Ancient History & Civilisation

DEMETRIUS

Introduction to Demetrius

[336–282 BC]

Demetrius, nicknamed Poliorcetes (‘the Besieger’), was the son of Alexander’s general Antigonus Monophthalmus, and fought alongside him in the wars that followed Alexander’s death. By 316 BC, when he defeated Eumenes in Persia, Demetrius’ father controlled vast tracts of land in Asia. But this success led to war with the other great dynasts who had emerged from the wreck of Alexander’s empire: Ptolemy, based in Egypt, Lysimachus in Thrace, and Cassander, who had by then asserted his dominance over Macedonia and mainland Greece. In 312 Demetrius was defeated by Ptolemy at Gaza; in the following year Seleucus, whom Antigonus had expelled from Babylon several years earlier, returned and established himself there. A peace treaty of late 311 officially confirmed Antigonus’ power in Asia, as well as Cassander’s in Europe and Ptolemy’s in Egypt, but Antigonus was unable to dislodge Seleucus. Seeing his fortunes waning in Asia, Antigonus dispatched Demetrius to mainland Greece with a promise of freedom and autonomy to the cities which came over from Cassander. Demetrius was welcomed enthusiastically into Athens in 307, expelled Demetrius of Phaleron, who had governed Athens for Cassander, and restored full democracy. In the following year, Demetrius defeated Ptolemy’s fleet in a naval battle off Cyprus. By this time both Philip Arrhidaeus and Alexander IV, the nominal successors to Alexander the Great’s throne, had been murdered, and in 306 Demetrius and Antigonus took the decisive step of declaring themselves kings in their own right. Ptolemy, Seleucus and Lysimachus followed suit.

This success, however, was not to last. In 301, Demetrius and Antigonus suffered a crushing defeat at Ipsus in Asia Minor at the hands of an alliance of Cassander, Lysimachus and Seleucus. Antigonus was killed and Antigonid power collapsed almost entirely; Athens, like many other cities, rushed to distance itself from the losing side and expelled Demetrius’ garrison. However, an alliance with Seleucus revived Demetrius’ fortunes. He took Athens again in c. 295, and was able shortly afterwards to intervene in Macedonia, which after Cassander’s death in 297 had been rent by civil war and was now facing invasion by Pyrrhus, king of Epirus. After a brief alliance with Alexander V of Macedon, one of Cassander’s sons, Demetrius killed him and seized power. Demetrius ruled Macedonia for seven years, but the other kings again allied against him and in 288 he was expelled from Macedonia and his forces were driven out of almost all of mainland Greece. In 285, campaigning again in Asia Minor, Demetrius was forced to surrender to Seleucus; he died in captivity several years later.

The swift collapse of Demetrius’ power after Ipsus, and the equally swift collapse in 288 when he was driven from Macedonia, reveal the great weakness of the position of Antigonus and Demetrius in contrast to that of the other dynasts: geographically speaking, they had no fixed power-base, no central heartland on which to fall back. This also makes Demetrius’ career rather difficult to follow, as his field of activity shifts constantly. Some ten years after his death, however, his son Antigonus II Gonatas established himself securely on the throne of Macedon and founded a dynasty to rival the other kingdoms, until it was finally overthrown by the Romans in 168 BC.

Plutarch’s Demetrius is an important source for the history of this period. Diodorus covers the years from Alexander’s death up to just before the battle of Ipsus in his Books 18–20, but his account of the period after this survives only in fragments. Plutarch’s is, therefore, the only extant narrative account. His main sources were probably the same as those for Eumenes. Hieronymus of Cardia almost certainly supplied the basic historical narrative; parallels between Plutarch’s account and that of Diodorus are probably to be explained by their both having used Hieronymus. Douris of Samos may have supplied some of the numerous anecdotes about Demetrius. Plutarch most likely also had an Athenian source, perhaps the local historian Philochorus (c. 340–260 BC), which was responsible for the detailed information about the honours paid to Demetrius by the Athenians and the sufferings in Athens caused by Demetrius’ siege of c. 295. He made use of other sources, too, including Athenian inscriptions or a work which recorded them.

Plutarch pairs his Life of Demetrius with that of Mark Antony – Julius Caesar’s lieutenant, Cleopatra’s husband and the enemy of Octavian. In the prologue to the pair, which immediately precedes Demetrius, Plutarch introduces Demetrius and Antony as ‘men who conducted themselves in a rather unreflecting way’ and who became ‘conspicuous by their misconduct’, and presents them to his readers as examples of men not to imitate. They were ‘womanizers, drinkers and soldiers … open-handed, extravagant and arrogant’. Furthermore, for Plutarch Demetrius and Antony ‘illustrate the truth of Plato’s saying that great natures produce great vices as well as great virtues’. The reference is to Plato’s picture in the Republic of how a brilliant, aristocratic man, if not educated properly and if exposed at too early an age to flattery, will grow up unstable and obsessed with fame.

This characterization of Demetrius, as a brilliant man corrupted by flattery, is developed as the Life progresses. Demetrius is presented throughout as a man of great personal charisma and a skilful and brave commander. At the start of Plutarch’s Life, his penchant for riotous living does not affect his statesmanship. But power and the adulation of the masses go to his head. The key event for Plutarch is his rapturous welcome in Athens in 307, following which the Athenians vote him extravagant honours (chs. 10–13, 23–7). ‘By such absurd flattery’, Plutarch comments, ‘they further corrupted the man, who even before was not of entirely sound mind’ (ch. 13). There is an unhealthy interplay in Plutarch’s account between a populace willing to give such meaningless honours and a leader ready to receive them. Plutarch portrays the assumption of the title of ‘king’ and the accompanying regalia as part of this same process of flattery; significantly, it is the Athenians who first address him as king.

The result, Plutarch says, talking not only of Demetrius but of all the dynasts who styled themselves king at this time, was that this ‘introduced an element of arrogance and self-importance into their daily lives and their dealings with others, in the same way as tragic actors, when they put on royal robes, alter their gait, their voice, their deportment and their mode of address’ (ch. 18). The reference to tragic actors here is important. Plutarch often compares Demetrius to an actor, or his life to a play. In Plutarch’s period, tragedy – and the theatre more generally – were often associated with pompousness, pretension, falseness and ‘theatricality’. Here, the comparison suggests the strutting arrogance of Demetrius and of other contemporary rulers, their love of adulation and the hollowness of their royal affectations. Thus, when Demetrius moves against Pyrrhus, Plutarch notes that, whereas the Macedonians saw in Pyrrhus a reminder of Alexander, Demetrius and the other kings were ‘like actors on a stage’, merely imitating Alexander’s ‘pomp and outward show of majesty’ (ch. 41; cf. 44).

References to tragedy, then, suggest the emptiness and instability of Demetrius’ power. They also suggest the mutability of fortune which characterized his life. Plutarch draws attention to this aspect of both Demetrius and Antony in the prologue: ‘they met with great triumphs and great disasters, huge conquests and huge losses, unexpected failures and unhoped for recoveries …’ In the Life itself, Plutarch repeatedly highlights the role of fortune and its constant fluctuations. For example, when, after retaking Athens and winning a victory against Sparta, Demetrius receives news of defeat in Cyprus and the collapse of his support in Asia, Plutarch comments, ‘But no other king seems to have undergone such huge and sudden reversals of fortune; and in the career of no other does fortune seem to have been so often transformed, from obscurity to renown, from triumph to humiliation and from abasement to the heights of power’ (ch. 35).

The emphasis here on the role of chance works against, of course, an interest in explaining or understanding Demetrius’ successes and failures in the way a modern historian might do. Plutarch does suggest that Demetrius’ luxurious living and neglect of his subjects embittered the Macedonians to him (ch. 42), but this is not advanced as a cause for his loss of control of the country, nor is his increasingly arrogant and perverse treatment of Athens used as an explanation for his expulsion from that city. Rather, as with the heroes of tragedy, for Plutarch’s Demetrius hybris and disaster go hand in hand; like them Demetrius is presented as a plaything of forces beyond his control.

Prologue to the Lives of Demetrius and Antony

1. Whoever first conceived the idea that there is a parallel between the arts and our bodily senses seems to me to have grasped one fact very clearly, namely that both possess a power to make distinctions which enables us to perceive opposites, both on the physical and on the aesthetic plane. The arts and the senses have this faculty in common, though they differ as to the goals of their discrimination. For our senses are no better equipped to distinguish black objects than white, or sweet things than bitter, or soft and yielding substances than hard and resistant ones: their function is to register impressions from all objects alike as they occur, and to report the sensation as it has been experienced to our understanding. The arts, on the other hand, function with the help of reason to select and apprehend what is appropriate to them and to avoid and reject what is alien; accordingly, they contemplate the one category of objects for themselves and deliberately, and the other incidentally, in order to avoid them. For example, the art of medicine has incidentally investigated the nature of disease, and the art of music has studied that of discord, in order to produce their opposites. In the same way, the most perfect arts of all – self-control, justice and wisdom – do not make judgements only on what is good, useful and just, but also on what is harmful, disgraceful and unjust; and these arts do not prize that kind of innocence which boasts of its inexperience of evil. On the contrary, they regard it as folly, and as ignorance of all the things that one who intends to lead an upright life most ought to know.

Now the ancient Spartans had the custom of compelling the Helots at their festivals to drink large quantities of neat wine; then they would bring them into the public dining-halls as an object lesson to their young men of what it was like to be drunk.1 But I think it is neither humane nor the act of a statesman to try to improve some by perverting others. Perhaps, however, it is not such a bad idea for me to insert into the paradigms of my Lives one or two pairs of men who conducted themselves in a rather unreflecting way and who became in their positions of power, and when they were engaged in great enterprises, conspicuous by their misconduct. My purpose in doing so is not to divert or entertain my readers by giving variety to my writings; I am, rather, following the example of Ismenias the Theban, who when he taught the flute used to point out to his pupils both good and bad performers, and tell them, ‘You should play like this one’ or ‘You should not play like that one’. Similarly, Antigenidas believed that young men would appreciate good flute-players better if they were given experience of bad ones. In the same way, it seems to me that we shall be all the more ready to study and imitate the lives of good men if we know something of those of the wicked and infamous.

This book, then, will contain the lives of Demetrius the Besieger and Antony the Imperator,2 men whose lives conspicuously illustrate the truth of Plato’s saying that great natures produce great vices as well as great virtues.3 Both men were redoubtable womanizers, drinkers and soldiers, both were open-handed, extravagant and arrogant, and these resemblances were reflected in the similarity of their fortunes. For it was not just that in the rest of their lives they met with great triumphs and great disasters, huge conquests and huge losses, unexpected failures and unhoped for recoveries, but also that the one ended his life as a prisoner of his enemies and the other after narrowly escaping the same fate.

Life of Demetrius

2. According to most accounts, Antigonus4 had two sons from Stratonice the daughter of Corrhagus. One of them he named Demetrius after his brother, the other Philip after his father. But some writers tell us that Demetrius was Antigonus’ nephew, not his son: they say that his father died when he was quite young, and that his mother married Antigonus, who thus came to be regarded as Demetrius’ father. Philip, who was a few years the younger, died at an early age. Demetrius grew up to be a tall man, although not so tall as his father, and both in form and in feature he was so strikingly handsome that no painter or sculptor ever succeeded in fashioning a likeness of him. His features combined charm and seriousness, beauty and a capacity to inspire fear, but hardest of all to represent was the blend in his appearance of the eagerness and fire of youth with a heroic aspect and an air of kingly dignity. In his disposition he was equally capable of making himself loved and feared. For he could be the most delightful of companions, and when he had leisure for drinking and luxurious living he was the most dissolute of kings, and yet when action was required, he could show the utmost energy, perseverance and practical ability. It was for this reason that of all the gods he took Dionysus as his particular model, since this god was most terrible when waging war, but also most skilful at exploiting the ensuing peace for the pursuit of pleasure and enjoyment.

3. Demetrius was also deeply attached to his father, and to judge by the devotion he showed to his mother, it was evident that his feeling for Antigonus sprang from genuine affection, not from mere regard for his power. On one occasion, when Antigonus was giving audience to some foreign envoys, Demetrius happened to come home from hunting. He walked straight up to his father and then sat down beside him in his hunting clothes and with his javelins still in his hand. When the envoys had received their answer and were about to leave his presence, Antigonus called out to them in a loud voice, ‘Gentlemen, when you return home, you may also report that this is how my son and I live,’ for he felt that this demonstration of the harmony and confidence which prevailed between him and his son was the best proof of the power and stability of his kingdom. So difficult is it to share absolute power and how full it is of ill will and suspicion that the oldest and greatest of the successors of Alexander could make it his boast that he was not afraid of his son, but allowed him to sit close by his side with a spear in his hand. And, indeed, it is a fact that Antigonus’ was almost the only royal house whose history remained unsullied by crimes of this kind for many generations; or, to put the matter more precisely, the only one of the descendants of Antigonus who put a son to death was Philip.5 The history of almost all the other dynasties is full of examples of men who murdered their sons, their mothers or their wives, while the murder of brothers had come to be accepted like a geometrical postulate, as a recognized precaution to be taken by all rulers to ensure their safety.

4. To prove that Demetrius in his early years was by nature humane and loyal to his friends, the following example can be quoted. Mithridates, the son of Ariobarzanes, was the same age as Demetrius and a close friend and companion. He was one of Antigonus’ courtiers, but although he enjoyed a well-earned position of trust, he incurred the king’s suspicion on account of a dream. Antigonus had dreamt that he was crossing a large and beautiful field and was sowing it with gold-dust. At first a crop of gold immediately sprang up, but when after a little while he returned to the field, he could see nothing but stubble. Then, in his disappointment and vexation he seemed to hear a number of voices saying that Mithridates had gathered the golden harvest for himself and escaped to the coast of the Black Sea. The vision preyed on Antigonus, and so he sent for his son and, after making him take an oath of silence, he described to him what he had seen and added that he had decided to rid himself of Mithridates. Demetrius was greatly distressed at this, but when the young man arrived, as was his habit, to spend the day with the prince, Demetrius did not dare to refer to the subject or to warn him of his danger, on account of the oath he had sworn. Instead, he drew him aside, away from his friends, and when they were alone together he wrote on the ground with the butt of his spear as the others watched him, the words ‘Fly, Mithridates!’. Mithridates understood and made his escape by night to Cappadocia. But not long afterwards, fate caused Antigonus’ vision to come to pass. Mithridates made himself master of a large and prosperous territory, and founded the dynasty of the kings of Pontus, which was put to an end some eight generations later by the Romans.6 At any rate, the story may serve to illustrate Demetrius’ natural tendency to behave in a just and humane fashion.

5. Empedocles7 tells us that strife produces friction and war among the elements of the universe, especially among those elements which are adjacent to or in contact with one another. In the same way, wars continually broke out among the successors of Alexander, and these were particularly violent or bitter when the rival interests or disputed territories happened to lie close to one another, as was the case at that time with Antigonus and Ptolemy. Antigonus was in Phrygia, and as soon as he received the news that Ptolemy had crossed over from Cyprus, was ravaging Syria and was compelling or subverting the cities there to transfer their allegiance, he sent his son Demetrius to oppose him. Demetrius was then twenty-two years of age, and now found himself for the first time on trial as the supreme commander of an expedition in which great interests were at stake.8 In the event, his youth and inexperience proved no match for an opponent who had been trained in the school of Alexander, and who had also fought many great campaigns on his own account. Demetrius was crushingly defeated near the city of Gaza,9 5,000 of his men were killed, 8,000 taken prisoner and he lost his tent, his money and all his personal possessions. Ptolemy returned all these to him, together with his friends, and added the courteous and humane message that they were not engaged in a struggle for life or death, but only for honour and power. Demetrius accepted this generous gesture; at the same time he uttered a prayer to the gods that he should not remain long in Ptolemy’s debt, but should soon repay him in like fashion. He did not react like a young man who has been defeated right at the start, but like an experienced general used to reversals of fortune.10 Accordingly, he occupied himself with enrolling new troops, preparing fresh supplies of arms, keeping the cities firmly in hand and training his recruits.

6. When the news of the battle reached Antigonus, he remarked that Ptolemy had so far conquered beardless youths, but would now have to fight with grown men; but he was anxious not to crush or humble the spirit of his son and so he granted the young man’s request to be allowed to fight again on his own account. Soon after this, Cilles, one of Ptolemy’s generals, arrived in Syria. He brought with him a splendidly equipped army, he regarded Demetrius with contempt because of his earlier defeat and his intention was to drive him out of the province altogether. But Demetrius launched a sudden attack and achieved complete surprise. He routed Cilles’ troops and seized his camp, generals and all, capturing 7,000 prisoners and a vast quantity of treasure. Demetrius was delighted at this success, not so much for what he had acquired as for what he could give back, and he prized the victory less for the glory and the spoils he had won than for the power it gave him to repay Ptolemy’s generosity and return the favours he had received. However, he did not take this action on his own responsibility but wrote first to his father. When Antigonus granted him permission to dispose of the spoils as he pleased, he loaded Cilles and his companions with gifts and sent them back to Ptolemy. This reverse drove Ptolemy out of Syria and brought Antigonus down from Celaenae.11 He was overjoyed at the victory and eager to see the son who had won it.

7. After this, Demetrius’ next mission was to subdue the Arabs known as Nabataeans,12 and in this campaign he ran great dangers by marching through completely waterless country, but by his cool and resolute leadership he so overawed the barbarians that he captured from them seven hundred camels and great quantities of booty, and returned in safety.

Seleucus,13 who had earlier been driven out of Babylonia by Antigonus, but had later won back the province and re-established his authority there, made an expedition inland with the intention of annexing the peoples living on the borders of India and the provinces in the neighbourhood of the Caucasus. So Demetrius, calculating that he would find Mesopotamia undefended, suddenly crossed the Euphrates and made a surprise attack on Babylon. He captured one of the two citadels of the capital, drove out the garrison left by Seleucus and replaced it with a force of 7,000 of his own troops. Then he gave orders to his soldiers to seize and plunder everything that they could carry or drive out of the country and march back to the coast. But in the event, his action only left Seleucus more firmly established in possession of his kingdom than before, for by ravaging the country he appeared to admit that it no longer belonged to him and his father. However, he was able to relieve Halicarnassus, which Ptolemy was besieging, by coming swiftly to its rescue.

8. This feat won great renown for Demetrius and Antigonus and fired them with the inspiring ambition to liberate the whole of Greece,14 which had been enslaved by Cassander and Ptolemy. None of the kings who succeeded Alexander ever waged a nobler or a juster war than this, for Demetrius now took the huge quantities of treasure which they had amassed from their victories over the barbarians and devoted it for their own honour and good name to the cause of delivering the Greeks. They decided to begin their campaign by sailing against Athens, whereupon one of Antigonus’ friends remarked that if they captured the city they must keep possession of it, since it was the gangway that led to all the rest of Greece. But Antigonus would not hear of this. He declared that he needed no better or steadier gangway than a people’s goodwill, that Athens was the watch-tower of the whole world and that through her reputation she would swiftly beacon forth his deeds to all mankind.

So Demetrius sailed to Athens with a fleet of two hundred and fifty ships and 5,000 talents. The city was at this time governed by Demetrius of Phaleron15 as Cassander’s deputy, and a force of Macedonians was garrisoned in Munychia. Demetrius arrived on the twenty-fifth day of the month of Thargelion,16 and through a combination of good fortune and foresight his approach took his opponents completely by surprise. When his ships were first sighted off the coast, everybody took them for Ptolemy’s fleet and prepared to receive them. Then, at last, the generals discovered their mistake and hurried down to the shore, where all was tumult and confusion, as is natural when men suddenly find themselves obliged to repel a surprise landing. For Demetrius, as he found the entrances to the harbours undefended, sailed straight in, and was now in full view of all; he then signalled to the citizens from his ship for them to be quiet and allow him a hearing. When silence had been restored, he ordered a herald standing by his side to announce that he had been sent by his father on what he prayed would prove a happy mission for the Athenians, for his orders were to set the city free, to expel the garrison and to restore to the people the use of their laws and their ancestral constitution.17

9. When they heard this proclamation, most of the Athenians immediately threw down their shields at their feet and burst into applause. With loud cheers they called upon Demetrius to land, acclaiming him as their benefactor and saviour. The supporters of Demetrius of Phaleron decided that they must at all events receive the conqueror, even if he did not fulfil any of his promises, but they also sent a delegation to beg for his protection. Demetrius received the envoys courteously and sent back with them one of his father’s friends, Aristodemus of Miletus. Demetrius of Phaleron was an Athenian, and the political changes which he expected would follow made him more frightened of his fellow-countrymen than of the invader. Demetrius took note of this, and because he admired his opponent’s courage and reputation he granted his request to be sent under safe conduct to Thebes. As for himself, he declared that although he was eager to see the city, he would not do so until he had completed its deliverance by expelling the garrison. He then surrounded the fortress of Munychia with a trench and a palisade, thus cutting off its communications with the rest of the city, and sailed against Megara, where Cassander had also stationed a garrison.

When he learnt that the famously beautiful Cratesipolis,18 who had been the wife of Polyperchon’s son Alexander, and was now living at Patrae,19 would be glad to pay him a visit, he left his army in the territory of Megara and set off across country, taking only a few light troops with him. When he reached the meeting place, he had his tent pitched apart from his guard so that Cratesipolis could visit him unobserved. Some of the enemy discovered this and made a sudden attack on his camp. In his alarm, he only had time to snatch up a shabby cloak and run for his life. In this disguise he made his escape, but through his inability to control his passion he narrowly avoided being ignominiously captured, and the enemy seized his tent and possessions and carried them off.

When Megara was captured20 and Demetrius’ troops were about to plunder the city, the Megarians were only saved from this fate because the people of Athens pleaded strongly on their behalf. Demetrius also expelled the garrison and gave the city its freedom. While he was engaged in these operations, he remembered Stilpo the philosopher, a man who had become famous because he had chosen a life of tranquillity and study. Demetrius sent for him and asked whether any man had robbed him of anything. ‘No,’ replied Stilpo, ‘I have seen nobody carrying away any knowledge.’ However, the soldiers had carried off almost all the slaves in Megara and so when Demetrius once more paid his respects to Stilpo and finally remarked, as he was about to take his departure, ‘I leave this a city of free men, Stilpo!’ the philosopher retorted, ‘You may say that, indeed, for you have not left a single one of our slaves.’

10. After Demetrius had returned to Munychia and encamped before it, he drove out the garrison and demolished the fortress.21 Then, at last, having fulfilled his promise, he accepted the pressing invitation of the Athenians and made his entry into the city. Here he called the people together and formally restored to them their ancestral constitution. He also promised that his father would supply 150,000 bushels of wheat and enough timber to build a fleet of a hundred triremes.

The Athenians had been deprived of their democratic constitution fourteen years earlier, and in the intervening period since the Lamian War and the battle of Crannon22 they had in theory been governed by an oligarchy but in practice by a monarchy, because of the power of the Phalerean.23 Demetrius appeared great and glorious because of his benefactions, but they made him obnoxious by the extravagance of the honours which they voted him. For example, they were the first people in the world to confer upon Antigonus and Demetrius the title of king.24 Both men had hitherto made it a matter of piety to decline this appellation, which was regarded as the one royal honour which was still reserved for the lineal descendants of Philip and Alexander and which it would be wrong for others to assume or share. The Athenians were also the only people who described them in inscriptions as saviour-gods, and they abolished the ancestral office of the ‘eponymous’ archon,25 who gave his name to the year, and began electing annually a priest of the saviour-gods, and put his name on the preambles of decrees and contracts. They also decreed that the figures of Demetrius and Antigonus should be woven into the sacred robe of Athena,26 together with those of the other gods. They consecrated the spot where Demetrius had first alighted from his chariot and built an altar there, which was known as the altar of the Descending27 Demetrius. Besides this, they created two new tribes and named them Demetrias and Antigonis, and in consequence changed the composition of the Council from five hundred to six hundred members, since each tribe supplies fifty councillors.28

11. The most preposterous of Stratocles’ ideas (he was the one who invented these extravagant and sophisticated forms of flattery) was the proposal that any official envoys sent to Antigonus or Demetrius by public decree should be referred to not as ambassadors but as sacred deputies, like the envoys who conveyed the traditional sacrifices on behalf of the various cities at the great Hellenic festivals at Delphi and Olympia. In other respects, too, this Stratocles was a man of extraordinary effrontery. He lived a shamelessly debauched life and through his vulgarity and scurrilous behaviour he seemed to imitate the familiarity with which Cleon29 of old had treated the people. He kept a mistress named Phylacion, and one day when she had bought some brains and neck-bones in the market-place for their dinner, he said to her, ‘Ah, I see you have brought me the very things that we politicians play ball with!’ On another occasion, when the Athenians had suffered a defeat in a naval battle off Amorgos,30 Stratocles hurried to the city before the news of the disaster had arrived. He then put on a garland and drove through the Cerameicus and, after announcing that a victory had been won, proposed a sacrifice to the gods and had meat distributed at public expense to all the tribes. A little later, when the sailors returned bringing back the wrecks from the battle and the people angrily called him to account for his deception, he faced their clamour with his usual impudence and asked them, ‘What harm have I done if for two days you have been happy?’ Such was the audacity of Stratocles.

12. However ‘there are some things even hotter than fire’,31 as Aristophanes puts it, and there was another Athenian whose servility eclipsed even that of Stratocles. This man proposed that whenever Demetrius visited Athens he should be received with the same divine honours that were paid to Demeter and Dionysus, and that whichever citizen surpassed the rest in the magnificence and lavishness of his arrangements for the festival should be granted a sum of money from the public treasury to enable him to dedicate an offering. Finally, the Athenians changed the name of the month Munychion to Demetrion, gave the name of Demetrias to the last day of the month and renamed the festival of the Dionysia the Demetria.32 Most of these innovations were greeted with signs of displeasure from the gods. The sacred robe, in which it had been decreed that the figures of Antigonus and Demetrius should be woven beside those of Zeus and Athena, was struck by a violent gust of wind as it was being carried in procession through the midst of Cerameicus, and was torn in pieces; great quantities of hemlock suddenly sprang up around the altars of the so-called saviour-gods, although there are many parts of the country in which this poisonous herb does not grow at all; on the day of the celebration of the Dionysia, the sacred procession had to be cancelled because of a sudden spell of cold weather which arrived out of season, and this was followed by a heavy frost, which not only blasted all the vines and fig-trees but destroyed most of the corn in the blade. It was for this reason that Philippides, who was an enemy of Stratocles, attacked him in a comedy with these verses:

It was because of him that frost burnt the vines,

Because of his impiety the robe was torn down the middle

Because he converted divine honours into mortal ones.

Such acts, not comedy, destroy a people.33

This Philippides was a friend of Lysimachus34 and on his account the Athenians received many favours from the king.35 The latter even believed that it was a good omen if he were to meet or catch sight of Philippides at the start of any expedition or enterprise. Besides this Philippides enjoyed a good reputation, since he was no busybody and had none of the self-important habits of a courtier. One day Lysimachus wished to do him a kindness and asked him, ‘Philippides, which of my possessions shall I give you?’ ‘Whichever you please, sire,’ he replied, ‘but not one of your secrets.’ I have purposely made a comparison of this man with Stratocles, in order to contrast the man of the theatre with the man of the speakers’ platform.

13. But the strangest and most exaggerated of all the honours devised for Demetrius was the one proposed by Dromocleides of Sphettus. This man, when the question arose concerning the consecration of the shields at Delphi, put down a motion that the people should obtain an oracular response from Demetrius.36 I reproduce the actual words of the motion, which read as follows:

May it be propitious.37 It has been decreed by the people that they shall elect one man from the Athenians, who shall go to the saviour-god, and after he has sacrificed and obtained good omens, shall inquire of the saviour-god what is the most reverent, decorous and expeditious manner in which the people may ensure the restitution of the intended offerings to their proper places. And whatsoever answer he shall please to give them, the people shall comply with it.

By such absurd flattery, they further corrupted the man, who even before was not of entirely sound mind.

14. During the months which he spent in Athens at this time, he married a widow named Eurydice. She was descended from the famous Miltiades, had married Ophelas, the ruler of Cyrene, and after his death had returned to Athens. The Athenians chose to regard this marriage as a special mark of favour and as an honour to their city. But in general, Demetrius was very free in his attitude towards marriage and had many wives at the same time. Among these the one who enjoyed most respect and honour was Phila; she owed her privileged position to the fact that she was the daughter of Antipater and had been married to Craterus, the man who of all the successors of Alexander had been remembered with the greatest affection by the Macedonians.38 Antigonus, it seems, had persuaded Demetrius to marry her when he was quite young, in spite of her being considerably older, and it is said that when Demetrius expressed his reluctance, his father whispered in his ear Euripides’ words,39Where it is profitable, a man should marry against his nature’, bluntly substituting ‘marry’ for ‘serve’, as the verse was originally phrased. But such regard as Demetrius showed for Phila or the rest of his wives did not prevent him from keeping many mistresses, not only courtesans, but women of free birth, and in this respect he had the worst reputation of all the rulers of his time.

15. When his father started urging him to take command of operations against Ptolemy for possession of Cyprus, Demetrius had no choice but to obey the order; but he was vexed at having to abandon the war for the liberation of Greece which was a nobler and more glorious enterprise. He, therefore, offered a sum of money to Cleonides, Ptolemy’s general who commanded the troops garrisoning Sicyon and Corinth, to evacuate the cities and set them free. But Cleonides refused and so Demetrius hurriedly put to sea and, gathering reinforcements, sailed against Cyprus. There he attacked Menelaus, Ptolemy’s brother, and immediately defeated him. But Ptolemy himself appeared on the scene with a large fleet and army, and the two commanders exchanged haughty and threatening messages. Ptolemy called upon Demetrius to sail away before he concentrated all his forces and crushed him, while Demetrius offered to allow Ptolemy to withdraw from Cyprus, on condition that he surrendered Corinth and Sicyon. The battle which then followed40 was of the greatest moment, not only to the combatants themselves but to all the other rulers, for apart from the uncertainty of the outcome, they believed that the prize was not merely the possession of Cyprus and Syria, but an absolute and immediate supremacy over all their rivals.

16. Ptolemy advanced to the attack with a fleet of a hundred and fifty ships and ordered Menelaus to move out of Salamis with sixty at the moment when the battle was at its height, so as to fall upon Demetrius’ fleet from the rear and throw it into disorder. Demetrius detached no more than ten ships to oppose Menelaus’ sixty, since these were enough to block the narrow channel which led out of the harbour. He then deployed his land forces in extended order along various headlands which jutted out into the water, and put to sea with a hundred and eighty ships. He bore down upon the opposing fleet with great force and violence and utterly routed Ptolemy, who after his defeat fled with a squadron of eight ships. This was all that remained of his fleet; of the rest, some had been sunk in the battle and seventy had been captured, crews and all. But the whole of Ptolemy’s enormous train of attendants, friends and women who had been embarked in transports near his fleet, all fell into Demetrius’ hands; so, too, did all his arms, money and engines of war. Demetrius rounded up the entire expedition and escorted it to his camp. Among these prizes of war was the celebrated Lamia,41 who had first won fame for her skill as a flute-player and had later become renowned as a courtesan. By this time her beauty was on the wane and Demetrius was many years her junior; in spite of this, her charm took possession of him to such an extent that he loved only her, even though many other women loved him.

After the battle, Menelaus too offered no further resistance, but surrendered Salamis to Demetrius together with his fleet and his land forces of 1,200 cavalry and 12,000 hoplites.

17. Demetrius added still more lustre to his brilliant victory by the generosity and humanity which he showed to his opponents: he not only buried the enemy’s dead with full honours but he also set his prisoners free. He then chose twelve hundred complete suits of armour from the spoils and presented them to the Athenians.

He sent Aristodemus of Miletus as his personal messenger to carry the news of the victory to his father. Of all those in Demetrius’ entourage, this man was the arch-flatterer and on this occasion he set out, it seems, to crown his achievement and surpass any of his previous efforts. For after he had made the crossing from Cyprus, he would not allow his ship to approach the land. Instead, he ordered the crew to cast anchor and to remain quietly on board, while he had himself rowed ashore in a small boat and landed alone. Then he continued his journey to Antigonus, who was awaiting news of the battle in a state of suspense and with all the anxiety which is natural to a man who is contending for such high stakes. When he heard that Aristodemus was on his way, his agitation reached such a pitch that he could scarcely keep himself indoors, but sent servants and friends one after the other to discover from Aristodemus what had happened. Aristodemus refused to utter a word to anybody, but walked on in complete silence, keeping a measured pace and wearing a grave expression on his face. By this time Antigonus was thoroughly alarmed and could bear the suspense no longer; he came to the door to meet Aristodemus, who was accompanied by a large crowd which was hastening to the palace. At last, when Aristodemus was near enough, he stretched out his hand and cried in a loud voice, ‘Hail, King Antigonus, we have defeated King Ptolemy in a sea-battle. We are the masters of Cyprus and we have taken 16,800 prisoners.’ Antigonus replied, ‘Hail to you likewise, by Zeus. But you will pay for torturing us for so long. You can wait a while for the reward for your good news.’

18. After this success, the masses for the first time acclaimed Antigonus and Demetrius as kings.42 Antigonus was immediately crowned, and Demetrius received a diadem from his father with a letter addressing him as king. At the same time, when the news reached Ptolemy’s followers in Egypt, they also conferred the title of king on him, so as not to appear unduly cast down by their defeat, and this spirit of rivalry proved infectious among the other successors of Alexander. Lysimachus began to wear a diadem, and Seleucus, who had already assumed royal prerogatives when he gave audience to the barbarians, now adopted the same practice in his interviews with Greeks. Cassander, however, although others addressed him as king both in letters and in speech, continued to sign letters with his own name, as he had always done.

The assumption of such dignities meant something more than the mere addition of a name or a change in appearance. It stirred the pride of these men, raised their ideas to a different plane and introduced an element of arrogance and self-importance into their daily lives and their dealings with others, in the same way as tragic actors, when they put on royal robes, alter their gait, their voice, their deportment and their mode of address.43 As a result they also became harsher in their administration of justice, and they cast off the various disguises whereby they had previously concealed their power and which had made them treat their subjects more gently and tolerantly. Such was the effect of a single word from a flatterer, which in this way brought about a revolution throughout the world.

19. Antigonus, elated by his son’s achievements in Cyprus, immediately launched another expedition against Ptolemy.44 He himself took command of the land forces, while Demetrius with a large fleet supported his operations from the sea. The outcome of the campaign was foretold to Medius, a friend of Antigonus, in his sleep. He dreamt that Antigonus, together with the whole army, was running in a race in the stadium. Over the first part of the course he ran strongly and swiftly, but then little by little his strength failed him; then, after he had rounded the halfway mark, he became weak, began to pant heavily and could barely recover. As events turned out, Antigonus encountered many difficulties on land, while Demetrius ran into a violent storm and heavy seas and was driven on to a rocky shore which offered no shelter. He lost many of his ships and returned home without having accomplished anything.

Antigonus by this time was almost eighty years old, but it was his corpulence and weight even more than his age which incapacitated him for playing an active part in military operations. He therefore made more and more use of his son, for Demetrius, with the help of experience combined with good luck, was now conducting the greatest enterprises with success, and neither his luxury nor his extravagance nor his drinking habits troubled his father. For although in peace-time Demetrius threw himself headlong into these excesses and devoted his time exclusively to the pursuit of pleasure in the most abandoned and wanton fashion, in time of war he was as sober as those to whom abstinence was the natural way of life. There is a story that when Demetrius was completely under the spell of Lamia, a fact which had become common knowledge, he returned home from abroad and greeted his father with a kiss. Antigonus laughed and said, ‘Anybody would think, my boy, that you were kissing Lamia.’ On another occasion, when Demetrius had been drinking for several days continuously, he excused his absence by saying that he had been laid up with a severe cold. ‘So I heard,’ remarked Antigonus, ‘but did your cold come from Chios or from Thasos?’45 Another time after hearing that his son was sick, Antigonus went to visit him and met one of his beautiful mistresses coming away from his room. Antigonus went inside, sat down by his side and felt his pulse. ‘The fever has left me now,’ Demetrius told him. ‘Yes, so I see,’ his father replied; ‘I met it just now as it was going away.’ Antigonus was willing to indulge these faults in his son because of his achievements in other respects. The Scythians have a custom of twanging their bowstrings in the midst of their drinking and carousing, as though they were summoning back their courage at the moment when it melts away in pleasure. Demetrius, on the other hand, was in the habit of surrendering his whole being, now to pleasure and now to action: he succeeded in keeping the two spheres completely separate and never allowed his diversions to interfere with his preparations for war.

20. Indeed, as a general he had the reputation of being more effective in preparing an army than in handling it. He insisted on being abundantly supplied for every eventuality, he had an insatiable ambition to embark upon larger and larger projects, whether in shipbuilding or the construction of siege-engines, and he took an intense pleasure in watching the workings of these creations. For he had a good natural intelligence and a speculative mind and he did not apply his talents to mere pastimes or useless diversions, like some other kings, who played the flute or painted or worked in metal. Aeropus of Macedon, for example, used to devote his leisure to making little tables or lampstands. Attalus Philometer made a hobby of cultivating poisonous herbs, not only henbane or hellebore but also hemlock, aconite or dorycnium. He used to sow and plant these in the royal gardens, and he made it his business to know their various juices and fruits and to gather them at the proper season. The kings of Parthia used to pride themselves on notching and sharpening with their own hands the points of their spears and arrows. But with Demetrius even when he played the workman he did it in regal fashion. He approached his projects on a grand scale and his creations were not only skilfully and inventively conceived, but they bore the marks of a lofty mind and purpose, so that men thought them worthy not only of the genius and wealth of a king but also of his handiwork. Their sheer size alarmed even his friends, while their beauty delighted even his enemies (and this is true and not just a clever way of putting it). His enemies would stand on the shore and gape in wonder at his galleys of fifteen or sixteen rows of oarsmen as they sailed past, while his ‘city-takers’,46 as events actually testify, were a spectacle to the inhabitants of the towns he besieged. For example, Lysimachus, who was the bitterest of Demetrius’ enemies among the kings of his time, when Demetrius was besieging the town of Soli in Cilicia47 and he was in the field against him, sent a message asking to be allowed to see his siege-engines and his ships in motion; after Demetrius had displayed these to him, he expressed his admiration and went away. Likewise, the people of Rhodes, after they had resisted a long siege and had come to terms with Demetrius, asked him for some of his machines which they wished to keep as a memorial of his power and of their own courage.

21. Demetrius went to war with the people of Rhodes48 because they were allies of Ptolemy, and he moved up against their walls the greatest of his ‘city-takers’.49 This was a siege-tower with a square base, each side of which measured 72 feet at the bottom. It was 99 feet high with the upper part tapering off to narrower dimensions. Inside it was divided into many separate storeys and compartments, the side which faced the enemy being pierced with apertures on each storey, through which missiles could be discharged, and it was manned with troops who were equipped with every kind of weapon. The machine never tottered or leaned in any direction, but rolled forwards firm and upright on its base, advancing with an even motion and with a noise and an impetus that inspired mingled feelings of alarm and delight in all who beheld it.

For this campaign Demetrius was sent two iron coats of mail from Cyprus, each of which weighed only 40 pounds. In order to demonstrate the armour’s strength and power of resistance, Zoilus, the maker, had a bolt from a catapult shot at one of them at a range of twenty paces. The armour remained unbroken at the point of impact, and its surface showed nothing more than a small scratch such as might have been made by an engraver. Demetrius wore this suit himself and gave the other to Alcimus the Epirot, the man who combined the greatest physical strength and the most warlike spirit in his army, and the only one whose armour weighed nearly 120 pounds, the others carrying only half this weight. Alcimus was killed at Rhodes in the fighting near the theatre.

22. The Rhodians put up a stout defence and Demetrius achieved no success worth mentioning against them. However, he kept the siege going out of anger against them, because when his wife Phila dispatched a ship carrying letters, bedding and clothing for him, the Rhodians captured the vessel and sent it with all its cargo to Ptolemy. In this matter they did not follow the civilized example set by the Athenians, who, when Philip was at war with them, captured one of his messengers and read all the letters he was carrying except for one written by Olympias: this they did not open but returned to Philip with the seal unbroken. However, although Demetrius was irritated at the Rhodians’ action, he did not allow himself to retaliate against them when, a little later, they gave him the opportunity to do so. It happened that they had commissioned Protogenes of Caunus to paint a portrait of Ialysus and that this picture, which was almost finished, had been captured by Demetrius in one of the suburbs of the city. The Rhodians sent a herald and begged him to spare the painting and not destroy it, to which he replied that he would rather burn the statues of his father than a masterpiece which had cost so much labour, for Protogenes was reputed to have worked for seven years on the painting. Apelles tells us that when he first set eyes on it, he was so filled with admiration that he could not utter a word, and that when speech returned to him he exclaimed, ‘A tremendous labour and a wonderful achievement,’ but he added that it lacked something of the grace which raised his own paintings to the heavens. This picture later shared the fate of many others: crowded together at Rome, it was destroyed by fire.50

The Rhodians continued to hold out vigorously and at last Demetrius, who was anxious to find a pretext for abandoning the siege, was persuaded to make terms through the mediation of the Athenians; the treaty which they concluded stipulated that the Rhodians should act as the allies of Antigonus and Demetrius in his wars, but should not take up arms against Ptolemy.

23. The Athenians kept making appeals to Demetrius because their city was being besieged by Cassander,51 and Demetrius sailed to their rescue with a fleet of three hundred and thirty ships and a large hoplite force. He not only drove Cassander out of Attica but pursued him as far as Thermopylae. There he routed Cassander’s army, occupied Heracleia whose citizens came over to him and was joined by 6,000 Macedonians who had deserted from Cassander’s army. On his return, he freed from Macedonian rule the Greeks living south of Thermopylae, concluded an alliance with the Boeotians and captured Cenchreae. He also took possession of the strongholds of Phyle and Panactum, fortresses in Attica which had been garrisoned by Cassander, and restored them to the Athenians. Although earlier the people of Athens had exhausted all the honours which could possibly be bestowed upon Demetrius, nevertheless they went on to show that they could still invent new forms of flattery. For they gave him the rear part of the temple of the Parthenon for his quarters, and there he lodged throughout his visit. He was entertained, so the arrangement implied, by his hostess Athena, but it could not be said that he was a well-behaved guest or that he conducted himself under her roof with the decorum that is due to a virgin-goddess. And yet once, when Antigonus had learnt that Demetrius’ brother Philip was billeted in a house which was occupied by three girls, he had said nothing to Philip but sent for the officer responsible for requisitioning houses and told him in his son’s presence, ‘Won’t you get my son out of this tight spot.’

24. Demetrius ought to have shown Athena some respect, if for no other reason than that she was his older sister (for that was what he wanted said). But in fact he abused so many free-born youths and Athenian women, and so filled the acropolis with his outrages, that the place was considered to be unusually pure when his partners in debauchery were Chrysis, Lamia, Demo and Anticyra, those well-known prostitutes. For the sake of the city’s good name I ought not to enter into the details of Demetrius’ other debaucheries, but it would be wrong to pass over the virtue and modesty of a boy named Democles. He was still young and was known as Democles the Beautiful; indeed the epithet betrayed him, since reports of his good looks soon reached the ears of Demetrius. Democles refused the advances of many who tried to win him by persuasion or gifts or threats, and finally stopped appearing at the public wrestling-schools or gymnasia and used only a private bath. Demetrius watched for his opportunity and one day surprised him there alone. When the boy saw that there was no one to help him and that he had no choice but to yield, he snatched the lid off the cauldron, leapt into the boiling water and killed himself. In this way, he suffered a fate which was certainly undeserved, but he showed a spirit which was worthy both of his personal beauty and of his country. Democles’ behaviour may be contrasted with that of Cleaenetus, the son of Cleomedon. This man’s father had been sentenced to pay the sum of 50 talents, and in the attempt to obtain a letter from Demetrius remitting the fine he not only disgraced himself but caused great trouble to the city. The people excused Cleomedon from this penalty, but they also passed a resolution that no citizen should ever again bring a letter from Demetrius before the assembly. Demetrius was furious when he heard the news, whereupon the people took fright and not only rescinded the motion but actually put to death some of those who had introduced and supported it and banished others. They even went so far as to pass a further decree to the effect that whatever thing Demetrius might command in future should be regarded as holy in the sight of the gods and just towards all men. One of the better class of citizens remarked on this occasion that Stratocles was mad to propose such a motion, to which Demochares of Leuconoe replied, ‘He would certainly be mad if he did not show this kind of madness.’ For Stratocles was amply rewarded for his flattery. Demochares, on the other hand, was publicly charged for this utterance and sent into exile. Such was the fate of the Athenians, who fondly imagined that because they had got rid of the occupying garrison they had become a free people.

25. Demetrius marched into the Peloponnese,52 where not one of his enemies opposed him, but all abandoned their cities and fled. He accepted the allegiance of the eastern part of the coast, which is known as Acte, and of the region of Arcadia with the exception of Mantineia, and liberated the cities of Argos, Sicyon and Corinth by paying to their garrisons 100 talents to evacuate them. It happened that at Argos the festival of Hera was being held and Demetrius presided over the games, joined in the celebration of the festival with the Greeks who had gathered there and married Deidameia, who was the daughter of Aeacides the king of the Molossians and the sister of Pyrrhus.53 He told the inhabitants of Sicyon that their city was sited in the wrong place and persuaded them to move to the ground which it now occupies, and he also had its name changed and styled Demetrias instead of Sicyon.

When a congress of the city-states was held at the Isthmus,54 which was attended by a huge concourse of delegates, Demetrius was proclaimed commander-in-chief of the Greeks, as Philip and Alexander had been before him;55 in the elation of success and of the power which he enjoyed at that moment he even considered himself by far their superior. At any rate, Alexander had never deprived other kings of their royal title, nor had he proclaimed himself King of Kings, although many other rulers received their style and position from him. Demetrius, on the other hand, mocked and ridiculed those who gave the title of king to anybody other than his father and himself, and at his drinking-parties he loved to hear the guests propose toasts to himself as king, but to Seleucus as master of the elephants, Ptolemy as admiral, Lysimachus as treasurer and Agathocles the Sicilian as lord of the islands. The other kings when they heard of these affectations merely laughed at Demetrius, but Lysimachus was enraged at the idea that Demetrius regarded him as a eunuch, because it was the general custom to appoint eunuchs to the post of treasurer. In fact, it was Lysimachus who of all these rulers felt the bitterest hatred for Demetrius, and on one occasion, when he was sneering at his rival’s passion for Lamia, he remarked that this was the first time he had ever seen a whore take part in a tragedy, to which Demetrius retorted that his mistress was a more modest woman than Lysimachus’ own ‘Penelope’.56

26. When Demetrius was preparing to return to Athens, he wrote to inform the people that he wished to be initiated into the Mysteries as soon as he arrived, and to be admitted to every one of the various grades of initiation, from the lowest to the highest, the Epopteia. This request was both unprecedented and unlawful, since the lesser rites were enacted in the month of Anthesterion and the greater in Boedromion, and initiates had to wait at least a year after the greater rites before being admitted to the Epopteia.57But when Demetrius’ letter was read out, the only man who dared to refuse his request was Pythodorus the torch-bearer,58 and his opposition achieved nothing. Instead, a motion was proposed by Stratocles that the current month which happened to be Munychion should be declared to be Anthesterion, and during this period the lesser rites at Agra were performed for Demetrius. Next, the month of Munychion was again changed and this time became Boedromion, during which Demetrius passed through the remaining rites of initiation, and was also admitted to the Epopteia. It was for this reason that Philippides poured scorn on Stratocles as the man ‘Who cut the year down to a single month’, and with reference to his quartering in the Parthenon talked of Demetrius as the man ‘Who treated the Acropolis as an inn, and introduced his mistresses to the virgin-goddess’.59

27. Of all the many outrages and abuses which Demetrius committed at this time, the one that most angered the Athenians was his action in commanding them to levy immediately the sum of 250 talents for his services. The money was then extorted from the people in the harshest and most peremptory fashion, and when he saw the amount that had been raised, he ordered it to be given to Lamia and his other mistresses to buy soap. What the Athenians resented was not so much the loss of the money as the humiliation of this imposition and the words which accompanied it, although according to some accounts it was not they but the people of Thessaly who were treated in this fashion. Apart from this episode, Lamia also extorted money from many of the citizens when she was preparing to entertain Demetrius, and, indeed, the extravagance of this banquet became so legendary that it was described in full by Lynceus of Samos;60 it was for this reason that one of the comic poets, with some justification, described Lamia as a ‘city-taker’61 in herself, and Demochares of Soli, called Demetrius Mythos, because he too, like the myth, had his Lamia.62

Demetrius’ passion for Lamia and the favours which he lavished on her roused the enmity and animosity not only of his other wives but of his friends. At any rate, he once sent some ambassadors to Lysimachus, and one day, when they were at leisure, the king showed them a number of deep scars on his thighs and shoulders which had been made by a lion’s claws, and told them of the battle he had fought with the beast when Alexander had shut him in with it. The ambassadors laughed and declared that their own king also carried on his neck the marks of a terrible wild beast, a Lamia. The wonder was that Demetrius, who in the beginning had found fault with Phila because she was older than himself, should now be captivated by Lamia and love her so long when she was well past her prime. At any rate, one evening when Lamia was playing the flute at a banquet, Demetrius asked the courtesan Demo, who was surnamed Mania, what she thought of her. ‘Your majesty,’ she replied, ‘I think she is an old woman.’ Another time, when some sweetmeats had been placed on the table, Demetrius remarked to Mania, ‘You see how many presents Lamia sends me?’ ‘My mother’, answered Mania, ‘will send you many more if you will sleep with her.’

Another story is recorded of what Lamia had to say about the celebrated judgement of Bocchoris.63 An Egyptian fell in love with Thonis the courtesan, who asked him for a large sum of money in return for her favours. Afterwards, he dreamt that he had enjoyed her, and his passion for her then died away. At this, Thonis brought an action against him for the payment which she claimed was her due. When he had heard the case, Bocchoris ordered the defendant to bring into court in its coffer the exact amount of money which had been demanded from him, and to move it backwards and forwards with his hand; meanwhile, the courtesan was to clutch at its shadow, since the thing which is imagined is the shadow of the reality. Lamia thought this judgement unjust, because although the young man’s dream had delivered him from his passion, the shadow of the money did not deliver the courtesan from her desire for it. So much then for Lamia.

28. And now our story, as it traces the fortunes and achievements of my subject, moves from the comic to the tragic stage. For all the other kings formed an alliance against Antigonus and combined their forces.64 Demetrius sailed away from Greece to join him, and was greatly heartened to find his father full of resolution for the war and buoyed up by a spirit that belied his years. And yet it seems probable that if only Antigonus could have made some small concessions and curbed his passion for extending his rule, he could have retained his supremacy among the successors of Alexander and bequeathed it to his son. But he was by nature imperious and disdainful of others, and as overbearing in his words as in his actions, and he therefore exasperated many young and powerful men and provoked them to act against him: he boasted that he would scatter the alliance they had formed with a single stone and a single shout, as easily as one scares away a flock of birds from a field.

Antigonus took the field with more than 70,000 infantry, and with 10,000 cavalry and 75 elephants, while his opponents had 64,000 infantry, 500 more cavalry than Antigonus, 400 elephants and 120 war chariots. But once Antigonus had drawn near the enemy, a change in his demeanour became noticeable – not in his purpose, but rather in his expectations. For in the past, it had been his custom to show a lofty and aggressive spirit before he went into action; he would speak in a loud voice and use arrogant language, and often by uttering some casual joke or piece of mockery when the enemy was close at hand, he would reveal his own assurance and the contempt he felt for his opponent. But this time he was observed to be thoughtful and silent for the most part. He presented his son to the army and formally pronounced him to be his successor, but what astonished everybody most of all was that he now held a long conference alone in his tent with Demetrius, whereas it had never been his practice in the past to enter into secret consultations even with his son. Instead, he had always relied upon his own judgement, formed his own plans and issued his orders openly. At any rate, there is a story that when Demetrius was still only a boy he had asked his father at what hour he intended to break camp, to which Antigonus retorted roughly, ‘Why, are you afraid that you will be the only man who does not hear the trumpet?’

29. At this time, however, they were also disheartened by threatening omens. Demetrius dreamt that Alexander appeared before him in shining armour and asked him what would be their password for the battle. Demetrius told him ‘Zeus and victory’, whereupon Alexander replied, ‘In that case I shall go and join your adversaries: they will certainly receive me,’ for he was offended to find that Antigonus had not chosen ‘Alexander and victory’ for his password.65 Then, while the phalanx was already forming in order of battle, Antigonus, as he stepped out of his tent, stumbled, fell on his face and hurt himself severely. When he rose to his feet, he stretched out his hands towards heaven and prayed that the gods should either grant him victory or else a painless death before his army was routed.

When the battle began,66 Demetrius led his strongest and best of his cavalry in a charge against Antiochus, Seleucus’ son.67 He fought brilliantly and put the enemy to flight, but by pressing the pursuit too far and too impulsively he threw away the victory. The enemy placed their elephants in his way to block his return and he was prevented from rejoining the infantry; meanwhile Seleucus, seeing that his opponent’s phalanx had been left unprotected by cavalry, altered his tactics accordingly. He did not actually launch a mounted attack but, by riding round Antigonus’ infantry and continually threatening to charge, he kept them in a state of alarm and at the same time gave them the opportunity of changing sides. And this, indeed, was what actually happened, for a large group of them who had become separated from the main body came over to him of their own accord and the rest were routed. Then, as great numbers of the enemy bore down on Antigonus, one of his attendants cried out, ‘They are making for you, sire,’ to which the king replied, ‘Yes, what other object could they have? But Demetrius will come to our rescue.’ In this hope he persisted to the last and kept looking for his son’s approach on every side, until the enemy overwhelmed him with a cloud of javelins and he fell. The rest of his friends and attendants abandoned him, and only Thorax of Larissa remained by his body.

30. After the battle had been decided in this way, the victorious kings proceeded to carve up the realm which Antigonus and Demetrius had ruled, like the carcass of some great slaughtered beast, each of them taking a portion and adding new provinces to those they already possessed. Demetrius got away with 5,000 infantry and 4,000 cavalry and marched straight to Ephesus. Here, everybody supposed that as he needed money he would inevitably plunder the treasures of the temple of Artemis, but, as he was afraid that the troops would do precisely this, he immediately left the city and sailed for Greece. He placed his remaining hopes principally in Athens, for he had left his wife Deidameia there, together with his ships and his treasure, and he believed that his safest refuge in his misfortune lay in the goodwill of the Athenian people. But as he approached the Cyclades, he met a delegation from the city who requested him to keep away, since the people had passed a resolution not to admit any of the kings within their walls; at the same time they informed him that his wife Deidameia had been escorted to Megara with appropriate honours and ceremony. At this Demetrius, who had borne his other trials serenely and who despite the complete reversal in his fortunes had never behaved in a mean or ignoble fashion, was transported with rage and quite lost control of himself. He was cut to the heart at being unexpectedly disappointed and betrayed in this fashion by the Athenians, and at discovering that their apparent goodwill proved to be empty and false as soon as it was put to the test.

And, indeed, it would seem that the bestowing of extravagant honours is really the least substantial proof of the goodwill of a people towards a king or ruler, for the true value of such tributes lies in the intentions of those who bestow them. They are worthless if they are prompted by fear, for an identical decree may equally well be passed out of motives of fear or of affection. Accordingly, men of sense will consider first of all the substance of their actions and achievements, and only afterwards the statues, paintings or deifications which have been offered to them: they can then judge whether these can be trusted as genuine honours or distrusted as obligatory ones, since it often happens that a people in the very act of conferring honours will hate those who accept them arrogantly and without modesty or respect for the free will of the givers.

31. At any rate, Demetrius thought that he had been shamefully treated by the Athenians, but as he was powerless to avenge the affront he sent them a message in which he courteously protested at their decision and requested that his ships should be returned to him, among them the vessel which had thirteen rows of oarsmen. These were duly handed over to him and he then sailed for the Isthmus of Corinth, where he found that his affairs had greatly deteriorated. Everywhere, his garrisons were being expelled from the towns in which he had stationed them and the whole region was going over to his enemies. He therefore left Pyrrhus of Epirus to act as his lieutenant in Greece, while he himself put to sea and sailed for the Thracian Chersonese. There he plundered the territory of Lysimachus and out of the spoils he collected was able to maintain and hold together his army, which was now beginning to recover its spirits, and to build up a force of formidable strength. The other kings made no attempt to help Lysimachus: they considered that he was by no means more reasonable than Demetrius, and that because he possessed more power, he was more to be feared.

Not long after this Seleucus approached Demetrius to ask for the hand of Stratonice,68 who was his daughter by Phila. Seleucus already had one son, Antiochus, by his Persian wife, Apame, but he considered that his empire had room in it for more than one heir, and he was anxious to form an alliance with Demetrius because he saw that Lysimachus had already married one of Ptolemy’s daughters himself and had taken the other for his son Agathocles. For Demetrius a marriage alliance with Seleucus was an unexpected stroke of good fortune, and so he took his daughter on board ship and sailed with his whole fleet to Syria. In the course of his voyage he was forced to put in at a number of places, and in particular he landed on the coast of Cilicia, a province ruled by Pleistarchus, the brother of Cassander, who had been given it by the kings after their victory over Antigonus. Pleistarchus regarded Demetrius’ arrival in his territory as a violation of his sovereignty; besides this, he wished to protest to Seleucus against his having made an alliance with their common enemy without consulting the other kings, and so he went up to see him.

32. When Demetrius learnt of this, he marched inland to the city of Cyinda. There he found 1,200 talents of the public treasury still intact,69 and so he collected this, embarked without any hindrance and quickly put to sea. His wife Phila had by then joined him and at Rhosus he met Seleucus. No sooner had the two men come together than they received one another in princely style without the least deception or suspicion. First Seleucus gave a banquet for Demetrius in his camp, and then Demetrius in his turn received Seleucus on board his galley with the thirteen rows of oarsmen. There were entertainments and the two rulers conversed at leisure and spent whole days in one another’s company without either guards or arms, until at length Seleucus took Stratonice and escorted her in great state to Antioch. But Demetrius made himself master of Cilicia and sent his wife Phila to Cassander, who was also her brother, to answer the accusations which had been made against him by Pleistarchus. In the meantime, his wife Deidameia, whom he had married at Argos, arrived by sea, but they had only been together for a short while before she fell sick and died. Then, through Seleucus’ good offices, Demetrius was reconciled with Ptolemy, and it was arranged that he should marry the king’s daughter, Ptolemaïs.

So far Seleucus had behaved with the utmost courtesy, but he also requested Demetrius to cede Cilicia to him in return for a sum of money, and when Demetrius refused he angrily insisted that Tyre and Sidon should be handed over to him. This seemed a violent and quite unjustifiable demand. Seleucus had become the ruler of the whole region from India to the coast of Syria. Why should he be so needy or so mean in spirit as to quarrel with a man who had just become related to him by marriage and who had suffered a great reversal in his fortunes, all for the sake of two cities? In short, Seleucus was a conspicuous example of the wisdom that Plato showed when he argued that the man who wishes to be really rich should seek not to increase his possessions but to decrease his desires. For he who can never restrain his avarice will never be free from the sense of poverty and want.70

33. Demetrius, however, was not cowed. He declared that even if he should lose ten thousand more battles at Ipsus, he would never consent to pay for the privilege of having Seleucus as his son-in-law. He strengthened his cities with garrisons, but when he had news that Lachares had taken advantage of the civil dissensions which had occurred in Athens and made himself tyrant there, Demetrius hoped that if he suddenly appeared on the scene he could take the city with ease. He crossed the Aegean safely with a large fleet, but as he was sailing along the coast of Attica he ran into a storm in which most of his ships were destroyed and a great number of his men were drowned. He himself escaped and opened a petty campaign against the Athenians, but when he found he was getting no results, he dispatched officers to assemble another fleet for him; meanwhile, he marched into the Peloponnese and laid siege to Messene. Here during an assault on the walls, he was nearly killed, for he was struck in the face by a bolt from a catapult which pierced his jaw and entered his mouth. But he recovered from the wound, and after receiving the submission of a number of cities that had revolted from him, he again invaded Attica, captured Eleusis and Rhamnus and devastated the countryside. He also seized a ship loaded with grain that was bound for Athens, and hanged the pilot and the owner of the cargo. This action so frightened other vessels that they turned away from the city, which was reduced to a state of famine and a great shortage of other commodities. At any rate, the price of a bushel of salt rose to 40 drachmas and a peck of wheat to 300. The Athenians gained a short respite from their sufferings when a fleet of a hundred and fifty ships sent to help them by Ptolemy was sighted off the coast of Aegina. But then Demetrius was reinforced by a strong naval contingent from the Peloponnese and by another from Cyprus, so that he was able to concentrate a fleet of three hundred vessels. In consequence, Ptolemy’s ships hoisted sail and fled, and Lachares the tyrant abandoned the city and ran away.

34. Earlier, the Athenians had passed a resolution decreeing the death penalty for anyone who even mentioned the possibility of negotiating a peace or an agreement with Demetrius, but now they at once opened the nearest gates and sent a delegation to his camp. They had been forced into this action by sheer destitution and so did not expect any favours. Among many examples of the extremities to which they had been reduced, it happened that a father and son were sitting in a room and had abandoned all hope of survival. Suddenly, a dead mouse fell from the ceiling and as soon as the two saw it they sprang up and began to fight for the prize. It was at this time, too, we are told, that the philosopher Epicurus kept his disciples alive with beans, counting out and distributing a ration for them each day.

Such was the condition of the city when Demetrius entered it.71 He ordered the whole population to assemble in the theatre, surrounded the rear and sides with troops and lined the stage with his bodyguards, while he himself, just like a tragic actor, made his appearance down one of the stairways which led through the auditorium. This frightened the Athenians more than ever, but with the very first words that he uttered Demetrius dispelled their fears. For he avoided any hint of bitterness, either in his tone or his words, but he reproached them in a gentle and friendly fashion for their behaviour towards him and showed that he was reconciled to them. He presented them with 100,000 bushels of wheat and appointed as magistrates the leaders who were most acceptable to the people.72 At this Dromocleides the orator,73 when he saw that the populace could hardly find words to express their joy and wished to eclipse the panegyrics which the demagogues were accustomed to lavish on Demetrius, put down a motion that Piraeus and Munychia should be handed over to King Demetrius. This resolution was passed, but Demetrius went further still by posting another garrison on the Hill of Muses:74 he did this to prevent the Athenians from shaking off his yoke yet again and distracting his attention from his other enterprises.

35. Now that he had possession of Athens, he at once laid plans against Sparta. He engaged Archidamus, the king of Sparta, near Mantineia, defeated him, routed his army and then invaded Laconia.75 Next, he fought a second pitched battle near Sparta itself in which he killed two hundred men and took five hundred prisoner and seemed to have the city within his grasp, although up to that moment no enemy had ever captured it.76 But no other king seems to have undergone such huge and sudden reversals of fortune; and in the career of no other does fortune seem to have been so often transformed, from obscurity to renown, from triumph to humiliation and from abasement to the heights of power. It was for this reason, so we are told, that when he was in the depths of adversity, Demetrius would call upon Fortune in the words of Aeschylus: ‘It is you who fan my flame, and you who seem to burn me!77 And so just when the whole course of events seemed to be moving in conjunction to increase his power and sovereignty, the news reached him that Lysimachus had seized the cities in Asia which had belonged to him, and that Ptolemy had captured the whole of Cyprus except for the city of Salamis, where Demetrius’ mother and children were now besieged. But like the woman in Archilochus’ poem, who ‘treacherously offered water in one hand while she bore fire in the other’,78 so Fortune drew him away from Sparta with this dire and threatening news and at the same instant kindled his hopes of fresh achievements on the grandest scale. This was how it happened.

36. After the death of Cassander,79 his eldest son Philip ruled the Macedonians for a short while, and then died, whereupon Philip’s two surviving brothers contested the succession. One of these, Antipater, murdered his mother Thessalonice,80 while the other, Alexander, appealed to Pyrrhus to come to his help from Epirus and Demetrius from the Peloponnese. Pyrrhus arrived first, and as he promptly annexed a large slice of Macedonia as the reward for his help, he at once became a neighbour whom Alexander dreaded. Demetrius, as soon as he had received Alexander’s letter, set out for Macedonia with his army and frightened the young man even more because of his power and reputation. The result was that Alexander met Demetrius at the town of Dium, received him as an honoured guest and then told him that the situation no longer required his presence. This was enough to arouse suspicions on both sides; moreover, when Demetrius was on his way to a banquet to which the young prince had invited him, he was warned that there was a plot to kill him in the midst of the drinking. Demetrius was not at all disconcerted and merely delayed his arrival a little, gave orders to his officers to keep their men under arms and arranged that his personal attendants and pages, who far outnumbered Alexander’s retinue, should accompany him into the banqueting room and remain there until he rose from the table. Alexander and his followers were alarmed by these precautions and did not dare to attempt any violence, while Demetrius for his part excused himself on the ground that his health forbade him to drink wine, and took his leave early in the evening. The next day he began making preparations to depart, explaining that fresh emergencies had arisen which called him away. He asked Alexander to excuse him for leaving so soon and assured him that he would make a longer stay when he was more at leisure. Alexander was delighted at this, since he imagined that Demetrius was leaving of his own free will and without any hostile intentions, and escorted him on his way to Thessaly.

When they reached Larissa, they once more exchanged invitations to a banquet and plotted to kill one another. It was this fact more than any other which delivered Alexander into Demetrius’ power, as he hesitated to take precautions for fear of provoking a similar action on Demetrius’ part; but in the event, he was the first to suffer the fate he had intended for his enemy, because he delayed taking steps to prevent the other from escaping. He accepted Demetrius’ invitation to a banquet, in the middle of which his host suddenly rose from the table. Alexander was filled with alarm, started to his feet and, following close behind, made for the door. Demetrius’ bodyguards were standing beside it, and as he reached them Demetrius merely said, ‘Kill the man who follows me.’ He passed through by himself, but Alexander was cut down by the guards, together with those of his friends who rushed up to help him. One of these is said to have cried out as he was killed that Demetrius had been too quick for them by just one day.

37. The night following was one of disorder and alarm, as might be expected. The next day found the Macedonians in a state of confusion and fearful of Demetrius’ army, but when instead of an attack there came a message from Demetrius proposing that he should meet them and explain what had been done, they took heart and decided to receive him in a friendly spirit. When he appeared, there was no need for him to make a long speech. The Macedonians hated Antipater for having murdered his mother, and, as they were at a loss to find a better ruler, they hailed Demetrius as king and at once escorted him back to Macedonia.81 At home, too, the people were ready to welcome the change, for they still remembered and detested the crimes which Cassander had committed against the family of Alexander the Great.82 If there remained any regard for the moderation and justice with which the elder Antipater had ruled, it was Demetrius who profited from it since he had married Antipater’s daughter Phila, and their son, Antigonus Gonatas, who was almost grown up and was serving with his father in this campaign, could be regarded as the heir to the throne.

38. In the midst of this spectacular revival of his fortunes, Demetrius received the news that his mother and his children had been set free by Ptolemy and that he had pressed gifts and honours upon them; in addition, he also learnt that his daughter Stratonice, who had been married to Seleucus, had now become the wife of Seleucus’ son Antiochus and bore the title of Queen of the barbarians of the interior.83 It appeared that Antiochus had fallen in love with Stratonice, who was still a young girl, although she had already borne a child to Seleucus. Antiochus was distressed and for a time he struggled to conceal his passion. But at last, he decided that his malady was incurable, his desires sinful and his reason too weak to resist them; he therefore determined to make his escape from life and to destroy himself gradually by neglecting his body and refusing all nourishment, under the pretext that he was suffering from some disease. Erasistratus, his physician, found no difficulty in diagnosing his condition, namely that he was in love, but it was less easy to discover with whom. He made a habit of spending day after day in the young prince’s room, and when any particularly good-looking girl or young man entered, he would study his patient’s face minutely and watch those parts and movements of the body which nature has formed so as to reflect and share the emotions of the soul. Sure enough, when anybody else came in, Antiochus remained unmoved, but whenever Stratonice visited him, as she often did, either alone or with Seleucus, all the symptoms which Sappho describes immediately showed themselves: his voice faltered, his face began to flush, his eye became languid, a sudden sweat broke out on his skin, his heart began to beat violently and irregularly, and finally, as if his soul were overpowered by his passions, he would sink into a state of helplessness, prostration and pallor.84

Besides all this, Erasistratus reflected, it was most unlikely that the king’s son, if he had fallen in love with any other woman, would have persisted to the point of death in saying nothing about it. He saw the difficulty of revealing a secret of this nature to Seleucus, but still, trusting in the king’s affection for his son, he ventured to tell him one day that love was the disorder from which Antiochus was suffering, a love that could neither be satisfied nor cured. ‘How is it incurable?’ the king asked him in astonishment. ‘Because’, Erasistratus replied, ‘he is in love with my wife.’ ‘Well then, Erasistratus,’ said the king, ‘since you are my son’s friend, could you not give up your wife and let him marry her, especially when you see that he is my only son, the only anchor in my sea of troubles?’ ‘You would not do such a thing,’ the physician answered, ‘though you are his father, if Antiochus were in love with Stratonice?’ ‘My friend,’ replied Seleucus, ‘I only wish that someone, whether a god or a man, could turn this passion of his towards her. I should be happy to give up my kingdom if only I could save Antiochus.’

Seleucus uttered these words with deep emotion, and wept as he spoke, and thereupon the physician clasped him by the hand and said, ‘Then you have no need of Erasistratus; you, sire, are a father, a husband and a king, and you are also the best physician for your own household.’ After this, Seleucus summoned the people to meet in full assembly and announced that it was his will and pleasure that Antiochus should marry Stratonice, and that they should be proclaimed King and Queen of all the provinces of the interior. He believed, he said, that his son, who had always been accustomed to obey his father, would not oppose his desire, and that if his wife should be unwilling to take this extraordinary step he would appeal to his friends to persuade her to accept as just and honourable whatever seemed right to the king and advantageous to the kingdom. This is how Antiochus came to be married to Stratonice, so we are told.

39. After taking over Macedonia, Demetrius had also received Thessaly. As he already controlled the greater part of the Peloponnese and, on this side of the Isthmus, Megara and Athens, he marched against Boeotia. At first the Boeotians made a pact of friendship with him on reasonable terms. But then Cleonymus the Spartan approached Thebes with an army, and the Thebans, full of enthusiasm and urged on by Pisis of Thespiae – one of the most prominent and influential men of the time – rose in revolt. But when Demetrius brought up his siege-engines and surrounded Thebes,85 Cleonymus took fright and stole away, and the Boeotians were likewise overawed and surrendered. Demetrius stationed garrisons in the Boeotian cities, levied large sums of money from the people and installed the historian Hieronymus86 as governor and commander; by these measures and most of all by his treatment of Pisis, he earned a reputation for clemency. For when this man was brought before him as a prisoner, Demetrius did him no harm, but even greeted him, treated him courteously and appointed him polemarch in Thespiae. But not long after, Lysimachus was taken prisoner by Dromichaetes, and Demetrius marched with all speed to Thrace, hoping to find it undefended. The Boeotians took this opportunity to rise yet again and at the same time the news was brought that Lysimachus had been released. Enraged at these events, Demetrius quickly retraced his steps southwards, and finding that the Boeotians had been defeated by his son Antigonus, he again laid siege to Thebes.

40. However, when Pyrrhus moved to overrun Thessaly and advanced as far as Thermopylae, Demetrius left his son Antigonus to carry on the siege and he himself marched against Pyrrhus.87 Pyrrhus quickly withdrew, and Demetrius, leaving a force of 10,000 hoplites and 1,000 cavalry in Thessaly, returned to press the siege of Thebes. He brought up his famous ‘city-taker’ for the assault but, because of its huge size and weight, the machine was so slowly and laboriously propelled that in the space of two months it hardly advanced a quarter of a mile. The Boeotians defended their city bravely and Demetrius often forced his soldiers to risk their lives in assaulting the city, though he did this out of sheer exasperation rather than any real necessity for fighting. Antigonus, when he saw them losing so many men, was distressed and asked him, ‘Why, father, do we allow these lives to be thrown away so unnecessarily?’ Demetrius was angry and retorted, ‘Why do you trouble yourself about that? Do you have to find rations for the dead?’ However, Demetrius was anxious to prove that he was not careless only of other men’s lives and careful of his own, but that he was ready to share the dangers of battle, and exposing himself in the siege he was pierced through the neck by a bolt from a catapult. He suffered great pain from this wound, but he refused to relax his efforts and finally captured Thebes a second time. When he entered the city, the Thebans were filled with fear and expected that he would carry out the most terrible reprisals, but Demetrius only put to death thirteen of the rebels, banished a few more and pardoned the remainder. Thus it was the fate of Thebes to be captured twice within ten years88 of its being resettled.

The time was now approaching when the Pythian Games were due to be held89 and Demetrius took it upon himself to introduce an extraordinary innovation. Since the Aetolians held the passes which led to Delphi, he himself presided over the celebration of the games and other festivities at Athens and proclaimed that it was especially appropriate for Apollo to be honoured there because he was a patron deity of the Athenians and was reputed to be a founder of their race.

41. From Athens he returned to Macedonia. His temperament made it impossible for him to lead a quiet life, and since he had discovered that his Macedonian subjects were easy for him to control when they were on a campaign, but restless and troublesome whenever they stayed at home, he led out an expedition against the Aetolians.90 After ravaging the country, he left a large part of his army under Pantauchus while he himself marched against Pyrrhus. Pyrrhus, at the same time, advanced to meet him, but the two armies missed each other, with the result that Demetrius went on to plunder Epirus, while Pyrrhus fell upon Pantauchus. A pitched battle followed in the course of which the two commanders fought hand to hand and wounded one another, but Pyrrhus routed his adversary, killed many of his soldiers and took 5,000 prisoners. This battle played a great part in weakening Demetrius’ cause: the Macedonians did not feel hostile to Pyrrhus for the harm he had done them, but rather admired him because his victories owed so much to his personal prowess. The action earned him a great and glorious reputation among them, and many declared that Pyrrhus was the only king in whom they could see an image of the great Alexander’s courage; the others, and especially Demetrius, onlyimitated Alexander in the pomp and outward show of majesty, like actors on a stage.91

It is true that there was something intensely theatrical about Demetrius. He possessed an elaborate wardrobe of hats and cloaks, caps with double mitres and robes of purple interwoven with gold, while his feet were clad in shoes of the richest purple felt embroidered with gold. One of his robes had taken many months to weave on the looms: it was a superb piece of work, in which the world and the heavenly bodies were represented. It was still only half finished at the time of Demetrius’ downfall, and none of the later kings of Macedon ever presumed to wear it, although several of them had a taste for pomp and ceremony.

42. Demetrius’ ostentatious tastes offended the Macedonians, who were not accustomed to see their kings dressed in this fashion, and so did the luxury and extravagance of his way of living, but what annoyed them most of all was the difficulty of speaking to him or even coming into his presence. Sometimes he would refuse to see anybody at all, and on other occasions he would behave harshly and discourteously even to those who had been granted an audience. For example, he kept an Athenian embassy waiting for two years, even though he favoured Athens more than any other Greek city, and another time he considered himself insulted and lost his temper when a deputation arrived from Sparta which consisted of only one envoy. When Demetrius demanded, ‘What do you mean, have the Spartans sent no more than one?’ he received the neat and laconic reply, ‘Yes, sire, one ambassador to one king.’

One day, when Demetrius was riding abroad and appeared to be in a more obliging mood than usual, and more willing to converse with his subjects, a large crowd gathered to present him with written petitions, all of which he accepted and placed in the fold of his cloak. The people were delighted and followed him on his way, but when he came to the bridge over the River Axius,92 he shook out the fold and emptied all the petitions into the water. This infuriated the Macedonians, who felt that Demetrius was insulting them, rather than ruling them, and they recalled or listened to those who were old enough to remember how accessible Philip had been and how considerate in such matters. On another occasion, an old woman accosted Demetrius and kept asking him to give her an audience. Demetrius replied that he could not spare the time, whereupon the old woman screamed at him, ‘Then don’t be king!’ This rebuke stung Demetrius to the quick. He went back to his house, put off all other business and for many days gave audience to everybody who asked for it, beginning with the old woman.

For indeed there is nothing that becomes a king so much as the task of dispensing justice. Ares, the god of war, is a tyrant, as Timotheus tells us,93 but Law, in Pindar’s words, is the monarch of all things.94 Homer tells us that Zeus entrusts kings not with ‘city-takers’ or bronze-beaked ships, but with the decrees of Justice, which are to be protected and kept inviolate,95 and it is not the most warlike or unjust or murderous of kings but the most righteous to whom he gives the title of Zeus’ confidant and disciple.96Demetrius, on the other hand, took pleasure in being given a nickname which is the opposite of the one bestowed on the king of the gods, for Zeus is known as ‘the Protector’ or ‘Defender’ of cities but Demetrius as ‘the Besieger’. It is through such an attitude that naked power, if it lacks wisdom, allows evil actions to usurp the place of good, and glorious achievements to be associated with injustice, and so it happened with Demetrius.

43. When Demetrius became dangerously ill at Pella, he almost lost Macedonia, as Pyrrhus made a rapid incursion and advanced as far as Edessa. But as soon as Demetrius had recovered, he easily drove Pyrrhus out and came to terms with him, for he was anxious not to be distracted by continual petty entanglements and border warfare from his main objective, which was nothing less than to recover the whole of the empire which had been ruled by his father. And his preparations were in no way inferior to his hopes and designs. He had already mustered a force of 98,000 infantry and just under 12,000 cavalry. Besides this he had the keels laid for a fleet of 500 ships, some of which were being constructed at Piraeus, some at Corinth, some at Chalcis and some at Pella. He visited each of these places in person, giving instructions to the artificers and even taking part in the work, and there was general wonder not only at the number but at the size of the vessels that were being constructed. Until then nobody had even seen a ship of fifteen or sixteen rows of oarsmen, although it is true that at a later date Ptolemy Philopator97 built a vessel of forty rows of oarsmen, which was 420 feet long and 72 feet high to the top of her stern. She was manned by 400 sailors who did not row and 4,000 at the oars, and apart from these she could carry on her decks and gangways nearly 3,000 hoplites. But this vessel was only intended for show: she differed little from a stationary building on land, and since she was designed for exhibition rather than for use, she could only be moved with great difficulty and danger. But in the case of Demetrius’ ships, their beauty did not at all detract from their fighting qualities, nor did the magnificence of their equipment make them any less operational; on the contrary, their speed and their performance were even more remarkable than their size.

44. Nothing comparable to this great expedition against Asia had been assembled by any man since the days of Alexander, but as it was preparing to sail, the three kings, Seleucus, Ptolemy and Lysimachus, formed an alliance against Demetrius. Next, they sent a combined delegation to Pyrrhus, urging him to attack Macedonia. He should consider himself at liberty to disregard his treaty with Demetrius, in which the latter had given no guarantee of leaving him unmolested, but had claimed for himself the right to make war upon the enemy of his choice. Pyrrhus responded to their appeal, and Demetrius thus found himself drawn into a war on several fronts before his preparations were complete.98 For while Ptolemy sailed to Greece with a powerful fleet and incited various cities to revolt, Lysimachus invaded Macedonia from Thrace and Pyrrhus from Epirus, each of them plundering the country as he advanced. Demetrius left his son in command in Greece, while he hurried back to relieve Macedonia and marched against Lysimachus. On his way, news reached him that Pyrrhus had captured Beroea. The report quickly spread to the Macedonians and Demetrius could no longer control his army. The whole camp resounded with tears and lamentations, mingled with shouts of anger and execration against their commander. The men refused to stay with Demetrius and insisted on dispersing, ostensibly to return to their homes, but in reality to desert to Lysimachus. In this situation, Demetrius determined to remove himself as far from Lysimachus as he could and to march against Pyrrhus. He reckoned that Lysimachus might be popular with the Macedonians because he was a fellow-countryman and on account of his association with Alexander, while Pyrrhus was a newcomer and a foreigner whom they would be unlikely to prefer to himself. But these calculations proved quite unfounded. When he approached his adversary’s camp and pitched his own close by, the admiration which his men had felt in the past for Pyrrhus’ brilliant feats of arms quickly revived, and besides this their traditions had accustomed them to believe that the man who proved himself the best fighter was also the most kingly. Besides, the soldiers also now learnt that Pyrrhus dealt leniently with his prisoners, and since they were anxious to transfer their allegiance either to Pyrrhus or to another master, but in any event to rid themselves of Demetrius, they began to desert him. At first they came over stealthily and in small groups, but presently the climate of disorder and sedition spread through the whole camp. At last, some of the soldiers plucked up courage to go to Demetrius and told him to clear out and save himself, for the Macedonians were tired of fighting wars to pay for his extravagances. Demetrius thought this very reasonable advice compared to the hostility shown him by the others, and so he went to his tent, and just as if he were an actor rather than a real king, he put on a dark cloak in place of his royal robe and slipped away unnoticed. Most of his men at once fell to tearing down his tent, and while they were looting it and fighting over the spoils, Pyrrhus came up and, finding that he met no resistance, immediately took possession of the camp. And so the whole kingdom of Macedonia, which Demetrius had ruled securely for seven years,99 was divided between Lysimachus and Pyrrhus.

45. When Demetrius had thus completely lost his power, he took refuge in the city of Cassandreia.100 His wife Phila was quite overwhelmed by his misfortunes and could not bear to see her husband, the most unlucky of kings, reduced once more to the condition of a private citizen and an exile. Henceforth, she gave up all hope, and in her bitter resentment of a destiny which seemed to be far more consistent in adversity than in prosperity, she took poison and died. But Demetrius was still determined to save what he could from the wreck of his fortunes, and so he went to Greece and tried to rally those of his generals and supporters who were still there. In one of Sophocles’ plays, Menelaus uses this image to describe the vicissitudes of his destiny:

But my fate on the turning wheel of heaven

Forever whirls, forever changes shape,

Even as the face of the inconstant moon

That never keeps her form two nights the same;

Out of the dark she rises, young and new,

Her countenance grows fairer, fills with light,

Until, the moment of her glory past,

She turns away and shrinks to nothingness.101

This image seems even more apt to describe the fortunes of Demetrius, as they waxed and waned, and appeared at one moment at the full and at the next dejected. For at this point too, just as he seemed to be completely spent and extinguished, his power began to shine forth again and the addition of new forces made his hope gradually wax full once more. At first, he visited the various states as a private citizen and dressed without any of the insignia of royalty, and somebody who saw him in Thebes in this condition very aptly quoted these verses of Euripides: ‘Changing his godhead into mortal guise, He comes to Ismene’s waters and Dirce’s stream.’102

46. But no sooner had he stepped back on to the path of hope, as it were upon a royal highway, and had gathered around him something of the form and substance of sovereignty, than he restored to the Thebans their constitution.103 The Athenians, on the other hand, revolted from him.104 They had the name of Diphilus erased from the public registers. It was he who as the priest of the saviour-gods had been granted the privilege of giving his name to the current year; it was now decreed, instead, that archons should be elected for this purpose according to the traditional Athenian custom. But when the Athenians saw that Demetrius was becoming more powerful than they had expected, they sent for Pyrrhus to come down from Macedonia and protect them. This action angered Demetrius and he marched against Athens and laid the city under close siege. However, the people sent Crates the philosopher, a man of high reputation and authority, to plead with him, and Demetrius raised the siege,105 partly because he was persuaded by the ambassador’s appeal and partly because Crates was able to suggest to him courses that were to his own advantage. He therefore assembled all the ships he possessed,106 embarked 11,000 soldiers and all his cavalry and sailed for Asia107 with the object of winning over the provinces of Caria and Lydia from Lysimachus.

At Miletus, he was met by Eurydice, a sister of Phila, who brought with her Ptolemaïs, one of her daughters by Ptolemy. The girl had been betrothed to Demetrius several years before108 through the mediation of Seleucus. Demetrius now married her, and Eurydice gave the bride away. Immediately after the wedding, Demetrius set himself to win over the cities of Ionia. Many joined him of their own accord, while others were compelled to submit. He also captured Sardis and several of Lysimachus’ officers deserted to him, bringing with them both money and troops. But when Lysimachus’ son Agathocles took the field against him with a strong force, Demetrius withdrew into Phrygia. His plan was to make his way to Armenia, stir up a revolt in Media and from there gain control of the provinces of the interior, where a commander who was on the run could always find places of refuge and lines of retreat. Agathocles pursued him and although Demetrius came off the better in their skirmishes, his troops were reduced to desperate straits because he was cut off from his supplies of provisions and forage, and worse still, his soldiers began to suspect his intention of leading them into Armenia and Media. And not only was famine getting worse, but when they attempted to cross the River Lycus, a serious mistake resulted in many of his men being swept away by the current and drowned. In spite of this, the men did not cease to joke, and one of them wrote in front of Demetrius’ tent the opening lines of Sophocles’ Oedipus at Colonus, which he altered a little so that they read

Child of the blind old man Antigonus,

What is this region where we find ourselves?109

47. But at last the army began to be attacked by disease as well as by hunger, as so often happens when men are forced to subsist on whatever food they can find, and after Demetrius had lost no fewer than 8,000 men he turned back with the remainder and descended from the interior to Tarsus. Here he would gladly have refrained from living on the country, which belonged to Seleucus, and so avoided giving the king any excuse to attack him, but this was impossible since his troops had by then been reduced to great privations, and Agathocles had fortified the passes of the Taurus mountains against him. So he wrote a long letter to Seleucus, in which he gave a pathetic account of his misfortunes and implored him as a kinsman by marriage to take pity on one who had suffered enough to deserve compassion even from his enemies.

Seleucus was to some extent touched by this appeal and wrote to his generals in that province that they should supply Demetrius on the scale that was due to a king and make generous provision for his army. But then Patrocles, a man whose judgement was greatly valued and who was a trusted friend of Seleucus, came to him and pointed out that although the expense of maintaining Demetrius and his troops was small enough, it would be a great mistake to allow him to remain in the country. Demetrius, he reminded Seleucus, had always been the most violent of the kings and the one most addicted to ambitious and daring enterprises, and his fortunes had now sunk to a point at which even the most moderate of men might be tempted to embark on some desperate and unlawful course of action. Seleucus was put on his guard by this advice and marched into Cilicia at the head of a large army, and Demetrius, surprised and alarmed at the sudden change in the king’s attitude, retreated into the fastnesses of the Taurus range. He sent messengers to Seleucus and asked to be allowed to carve out a realm for himself among the independent barbarian tribes, where he could live out the rest of his days without further wandering and flight; if this could not be allowed him, he begged the king to supply his troops with food for the winter where they were and not to drive him out of the country in such an exposed and helpless condition that he would be completely at the mercy of his enemies.

48. Seleucus treated all these proposals with suspicion. He told Demetrius that he would be allowed, if he wished, to spend two months of the winter in Cataonia,110 on condition that his principal officers should be handed over as hostages; at the same time he gave orders to fortify against him the passes leading into Syria. Then Demetrius, feeling himself trapped like a wild beast and surrounded on all sides, was driven to use force. He overran the country, and each time Seleucus attacked him, he gained the upper hand. Once, in particular, when Seleucus’ scythe-carrying chariots bore down on him, he avoided the charge and put the enemy to flight, and he also succeeded in dislodging the garrison from one of the passes and gaining control of the road into Syria. These successes greatly raised his spirits, and when he saw that his soldiers had recovered their courage, he prepared to engage Seleucus and put the issue to the supreme test. For his part, Seleucus was at a loss as to what to do. He had refused an offer of help from Lysimachus, because he both distrusted and feared him; on the other hand, he shrank from engaging Demetrius, partly because his opponent now seemed to be buoyed up by the courage of despair, and partly because he dreaded those sudden vicissitudes of fortune which in the past had so often swung Demetrius from the depths of failure to the heights of success.

But at this moment, Demetrius fell victim to a dangerous sickness which not only undermined his physical strength but completely ruined his cause, for its consequence was that some of his soldiers immediately deserted to the enemy, while others scattered. After forty days he recovered his strength with difficulty and, taking with him the remnant of his army, he set out – as far as his enemies could see or guess – for Cilicia. But during the night and without sounding his trumpets, Demetrius set out in the opposite direction, crossed the pass of Amanus and ravaged the plains below as far as Cyrrhestica.111

49. When Seleucus appeared on the scene and encamped close by, Demetrius got his men on the march at night and advanced against him. For a long while, Seleucus had no warning of his approach and his troops were asleep. But then some deserters arrived and warned him of the danger, and at this he started up in alarm and ordered his trumpets to be sounded, while at the same time he pulled on his boots and shouted to his companions that a terrible wild beast was about to attack them. Demetrius at once understood from the noise in the enemy’s camp that they had been forewarned of his attack and pulled back his troops as quickly as he could. When daylight came, he found that Seleucus was pressing him hard, and so he sent one of his officers to the other wing, while he drove back the one that faced him. But then Seleucus dismounted, took off his helmet and carrying only a light shield went up to hail Demetrius’ mercenaries; he showed them who he was and appealed to them to come over to him, since they must have known for a long while that it was for their sake, not Demetrius’, that he had refrained from attacking them. At this they all greeted him, acclaimed him as their king and went over to his side.

Demetrius, who had experienced so many shifts of good and bad fortune in his career, understood that this reverse was final. He turned his back on the field and fled to the passes of Amanus, where he took refuge with a small company of friends and attendants and waited for nightfall. His plan was to reach the road to Caunus112 if possible, and from there make his way to the sea, where he hoped to find his fleet. But when he discovered that his party did not have enough food even for the next day, he cast around for other plans. At that point, one of his comrades named Sosigenes came up, who had 400 gold pieces in his belt. With this money they hoped to get through to the sea, and under cover of darkness they started in the direction of the passes. But when they found the enemy’s watch-fires blazing all along the heights, they despaired of breaking through that way and returned to their hiding-place in the forest. By then they were fewer in number, for some had already deserted, and much of the spirit had gone out of them. One of them then ventured to suggest that Demetrius should surrender himself to Seleucus. At this, Demetrius unsheathed his sword and would have killed himself, but his friends surrounded him, did their best to comfort him and finally persuaded him to do as the man had proposed. So he sent a messenger to Seleucus and put himself into his hands.113

50. When Seleucus heard of this, he declared that it was his own good fortune, and not his opponent’s, which had saved Demetrius’ life, since in addition to its other blessings it was affording him the opportunity to show humanity and kindness. He sent for the officers of his household and ordered them to pitch a royal tent and to make all other arrangements to receive and entertain Demetrius in magnificent style. There was also at Seleucus’ court a man named Apollonides, who had been a close friend of Demetrius, and Seleucus at once sent him to help put Demetrius at his ease and reassure him that he was coming into the presence of a man who was a friend and a relative. When Seleucus’ intentions became clear, first of all a few of Demetrius’ followers and then the great majority hurried to rejoin him, vying with one another in their efforts to reach him first, for they now expected that he would become a man of great influence at Seleucus’ court.

But these actions soon transformed Seleucus’ compassion into jealousy and gave the more skilful of the courtiers and those who were ill-disposed to Demetrius the opportunity to thwart and defeat the king’s generosity. They alarmed him by suggesting that the first moment Demetrius was seen in Seleucus’ camp, all the troops would go over to him. By this time, Apollonides had already arrived in high spirits and others of Demetrius’ followers were joining him with wonderful tales of Seleucus’ kindness. And Demetrius himself, after all his reverses and misfortunes, even if he had at first regarded his surrender as a disgrace, had changed his mind as a result of recovering his spirits and beginning to feel some hope for the future. But then, suddenly, Pausanias appeared at the head of a detachment of a thousand soldiers and horsemen. He immediately surrounded Demetrius, sent away all his followers and escorted him not into the presence of Seleucus but away to the Syrian Chersonese.114 Here, for the rest of his life Demetrius was placed under a strong guard, but was granted attendance suitable to his rank: generous funds and provisions were supplied from day to day, and he was allowed to walk or ride in the royal estates and hunt game in the parks. He was free to enjoy the company of any of his comrades in exile who wished to join him, and a number of people contrived to visit him from Seleucus’ court; they brought encouraging messages, urged him to keep up his spirits and hinted that as soon as Antiochus arrived with Demetrius’ daughter Stratonice,115he would be set free.

51. But Demetrius, once he found himself in this situation, sent word to his son and his commanders in Athens and Corinth that henceforth they should pay no attention to any letters written in his name or under his seal, but should regard him as a dead man and hold in trust his cities and the rest of his possessions for his son Antigonus. When Antigonus learnt of his father’s capture, he was deeply grieved and put on mourning. He wrote to the other kings, and in particular to Seleucus, entreating him, offering to give up all that was left of his own and Demetrius’ possessions, and above all proposing himself as a hostage for his father. Many cities and their rulers supported this appeal, with the exception of Lysimachus, who even approached Seleucus with the offer of a large sum of money if he would put Demetrius to death. Seleucus had always felt a sense of revulsion against Lysimachus, and after this proposal regarded him as even more foul and barbaric. But he continued to delay things and to keep Demetrius under guard for Antiochus and Stratonice, so that the favour of his release might come from their intercession.

52. Demetrius at the start endured the misfortune that had befallen him, and gradually became accustomed to it and learnt to put up with it more easily. At first, he exercised his body as well as he could and made use of his privileges of riding or hunting, but then little by little he became indifferent and, at last, positively averse to such pastimes. Instead, he took to drinking and playing dice and spent most of his leisure in this way. This may have been because he wished to escape from any thought of his condition, the consciousness of which so haunted him when he was sober that he tried to drown such reflections in liquor. Or perhaps he had come to the conclusion that this was the kind of life he had really desired all along, but had missed through folly and the pursuit of empty ambition. In this way, he had brought many troubles both on himself and on others, by using weapons and fleets and armies to chase after the happiness he had now unexpectedly discovered in idleness, leisure and relaxation. And in fact, for all these wretched kings, after all the risks they run and the wars they fight, what other goal is there than this? Truly these men are both wicked and stupid, not merely because they strive after luxury and pleasure rather than virtue and honour, but because they do not even know how to enjoy the real thing116 in either case.

After he had lived for three years in confinement in the Syrian Chersonese, Demetrius fell sick through inactivity and over-indulgence in food and wine and died in his fifty-fifth year.117 Seleucus was generally blamed, and he bitterly reproached himself for having harboured such suspicions against Demetrius and for having fallen so far below the standards even of Dromichaetes, a barbarous Thracian, who, when Lysimachus was his prisoner, had treated him in a manner that was far more humane and worthy of a king.

53. There was, however, something dramatic and theatrical even in the funeral ceremonies which were arranged in Demetrius’ honour. When Antigonus learnt that his father’s remains were being brought to him, he put to sea with his whole fleet and met Seleucus’ ships at the islands. The relics were presented to him in a golden urn and he placed them in the largest of his admiral’s galleys. Then at the various cities where the fleet touched land during its passage, some brought garlands to adorn the urn, others sent representatives dressed in mourning to escort it home and bury it. When the fleet put in at Corinth, the urn was placed in full view on the stern of the flagship, covered with royal purple, crowned with a king’s diadem and surrounded by an armed bodyguard of young men. Close to it was seated Xenophantus, the most celebrated flute-player of the time, who played a sacred hymn; the rowers kept time with the music and the rhythmical splashing of their oars matched the cadences of the flute and sounded like a mourner’s beating of the breast. But it was the sight of Antigonus, his head bowed with grief and his eyes filled with tears, which excited most pity among the crowds who flocked to the sea-shore. After the remains had been crowned with garlands and other honours had been paid at Corinth, Antigonus brought them to Demetrias118 to be buried. This was the town named after his father, who had settled in it the inhabitants from a number of villages round Iolcus.

Demetrius left the following descendants. Antigonus and Stratonice were his children by Phila. There were two sons named Demetrius, one known as ‘the Thin’, by a woman of Illyria, the other, who became the ruler of Cyrene, by Ptolemaïs. Alexander, who lived out his life in Egypt, was his son by Deidameia. Demetrius is also said to have had a son by Eurydice, named Corrhagus. His descendants continued to rule over Macedonia in succession, down to Perseus, the last, in whose reign the Romans subdued Macedonia.119

Now that the Macedonian drama has been performed, it is time to bring the Roman on to the stage too.120

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