BMCR 2013.08.24

After Alexander: The Time of the Diadochi (323-281 BC)

, , After Alexander: The Time of the Diadochi (323-281 BC). Oxford; Oakville, CT: Oxbow Books, 2013. x, 277. ISBN 9781842175125. $72.00.

[Authors and titles are listed at the end of the review.]

This volume consists of the revised proceedings of an international conference that was held on 9-11 September 2010 at the University of La Coruña, Spain, and marks the fifth in a series of such symposia covering topics that chronologically extend from Philip II and Alexander III to the Successors, the Diadochi.1 It is composed of eighteen articles, divided into four broad sections. A most welcomed addition is the Index (pp. 271-277), which is unfortunately all too often an omitted component in works of this sort.

The first section and by far the largest consists of seven chapters that deal with various aspects of source criticism. In chapter one Boiy presents a historiographical overview of Babylonian works that furnish chronological information. He surveys lexical sciences, chronicles, ‘prophecy’ texts, historical notes that appear at the end of Astronomical Diaries, legal and administrative documents, and colophons of literary tablets. The use of cuneiform sources thus supplements our understanding of the chronology of the Diadochi by filling in the lacunae in the narrative source tradition. In his examination Wheatley calls into question many of the conclusions reached by Georg Bauer in 1914, the only such treatment made specifically on the Heidelberg Epitome. He provides a copy of the text with translation. His discussion focuses on the work’s authorship – he considers Hieronymus of Cardia the original author – and the historiographic tradition, which he primarily attributes to unknown Byzantine epitomators.

Gattinoni analyzes the source tradition that Diodorus used in his Historical Library to explain the rise to power of Seleucus I Nicator at the expense of Antigonus Monophthalmus. He concludes that Diodorus’ information came by way of an intermediary source, Duris of Samos, whose own work was based on a lost treatise by the pro- Seleucid author, Demodamas of Miletus. Pownall discerns Duris’ political views of the Diadochi in the surviving thirty-six fragments of his Macedonian history. She concludes that Duris condemned all the Macedonian rulers, including Philip and Alexander, as well as their flatterers on moral grounds, while regarding favorably two Greeks – Eumenes of Cardia and the Athenian politician Phocion. Howe takes up the problem surrounding Alexander’s divinity by focusing on his visit to the sanctuary of Zeus Ammon at Siwah from the perspective that the tradition which has reached us is the invention of the Diadochi. Howe asserts that the Diadochi needed to promote Alexander’s status in order to receive recognition for their claims of divinity to legitimize their kingship. He adds that of all the accounts relating to the visit at Siwah, Callisthenes’ narrative comes closest to representing how Alexander himself wanted to explain the event.

Using Parthian and Roman relations as a backdrop, Bosworth investigates the meeting of a group of Indian ‘Brahmins’ with the Roman emperor Augustus as presented by the geographer Strabo (64/3 BCE-c. 24CE) and another discussed by the Alexandrian historians that met with Alexander during his campaigns. Particular focus is given to two accounts involving immolation that occurred in each encounter. The events serve as the foundation upon which to ascertain Strabo’s methodology in comparison with the Alexander tradition. Mees employs Diodorus as a case study for understanding the limitations of primary sources not only in regard to what we can positively say about the Diadochi but about Antiquity generally.

The four chapters that make up the second section concentrate on the Diadochan struggle for power. Anson proposes that Eumenes of Cardia (c. 362-316 BCE)2 aligned himself closely with his cavalry prior to the Battle of Gabene against Antigonus Monophthalmus for protection from his allies in the aftermath of victory, or, if defeated, to escort him in retreat. The indecisiveness of the battle, however, had not figured in his calculations, so that he was afterwards treacherously surrendered to the enemy by the Argyraspids. Baynham offers an examination of the claims that the 3,000 strong Argyraspids (Silver Shields) – the best troops in Asia – were composed of men from the age of 60, the youngest, to those well into their 70s, who had fought under Philip II and Alexander and continued to do so under the Diadochi.

Paschilds presents a translation and commentary of Agora XVI 107, the earliest known Attic decree following the ‘liberation’ of Athens by Demetrius from Cassander’s forces. He asserts that the honors bestowed upon Demetrius by the Athenians belie the political struggle among the Diadochoi in this case in the on-going battle of words. He concludes that Plutarch’s account of when the Athenians declared Demetrius and Antigonus kings is not drawn from the events of 307 BCE. Finally, Wallace examines Adeimantus of Lampsacus in his capacity as a philos, a royal ‘friend,’ to king Demetrius Poliorcetes. Individuals who served in this capacity were often called by the pejorative, kolakes, ‘flatterers.’ In reality, philoi, like Adeimantus, were powerful men, whose personal relationship with the monarch as a royal official enabled them to act as liaisons between the Macedonian king whom they served and the Greek cities.

The third section consists of three chapters that focus on the role of the Iranians. Drawing upon a complex array of archaeological materials, numismatics, and literary sources in Aramaic and Babylonian as well as Greek and Latin, Olbrycht presents a concise overview of the Iranians as Diadochi in Iran and Central Asia through the early Seleucids. Throughout this period, the Macedonians and Greeks of the Upper Satrapies never amounted to more than a small minority. As long as they were able to reconcile their aspirations over those whom they ruled, the Diadochi remained in power. Only when their descendants failed to do so, did the desires for independence prove too great and allowed for the creation of the kingdoms of Arsacid Parthia and Greek Bactria.

Pastor argues that these regions retained their independence throughout the Diadochi period, never having been conquered by Alexander. In point of fact he finds that throughout Asia Minor there were regions which clung to their Achaemenid traditions and successfully repulsed all attempts at conquest. Ultimately, they established their own kingdoms as was the case in Bithynia, Pontus, and Cappadocia where the rulers of these countries established marriage alliances with the Macedonian kingdoms. Miller analyzes the marriages of Ptolemy and Artacama, Seleucus and Apama, and Lysimachus and Amastris to assess how Alexander’s policy of a ruling class composed of Macedonians and Persians was carried out. He begins with a discussion of Alexander’s marriage to Roxane (with parenthetical attention paid to Stateira and Parysatis) in order to determine her role as his queen and widow. He notes that the staying power of each marriage was dependent on the politics of the moment: given the Egyptian hatred of the Persians, Ptolemy could ill afford to be seen with Artacama, Seleucus (and his son Antiochus) benefited mightily from Apama’s connections with the Iranian population, while Amastris’ influence was limited to Asia Minor.

The last four chapters fall under the fourth section and concern the use of propaganda in image and slogan. Squillace finds that propaganda was the primary reason Alexander and Ptolemy I sent comparable donations to Athena Lindia on the island of Rhodes. Alexander had done so under the fulfilled prophecy of ‘Lord of Asia’ and defender of Greek freedom, while Ptolemy also employing the same notion of Greek freedom was thus able to appear as Alexander’s rightful successor. Poddighe regards Philip III’s diagramma of 319 BCE in which he decrees the Greek cities to be free as little more than a statement of power shrouded in ideology and propaganda. In so doing, the ordinance becomes a condemnation of the policies that led to a loss of Greek liberty under Alexander and Antipater and more recently by the latter’s son, Cassander, in favor of the original settlement formulated by Philip II, the father of Philip III.

Ogden examines the serpent cult of Agathos Daimon in the foundation myth of Alexandria. The city set up a civic cult for this protector deity, while individual cults, agathoi daimones, flourished in private homes. By tracing the various traditions of serpent lore associating either Alexander or Alexandria with snakes, he establishes that the cult, which first appeared at the end of the fourth century BCE, was used to legitimize the rule of Ptolemy I as the natural successor of Alexander. Troncoso explores how elephants were employed as a means of establishing a ruler’s individuality and public image. Their appropriation as emblematic symbols of authority, appearing either on media, like coins, or on display as in the imperial army, acted as reminders of Alexander’s exploits and by association those undertaken by the particular Diadochi. That they were animals from an exotic land spoke to the power and prestige of the man who had tamed them.

In all this eclectic collection makes for a fascinating read covering a subject that in many ways has for too long been overlooked and underappreciated.

Table of Contents

Victor Alonso Troncoso, “Preface” (ix-x)
Edward M. Anson, “Introduction” (pp. 1-5)
1. Tom Boiy, “The Diadochi history in cuneiform documents” (pp. 1-16)
2. Pat Wheatley, “The Heidelberg Epitome: a neglected Diadoch source” (pp. 17-29)
3. Franca Landucci Gattinoni, “Seleucus vs. Antigonus: a study on the sources” (pp. 30-42)
4. Frances Pownall, “Duris of Samos and the Diadochi” (pp. 43-56)
5. Timothy Howe, “The Diadochi, invented tradition, and Alexander’s expedition to Siwah” (pp. 57-70)
6. Brian Bosworth, “Strabo, India and the barbequed Brahmins” (pp. 71-83)
7. Alexander Meeus, “What we do not know about the age of the Diadochi: the methodological consequences of the gaps in the evidence” (pp. 84-98)
8. Edward M. Anson, “The Battle of Gabene: Eumenes’ inescapable doom?” (pp. 99- 109)
9. Elizabeth Baynham, “Alexander’s Argyraspids: tough old fighters or Antigonid myth?” (pp. 110-120)
10. Paschalis Paschilds, “Agora XVI 107 and the royal title of Demetrius Poliorcetes” (pp. 121-141)
11. Shane Wallace, “Adeimantus of Lampsacus and the development of the early Hellenistic philos ” (pp. 142-158)
12. Marek Jan Olbrycht, “Iranians in the Diadochi period” (pp. 159-182)
13. Luis Ballesteros Pastor, “Nullis umquam nisi domesticis regibus. Cappadocia, Pontus and the resistance to the Diadochi in Asia Minor” (pp. 183-198)
14. Sabine Miller, “The female element of the political self-fashioning of the Diadochi: Ptolemy, Seleucus, Lysimachus, and their Iranian wives” (pp. 199-214)
15. Giuseppe Squillace, “Alexander the Great, Ptolemy I and offerings of arms to Athena Lindia” (pp. 215-224)
16. Elisabetta Poddighe, “Propaganda strategies and political document: Philip III’s Diagramma and the Greeks in 319 BC” (pp. 225-240)
17. Daniel Ogden, “The Alexandrian foundation myth: Alexander, Ptolemy, the Agathoi Daimones and the Argolaoi ” (pp. 241-253)
18. Victor Alonso Troncoso, “The Diadochi and the zoology of kingship: the elephants” (pp. 254-270)


1. Crossroads of History: the Age of Alexander (Regina Books, 2003) BMCR 2005.03.05; Alexander’s Empire: Formulation to Decay (Regina Books, 2007) BMCR 2008.03.18; Alexander and His Successors: Essays from the Antipodes (Regina Books, 2009) BMCR 2009.10.13; Philip II and Alexander the Great: Father and Son, Lives and Afterlives (Oxford University Press, 2010) BMCR 2010.10.58.

2. Anson (p. 105) places Eumenes’ death in January 315 BCE.