The Fall of Demetrius

DEMETRIUS WAS BACK in Athens, and took immediate steps to regain other cities in Greece. His neighbors in Macedon and Asia Minor were too busy with their own affairs to intervene. The Peloponnesian cities were Demetrius’s first targets in 294, but toward the end of his campaign there he was diverted by news from Macedon. The homeland was in the kind of trouble he had been waiting for. As soon as he could, he marched north.

In Macedon, Antipater, the elder of the two boy kings, had naturally assumed that, on attaining his majority, he would inherit the whole kingdom; Thessalonice, however, continued to insist on his sharing the kingdom with his rother. Antipater therefore had his mother murdered (an unusual crime even for the Macedonian royal family, and she was a half sister of Alexander the Great), expelled his brother from the western half of the kingdom, and made all Macedon his. Alexander accordingly invited Demetrius to help him recover the throne. Demetrius left his twenty-five-year-old son Antigonus Gonatas resident in Athens and in charge of affairs in Greece and marched north to take part in the War of the Brothers.

But it had taken him time to wrap things up in the south, and in the meantime Alexander had also looked for help elsewhere. Pyrrhus of Epirus, a great-nephew of Olympias and cousin of Alexander the Great, had been an enemy of Cassander, who had successfully supported his dynastic rival in Epirus. In 303 Demetrius had married one of his sisters, Deidameia, and so when Pyrrhus had fled from Epirus he had lived in exile in Demetrius’s court and had fought on the Antigonid side at Ipsus, aged eighteen. In 299, as part of a short-lived attempt to get on with Ptolemy, Demetrius had sent him young Pyrrhus as a kind of hostage, a pledge of his goodwill. Pyrrhus had become close to Ptolemy, and had married one of his daughters. After the death of Deidameia in 298, Pyrrhus felt he no longer had any reason to be close to Demetrius, and it was as Ptolemy’s ally, and with Ptolemy’s financial help, that in 297 he reconquered Epirus. This was the powerful neighbor whom Alexander V had asked for help.

The price for Pyrrhus’s help was enormous, but he was able to supply it quickly. He asked for, and received, the two cantons of Macedon that bordered his kingdom of Epirus, along with various other Macedonian dependencies that would serve his aim of developing Epirote rule in western Greece. These were mostly territories that had been annexed by Philip II and Cassander.

Pyrrhus easily drove Antipater out of western Macedon, but did no more. Lysimachus was Antipater’s father-in-law, and Pyrrhus had no desire to provoke Lysimachus, even though he was currently busy quelling an uprising led by the warlike Getae. The threat of future intervention was enough for Lysimachus to persuade Pyrrhus to withdraw his troops—without, of course, abandoning his new territories. Pyrrhus’s withdrawal paved the way for the two brothers to be reconciled. Lysimachus hoped he had done enough to secure Macedon against Demetrius’s imminent arrival.

So when Demetrius reached Dium, on the borders of Macedon, Alexander thanked him and told him he was no longer needed. No one treated Demetrius like that—and certainly no Antipatrid teenager. Demetrius pretended that he was unconcerned and had other business to attend to down south. He invited the young king to a farewell banquet and had him killed. Minnows should not swim with sharks. In a show trial, forced on him by his insecurity, Demetrius gave it out before the Macedonian troops that he was acting in self-defense—that Alexander had been planning to murder him. It may have been true. There was so much mutual mistrust between them that, during the banquet, when Demetrius got up to leave the room, Alexander followed, not wanting to lose sight of him. At the doorway, Demetrius muttered to his guards as he passed: “Kill the man who follows me.”1

Antipater abandoned his half of Macedon and fled to Thrace, where Lysimachus persuaded him that resistance was futile. Lysimachus quickly arranged a peace treaty with Demetrius; he knew from recent bitter experience how aggressive his new neighbor could be, and the situation gave him the leverage to persuade Demetrius to renounce his claim to the Greek cities of Asia Minor that had fallen to Lysimachus after Ipsus. But the peace made Antipater redundant, and Lysimachus had him killed, now or within a few years. It was the end of the Antipatrid line that had ruled Macedon, as viceroys and kings, for the best part of forty years.

DEMETRIUS I, KING OF MACEDON

The grail was his: Demetrius was king of Macedon. Immediately after the murder of Alexander V, the nobles present—members of Alexander’s court, now surrounded by Demetrius’s forces—agreed to his kingship, and he was duly acclaimed by the assembled army. But there were still hearts and minds to be won in Macedon itself, and Demetrius went about this by the traditional combination of action and words. He quelled an uprising in Thessaly and took steps to improve the security of central Greece, where the alliance between the Boeotians and Aetolians had been renewed in response to Demetrius’s and his son’s conquests in the south. In the Peloponnese, only the Spartans now held out against him, and they were no more than a nuisance.

At home, he played all the cards that supported his claim to the throne. He stressed his father’s loyal service to the Argeads and the illegitimacy of the Antipatrid regime, and missed no opportunity to recall Cassander’s murder of Alexander IV. His long marriage to Phila helped as well; as Cassander’s sister, she provided an appearance of continuity, now that Cassander had no surviving descendants. Ironically, through Phila, Demetrius was the heir of those to whose ruin he and his father had devoted so much time and energy.

In order to help secure Thessaly, and to give himself another port, one of Demetrius’s early acts as king was to found the city of Demetrias. The site, at the head of the Gulf of Pagasae (near modern Volos), was well chosen. The city was hard to assault, and served successive Macedonian kings for decades as one of the “Fetters of Greece”:2 as long as they controlled the heavily fortified ports of Demetrias, Chalcis, and Corinth (Piraeus was desirable too), they could move troops at will around the Greek mainland and restrict other shipping. And most commercial traffic in those days was seaborne.

A sign of how critical all this was for him was that he ignored what was going on elsewhere in the world—or maybe he just did not have the forces to cope. He had already, I think, effectively ceded the Asiatic Greek cities, and Lysimachus completed his takeover there by the end of 294. In the same year, Ptolemy, to his huge relief, regained Cyprus. The defense of the island had been in the hands of Phila, but in the end she was pinned in Salamis and forced to surrender. Ptolemy courteously allowed all members of Demetrius’s family safe conduct off the island and back to Macedon, laden with gifts and honors. The Ptolemies would now retain Cyprus until the Roman conquest of the island two hundred and fifty years later.

Lysimachus, as already mentioned, was chiefly occupied with a war against the Getae in northern Thrace, around the Danube. In 297 the warlike Getae had taken advantage of the fact that Lysimachus’s attention was focused on Asia Minor to go to war. Lysimachus sent his son Agathocles to deal with the Getae, but it had not gone well: Agathocles had been captured, and Lysimachus had been forced to come to terms, which included marrying one of his daughters to the Getan king and returning territory he had occupied. But in 293, once he had more or less settled his affairs in Asia Minor, Lysimachus took to the field to recover the territory he had been forced to give up. Again, the war went badly; we know no details, but it is surely to the credit of the Getan king Dromichaetes that he was able twice to defeat as brilliant a general as Lysimachus. This time, it was Lysimachus himself who was taken prisoner. He was held at their capital, Helis (perhaps modern Sveshtari, where a tomb has been discovered which might be that of Dromichaetes and Lysimachus’s nameless daughter).3 It was the best part of a year before his captors were induced to let him go, and again Lysimachus lost territory to them, and had to leave hostages to ensure that he would not attack again. It was the last of his attempts to gain control of inner Thrace.

In 292, while Lysimachus was tied up, Demetrius, short on gratitude to the man who had so rapidly recognized his rulership of Macedon, took an expeditionary force into Asia Minor and Thrace. It was a sign of his future intentions, a declaration of war. Fortunately for Lysimachus, a united uprising by the central Greek leagues, backed by his friends Pyrrhus and Ptolemy, recalled Demetrius to Greece. As it happened, before he got back his son Antigonus Gonatas had succeeded in defeating the Boeotians and putting Thebes under siege (it fell the following year). But Demetrius was unable to return to his abandoned campaign, because Pyrrhus chose this moment to invade Thessaly. Demetrius advanced against him in strength; Pyrrhus, his work done, withdrew.

Pyrrhus’s retreat was tactical; he had no intention of giving up his attempt to expand the frontiers of Epirus at Demetrius’s expense. Two years later, in 290, he inflicted a serious defeat on Demetrius’s forces in Aetolia (the victory was so spectacular that he was hailed as a second Alexander),4 but lost the island of Corcyra (Corfu). The island was betrayed to Demetrius by Pyrrhus’s ex-wife Lanassa (whose domain it was), allegedly because she was irritated at being ignored by her husband.5 She married Demetrius instead. In 288, while Demetrius was laid low by illness, Pyrrhus seized the opportunity to invade Thessaly and Macedon. Demetrius hauled himself out of bed and drove Pyrrhus out.

The two kings had pummeled each other to exhaustion, and they made a peace which recognized the status quo in respect of Demetrius’s possession of Corcyra and Pyrrhus’s of the Macedonian dependencies given him by Alexander V in his hour of desperation. Demetrius was left in a powerful position. Macedon, though slimmer, was united under his rule; there was a treaty in place with his most formidable enemy; in central Greece, only the perennial hostility of the Aetolians remained; and he had done enough to secure the Peloponnese for the time being. He had the best fleet, and could call up a massive army. It was quite a turnaround for the Besieger, and he began to dream his father’s dreams. Perhaps Demetrius was his own worst enemy.

DEMETRIUS’S PRIDE

The style of Demetrius’s kingship was typically flamboyant, and he demanded obsequiousness from his subjects. An incident from 290 is particularly revealing. It was the year of the Pythian Games—the quadrennial festival and athletic games held at Delphi, second only to the Olympics in prestige. But the Aetolians controlled Delphi, and restricted access to the festival to their friends. A few weeks later, then, Demetrius came south to host alternate games in Athens.

He and Lanassa entered the city in a style that reminded many of Demetrius’s outrageous behavior a dozen or so years earlier, when he had made the Parthenon his home and that of his concubines. They came, bringing grain for ever-hungry Athens, as Demetrius, the aptly named savior god, and his consort Demeter, the grain goddess. They were welcomed not only with incense and garlands and libations, but with an astonishing hymn that included the words: “While other gods are far away, or lack ears, or do not exist, or pay no attention to us, we see you present here, not in wood or stone, but in reality.”6 Obsequiousness indeed, but the point became clearer as the hymn went on to request of the king that he crush the Aetolian menace.

Many Athenians regretted such excesses, and all over the Greek world resentment built up against the new ruler. It was impossible for Demetrius to present himself as the leader the Greeks had been waiting for when he had to crack down hard on incipient rebellion and tax his subjects hard to pay for yet more war. Talk of the freedom of the Greek cities faded away, and between 291 and 285 Ptolemy deprived Demetrius of the Cycladic islands and the rest of his Aegean possessions, thus regaining the control over the entrance to the Aegean that he had lost in 306 and furthering his aim to control as much of the Aegean seaboard as he could. The promise of relief from taxes and a measure of respect for local councils was just as important in this enterprise as military muscle. Dominance in the Aegean was to serve successive Ptolemies well, both strategically and commercially.

Ptolemy also confirmed his control of Phoenicia by finally evicting Demetrius’s garrisons from Sidon and Tyre. But these were pretty much Ptolemy’s last actions; in 285, feeling the burden of his seventy-plus years, he stood down from the Egyptian throne in favor of Ptolemy II. Maybe he had a terminal illness, because only two years later he died—in his bed, remarkably enough for a Successor. But then “safety first” had been his motto, for most of his time as ruler of Egypt.

Despite these losses, Demetrius might have hung on in Macedon. But he was a natural autocrat, and that was not the Macedonian way. Demetrius never managed the kingly art of finding a balance between being loved and being hated, or at least feared. His subjects came to resent his luxurious ways and his unapproachability. Macedonian kings were supposed to make themselves available to petitions from their subjects, yet Demetrius was rumored on one occasion to have thrown a whole bundle of them into a river—or at least to be the sort of person who might.7 This kind of talk, charging him with eastern-style monarchy, did his reputation no good. Nor did the fact that he wore a double crown, indicating rulership of Asia as well as Europe.8

Ignoring the rumbles of discontent, Demetrius began to prepare for a massive invasion of Asia. But the proud Macedonian barons resented their country’s being thought of as no more than a launching point for eastern invasion; they did not want to be on the periphery of some vast Asian kingdom. It was all right when Philip and Alexander had done it, because that was for the greater glory of Macedon. But this war would be fought against fellow Macedonians, for the greater glory of an unpopular king. The idea of taking thousands more Macedonians east, following the tens of thousands who had already gone, did not go down well either, since the country was already somewhat depopulated.

But Demetrius was no Cassander, content with Macedon alone; he was as addicted to warfare as Alexander the Great. Just as Alexander had set out from Macedon and seized all Asia from the Persian king, so Demetrius intended at least to deprive Lysimachus of Asia Minor. But whereas Alexander had invaded Asia with about thirty-seven thousand men and no fleet to speak of, Demetrius was amassing a vast army, over a hundred thousand strong, while a fleet of five hundred warships was being prepared in the shipyards of Macedon and Greece. In typical Besieger style, some of these ships were larger than any vessel that had ever been built before, and he used the best naval architects available. The precise design of these ships is a matter of intelligent guesswork, but it will give some idea of their scale to say that, whereas a normal warship had three banks of rowers in some arrangement (hence its name, “trireme”), Demetrius was having a “ fifteen” and a “sixteen” built.9

Naturally, Demetrius’s preparations involved propaganda as well. Above all, he wielded the old, potent slogan of Greek freedom against Lysimachus. At a local level, a prominent public building in Pella displayed symbolic paintings, copies of which formed the wall paintings of a later Roman villa.10 One of the panels of the painting depicted Demetrius’s parents as king and queen of Asia, the idea being that he had inherited a natural claim, while other panels showed Macedon as the ruler of Asia by right of conquest. But history is littered with failed promises of manifest destiny.

EARLY HELLENISTIC RELIGIONS

Manifest or otherwise, Destiny, in its less implacable guise as Fortune, was to play a considerable role in the emotional life of the hellenized people of the new world the Successors were creating. But the rise of the cult of Fortune was only one of a number of new religious phenomena. The mobility of the early Hellenistic period uprooted people from their traditions and left them free, for the first time, to choose, to a greater extent than before, their own forms of worship. Not many decades earlier, Socrates had been taken to court for not worshipping the gods of the city; such a trial rapidly became unthinkable, as personal forms of religion proliferated alongside the old and new civic cults. In addition to ensuring that the gods protected their communities and their leaders, people simply wanted the gods to bless them as individuals.11

Greek religion was polytheistic, but one of the main innovations of the Hellenistic period was a henotheistic tendency. Influential philosophers earlier in the fourth century, such as Plato and Aristotle, had promoted a single supreme deity, and the idea found fertile soil. The fertility was due in part perhaps to increased intellectual sophistication, but mainly to social conditions, the larger world in which people now lived. In the past, deities and cults had often been tied to specific locations, even on occasion to specific families, but now more and more people were living away from their ancestral homes. New traditions were forged by the creation of clubs that combined religious and social purposes, always for relatively small congregations, but people were still worshipping at fewer shrines.

This reductionism was also aided by the strong cultural current in favor of individualism. We have already seen this current in both the aesthetic and the philosophy of the times. In religion, it meant not just that people increasingly settled on a smaller number of gods, those they found personally satisfying, but more importantly that they became more concerned with personal salvation. The cults that offered personal salvation, or at least a chance of a better afterlife, were known as the “mysteries”—that is, etymologically, “cults into which one was personally initiated.” The most famous, in the early Hellenistic period, were the cult of Demeter and Persephone at the seaside town of Eleusis, near Athens, and the cult of the Great Gods on the beautiful north Aegean island of Samothrace. Both shrines were of considerable antiquity—it was said that Jason and the Argonauts had stopped at Samothrace and been initiated before continuing their quest for the Golden Fleece, and Demeter herself was supposed to have instigated the Eleusinian cult—but their heyday was the Hellenistic period. Samothrace in particular was graced by devotion and benefactions from several members of the Macedonian royal families. Philip II commissioned the first stone buildings in the sanctuary, Antipater had a remarkable stone pavilion built in the names of the two kings Philip III Arrhidaeus and Alexander IV, and Lysimachus’s wife Arsinoe funded the construction of a unique circular, multistoried building, perhaps a hotel.12

One of the most successful new quasi-monotheistic cults was that of Sarapis, a healing god and worker of miracles. The development of his cult was attributed to Ptolemy I,13 and the temple of Sarapis became one of the most splendid buildings in Alexandria. Sarapis already existed as a minor Egyptian deity (a sort of amalgam of Osiris and Apis, hence the name), but Ptolemy had the foresight to develop his cult in a European form. He borrowed the iconography of the god from the cult of Zeus of the Underworld in the Greek city of Sinope on the Black Sea. The cult of the new deity was conjoined, in a new form of mystery religion, with that of his sister-wife Isis. Devotees came to regard Sarapis and Isis as the primordial masculine and feminine principles of the universe. The combination of near monotheism with salvationism was irresistible, and a cult that Ptolemy originally intended to suit the multiculturalism of Alexandria spread throughout the entire known world.

The Olympian deities—Zeus and his extended family—continued to be worshipped both in private and in the public ceremonies of the Greek cities, and to be promoted by the Successors. Seleucus claimed immediate descent from Apollo; the Antigonids looked back to Heracles, and Ptolemy to Dionysus. But the Olympian religion seems to have exerted less of a hold over people’s emotions. The Olympian deities had always been thought of in a quasi-anthropomorphic manner, but now abstractions increasingly began to gain cults; personality-free deities such as Fair Fame, Rumor, Peace, Victory, Shame—all received their altars, if they did not already have them.

By far the most widespread of these cults was that of Fortune. In a world of rapidly changing circumstances, the only certainty was uncertainty. Fortune was a great, irrational, female principle, and the spread of the worship of Sarapis and Isis around the world was helped by the early identification of Isis with Fortune. Demetrius of Phalerum wrote a book about Fortune in which he drew on current events to reveal the potency of the goddess: only a few decades earlier, the Persians had been rulers of the world, while the Macedonians were unknown, but Fortune had made the world topsy-turvy.14 Seleucus adorned his new Syrian capital, Antioch, with a magnificent temple of Fortune, which contained a famous cult statue. Fortune was worshipped by private individuals, but also at a civic level, as the Fortune of entire cities or peoples (as Demetrius of Phalerum was speaking of the Fortune of the Persians and Macedonians). Wherever there were Greeks or hellenized peoples around the Mediterranean and beyond, the cult of Fortune was also to be found.

DEMETRIUS’S DOWNFALL

The scale of Demetrius’s buildup indicated ambitions that threatened all the other kings, and they formed a coalition against him for what we could call the Fifth War of the Successors. Once again, an Antigonid was the enemy who united all the other Successor kings. Pyrrhus, “bombarded by letters from Lysimachus, Ptolemy and Seleucus,”15 shrugged off the peace treaty he had made with Demetrius and joined the coalition. It was already clear that Demetrius did not stand a chance. It seems likely to me that he was suffering from megalomania.

Early in 288, while Ptolemy’s admiral sailed for southern Greece with the intention of stirring the Greek cities to rebellion, Lysimachus and Pyrrhus attacked Macedon from, respectively, the east and the west. Pyrrhus employed the old Successor tactic of claiming that Alexander the Great had appeared to him in a dream and promised his aid. Demetrius left Gonatas to take care of the Ptolemaic threat in southern Greece and, unaware of Pyrrhus’s treachery, concentrated his forces in the east to face Lysimachus. He learned just how unpopular he was when his Macedonian troops deserted, first to Lysimachus and then to Pyrrhus, when Demetrius heard of his invasion and turned to confront him.

It was the most effective coup imaginable. Demetrius was thrown out of his kingdom by the army, or its senior officers, after six years on the throne. But Macedon was left to endure, for a second time, the uncertainty of a dual kingship. Pyrrhus justified his rulership by citing his kinship to Alexander the Great (they were second cousins), and took western Macedon (and then Thessaly a few years later); Lysimachus gained the eastern kingdom—a significant gain for him, given the wealth of Macedon’s natural resources there. For instance, with what he already had in Asia Minor, he now monopolized the most accessible sources of gold.

Demetrius adopted a lowly disguise and fled to Cassandreia. Elderly Phila saw the end and took poison. Her marriage to Demetrius had been long and apparently stable, despite his tempestuous career. She was clearly a formidable woman; even when she was young, her father had consulted her on official business, and she came to have her own court, Companions, and bodyguard, as well as cults in Athens and elsewhere. She was an early prototype of the powerful and independent queens of the later Hellenistic period.

From Cassandreia, Demetrius joined Gonatas in southern Greece. He was reduced once again to his fleet, his Companion Cavalry, and however many mercenaries he could afford to keep. Astonishingly, and with the help of his capacious treasury, he was able to keep himself relatively secure in Corinth, and over the next two years even built up his land army again. Athens seized the moment, however, and rose up against him in the spring of 286. Those of the Antigonid garrison who refused inducements to defect were defeated in battle. Ptolemy allowed Callias of Sphettus, an Athenian in his service, to detach a thousand elite troops from the Cyclades to protect the harvest against attacks by troops from Demetrius’s other garrisons.

Demetrius arrived, with a larger army than expected, and the besieged Athenians sent for help from Pyrrhus. But then a Ptolemaic fleet appeared off Piraeus, so that Demetrius, who was in any case still insanely anxious to take the war to Asia, could see that he would be tied up in Athens for ages. He came to terms with Ptolemy and Pyrrhus, who appear to have been just as anxious not to fight. Athens would remain ungarrisoned, but Demetrius was allowed to keep his other garrisons in Piraeus and in fortresses nearby. As far as Athens was concerned, this made it a truce, not a treaty. When Pyrrhus arrived, he is said to have recommended that the Athenians never admit a king within their walls again.16 Perhaps it was a warning against his own ambitions. Demetrius left his remaining European possessions in the hands of Gonatas and set out immediately for Asia Minor. Disturbingly for Lysimachus, Ptolemy’s Aegean fleet made no attempt to impede the invasion. Miletus defected to Demetrius, presumably by prearrangement, and gave him a first base. At Miletus, he was met by Eurydice, Ptolemy’s ex-wife, and sister of Phila. She brought her daughter Ptolemais, to whom Demetrius had been betrothed in 298, and they now married. But the marriage was no kind of rapprochement with Ptolemy; things had changed in the twelve years since the couple were first betrothed. Eurydice was in exile, estranged from Ptolemy, and she had other designs. She saw alliance with Demetrius as a way to give her son a chance at power, since his prospects in Egypt were not good: Ptolemy had long favored his other wife Berenice and her offspring. The very next year, in fact, Ptolemy abdicated in favor of his son by Berenice, who became Ptolemy II. Eurydice’s son was called Ptolemy Ceraunus, the Thunderbolt—named not “for his unpredictable and sinister character,” as hostile propaganda claimed,17 but for the power he wielded.

The campaigning season of 285 started well for Demetrius. He regained a few coastal towns, including Ephesus (presumably by treachery, if the Lysimachan fortifications briefly described earlier were already in place), and subsequently Lysimachus’s governors in Lydia and Caria surrendered their territories wholesale. There is no way to explain these rapid successes except by assuming that he was welcomed. Before Ipsus, Asia Minor had been under Antigonid rule for a long time, and had prospered; it seems that enough of the inhabitants wanted to turn back the clock.

Meanwhile, Pyrrhus invaded Thessaly, which drew Gonatas’s attention northward, and Athens made an attempt to dislodge the Antigonid garrison in the Piraeus. The year before, they had persuaded one of the garrison commanders in Athens to defect with some of his men. They tried the same tactic again in Piraeus, but this time it ended in disaster. The man only pretended to go along with their plan. He opened the fortress gates to the approaching Athenian soldiers by night—but only to trap them inside and cut them down.

In Asia Minor, despite his first successes, Demetrius was losing the initiative. Lysimachus’s son Agathocles was demonstrating that he had inherited his father’s skills as a general. He drew Demetrius ever farther inland—the same strategy the Turks used in 1920–21 against the Greek invasion—while cutting him off from the coast by retaking the territories now in his rear that he had just taken himself, including Sardis and Miletus. Demetrius’s fleet at Miletus either fled to safe refuges farther down the coast or surrendered. With their supply lines cut and their hopes rapidly fading, Demetrius’s mercenaries began to desert him. Their commander claimed to be unconcerned, on the grounds that he could always find more men to recruit in Media, which he planned to reach via Armenia. By now he seems decidedly unbalanced; not content with being defeated by Agathocles, he was threatening Seleucus too, but with diminishing forces.

Demetrius was perhaps intending to encourage the often restless eastern satrapies to rise up and, with his help, overthrow Seleucus. But this was an unlikely scenario, not least because Seleucus had elevated his son Antiochus—”the only anchor for our storm-tossed house”18—to joint kingship in 294 or 293 and sent him east to quell any storm. In the longer term, it made sense to have a coruler for such a vast kingdom, and for the east, one who was half-Iranian and had been brought up in Babylon. At the same time, Seleucus gave Antiochus his wife Stratonice. Despite fanciful stories of illicit passion,19 what was uppermost in his mind was probably to try to ensure stability within his household, since otherwise any son Stratonice might have borne him would have been a rival to Antiochus. It was also a way of keeping Demetrius within the family, so to speak, while simultaneously announcing a certain cooling of their relationship.

So no uprising took place in the eastern satrapies to aid Demetrius’s plans. Instead of heading for Armenia, he turned south, with disease and desertion decimating his numbers. Agathocles let him cross the Taurus Mountains into Cilicia, and strengthened the fortresses on the passes against his return. He was Seleucus’s problem now. Seleucus tolerated Demetrius’s presence for a while, but had to take steps in the spring of 284 to contain him in the mountains. Demetrius reacted with some vigorous guerrilla warfare, and even threatened to enter Syria until he was laid low once again by illness.

While Demetrius lay sick, more and more of his men deserted. Even so, after he recovered, he kept pushing for a decisive battle. It was insanity; he had too few men. Seleucus refused to meet Demetrius in battle, preferring to wait for the low morale in the enemy camp to take its toll. The end, then, came with a whimper, not a bang. The two armies were close by, and Seleucus is said to have walked bareheaded himself up to Demetrius’s lines to appeal to his men to lay down their arms. Recognizing that Seleucus was doing his best to spare their lives, they finally abandoned Demetrius.20

Seleucus put his former father-in-law under comfortable but closely guarded arrest in Apamea on the banks of the Orontes. While Gonatas petitioned Seleucus for his father’s return, Lysimachus begged him to have the man put to death. Seleucus refused both requests, and accused Lysimachus of behaving like a barbarian.21 In reality, however, he wanted Demetrius alive and in his keeping, in case he could use him in some way against his remaining adversaries. Humiliated by becoming no more than a pawn in others’ games, Demetrius wrote to Greece, abdicating his kingship, such as it was, in favor of his son. By March 282 drink, and perhaps the illness that had been plaguing him for some years, took him to his grave. He was not much over fifty years of age. His ashes were released, and in due course of time Gonatas affirmed his kingship by the rite of burying the previous king.

Restless greed for imperial power had been Demetrius’s undoing: he should have consolidated in Macedon and Greece rather than entertaining more grandiose dreams. He never truly had an opportunity for world conquest, the kind of gift of Fortune that came the way of Alexander, Antigonus, and, as we shall shortly see, Seleucus. Demetrius’s reign had lasted only six years, but his pride would have been assuaged had he known that it would help his son Antigonus Gonatas later to legitimate his claim to the Macedonian throne. And then his descendants ruled the homeland until the dynasty’s final overthrow by the Romans in 168 BCE.

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