9

Duels to the Death

Europe and Asia

SUMMER 318–WINTER, LATE 317 B.C.

Alexander the Great had taught his disciples well. During his twelve-year Asian campaign, his officers had watched him manage with surgical skill the world’s most complex army. They had seen him orchestrate the phalanx bristling with spears, the cavalry strike force, and the quick-moving Hypaspists, or Shield Bearers; draw on one force or another, or combine the three, depending on terrain and opponent; synchronize their rates of travel; and keep them fed and provisioned by despoiling the route of their march. In India they had seen him master the only known war machine his army then lacked, the trained elephant. Alexander had brought some two hundred of these fortresslike beasts out of India, to terrorize the enemies he never got to fight—Arabs, Carthaginians, and other targets historians can only guess at.

After Alexander’s death his generals practiced, with all too great a fidelity, the lessons they had learned. They put cloned armies in the field, each with its phalanx, cavalry, and Hypaspist components, some also with elephant herds. They gave familiar names to these units—“foot companions,” “companion cavalry”—to remind veterans of their old assignments. They followed the routes and seasons of march Alexander had laid out, through fertile plains and valleys that could provision vast numbers, making campaigns across the length and breadth of Asia a routine affair. A new era in warfare had begun—the age of professionalized, internationalized, numerically supersized Hellenistic armies.

Alexander had also nurtured in his staff an endless appetite for command and conquest. Of his seven Bodyguards, only one, Aristonous—an older man who likely held his post from before Alexander’s reign—attempted something like a retirement, and that turned out to be short-lived, as will be seen. The other Bodyguards never ceased to build power, enlarge armies, and undermine rivals on the model of their master. Ptolemy seized North Africa, and Lysimachus Thrace; Peithon made a try for Bactria and failed but had not given up his ambitions there; Peucestas was enlarging power and popularity in his satrapy, Persis. Leonnatus and Perdiccas had been killed in attempts to gain, or preserve, control of the entire empire. Craterus, whose stature equaled theirs, though he did not belong to the Bodyguard, died trying to deprive Perdiccas of that control.

New contestants had emerged to replace those carried off the field. Antigonus, only a sidelined satrap at the time of Alexander’s death, established himself through shrewd generalship as the leading power in Asia. Polyperchon, another mid-level officer, was battling Cassander for control of Europe. Waiting in the wings was an even newer contender, Seleucus, as yet only satrap of Babylon serving more powerful masters but destined to fight Antigonus for almost two decades to come. And then there was Eumenes, anomalous Eumenes, the Greek who had gone from scribe to soldier to general to outlaw and finally to head of the royal army and standard-bearer of the kings. Though Eumenes claimed not to share the ambitions of the Macedonians, he somehow found himself in constant conflict with them, fighting in part for the royal family, in part for his own survival, and in part for the ghost of Alexander, whom he had enthroned as the spectral leader of his cause.

By the strange peripeties of the civil war, Antigonus and Eumenes had by turns held the same high office, commander in chief of Asia. Each could, and did, trumpet his own authority and attack that of the other. Eumenes bore letters carrying the seal of the kings, as well as others from Olympias, ordering the imperial bureaucracy to follow only him. Antigonus derided these orders, reminding all who would listen that Eumenes was a foreigner and a condemned criminal besides. At the heart of the dispute was the problem old man Antipater had created with his choice of successor: Did Polyperchon, the official appointee, speak for the monarchy? Or did Cassander, Antipater’s son, who claimed his father’s office as a kind of natural right?

In the five years since Alexander’s death the issue of legitimacy had become so vexed that, to some, it had no doubt ceased to matter. Yet the monarchy still existed; the joint kings possessed a legitimacy that would not die. The orders issued in their name opened the treasuries of Asia, and the years of their “reign” furnished the dates atop imperial documents. Their fate was central to the future of the empire, and that fate now rested on two pairs of antagonists, fighting parallel duels for control of two continents: Polyperchon and Cassander in Europe, and in Asia, their respective allies, the two greatest generals to emerge from Alexander’s military academy, Eumenes of Cardia and Antigonus One-eye.

1. THE ROYAL FAMILY (GREECE, SUMMER 318 B.C.)

Alexander’s son had reached his fifth birthday. He was old enough to be aware of his surroundings and his unique place in the world. He knew now why he had three armed noblemen stationed around him as Bodyguards, as well as highborn children who behaved more like servants than playmates. Perhaps he understood something of the turbulent currents that had swept him from one guardian to another and landed him with Polyperchon, the careworn general who now dragged him along on his campaign through Greece.

Alexander had been paired throughout his young life with his bizarre counterpart in joint rule, the half-witted Philip. That senior monarch held a higher rank and possessed four Bodyguards to Alexander’s three (the canonical number, seven, was split between the two). Some officials spoke and acted as though Philip had sole rule, with young Alexander his designated heir, but the situation was far from clear. At five years old Alexander perhaps already had more cognitive function than his debilitated half uncle.

It was inevitable that the two monarchs would come into conflict, especially after Philip wed the grasping, willful Adea. Philip’s interests, as Adea insistently defined them, diverged from his nephew’s. If Adea could but conceive—as she no doubt tried fervently to do—the hopes of the royal house would rest on her unborn child, a full-blooded Argead, rather than on the half-breed son of the dead conqueror. And if her child should then be born male, the young Alexander and his barbarian mother would be instantly disinherited, or killed.

But after three years as King Philip’s queen, Adea had not conceived. She clearly needed a new strategy in the great dynastic game. Events around her were moving fast, bringing opportunities as well as dangers. She knew that Polyperchon had written to the dowager queen Olympias, urging her to leave Epirus and take charge of her grandson in Macedon. Olympias had so far declined but might change her mind at any moment; Adea had no wish to compete with the only woman in Europe as tough as herself. But the offer also showed that Polyperchon was unsteady, set back on his heels by the rebellion of Cassander. That rebellion might in the end unseat him—especially if Adea threw her husband’s royal weight behind it. To Philip, all masters were alike, but to cunning Adea, a shift of allegiance might mean the difference between servitude and sovereignty.

Just how Adea got her husband out of Polyperchon’s grasp is unclear. The regent had initially toted Philip with him as he made his way into Greece, fighting now here, now there to install his allies and evict Cassander’s. Perhaps Polyperchon was distracted by these fights and neglected to watch his royal ward. Or perhaps he was glad to let Philip go after the disturbing episode at Phocion’s hearing, when he had prevented violence only by forcefully restraining the maddened monarch. However it happened, Adea got her husband clear of Polyperchon’s power and returned him to Macedonia. Working as his agent, she laid plans to ally with the rebel Cassander, now hunkered down behind the walls of Piraeus. Perhaps the son of Antipater might be her route to supreme power, in place of the son she now feared she would never have.

2. POLYPERCHON (THE PELOPONNESE, SUMMER 318 B.C.)

Polyperchon began his campaign through Greece with many reasons to be confident. He carried with him the legitimacy bequeathed by Antipater and an army of more than twenty thousand Macedonians. He also brought with him, across the isthmus of Corinth and into the Peloponnese, his supreme weapon, a lumbering, trumpeting herd of Indian elephants, each ridden by its own mahout.

These stalwart beasts, acquired in India by Alexander, had over the past eight years walked the entire length of the empire. They had been brought westward by Craterus over the mountains of what is now Pakistan and through the deserts of Afghanistan and Iran. While Alexander lived, they stood in a circle around his tent, one of the concentric rings of his spectacular honor guard. In Babylon, Perdiccas had used them to trample the leaders of the infantry rebellion; in Egypt he sent them into the Nile, causing the erosion that destroyed his army and his reputation. After Perdiccas’ murder the herd was split between old man Antipater and Antigonus One-eye at Triparadeisus, and Antipater brought his half across the Hellespont. The survivors, sixty-five in number, now made the journey into southern Greece in the train of Polyperchon, the first of their species ever seen on European soil.

Alexander’s soldiers had been terrified of elephants when they first faced large numbers of them in combat, at the battle against Porus in India. But Alexander coolly devised special weapons and tactics to neutralize the beasts. His phalanx was taught to part ranks before the charging elephants, then hack at their trunks and bellies with long scythes while also using sarissas to kill or dislodge the mahouts who rode them. These harassments drove the elephants into a frenzy of pain and anger, making them more dangerous to their own side than to the enemy’s. Porus had been defeated with only small Macedonian losses, and the war elephant had never again so intimidated Alexander’s troops.

The only known depiction of elephant warfare from Alexander’s own time, on a medallion apparently struck by Alexander. The drawing by historian Frank Holt shows details of the coin’s image (Illustration credit 9.1)

One veteran of that battle, a Greek named Damis, had since retired from service and returned home, bringing with him many tales about the elephants of India. At the time of Polyperchon’s invasion he was living in the Peloponnese, in Megalopolis, the region’s last bastion of support for the rebellion of Cassander. A determined population there had armed fifteen thousand men, strengthened the city walls, and built catapults and torsion weapons with which to fight off a siege. The most potent weapon the city possessed, however, though none of its defenders yet knew it, was Damis’ expertise.

Things had gone well for Polyperchon before his approach to Megalopolis. The cities of the Peloponnese had come over to his side, installing friendly regimes and exiling or executing Cassander’s partisans. His clean sweep of Greek politics was almost complete, except for Cassander himself in Piraeus. But that rebel was growing more isolated with each city that abandoned his cause. He could not hold out forever, even in a secure position with access to the sea.

Polyperchon began his siege of Megalopolis using Alexander’s proven methods. Mobile wooden towers, filled with men firing arrows and artillery, were wheeled up to the walls to clear them of defenders. A sapping team, meanwhile, dug a mine beneath the wall and set fire to the beams propping up its roof, causing a time-delayed collapse. A long stretch of wall gave way, and the Macedonians rushed forward with a shout, believing their labors to be at an end. But the Megalopolitans rallied and fought back. Placing wooden stakes to form a palisade and hurling building materials behind it, they managed to erect a second wall to seal off the breach. From the parapets their torsion weapons, hurling metal bolts at the attackers, began to find their mark. Reluctantly, Polyperchon called off the attack for the day and returned to camp.

Inside Megalopolis, Damis counseled his fellow citizens on what would happen the next morning. Polyperchon would bring his elephants into play, using them to pound the newly built wall into rubble. Damis instructed the city’s defenders to feign lack of planning and leave an open corridor for the beasts to approach. In the ground of that corridor, he had them place wooden planks studded with sharp, protruding nails and conceal these under a layer of loose earth. The next day, everything went according to Damis’ plan. Polyperchon sent his elephants charging through the unprotected lane leading to the breach—only to see them halt and roar in agony as the concealed spikes drove into their feet. Maddened by the pain and harassed by archers and spearmen who sprang from ambush to attack them, they began rearing and flailing, trampling their own keepers and troops.

It was like Alexander’s battle against Porus but in reverse, with Macedonians now on the losing side. Polyperchon had utterly lost control of the weapon that was meant to seal his victory. He broke off the siege and retired from Megalopolis, his reputation irretrievably damaged. From that day forward, the allegiance of the Greek world began to swing toward Cassander.

3. EUMENES, ANTIGENES, AND TEUTAMUS (PHOENICIA, AUTUMN 318 B.C.)

In Asia, meanwhile, Eumenes the Greek, appointed to defend the Macedonian royal house, had used his power of the purse to hire mercenaries of all stripes. His letters from Polyperchon entitled him to draw freely from Cyinda, the fortresslike treasury that at this point housed more silver than any other royal depot. He made sure to pay well enough that reports of his largesse would spread rapidly. In a short time a force of ten thousand infantry and two thousand cavalry had come to the bait. These were added to a core army that, above all, included the incomparable Silver Shields.

Eumenes’ army went south to Phoenicia, setting up at each new camp the Alexander tent and its numinous empty throne. Phoenicia had been seized the previous year by Ptolemy, who was now openly supporting Cassander against Polyperchon and the kings. It was thus an important place for Eumenes to plant the royalist flag, as well as a valuable naval base from which to control the Aegean. For it was vital that Eumenes secure a link to Polyperchon in Europe. He had to support his new ally there but also enable him to cross over into Asia, where together they could someday challenge the defiant, dangerous Antigonus.

Antigonus and Ptolemy, coordinating tactics from their separate bases in Anatolia and Egypt, plotted a way to check this troublesome Greek. They would bring him to battle if they had to, but they first tried to neutralize him by indirect means. Ptolemy sent messengers to the captains of the Silver Shields, Antigenes and Teutamus, urging them to overthrow their commander, pointing out that he was still under a death sentence. Other envoys went to the treasury of Cyinda with a similar message, telling the guards not to disburse money to an outlaw and a foreigner. It was a shrewd attack, undermining Eumenes’ authority and that of Polyperchon as well, for it was Polyperchon’s letter of appointment that had put a condemned man in charge of an army. For the moment, though, that letter stood the test.

Antigonus made a more determined effort along the same lines as Ptolemy. He dispatched a letter bearer named Philotas, along with thirty fast-talking Macedonians, to the camp of Eumenes. These thirty met secretly with Antigenes and Teutamus to organize an assassination plot. They also infiltrated the Silver Shields, hoping to sway former friends and comrades. They leveled the now-familiar charges against Eumenes and promised silver and satrapies to those who would betray him. These inducements opened a breach in Eumenes’ wall of loyalty: Teutamus was won over and went to confer with Antigenes, his co-captain, in an effort to turn him as well. But Antigenes argued that Eumenes, being a foreigner, was reliant on subordinates and would have to reward them; One-eye, on the other hand, was strong enough to kill his underlings whenever he chose. Teutamus accepted this reasoning and agreed to stay on Eumenes’ side. Eumenes’ Greek origins, held out by his foes as a mark against him, were suddenly a point in his favor.

But Antigonus’ envoys had not yet given up. Philotas displayed the letter he was carrying, and the Silver Shields demanded to know its contents. At a secret conclave of the platoon this mysterious letter was read aloud. Antigonus addressed the Shields in grave tones and gave them an ultimatum: they must seize Eumenes immediately and put him to death, or Antigonus would regard them as traitors and come against them with his army. It was “with me or against me,” an agonizing position for the Silver Shields, who had been ordered by the kings to follow Eumenes as their commander and treat One-eye as the rebel.

As the men wavered, uncertain where their loyalties lay or whether loyalty outweighed fear, Eumenes himself entered and read the letter. It was a moment of truth for the wily Greek, similar to one he had faced years earlier, when he had found his soldiers reading Antigonus’ offer of a bounty for his head. Back then, he had resorted to deception; this time he played it straight, speaking in earnest tones about the duty owed to the Argeads. Perhaps he was sincere, or perhaps, drawing on the eloquence for which Greeks were both envied and mistrusted, he crafted the argument that would best sway his audience. Whatever the case, he prevailed. The Shields left the meeting with their allegiance to Eumenes strengthened, and Philotas and his men returned to Antigonus with nothing to show.

Eumenes set about building ships and hiring Phoenicians to sail them. He still had an experienced admiral at his side from the days of the Perdiccas regime, a Rhodian named Sosigenes. There was no time to lose. Control of the Aegean was already being contested by fleets of the European combatants, Polyperchon and Cassander, with Antigonus’ few ships trying to aid the latter. Cassander, hunkered down in Piraeus, needed to get supplies by sea and preserve his link to Antigonus. Polyperchon sought to break that link and secure access to money, for most of it remained in Asia and had to be sent westward by ship. Antigonus had already seized one such shipment, leaving the government in Macedon starved for cash.

At last Eumenes’ fleet was ready, and chests of coin were loaded on board. Sosigenes left the Phoenician crews riding at anchor and climbed a hill to get a better view of currents in the bay. While he was gone, a squadron of warships sailed into view, prows and masts splendidly adorned with trophies of victory. It was the fleet of Antigonus One-eye, fresh from a triumph at the Hellespont, proclaiming to the whole coast, as instructed by Antigonus, its mastery of the seas. Phoenicians had always been quick to back winners, and on this occasion they did just as Antigonus had anticipated: they drew alongside the incoming ships and climbed on board to desert, bringing their cargo of precious metals with them. Sosigenes returned to find his ships empty and all hope lost of control of the sea.

Eumenes’ plans in the West had been dashed. He could no longer offer assistance to Polyperchon and the kings, nor they to him. He had no choice but to turn to the East, to Bactria and Sogdiana, where he might raise enough troops and horses to confront the massive army of Antigonus. If he could somehow prevail in that fight, he could return to the West and help his European allies. It was a slender hope, but it was all he had left. In any case, he could not stay where he was, for Antigonus would soon be upon him in Phoenicia. He mustered the Silver Shields, folded up the Alexander tent, and headed for the region that had for centuries been the refuge of the desperate, the upper satrapies.

4. POLYPERCHON, CASSANDER, AND THE ROYAL FAMILY (GREECE, EPIRUS, AND MACEDONIA, SUMMER 318 B.C.)

Eumenes could not yet have known the story behind this triumphant arrival of Antigonus’ ships. Polyperchon had been dealt a crushing setback at the Hellespont, in another episode, like the one at Megalopolis, where near victory turned suddenly to defeat.

Cleitus the White, Polyperchon’s admiral, had easily prevailed in an initial engagement at the Hellespont, routing ships captained by Cassander’s officer Nicanor. Confident that Nicanor was beaten, Cleitus pulled up his ships onto the beach, on the European side, and disembarked his crews for the night. But he did not reckon with Antigonus One-eye, whose army seemed safely removed across the straits.

Ever alert to the complacency of his foes, Antigonus hired vessels from nearby Byzantium and conveyed his best archers, slingers, and javelin men across the straits in the dark. Before dawn this force arrived at Cleitus’ camp. The royalists were still asleep, under light guard; they awoke in a hail of projectiles. Cleitus’ panicked crews threw gear and booty aboard their ships and launched in disorder. That made them easy prey for Nicanor, who, forewarned of the plan, hurried back to the scene with his surviving vessels. Antigonus sent his fleet as well to take part in the slaughter, his first direct clash with the government of the kings. Unsure whether his men would attack the royalists, he placed a trusted confederate aboard each ship to observe crew members and threaten them with death if they did not row well.

The rout of Cleitus’ navy was total. Only one ship escaped, that of Cleitus himself, but it was later seized in Thrace, where Cleitus was put to death. Polyperchon had lost his navy, only a few weeks after losing his elephant herd, and his support in the European theater of war began to crumble. Military failures could be pardoned in a king, who had the sanctity of Argead lineage to protect him. But for a mere general they were fatal, as Perdiccas had proved. Greek and Macedonian leaders alike left Polyperchon’s side and went over to Cassander. The democracies installed by the freedom decree began to topple as exiled oligarchs returned.

The democracy at Athens was, as it had often been, a lone holdout. Hagnonides and his followers were loath to give up the counterrevolution that had cost so much effort and that had killed Phocion in its exuberant strength. But the army of Polyperchon’s son Alexander, the crucial military prop of the democratic regime, had left. Cassander was no longer penned up in Piraeus; he sallied forth into Attica and took control of Athens’ already meager food supply. In the Athenian Assembly, a single brave pragmatist—his name has gone unrecorded—proposed that the city come to terms with Cassander and return to oligarchic government. Shouted down at first by democratic ideologues, he soon found his proposal gaining support and, finally, grudging approval.

The Athenians opened talks with Cassander, though they had little to bargain with. Cassander insisted on restoring the oligarchy imposed by his father, again disenfranchising the poor. Hagnonides and his followers, now out of power, were tried and put to death.A new leader, one of Phocion’s partisans who had managed to escape when the oligarchy fell, was brought back and given plenipotentiary power over the city. Athens underwent its third change of government in as many years, and its chain of metamorphoses was not nearly at an end. In decades to come, each fresh attempt to dominate Europe would start with yet another purge of weary, battered Athens.

Nicanor, victorious at the Hellespont and in higher repute than ever, sailed back into Piraeus to resume his former command there. But his very success made him suspect to Cassander, who knew the strength of the fortified harbor Nicanor would soon control. He resolved to get rid of a threat before it emerged, and to do so quietly, without commotion. Cassander made ships ready as though to sail for Macedonia and instructed a messenger to bring him forged letters while he was walking with Nicanor. The letters invited him to assume the Macedonian throne. Cassander read these missives aloud and excitedly embraced Nicanor, promising to make his faithful lieutenant a sharer in his new power. Then, at this moment of ebullience and feigned partnership, he conducted Nicanor into a nearby house under pretense of holding a parley. Picked troops were waiting there; Nicanor was arrested and sentenced to death.

Though Cassander’s letters were forged, their message contained a certain truth. Antipater’s old allies in Macedon were indeed urging Cassander to return there, while Polyperchon was bogged down in the Peloponnese. Cassander gratified them by staging a brief, defiant visit to his homeland, a demonstration of political strength. New adherents flocked to his side, including, above all, King Philip and his grasping queen, Adea. This royal pair now openly proclaimed themselves Cassander’s partisans. Adea made so bold as to write to Polyperchon in Greece and strip him of all administrative powers. Though her words had no effect, she ordered him to stand down and hand over his army to Cassander, whom she had appointed the new custodian of King Philip.

Cassander now had half the monarchy in his camp, while, with fatal symmetry, the other half declared firmly for Polyperchon. Olympias, the dowager queen, at last gave up her neutrality. She agreed to become Polyperchon’s partner and steward of the young Alexander, her grandson. The fissuring of the royal family was complete. Two monarchs, each with his own queen as surrogate and his own general as champion, had ended up on opposite sides of the civil war. There was no alternative now to a direct clash between them. Polyperchon, who seems at this point to have gone to Epirus to join Olympias, began preparing to lead a march eastward to Macedonia, to unseat Philip and install the young Alexander in his place.

As if throwing a new gauntlet at Adea, Olympias chose a member of the Molossian royal family, her young grandniece Deidameia, as a future bride for her grandson. She aimed at winning the hearts and minds of the Macedonians: Alexander and Deidameia could look forward to children and the preservation of the royal house; Adea and Philip were barren. She also aimed at enlisting her nephew Aeacides, king of the Molossians and Deidameia’s father, in the upcoming struggle.

What could the five-year-old Alexander, united for the first time with Olympias and her family, have made of his new surroundings? He had lived all his life in a military camp, dragged about first through western Asia, then Egypt, then Asia again, then Greece, and now a mountainous wilderness called Epirus, covered in unfamiliar pine trees. The one constant in his life had been the person least able to help him, his mother, Rhoxane. He had had four generals in five years as his keepers and finally had landed with his grandmother, only to find that she too, like the others before her, was girding for battle. Somewhere across the mountains and the seas beyond, a man they called Eumenes—one whose name he had often heard but whose face he had long forgotten—was fighting a man called Antigonus and would, if he won, make everything much better. Everyone seemed to be at war with one another, and somehow it was all over him.

5. EUMENES (BABYLONIA AND POINTS EAST, AUTUMN 318 B.C.)

Eumenes was headed to the East, where he had not set foot since the days of Alexander. He had with him the Silver Shields and a large corps of mercenaries, but he would need to raise more troops, and find cavalry horses and elephants, to have a chance against Antigonus. He would have to win allies from among the satraps in these regions, even though he was holding on to his current subcommanders only by the ritual in Alexander’s tent. The men whose realms he was now entering had their own agendas and rivalries, and little reason to support Eumenes, whom they regarded as an outsider, if not a condemned outlaw.

Peithon, a former Bodyguard, was powerful in the East, indeed all too powerful for the liking of his neighbors. Peithon had first gone to the region as Perdiccas’ agent, to put down the revolt of the Greek settlers; he had held a commission then as commander of the upper satrapies and felt, rightly or wrongly, that his term had never expired. Upon his return Peithon had begun to assert old prerogatives, to the point of executing a fellow satrap and installing his own brother in his place. Peithon’s presumption had aroused the ire of neighboring satraps. They had raised an army and dealt him a serious defeat the previous year, driving him out of the area and into the arms of an old comrade, Seleucus, satrap of Babylon.

As his army approached Babylon, Eumenes sent messages to Seleucus and Peithon, enlisting their support for the fight against Antigonus One-eye. As always, he invoked the power granted him by Polyperchon to defend the government of the kings. The reply of Seleucus was curt. He was quite happy to help the kings, but not to serve under Eumenes, whom the army had condemned to death. It was the same condescension Ptolemy and Antigonus had shown in Phoenicia, and soon Seleucus and Peithon began imitating their tactics as well, sending messages to the Silver Shields urging them to revolt. The captain of that regiment, Antigenes, had been an ally of Peithon and Seleucus in Egypt, where he conspired with them to murder Perdiccas. Their bonds had been forged in blood, but nonetheless Antigenes turned a deaf ear to their demand that he once again kill his senior officer.

Eumenes moved his army to the Tigris River and prepared to cross. He intended to make for Susa, where a large cache of money was stored. But as he readied boats for the crossing, Seleucus and Peithon sailed down the river in person and landed close by. In a tense parley with Antigenes and other officers of the Silver Shields, they pressed their case that Eumenes must be overthrown. Again their appeals went unheard. Rebuffed, and foiled in an attempt to drown Eumenes’ army by flooding the plain where it was camped, Seleucus had little choice but to grant Eumenes safe passage out of the territory. He had too few troops for a battle and badly wanted Eumenes to take his hungry army, and his impending war, far from Babylon.

Antigenes, captain of the Silver Shields, had by now been coerced and threatened by four of his nation’s top generals. Inexplicably, none had shaken his loyalty to Eumenes the Greek. Perhaps Antigenes was simply pursuing his own interests, as he explained to his co-captain, Teutamus, in Phoenicia: since Eumenes, a foreigner, needed allies more urgently than his rivals, he could be counted on to treat them well. Perhaps he mistrusted Antigonus One-eye, as most men did, and doubted his prospects if that man emerged triumphant. Perhaps he felt bound by the orders he had received long ago from Polyperchon, under the seal of the kings. Whatever his reasons, Antigenes had made his choice. He and his Silver Shields would stand by their Greek commander, to see what the showdown with One-eye would bring.

6. THE ROYAL FAMILY (MACEDONIA, AUTUMN 318 B.C.)

Meanwhile, in the hill country between Epirus and Macedonia, two armies advanced toward each other, each led by a queen. Only one description survives of the world’s first known battle between female leaders. According to this no doubt sensationalized report, Olympias, on one side of the field, appeared in the fawn-skin wrap and ivy headdress of a bacchant, as though leading an ecstatic procession for the god Dionysus, and marched to the beat of drums. On the other, Adea came forward in full Macedonian infantry gear. It is an unverifiable but unforgettable image, almost an allegory of the different kinds of power the two women possessed.

Olympias was returning to Macedonia with her grandson Alexander, and Adea was determined to stop her. Olympias was accompanied by her top general, Polyperchon, but Adea did not have Cassander, who was at that moment in the Peloponnese shoring up his Greek support. Adea had urgently sent for him when she learned Olympias was on the march but in the end could not wait, or else thought he wasn’t coming. She chose to play the role of field general herself, distributing gifts to her top officers to secure their loyalty. But all her bribes were wasted. Her soldiers, young recruits who had not known Alexander and in whose eyes the conqueror was already a myth, were awed by the sight of his mother, Olympias, and instantly switched sides. The battle ended without a blow being struck. Philip was captured immediately, Adea a short while later while attempting to flee. Olympias, Polyperchon, and the young Alexander marched on to Pella to take control of the riven state.

Olympias had seized power in Macedon at last, the prize for which she had grappled with old man Antipater for so long. Her first order of business was the captured king and queen, Philip and Adea. Olympias walled them up in a cell, supplying rations of food and water through a small opening. Perhaps she thought the Macedonian people, who had deserted the royal pair so readily, would enjoy seeing them treated like beasts in a cage. But she overplayed her hand. Opinion was outraged at her abuse of members of the Argead house. Adea played on her countrymen’s sympathy, crying out from her cell that she, daughter and granddaughter of Macedonian kings, was true queen of the realm, not an outsider from Epirus. Olympias could not allow this shrill voice to go on making itself heard.

Argead monarchs had often killed their kin to secure rule, but they tried to do so covertly. Olympias no longer had this option; her murders of Philip and Adea would have to be done in plain view. A gang of Thracians was hired to stab Philip to death, perhaps because no Macedonians would undertake such a deed. Adea, meanwhile, being a woman, was given the right to kill herself and offered a choice of methods. Olympias sent to her cell a sword, a noose, and a cup of poison, with orders to employ whichever she preferred. Defiant to the end, Adea removed one of her own garments and hanged herself with that, rather than use her captor’s noose. Her guards reported that she died a brave death, worthy of a tragic heroine, first praying that Olympias might herself receive gifts like the ones she had sent to the cell. As a final rebuke to her royal rivals, Olympias hid their bodies and refused to accord them proper burial.

With these two off the scene, Olympias set about settling scores with the family of Antipater, which she held to blame for the poisoning (as she saw it) of her son. Antipater was dead, as was his son Iolaus, who had allegedly slipped the toxin into Alexander’s drink. But Olympias took revenge on the son anyway, opening his grave and scattering his ashes to the elements. She then killed another son of Antipater’s, Nicanor (a different person from the Piraeus garrison commander); he had never been implicated in Alexander’s death but, by long-standing Macedonian custom, was presumed an enemy because of his blood ties to other enemies.

Cassander was out of reach in the Peloponnese, where Olympias could not get at him, but she selected an even hundred of his partisans and had them all executed. She felt she must eliminate his base of support before he attempted to invade, as he was sure soon to do.

7. EUMENES AND THE EASTERN COALITION (SUSIANA, SPRING 317 B.C.)

As yet unaware of Olympias’ victory in Europe, Eumenes made his way farther east into Asia, seeking new troops and new partners. His anabasis now brought him into contact with yet more satraps disinclined to accept his authority.

One in particular, Alexander’s former Bodyguard Peucestas, presented Eumenes with a daunting prospect. A crafty and ambitious man, beloved by his subjects for learning to speak their language and dressing in indigenous clothes, Peucestas had steadily built up power in his satrapy, Persis, the heartland of the old Persian empire. Peucestas had trained and equipped a force of ten thousand Persian archers along with a smaller phalanx and cavalry. With this huge resource he had assumed leadership of a regional coalition that had come together to stop the presumptuous Peithon.

Eumenes rendezvoused with Peucestas and his allies in Susiana, where, at his suggestion, they had brought their coalition army. The camp Eumenes found there was a truly breathtaking sight: more than eighteen thousand infantrymen and forty-six hundred cavalry, the largest force seen in the East since the departure of Alexander. Among them was Eudamus, newly arrived from India with 120 precious elephants he had stolen from a murdered raja, Porus. If this army were joined with the comparably large force under Eumenes, an aggregate would be formed that could easily best either Peithon or Antigonus One-eye, or even the two together, should they also join forces.

But melding troops led by proud Macedonians with others led by a Greek was a complex matter, as Eumenes well knew. Peucestas already had command of the coalition army and was reluctant to accept a lesser role. Yet it was Eumenes who bore the commission of the kings, had control of the Silver Shields, and was entitled to tap the royal treasuries. Compromise between these two leading generals seemed impossible to achieve. The infantry captain Antigenes tried a diplomatic solution, suggesting that the Silver Shields, by right of their enormous value as a military asset, ought to choose the commander. But to accede to this seemed tantamount to selecting Eumenes, so the debate went on.

As the rivalry continued, threatening to become an insurmountable rift, Eumenes reverted to an old but still effective device. He once again set up Alexander’s tent and introduced to his new comrades the daily worship ritual he had first shared with Antigenes and Teutamus. As it had done before, the spectral presence of Alexander dispelled tension and knit the factions together. Somehow, in the sanctuary of the tent, Eumenes was able to assert leadership without troubling stiff-necked Peucestas.

With the conflict over command thus defused, the two great armies were merged into one. Each leader was made responsible for paying his own forces, to prevent the practice of influence buying from spiraling out of control. Eumenes, however, exempted himself from this rule in one instance, paying a special grant of two hundred talents to Eudamus, allegedly for upkeep of his elephants. Such a valuable, and treacherous, ally could not be left unbribed.

8. ANTIGONUS AND EUMENES (THE RIVER COPRATES, SUSIANA, SUMMER 317 B.C.)

By contrast with Eumenes, now head of a kind of board of joint chiefs, Antigonus was imperious and solitary in command. He shared counsels with no one and entrusted no one with his plans, not even the son Demetrius whom he cherished. Once when the two were on campaign together, and Demetrius asked what time in the morning the soldiers should break camp, his father withheld even this banal information. “Are you worried that you alone will fail to hear the trumpet sound?” he upbraided the boy. Such secretiveness was to be a key weapon in the campaign ahead.

Antigonus headed east, undaunted by news that Eumenes had joined forces with Peucestas and the other satraps. He could surpass their newly increased numbers by recruitment, and by troop contributions from Peithon and Seleucus in Babylon (with whom he had by now forged an alliance). A bigger deficit, though, was the money he needed to pay for those troops. Eumenes alone could tap the royal treasuries, as was now demonstrated at Babylon: the guardians of the citadel where the imperial coin was stored refused to admit anyone but Eumenes, defying the wills of Antigonus and Seleucus both. Much the same happened when Antigonus’ army arrived at Susa. A guard captain named Xenophilus stuck to Eumenes’ orders, not to disburse money to Antigonus or even enter into conversation with him. Inside the Susa cache lay twenty thousand talents in coin and treasure, including the “Climbing Vine,” a stunning representation of a grapevine with ripe fruit, done all in fine gold, that had once curled around King Darius’ bedposts. Antigonus left Seleucus to put the place under siege, and moved eastward to find Eumenes.

Antigonus was on unfamiliar terrain, having never gone east with Alexander as other generals had. As he moved out of Susa, he found himself at the mercy of geography and climate. It was midsummer, and though he marched only at night, he lost some troops to extreme heat. Worse, he was traveling blind, blocked by a river called the Coprates from ascertaining Eumenes’ position. His adversary was in fact less than ten miles away, across an even larger river, the Pasitigris.

Movements of Antigonus and Eumenes leading up to the battle of Paraetacene, in what is now Iran (Illustration credit 9.2)
Click here to view a larger image.

Eumenes had chosen the Pasitigris as his line of defense. He knew that Antigonus must cross it to follow the easy route to the East, along the coast. His plan was to force Antigonus to instead go the long way around, through the mountains of Media. If Antigonus headed this direction, Eumenes planned to wait until he was safely out of range and then bring the entire coalition army back toward the West, into regions that were now nearly emptied of foes, Anatolia and Phoenicia. From here he could open a naval link with his allies in Europe, Polyperchon, Olympias, and the young Alexander. Antigonus would be cut off from his home base, starved of reinforcements, and, if Cassander could be defeated for good, robbed of his political raison d’être.

Eumenes lined up his troops across a wide stretch of the Pasitigris, knowing Antigonus would do his utmost to cross unobserved. When even forty thousand coalition troops did not stretch far enough, he asked Peucestas to recruit ten thousand more from his home satrapy, Persis. The request implied superior rank and caused Peucestas to bridle, but in the end his mistrust of Antigonus bested his pride. Peucestas gave the order for Persian reinforcements, sending it echoing from one mountaintop to the next by a relay of criers, so that it reached Persepolis, almost a month’s travel to the east, in only a day.

Before reaching the Pasitigris, Antigonus had to ferry his men across the Coprates, a river too deep to ford. Here Eumenes, knowing Antigonus was advancing blind, had planned a trap. Antigonus would have to use relays of boats, meaning that, in mid-crossing, his army would be split on two sides of the river. Eumenes waited in hiding until about ten thousand had reached the eastern bank, then signaled a charge. Antigonus’ men tried briefly to resist. Then all fled at once for the boats, some of which sank under the weight of those cramming onto them, or dove in panic into the river, which carried away all but the strongest swimmers. Their comrades, out of artillery range across the Coprates, could merely look on in dismay. More than four thousand men finally surrendered and became prisoners of Eumenes, to be incorporated into his army. That put a dent in Antigonus’ troop strength, but greater still was the damage to his reputation. Formerly master of the smart surprise attack, Antigonus had been outsmarted.

Antigonus gave up on crossing the river and headed north along a hard road into Media. Eumenes’ grand plan was working, but it required the joint commanders, including the eastern satraps, to agree to head for the West. The Silver Shields and Eumenes’ own staff backed the plan wholeheartedly, but Peucestas and his partners refused to leave their satrapies to the ravages of Antigonus. They were even less inclined than before to follow Eumenes’ lead, having been upstaged by him at the Coprates, a victory in which they apparently played no part. Reluctantly, Eumenes gave up his grand strategy and agreed to fight in the East. It was that or watch the combined army split into its constituent halves, either of which would make easy prey for Antigonus One-eye.

9. THE ROYAL FAMILY AND CASSANDER (MACEDONIA)

Greek writers loved to contemplate women who resembled tragic heroines, and in Olympias they found all the parallels they could ask for. Born a neo-Trojan princess named Polyxena, she seemed to them to have lived her whole life in mythic roles. As Philip’s wife, she had morphed into Medea, murderess of the princess who stole her husband’s affections; as mother of the dead Alexander, she resembled Hecuba grieving for fallen Hector. As ruler of Macedonia, she evoked Clytemnestra, the iron-fisted queen of Argos, as well as Antigone, but an Antigone in reverse, driven by her passionate devotion to kin to unbury the dead.

Whichever of these roles we cast her in—or whether, following biographer Elizabeth Carney, we reject them all as gender stereotypes—Olympias was undeniably a tragic figure. With her triumphant return to Macedon, she seemed to have come safely through the perils that surrounded her, and rescued her grandson as well; she no doubt had plans to bring her daughter Cleopatra, still stranded in Sardis without prospects, back into the palace and the restored royal family. But her time in power was fated to be brief. An avenging Orestes was stalking her from across the mountains, from Greece, and though she knew he was coming, she somehow proved unable to stop him.

Olympias’ political leadership was forceful to the point of despotism, but her command of the army did not have the same strength. When the long-awaited Cassander appeared with his forces, key passes and choke points had not yet been sealed off. The soldiers following her chief general, Polyperchon, wavered in their allegiance; some accepted bribes to desert to Cassander. The armies of Olympias’ nephew Aeacides also abandoned her cause and, returning home to Epirus, overthrew Aeacides, unseating a royal dynasty that had ruled (according to legend) since the Trojan War. Olympias, despite having custody of the only surviving Argead monarch, found her position eroding rapidly, undermined by the ill will she had bred in killing the other.

With military resources dwindling, Olympias reached out to Aristonous, a former member of Alexander the Great’s Bodyguard come home to Macedonia to retire. Enlisting this man in the defense of her regime, she withdrew to the coastal city of Pydna. There, even if her generals were defeated, she might hope to be rescued by sea by her supporters, perhaps by Eumenes, whose position at this moment she could not know for certain. She brought with her the most helpless hostages to Fortune: the six-year-old Alexander and his equally young consort, Deidameia, and Rhoxane, the Bactrian queen mother. Other members of the court accompanied them, along with a cohort of loyal soldiers and the few precious elephants not done in by the spikes at Megalopolis.

The royal refuge had not been stockpiled with stores of food, and Cassander knew he could make short work of a siege. Arriving outside Pydna with his army, he ordered a firm palisade built across the headland on which the city sat, cutting it off from relief by land, and requisitioned ships and ship-mounted siege machines to attack it from the sea. Nearly two years after his father’s death and the accession of Polyperchon, he had finally seized his patrimony. His enemies were cornered quarry, and he did not intend to let them escape.

10. EUMENES AND PEUCESTAS (PERSEPOLIS, AUTUMN 317 B.C.)

Eumenes’ army marched east into Persis. This was Peucestas’ home province, and he played the gracious host, feeding the army liberally from cattle herds it passed en route. Dismayed at Eumenes’ popularity, Peucestas determined he would win back the esteem of the troops. Food, as he well knew, was an important magnet that drew their allegiance, along with money, victory, and marks of favor from Alexander the Great. Since Eumenes could best him in the other three categories, Peucestas staked his claim to the first.

In Persepolis, his satrapal capital, Peucestas sponsored an enormous banquet for an army of more than forty thousand. A vast set of four concentric circles was laid out in open ground, the outer one more than a mile in circumference, and dining couches were built out of heaped-up leaves covered with carpets. The troops were assigned to various rings according to their status: rank-and-file infantry in the outermost, Silver Shields and other Alexander veterans next, then cavalrymen and lower officers, and top generals in the inmost ring. At the center of this military cosmos stood altars of the gods, with two new ones added for the divinized Alexander and his father, Philip. This was a banquet of unprecedented grandeur. The admiration of the troops, and the growth in Peucestas’ power, were palpable.

Eumenes was hard put to respond. It was clear now that Peucestas wished to contest leadership of the army, but for Eumenes even to acknowledge this rivalry, never mind counter it, might lead to an open split. He did not want a showdown over the right to invoke Alexander’s ghost, like the showdown over Alexander’s corpse in which his master, Perdiccas, had been wrecked. Eumenes sought a different solution, drawing not on his military skills but on those he had learned in his first career, as secretary to the Macedonian kings.

From Persis to Macedonia was a journey of weeks, and news that traveled between the two places was old by the time it arrived. Eumenes took advantage of this time lag by forging a letter that gave news of dramatic events in the West. Olympias had defeated Cassander and killed him, his letter reported; the young Alexander was securely ensconced on the throne; Polyperchon and his army had crossed into Asia with able troops and elephants, and were moving eastward at that very moment. Eumenes tricked the letter up to look like a report from Orontes, the Persian satrap of Armenia, a known friend of Peucestas, whose word would be trusted by all. For added authenticity he composed it in Aramaic, the lingua franca of the old Persian empire.

Eumenes had the forged letter sent round to all the commanders, and word of its content spread quickly. The camp came alive with ebullience, elation, and esteem for Eumenes. His allies, the men believed, had triumphed in the West and were headed east to helphim in his fight with Antigonus. Because of Eumenes, they would all be redeemed; after an easy victory, they could count on rewards from a grateful monarchy and an end to the civil wars. It was Eumenes, they foresaw, who would dominate the postwar era. He could obtain promotion or punishment for any of them, based on how loyally they followed him now. The little Greek’s stature among the troops soared to new heights.

With a masterstroke of deceit, Eumenes had eclipsed the public relations coup Peucestas achieved with his grand banquet. He pressed his advantage by charging Sibyrtius, one of Peucestas’ close allies, with secretly aiding Antigonus. Whether or not there was substance to this charge, it was clearly a shot across Peucestas’ bow. As for the other coalition satraps, who, as he knew from experience, would hate him more the higher he climbed, Eumenes devised a new measure to guard against betrayal. He asked each of them to lend him a large sum of money, amassing more than four hundred talents in all. As his creditors could well guess, this cash would be paid back only so long as they remained in his good graces, and he remained alive.

No sooner had Eumenes shored up his command than deserters from Antigonus arrived in his camp. Antigonus had left Media, they reported, and was headed south. Eumenes decided to go north to meet his foe; to wait longer would risk a splintering of the coalition or discovery that his letter was a fake. He mobilized his troops and led them into Paraetacene, today part of western Iran. The time for battle was at hand.

11. THE BATTLE OF PARAETACENE (AUTUMN 317 B.C.)

Antigonus approached Paraetacene with almost forty thousand men, Eumenes with slightly more. It was the biggest aggregation of armed force since the battle of Gaugamela, and the biggest showdown ever between two European commanders. It was also the first time two Europeans had both brought war elephants against each other. Eumenes had 120, thanks to Eudamus, while Antigonus still had 65 of the 70 he had received at Triparadeisus, the well-traveled veterans of Alexander’s original herd.

Eumenes approached his foe with high hopes, riding the wave of support generated by his forged letter, but now, when he most needed to inspire confidence, he had fallen ill. He delayed the march for some days while he tried to rally strength, then finally handed command over to Peucestas and Antigenes so that the army could move forward. For a while he had to be carried, barely conscious, inside a covered litter in the rear of the column, while his men fretted over his condition. Antigonus, for his part, got word of Eumenes’ ailment from some scouts he had captured and made haste to seize his opportunity.

The two armies took up opposing positions in miles-long lines, only a quarter of a mile apart. They had anticipated this meeting for two years, but now that it was at hand, both sides were strangely unwilling to commence battle. Eumenes was still recovering from his illness; Antigonus, perhaps, was hoping for a fracturing of the coalition, or a defection of the Silver Shields from Eumenes’ side. More than eighty thousand men stood at arms for four days on the rugged plain, while the food supply of the region was picked clean by their foragers.

On the fifth day Antigonus sent envoys to the coalition satraps and the Shields, urging them yet again to abandon Eumenes and promising amnesty and rewards. The satraps could keep their satrapies, he said, while the Shields could choose grants of land in Asia, repatriation to Macedonia with cash bonuses, or high rank in Antigonus’ army. It was his third attempt to bribe or threaten Eumenes’ men, but it had no more success than the others. The Silver Shields repulsed the envoys and threatened to kill them. What Peucestas and his fellow satraps thought of the offer is less clear, but they stood their ground for the moment.

Eumenes, now recovering his strength, came before his troops and praised their fidelity. Antigonus, he told them, was just like the man in the fable whose daughter is wooed by a lion. The man tells the lion he fears for his daughter’s safety, so the lion pulls out its own claws and teeth to gain approval. The man then seizes his chance and clubs to death the helpless beast. “Antigonus is doing just the same thing,” Eumenes told them. “He will abide by his terms only until he gets control of your forces, and then he will punish your leaders.” “That’s right!” the troops cried.

Deserters informed Eumenes that One-eye was planning to break camp and march away in the night. They did not know his destination, but Eumenes guessed he would head for Gabene, a nearby region with plentiful food, to refresh his troops and fight from better ground. Eumenes determined he would occupy the place first and sent “deserters” of his own to stall Antigonus by telling him of an impending night attack. Antigonus believed the tale and had his troops stand under arms through the night, until his scouts reported that Eumenes had broken camp and was marching toward Gabene. Antigonus hastened after him with a flying force of cavalry, trying to close a six-hour head start.

Antigonus’ advance force caught up to Eumenes’ army around dawn. Riding up to the edge of a high ridge, they glimpsed Eumenes’ column in the plain below, and Eumenes’ soldiers likewise spotted them. Luckily for Antigonus, the men looking up from below could see only the front of the ridge and could not tell whether Antigonus’ cavalry was accompanied by the entire army. Eumenes could not take that chance; he called a halt to array for battle. This gave Antigonus time to bring up his slower-moving contingents and assemble his forces. Several hours later, after his infantry had arrived, Antigonus led his army down the ridge to join combat.

Antigonus rode in the place of honor on the extreme right of his line, with his son, Demetrius, now old enough for his first battle, beside him. On the left, at the head of a unit of light horse, rode Peithon, hoping to at last win mastery of the East. Plans called for Antigonus to mount the first charge, as right-wing cavalry had always done under Alexander. But for some reason Antigonus stopped his advance before reaching Eudamus and the coalition satraps, whose forces were opposite his. Instead, Peithon, on the left, was first to engage the enemy, dashing forward with his light horse and firing arrows and spears at the elephants surrounding Eumenes.

Eumenes, on the right wing of his own line, watched this movement with concern. His elephants might be goaded into fury if hit too often by barbs. When he sensed Peithon was getting too close, he called for his own light horse, then stationed on his left wing, to ride across the lines and attack Peithon. Peithon’s horsemen, who by now had gotten far from the protection of their allies, were driven back to the hills from which they had descended, pursued by the light cavalry of Eumenes.

Meanwhile, the center of Antigonus’ line, with its massive infantry phalanx, made contact with the infantry of Eumenes. Antigonus’ forces were attacking from higher ground and had a huge numerical edge, but as had been proved many times in the Macedonian wars, nerve, not numbers, decided infantry clashes. The Silver Shields in Eumenes’ line had fought together for decades. The young recruits they faced, for the most part, had never before been in a pitched battle. As swords and sarissas clashed, the Shields bored into their opponents and began inflicting massive casualties. Antigonus’ phalanx broke and fled toward the hills, pursued by the Shields. The tide was turned, and One-eye’s army was now in trouble.

The safe move for Antigonus, and what his advisers counseled, was retreat of all forces to the high ground, where they would be safe from further attacks. But Antigonus, watching coolly from his right wing as his left and center collapsed, spotted a gap in his opponent’s line. The light cavalry that Eumenes had shifted to meet Peithon had left a hole, and that hole had widened as Eumenes’ phalanx advanced. Antigonus charged into it with his cavalry, his son, Demetrius, close behind. They struck Eudamus’ forces sharply in the flank. The sudden blow stunned Eumenes’ army, and momentum shifted. Eumenes called back his victorious phalanx, ordering it to break off pursuit and aid Eudamus. Antigonus sent swift riders to stop his fleeing troops and get them formed up again for battle.

The fight had gone on for much of the day without resolution, and neither general was willing to break off. Both Eumenes and Antigonus, now three miles from their original positions, once again drew up their lines, this time only four hundred feet apart. The full moon gave enough light for night combat, and it seemed that the battle would begin all over again. Then, suddenly, both sides stood down and grounded their weapons. They were exhausted and starved, having had no real provisions for days. The engagement was ended by mutual consent.

Who had won? Eumenes had inflicted greater casualties and had prevailed in the crucial infantry clash. But when he ordered his men to return to the battlefield and camp there, the prerogative of the victors, they refused. Their worldly goods were with their baggage train, in a different location, and they did not want to be far from these. With rival leaders vying for his men’s favor, Eumenes had to accede. Antigonus, with no such constraints on his authority, marched his weary troops three miles back to where the bodies lay strewn and pitched camp. “Whoever is master of the fallen is winner of the fight,” he declared, though he made haste to cremate his dead the next day, before Eumenes could learn their number.

Even if they had won by a technicality, Antigonus’ troops felt defeated. Antigonus was determined to get them out of the area, lest they need to fight again with low morale. When Eumenes’ heralds arrived to arrange recovery of the dead, Antigonus set the ritual for the following day, but broke camp during the night and marched off at top speed. It was the final trick in a campaign that had seen many tricks, feints, and night marches. Eumenes, told by his scouts that Antigonus was gone, did not attempt to pursue. His men were exhausted. He would let them rest for the winter and prepare for the next showdown.

Antigonus and Eumenes had shown in Paraetacene they were well-matched opponents, both shrewd and inventive men. Each by now knew the other’s strengths and weaknesses. Their record against each other was dead even, counting Orcynia as a victory for Antigonus, the Coprates River as a victory for Eumenes, and Paraetacene as a tie. There was a collective sense in their two camps that a great duel was under way, with the future of the Argead dynasty hanging in the balance. Eumenes, it was understood, backed Olympias and the young Alexander. In victory he would defer to the Argeads, if only because he could not become one himself. Antigonus, as was equally well known, deferred to no one. His plans for the empire, were he to prevail over Eumenes, were unclear, but they surely did not include taking orders from a seven-year-old half-Bactrian boy.

As the troops of both men went into separate winter quarters, it was clear to all that a resolution of the duel was not far off. But just how close it was, or what form it would take, could not have been foreseen by any of them.

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