Antipater (397-319)

Antipater was a senior Macedonian general under both Philip II and Alexander the Great. He outlived Alexander, and played an important role in holding his empire together until his death of natural causes in 319 BC. He was a conservative Macedonian, apparently unenthusiastic for Alexander’s adventures in Asia, but loyal to the royal family. He was also a close friend and correspondent of Aristotle.

Under Philip he performed military and diplomatic roles. In 347-6 he served as the head of Philip’s embassy to Athens, helping to negotiate a peace between Macedonia and Athens. In 346 he took part in Philip’s invasion of Thrace, where he was involved in fighting against the mountain tribes of Rhodope. In 338 he one again led an embassy to Athens, after another war between Macedonia and a group of Greek cities.

In 336 Philip II was murdered. In the confused period immediately after the event, Antipater helped to establish Alexander on the throne, presenting him to the Macedonian army, who acclaimed Alexander as king. When Alexander embarked on his great expedition into Asia, Antipater was appointed as governor of Macedonia and general of Europe, holding these posts from 334 to the death of Alexander in 323, and effectively retaining them until his own death four years later.

Antipater acted as a regent with full royal authority over the European part of Alexander’s empire. He was president of the synedrion of the Corinthian league, the mechanism by which Philip had exercised his power in Greece. His job was to maintain the peace in Greece, and allow Alexander to carry out his plans without having to worry about his base. He generally sided with tyrants and oligarchies in Greece, correctly believing them to be better allies than the democracies, whose mood could change dramatically in a short period of time.

Antipater was also a military commander. In 331 he was faced by a revolt in Thrace that threatened the land link to Asia. While Antipater with his entire army was in Thrace, a more serious threat emerged in the Peloponnese. Sparta had retained her independence, but had lost land, weakening the basis of her power. In the summer of 331 BC King Agis III of Sparta launched an open revolt against the settlement of Greece, with the aim of regaining Sparta’s lost possessions. Agis raised an army of 20,000 infantry and 2,000 cavalry, but he was unable to persuade Athens to join the revolt. He was effectively confined to the Peloponnese. In 30 Antipater was free to respond, moving south with an army 40,000 strong. Agis was defeated and killed in battle at Megalopolis and the revolt crushed.

Towards the end of Alexander’s life his relationship with Antipater appears to have been under some strain. Antipater had been reluctant to send Macedonian reinforcements to Alexander, possibly because he needed them at home. He had also alienated Alexander’s mother Olympias, who went into voluntary exile at Epirus, from where she undermined Antipater whenever possible.

In 324 Antipater was summoned to join Alexander. At the same time Craterus was dispatched back to Macedonia with orders to replace him as regent of Macedonia. Antipater did not obey the summons, sending his son Cassander in his place. This was not an entirely successful move - Alexander was hostile to Cassander and when Alexander died in 323 it was rumoured that Antipater had sent his son to Babylon to poison the emperor.

In the aftermath of Alexander’s death, his marshals gathered at Babylon to decide the immediate fate of the empire. Neither Antipater nor Craterus were present at Babylon, but the successors needed Antipater’s prestige. Accordingly he was confirmed as regent of Macedonia and Greece. Antipater, Craterus and Perdiccas made up a triumvirate holding what would have been the most important posts if Alexander’s empire had held together.

The eventual separation of the empire into distinct kingdoms began at Babylon with the appointment of the satraps. Officially these men were ruling their provinces in the name of the kings, whose authority was being exercised by the regents Perdiccas and Antipater, but even in 323 Ptolemy at least already had his eye on an independent kingdom in Egypt.

Antipater was perhaps the best placed of the regents, having a geographical powerbase of his own in Macedonia. However, he was immediately faced by a crisis in Greece. A coalition of Greek cities led by Athens responded to the death of Alexander with another revolt against Macedonian rule (Lamian War). This time they had the money to raise a large army and the end of Alexander’s war in Persia had created a large pool of unemployed mercenaries. Antipater found himself besieged in the town of Lamia, from where he issued a call for help.

Help came from two of his fellow marshals. First to respond was Leonnatus, but he was killed in a cavalry battle. Craterus also responded, initially at sea, where a fleet commandeered by Cleitus defeated the Athenian fleet at Amorgos (322 BC). Craterus then shipped his army from Asia Minor to Greece, joining Antipater in time to take part in the battle of Crannon. The rebel army was defeated. Faced with the prospect of a siege, Athens surrendered. Antipater responded to the revolt by abolishing the democracy in Athens.

Antipater made an attempt to tie Alexander’s marshals together by marriage. He had three daughters, each of whom married one or more of the successors. Phila married Craterus, and then Demetrius. Her children with Demetrius founded a Macedonian royal dynasty. Nicaea married Perdiccas and then Lysimachus. Both his daughter Eurydice and his granddaughter Berenice would marry Ptolemy, with Eurydice’s children ruling Egypt until the fall of Cleopatra VII.  

The following year saw the first open fighting between the successors (First Diadoch War). This was triggered by the actions of Perdiccas, who was suspected of wanting the Macedonian throne himself. He was seriously considered repudiating Antipater’s daughter Nicaea in favour of Alexander’s sister Cleopatra. An alliance soon formed between Antipater, Antigonus, Craterus and Ptolemy. In the resulting fighting Perdiccas was murdered and Craterus killed in battle. The settlement agreed at Babylon was dead.

A new agreement was made at Triparadisus (320). Antipater had already been appointed as regent to the monarchy before even reaching Triparadisus, giving him the powers originally held by Perdiccas and Craterus. He then rearranged the satrapies, and returned to Macedonia with the two kings.

The settlement of Triparadisus lasted no longer than that of Babylon. It depended on Antipater to hold it together, but he was already in his late seventies. In 319 he died of natural causes (something he shared with only two of the more important successors - Ptolemy and Cassander).

His last action was to recommend Polyperchon, a fellow old soldier, as his replacement as epimeletes of the kings. His son Cassander was naturally furious and formed an alliance with Ptolemy, Antigonus and Lysimachus to depose Polyperchon, triggering the Second Diadoch War.  

Kings and Kingship in the Hellenistic World 350-30 BC, John D Grainger. Looks at the nature of kingship in the years between Alexander the Great and the Roman conquest of the Hellenistic world, a period in which a surprising number of dynasties established themselves, and in some cases even flourished for centuries before disappearing. Organised thematically, so we see how the various dynasties differed, and more often how much they had in common. Also helps to explain how some of these apparently unstable dynasties managed to survive for so long (Read Full Review)
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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (3 July 2007), Antipater (397-319),

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