Chapter Eight

An Improbable Hero

What would a world after the deluge look like, particularly now that Demetrius, after a record of evanescent achievement, of ups and downs without parallel, would never come back again? The sybarite warlord whose inflated and eccentric policy had been the shaping factor in so much of what had happened in Macedonian Europe after the turn of the century had since 285 been held captive in the shadows by Seleucus. For three years the great besieger of cities had rotted under house arrest in the Syrian Chersonese where the Orontes River bent towards Antioch. It is easy to imagine that, bored and humiliated, his resistance to plentiful food and drink provided by his captors was pretty limited and ‘in the fifty-fifth year of his life’ this brooding presence passed from the land of the living, despite him being almost twenty years younger than both his hated enemy Lysimachus and his captor Seleucus. One of the most extraordinary of the successors had died; a man who, if like his exemplar Alexander, had loved to immerse himself in Dionysian mysteries still was really more in thrall to Tyche, the goddess of chance, already increasing in importance in the Hellenistic pantheon. Partying on the Acropolis where as a saviour god he could dally with Athena in her own temple; when not attacking cities with siege towers the height of mountains had been his style, as had been leading fleets with maritime goliaths that would have overawed Poseidon himself and preferring to throw himself into an impossible invasion of Asia rather than accepting a quiet life as a monarch over the Fetters of Greece. A heroic reputation won by blazing across a world made huge by the great Alexander had been everything for Demetrius and just as it had been for that conquering king, both these men would undoubtedly have preferred a Homeric death in battle, bringing immortal fame, but it had not been in their stars and both had been brought down with a liver pickled in alcohol rather than by a foeman’s sword. Gossip certainly gave it out that Seleucus had encouraged the dissipation that led to his demise, to be rid of this rogue king without suffering the odium that would have come from outright murder, but this is not completely credible. It was after all this same ruler who refused a shower of gold from Lysimachus to kill his captive soon after Demetrius had surrendered to him and more than this he had to be of some value as a pawn in the diplomatic game he intended to play in the years ahead. He even offered some hope to the caged king by suggesting that he would reconsider his sentence once Demetrius’ daughter came to Syria from the east with her husband Antiochus.

There is emphatically no suggestion in his disposal of the dead man’s remains of any sort of personal enmity. Seleucus notified Antigonus Gonatus that he would be sending his father’s ashes to him in a golden urn so he might meet the transport vessel and do due honour to one of the greatest figures of the age. That such a giant would pass away without some spectacle was not a possibility, and his final send-off was attended by some of the grandest pageantry reported during the whole period. With his entire fleet, the grieving offspring sailed to meet the Seleucid ship ‘off the islands’ along the Aegean coast of Anatolia and took the great golden urn that contained his father’s remains onto ‘the largest of his admiral’s ships’. From then it was a funereal cavalcade around the realm that Antigonus had inherited: ‘Of the cities where the fleet touched in its passage, some brought garlands to adorn the urn, others sent men in funeral attire to assist in escorting it home and burying it.’1 The importance of Corinth to the Antigonids is well demonstrated when the funereal armada approached the port with the vase with the dead king’s ashes exhibited in glorious pageant, wrapped around in cloth of royal purple with a diadem mounted on the top. Youths from the best families stood as escort around the magnificent catafalque as the most distinguished living flute-player called Xenophantus performed a melody to keep the rowers in perfect time as their oars splashed through the water, ‘like funereal beatings of the breast, answered to the cadences of the flute-tones.’2 Once the ceremony at Corinth was completed and ‘garlands and other honours had been bestowed upon the remains’, the caravan was directed to Demetrias where the final interment of the remarkable adventurer was to be concluded.

The son of the extraordinary father just entombed had already shown himself a very different man and ruler from his sire. A third-generation successor, Antigonus Gonatus, perhaps so-called for having been raised at Gonni in Thessaly, had been hanging on for years, bailing out the leaky ship of state inherited from his parent since Seleucus had clamped fetters on him after a preposterous battle on the plains of Syria.3 Apart from orchestrating the grand pageant required for Demetrius’ funeral, another significant occurrence in recent years had seen him for once overstep himself and allow inopportune ambition to drive, leading to a significant naval defeat at the hands of Ptolemy Ceraunus. Beyond this, his role had largely been about holding on while his veteran mercenary corps secured the Fetters of Greece on top of the other places in Attica, the Argolid and eastern Achaea where his friends and agents were in power. This coastal statelet was a fragile entity without a sizable terrestrial kingdom, and the tax base was insignificant outside the enclaves like Chalcis, Corinth and Piraeus where they could levy tolls on the merchant princes of Greece and the Aegean grown rich on a considerable transit trade. Though this was only at the expense of an increasing unpopularity among those who were bound to resent the continuing cost of funding his forces, especially after the years of shakedown they had experienced as Demetrius wrung every drachma he could to outfit his invasion of Asia.

Yet when from the windows of his palace at Demetrias Antigonus scanned the political firmament at the commencement of the third decade of the third century, there were considerable pluses to be noticed. Firstly that dangerous monarch Pyrrhus was no longer a notable menace, having succumbed to the rival temptations of a wider world, as after concluding an entente with Ceraunus and taken his daughter in marriage, that mercurial man, buoyed by a promise to provide him with Macedonian soldiers, was putting the final touches to his putative adventure and waving goodbye on the way to Italy. Beyond this, Demetrius’ heir also had good men on his side. There was the likes of his half-brother Craterus, Phila’s son by Alexander’s redoubtable general who long governed in Corinth, on both sides of the isthmus including places held in Attica and down towards the Argolid and perhaps with overall control of Euboea, but never seeming tempted to make a play for independence. Another was Heracleides, the long-time commandant at Piraeus who showed impressive loyalty on at least one occasion. Equally he was on good terms with a considerable if criminal constituency of maritime freebooters who Demetrius had befriended in the past and who retained an affection for his family. To be sure, there were others among the grand old cities of Hellas where after the demise of his father he had found his standing eroded; the loss of Elateia in Phocis had highlighted what was more than just a local problem, it showed that the hard-won position of the Antigonids in Boeotia had become less secure, ensuring land communications between Corinth and Demetrias were much more troublesome, concerns amplified by an awareness that the hand of Lysimachus could be detected in these developments. The year 284 had seen Antigonus feeling his most insecure, cosying up to Pyrrhus despite that king having just thrown him out of Thessaly, only to end on the losing side when Lysimachus drove the Epirot out of Macedon, raided Epirus and re-established Acarnania in the west as a local bulwark against Pyrrhus’ Aetolian allies. With new friends showing themselves hardly able to sustain themselves in a changing world, nothing could hide the fact that Lysimachus represented a real sword of Damocles hanging over his head, though time would show that this naked blade would never fall, something that became more and more apparent as that monarch’s activity abroad was paralyzed by conflicts within his own family.

So at Antigonid headquarters after intelligence reports had been scrutinized they certainly could breathe a little more easily as the ruin of Lysimachus at the hands of Seleucus suggested a considerable notch on the credit side of the balance sheet. Yet it was far from a time to rub their hands in glee as the aborted attempt to compete for the crown of Macedon meant considerable risk for a magnate with resources as skimpy as Antigonus and when it went wrong he would pay the price. It was not just the sour taste left in his mouth from his miscalculation; there were also enemies all around determined to kick a man when he was down and it looked for a while that after his defeat at sea he would be beaten out of much of Greece. Enemies mobilized to take advantage when news leached in that only a battered remnant of Antigonus’ task force had returned from his Macedonian escapade. Especially long-standing enemies in Sparta, headed by their king Areus, were looking to resuscitate a Peloponnesian league that might effectively oppose Antigonid influence in the peninsula. The membership ended including much of the Argolid, Arcadia, Elis and towns in western Achaea like Patrai, Dyme, Tritaia and Pharai, while Argos and Megalopolis, places that normally had no time for following in a Lacedaemon wake, threw out their Antigonid garrisons and pledged themselves to severe neutrality.

Nor were these eruptions confined to the peninsula. Boeotia and Megara4 may have reacted with Athens possibly involved as well, although the chronology is a mystery for which there is no completely satisfactory explanation. These few years had seen a continuing war of posts in which Antigonus still retained hopes of holding his own, as even if he failed to keep control in Boeotia, with the fetters at Corinth, Euboea and Piraeus well held his watery communications were secure and his enemies effectively separated from each other. However, in Areus he had an enemy who understood strategy well enough too, who in 280 attempted to make an impression in central Greece by marching to Patrai and shipping his army over the Gulf of Corinth to attack the Aetolians who otherwise might have come to Antigonus’ aid in Boeotia. The cunning of the planning was not matched by a concomitant outcome as when they landed on the seaside below Delphi and occupied the Cirrhaean plain, laying the country in ashes, this only served to stir up the locals. The Aetolians, assembling 500 warriors, launched nimble attacks on the separate raiding parties until the invaders, confused by the smoke of the fires, badly ordered and loaded down by booty, not realizing what a small party they were facing were cut up and routed, losing an improbable-sounding 9,000 men. This setback meant the Spartans found few takers to restart the campaign after this poor showing, particularly when many communities had long appreciated the hollowness of any Laconian assurances about any autonomy agenda .No one either on the Peloponnese or outside was eager to swap an Antigonid hegemony for a Spartan one, encouragement that for Antigonus was made sweeter when circulating Spartan ambassadors advertised a resurgence that scared sufficient Achaean towns, many of which had recently expelled their Antigonid garrisons, into creating their own league as a counterweight. Finally, policy had been directed by the uneasy glances they had long cast at the bully in their own backyard from whose Peloponnesian ambition so many still bore scars.

While the Antigonid administration worried over the arrival of heterogeneous news from Greece, everything was flung in the air by the intervention of wild men from the north. The intrusion of Gallic war bands into the Balkans effected an awful trauma among the Hellenic polities from Thessaly to Aetolia, while places as far off as Athens and Boeotia worried whether it might be their turn next on the barbarians’ hit list. Antigonus himself had been involved peripherally, sending a few hundred men to help at the defence of Thermopylae, but mainly he just hoped his holdings would not come directly into the crosshairs of a novel and ferocious enemy, but as the dust settled he realized that the new circumstances might offer as much opportunity as threat. He was bound to seem a natural for many apprehensive people to turn to after the last king of Macedonia had ended donating his skull as a drinking vessel to the foreign invaders. The cities of the Thracian Chersonese, the Troad and Aeolis, made nervous by the Gauls tramping over Thrace or crossing to Asia, would certainly have cause to look to Demetrias for a patron and if Antigonus Gonatus was no big beast in the mould of Antipater, Cassander or Lysimachus – after all, in 280 a few minor powers of Greece had run him ragged – in Europe the big beast seemed largely a thing of the past. At least he was still a ruler with cards to play, he controlled great fortresses with a solid mercenary corps to garrison them, a considerable field army and a marine significantly refurbished since the defeat in 280 and the financial reserves with which to fund them.

Opportunities in Macedon itself and at the hinge of Europe and Asia were inevitably where Antigonus’ acquisitive inclinations were piqued, partly because openings in other areas were few and far between. In many ways the great winner in the last years of the 280s had been the Ptolemies, secure behind desert and a sea cruised by their first-class marine. To allow no doubt on his dynasty’s standing in the world, Ptolemy II in 280 had instituted a great festival in honour of his father at Alexandria that he intended should equal the Olympics and in the enlarged League of Islanders the Lagids had plucked from an Antigonid grasp, they even began the practice of honouring Ptolemy II as a god just as they had his father. Where many polities suffered the blight of contesting factions, Egypt had seen a smooth transition from one very long-lived monarch to another; something that in pre-modern Europe was almost always a win-win situation unless the inheritor was both offensive and useless to a phenomenal degree. Ptolemy II Philadelphus was certainly not that. Responsible for turning Alexandria into the intellectual engine of the Hellenistic world by his sponsoring of the Great Library and with ventures like the royal menagerie and the extraordinary lighthouse on the Pharos being more to his liking than grand military adventures, his near forty-year reign allowed a stability and security that was almost unique in this era.

So any opportunity of expanding his influence into southern waters in the face of Lagid maritime might was almost closed off or at least very chancy, thus almost inevitably when Antigonus again looked to spread his wings it was towards the chaotic north that he directed his gaze. Gratifyingly, his spies would have made him aware that it was taking Antiochus a long time to secure control of those Anatolian positions his father won on the field of Corupedion, though once arrived on the scene from his secure bases in Syria and Mesopotamia it was likely to mean conflict with this powerful neighbour. Competition for influence around the Hellespont was going to provide a flashpoint for war, but when this outbreak of hostility occurred is difficult to know, although it could not have begun until some time after Ptolemy Ceraunus had established himself in Macedonia. It had been the demise of Seleucus at his hands that had been at the root of the power vacuum that formed around the Thracian Chersonese, where it was a mess in a region where local administration had been ruptured twice within a year. There must have been some communities where officials and garrison units with Lysimachid inclinations were still in place, while others would have recently welcomed Seleucid governments that were left hanging in the wind while the new Macedonian king had his hands full at Pella. Certainly Ptolemy Ceraunus held little sway there, while Antiochus, still in inner Asia, was just digesting the news of his father’s bloody end.

This prince from the East had years of experience ruling the old Mesopotamian and Persian upper satrapies, but now he had been hoisted onto the throne of a realm expanding to include Phoenicia, Syria, Anatolia and more. Seleucid Asia was a famously multicultural place and where different elites had been flattered and seduced into compliance since Alexander had arrived, happy to pay considerate attention to the practices and gods of so many people. The first two Seleucids not in the least averse to syncretism proved adept in navigating this world, recognizing the need to find friends in strategic lands and partners in rich and brilliant localities where an investment of courtesy and esteem would pay dividends. However, just its extent of over 2,000 miles east-west and 1,500 miles north-south as the crow flies meant that centrifugal forces were bound to come into play, threatening dissolution, and indeed it had been this imperative that had meant Seleucus had set Antiochus up as his proxy in the East in the first place. Just in north-west Anatolia the new king would find more than one enemy eager to contest his hegemony; the Bithynians, bolstered by new-found Gallic allies, had no intention of giving up recently-won autonomy, while Pontic Heraclea had already fought off armies sent by Seleucus and had shown in recent combat against Antigonus Gonatus that her naval resources were formidable. It was the resistant autonomy of these two that saw the gestation of a northern league that would later include Byzantium, Pontus, Chalcedon and Teos, all of whom had worried about the threat initially from an all-conquering Seleucus coming to dominate Anatolia and Europe on top of his other Asian holdings. Zipoetes of Bithynia had been a moving force in the beginning and his role was taken up with enthusiasm by his successor Nicomedes, despite civil war with his brother initially undermining his position after his father’s death early in the 270s. These local dynasts controlling one of the most important routes between Asia and Europe had long shown an independent inclination in their relations with Macedonian monarchs, fraught intercourse had on occasions deteriorated into bloodshed and there is evidence that Bas, an earlier ruler, had defeated a Macedonian general called Callas in the 320s, while more recently the Bithynians had driven off a commander that Lysimachus had sent to suppress them.

Pontic Heraclea, if less consistent in its anti-Macedonian stance,5 had thrown off their shackles when Lysimachus’ death became common knowledge, subverting their garrison and slighting their acropolis defences. Seleucus sent his agent to attempt to bring the rulers in Heraclea, Phrygia and upper Pontus into line, but found them resistant in independent combination with Byzantium and Chalcedon. After this it had been Antiochus’ turn to try, dispatching his general Patrocles over the Taurus with a detachment which then delegated a man from Aspendos called Hermogenes to crush them and their allies. However, he was persuaded or his palms were greased and, leaving the country, he decided to concentrate on Bithynia where the unlucky man was ambushed, killed and his army destroyed, despite his fighting bravely in the defeated ranks. This sting only stirred up Antiochus, causing him to collect his resources to deal with Nicomedes, who himself looked desperately for help from the direction of an expanding Heraclea that had been purchasing territory at Cierus and Tius and from the Thynians that may have been theirs before, though failing in the cherished dream of recovering the town of Amastris.

If he could not suppress these independence fighters in the years 280 and 279, Antiochus made, with the aid of local stalwarts like Philetaerus of Pergamon, considerable strides in reclaiming those places Seleucus had won in battle from Lysimachus. Lycia, Caria and Lydia would largely have been brought back into the fold, although Miletus and other places on the south Anatolian coast were snapped up by Lagid forces,6 and after this the energetic son of Seleucus was never going to easily countenance the loss of his father’s spear-won rights to the lands where Troy had once stood. Troas, a region of ancient prestige and riches, was not going to be lost to Antigonid influence without a fight and spring 279 would have sprung with anticipation of both opportunity and danger at Antigonus’ court. The soldiers of Antigonus and Antiochus had stood shoulder to shoulder at the pass of Thermopylae in the autumn in the face of the barbarian threat posed by Brennus’ horde, but this truce had been an aberration ensured by the chaos that followed Ptolemy Ceraunus’ demise. Tensions had always been pretty high between these two later-generation successors who each had a legal claim to the throne of Macedon through their fathers that could have been a casus belli as early as 279. Antiochus had previously not pressed his claims and instead made an accommodation with Ptolemy Ceraunus, but now he was dead all bets were off and after what had been hardly even a season of goodwill, by spring of 278 the war was on again, although the events of this year remain sufficiently obscure.

It is possible that by this time Antiochus had allied himself not just with both Sparta and other Greek enemies of the Antigonids but also with Apollodorus, the tyrant of Cassandreia as well. The problem for these confederates was that Antigonus remained the strongest naval power in the north Aegean and his squadrons ensured it was almost impossible for any members of the combination to coordinate military activity; a naval predominance that was buttressed by close connections with those inveterate enemies of Antiochus, Byzantium and Heraclea, whose significant navies were now on his side rather than confronting Antigonid warships in alliance with Ptolemy Ceraunus. The active involvement of these powerful friends and the welcome it promised must have been part of the explanation for Antigonus’ confidence as he prepared both to cross over to Asia to fight Antiochus and boldly cruise the waters round the Chersonese. There is a mention of a major conflict7 between Antigonus and Antiochus in 278 with ‘Large forces ranged on either side, and the war lasted for a long time’ and confirmation that other members of the confederacy faced off against Antiochus at sea. Heraclea sent thirteen triremes to aid Nicomedes of Bithynia which allowed that monarch to confront the Seleucid navy on an equal footing, ensuring that neither side was prepared to risk an open engagement and that a balance of naval power was realized. Why Antigonus had not sent his squadrons that clearly might have been decisive is unclear unless there is something in the suggestion that he was distracted by another abortive descent on Macedonia.8

If we are nowhere given details of the campaigns fought in 278, we are on firmer ground by spring of 277 when Antigonus is recorded trying to make his presence felt both in Thrace and the Chersonese. He was counting on the fact that the patriot general Sosthenes and any other significant Macedonian power-players were mired in their own troubles and could have had retained little influence in those regions, while he also hoped to coordinate trouble for Antiochus with his allies. At some stage during the campaigning season movements of a considerable number of well-known troublemakers stirred the pot. The pattern of Gallic perambulation had been confusing from the start, the draw of asportation taking them all over, but by now many were dead, dispersed, gone back north to Illyria or Pannonia, involved in either their own Asian adventure or spread around Macedonia plundering. Yet some were still dangerously assembled and in 278 these were travelling along the Thracian coast, plundering as they went and cutting a swath of destruction that amplified the terror just the news of their coming engendered. Some of them were the remnants of the band, most of whose members had crossed to Asia, while others were left over from Brennus’ horde, whose leader was long gone, and after their thrash at Delphi had taken the road back north and east. This party, now led by a warlord named Cerethrius, had spent 278 overrunning the Getai and the Tribelli, peoples that Lysimachus in his pomp had failed to completely subdue, and then wintering in their territory. Now this most recent Gallic menace numbering 15,000 foot and 3,000 horse were discovered barrelling into the Thracian Chersonese where a real drama played out.

Despite once brilliant kingdoms having been almost reduced to wastelands and weeds risen in the footsteps of these roving Gallic bands, Cerethrius’ followers still felt that Europe had plenty to offer and after storming settlements along the coast and passing the vicinity of Lysimachia could have been preparing to commence another invasion of Macedonia9 when they learned from their scouts that Antigonus was not far off with a considerable army and fleet. Cruising the coast, he was looking for influence among the communities of the Thracian Chersonese rather than on a hunt for Gauls, but he was bound to respond when he found vulnerable people in the area searching round for protectors after the marauders were reported heading in their direction. Antigonus would have seen nothing but advantage in putting such people under his protection, and with his ships loaded up with all the men he could spare from his fortresses’ garrisons, he had headed for the Hellespont. By the time he hove in sight in summer 277 the area was already occupied by the raiders, but the impression is that the presence of this army was something of a surprise, that he had failed in detailed reconnaissance and, having no well thought out plan, was essentially making policy on the hoof when events unfolded near Lysimachus’ old headquarters. Antigonus ordered a landing in the Gulf of Melas where Hieronymus’ old home Cardia, standing at the neck of the Thracian Chersonese, had long prospered from the grain trade until 309 when Lysimachus razed it so the inhabitants could people his new capital.

The outlaw combination, noticing the disembarkation, were a little unsure of what to make of this particular Macedonian commander they had not confronted before, so refrained from blindly stampeding straight into a fight, instead sending envoys and offering a peaceful way out if Antigonus would pay for it, but who could also judge his numbers and quality if the new arrivals seemed disinclined to respond to the proposal. The answer was polite and if no promise of tribute was made, they were invited to a luxurious banquet with foodstuff laid out on gold and silver salvers to impress the gawking visitors with Antigonus’ wealth. This only had the effect of inflaming their cupidity and it is impossible not to believe that this was his intention, except that he apparently also showed off his elephants, suggesting much more of intimidation than entrapment. Antigonus’ intentions in all these intrigues are not so easy to make out, but the extravagant exhibition of both his wealth and his power make it likely that he was eager to come to an understanding with the Gauls. After all, it had not been long since the Bithynian king had hired just such a horde as axillaries and these ferocious warriors might be useful allies either in confronting Antiochus or making a move on the Macedonian throne. It was only when it became clear that they had no intention of agreeing to such an arrangement and were almost certain to attack him that he made the fateful decision and laid his plans. Whatever the motivation, when the Gallic leaders heard their emissaries’ account they determined on attack, supremely confident, having apart from Brennus’ misadventures in Greece experienced a long string of successes since the day three years earlier when Bolgius had cut to pieces the army of Macedonia and butchered its king. The direction of their reasoning was clear: that Antigonus would prove easy pickings as ‘his camp was filled with gold and silver, but secured neither by rampart nor trench, and that the Macedonians, as if they had sufficient protection in their wealth, neglected all military duties, apparently thinking that, as they had plenty of gold, they had no use for steel.’10

The general opinion was that these rich and amenable Macedonians who had invited their representatives to dinner were clearly up for being sequestered, so with spirits high and temptation immediate the Gauls prepared their assault for the following night, hoping that their prey, under the impression that there might be a peaceful outcome to this confrontation, would leave their defences incomplete and any sentries would be lax in keeping watch. In fact, Antigonus ‘foreseeing the storm that threatened him’, had detected the perfect occasion to ensnare his enemies and a textbook plan to achieve it. He had emptied his encampment of not only his men and camp followers but most of the baggage and placed all in an adjacent wood, though leaving in plain sight his ships drawn up on the beach behind the bivouac. This tricky customer did not even leave sentries on guard, so things went very far from according to plan and it was almost a farce when those scouting in advance of the Gallic columns crept forward, under the cover of dark, towards the enemy’s perimeter. There they found no guards to rush and no foemen snoring and defenceless in their tents; all was eerily quiet without even a piquet left to raise the alarm. Milling around the gate and looking up at the deserted walls, the attackers, taken aback, reacted with fear, ‘suspecting that there was not a flight, but some stratagem on the part of the enemy, were for some time afraid to enter the gates.’11 The apprehensive freebooters imagined that a trap had been laid and it took some time before they collected their nerve and even then they only sent a few men to skirt warily around the deserted streets of the unnerving edifice. Once these spies confirmed the place was empty the rest entered, determined to carry anything valuable and movable away with them. Then those with plunder looking for more and those without even more eager, they pressed on out of the other side of the camp in the direction of the sea, rolling noisily up the beach. Having, after a very circumspect approach, worked up the nerve to occupy the camp and reached the other side, they now saw a line of what looked like defenceless ships sitting vulnerable just a few score yards away.

Voices may have again been raised suggesting caution, but the majority were greedy for loot and pushed on. If the night-shadowed vessels had been left as bait or had remained by accident without the crews having time to launch them the effect was exactly the same; the attackers fell on them like starving men on a feast, expecting to find those treasures on board that they had not discovered in the deserted tent lines. All were fairly disorganized now with officers unable to retain control in the darkness and everybody impatient to find spoils to carry away. A disorderly line of men with spiky lime-washed hair gleaming in the moonlight fanned out from the camp gates onto the shore and, stumbling through the sand, approached the ships hauled up all along the curve of the beach. With little order and plaid trousers or bare legs wet to the knees, groups picked out vessels to board and climbed up onto the decks with their shields slung on their backs and only a few with weapons in hand, but now for the first time they encountered resistance. They did not expect it; everything this far had been easy, so their guard was down when they discovered the warships were not deserted but full of armed sailors and corseleted marines, eager to make a fight of it. Javelins were hurled and slingshot launched down onto the milling assailants, while other defenders pushed shields forward or stabbed down with long pikes, driving at the enemy trying to climb the sides like the giant Ajax keeping the foe at bay as they attacked the Archean penteconters drawn up on the sands outside the city of Troy.

The attackers, pressing on with savage war cries on their lips, had located formidable opponents, and the defence in this later fight, not many miles away from where that legendary affray took place, was even more effective as many of the beached vessels were high-sided fours, fives or even bigger, carrying considerable complements of fighting men with bolt-throwing engines on their decks. The fighting was ferocious, decks became slippery with gore as the assailants who had climbed so far were butchered or defenders overcome, though without doubt the Gauls were far from coming out on top, but this was not the worst of it. Antigonus, looking on from his position in the woods, felt the time had come to unleash his main force. Suitably emboldened by the success of his ploy and after his priests had made the appropriate blood sacrifices, the prince and his commanders signalled the advance, urging their men on to revenge the awful damage these intruders had done to so many of their homes. So the soldiers kept in hiding, mercenaries and elephants and the rest, given the huge advantage of surprise, appeared in a mass of armoured men and animals. Critical reinforcements that in formed and serried ranks issued from their arboreal shelter surged forward like an army of phantoms as they passed through shadowed trees. The disorganized Gauls attacking the boats now found themselves closed in the jaws of a trap between those opponents on the high-sided vessels they had already been combating and the armoured Greek mercenaries with stout Aspis shields and stabbing spears in a solid phalanx rolling into their rear. Their comrades still in the camp or whose attention was all on the plunder they expected to scoop or who were occupied in dragging away what they had already acquired were in no position to or had no interest in helping them.

The men on the beach were thrown into a tossing ferment of confusion by this enterprising blow. The northerners, except for their nobles, fought without armour, sometimes even naked, so facing brazen foes, many with corselets and helmets beside their heavy shields, they were often struck down without being able to hurt their assailants in return. Besides the heavy foot, quick-thinking officers also unleashed the peltasts who nimbly circled behind the enemy mob, finding easy targets as they threw their javelins in deadly enfilade into unshielded backs before surging in with swords bared. Only the cavalry was redundant in this night-time affray, with horses left hobbled or corralled while their riders fought on foot if at all. Everything was orchestrated to the terrifying din of horns and elephants trumpeting terror in the night-time conflict with fearsome fighters emerging from the woods singing their paean and threatening to cut off any possibility of retreat to Cerethrius’ camp where they might hope to find refuge. These Gauls were brave men, many giddy with violence, and they fought on with audacity, wielding spears and swords, until the sight of more closed enemy ranks appearing through the dark caused some of the faint-hearted to fall into panic. Though steeled from youth in combat, finding themselves under a rattling fusillade of javelins and hissing arrows with the enemy line smashing into them turned out too much. Fear wrenched their guts as they surveyed a nightmare prospect; in front bloody men speared them from the ships’ decks, while others behind moved in for the kill. Sword arms wearying, they were being tested as never before and the outcome did not long hang in the balance. Leaders and braver hearts tried to rally them, but it was no use and many would have not just been afraid and desperate but they would have been bitter, blaming their leaders’ carelessness that looked like it had thrown away an initial advantage.

It would be hard to imagine a more eerie picture than a full-scale battle raging in the dark, illuminated only by the few torches that both sides carried to light their way, but how long this kaleidoscope of draining combat lasted we do not know. When the Gauls realized they were in danger of being surrounded they inevitably looked for options, for a way out, but however desperate they were to escape they needed to be able to see a route before they began to run and without it many continued to defend themselves out of desperation when in a more conventional affray they would have already taken to their heels. Their chiefs were there too, men who had led them to victory and treasure so often before, around who they might unite until it became clear all was lost. If the night-time confusion had initially benefited the Antigonid forces, now they also would have been unsure who was friend or foe and unable to make out their comrades in a tangled mass of humanity or see how they were faring in other parts of the field. Runners carrying orders to try to coordinate their efforts would have found it all but impossible in the deepening obscurity to find the officers to whom they had been sent. Formations crumbled on both sides, and grim and glorious duelling pairs would have clashed and fallen apart in this wild melee, a tentative ebb and flow that made it unlikely that a decisive outcome could be swiftly achieved. Yet finally it ended, with the Gauls, their resolve long faltering, discovered methods to extract themselves, stumbling through the darkness along paths leading out of the fighting line and Antigonus’ officers calling a halt for fear of their own men losing their way in pursuit and coming to grief. However, the end did not come before a terrific slaughter had been accomplished in the ranks of the northerners’ army, and as the dawn broke over the field, a picture showed mounds of Gallic dead and wounded calling for aid and mercy from the victors. How many of their numbers fell is not recorded and the same was true of the far fewer casualties among Antigonus’ sailors and soldiers, but it was sufficient that not only had this particular band ceased to be a threat but afterwards any other barbarian neighbours would think twice before following the Gallic example in threatening Antigonus’ domains.

The first rays of the morning sun showed an elated Antigonus treading the blood-soaked fields and regarding with satisfaction the parade of wounded and captured Gauls his men were escorting away. His favoured deity Pan had done the business and everybody knew who was the clear victor against the people who had been terrorizing the civilized world for years. How to explain how this had happened in this bizarre battle that from the beginning had never been a formal affair? We do not hear that Antigonus himself was at the forefront of the melee, but then that was not his style. Many others might have tried to emulate Alexander in spearheading victorious battlefield assaults, but Antigonus was happier in the company of his philosophers. This man who valued intelligence certainly had good knowledge of his enemy when he hatched his plan, ensuring a tempting bait was offered: first an undefended camp and after that vulnerable ships to suck them in until he was ready to pounce. So doubtless, after preparing the snare, he left the hands-on stuff to his officers, mercenary generals who had done such a good job of holding tight in Greece over the past decades. Whatever the cause of victory his men did not care; they were jubilantly slapping each other’s backs to celebrate having faced in open battle these frightful men who had been ravaging the land for so long and cut them to pieces; world conquerors who previously had swaggered almost wherever they chose had been humbled. Such events might precede a marvellous future when news of the triumph over an existential enemy permeated the heartland of not just Macedonia but that country’s neighbours who had been suffering for years as well. Surely there would be a welcome in both towns and countryside for the leader who had shown himself as the best hope as protector in a world turned upside-down; the one man who might divert the awful fury of the northern invaders and bring the civilized world out into the light of peace and prosperity after a half-decade of despair.

Much would hang on the verdict of this encounter, but if word of success soon reached the worried citizens of Lysimachia, it would take considerably longer to spread through Macedonia and Greece. In the days it took for news of his sensational success to circulate, Antigonus found it confirmed that his reputation had been massively boosted in a battered world. The impact of his achievement was being registered in all the wide Hellenic sphere; Greek cities offered thanks, with the feat recorded in a temple to ‘Athene the giver of victory’ at Athens.12 Yet it would not just be the Antigonid prince’s standing in Greece that had been hugely burnished; achievements on the sands of the Thracian Chersonese would have ramifications in his national homeland as well. Ambitions that had recently seemed impossibly grandiose might now be more than feasible, and Macedon might finally be there for the taking. Since the death of Ptolemy Ceraunus, this country had been sunk in something close to anarchy. After that king’s well-earned fatality, a ruling elite had tried to reconfigure themselves to deal with the emergency around his brother Meleager who had been hoisted onto the throne, but his reign had lasted for a bare two months before he was exposed as incompetent, being ‘unfit to rule’ and deposed, after which the army bestowed the crown on Antipater Etesias, the son of Cassander’s brother Philip. However, this man showed none of the character or talent of either his uncle or his namesake and lasted hardly forty-five days, and because his fleeting reign coincided with the dog days when the etesian winds blew, he went down in history named for this phenomenon.

After this tumultuous interlude a general called Sosthenes, probably one of Lysimachus’ officers, who because of evident capacity rather than any dynastic connection was made heir to the Macedonian government. He effectively re-ordered the army, recruiting young and old, and even bested one of the bands of roving Gallic desperados who were careless when they tried to re-enter the country. .He ‘drove them off, and saved Macedonia from devastation.’ Clearly an effective ruler, his resurrection of Macedonia’s reputation in Greece is suggested when the Aetolians named a city Sosthenes in his honour, and extraordinary too, that when this selfless servant of the state, despite his lack of royal blood, was offered the diadem he refused the honour. ‘For these great services, he, though of humble extraction, was chosen before many nobles that aspired to the throne of Macedonia. But though he was saluted as king by the army, he made the soldiers take an oath to him, not as king, but as general.’13 He retained the reins of power in his hands, holding at least parts of the country together for almost two years, probably in the name of a number of legitimate but powerless monarchs. Yet even this competent man could not escape the wrath of the Gauls as the army he struggled to keep in the field was not sufficient to keep control of all Macedonia or Paeonia and finally in June 277 suffered fatal defeat in the field, with routed troops only able to find protection in walled cities closing their gates against the enemy hanging on their heels.

So in this world rich in hope and potential, a reputationally engorged Antigonus found himself with real prospects. Sosthenes, who had held a fragile sort of power in Macedonia, was dead and the population, traumatized and suspicious, was cringing behind city walls or out trying to repair the farms and estates under constant fear of attack, either by bands of blond northern men who had been filling their waking nightmares for years, or just bandits encouraged by a lawless environment. In an exhausted country seething with contesting factions and petrified by intimidating interlopers, both within and without its borders, the greatest prize was suddenly within Antigonus’ grasp and the son of the man who had been so ignominiously chased out of Pella almost a decade before now returned, trailing clouds of military glory. We know that not long after the victory at Lysimachia, Antigonus’ old mentor Menedemus of Eretria14 was lauding his receipt of the royal diadem worn by Philip, Alexander and his own father; enough to crease the face of this latest Antigonid king of Macedonia with a broad smile. Even if we are not sure whether he arrived in armed panoply at the head of his victorious army, leaving his new subjects with no option but to welcome him with open arms, or perhaps that a significant faction gagging for a saviour of any kind invited him to take the throne.

The question that locals were bound to have asked was whether this Antigonus Gonatus would do any better than the parade of kings and commanders who had come and gone in the past five years, but if the answer was unknowable, hope always remained and it would be hope amply repaid despite an immediate future that remained full of menace. Seldom was the suggestion that ‘uneasy lies the head that wears the crown’ more apt than in the case of this most recent ruler of Macedon. No part of the kingdom had been left unaffected by the traumas of recent years and the people who the great Alexander had considered only interesting because they worried the sky might fall on their heads had damaged his homeland in a way that king would have considered incredible. Death, destruction of buildings and theft of livestock had stifled the economy and even after the hordes had passed, the disruption of order had encouraged the flourishing of local brigands and a perennial threat remained of roving bands of unemployed mercenaries released by Hellenistic employers. The attrition had been considerable: bloody deductions from the always finite number of phalangites who had fallen under Gallic swords first when Ptolemy Ceraunus was crushed and later when Sosthenes suffered defeat and those farmers and their families who failed to reach the protection of city walls had been killed or deported, deducting swathes from those who might have provided refurbishments for the home army.

Macedonia had bled out in these years; the upper cantons particularly had repeatedly suffered at the hands of the intruders, so any government infrastructure remained fragile in a region that had always been poorer and less populated than lower Macedonia. Even in that heartland things were hardly any better: on top of the loss of life, the people’s morale was shot; from turbulent aristocrats to patient peasants, everybody wondered what had happened to the favour of the gods that had allowed them only decades earlier to conquer the Persian Empire but now brought them to a pass where they had to beg for mercy from despised barbarians. The most significant towns had to rely on their own efforts and particularly their stone ramparts to stave off Gallic assaults and now few felt much fidelity towards administrations at Pella that had so singularly failed to protect them. Nor was it just Philip and Alexander’s kingdom: much of the territory around had suffered too; a world of ruin in the Balkans that ensured it would be at least a generation before things could begin to recover properly.

At least in these circumstances Antigonus had a personality that offered reassurance to communal leaders whose worlds had been rocked to the foundations in past years, not just in places that had only just survived the Gallic fury behind their stone defences but rural populations too, who could find in this man who was a grandchild of the great Antipater hope of stability and safety. This country that Philip II had transformed into an imperial engine wanted rest and consistent government more than anything, and a familiar figure from over two decades, now suddenly radiant with the new-found glamour of a Gaul-destroyer, must have looked like the best bet to provide it. He was no unknown quantity: many would have remembered him from Demetrius’ reign as that ruler’s dependable viceroy in Greece, a serious figure that Macedonian grandees might have met and dealt with during a reign that had, despite the incumbent’s manifold failings, lasted far longer than any since the death of Cassander. The new monarch immediately had to confront more than one focus of opposition, with the likes of Antipater, king of the dog days, still around, all presumably with some adherents and possibly another pretender called Arrhidaeus or Alexander loitering in the wings. These claimants had done little to fill the power vacuum that Antigonus now intended to occupy, and with their legitimacy questionable and their resources meagre, few must have expected that they would mount even local opposition to the hero who had crushed the terrible Gauls at Lysimachia. Certainly they had been singularly ineffective in stopping what had been left of the governing elite welcoming the new king, or shown any will or capacity to trouble his victorious army when it travelled the road to Pella.

Once established, Antigonus Gonatus, like Ptolemy Ceraunus before him, moved to eradicate those domestic rivals within his reach. Antipater required a final solution, and these two definitely came to blows because we are told15 that some of Antigonus’ mercenaries after the encounter were so insistent on getting paid their coin, which would have amounted to between 30 and 100 talents depending on whether women and children were counted in the calculation, that hostages of high rank had to be given over until the money could be raised. The captives looked for a moment to be in considerable danger as the mercenaries, camping apart from the main army, threatened vengeance until, proving devious, Antigonus took some of their own leaders prisoner and forced them to accept the lower sum in full payment of arrears. These men who valued themselves so highly for getting rid of their commander’s rival for the throne were the remnants of Cerethrius’ Gauls hired to flesh out an army that Antigonus expected to need to fight his way to power. Hiring the very men he had just defeated was a doubly advantageous arrangement: these troops whose name still instilled terror and were notoriously effective on first contact could plug the gap as an exhausted Macedonia was in no position to provide him with troops, while it also gave employment to potential marauders still roiling in the country north of his kingdom’s borders.

If Antigonus was early in employing these warriors to boost his military roster, he would be far from alone. One of the most noticeable features of the new world once the awful tide of destruction had reached its high mark was that as the waters receded, Gallic mercenaries became the new military of choice for the contenders trying to pick up the pieces. It would be a policy soon followed by almost all the other Hellenistic monarchs. ‘The nation of the Gauls, however, was at that time so prolific, that they filled all Asia as with one swarm. The kings of the east then carried on no wars without a mercenary army of Gauls.’16 Numerous, cheap and effective, from this time few armies that we hear of do not include such a component and as often as not it was the decisive one. These wild men would fight hard and for any protagonist with money in his pocket and to employ them was a win-win situation. Like Antigonus, such commanders would both acquire numerous bespoke soldiers to fight their battles and instil terror in the hearts of their enemies, but at the same time ensure these people were not employed in laying waste their own familiar country and killing their kinfolk. They became ubiquitous, just as they had in the previous century, providing cut-price warriors to fuel the wars in Magna Graecia in south Italy and Sicily. There were plenty to go around, fighting on the cheap, and soon enough any major encounter in the Balkans would see groups of them in significant action. Indeed, there could be few better tributes to their fighting qualities than how completely they had come to dominate the mercenary market in the few years since they had appeared on the scene.

If these fighters for hire ensured that the last remnants of the house of old Antipater were driven off never to be heard of again, by 276 most other pretenders also seem to have been disposed of. Yet if these threats had been contained without too great an effort and little record, the same could not be claimed in respect of the ruler of Cassandreia, sited where the old city of Potidaea had stood at the head of the Pallene peninsula, the most western of the three legs of the Chalcidice. From the demise of Lysimachus, this place had shown a tendency to go its own sweet way and Arsinoe had made her base there before foolishly believing the marital sweet talk of her half-brother. Some time after Ptolemy Ceraunus’ death and the chaos that it ushered in, a local dynast took over there. A significant figure for some years, Apollodorus had been considered a great patriot for sponsoring the removal of a character called Lachares who had become unpopular for both his despotic conduct and his friendship with Antiochus and crucially he was already well-liked for having headed popular opposition to an officer called Theodotus, who is known for commanding in Lysimachus’ garrison at Sardis and when arriving at Cassandreia had tried the classic tyrant’s ploy of suggesting his life was under threat and in consequence needed a bodyguard.

This Apollodorus, apart from these patriotic credentials, also had a considerable reputation for base cunning and brutality. Once when accused of setting himself up as a tyrant, he ‘appeared in black, with his wife and daughters dressed in the same manner’ to persuade his judges of his unthreatening humility, while soon after wheedling out of this prosecution he really did take control of the city, after which one of his first acts was to punish the very judges who had exonerated him. There is another story that to secure his takeover of power he organized a cannibal banquet, ‘invited a young lad, one of his friends, to a sacrifice, slew him as an offering to the gods, gave the conspirators his vitals to eat, and when he had mixed the blood with wine, bade them drink it.’17 Apart from these impious shenanigans, once he had taken over he marched into the citadel, previously occupied by Ceraunus’ mother Eurydice and her mercenary guard who gave it up when he proffered self-proclaimed credentials as one of the leaders of the city’s democratic party. Then he bolstered his chances of defending his assets by more practical measures, employing Gallic mercenaries as both his personal guard and core of a municipal defence force with citizen soldiers and other hired warriors prepared to man the stout walls that protected the city. These lavishly rewarded northern mercenaries were the key to not just the city defence but to internal control as well, allowing him first to mulch the rich but later ‘to exact money from the citizens at large, and by inflicting the penalty of torture upon many men and more than a few women he forced everyone to hand over gold and silver.’18 It is even said that he was advised by a man called Calliphon the Sicel who had cut his teeth on the courts of a Sicilian despot, who counselled him to arm gangs of slaves and workmen, all the tropes of a Greek city tyrant from Cypselus of Corinth to Pisistratus in Athens.

Whatever the shocking crimes he is claimed to have perpetrated and whatever the vileness of his reputation, it did not stop this man proving very effective in holding off Antigonus for almost a year. No small-time thinker, he approached anybody who might resent the new incumbent at Pella; there is evidence he may have looked for allies as far away as Sparta, where they always worried about Antigonid influence and even approached Antiochus who may at this time still have been contemplating a bid for the Macedonian throne. Determined to deal with this present enemy, the Antigonid military marched down to the Pallene peninsula, famous in legend as the site where the Gigantes, born of the blood of castrated Uranus, were vanquished by the Olympian gods before being dispatched to underground captivity to act as engines of volcanic and seismic activity. Much of the promontory was rich arable land, or pasture occupied by colonists mainly drawn from Eretria on Euboea, though Antigonus’ target had been a Corinthian foundation before Cassander reestablished it in 316. It was far from easy of approach, with a canal built years earlier fronting its northern defences that still looks impressive to this day. Plenty had come to grief there in the past. A Persian detachment from Xerxes’ army was well on the way to taking the town in 479 when they were washed away by a tidal wave, and in the 430s the Athenians had to spend years besieging the place just to bring this recalcitrant member of their Delian League to heel.

Once established, those very Gauls who Antigonus had made his reputation by vanquishing could have been seen occupying the siege works around the town both to its north and south. Bare-chested, moustachioed warriors filled out the ranks of the besieging army, the rest comprising Antigonus’ veteran Greek mercenaries and as many Macedonians as were prepared and able to fight for their new monarch after years of battering defeats. Just as important was the Antigonid marine, well capable of cutting off supplies to the defenders, despite them having outlets on two sides of the Pallene peninsula, particularly now that the regular numbers of Antigonid vessels had been supplemented by whatever portion of the Macedonian fleet was still in working order after years of chaos. The whole enterprise lasted ten months, the kind of undertaking that Antigonus had not been involved in since the last major siege of Athens, though the only details of its successful conclusion are peddled in an improbable story from a book of stratagems.19 This concerned a Phocian buccaneer named Ameinias who involved himself when Antigonus raised the siege after a ten-month blockade. Getting on Apollodorus’ good side by helping to re-victual the defenders, he then offered to broker a reconciliation between the two warring parties so that in this new atmosphere of compromise the defenders dropped their guard, allowing the pirate chief to reveal his true purpose. He was based at an advanced post called Bolus and from there, with the assault force deputed to an Aetolian pirate called Melatas, he provided his men with ladders cut to the height of the city defences, and then sent them over the walls. Success was immediate and once the town had fallen it was handed over to Antigonus and the beneficiary of these sea dogs’ enterprise now had the satisfaction of having the troublesome Apollodorus eliminated while Ameinias remained on his payroll until at least 272 when he is again mentioned as a senior officer at Corinth involved in the Peloponnesian campaign against Pyrrhus.

With this stronghold reduced and Apollodorus disposed of, Antigonus showed he could woo as well as assault, with other cities in the region soon following in offering their adherence. Thessalonike, the most important foundation at the head of the Thermaic Gulf, is hardly mentioned despite its neighbour being a centre of opposition for at least two of the monarchs that came after Cassander and it is probably a deeply-felt contention between the two that explained this quiescence. As important as domestic security was the imperative need for Antigonus to clarify his position on the world stage. Achievements in his immediate world had been mixed: from his base at Demetrias it had been easy enough to recover Thessaly and include it into his new realm, but as for Paeonia this country, just ravaged by the Gauls, he was unable for the moment to recover. Cut loose, the locals reorganized themselves as an autonomous league for self-defence. Other items on the debit side are also recorded further south when Spartans decided to take advantage. Troezen was a venerable place well east of Argos near the Saronic Gulf named for sibling affection by a son of Pelops and grandfather of Theseus when two communities combined in legendary times.20 In human memory it had been important as being where the Athenian civilian evacuees were sent for their protection before the day of decision at Salamis in 480, and was the mother city Sybaris where the exiles on the instep of the Italian boot had perfected the art of good living. This well-defended town was an important component of the fiefdom Craterus held for his half-brother around the Isthmus of Corinth, but around this time it was wrenched from his grasp by Laconians in expansionist mood. These first tried psychological warfare when they had messages declaring ‘I have come to preserve the freedom of Troezen’ bound round the shafts of javelins hurled over the walls and returned some citizens they had captured without ransom to plead their cause with the locals. This activity stirred some factional discord, but Craterus’ garrison commander showed he was well up to combating these machinations, though in the end when it came to swords and spears the Spartan warriors, still formidable even in these degenerate days, ‘scaled the walls’ and took the place.21

There were also three Achaean towns that in 275 went the same way as Troezen, lost to the Antigonid cause. Aegium, situated below the foothills of the Panachaiko Mountains, included the territory of Helike, which has pretentions to being Plato’s Atlantis.22 Bura inland between Patrae and Corinth and recently rebuilt after a devastating earthquake and Eryneia, again inland from Aegium, were all lost, though we don’t know how.23 The Corinthian enclave was shrinking and would continue to do so after the fighting against Pyrrhus at the end of the 270s when other Achaean places may also have been lost to Craterus. Antigonus was now down to not much more than the three great Fetters, his Attic forts on top of Megara that he attacked and conquered around this time when the defenders used flaming pigs against his elephants and where a mutiny among the Gallic garrison years later indicates it was continuously in his hands.24 In central Greece Aetolia, after her own heroic stand against the Gallic menace, was looming increasingly important from the Ambracian Gulf to Thermopylae, utilizing her dominance of the Amphictyonic League to exert influence on her neighbours. This hoary and highly reputable organizing had been crucial in Philip’s significant military interruption into the Hellenic world during the Sacred Wars and Antigonus, though still theoretically commanding votes at the league council through cities he controlled in Thessaly, realized that taking up the option of attending would only thoroughly expose his own lack of clout in this arena.

To compensate for this loss of influence in the Peloponnese and central Greece, there are claims of a thawing of Macedonian relations with the Athenians. With their previous sponsors much less effective, Lysimachus long gone and Ptolemy II with more pacific inclinations than his father, it made sense for a people who had been fighting the Antigonids on and off since 287 to move to improve relations, particularly as their failure to take the Piraeus and the continued presence of Antigonid garrisons at Salamis, Eleusis, Sunium and Rhamnous ensured that corn imports would have had difficulty in getting through. There is evidence that an actively Macedonian-inclined administration took charge with a decree honouring the king for his defence of the Greeks by his victory near Lysimachia and another from 275 celebrating Phaidros of Sphettos, an old Antigonid stalwart who had been ousted from his generalship and replaced by Olympiodorus in 287 and even sacrifices made making mention of ‘Antigonus the king’. Yet all this is very thin and if it is probable, dealings between Pella and Athens became noticeably less tense than they had been and after 287 there is certainly no suggestion of any kind of vassalage. Indeed, the delegation sent to Pyrrhus when he arrived in the Peloponnese in 272 may indicate that there were hawks in the Attic capital who hoped the Epirot king might provide troops to assist them in having another go at digging the Antigonid garrison out of the Piraeus.

Apart from these developments in Greece, the Seleucid ruler’s attitude was bound to be key for Antigonus’ immediate future. Fortunately there were reasons for optimism in this quarter because Antiochus was being troubled by a reconstituted northern league of Bithynia, Heraclea and Pontus while wandering Galatians remained a problem, so he was unlikely to have much stomach for a fight against the latest iteration of the Macedonian monarchy. When ambassadors tested the water, it turned out that he was happy to find a boundary along the Nestus River that again became a significant borderline with its waters running through difficult mountain country and wild canyons to reach a marshy delta near the border post of Abdera. That place controlled a pass through the mountains north of modern Xanthi and the routes along the Thracian coast and was wealthy from trade with the interior of Thrace. And that legend claimed as a Phoenician foundation that had benefited from a passing Xerxes’ munificence when the great king was on his way to Greece. Such a demarcation line very much suited Antigonus who had more than enough on his plate in imbedding his dynasty at Pella, so could allow his interests in the Chersonese to wane, while in exchange Antiochus was content to give up claims in Macedonia that he had no immediate prospect of pressing. So an entente was enshrined and to put the seal on the second coming of the Antigonids to the Macedonian throne, Philo, a royal princess born of Stratonice, the bridegroom’s full sister, and Seleucus I, married Antigonus in winter 276/75. This season of grand nuptial revelries included special honours given to the god Pan for filling Antigonus’ enemies with his signature brand of terror during the epochal battle against the Gallic foe. However, the questions remained was it really time to discard residual dreads, were awful Gauls and predatory neighbours things of the past, and had peace truly come to bleeding Macedonia after her agonal years?

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