Hunting Eumenes in Iran

IN THE SUMMER of 318, Antigonus, poised to invade Europe across the Hellespont, had chosen to leave Polyperchon to Cassander, while he set out instead to tackle Eumenes in Cilicia. Without a fleet after Byzantium, Polyperchon and Eumenes were isolated from each other and could be dealt with separately. The strategy turned out to be sound. Only a little over a year later, in the winter of 317/316, Cassander had Olympias under siege in Pydna, and Polyperchon had abandoned Macedon. Meanwhile, three thousand kilometers (1,800 miles) farther east, in the foothills of the Zagros Mountains of western Iran, Antigonus and Eumenes were poised for the third and final battle in one of the great forgotten campaigns of world history.1

In Cilicia, Eumenes had spent the kings’ money well, to bring his forces up to strength. The word went out and mercenaries poured into the eastern Mediterranean ports, where his recruiters collected them. But Eumenes was still plagued by challenges to his leadership and felt he had to take steps to prove to Antigenes and the other Macedonian officers that he did not feel that he was their superior, despite the fact that Polyperchon had named him General of Asia. It was worth his while to appease them—he badly needed their Macedonian troops.

He came up with an extraordinary ruse. He claimed that in a dream he had seen Alexander the Great, dressed in his regal robes, giving orders to a council of senior commanders. Eumenes suggested, then, that he and the Macedonian officers should simulate this scene, and should meet, as such a council, before one of Alexander’s thrones, on which would be placed the dead king’s regalia. There was nothing very original about the dream; Perdiccas had used the regalia to similar effect at the first Babylon conference, and on the same occasion Ptolemy had proposed just such a council of peers. But the implicit message of such a dream at this juncture was that Alexander—that is, right—was still on their side.

In any case, from then on, that is what they did. They set up a tent, adorned with a throne and the regalia (all borrowed from the Cyinda treasury), and after sacrificing to Alexander as a god, they conducted their meetings as equals before the empty throne. At the same time, Eumenes endeared himself to the Macedonian veterans themselves by flattering them and making it clear that he had no designs on the throne, but wanted only to build on their extraordinary achievements and defend Alexander’s kingdom. It worked well enough for him to be immune when both Ptolemy, in his sole intervention in the war, and then Antigonus went to work on the Macedonians. Ptolemy offered cash if they refused to cooperate with Eumenes, while Antigonus ordered them to arrest Eumenes and put him to death or be treated as his enemies. Eumenes heard of Antigonus’s ploy before things got out of hand, and quieted the men down by reminding them that he, not Antigonus, represented legitimate authority. But it was a close call.

In the late summer of 318, at Antigonus’s approach from Asia Minor, Eumenes broke camp and moved south to Phoenicia with his army, now numbering fifteen thousand. Ptolemy’s fleet and garrisons withdrew at his approach. Knowing how vital control of the Aegean was to Polyperchon—without it, he would be less of a threat to Cassander and no threat at all to Asia Minor—Eumenes used some of the money he had been given at Cyinda to commandeer as many ships as he could and send them on their way. But they got no further than Rhosus, a port on the border between Syria and Cilicia. After the bloody victory at Byzantium, of which Eumenes was unaware, Antigonus had ordered the remnants of his fleet south. At the first encounter, the Phoenician officers hired by Eumenes changed sides. Antigonus could safely set out in pursuit of Eumenes.

TURMOIL IN THE EASTERN SATRAPIES

Eumenes was still outnumbered by Antigonus, but circumstances had conspired to make it likely that he could acquire more troops, if he was prepared to travel for them. There was a major power struggle going on in the east, pitting Peithon, satrap of Media, against an alliance of most of the other eastern satraps. The ever-ambitious Peithon was trying to create an independent empire out of the eastern satrapies. He had already occupied Parthia, and now he began to threaten Peucestas in Persis. Once they had been colleagues, as members of Alexander’s Bodyguard. Under the circumstances, it was not difficult for Peucestas to garner support; the local satraps united behind him and drove Peithon out of Parthia. At the time of Eumenes’ approach, Peithon was in Babylon, soliciting Seleucus’s help. He cannot have offered any justification other than self-interest for such a blatantly aggressive venture.

So when Eumenes left Phoenicia (promptly reoccupied by Ptolemy) and headed east at Antigonus’s approach in the autumn of 318, he wanted to supplement his army either with Peithon’s and Seleucus’s troops or with those of Peucestas and his allies. The rights and wrongs of the eastern squabble did not concern him; he just wanted troops. Perhaps, at the present moment, Peucestas’s forces looked more attractive. The satrapal alliance had an army of more than eighteen thousand foot and over four thousand horse. Although all the Successors’ armies included a few war elephants—Polyperchon even had them in Greece—the satraps were blessed with no fewer than 114 of the beasts, a gift from an Indian king to one of Peucestas’s allies.

Eumenes spent the winter of 318/317 aggressively on the borders of Babylonia and entered into negotiations with Seleucus and Peithon, but to little avail. As the official Royal General of Asia, he appealed to their loyalty to the kings, but they remained unmoved. Seleucus attacked Eumenes’ command as illegitimate; the sentence passed against him at Triparadeisus still held, as far as he was concerned. But his thinking was probably influenced by the knowledge that Antigonus was due to arrive and that the army of Peucestas and his fellow satraps currently had control of the eastern satrapies. If Seleucus agreed to help Eumenes, he would immediately find himself surrounded by powerful enemies. So far from aiding Eumenes, then, Seleucus and Peithon tried once more to detach the Macedonians from their Greek commander. Once again, Eumenes survived the attempt.

Eumenes left Babylonia early in 317, having written ahead to Peucestas and the other satraps, asking them, in the name of the kings, to join him in Susa. Seleucus made a half-hearted attempt to impede his progress, but was more eager to get him out of his satrapy than to make trouble that kept him there.2 By the early summer, both Eumenes and the satraps of the coalition had reached Susa. They agreed to unite their forces. The final phase of the Second War of the Successors would pit Eumenes and the eastern satraps against Antigonus, Peithon, and Seleucus. The entire eastern half of the empire was convulsed.

Eumenes now had a formidable force under his command, but his new allies were all men who were used to being in command themselves. The challenge to his leadership intensified. Peucestas was particularly insistent, since he had contributed the most troops and had as good a claim to seniority as Eumenes. And Antigenes seized the opportunity to renew his challenge, trusting in local support since they were in his satrapy. The only way Eumenes could get the senior officers to work with him was by resorting once again to the “Alexander Tent.” By holding their daily meetings in the cultic presence of Alexander’s ghost, and by remembering that Eumenes was the only one with official authorization from the kings to draw on the royal treasuries, they managed to put aside their differences long enough to come up with a workable plan. But the army remained fragile, with each satrap encamping his forces separately and supplying them from his own satrapy.

The unstable coalition decided to withdraw farther east, take up a good defensive position, and await Antigonus. It was nearly high summer, and the advantage would lie with whichever army did not have to travel in the extreme heat just before giving battle. Susa was abandoned except for the citadel with its treasury, which was strongly garrisoned and well provisioned. Eumenes and Peucestas deployed their forces along the far banks of the rivers to the north and east of the city, a few days’ journey distant. They could patrol and protect the land all the way from the mountains to the sea, which was a lot closer in those days—an enormous amount of silting has shrunk the Persian Gulf. They waited for Antigonus.

PREPARATIONS FOR THE SHOWDOWN

Antigonus paused, without immediately following Eumenes east. The news that Eumenes had linked up with the eastern satraps made it imperative for him to increase the size of his army. He waited several months, over the winter and spring of 318/317, in Mesopotamia, where he raised both men and provisions, and negotiated with Seleucus and Peithon in Babylon. It seems likely that Antigonus did not ask the Mesopotamian governor’s permission to occupy and strip his territory, for he fled east and joined Eumenes in Susa with a useful company of six hundred horse.

The interests of Seleucus and Peithon clearly coincided with those of Antigonus, and in May of 317 they came to an agreement, and Antigonus set out east after Eumenes. His army now consisted of 28,000 heavy infantry (including 8,000 Macedonians), at least 10,000 light infantry and about the same number of cavalry, and sixty-five elephants. He took Peithon and Seleucus with him too, but in subordinate positions. He was the undisputed commander in chief.

The journey to Susa was straightforward. Rather than delay, Antigonus left Seleucus to investigate the citadel while he continued after the enemy. But Eumenes sent a force to take him as he was crossing the swiftly flowing Coprates (the river, the modern Dez, has now been dammed), whose bridges the satrapal coalition had destroyed on their way east. By the time Eumenes got there, some ten thousand men had already crossed, many of them lightly armed and intent only on foraging. Eumenes overwhelmed them, taking four thousand for himself and killing hundreds more.

Antigonus had lost large numbers of men. He could not force a crossing, and he could not just stay in Susiana with his men idle and suffering from the heat that had already taken some lives. He disengaged and marched north to the relative cool of Ecbatana, about a month’s journey. It was the capital of Peithon’s satrapy, and enough money was stored there for Antigonus to keep his men happy. On the way they suffered further losses from hostile tribesmen, since he had chosen the short, difficult route to Media through the mountains rather than the longer route up the Tigris valley and along the Baby-lon–Ecbatana road. The point was to get his men to the relative cool of the mountains as soon as possible. It was late August by the time he reached Ecbatana, where he could lick his wounds, make up his losses, and improve his men’s shattered morale.

The retreat to Ecbatana was highly risky, a sign of just how desperate Antigonus was after this first defeat. Ecbatana was too far north for him to be able to stop Eumenes from returning west. By retreating that far, Antigonus isolated Seleucus in Susa and allowed Eumenes and his allies to return and threaten Babylonia and Syria if they chose to. In Eumenes’ camp, the senior officers were divided. Eumenes and Antigenes wanted to storm west, but the eastern satraps refused to abandon their satrapies.

If the satraps stayed in the east while Eumenes and Antigenes fought their way west, the chances were that neither division of the army would be strong enough to attain its objectives. Eumenes therefore gave in and stayed, though he too moved away from the worst heat. The army went to Persepolis, which had been one of the capital cities of the Achaemenid empire and was now the capital of Peucestas’s province, nearly a month’s journey away to the southeast. Peucestas had a further ten thousand light infantry waiting there, including a contingent of the renowned Persian bowmen. Peucestas allowed the men to forage as they wished in the countryside, and once they reached Persepolis he treated the entire army to a splendid feast. All the many thousands were seated in four vast concentric circles, from the rank-and-file soldiers on the outside to the senior officers and dignitaries on the inside. The center of the circle consisted of altars to the gods, including Philip and Alexander, where Peucestas performed a magnificent sacrifice. Secure on his own turf, he launched another attempt to undermine Eumenes’ command.

The degree of disloyalty and contentiousness that Eumenes had to face from his fellow generals was quite extraordinary, but he responded with typical cunning. He produced a forged letter to the effect that Cassander was dead and Olympias in charge in Macedon, and that Polyperchon had already invaded Asia Minor. Clearly, news had not yet reached them of the true state of affairs in Europe, where, on the contrary, Cassander had Olympias under siege in Pydna. The letter restored the army’s confidence, since they now believed that Eumenes’ allies had the upper hand. Under these circumstances, it made no sense to undermine Eumenes’ authority as Royal General of Asia, and he was briefly able to assert his authority as commander in chief.

All intrigues were sidelined, however, when news came that Antigonus had left Media and was advancing on Persis. Leaving a token force to defend Persepolis, Eumenes set out to meet him. Almost ninety thousand men and two hundred elephants were to clash on the edge of the Iranian desert. For the first time in western history, elephants would be involved on both sides of a battle.

THE FINAL BATTLES

For several days after the armies drew close to each other in the district of Paraetacene, late in October 317, nothing happened apart from a little skirmishing. The terrain (near modern Yezd-i-Khast) was rugged and unsuitable for a decisive battle. Antigonus continued his vain attempts to have Eumenes betrayed to him. Joining battle was also hampered by the fact that both armies soon became critically short of supplies, and many men were assigned to foraging duties. The nearest fertile district was Gabene (near modern Isfahan), some three days’ journey away to the southeast.

Antigonus was about to set off there, but Eumenes heard of his plans from deserters. In return he sent false deserters to Antigonus’s camp. This was the most common and effective way to feed the enemy with misinformation, in this case that an attack on Antigonus’s camp was planned for that very night, so that Antigonus would be vulnerable if he was breaking camp as planned. Antigonus fell for it and stayed put, and it was Eumenes who left in the night and got a head start toward Gabene. When Antigonus discovered the ruse, he personally led a cavalry detachment to hold some high ground along the route, while Peithon brought up the infantry. Eumenes spotted the cavalry and, assuming that Antigonus’s entire army had arrived, drew up his men for battle. The terrain meant that he could hardly be outflanked, but he had the disadvantage of facing uphill, so he waited. Before long, the rest of Antigonus’s army arrived, and took up their positions.

Antigonus’s heavy infantry in the center outnumbered Eumenes, but he took care that Macedonians would not directly face Macedonians, in case they refused to fight one another. He deployed his light cavalry in large numbers on the left wing, commanded by Peithon, and his heavy cavalry on the right, under the command of his son Demetrius, still only nineteen years old. His elephants were mostly posted on the right and in the center, whereas Eumenes had adopted a more orthodox and evenly balanced formation. Antigonus advanced down the hill toward the enemy lines, and battle was joined.

On Antigonus’s left, Peithon’s light cavalry were routed, after an exceedingly close-fought contest. In the center, the elephants proved ineffective and were withdrawn, and the phalanxes became engaged in a bloody battle. Here Antigenes’ crack veterans did what they did best, and broke Antigonus’s phalanx. But as they pressed forward, they opened up a gap between themselves and the left wing. Antigonus had kept the cavalry on his right wing screened by elephants, but now he ordered them to charge, and before long Eumenes’ left was in disorder.

Both sides regrouped and faced each other again, but despite tactical movements and countermovements they could do little in the gathering gloom, and after nightfall the exhausted and hungry armies disengaged by the light of a full moon. Eumenes’ men insisted on returning to their camp, leaving Antigonus in possession of the field and therefore of the battlefield spoils, the usual tokens of victory. But he had lost four times as many men as Eumenes and gained nothing. In fact, after seeing to his dead, he withdrew, leaving Gabene to Eumenes for the winter, and went northeast to take up winter quarters in Media. The two armies were perched on two spines of the Zagros foothills, with an arid salt plain between them.

Eumenes’ winter quarters were scattered. His army was as fragmented as usual, and separate divisions were encamped far and wide. And in those pre-Roman days, camps were scarcely fortified. This attracted Antigonus’s attention, but even so, given that he was now outnumbered, the attack he planned was predicated on surprise. He decided not to wait for spring but to attack during the winter, and to come at Eumenes from an unexpected direction. He would take his army across the salt plain that lay between the two armies. This would cut his journey down to about nine days, as opposed to over three weeks if they went around the desert—and Eumenes in any case had pickets in place all along the routes approaching his position from other directions.

They set off around December 20. The plan was to travel by night and rest by day. The troops carried prepared rations and plenty of water for the arid desert. Antigonus issued strict orders that no fires were to be lit, despite the subzero temperatures at night. Any fires on the plain would cut through the darkness and be clearly visible from the surrounding hills. Everything went well at first. They were more than halfway across when the cold tempted some of the men to light fires. No doubt the men themselves were thankful for the warmth, but the point may have been to keep the elephants alive, since they would have been suffering badly. In any case, the fires were spotted by some local villagers, who warned Eumenes.

But it already seemed too late. Antigonus was only four days away, and the furthest-flung of Eumenes’ divisions was six days away. Peucestas recommended a tactical withdrawal, to buy time. But Eumenes had fires of his own lit on the hills, enough to make it seem as though a major division of his army was protecting the direct route across the plain and occupying the high ground. Antigonus’s men were compelled to turn, and they reached the edge of the desert north of Eumenes’ position. Antigonus had lost the element of surprise, and Eumenes had gained the time to regroup his army.

The elephants were the last to reach the huge fortified camp Eumenes built. But by then Antigonus’s troops were refreshed and on the move south, and he sent a strong unit of cavalry and light infantry to intercept the elephants. Eumenes deployed a stronger counterforce, and suffered nothing worse than a few losses and some wounded beasts. But morale in Eumenes’ camp was lower than at Paraetacene. In the intervening period, rumors had reached them that Eumenes’ commission had been revoked, when Adea Eurydice had her husband disown Polyperchon. But Antigenes compensated with a nice coup just before the battle. He sent some of his Macedonian veterans to shout out to Antigonus’s Macedonians: “You assholes are sinning against your fathers, the men who conquered the world with Philip and Alexander!”3

They faced each other across several miles of salt plain; the battle would be fought on level ground, with the only difficulty the terrain offered being the terrible dust for which the salt plains or kavirs of the Iranian plateau are infamous. Antigonus adopted pretty much the same formation as at Paraetacene. Eumenes, in response, bulked up his left wing with the majority of the elephants and cavalry, and took joint command there with Peucestas. He was directly facing Antigonus, who commanded his right wing, as was usual. After the initial skirmishing, Antigonus and his cavalry attacked Eumenes’ left. Peucestas caved in suspiciously quickly, but Eumenes took up the struggle and kept Antigonus at bay for a while. Meanwhile, in the center, Antigenes’ veterans were as successful as at Paraetacene. It was a massacre: thousands of Antigonus’s men died, compared with a few hundred of Eumenes’. Eumenes seemed assured, if not of outright victory, then at least of the upper hand, and he rode around to the right wing, to take command there for the final push.

But as it turned out, the decisive move had already taken place off the battlefield. Antigonus had risked sending a sizable cavalry squadron from his left wing around the battlefield, under cover of the choking dust cloud created by thousands of men and horses on the move, to take Eumenes’ undefended baggage train. By the time Eumenes became aware of what had happened, it was too late to do anything about it. Night was falling, and Peucestas refused to join him for the cavalry push on the right.

Eumenes was forced to disengage. He had fallen foul of the very stratagem he had used against Neoptolemus in 320, but there was a more significant precedent. The same thing had happened to Alexander the Great at Gaugamela, and had evoked a famousmotfrom the Conqueror: he had ordered his officers to ignore the threat to their baggage, on the grounds that “the victors will recover their own belongings and take those of the enemy.”4 Eumenes gave the same response, in much the same words, but without the same result.

Antigonus’s phalanx had been shattered, and Eumenes could fairly look forward to victory the next day. But the Macedonian veterans refused to carry on, knowing that their wives and children had been captured, and the satraps insisted on withdrawing, to fight another day. Unknown to Eumenes, they had already decided, before the battle, to do away with him after the victory they had expected. Eumenes’ appeals therefore fell on deaf ears, and messengers were secretly sent to Antigonus’s camp to enquire after the safety of the Macedonians’ families. Antigonus promised their return—once Eumenes had been handed over.

Within a few days of his being surrendered, Eumenes and several of his senior officers were put to death. Antigenes came off worst, despite his advanced age (he was about sixty-five): he was thrown alive into a pit and burnt there, in revenge for the slaughter his veterans had wrought on Antigonus’s men. Eumenes’ grand army, elephants and all, deserted en masse to Antigonus. Ever loyal to Olympias, Alexander IV, and the legitimate Argead cause, Eumenes had proved himself an excellent general and the most successful of the loyalists. His death ushered in a new era, in which, rather than working for the surviving king, Antigonus and his peers would strive to establish their own rights to kingship. The deaths of Olympias and Eumenes left the world in the hands of men who owed no loyalty except to themselves.

HOUSEKEEPING

By the end of 317, then, Antigonus had carried out his commission. But it had been clear, ever since his purge of the Asia Minor satraps, that he had far outstripped his Triparadeisus commission. His mastery of Asia seemed solid, his ally Cassander was in charge in Macedon, and Ptolemy was quiet in Egypt. It almost looked as though a balance of power might emerge, miraculously soon after Alexander’s death. After the battle, Antigonus retired to winter quarters near Ecbatana, with the bulk of his now huge army dispersed far and wide over Media or repatriated to their satrapies. In the spring he would head west, but first he had a little housekeeping to take care of.

Peithon was an ambitious man, and could have been a contender—one of the great few who strove for control of large chunks or even the whole of Alexander’s empire. He had played a considerable role at both Paraetacene and Gabene, was popular with the troops, and was satrap of wealthy Media, one of the heartlands of the former Persian empire. He had become involved in Antigonus’s war against Eumenes in the first place only as a means to renew his bid for independence for the eastern satrapies, with him as their king, and he spent the winter after Eumenes’ defeat trying to persuade as many of Antigonus’s troops as possible to stay in the east and work for him.5 But Antigonus was not ready to lose the eastern satrapies, a valuable source of revenue. He summoned Peithon to Ecbatana and, assured of his safety, Peithon guilelessly went. He was promptly arraigned before a council of Antigonus’s Friends, accused of treachery (of trying to detach some of Antigonus’s troops for his own purposes), and executed. Some of his lieutenants went on the warpath in Media, but were soon crushed. With the same presumption of authority that he had already displayed in Asia Minor, Antigonus appointed a new satrap for Media.

Another residual problem was Antigenes’ veterans. They had been nothing but trouble since Triparadeisus, and now, by betraying Eumenes to him, they had proved their corruptibility. They had been bound by oaths of loyalty to Eumenes, but they had broken these oaths, albeit when faced with terrible personal loss. But then, Eumenes himself had broken his oath to Antigonus at Nora. Antigonus decided to dissolve the regiment. He packed some of them off to the remote east, to serve in Arachosia. The rest he kept with him, but as he returned west in the spring, he dispersed them here and there, as settlers to police potential trouble spots within his territories. In Arachosia, they were given jobs more suitable to mercenaries—garrisoning frontier towns, scouting in enemy territory. Antigonus’s ruthless instructions to the satrap were to make sure that they did not survive their missions.6

CHANDRAGUPTA MAURYA

Arachosia was indeed troubled. Chandragupta Maurya, a conqueror who has every right to be considered as great as Alexander, was in expansionist mood.

The Indian satrapies won by Alexander bordered on a vast kingdom, ruled by the Nanda dynasty. Even in 326 and 325, while Alexander had been in India, he had been approached by a young man called Chandragupta (Sandrokottos to Greeks) for help in overthrowing the unpopular dynasty. Whatever Alexander may have thought about this, the mutiny of his men in India meant that he was unable to comply. After his departure, Chandragupta unified the warring northern tribes and did it himself. With the overthrow of the Nandas, he inherited a ready-made kingdom as his base.

Macedonian control over the Indian satrapies was tenuous. Two satraps had already been killed by 325, one in an uprising and the other by assassination. Alexander’s death allowed Chandragupta to foment further rebellion. By the time of the Triparadeisus conference in 320, the Macedonians more or less acknowledged the independence of the Indian satrapies by making no new provisions for them. By 317, still aged under thirty, Chandragupta had taken over the Indian satrapies, thus effectively controlling all northern India from the Khyber Pass to the Ganges delta, and was turning his attention northward, toward the satrapies that ringed his new empire from the Himalayas to the Arabian Sea.

So when Antigonus made himself master of Asia, he inherited a number of provinces that were under constant pressure from the young Indian emperor. He did little to defend the region, but it remained fairly stable for a while, as long as Chandragupta was more concerned with securing what he had already gained. Unlike Alexander, Chandragupta put in place a complex, detailed, and precise administrative pyramid, to cover military, fiscal, and civil functions throughout his empire. He made his capital at Pataliputra (modern Patna) on the Ganges.7

Antigonus was little interested in the far east of his kingdom, and the satrapies there were left pretty much to their own devices until Seleucus reconquered them. This brought Seleucus into direct conflict with Chandragupta, and in 304 a great battle was fought. Seleucus was defeated and forced to cede to Chandragupta eastern Arachosia, Gandaris, Paropamisadae, and parts of Areia and Gedrosia. These provinces were never recovered, nor was any attempt made to do so. Chandragupta then expanded south until he controlled almost all of India, and Pakistan and Afghanistan up to the Hindu Kush. His empire was larger than British India. Seleucus kept a permanent ambassador at Chandragupta’s court, a man called Megasthenes. We have no more than a few fragments of his account of India,8 unfortunately, but it seems to have contained a warning against trying to defeat the Maurya empire. Chandragupta himself resigned the throne and dedicated his final years to religious devotion. He died in 298, and his empire continued for more than a hundred years, until the rise of a new dynasty in 185 BCE.

LORD OF ASIA

In the spring of 316 Antigonus started out from Ecbatana on his journey home. At Persepolis, he set up a kind of court—only a kind of court, because one night in 330 Alexander had gone along with a drunken escapade to destroy the main royal palace.9Antigonus summoned the eastern satraps from Eumenes’ coalition and dictated their futures from his throne, in a manner deliberately reminiscent of the imperial power Antipater had assumed at Triparadeisus. Many satraps retained their earlier posts; not surprisingly, Eumenes’ chief ally, Peucestas, found himself out of a job. The fact that he was allowed to remain alive at all is powerful evidence that his poor performance at Gabene was deliberate, that he had been suborned. At any rate, Antigonus took him back west with him on his staff, and he remained as a close adviser first to Antigonus and then to his son Demetrius. It was a climbdown for the former Bodyguard of Alexander, but it was safe: though he more or less drops out of the historical record, we still hear of him alive in the 290s.10

When Antigonus reached Susa, he appointed a permanent satrap there as well. Seleucus, who had already returned to Babylon, was no longer needed; the garrison commander of the citadel of Susa had surrendered as soon as news arrived of Eumenes’ defeat. And so the treasury of Susa fell into Antigonus’s hands. With Eumenes’ death, none of the treasurers of Asia would refuse to open their doors to their new master. Antigonus helped himself to the resources stored at Ecbatana, Susa, and Persepolis, to the tune of twenty-five thousand talents (about fifteen billion dollars), and the territories he controlled, at their largest extent, brought in an annual income of a further eleven thousand talents.

Antigonus’s wealth fueled his ambition and his ambition fed his wealth. Apart from anything else, he was able to maintain a huge standing army of forty thousand foot and five thousand horse, at a cost in the region of 2,500 talents a year. He brought west with him on his return from the eastern satrapies all the bullion he had taken from the east, and stored it in his key treasuries in Cilicia and Asia Minor. He was not intending to return that far east, and needed the money to retain control of his core realm, Asia west of the Euphrates. For the next dozen or so years, this heartland of his was remarkably free of warfare (though he was often at war beyond its borders), and he used this time of peace to develop and administer it, while still keeping an eye open, as did all the Successors, for occasions for expansion.11

But even though Antigonus ruled the entirety of the former Persian empire, apart from Egypt, he was not yet ready to call himself king, not while Alexander IV was still alive. That would have invited trouble—certainly from his rivals, who would pounce on the chance to use it against him, and probably from his troops, many of whom were still fiercely loyal to the Argead line. He allowed himself to be recognized by his native subjects as the successor to the Achaemenid kings and Alexander (who had also used the title “Lord of Asia”),12 but in public he maintained the fiction that he was just some kind of super-satrap, the Royal General of Asia, holding the former Persian empire for the kings.

Antigonus was now living up to his alternative nickname—not just “the One-Eyed,” but “Cyclops,” after the famous one-eyed giants of myth. Both he and his son Demetrius were exceptionally tall and strongly built, but now Antigonus had become a metaphorical colossus too. Would the others tolerate it? Could a balance of power emerge, so soon after Alexander’s death? It did not take Antigonus long to show that he was not interested in balance—he wanted the totality of Alexander’s empire.

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