, 360 - 320
Commander in the army of the Macedonian king Alexander the Great, after his death regent of his mentally unfit successor, Philip Arridaeus. He was the first of the Diadochi ('successors').
Perdiccas was born as the son of a Macedonian nobleman named Orestes, in Orestis (the mountainous 'lake district' between modern Greece and Albania). His year of birth is unknown, but he seems to have been of about the same age as Alexander.
In his accession year (335), Alexander attacked a group of rebels in Illyricum (modern Albania). He used the phalanx battalions of Coenus and Perdiccas for a nightly attack on the Illyrian camp. This is Perdiccas' first-known military action, although he must have seen battle before, during the reign of Philip.
A rumor that Alexander had died during the Illyrian campaign caused a rebellion in Greece, where the Thebans killed a Macedonian garrison. Almost immediately, Alexander went to the south. After a short siege, Thebes was stormed by the phalanx battalion of Perdiccas. In his history of Alexander's reign, Ptolemy wrote that this assault had not been planned, but was due to lack of discipline: Perdiccas' men broke the official line of command. This may be true -Perdiccas was not an experienced commander- but it may also be an invective. After all, Ptolemy and Perdiccas were enemies in 320.
However this may be, the result of Perdiccas' attack was clear: the city was taken. Perdiccas himself was severely wounded. Thebes was razed to the ground, except for its temples and the house that had once belonged to the poet Pindar, who had once written an ode on an earlier Macedonian king named Alexander and had introduced to Greece the favorite god of Alexander, Zeus Ammon.
In May 334, Alexander launched his long-planned campaign against Persia. In June, he defeated the local levies of the Persian satraps of Asia Minor on the banks of the Granicus. During this battle, Perdiccas commanded his battalion of heavy phalanx infantry again.
During the summer, the Macedonians liberated the towns of the Ionian Greeks in western Asia. The largest was Miletus, but the most important city to capture was Halicarnassus. This was the Persian naval base, defended by the greatest army commander of that age, Memnon of Rhodes, a mercenary general who had sided with the Persians. Alexander took half of his phalanx with him, including Perdiccas' battalion, which suffered a big defeat when it tried to attack the walls. (The historian Arrian, who uses Ptolemy as his source, writes that Perdiccas' soldiers were drunk; again, this may be an attempt to discredit Perdiccas.) Although in the end, Alexander was able to take the city, the Persian navy could sail away without having suffered great losses; unhindered, its commander Pharnabazus could continue a full-scale offensive in the Aegean Sea.
In the summer of 333, Alexander prepared for the march to the east, where he hoped to find and defeat the Persian army, settling the war in a big battle. He was not disappointed. In November, his army defeated the army of king Darius III Codomannus near Issus. Like all phalanx commanders, Perdiccas was there.
By now, he was important enough to take charge of an independent command. When Alexander had to leave the siege of the city Tyre, which had refused to surrender after the battle of Issus, Perdiccas was left in charge of the war.
It is not known whether Perdiccas was present during Alexander's Egyptian campaign. Phalanx units are not mentioned in the narrative of our best source, Arrian of Nicomedia. However, they played an important role during the battle of Gaugamela (October 1, 331). Again, Perdiccas is mentioned as commander of one of the phalanx battalions. Like Hephaestion, Alexander's closest friend, and Coenus, he was almost mortally wounded.
After this battle, Alexander could easily subdue Babylonia and invade the heartland of Persia. However, he first had to take the mountain pass that was known as the Persian gates (December 331). According to Arrian, Alexander used Perdiccas' battalion to make the encircling maneuver that secured the pass (Quintus Curtius Rufus says that he used Coenus' battalion).
After this fight, Perdiccas disappears from our sources for almost two years. This is not surprising. The phalanx played no role during the pursuit of the Persian king Darius III, and after this, there was no real fighting action. Alexander's army moved through Aria, Drangiana, and Arachosia, crossed the Hindu Kush and marched through Bactria and Sogdiana to the river Jaxartes, the modern Syrdar'ya. Here, seven towns had to be captured, and Perdiccas is mentioned during one of the sieges.
Perdiccas and his future enemy Ptolemy are mentioned several times as two of Alexander's seven bodyguards. This title is a bit misleading; in fact, these people are better called adjutants. However, sometimes, they were indeed bodyguards. They are known in this capacity from a tragic incident that took place during a dinner party in Sogdiana.
Many courtiers were flattering Alexander. Some called him the son of Zeus Ammon and belittled Alexander's human father Philip, others made jokes about commanders who had been defeated and killed by the native leader Spitamenes. This was more than Clitus, a cavalry commander who had served under Philip and knew the dead commanders, could stomach. He started to praise Philip. Alexander felt offended, and in a drunken rage, he pushed aside Ptolemy and Perdiccas and run a lance through Clitus, who died on the spot.
In 326, Alexander invaded Gandara, the west of the Punjab. Perdiccas and Hephaestion were to bring the main force through the Khyber pass to the Indus, where they had to build ships and make a bridge. (Alexander himself attacked the city states in the Swat valley and the rock Aornus.)
During the Indian campaign, we encounter Perdiccas as cavalry commander. For example, he commanded a squadron during the battle on the banks of the river Hydaspes (modern Jhelum) and during the siege of Sangala (near Amritsar). In this aspect, his career was similar to that of Coenus.
Alexander continued to the east, but when he had arrived at the river Hyphasis (Beas), his men refused to go any further, and Alexander decided to march to the south, to the Indian Ocean, from where he wanted to sail back to Babylonia. During their homeward bound campaign, the Macedonians had to subdue the Mallians and the Oxydracans, two Indian nations that offered resistance. Perdiccas, now in command of his own squadron and that of Coenus (who had died), commanded one of the armies. Arrian tells that there was a tradition -he does not say whether he believes it or not- that Perdiccas was the only one who dared to help Alexander when he was wounded during the siege of the town of the Mallians (probably modern Multan).
As it turned out, Alexander decided not to ship all his troops across the sea to Babylonia, but divided his army in three parts. Craterus commanded a large army (and the elephants) across the Bolan Pass through Arachosia, Drangiana and Carmania, Nearchus commanded the navy along the shores of the Indian Ocean and Persian Gulf, and Alexander led his men through the Gedrosian desert and Carmania. Perdiccas and his squadron may have belonged to any of these three divisions. In any case, it is clear that at this stage Perdiccas, trusted as he was, was inferior in rank to Craterus and Nearchus.
When Alexander's armies united in Susa, the capital of Elam (March 324), he ordered his officers to marry Persian ladies (click here for the story). Perdiccas took as his bride a daughter of Atropates, the satrap of Media. The only ones to marry princesses from the ancient Persian royal house, the Achaemenids, were Alexander, Hephaestion and Craterus. Again, this illustrates the court hierarchy: first the king, then Hephaestion and Craterus, and after that, people like Nearchus and Perdiccas.
However, he was soon to rise. In August, Craterus was sent away on a very important mission: he was to bring back 11,500 veterans to Europe, where he would become the supreme commander of the Macedonians forces. Two months later, Hephaestion unexpectedly died. This meant that Perdiccas suddenly found himself as the highest ranking officer at Alexander's court. He was appointed in Hephaestion's functions: commander of the Companion cavalry and chiliarch (vizier).
In the afternoon of June 11, 323, Alexander died in Babylon. He had been ill for several days and had given his ring to Perdiccas, saying that he gave his empire kratistoi. This means 'to the strongest', but may also mean 'to Craterus'. The interpretation of Alexander's last will was to be the biggest problem of the next years. In fact, it was never solved.
Alexander's generals discussed the situation. Perdiccas proposed to wait until Alexander's first wife, Roxane, who was pregnant, had given birth. If it were a son, it would be logical to chose him as the new king. Everybody could see through this: if this proposal was accepted, Perdiccas would be in sole command until the boy had grown up. Nonetheless, he received support of the commanders of the cavalry.
The commander of the phalanx, Meleager, was the most important dissenting voice. He pointed out that Alexander had a brother, Arridaeus, who was the first in line of succession. The infantry agreed to this proposal, although they knew that Arridaeus was technically a bastard and was mentally incapable to rule.
The situation was tense as it seemed that Meleager's soldiers wanted to fight for Arridaeus against Perdiccas and his adherents. That would mean a war between the cavalry and the infantry. Although violence was used and Perdiccas ordered Meleager to be killed, the cooler heads on both sides improvised a compromise. Perdiccas was to be regent for king Arridaeus and Roxane's son (if the baby were a son, of course). Seeing that this was the only way to prevent civil war, everybody agreed. Arridaeus became king under the name of Philip, Roxane's baby turned out to be a son (Alexander), Alexander's second wife Statira was murdered, and Perdiccas could start his regency. One of his first acts was to appoint reliable generals as satraps.
Another act was the cancellation of Alexander's last plans. Perdiccas still had to establish a power base and wanted to stay in the center of the empire. The naval expedition against Maka and the incense country Arabia that Alexander had planned would bring him to the periphery of the empire. Besides, in this new war, the infantry was to play an important role, and he did not trust these men. With Alexander's secretary Eumenes, he published the 'last plans of Alexander'. It has been assumed that they added several outrageous plans that were only meant to make sure that they were rejected.
To Perdiccas, it was important to connect the two centers of his empire, Macedonia and Babylonia. Therefore, it was necessary to conquer Cappadocia (central Turkey). Alexander had merely passed through this country, and the last Persian satrap, a man named Ariarathes, had created a kingdom of his own. The Macedonian satrap of Greater Phrygia, Antigonus Monophtalmus ('one eye'), had grown accustomed to defending the road between Macedonia and the east against Ariarathes' attacks. However, when Perdiccas successfully invaded Cappadocia, Antigonus did not appear. It is not clear why. What is certain, however, is that when Perdiccas asked him to appear for a military court, Antigonus fled to Antipater's court in Macedonia. Eumenes was made satrap in Antigonus' place.
At this time, Perdiccas was engaged to Nicaea, the daughter of Antipater, who had been the supreme commander of the Macedonian forces in Europe; Alexander had sent Craterus to replace him, and they had joined forces to suppress the Greek rebellion known as the Lamian war. In the last months of 322, Perdiccas broke off the engagement with Nicaea, because Alexander's mother offered him Cleopatra, a full sister of Alexander. This marriage would make Perdiccas a member of the Macedonian royal house. Since Philip Arridaeus was an illegitimate son, and the baby of Alexander and Roxane was a half-breed, Perdiccas could claim more than the regency: the crown.
Antipater had excellent personal reasons to feel insulted. Craterus, who had been the most important general when Alexander was still alive, had been ignored when Perdiccas seized power in Macedonia. Antigonus Monophtalmus had reason to fear Perdiccas. So, the three agreed to revolt against the regent.
Ptolemy, the satrap of Egypt, was the first to act and provoked the conflict. In December 322, Perdiccas sent the remains of Alexander to the tomb that had been prepared in Macedonia's religious capital, Aegae. When it arrived in Damascus, Ptolemy convinced the leader of the convoy that Alexander had wanted to be buried in the temple of his heavenly father Zeus Ammon. Accordingly, the corpse was brought to Egypt, where it was to find its final resting place in Alexandria. This was a provocation that Perdiccas could not ignore. He was forced to organize a punitive action.
Perdiccas saw that a formidable coalition was being organized. He decided to invade Egypt, and ordered Eumenes to defend Asia against the armies of Antipater and Craterus. The satrap of Greater Phrygia had no experience as a military commander and had to face Craterus, the most experienced of all Macedonian generals. But Perdiccas knew that Eumenes was the only one he could trust. Against everybody's advise, Eumenes accepted battle (probably somewhere near the Hellespont), and defeated his opponent. Craterus died fighting; what was left of his army managed to leave the battle field and joined Antipater.
Meanwhile, Perdiccas and king Philip Arridaeus were on their way to Egypt. In May 320 they reached Ptolemy's realm. Unopposed, Perdiccas crossed through the Sinai desert and reached the Nile near Pelusium. However, Ptolemy prevented Perdiccas from crossing the river. The invader moved to the apex of the Delta, and retried the river crossing in the neighborhood of Heliopolis. However, his men were carried away by the Nile. To all those present, it was obvious that Perdiccas could never invade Egypt, and his soldiers -already resenting his harsh discipline- revolted. Perdiccas sought the advice of his colonels Peithon, Antigenes, and Seleucus. They, however, decided to kill their commander, to put an end to the civil war.
Perdiccas' career had been dazzling. He had started as battalion commander and, due to his capacities as a general and his friendship with Alexander, had risen to the function of vizier. After the king's death, he had tried to become sole ruler, and he came very, very close to this. He was regent of a mentally unfit and a very young king, which made him virtually sole ruler. His successes in Cappadocia would have made him acceptable to many people: he was a worthy successor of the great Alexander.
His mistake was that he wanted the throne too fast. He insulted Craterus and Antipater, so that he felt himself isolated when he was challenged by Ptolemy.
Jona Lendering, ed.
This text is cited July 2003 from the Livius Ancient History Website URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks.
Perdiccas, Perdikkas. Son of Orontes, a Macedonian of the province of Orestis, was one of the most distinguished of the generals of Alexander the Great. He accompanied Alexander throughout his campaign in Asia; and the king, on his death-bed, is said to have taken the royal signet ring from his finger and given it to Perdiccas. After the death of the king (B.C. 323), Perdiccas had the chief authority intrusted to him under the command of the new king Arrhidaeus, who was a mere puppet in his hands, and he still further strengthened his power by the assassination of his rival Meleager. The other generals of Alexander regarded him with fear and suspicion; and at length his ambitious schemes induced Antipater, Craterus, and Ptolemy to unite in a league and declare open war against Perdiccas. Thus assailed on all sides, Perdiccas determined to leave Eumenes in Asia Minor, to make head against their common enemies in that quarter, while he himself marched into Egypt against Ptolemy. He advanced without opposition as far as Pelusium, but found the banks of the Nile strongly fortified and guarded by Ptolemy, and was repulsed in repeated attempts to force the passage of the river; in the last of which, near Memphis, he lost great numbers of men. Thereupon his troops, who had long been discontented with Perdiccas, rose in mutiny and put him to death in his own tent.
This text is from: Harry Thurston Peck, Harpers Dictionary of Classical Antiquities. Cited July 2003 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks
Perdiccas : Perseus Encyclopedia
Amphoterus (Amphoteros), the brother of Craterus, was appointed by Alexander the Great commander of the fleet in the Hellespont, B. C. 333. Amphoterus subdued the islands between Greece and Asia which did not acknowledge Alexander, cleared Crete of the Persians and pirates, and sailed to Peloponnesus B. C. 331, to put down a rising against the Macedonian power. (Arrian, i. 25, iii. 6; Curt. iii. 1, iv. 5, 8.)
Craterus (d.320): Macedonian army commander, one of the leading generals of
Alexander the Great.
Craterus was born as the son of a Macedonian nobleman named Alexander, in Orestis (the mountainous 'lake district' between modern Greece and Albania). His career started as commander of one of the phalanx brigades. In this capacity, he was present during the battle near the river Granicus (June 334), where Alexander and Parmenion defeated the Persian satraps of Asia Minor.
He must have been a capable commander (or knew how to deal with his king), because in November 333, during the battle near Issus, he commanded not only his own brigade, but the complete phalanx and all infantry on the left wing. This meant that only Parmenion, the commander of the left wing as a whole, was between him and Alexander.
During the naval attack on Tyre, he commanded the ships on the left wing. Probably, this was because Parmenion was away; there are no indications that Craterus had surpassed his former superior, because during the battle of Gaugamela (October 1, 331), Craterus was again Parmenion's inferior. During this battle, he was, again, commander of a phalanx battalion, of the phalanx and all infantry on the left wing.
In the last weeks of 331, Craterus is mentioned in two fights during the invasion of Persia proper (against the Uxians and near the Persian Gates). In both cases, he and Alexander are the supreme commanders. The same happened during the pursuit of the Persian king Darius III: Alexander commanded the vanguard, Craterus the main body of the army (early July 330). During the war in Hyrcania, he was sent on a mission against the Tapurians -his first independent command- and when the Macedonian army had reached Aria, he commanded the rearguard during the campaign against the rebel satrap Satibarzanes.
A famous anecdote tells that Craterus loved Alexander as a king (philobasileus) but that Alexander's lover Hephaestion loved him because he was Alexander (philalexandros). This suggests that there was some rivalry -perhaps even hostility- among the Macedonian commanders. At this stage of Alexander's war in the Achaemenid empire, Craterus' most important rival was the commander of the Companion cavalry, Philotas, the son of Parmenion. When Philotas failed to report a conspiracy he had discovered, Craterus was one of those who accused him. The general feeling among the judges was that Philotas was guilty and ought to be stoned to death, but Craterus, Hephaestion and Coenus believed that Philotas was part of a larger conspiracy, and should first be tortured. As was to be expected, Philotas told many things, but the truth could not be established. In the end, he was executed, and so was his father Parmenion, who was certainly innocent but could no longer be relied upon. It should be pointed out that Craterus' role in the Philotas affair is not mentioned by our best source, Arrian of Nicomedia; we know about it from Quintus Curtius Rufus, who is less reliable - but this does not mean that he is a liar.
In July 329, the Macedonian army marched through Sogdiana and reached the river Jaxartes, the modern Syrdar'ya. Seven towns had to be captured, and Craterus took the largest one of these, Cyreschata, which had been founded two centuries before by the founder of the Achaemenid empire, Cyrus the Great. Craterus also fought against the Massagetes, a tribe of nomads that usually lived north of the Jaxartes in modern Kirgizistan, but had probably moved to the south. During this campaign, he commanded a cavalry unit. In 328, he oversaw the construction of military settlements in Margiana, which secured the northern border of Alexander's empire. A similar action took place in the east of Sogdiana, where Craterus defeated the Pareitecanians (Persian Paritakanu, 'mountain people').
In 326, Alexander invaded Gandara, the west of the Punjab. Craterus played a role during the campaign in the Swat valley, where he fortified several towns - a job he had already had at hand in Margiana. At this moment, he was Alexander's most important and reliable commander. And yet, we see him falling away from his favor.
A first sign may have been his task during the battle on the Hydaspes river (Jhelum). Craterus commanded the rearguard, that stayed on the northern bank; Alexander and Coenus did the real fighting, and Craterus' men only crossed the battle during the final stages of the battle. But perhaps, this is no sign of disfavor: after all, Alexander had taken with him only a small army, and the fact that he took Craterus with him may suggest that the latter was still in the king's favor.
But after the battle, Craterus was sent on very honorable missions that kept him far from court. He was ordered to built the cities Nicaea and Bucephala on the site of the battlefield; and during Alexander's campaign to the east, Craterus was to look for supplies. He was not present when the Macedonian army revolted on the banks of the Hyphasis (Beas), and we hear from him again during the march downstream along the rivers Hydaspes, Acesines and Indus. During that campaign, he commanded one of the two armies: it was marching on the west bank. The other army was commanded by Craterus' rival Hephaestion and was campaigning on the east bank. Alexander was on the ships between the two armies.
In June 325, Alexander ordered Craterus' army to go back to the west. (His own army was to reach the Indian Ocean and return partly by ship, partly through the Gedrosian desert.) It was a very important task: it was the first time since the death of Parmenion that Alexander entrusted a general with responsibilities like these. And yet, it also meant that Craterus was far away from court.
Craterus, his army and the elephants crossed the Bolan pass, and passed through Arachosia and Drangiana, and arrived in Carmania, where his army met that of Alexander. During his march, Craterus arrested Ordanes, an otherwise unknown rebel.
Alexander's army arrived in Susa in March 323. There were large festivities to celebrate the return from the far east, and Alexander invited his officers to marry Persian princesses. Craterus was married to Amestris, the daughter of Oxyartes, the brother of Darius. Again, this was a very honorable thing: Alexander, Hephaestion and Craterus were the only ones to marry a princess from the Achaemenid family, the royal dynasty of ancient Persia.
But again, he was sent away. This time, he and an officer named Polyperchon were to lead 11,500 veteran soldiers back to Macedonia, where Craterus should, from then on, be the supreme commander of the Macedonian forces in Europe. (A function that had been occupied by Antipater until then.) When the veterans were in Cilicia, they were to build a large navy that Alexander could use to attack Carthage. Craterus had arrived in Cilicia and was building the fleet, when he heard that in Babylon, Alexander had unexpectedly died (June 11, 323). Almost immediately, the Greeks revolted (the so-called Lamian war). In Babylonia, Alexander's generals were discussing the future, but Craterus was not there, and even though it was agreed that he would be one of the two regents of the new king, Alexander's mentally deficient brother Philip Arridaeus, it was easy for his colleague Perdiccas to seize the sole rule. This was the beginning of the era of the Diadochi, the 'successors'.
Craterus may have been angry about the fact that he had been ignored, but it does not show from his acts. (At least not now.) When Antipater requested his help in the Lamian war, he sailed with his Cilician navy to Greece and helped suppressing the revolt (322).
In the last months of 322, Antipater rose in rebellion against Perdiccas, and he was joined by Craterus (who may have resented the fact that he had been ignored), Antigonus (the satrap of Phrygia, who had been expelled from his satrapy by Perdiccas), and Ptolemy (the satrap of Egypt). The men cemented their alliance by marriage: Craterus married Phila, a daughter of Antipater. This was a serious civil war, but is could not be prevented: Perdiccas had become too powerful.
Perdiccas decided to attack Ptolemy, and left the war against Antipater, Craterus and Antigonus to Eumenes, the new satrap of Phrygia. Eumenes was not an experienced soldier. He had been Alexander's secretary and nothing more. In 321 or 320, he was forced to fight a battle against Craterus, somewhere near the Hellespont. To everybody's surprise, he was not defeated: it was Craterus who was killed. Craterus and Phila had one son, Craterus (321-250). This second Craterus ordered the statue of his father and Alexander in a lion hunt that was made by the famous sculptor Lysippus, to be placed in Delphi. The statue is known from a mosaic that was found in the capital of Macedonia, Pella.
Jona Lendering, ed.
This text is cited July 2003 from the Livius Ancient History Website URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks.
Craterus (Krateros), one of the most distinguished generals of Alexander the Great, was a son of Alexander of Orestis, a district in Macedonia, and a brother of Amphoterus. When Alexander the Great set out on his Asiatic expedition, Craterus commanded the pezetairoi. Subsequently we find him commanding a detachment of cavalry, as in the battle of Arbela and in the Indian campaign; but it seems that he had no permanent office, and that Alexander employed him on all occasions where a general of able and independent judgment was required. He was a man of a noble character, and although he was strongly attached to the simple manners and customs of Macedonia, and was averse to the conduct which Alexander and his followers assumed in the East, still the king loved and esteemed him, next to Hephaestion, the most among all his generals and friends. In B. C. 324 he was commissioned by Alexander to lead back the veterans to Macedonia, but as his health was not good at the time, Polysperchon was ordered to accompany and support him. It was further arranged that Antipater, who was then regent of Macedonia, should lead reinforcements to Asia, and that Craterus should succeed him in the regency of Macedonia. But Alexander died before Craterus reached Europe, and in the division of the empire which was then made, Antipater and Craterus received in common the government of Macedonia, Greece, the Illyrians, Triballians, Agrianians, and Epeirus, as far as the Ceraunian mountains. According to Dexippus (ap. Phot. Bibl.), the government of these countries was divided between them in such a manner, that Antipater had the command of the armies and Craterus the administration of the kingdom. When Craterus arrived in Europe, Antipater was involved in the Lamian war, and was in a position in which the arrival of his colleague was a matter of the utmost importance to him, and enabled him to crush the daring attempts of the Greeks to recover their independence. After the close of this war Craterus divorced his wife Amastris, who had been given him by Alexander, and married Phila, the daughter of Antipater. Soon after Craterus accompanied his father-in-law in the war against the Aetolians, and in B. C. 321 in that against Perdiccas in Asia. Craterus had the command against Eumenes, while Antipater marched through Cilicia to Egypt. Craterus fell in a battle against Eumenes, which was fought in Cappadocia, and Eumenes on being informed of his death, lamented the fate of his late brother in arms, honoured him with a magnificent funeral, and sent his ashes back to Macedonia. (Arrian, Anab., ap. Phot. Bibl.; Q. Curtius; Diod. xviii. 16, 18, xix. 59; Plut. Alex. 47, Phoc. 25; Corn. Nep. Eum. 4)
This text is from: A dictionary of Greek and Roman biography and mythology, 1873 (ed. William Smith). Cited Nov 2005 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks
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