Ancient History & Civilisation


Introduction to Eumenes

[c. 361–316 BC]

When Alexander died in Babylon in June 323 BC, he left behind him no heir and no clear successor capable of taking control of the vast empire which he had carved out in his short life. An assembly of the army at Babylon declared as his joint-successors his as yet unborn child, Alexander (IV), and his own half-brother, Arrhidaeus, who took the name Philip (III). Neither was able to shoulder the responsibility of rule at once, since Philip Arrhidaeus was widely believed to suffer from some form of mental handicap, and both were to be used as pawns in the power-games that followed. In the meantime, Alexander’s general Perdiccas took over the royal armies and assumed control of the empire in the name of ‘the kings’ (as Philip III and Alexander IV were known). Craterus, another experienced general who happened to have possession of the royal treasury in Cilicia, was given in his absence the vague title of ‘protector of the kings’, while Antipater, whom Alexander had left to govern Macedon, had his powers there confirmed. Governorships or satrapies (the word was taken over directly from the language of Persian administration) were distributed to, or confirmed for, other leading Macedonians.

However, central power was weak, and the settlement at Babylon was no more than provisional; in the years that followed, a series of power-struggles convulsed both the conquered territories and the old Greek lands, as Alexander’s marshals vied for power. Some, such as Ptolemy in Egypt, sought to establish themselves as independent rulers in parts of the old empire; others struggled to keep the empire together, either in the name of the kings or with the hope of becoming sole ruler themselves. It was not until after the battle of Ipsus in 301 that some form of order emerged from the chaos. By this time both of the kings had been murdered, and the competing generals had set themselves up as kings in their own right, each ruling over part of Alexander’s former empire. These Hellenistic kingdoms were to define the shape of Greek history for the next few centuries.

Eumenes, a Greek from the city of Cardia in the Thracian Chersonese, played an important role in the struggles of the first years after Alexander’s death. He served under Philip and Alexander, and on Alexander’s death was assigned the satrapy of Cappadocia in central Anatolia. In the ensuing conflict – the so-called First War of the Diadochi (Successors) – he backed Perdiccas and the central authority against a coalition of other leading generals including Craterus, Antipater, Antigonus Monophthalmus, Lysimachus and Ptolemy, and won several victories in Asia Minor. After Perdiccas’ death in Egypt in 321 or 320, Eumenes found himself outlawed at a gathering of the army and facing an attack by Antigonus. In this second war he switched his loyalty to Antipater’s successor, Polyperchon, who was busy in Macedonia, and, after enduring a year-long siege by Antigonus’ troops in Nora in Cappadocia, withdrew south-eastwards into the old heartland of the Persian empire, where he took over command of the satraps there who were still loyal to the central power as represented now by Polyperchon. After an indecisive battle at Paraetacene in autumn 317 (or 316), he was defeated by Antigonus in early 316 (or 315) at Gabiene in Susiana. His own troops handed him over to Antigonus and he was murdered soon afterwards.

The Eumenes is the shortest of Plutarch’s Parallel Lives. It contains almost nothing on Eumenes’ upbringing or early years. There is also no narrative of his service under Philip and Alexander, though we know from a passing remark in ch. 1 and from Arrian (Anabasis 5.24) that he served in Alexander’s campaign in India in 326. Instead, most of the Life, from chapter 3 onwards, deals exclusively with Eumenes’ role in the six and a half years between Alexander’s death in 323 and his own murder in probably 316. Even this is not narrated systematically, and the battles are reduced to disconnected scenes, selected and grouped for the light they throw on Eumenes’ character. All we get, for example, of the campaign against Antigonus in 320–19 is a series of stories about Eumenes’ cleverness in finding pay for his troops and his resilience under pressure. Similarly, the battle of Paraetacene is missed out almost entirely; Plutarch reduces it to two anecdotes about how Eumenes’ presence, even on his sick-bed, inspired his men with courage for battle (chs. 14–15). This should not be seen as the result of carelessness on Plutarch’s part, or be taken to imply that he did not know the basic narrative. Rather, these examples show that Plutarch expected that his readers would already know the rough outline; as he declared at the start of the Life of Alexander, his focus is often not on narrating the events themselves but on bringing out what they might reveal of the subject’s character.

A particular interest of Plutarch in this Life are Eumenes’ personal relationships, both with his men and with the leading Macedonians. This theme is first in evidence in the stories recorded in chapter 2 about his quarrels with Alexander’s close friend Hephaestion when both served under Alexander. After Alexander’s death it is Eumenes’ personal quarrel with Antipater and with Hecataeus, tyrant of Cardia, which motivates him to remain loyal to Perdiccas. Later, we hear a good deal about his ability to inspire his men even in the most difficult of circumstances, about their love and respect for him and about the ruses he employs to maintain the loyalty of the fractious Macedonian commanders serving under him, especially in the final campaign in Susiana. In this campaign, Plutarch focuses not on the military details but on the disloyalty and plots of his fellow-officers and the treachery of his own men. This emphasis must have been found in at least one of Plutarch’s sources, as it is found also in Cornelius Nepos’ first-century BC Life of Eumenes (e.g., ch. 8). But the dangers posed by unruly soldiers without firm leadership is a common concern elsewhere in Plutarch (e.g., in the Lives of Galba and Otho). This theme is related to a more general interest in Plutarch in the relationship between the masses and their leader: for Plutarch, Eumenes’ story, like Phocion’s, illustrates the danger of the masses, military or civilian, turning on their own leader in a time of crisis.

Plutarch’s main source for Eumenes was probably Hieronymus of Cardia, a contemporary of Eumenes and native of Eumenes’ own city. Hieronymus in fact served under Eumenes, and after his death went on to serve under Antigonus and his son Demetrius Poliorcetes. Hieronymus was thus intimately acquainted with the events and personalities of this period. His history, which seems to have covered the period from Alexander’s death down perhaps to the death of Pyrrhus in 272 BC, is unfortunately lost, but it formed the basis not only for Plutarch’s Life, but also for Diodorus’ detailed military and political narrative of the period from 323 to 302 in his Books 18–20. Close correspondences between some passages of Diodorus Book 18 and of Plutarch’s Eumenesstrongly suggest that they were dependent on the same source. Indeed, it seems likely that Hieronymus’ work also lies behind the other surviving accounts of Eumenes: Nepos’ Life of Eumenes, the summary of Pompeius Trogus’ first-century AD Philippic histories, preserved by the later writer Justin, and the fragments of Arrian’s Events after Alexander (second century AD). These all share common elements with Plutarch and Diodorus.

The use of Hieronymus might help explain the rather favourable interpretation given to Eumenes’ actions in Plutarch’s account: he is presented as a man of principle, a skilful commander who inspired his troops, but who is finally brought low by ambitious subordinates and treacherous soldiers. In fact Plutarch is always sympathetic to the subject of each of his Lives and has plainly reworked his source-material in Eumenes; whereas Diodorus, and presumably Hieronymus, provided a chronological narrative of the main events, Plutarch instead provides a series of illustrative tableaux, or scenes, which capture or illustrate Eumenes’ character or the dangers he was facing. The material for some of these stories may have been derived from the Macedonian History of Douris of Samos, whom Plutarch cites as a source for some details of Eumenes’ early life, and who was known for his emotive and colourful writing. But the reshaping of the military narrative of his source into a series of set-piece scenes designed to illustrate character is probably Plutarch’s own.

The Life of Eumenes is paired with the Life of Sertorius. Sertorius (c. 126 73 BC) was a Roman general, who was proscribed by Sulla in 81 BC and through skilful use of guerrilla tactics operated for a number of years in Spain against Roman forces, until he was finally murdered by an associate. Unusually in this pair of Lives, the Roman Life precedes the Greek (as also with the Aemilius and Timoleon). In the prologue, which forms the first chapter of Sertorius, Plutarch lays out some basic similarities between the two men:

Both men were born leaders, and both combined a warlike spirit with a genius for outwitting the enemy by deceit: both were banished from their own countries, commanded foreign troops, and suffered a similar violent and unjust stroke of fortune in their deaths, since both were the victims of conspiracy and were assassinated by the very men whom they were leading to victory against their enemies.

On the other hand, in the Comparison, which follows the Life of Eumenes, Plutarch emphasizes the differences between them. Eumenes had a more difficult task as a Greek commanding Macedonians (a factor Plutarch also mentions in chs. 3 and 8 of the Life). But he is criticized for not having come to terms with Antigonus: ‘For Antigonus would gladly have employed Eumenes if only he had been prepared to step aside from struggles for the primacy and been happy to accept the second place.’ Indeed, in the Comparison Eumenes becomes an example of a man addicted to warfare, driven by ambition for primacy. This judgement does not seem to arise directly from the Life, where Eumenes has been presented in much more positive terms; but closing comparisons in Plutarch often give a new twist, and this judgement may contain a good deal of sense, as well as giving a hint at an alternative, more negative, view of Eumenes current in some of Plutarch’s sources.

Life of Eumenes1

1. The father of Eumenes of Cardia,2 according to Douris,3 was forced by poverty to work as a cart-driver4 in the Chersonese, but Eumenes himself had a liberal education in literature and athletics. Douris also says that when Eumenes was still a boy Philip happened to be staying in the vicinity,5 and having some free time, came to see the wrestling contests held for the young men and boys of Cardia. Philip took a liking to Eumenes, who had had great success and seemed intelligent and brave, so he took him along with him. The version that other historians tell, however, seems more probable. They claim that Eumenes owed his advancement by Philip to the latter’s ancestral ties of friendship and hospitality with Eumenes’ family.

After Philip’s death, Eumenes was thought to be the equal in intelligence and trustworthiness to any in Alexander’s circle. For although he was given the title of chief secretary, he was in fact treated with as much honour as Alexander’s most intimate friends, so that on the Indian campaign he was actually sent out as general with a force under his own command.6 He also took over command of Perdiccas’ cavalry regiment, after Perdiccas had been promoted to Hephaestion’s position on the latter’s death.7 So when, after Alexander’s death, Neoptolemus, the commander of the royal guard, remarked that whereas he had followed Alexander with shield and spear, Eumenes had done so with pen and writing-tablets, the Macedonians laughed at him because they knew that Alexander had bestowed many honours on Eumenes and had considered him worthy of becoming his kinsman by marriage. For Barsine, daughter of Artabazus, the first woman with whom Alexander had relations in Asia, and by whom he had a son, Heracles, had two sisters. Of these, Alexander gave one, Apama, to Ptolemy, and the other, Artonis,8 to Eumenes, at the time when he distributed the other Persian women in marriage to his companions.9

2. However, Eumenes also often earned Alexander’s displeasure and got himself into danger because of disputes with Hephaestion.10 In the first place, Hephaestion assigned to the flute-player Evius the quarters which Eumenes’ servants had already occupied for him. So Eumenes, accompanied by Mentor, went and started railing angrily at Alexander, saying that it was obviously more advantageous to throw away one’s weapons and play the flute or sing in a tragedy. At first, Alexander shared his anger and started rebuking Hephaestion, but soon afterwards he changed his mind and became angry with Eumenes, feeling that the latter’s behaviour had been more designed to insult Alexander than to assert his rights against Hephaestion.

On another occasion, when Alexander wanted to send Nearchus out with a squadron of ships to reach the outer sea,11 he began to ask his friends for money as the royal coffers were empty. Eumenes was asked for 300 talents, but contributed only 100, claiming that his stewards had had great difficulty in collecting even this. Alexander made no criticism and did not take the money, but secretly ordered his slave to set fire to Eumenes’ tent in order to prove him a liar when his money was carried out to safety. But the tent burnt down before anything could be salvaged and Alexander regretted what he had done as the papers inside were destroyed. However, the gold and silver melted down by the fire was found to come to more than 1,000 talents. Alexander took none of it but actually wrote to his satraps and generals asking them to send copies of the papers which had been destroyed and ordered Eumenes to take charge of them all.

Eumenes also quarrelled with Hephaestion over some gift, and a good deal of abuse passed between them. At that time, Eumenes held his own, but, when Hephaestion died a little later, the king in his grief became harsh and spoke bitterly to all those who he thought had been jealous of Hephaestion while he lived or who were pleased at his death. He was most suspicious of Eumenes and made frequent reference to those abusive quarrels of his with Hephaestion. But Eumenes was shrewd and persuasive and took steps to ensure that what threatened his ruin would actually be his salvation. For he took refuge in Alexander’s generous partiality to Hephaestion by suggesting honours which would contribute most spectacularly to the dead man’s memory and by eagerly making lavish contributions for the construction of his tomb.12

3. When Alexander died and the infantry fell out with Alexander’s companions,13 Eumenes at heart supported the latter but declared publicly that he saw both points of view and took neither side, saying that as a foreigner it was not right for him to meddle in the disputes of Macedonians.14 So the rest of the companions withdrew from Babylon, and Eumenes was left behind and tried to placate the infantry and make them more disposed to a reconciliation. But when the generals met and among unprecedented tumult set about distributing satrapies and commands, Eumenes received Cappadocia, Paphlagonia and the southern coast of the Black Sea as far as Trapezus, which was at that time not yet under Macedonian control but was ruled by King Ariarathes. Accordingly, Leonnatus15 and Antigonus16 were instructed to escort Eumenes there with a large force and declare him satrap of the region.17

Now Antigonus took no notice of Perdiccas’ written instructions,18 as he was already haughty and conceited and looked down on everyone, but Leonnatus marched down to Phrygia from the interior in order to accept the satrapy for Eumenes. But Leonnatus was met by Hecataeus, tyrant of Cardia, who asked him instead to help Antipater and the Macedonians who were besieged in Lamia.19 Leonnatus was eager to cross over into Greece and urged Eumenes to join their venture and tried to reconcile him with Hecataeus. For they had a hereditary suspicion of each other owing to some political differences, and Eumenes had often denounced Hecataeus in the clearest terms as a tyrant and implored Alexander to grant the people of Cardia their freedom. And now, too, Eumenes declined to go on the expedition against the Greeks, alleging that he feared that Antipater, who had long hated him, might do Hecataeus a favour and have him killed. So Leonnatus took him into his confidence and revealed all his plans to him. Assistance to Antipater, he said, was merely a pretext which he put about for the expedition. In reality, he had decided as soon as he crossed over to begin making a bid for Macedonia, and he showed him letters from Cleopatra20 in which she invited him to come to Pella and promised to marry him. But Eumenes took his baggage and broke camp during the night, either out of fear of Antipater or because he despaired of Leonnatus as a foolish man full of unstable and rash impulses. He had with him three hundred cavalry and two hundred armed slaves, and gold to the value of 5,000 silver talents. Thus he fled to Perdiccas, revealed Leonnatus’ plans and at once gained great influence with him and was made a member of his council; a little while later he was escorted to Cappadocia with a large force which Perdiccas commanded in person. Ariarathes was soon taken prisoner and the country subdued, and Eumenes was declared satrap. He entrusted the cities to his own friends, appointed commanders of the various strongholds and left his own appointees as judges and administrators, without any interference from Perdiccas. Finally, he marched away with Perdiccas, both because he desired to cultivate him and because he did not want to be parted from the kings.21

4. However, although Perdiccas was confident that he could carry through his plans by himself, he nevertheless thought that the lands he was leaving behind him required an active and trustworthy guardian. So he sent Eumenes back from Cilicia, ostensibly to his own satrapy, but in reality to get control of neighbouring Armenia which had been thrown into uproar by Neoptolemus.22 This man Eumenes tried at first to restrain by discussion, even though he knew he was corrupted by an empty and boastful pride. But when he saw for himself how arrogant and insolent the Macedonian infantry under Neoptolemus’ command had become, he raised a force of cavalry to oppose them, giving freedom from contributions and taxation to any of the locals who could ride, and buying horses and distributing them to those of his own entourage whom he could most trust. He incited their spirits with honours and gifts and trained their bodies by exercises and drills. The result was a mixture of shock and increased confidence when the Macedonians saw how in a short time he had gathered around himself a force of not less than 6,300 cavalry.

5. Craterus23 and Antipater had now subdued the Greeks and were crossing over to Asia to topple Perdiccas from his position of power. They were also reported to be planning to invade Cappadocia.24 So Perdiccas, who was himself on campaign against Ptolemy,25appointed Eumenes commander-in-chief of the forces in Armenia and Cappadocia. He sent letters to this effect, with orders that Alcetas26 and Neoptolemus should take heed of Eumenes and that Eumenes should handle matters as he himself best saw fit. Alcetas flatly refused to take part in the campaign, saying that the Macedonians under his command were ashamed to fight Antipater and were also well disposed to Craterus and inclined to accept him. Neoptolemus, on the other hand, began plotting against Eumenes. But his schemes did not go unnoticed and, accordingly, when he was summoned before Eumenes, he refused to obey but began deploying his forces for battle.27 This was the first occasion on which Eumenes got the benefit of his foresight and preparation. For although his infantry was getting the worst of it, he routed Neoptolemus with his cavalry and captured his baggage. He then rode in full force against the enemy phalanx, which had become scattered in its pursuit, and forced its members to lay down their weapons and to exchange oaths with him that they would serve under him.28

Now Neoptolemus had collected a small number of his men from the rout and fled to Craterus and Antipater. An embassy had been sent out from these generals asking Eumenes to come over to their side. He would be able to enjoy the satrapies which he had and would gain a larger army and more territory from them if he would just put aside his enmity with Antipater and become his friend, and would keep his friendship with Craterus and not become his foe on the battlefield. When Eumenes heard this, he declared that his enmity with Antipater was long standing,29 and he could not now become his friend, when he saw Antipater treating Eumenes’ friends as his personal enemies. But as far as Craterus was concerned, he was ready to effect a reconciliation between him and Perdiccas and to bring the two together on fair and equal terms. If either one became greedy,30 he would aid the wronged party as long as he drew breath, and would rather lay down his body and his life than break his word.

6. When Antipater’s staff received this answer, they began to take measured counsel about the whole situation. But then Neoptolemus arrived after his rout and gave a report of the battle and urged them to come to his aid – both of them if possible, but at the least Craterus. For he said that Craterus was much missed by the Macedonians, and should they just see his flat cap31 and hear his voice they would rush to come over to him, arms and all. It was true that Craterus’ name really did stand high with the Macedonian soldiers, and after Alexander’s death the majority longed for him; they remembered that he had often incurred Alexander’s enmity on their behalf by opposing him in his rush to imitate Persian manners and by defending the Macedonians’ ancestral customs, when they were being treated with contempt owing to the spread of luxury and pride.32 So Craterus at this point began preparations to send Antipater into Cilicia, while he himself together with Neoptolemus started to advance with a large portion of his forces against Eumenes, thinking that he would catch him off his guard as his soldiers celebrated their recent victory in drunken disorder.

Now the fact that Eumenes got prior warning of Craterus’ advance and took steps to be ready might be thought merely the mark of sober leadership rather than consummate skill. But it seems to have been an achievement peculiar to Eumenes that he managed not only to keep the enemy from gathering any damaging intelligence but also to launch his own troops at Craterus before they were aware of the identity of their enemy, and to conceal from them the identity of the general who was opposing them. For he put about the story that it was Neoptolemus who was again moving against them, accompanied by Pigres and a force of Cappadocian and Paphlagonian cavalry. Eumenes’ plan was to break camp during the night, but he fell asleep and had a strange dream. He thought that he saw two Alexanders getting ready to fight one another, each at the head of his own phalanx. Then Athena came to help one and Demeter the other, and after a stiff fight the one whom Athena was helping was beaten and Demeter plucked corn and wove a garland for the victor. Eumenes immediately conjectured that the vision was in his favour, as he was fighting for a very fertile land which at that time was blessed with an abundance of grain as yet unripe. For the whole country had been sown with grain, giving the impression that it was peace time, and the plains were thickly carpeted with it. He took heart even more when it was reported to him that the enemy were using ‘Athena and Alexander’ as their password. Accordingly, he began himself to give out to his own men the password ‘Demeter and Alexander’, and told them all to crown themselves with garlands of corn and wreathe their weapons. Many times he felt the impulse to speak to his commanders and generals and divulge the identity of the enemy whom they would soon face, and not to keep bottled up inside him such a momentous secret. Yet he stood by his decision and trusted his own judgement about the coming danger.

7. He did not deploy any Macedonian troops opposite Craterus but rather two foreign cavalry units led by Pharnabazus the son of Artabazus and Phoenix of Tenedus, who had strict orders to charge the enemy as soon as they were sighted and engage them at close quarters without giving them any chance to withdraw or negotiate, and without receiving any herald they might send. For he was acutely afraid that if the Macedonians recognized Craterus they would desert and go over to him. He himself formed up into a guard three hundred of his strongest cavalry and rode to the right wing, intending to attack Neoptolemus. When Eumenes and his men emerged into sight over the crest of the hill which lay in between the two armies and launched a swift and furious charge, Craterus was amazed and hurled abuse at Neoptolemus for deceiving him with his claims that the Macedonians would desert. But, instructing his commanders to fight like men, he led a counter-charge. Such was the impact as the two sides crashed into each other that their spears were quickly broken and the fighting was done with the sword. Craterus did not disgrace his years of service with Alexander but killed many of those arrayed against him, and frequently routed them. But finally he was wounded by a Thracian on horseback, who came at him from the side, and he fell from his horse. As he lay on the ground, most of the enemy, ignorant of his identity, rode past him, but Gorgias, one of Eumenes’ generals, recognized him, dismounted and set a guard over his body, as he was already in a sorry state and struggling for his life.

Meanwhile, Neoptolemus encountered Eumenes. They had long nursed a mutual hatred and were now enraged towards each other, but they did not spot one another in their first two engagements. They recognized each other, however, in the third, and immediately galloped towards one another with swords drawn, screaming. Their horses smashed into each other, like triremes ramming,33 and letting go of the reins they clutched at each other, trying to tear off the other’s helmet and to rip the breast-plate from his shoulders. As they struggled, their horses bolted from under them and they were pitched to the ground. Immediately they fell upon each other once again and set to grappling and wrestling. Then, as Neoptolemus tried to get up first, Eumenes stabbed him behind the knee and managed to regain his feet before him. Neoptolemus, incapacitated in one knee and supporting himself on the other, continued to put up a strong resistance from below until, after sustaining many more minor wounds, he was finally struck in the neck and fell to the ground, where he lay prone. He still had his sword in his hand, however, and while Eumenes, in the throes of rage and long hatred, was stripping him of his arms and insulting him, Neoptolemus managed to deal him a blow under the breast-plate at the point where it touches the groin. But the blow was rather feeble owing to Neoptolemus’ weakness, and it shocked Eumenes more than actually doing him much harm.34 He completed his despoiling of the body and then, although he was suffering grievously from gashes on his thighs and arms, he mounted his horse and set off at speed for the other wing, where he believed that the enemy were still holding together. But news reached him that Craterus was dead, so he rode out to where he lay. When he saw that Craterus was conscious and still breathing, in tears he dismounted, and, giving him his hand, heaped curses on Neoptolemus and poured out words of pity both for Craterus and his fate and for himself and the necessity which had driven him into conflict with a friend and comrade in which he must kill or be killed.

8. This victory took place almost ten days after the first, and Eumenes’ prestige was greatly enhanced by it because he had won it by a combination of wisdom and courage. But he also incurred much envy and hatred from both allies and enemies alike, who saw him as a foreign interloper who, with Macedonian arms and men, had killed their foremost and most renowned commander. Now if Perdiccas had learnt of Craterus’ death in time, no one else would have been able to assume the primacy of the Macedonians. But as it was, Perdiccas had been killed in a mutiny in Egypt two days before word of the battle reached the camp, and in their anger his Macedonians at once condemned Eumenes to death. Antigonus was appointed to command in the war against him, in conjunction with Antipater.35

When Eumenes came upon the royal herds of horses which were at pasture in the vicinity of Mount Ida,36 he took as many as he needed but sent a written receipt to the officials in charge. At this, Antipater is said to have declared with a laugh that he admired Eumenes’ forethought, since he obviously expected to have to give an account to them of how he had used royal property, or to receive one in turn from them.

Eumenes wanted to give battle near Sardis on the plains of Lydia because he was superior in cavalry and was also eager to display his power to Cleopatra.37 But she was afraid of giving Antipater any cause for complaint, so at her request he marched off into Upper Phrygia and prepared to spend the winter at Celaenae. There, Alcetas, Polemon and Docimus engaged him in a struggle for the leadership, leading him to declare, ‘As the old saying goes, “No account is made of ruin”.’ He promised his troops that he would give them their pay within three days, which he accomplished by selling off to them the farmsteads and fortified residences that lay about the country and which were full of people and cattle. Every regular or mercenary commander who bought property was supplied with tools and siege-engines in order to invest it, and the soldiers distributed the booty among themselves to cover their arrears of pay.38 For this reason Eumenes again stood high in the affections of his men, and once when letters distributed by the enemy commanders came to light in the camp, in which they offered 100 talents and great honours to anyone who would kill Eumenes, the Macedonians were outraged and passed a decree that a thousand crack troops would henceforth act as his permanent bodyguard, standing watch by rotation even during the night. The soldiers followed these orders and were delighted to receive from Eumenes the sort of honours that kings give their friends. For Eumenes was able to distribute purple caps and military cloaks, which among the Macedonians are considered a particularly royal gift.39

9. Now success lifts the spirits even of men of inferior natures, so that they appear to have a certain grandeur and dignity about them when they are viewed atop their lofty position. But real greatness and firmness of spirit are revealed more by one’s behaviour in failure or misfortune. This was the case with Eumenes. In the first place, when he was defeated through treachery by Antigonus at Orcynia in Cappadocia and was being pursued, he did not allow the traitor to take advantage of the rout and escape to the enemy but arrested and hanged him. Then, as he fled, he changed direction and took the opposite route to that taken by his pursuers, and without them realizing it he doubled back to the place where the battle had been fought and there pitched camp. He collected the dead and, using as firewood pieces of the doors from the villages in the vicinity, he burned the officers in one pyre and the men in another, and heaped up mounds of earth over the ashes.40 When Antigonus later came upon the place, he was amazed at Eumenes’ audacity and his calm head.

Another example of this resilience in adversity is the time when he came across Antigonus’ baggage train. He could easily have captured many free men and a great number of slaves and much wealth, all accumulated over so many wars and so much looting. But he was afraid that his men, if loaded with plunder and booty, would be too weighed down for flight, and too soft to endure their continual movements from place to place and the long-drawn-out campaign. For it was in delaying tactics that he put most of his hopes for the war, thinking that in this way he would see the back of Antigonus. He realized, however, that it would be extremely difficult to deflect the Macedonians from seizing goods that were within such easy reach. So he ordered them to refresh themselves and feed their horses and be prepared to advance upon the enemy. Meanwhile, he sent a secret message to Menander, the officer in charge of the enemy’s baggage train, in which he feigned concern for him as an old friend and advised him to be on his guard and withdraw as quickly as possible from the low-lying ground, where he was vulnerable to attack, and make for the higher ground nearby which was impassable to cavalry and could not be surrounded. Menander quickly realized the danger and struck camp, whereupon Eumenes started openly sending out scouts and gave the order to his men to take up their arms and bridle their horses as he was going to lead them into battle. But when the scouts reported that Menander could not be caught as he had taken refuge in rough terrain, Eumenes pretended to be annoyed and withdrew his army. The story goes that, when Menander reported all this to Antigonus, the Macedonians fell to praising Eumenes and began to look upon him in a more friendly way, as he had not taken advantage of the opportunity to enslave their children and outrage their wives. But Antigonus said, ‘My good men, it was not in order to spare you that he let slip this opportunity, but because he was afraid of tying himself down at the moment when he needed to flee.’

10. After this, Eumenes kept on the move and sought to elude the enemy. He persuaded many of his soldiers to leave him, either because he was concerned about them or because he was unwilling to drag along with him a group of men who were two few to fight but too many to go unnoticed.41 Finally, he took refuge in Nora,42 a small town on the borders of Lycaonia and Cappadocia, at the head of five hundred cavalry and two hundred hoplites. There, too, he sent away with kind words and embraces all the friends who could not endure the deprivations of life in the town and the limited food, and who asked to be dismissed. When Antigonus arrived on the scene, he sent word to Eumenes that before he laid siege to the place he would like to speak to him. But Eumenes replied that while Antigonus had many friends who could take command after he was gone, there was none among those he was fighting for who could take his place if he were killed. So he told Antigonus to send hostages if he wanted to talk to him. And when Antigonus began telling him to address him as a superior, Eumenes replied, ‘I count no man my better as long as I am master of my own sword.’43

In the end, however, Antigonus sent Ptolemaeus,44 his nephew, into the town as a hostage, just as Eumenes had demanded. So Eumenes went down, and he and Antigonus embraced each other warmly like friends, since they had formerly had many dealings and close ties. A long discussion ensued in which Eumenes made no mention of his own safety or of a truce, but asked that his satrapies be confirmed and all the gifts granted to him be paid out. This caused amazement in all present and they admired his dignity and confidence. At the same time many of the Macedonians came running in their desire to see what Eumenes was like, for no one had been talked about in the ranks so much since the death of Craterus. Antigonus in fact grew afraid in case Eumenes should come to some harm, and first started shouting to the soldiers not to approach and threw stones at some that rushed forward. Finally, he threw his arms round Eumenes and, keeping off the mob with his bodyguard, managed to get him to safety.

11. The aftermath of this was that Antigonus surrounded Nora with a wall and departed, leaving troops to guard it. Eumenes was now under close siege. The town had plenty of grain, abundant water and salt, but no other food, not even anything to go with their bread. Nevertheless, with the meagre resources that he had, he managed to make his companions’ life cheerful, inviting everyone by turns to his own table and seasoning their common meal with the charm of his conversation. For he was not like some old veteran, worn down by a life under arms, but was attractive in appearance, refined and youthful. His whole body, with its astonishingly well-proportioned limbs, resembled a carefully composed work of art. He was not an accomplished orator, but agreeable and persuasive, as can be deduced from his letters.

Lack of space was most detrimental to the men besieged with him, as their movements were confined to small houses and an area with a circumference of only a quarter of a mile, with the result that they could take no exercise before eating, and likewise had to feed their horses while the animals stood idle. So, in order not only to relieve the boredom and torpor brought about by this inactivity but also to train them in some fashion for flight, should the opportunity arise, he assigned to the men the biggest house in the town, 20 feet long, as a place to walk, and told them to gradually increase their movements. As for the horses, he attached great straps to the roof and fastened them round the horses’ necks, and winched them into the air by means of pulleys so that their hind-legs rested on the ground but the hooves of their fore-legs just touched it. When they were suspended like this, the grooms would stand at their side and urge them on with shouts and blows of the whip, and the horses, full of energy and rage, would leap and jump about on their hind-legs, and would try with their fore-legs, which were dangling in the air, to get a footing and beat the ground. They thus exerted their whole body and sweated profusely – no bad exercise for both speed and strength. The grooms also threw them their barley crushed, so that they might finish it more quickly and digest it better.

12. The siege had been going on for some time, when Antigonus received news that Antipater had died in Macedonia and confusion reigned there owing to the hostility between Cassander and Polyperchon.45 Antigonus thus set aside his smaller-scale plans and determined to aim at nothing less than complete dominance, and wanted to enlist Eumenes as a friend and partner in his undertakings. So he sent Hieronymus46 to Eumenes and attempted to conclude a treaty with him, proposing an oath which they were both to swear. But Eumenes made some amendments to the oath and referred it to the Macedonians who were besieging him, asking them to judge which was the fairer version. For although Antigonus had for form’s sake mentioned the kings at the start of the oath, the rest referred to himself alone. But Eumenes added at the start the name of Olympias, Alexander’s mother, alongside those of the kings. Then he altered the oath so that he would swear devotion and mutual alliance not only to Antigonus but also to Olympias and the kings. This was considered fairer by the Macedonians and so they administered this oath to Eumenes and lifted the siege, and sent word to Antigonus for him also to swear the oath to Eumenes. Meanwhile, Eumenes began releasing all the Cappadocian hostages he had in Nora and received in return horses, baggage-animals and tents from those who came for them. He gathered an army together from those who had been scattered and were wandering across the country after the rout so that he soon had a little short of a thousand cavalrymen. He left with these men, fearing, correctly, Antigonus’ reaction. For not only did the latter send orders for Eumenes to be walled up again and the siege continued,47 but he wrote bitter words to the Macedonians for having accepted the amendment to the oath.

13. In the course of Eumenes’ flight, letters were brought to him from those in Macedonia who feared Antigonus’ growing power. In some of these letters Olympias urged him to come and take charge of Alexander’s son48 and bring him up, as there were plots against his life. In others, Polyperchon and King Philip ordered him as commander of their forces in Cappadocia to make war on Antigonus; he could take the 500 talents deposited in Cyinda in order to make good his own losses and use as much of the rest as he wanted for waging war on Antigonus. They had also written on this matter to Antigenes49 and Teutamus, the commanders of the Silver Shields.50 When the latter two received these letters, they ostensibly welcomed Eumenes in a friendly manner but were plainly filled with jealousy and rivalry, thinking it beneath them to play second fiddle to him. Eumenes tried to allay their jealousy by not taking the money, claiming that he had no need of it. But against their rivalry and greed for office, which made them incapable of command and unwilling to follow others, he deployed superstition. For he said that Alexander had appeared to him in his sleep and had shown him a tent decked out in royal fashion, with a throne placed inside, and had told him that if they held their councils and transacted their business there he himself would be present; he would lend his assistance to every plan or action if it was done in his name. This easily won over Antigenes and Teutamus, who were unwilling to visit Eumenes, while he himself did not think it right to be seen at the doors of others. They thus pitched a royal tent and placed a throne inside dedicated to Alexander, and made it their practice to assemble there when they deliberated on matters of the highest importance.

As they advanced into the interior, they were met by Peucestas, a friend of Eumenes, together with the other satraps, who joined forces with them,51 so that the Macedonians were encouraged by the number of their arms and the splendour of the equipment. But the satraps themselves had, since Alexander’s death, become unmanageable and soft in their way of living, and they brought with them to their meeting minds corrupted by tyranny and enervated by a barbarian swaggering. They were thus harsh and uncooperative with each other, but indulged the Macedonians with great extravagance, and lavished feasts and sacrifices on them, so that within a short time they made the camp a leisurely place of festive prodigality, a mob to be manipulated for the election of generals, just like in a democracy.52 Eumenes perceived that they despised each other but also that they were afraid of him and were looking out for an opportunity to kill him. So he pretended to be in need of money and borrowed many talents from those who hated him most with the purpose both of winning their confidence and also of preventing them from taking action against him through their anxiety about losing their money. Thus it turned out that he used other people’s money as a protection. Normally, people give money to secure their safety; Eumenes is the only one to have secured it by taking.

14. However, as long as there was no fighting to be done the Macedonians continued to take gifts from their corruptors and to pay court at the doors of these men, who went around with bodyguards and played at being generals. But when Antigonus camped near them with a large force53 and the situation was almost crying out and demanding a real general, not only did the rank and file start paying heed to Eumenes, but also each and every one of those who in the luxury of peace time had seemed so important now gave in and presented themselves for duty, keeping the post assigned to him without a murmur. Indeed, when Antigonus tried to cross the River Pasitigris,54 none of the other generals who were meant to be watching his movements even noticed it. Only Eumenes resisted him; he gave battle and slew great numbers and filled the river with corpses, and also took 4,000 prisoners. But it was when Eumenes fell sick that the Macedonians made it most clear that, while they considered others capable of laying on magnificent feasts and celebrations, they considered only Eumenes capable of holding command and directing the war. For Peucestas, after feasting them lavishly in Persis and distributing to each man a victim for sacrifice, had high hopes that he was now the strongest of the generals. But a few days later,55 when the soldiers were advancing against the enemy, it happened that Eumenes, who was dangerously ill,56 was being carried in a litter outside the ranks where it was quiet, as he had been unable to sleep. They had gone a little way forward when suddenly the enemy came into sight crossing the crest of some hills and descending onto the plain. Their golden weapons57 glittered from the heights in the sunlight, as their guards regiment rode forward in good formation, and the towers on the backs of their elephants,58 with the purple hangings which they always wore when they were being led into battle, could clearly be seen. When they caught sight of the enemy, the troops in Eumenes’ vanguard halted their march and began shouting for Eumenes and declaring that they would not advance unless he was in command. Grounding their weapons, they exhorted each other to stay where they were and urged their leaders to bide their time and not to fight or to risk battle without Eumenes. When Eumenes heard this, he ordered his bearers to increase their pace to a run and thus came up to the army, drawing back the curtains on both sides of his litter and stretching out his hand in joy. As soon as the soldiers saw him, they at once greeted him in Macedonian, picked up their shields and beat upon them with their pikes and raised a war-cry, challenging the enemy to fight now that they had their leader at hand.

15. Now, Antigonus had heard from prisoners that Eumenes was ill and was being carried around in a sorry state, and he thought that it would be no great trouble to crush the others while their leader was sick. So he hastened to lead his army forward to battle. But when he rode along, as the enemy were deploying, and saw their orderly formation, he halted for some time in amazement. Then he caught sight of the litter being carried from one wing to the other, and with his usual hearty laugh said to his friends, ‘That, it seems, is our opposition!’ With that he gave the order for his army to retire and pitched camp.

Now that they were able to breathe again, the Macedonians began once more to behave in a disorderly manner, lording it over the leaders. They distributed themselves in winter-quarters through pretty much the whole of Gabiene,59 so that they were scattered over a distance of about 110 miles. When Antigonus realized this, he set out against them at once by a difficult route on which there was no water to be found but that was short and direct. His hope was that if he could catch them dispersed in their winter-quarters, it would be difficult for the rank and file to join forces with their generals. But once he had entered an uninhabited wilderness, appalling wind and bitter cold ravaged the army and impeded its march. In order to improve their plight they were forced to light many fires, and thus their presence became known to the enemy. For the barbarians who inhabited the mountains overlooking the desert were amazed at the number of fires and sent messengers on camels to warn Peucestas. When he heard the news, he went completely out of his mind with fear, and seeing that the others were in a similar state his impulse was to take urgent steps to mobilize the troops who were billeted along their way and to begin a general withdrawal. Eumenes tried to allay their confusion and fear by promising to check the speed of the enemy advance and delay their expected arrival by three days. They were convinced, and he began sending messengers out with orders that the forces in winter-quarters and all the others should gather as quickly as possible. Meanwhile, he rode out in person in the company of the other commanders and selected a tract of land that was visible a long way off to anyone approaching through the desert, and measured it out. Then he gave orders that a great number of fires be lit at intervals as though it was a camp. Once this had been carried out and the fires on the mountains became visible to Antigonus, the latter was overcome by anxiety and dismay, thinking that the enemy had long perceived his advance and were coming to meet him. His army was exhausted and worn out from the march and so in order to avoid its having to face an enemy who were ready for action and had passed the winter in comfort, he abandoned the direct route and began moving at a slower pace through villages and towns. But when no one appeared to obstruct his advance, as usually happens when an enemy is in close proximity, and the local people reported that no army had been seen but that the place was full of lighted fires, Antigonus realized that he had been out-generaled by Eumenes, and in great annoyance began to lead forward his army to decide the issue in a straight fight.

16. Meanwhile, most of Eumenes’ forces had gathered and, in admiration of his intelligence, they demanded that he alone should lead them. At this, Antigenes and Teutamus, the leaders of the Silver Shields, were so bitter and jealous that they hatched a plot against him. They gathered most of the satraps and generals and discussed when and how they should do away with him. They all agreed that they should exploit his talents in the battle but kill him immediately afterwards. But this decision was secretly reported to Eumenes by Eudamus, the commander of the elephants, and Phaedimus – not out of any goodwill or kindness towards him but because they were worried about losing the money which they had lent to him. Eumenes praised them and withdrew to his tent. There, declaring to his friends that he was surrounded by a horde of wild animals, he wrote a will, and tore up and destroyed his papers, not wishing that after his death accusations and false charges be brought against his correspondents on the basis of the confidential information contained in them. When he had settled this matter, he began to debate whether to surrender victory to the enemy or to withdraw through Media and Armenia and invade Cappadocia. He could come to no final decision in the presence of his friends. But his mind remained versatile despite the reverses of fortune which he had suffered,60 and, after debating the possibilities for a long time, he finally began to draw up his forces.61 He urged on the Greeks and barbarians, and was himself likewise exhorted by the phalanx and the Silver Shields to be of good courage, as the enemy would not stand up to their onslaught. For these were the oldest of the troops of Philip and Alexander, and, like athletes of war, they had never yet been defeated or thrown. Many of them were seventy years old and none was younger than sixty. So as they charged Antigonus’ forces they shouted, ‘It is against your fathers that you sin, you scum!’62 and falling on them angrily they smashed almost their whole phalanx, as no one stood up to them, but most were cut down at close quarters. At this point, then, Antigonus’ forces were being overwhelmed. His cavalry, on the other hand, were getting the upper hand. And since Peucestas fought in such a lax and cowardly manner, Antigonus got control of the whole of Eumenes’ baggage train, owing both to his own sober head, despite the dangers, and to the aid afforded by the terrain. For the plain was vast and its earth neither very deep nor hard and firm but sandy and full of a dry, salty substance, which with the trampling of so many horses and men during the battle raised a cloud of lime-like dust, which turned the air white and reduced visibility. For this reason it was all the easier for Antigonus to capture the baggage train unobserved.

17. As soon as the fighting was over, Teutamus sent envoys to discuss the baggage. Antigonus promised that he would not just return their baggage to the Silver Shields but would also treat them with kindness in all other respects, if they would only hand Eumenes over. At this, the Silver Shields hatched a terrible plot, to surrender the man alive into the hands of the enemy. First they gradually approached him without raising his suspicions and kept him under watch, some of them lamenting the loss of the baggage, others telling him to keep his spirits up, as he was the victor, or criticizing the other leaders. Then they rushed at him and, snatching away his dagger, twisted his hands and tied them with his belt. And when Nicanor had been sent by Antigonus to take him into custody, Eumenes asked leave to speak to the Macedonians as he was being led through their ranks: not, he said, to beg or plead for his life but to discuss with them what was to their own advantage. Silence fell and standing in a raised area with his arms stretched out, bound as they were, he said, ‘Most disgraceful of Macedonians, could Antigonus ever have dreamt of setting up a trophy over you equal to the one you are yourselves erecting, in handing over your commander as a prisoner? Is it not terrible that, though victorious, you admit defeat for the sake of your baggage, as though victory lay in possessions not in arms, and you send your leader, too, as a ransom for your baggage? For my part, I am led away undefeated, conqueror of my enemies, but victim of my allies. But I implore you, by Zeus the god of armies and by the gods who watch over oaths, to kill me here with your own hands; at all events, even if I am killed over there, it will still be your doing. Antigonus will not blame you; he wants Eumenes dead, not alive. If you are ashamed to put your hands to the job, one of mine, freed of its bonds, will suffice to do it. And if you do not trust me with a sword, then throw me bound as I am under the feet of the animals. If you do this, I acquit you of all blame for my fate, as men who acted in the most honourable and just way towards their own commander.’

18. As Eumenes was speaking, the rest of the soldiers were overcome with sorrow and some began to weep. But the Silver Shields shouted to take him away and not pay any attention to the nonsense he spouted. For there was nothing terrible, they argued, if a pest63from the Chersonese should meet his fate, after embroiling Macedonians in so many countless wars. But it was outrageous if the best of the soldiers of Alexander and Philip should, in their old age, and after so many tribulations, be stripped of their prizes and be dependent on others for their upkeep, and if their wives should sleep for the third night in a row with the enemy.64 As they said this, they led him along even more quickly. However, Antigonus was afraid of the unruly crowd (for no one had been left behind in the camp) and sent out ten of his strongest elephants and a great number of Median and Parthian spearmen to disperse them. He could not bear to see Eumenes himself on account of their previous friendship and intimacy, and when those who had taken custody of him asked how they should guard him, he replied, ‘Just like an elephant or a lion.’

But a little later Antigonus took pity on him and ordered the heaviest of his chains to be removed and one of his personal attendants to be admitted to rub him with oil. He also let in any of his friends who wanted to spend the day with him and bring him anything he needed. He deliberated for a good many days over what to do with him and listened to both speeches and promises, since his own son Demetrius65 and Nearchus the Cretan66 were eager to save Eumenes’ life, but almost all the others were insistent that he must be killed. It is said that Eumenes asked Onomarchus, his jailor, why on earth, now that Antigonus had a personal enemy in his hands, and one who had taken up arms against him, he did not either get it over with and kill him or make a noble gesture and set him free, to which Onomarchus replied in an altogether insulting way that it was not now but on the field of battle that he should have faced death with such boldness. Eumenes answered, ‘By Zeus, I did face it then too. Ask those whom I met in combat. I know that no one I met was my better,’ to which Onomarchus replied, ‘Since you have now found your better, why do you not wait on his timing?’

19. Finally, Antigonus decided to kill Eumenes and ordered him to be deprived of food. After two or three days without eating, Eumenes began to approach his end. But camp suddenly had to be broken, and someone was sent in to murder him.67 His body was handed over by Antigonus to Eumenes’ friends, who were permitted to burn it and to collect the remains in a silver urn, to be returned to his wife and children.

So died Eumenes. Punishment of the treacherous leaders and soldiers was devolved by the divine on none other than Antigonus. He reviled the Silver Shields as impious and bestial and handed them over to Sibyrtius, the governor of Arachosia,68 with orders to exterminate and destroy them in every way so that none of them might return to Macedonia or behold the Greek sea.69

Comparison of Sertorius and Eumenes

1(20). These are the points of interest which have come down to us concerning Eumenes and Sertorius.70 Turning to the comparison, one point they have in common is that while both of them were outsiders, foreigners and exiles, they exercised continual command of a multitude of different nations and of large, war-hardened armies. On the other hand, Sertorius, on account of his reputation, held his command at the behest of all the allies, whereas Eumenes had many rivals for the command and had to keep on seizing the primacy through his deeds. One was followed by those who wished to be under a just ruler; the other was obeyed out of expediency by those who were incapable of ruling. For Sertorius was a Roman in command of Iberians and Lusitanians, who had long been slaves to the Romans; Eumenes came from the Chersonese and yet was in command of Macedonians,71 who were at that time enslaving all mankind. Furthermore, Sertorius rose to leadership through the admiration he won as senator and commander; Eumenes rose to leadership despite being looked down on as a secretary. Eumenes not only started with fewer resources to get into power, but also encountered greater hindrances to his advancement. For there were many who opposed him directly or plotted against him covertly, whereas no one opposed Sertorius openly, and it was only later that a few of his allies rebelled against him secretly. So for Sertorius danger ended with the defeat of his enemies, whereas for Eumenes it was victory itself which brought danger from those who envied him.

2(21). In their conduct as generals they have much to rival and parallel each other, though in terms of their general dispositions Eumenes was fond of war and fond of winning, whereas Sertorius was naturally a man of peace and tranquillity. For it would have been perfectly possible for Eumenes to have kept to the sidelines and lived peacefully and honourably, but instead he constantly put himself in danger by fighting the powerful. Sertorius, on the other hand, though he had no desire for trouble, had to fight for his own personal safety against enemies that would afford him no peace. For Antigonus would gladly have employed Eumenes if only he had been prepared to step aside from struggles for the primacy and been happy to accept the second place, whereas Pompey would not even permit Sertorius to live in retirement. As a result, one made war of his own free will in the pursuit of power; the other found himself in command against his will, since others were making war on him. Now the man who puts greed before safety actually likes war, whereas the man who through war attempts to win safety is simply skilled in waging it.

As far as their deaths go, Sertorius met his end without seeing it coming, whereas Eumenes both saw it coming and expected it. In Sertorius’ case, this was a mark of nobility of heart, since he seems to have trusted his friends; in Eumenes’ case, it was a mark of weakness, since he wanted to flee but was arrested. And Sertorius did not besmirch his life by his death, since he suffered at the hands of his allies what none of his enemies had been able to do to him; but Eumenes had the chance to flee before he was captured and wanted to stay alive once he was captured, but neither took proper precautions against death nor faced it well. Rather, by begging and pleading for his life, Eumenes gave the impression that the enemy had conquered his soul as well as his body.72

If you find an error please notify us in the comments. Thank you!