Posts Tagged With: Amyntas son of Antiochus

The Journey to Siwah

Daily Diodorus
Vol. VIII. Book XVII Ch. 49 (Loeb Classical Library)
Read the other posts in this series here

The Headlines
Order Restored to Gaza
Amyntas Macedon Bound for Reinforcements
Egypt Submits to Alexander
New Pharaoh Undertakes Pilgrimage to Siwah

The Story
Chapter 49 brings us to a new year in Diodorus’ chronology (July 331-June 330 B.C.). Alexander began it by tidying up his affairs in Gaza, and by sending Amyntas son of Andromenes back to Macedon to enlist new troops. Amyntas returned home by sea and rejoined Alexander later in 331. We shall meet his new recruits in Chapter 65 (Diodorus does not mention Amyntas himself).

With everything taken care of in Gaza, Alexander resumed his journey to Egypt. Upon entering the country, he secured its cities ‘without striking a blow’. Why were the Egyptians so friendly? Diodorus provides the answer. The Persians had ‘committed impieties against the temples and governed harshly’.

Having taken possession of Egypt, Alexander did not rest like Julius Caesar would do three hundred years later. Instead, he jumped back onto Bucephalus and, with a group of companions, started the long journey to the oasis of Siwah, where, Diodorus tells us, ‘he wished to consult the oracle of the god’, that is to say, Ammon.

While Alexander was still riding west along the Egyptian coast, envoys from Cyrene met him. They came bearing gifts, including a ‘a crown… three hundred chargers and five handsome four-horse chariots’. A ‘treaty of friendship and alliance’ with the Cyrenaicans duly followed.

At an unspecified point, Alexander turned south and entered the desert. For four days he and his companions rode across it without incident. On the fourth day, however, their water ran out ‘and they suffered from fearful thirst’.

Diodorus says that all of the party ‘fell into despair’. Even Alexander? That appears to be the implication.

We do not know how long the party trudged miserably on, waiting, perhaps, only for death to take them, but upon a moment the clouds overhead began to gather and then, without warning, ‘a great storm of rain burst from the heavens’.

If you can hear cries of joy and laughter in the distance, you aren’t going mad, it’s just the Macedonians’ relief echoing down the centuries. How they must have rejoiced on that day!

Once they had calmed down, Alexander and his men re-filled their water skins from a hollow and continued on their way. Four days later, they finally left the desert.

The empty water skins were not the only crisis to hit Alexander and his men during their march across the desert. Diodorus reports that ‘[a]t one point’ they lost the road due to the (shifting?) sand dunes. On this occasion, they were saved by crows ‘cawing on their right’ who, the guides said, ‘were calling their attention to the route which led to the temple’.

Alexander was a very religious man. He regarded the sudden storm as an act of ‘divine Providence’ and the crows’ cawing as a sign from ‘the god’ (Ammon) that he was pleased with what Alexander’s visit. This inspired the king to push ‘on with speed’.

In short order, the Macedonians passed ‘the so-called Bitter Lake’ and – three hundred furlongs later – ‘the Cities of Ammon’. Diodorus doesn’t say whether Alexander stopped at either. Whether he did or didn’t, one day later, he arrived at Siwah itself.

Comments
Diodorus says that one of the Roman consuls for summer 331-330 was called Spurius. Was he for real? (Sorry).

Diodorus’ failure to provide more details about Alexander’s visit to Egypt is really disappointing. The impression I get from Diodorus is that Alexander did no more than receive the submission of Egypt’s cities then move on. Was he not eclared, or crowned, pharaoh? One would be hard placed to think of a more venerable (or ancient) title than that yet Diodorus does not see fit to mention it at all.

Further to the above, I ought to mention that Alexander may not have had the friendly relationship with Egypt’s priests and people that Diodorus suggests. The Footnotes tell us that, according to Arrian and Curtius, his ‘friendliness [was limited] to Mazaces, the Persian satrap’.

I speak under correction but I don’t recall that Egypt rebelled against Alexander during his lifetime. If so, even if Alexander was only ‘friendly’ with Mazaces, he must have done enough to keep the country happy.

By-the-bye, if you would like to read excerpts from Curtius’ account of Alexander’s visit to Siwah, see this this post.

Where are the Bitter Lake and Cities of Ammon? We don’t know. None of the other sources mention them. In regards the cities of Ammon, the Footnotes suggest (and dismiss) a ‘small oasis’ between Mersa Matruh and Siwah as a candidate.

Alexander_in_egypt

As for the Bitter Lake, the Footnotes suggest that this could be ‘a mistake for the salt lakes at the Wadi Natrun’.

wadi_natrun

Egypt Proves you Wrong

Jay Z No church in the Wild A temple is the pagan equivalent of a church. Oases by their nature exist in the wild; therefore, Mr Zed, sit down because Egypt has proved you wrong

The Weather Girls It’s Raining Men If it was, Alexander and his friends would have died so as good as your song is, Weather Girls, you need to find a new lyricist because Egypt has proved you wrong

John Lennon Imagine Why would I want to imagine there being no religion? There is because the gods are real. Proof: the sudden storm. As dab as your hand is at music, sir, you need to find another career because Egypt has proved you wrong. Imagine that!

Get Egypt or Get Wrong
(Smiting wrongness since the third millennium B.C.)

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The Deeds of Amyntas son of Antiochus

Daily Diodorus
Vol. VIII. Book XVII Ch. 48 (Loeb Classical Library)
Read the other posts in this series here

The Headlines
Agis Hires Issus Mercs
Agis Conquers Crete
Amyntas son of Antiochus killed in Memphis
Alexander Storms Gaza

The Story
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’.

Comments
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
The End

Categories: Diodorus Siculus | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

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