to administer to the king.

If Alexander was poisoned, how come nobody wrote about it afterwards? Diodorus doesn’t ask this question out loud but clearly has it in mind. He that, following Alexander’s death, Antipater ‘held… supreme authority in Europe’ and after him, ‘his son Cassander’. Their power, therefore, was why ‘many historians did not dare write about the drug’.

Diodorus has no doubt, however, that Cassander is guilty; he cites the murder of of Olympias and rebuilding of Thebes as proof of his hostility to Alexander.

Finally, Diodorus turns to Sisygambis – whom he calls Sisyngambris. She mourned Alexander’s death deeply. In fact, her grief was so profound that she stopped eating. Five days later, she died ‘painfully but not ingloriously’.

Why did the native run to the throne and take Alexander’s clothing and diadem? In Chapter 66 (which I covered here) we saw how Alexander upset a eunuch when he used one of Darius’ tables as a footstool. In the Footnotes for this incident, we are told ‘that the throne was a symbol of divinity in the Orient, and that a king’s clothing, bed, and throne were affected with royal and divine mana’. Thus, in the Footnotes for Chapter 116, it is said that the man ‘may have regarded [the throne] as a sanctuary, or at least as a place of refuge’. Obviously, he saw the clothes and diadem as having similar protective powers.

By-the-bye the Footnotes also state that it is possible that the native may have simply held the clothes rather than put them on. Either way, the story echoes that of the woman with the haemorrhage who knew that if she could only touch Jesus’ clothing she would be healed (This story features in all three synoptic gospels – Lk 8:40-56, Mk 5:21-43, and Matt 9:18-26).

In regards the story of the diadem, I recall reading elsewhere that by placing it on his head, the man was, according to tradition (?), declaring himself king. Well, of course he wasn’t in reality – he was just trying to stop the ribbon from getting wet – but Alexander’s religious belief did not permit him to believe that interpretation alone. Not without divine confirmation, anyway.

I speak under correction, but I am sure that the man who went after the diadem is elsewhere identified as Seleucus – perhaps as a result of his own later assertion that he rescued it. His reason for doing so? It added legitimacy to his kingship.

In Chapter 116, Diodorus says that Alexander was ‘terrified’ by the implications of the native man’s actions. And that, even after sacrificing, he remained troubled. After escaping the swamp, the king returned to his seers for their interpretation of the diadem incident. We are clearly dealing with a very religiously motivated man, here. And yet, no sooner has Alexander been told what to do by the seers, he allows himself to be distracted by Medius. Is that really likely? Did Alexander’s religious beliefs weigh no more than an invitation to join a drinking party?

I would certainly like to believe that Alexander’s last words – including his answer to the question of to whom he left his empire – were really spoken by him. I question his response ‘to the strongest’, though, as in the circumstances it just seems a little too Homeric an answer – if that is possible – for him. I know that the Macedonians did not practice primogeniture but why would he not say ‘to my son’?

As for his prophecy, isn’t it too eerily accurate to be true? Perhaps Alexander was just thinking of the funeral games – as normally understood – that he knew would be held for him.

All this is moot, however, if he was unable to speak as Arrian states. But Alexander could have spoken before he lost his voice. Or, perhaps, afterwards if only in whispering rasps?

I don’t think I can say anything here that does justice to the question of whether or not Alexander was poisoned but here are my thoughts, anyway.

In case you are wondering how Antipater – in Macedon – was able to give Iolaus – in Babylon – the poison: As I understand it, Cassander travelled from Macedon to Babylon around this time. In this scenario, he just took the poison with him.

It is very interesting that Diodorus says that all of Alexander’s Friends were terrified by the demise of Parmenion and Philotas. This is not the impression I get from Curtius who has Craterus speaking out very harshly against Philotas. Neither does Curtius have Craterus being in a party of one – others supported him in his hostility. Were they speaking out of fright? Far more likely that it was out of the knowledge that they were doing away with a rival.

Having said that, I am sure some were worried by what had happened; I think, though, that Diodorus is simply exaggerating.

I would like to test Diodorus’ explanation of why historians did not write about Antipater and Cassander being responsible for Alexander’s death. For example, I can understand why Cleitarchus might suppress the information. He lived in Alexandria and Ptolemy, Egypt’s ruler, was Cassander’s ally during the Successor Wars.

I think Olympias is the source of the allegation that the Antipatrids killed her son? If so (or even if not) I wonder who was the first person to write it down after her.

I accept that Cassander was anti-Argead, but I wonder if we could equally say that his murder of Olympias and rebuilding of Thebes were less to do with his hatred of Alexander and more about carving out a place for an Antipatrid dynasty in the new world that Alexander’s death had created.

Finally, one would have to be a very heartless man not to be affected by Sisygambis’ end. She had every reason to hate Alexander but came to love him more dearly than life itself.

The king died. Clouds [were in the sky]image


  • The above photograph of the Babylon Astronomical Diary that refers to Alexander’s death comes from the British Museum
  • The translation of the text is from Livius
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Hephaestion’s Funeral

Daily Diodorus
Vol. VIII. Book XVII Ch. 114, 115 (Loeb Classical Library)
Read the other posts in this series here

The Headlines
Hephaestion’s Funeral Pyre Built
Cost Borne By Cities and Officials Alike
Ammon: Hephaestion Should Be Worshipped

The Story
Chapter 114
Alexander waited until he had finished dealing with the embassies before beginning the preparations for Hephaestion’s funeral. When he did, he ‘threw himself’ into the work with ‘such zeal’ that the funeral ‘not only surpassed all those previously celebrated on earth but also left no possibility for anything greater in later ages’.

The reason for Alexander’s effort was that he ‘had loved Hephaestion most’ of all his Friends. Diodorus notes that Craterus ‘had a rival claim’ to Alexander’s love and recounts how a companion had once said to the king that he loved Craterus no less than he did Hephaestion. To which, Alexander replied ‘that Craterus was king-loving, but Hephaestion was Alexander-loving’.

Diodorus also recalls how, upon their first meeting after the Battle of Issus, Sisygambis, Darius III’s mother, mistook Hephaestion for Alexander and was ‘distressed’ after being told her mistake. The king, however, put her at ease, “Never mind, mother.” he said, “For actually he too is Alexander.”

‘Hephaestion enjoyed so much power and freedom of speech’ as a result of his friendship with Alexander that he was not only able to weather Olympias’ biting tongue but put her in her place when writing back to her. “Stop quarrelling with us and do not be angry or menacing. If you persist, we shall not be much disturbed. You know that Alexander means more to us than anything.”

Hephaestion’s funeral had to be paid for. To ensure that it was, Alexander ordered every city in the region (Babylonia?) to contribute a sum according to their ability. He also proclaimed that the sacred fire in every Asian city should be quenched until the funeral was over.

According to Persian custom, the sacred flame was only ever put out when the king himself died. Alexander’s order, therefore, was treated by Persians as a bad omen – a foretelling of his death. Diodorus notes that there were other signs that Alexander was near his end, which we will come to in chapter 116.

Chapter 115
Diodorus tells how each of Alexander’s ‘generals and Friends [sought] to meet the king’s desires’ and make images of Hephaestion ‘in ivory and gold’ and other valuable materials. The Footnotes say that these ‘were probably medallions or small images to be worn in wreaths’.

In order to make Hephaestion’s funeral pyre, Alexander tore down one of Babylon’s walls ‘to a distance of ten furlongs’. He then levelled the space created using baked tiles. The pyre was ‘square in shape’, and ‘a furlong in length’ on every side.

Alexander ‘divided up the area [of the pyre] into thirty compartments’. I assume this means the pyre comprised of thirty sections otherwise am not sure what he means. The roof of each section of the pyre was held up by palm tree trunks.

Once the pyre had been built, Alexander ‘decorated all the exterior walls’. Here is Diodorus’ description of them.

Ground (First) Level
‘[G]olden prows of quinqueremes… two hundred and forty in all’ were placed here. Statues of ‘kneeling archers, four cubits in height’ were placed on the ships’ catheads, while ‘[a]rmed male figures five cubits high’ were positioned on the deck. Red felt banners filled the space between them.

Second Level
Torches, fifteen cubits tall ‘with golden wreaths about their handles’ were placed here. On top of the torches were ‘eagles with outstretched wings looking downward’ – presumably at the snakes at the base of the torch, which were looking up.

Third Level
A carving of a ‘multitude of wild animals being pursued by hunters’.

Fourth Level
A centauromachy, ‘rendered in gold’.

Fifth Level
Statues of lions and bulls ‘alternating [and] also in gold’.

Sixth Level
This ‘was covered with Macedonian and Persian arms, testifying to the prowess of the one people and to the defeats of the other’.

Diodorus states that on ‘top of all stood sirens, hollowed out and able to conceal within them persons who sang a lament in mourning for the dead’. I assume – hope – that these people were not on the pyre!

The pyre must have been huge. Diodorus says it was over 130 cubits in height – 191 feet according to this calculator. And what about the cost? Again, huge – in excess of 12,000 talents. Alexander had no trouble in paying for it, though, for as well as the special tax on the cities, ‘[a]ll of the generals… soldiers… envoys and even the natives rivalled one another in contributing to the magnificence of the funeral’.

When all was done, Alexander issued a decree that Hephaestion should be sacrificed to ‘as god coadjutor’. Around the time he made this decree one of his Friends, a man named Philip, returned (from Siwah?) with a message – ‘a response’ – from Ammon: ‘Hephaestion should be worshipped as a god’. Pleased with this news, Alexander made the first sacrifice. Afterwards, he ‘entertained everybody handsomely’. The good times were here again, though they would not last.

Is it significant that Alexander concluded his diplomatic work before beginning the preparations for Hephaestion’s funeral? I can’t decide if it was a form of displacement activity or an example of Alexander being a good ruler. Actually, now that I think about it, I expect he had no choice – he had to wait for the ships and statues to be built.

Alexander’s response to Sisygambis recalls the quotation attributed to Aristotle (by, according to Wikipedia, Diogenes Laëtius) that “A single soul dwelling in two bodies”.

NB: Diodorus covers Alexander’s meeting with Sisygambis in Chapter 37. If you would like to read my post on it, you can do so here.

Hephaestion’s use of the royal ‘we’ in his letter to Olympias is fascinating, but what does it mean? For all I know, that was how Macedonians in the fourth century B.C. wrote. If so, it would mean nothing. But if they didn’t, Hephaestion’s choice of words would say an awful lot about his character.

A negative reading would be that his friendship with Alexander had made him proud and arrogant. A positive one would say it shows how intimate Hephaestion was with Alexander. They were not only one body but one voice, too.

According to the CLIO History Journal, catheads are ‘large timbers projecting on either side of the prow, which also served as guards for the leading oars’.

According to Ancient History,'”Centauromachy” refers to the battle between the Centaurs and Lapiths of the Peneus Valley, in Thessaly.’ Wikipedia adds that this tale typifies ‘the struggle between civilization and barbarism’.

Diodorus makes no reference to Alexander actually asking Ammon whether or not he may worship Hephaestion as a god, though we know – from Arrian – that that is what happened.

Ammon’s message is recorded differently by Plutarch and Arrian. According to the Footnotes, they confirmed that the god recommended that Hephaestion be ‘honoured as a hero’. Arrian adds that this was after Ammon refused ‘to allow [Hephaestion] divine worship’.

It’s interesting that Diodorus (main source: Cleitarchus who spoke to Macedonian soldiers) confirms that Ammon gave permission for Hephaestion to be ‘worshipped as a god’ (Possibly silly question: is this the same as him actually being deified?) while Arrian (main source: Ptolemy, Hephaestion’s fellow officer, and Aristobulos: a junior officer in Alexander’s army) says that Ammon refused to let this happen.

Why the discrepancy? I’m tempted to say that Ptolemy and/or Aristobulos, for whatever reason, did not want people to get too big a view of Hephaestion.

Unfortunately, we are missing the portion of Curtius’ History of Alexander which covers the period of Hephaestion’s funeral. So, what does Plutarch say? First of all, he used Ptolemy, Aristobulos and Cleitarchus. Plutarch would have been aware, therefore, of the divergent traditions. In his Life of Alexander, he states that Ammon commanded Alexander ‘to honour Hephaestion and sacrifice to him as a hero’ (Penguin Classics 2011 para 72). No mention of god-worship. Should we privilege Plutarch’s account as he would have had no/less reason to suppress the truth in the way that Ptolemy and Aristobulos might have done?

Speaking of the truth, who’s to say that the Macedonian soldiers that Cleitarchus spoke to were speaking it?

hephaestions_pyreThis picture comes from and is the (C) of Andrew Chugg at alexanderstomb.com

Alexander’s Agony Column
i. O My King
I am having difficulty accepting Hephaestion as a god, what should I do?

Dear Shy

ii. O My King
I was hoping you would help me. This is an agony column after all.

Dear Shy
If I ever find out who you are I will cause you a great deal of agony.

iii. O My King
Understood. Am worshipping now.

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The Diplomatic King

Daily Diodorus
Vol. VIII. Book XVII Ch. 113 (Loeb Classical Library)
Read the other posts in this series here

The Headlines
Alexander Receives Envoys and Embassies

The Story
For thirteen years, Alexander had lived as a warrior-king. Now, upon his return to Babylon, he took off his armour, exchanged his helmet for a diadem and sat upon his throne. There was much to be done.

Envoys ‘from practically all the inhabited world’ came to visit him. Some wished to congratulate Alexander on his conquests, others brought crowns, others still came to conclude ‘treaties of friendship and alliance’ or to ‘defend themselves against accusations’.

Among those who came to the royal palace were envoys from Asia and Europe, from Libya, Carthage, Libyphoenicia and from ‘as far as the Pillars of Hercules’. Envoys from Greece, Macedon, Illyria, the Adriatic and Thrace and even Gauls also arrived. Of the Gauls, Diodorus says they were the first of their kind to become known ‘in the Greek world’.

Alexander arranged the order in which he would see each embassy. It was arranged along thematic lines.

  1. Those who had come to discuss ‘matters concerning religion’
  2. Those ‘who brought gifts’
  3. Those ‘who had disputes with their neighbours’
  4. Those who had internal problems
  5. Those who did not want to let their exiles return

Diodorus now gives what I presume is the order in which he met those who wished to discuss religious matters. He met them, Diodorus says, in ‘order of importance of [their] sanctuaries’.

  1. Eleians
  2. Ammonians
  3. Delphians
  4. Corinthians
  5. Epidaurians
  6. Unnamed others

What was Alexander like as a king? Well, Diodorus gives a positive view saying that he strove to give satisfying answers all who came to him, and send them away ‘content as far as he was able’.

Chapter 113 opens with Diodorus’ usual formula for indicating that a new year has started. He names Agesias as the new archon at Athens. According to the Footnotes, Agesias – or Hegesias as the ‘Attic inscriptions’ call him – took up that role in the summer of 324 B.C. However, Alexander returned to Babylon in the spring of 323 B.C.

I said in a previous post that one of my images of Alexander is that he was a great general but rubbish administrator. Well, this chapter assures me that that wasn’t the case. When he put his mind to it (even if only then) he could do the job well.

A couple of things about Alexander the administrator-king jump out at me.

Firstly, the fact that he put religious matters first in his order of importance. For a while now I have been thinking about how important religion was to him. I wonder if it gets as much attention from historians as it perhaps ought to.

Secondly. I raised an eyebrow when I saw Elis appear before the Ammonians. I am presuming that the latter are either from Siwah or another sanctuary dedicated to Ammon. However, I have just looked Elis up on Wikipedia and found that that is where Olympia is located. A part of me is still a little surprised that the Ammonians were not seen first but I can now understand why.

To the above, I would add that as we draw to the end of Diodorus’ account of Alexander’s life, I get no impression from him that in his later days, Alexander became a megalomaniac who drank too much.

Membership of Alexander’s first diplomatic corps
was a little unbalanced


Picture from Wikipedia

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Dangerous Roads: Lamia to Babylon

Daily Diodorus
Vol. VIII. Book XVII Ch. 111, 112 (Loeb Classical Library)
Read the other posts in this series here

The Headlines
Origin of the Lamian War
Alexander Campaigns Against the Cossaeans
* “It won’t bring Hephaestion back” say critics
Alexander Marches to Babyon
Chaldaeans Warn: Avoid Babylon or Die
Alexander Enters Babylon

The Story
Chapter 111
As Hephaestion’s cortege makes its solemn journey to Babylon, Diodorus returns to Greece to describe the origin of the Lamian War.

The Lamian War (323 – 322 B.C.) was the first major battle to take place after Alexander’s death in June 323. It pitted Antipater and Craterus against a joint Aetolian-Athenian army. If you would like to know more about the battle itself, I wrote about it in my read-through of Robin Waterfield’s excellent book Dividing the Spoils here.

For Diodorus the origin of the Lamian War lies in the ‘disturbances and revolutionary movements’ that were taking place across Greece around this time.

These, he says, were caused by the unemployed mercenaries and rogue satraps and military officials who, after being sacked on Alexander’s orders, or having absconded from their governorships, had congregated in Taenarum and formed an army under an Athenian general named Leosthenes to oppose the Macedonian king.

Leosthenes carried out secret negotiations with Athens and gained its support to the tune of 50 talents ‘and a stock of weapons’. He also sought an alliance with Aetolia. The next step would be war.

As Leosthenes made his preparations in Greece, Alexander launched a winter campaign against the Cossaean tribe in Media. The Cossaeans were a mountain people who were ‘outstanding in valour’. That, and ‘the ruggedness of their country’ meant that they had never been conquered by the Persians.

But that record was about to come to an end. While the Cossaeans were still ignorant of the threat approaching, Alexander took control of all the roads into their country. He then launched a lightning strike against the people. Diodorus says that he ‘was superior in every engagement’. Many Cossaeans were killed and many more captured.

The Cossaean campaign took around forty days to complete. The survivors swore fealty to Alexander, and he ‘founded strong cities at strategic points and rested his army’.

Another lacuna in the manuscript appears at this point. As the beginning of the next chapter shows, however, we don’t appear to miss too much.

Chapter 112
Once his army was ready, Alexander began his march to Babylon. He walked slowly, stopping regularly. I can’t remember him doing this before. Was he trying to delay his arrival – and Hephaestion’s funeral – for as long as possible?

Diodorus says that Alexander ‘was still three hundred furlongs’ away from Babylon when Chaldaean astrologers there appointed one of their number – ‘the eldest and most experienced’ of them – to warn the king that if he entered the city, he would die. They had seen his death in ‘the configuration of the stars’. His life could be saved, however, ‘if he re-erected the tomb of Belus [Bel]’ but on no account should he enter Babylon.

Diodorus names the Chaldaean envoy as Belephantes. Either out of humility or nerves, Belephantes did not seek Alexander himself out but delivered the warning to Nearchus. He, in turn, spoke to the king.

Alexander, understandably, ‘was alarmed and more and more disturbed’ by the astrologers’ warnings. Nevertheless, it was only after ‘some hesitation’ – that he passed Babylon by (?) and set up camp two hundred furlongs away.

Alexander’s actions did not meet with Greek approval. Amongst those who tried to talk him about of his self-imposed exile was the philosopher Anaxarchus. They ‘plied [the king] with arguments drawn from philosophy’ and were so successful that not only did Alexander decide to enter Babylon after all but came to hate the all ‘prophetic arts’, especially the Chaldaeans’.

One can only imagine what the Chaldaeans thought as they watched Alexander ride towards the royal palace. The population, however, were very happy at the return of the king. They received the Macedonian troops ‘hospitably’. Woes were forgotten and ‘all turned their attention to relaxation and pleasure’.

Citing Plutarch, the Footnotes state that Alexander’s Cossaean campaign ‘was intended to solace Alexander’s grief for the death of Hephaestion’. To us, this seems very odd. In a warrior culture, however, it would have made perfect sense.

The story of the Chaldaeans forecasting Alexander’s death is a very intriguing one.

On the one hand, it has every appearance of a tale inserted into a narrative after the event in order to give meaning to it.

On the other, even if one doesn’t believe that it is possible to tell the future using astrology, maybe the story did happen just not in the way that it is presented. In other words, the priests got lucky. Astrology doesn’t work, but by pure coincidence, the stars arranged themselves in such a way as to fit the Chaldaeans’ criteria for the death of a monarch.

Dangerous Roads
Gentle Friendships

Alexander & Hephaestion: Mieza to Elysium

This picture is from the Folio Society’s illustrated edition of Mary Renault’s Alexander Trilogy

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Death of a Friend

Daily Diodorus
Vol. VIII. Book XVII Ch. 109, 110 (Loeb Classical Library)
Read the other posts in this series here

The Headlines
Alexander: Greek Exiles May Return Home
The New Ten Thousand
* King retires 10,000 Macedonians from his army
* Retirees owe 10,000 talents; king settles the debt
Persians Promoted; Macedonians Revolt
* Alexander Faces Revolt Down
Peucestas arrives with more Persian Soldiers
Alexander Goes Sight Seeing
Hephaestion Dies

The Story
Chapter 109
In the summer of 324 B.C., the Olympic Games were held at Olympia, and Alexander had it announced there that all Greek exiles ‘except those who had been charged with sacrilege or murder’ could return home.

Perhaps at the same time, he also released ten thousand of his oldest soldiers from service, and, upon learning that many were in debt, paid their creditors out of the royal treasury.

Diodorus mentioned in the last chapter (yesterday’s post here) how the Macedonian army became ‘frequently unruly when called into an assembly’.

One day, the men harangued the king again. This time, he responded in kind. Leaping down from the platform, Alexander ‘seized the ring-leaders of the tumult with his own hands, and handed them over to his attendants for punishment’.

Unsurprisingly, this increased the tension between the king and his army. But rather than conciliate, Alexander simply appointed Persians to ‘positions of responsibility’. This cut the Macedonians to the quick and they begged Alexander to forgive them. He did but not quickly or easily.

Chapter 110
We enter a new year. During it, ‘Alexander secured replacements from the Persians equal to the number of these soldiers whom he had released’. 1,000 of the new recruits were assigned to the bodyguard at court.

This year, too, Peucestes arrived out of the east (After and/or as a result of (?) saving Alexander’s life at the Mallian city – read here – he had been made satrap of Persia) with 20,000 ‘Persian bowmen and slingers’. These were integrated into the army.

By 324, there were now ‘sons of the Macedonians born of captive women’. How many? Diodorus says about 10,000. This figure is appearing a little too often for my liking. Anyway, Alexander set aside sufficient money so that the children could be given ‘an upbringing proper for freeborn children’. This included a suitable education.

Alexander now left Susa. Crossing the Tigris river, he came to a village called Carae. From there, ‘he marched through Sittacenê until he arrived at a city (?) called Sambana. After resting for a week there, he set out for ‘the Celones’ reaching them three days later.

It is not clear to me what exactly the Celones is – a group of settlements? A region? Neither Diodorus nor the Footnotes make it clear. What is clear is that Alexander met a people descended from Boeotians who had been deported there by Xerxes I. Despite never having been back to Greece, they had ‘not forgotten their ancestral customs’ still keeping Greek as one of their languages and continuing ‘Greek practices’.

After spending several days in the Celones, Alexander set off once more. His purpose now was ‘sight-seeing’ and he left ‘the main road’ so that he could enter Bagistanê, a country ‘covered with fruit trees and rich in everything which makes for good living’.

Next on the itinerary was a land of wild horses. In days of old, Diodorus says, 160,000 horses grazed here. In 324 B.C., however, they only numbered 60,000. I wonder if, as he looked out on the horses, Alexander thought about Bucephalus. I expect so.

Alexander stayed amidst the horses for thirty days. Finally, however, it was time to leave. And now, he came to Ecbatana in Media. Citing unnamed sources, Diodorus gives Ecbatana’s ‘circuit’ as being 250 stades. As the capital of Media, its storehouses were ‘filled with great wealth’. But was there also something else there, something rather less pleasant to the king? Namely, Parmenion’s tomb. If it was, I wonder if he acknowledged it.

Alexander remained in Ecbatana ‘for some time’. While there, he held ‘a dramatic festival’ and ‘constant drinking parties’. During the course of one of these, Hephaestion took ill; not long later, he died.

Diodorus describes Alexander as being ‘intensely grieved’ by his friend’s death. I don’t think you will read a bigger understatement than that this month let alone today. Presently, however, he recovered enough to order Perdiccas – Hephaestion’s replacement as chiliarch – to transport Hephaestion’s remains to Babylon where Alexander intended to ‘celebrate a magnificent funeral for him’.

Diodorus states that the Macedonian soldiers who were in debt owed ‘little short of ten thousand talents’. That’s on average, one talent each. The Footnotes refer to Curtius’ ‘astonishment’ at this figure, and I have to share it. I can’t believe that during the course of the expedition they would have had the opportunity to spend so much money.

The Footnotes also state that the mutiny described in Chapter 109 is the Opis Mutiny ‘continued from chap. 108’ although the way it is described there, it is as if Diodorus is talking about the Macedonian army’s behaviour in general rather than a mutiny that took place in a specific place and on a particular date. (Note also that Diodorus has the mutiny take place in Susa rather than Opis).

It seems rather surprising that Alexander is able to bring his men to heel by doing something that on the face of it should disillusion them further. I can only imagine that the Macedonians did not look at the matter as a case of ‘they are taking our jobs, we want them back’ but as ‘this race is usurping ours in the king’s affections; we must show him we love him in order to win him back to our side’.

An interesting note – the Footnotes say that of ‘all Alexander’s generals [Peucestas] showed the greatest willingness to conciliate the Persians’

The ‘main road’ to which Diodorus refers is – according to the Footnotes – the main Baghdad-Hamadan route which connects Mesopotamia to Iran.

The Footnotes also confirm the name of the horse country – Nysa (from Arrian). Can we say that it is an indication of Alexander’s love of horses that he stayed so long there?

If Didorus is to be believed, Hephaestion died a Macedonian’s death – as a result drinking too much. I am sure, though, that the alcohol simply weakened his resistance to whatever illness did kill him. Otherwise, I must resist the temptation to complain about the brevity with which Diodorus treats the death of such an important figure.

Here’s to all the Macedonians who died
after a little much of the glorious red stuff

ancient_greek_amphora(Except Black Cleitus. Still not polite to mention him)

This picture comes from Warwick University’s article on Drinking in Ancient Greece


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The Fall of Harpalus

Daily Diodorus
Vol. VIII. Book XVII Ch. 108 (Loeb Classical Library)
Read the other posts in this series here

The Headlines
Army Camps Outside Susa: War to Follow?
New Army is Loyal
* Alexander’s Persian Masterplan
Harpalus: A life Soaked in Blood, Money and Bodily Fluids
Harpalus Flees, Thibron Sees, the Satrap Dies in Crete

The Story
Alexander was still in Susa when an army comprising of 30,000 Persians arrived outside the city. They were not a rebel force but new recruits, the next generation of Alexander’s army.

Did Alexander want to create the largest army the world had ever seen? Not quite. Diodorus recalls how the Macedonian army mutinied at the Hyphasis River (see Comments below). He also tells us that the army was ‘frequently unruly when called into an Assembly and ridiculed Alexander’s pretence that Ammon was his father’.

The Persian recruits were, therefore, Alexander’s attempt to create a new unit of men, one which would serve ‘as a counter-balance to the Macedonian phalanx’. A more loyal counter-balance, one might say.

The new unit wore Macedonian armour and carried the same weaponry. Alexander met his new soldiers outside the city and watched with satisfaction as they demonstrated ‘their skill and discipline in the use of their weapons’.

From the new to the old – Diodorus cuts to an account of the fall of Alexander’s lifelong friend, Harpalus.

After capturing Babylon, Alexander appointed Harpalus satrap of the region. When the king entered India, Harpalus assumed he would never return, and so ‘gave himself up to comfortable living’. Does this mean that to begin with Harpalus governed Babylonia wisely (even if just out of fear of the consequences if he didn’t)?

This ‘comfortable living’ involved

  • ‘the abuse of women’
  • ‘illegitimate amours with the natives’
  • Squandering ‘much of the treasure under his control on incontinent pleasure’

By way of an example, Diodorus cites the occasion that Harpalus had ‘a great quantity of fish’ brought to him ‘all the long way from the Red Sea’. He pursued ‘an extravagant way of life’ that led many people to criticise him.

Harpalus responded to this criticism in the only way he knew how – he brought to Babylon ‘the most dazzling courtesan of the day’, a woman named Pythonicê. While she lived, he treated her like a queen. When she died, ‘he gave her a magnificent funeral and erected over her grave a costly monument’.

Perhaps the knowledge of grief would mellow Harpalus? Not a bit of it. Out with the old and in with the new. Pythonicê was replaced by another courtesan named Glycera.

Harpalus was licentious, violent and a thief but he was not stupid. Although he did not expect Alexander to return from the east, he knew how fickle fortune could be. With that in mind, ‘he established himself a place of refuge by benefactions to the Athenians’.

One day, bad news came. Alexander was on his way. Worse yet, he was executing ‘many of the satraps’ who had abused their power.

Harpalus stole 5,000 silver talents from the treasury, ‘enrolled six thousand mercenaries’ in his own private army and set off for Attica.

Things took a further turn for the worst, however, when the Attic cities refused to let him in. Harpalus now sent his troops to Taenarum (southern Sparta), while he made his way to Athens. Surely his past generosity would oblige them to help him in his hour of need?

Unfortunately, Harpalus’ corrupt behaviour had made him two very powerful enemies and even inspired them – for perhaps the first and only time in their lives – to work together in order to bring him to justice. ‘Antipater and Olympias demanded [Harpalus’] surrender’. It seems that some Athenians spoke up for him but it was no good. Harpalus was forced to flee lest he be turned over to the viceroy and queen mother. He came to Taenarum’ where he rejoined his troops.

From Taenarum, Harpalus and his men sailed to Crete. And there, Thibron, ‘one of his Friends’, killed him.

Back in Athens, an audit of Harpalus’ money (I presume the money that he gave to the city?) was carried out. Several leading figures, including Demosthenes, were found guilty of having accepted it. Diodorus does not reveal what happened to them after their conviction.

I have made a silent correction in the second paragraph. Diodorus actually says that the ‘Macedonians… mutinied when ordered to cross the Ganges River’ but we know from the other Alexander historians that the mutiny took place at the Hyphasis River.

Diodorus is a bit free and easy with his river names (just as he is with the location of the rivers). For example, in Chapter 93 he says that Alexander ‘advanced to the Hyphasis River’. A few lines later, he has the king ask Phegus what lies ‘beyond the Indus River’.

As the Indus River lies some distance behind the Hyphasis the reference to it here is plainly a mistake. The same applies to the Ganges, which is ‘some distance’ ahead of the Hyphasis.

I’m sure ‘incontinent pleasure’ does not mean what I imagine it to mean but the translator/Diodorus could have chosen a better phrase to describe Harpalus’ dissolute lifestyle.

If nothing else, Harpalus must be congratulated for being the only man to ever bring Antipater and Olympias together. The Footnotes call their alliance ‘odd’ but I think it makes perfect sense. Olympias would want Harpalus’ head because he had betrayed her son. Antipater would want it (a) because, yes, Harpalus had betrayed the king but particularly (b) because if Olympias demanded Harpalus’ surrender, he could hardly stay quiet without his own loyalty being questioned.

In a way, this reminds me of the way Philotas failed to report the conspiracy against Alexander. He didn’t because he didn’t take it seriously. If Antipater had given the same reason for not demanding Harpalus’ surrender he would have made Greece a haven for any satrap who disobeyed Alexander and thus run the risk of having his loyalty called into question. Unlike Philotas, Antipater did what needed to be done.

Macedonian Film Festival

We Need To Talk About Harpalus
A boy turns into a sociopath and ruins many lives before being caught

“It’ll massacre the opposition – at the theatre”
“When Thibron kills Harpalus, he steals the show as well as the money”
“Men want to avoid him, so do women except for courtesans.”

Who was the worst satrap – Harpalus or Cleomenes?

Vote Now, Die Tomorrow if either catch up with you.

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