Craterus (c.370-321 BC)

Craterus was a senior officer in the army of Alexander the Great. He was briefly prominent in the struggle between the Successors, but was killed in the first battle between them in 321. At the start of Alexander’s campaigns he was the command of a brigade (taxis) of Macedonian infantry, retaining that rank at the battle of the Granicus. He was a senior taxiarch at Issus and Gaugamela. At the Persian Gates (winter 331/330 BC), Alexander split his army, leading one part on a flanking march around a strong Persian position, while Craterus commanded a frontal attack against the same position.  

After the death of Permenion (330), Craterus rose to become the effective second in command of the army, and frequently held independent commands. That year he commanded an independent column during the invasion of Hyrcania. At the battle of the Hydaspes (326), he commanded the pursuit. Soon after that the Macedonian army refused to march any further east, and Alexander was forced to return west. He started by travelling down-river to the coast, with Craterus in charge of the army on the right bank of the river. He was then given command of a force containing three phalanx battalions, all the elephants and those Macedonians unfit for service on a safe inland route back to Persia, while Alexander took the main army along the barren coastline. Craterus defeated a revolt in Arachosia and Drangiana during the march.

In Persia he was married to Amastris, a niece of Darius (324 BC). Later that year he was sent back to Macedonia at the head of 10,000 discharged veteran troops, with orders to pause at Cilicia to supervise the construction of a new fleet, and then to take over from Antipater as regent of Macedonia. Craterus had only reached as far as Cilicia before Alexander died.

He remained in Cilicia while the future of the empire was being decided at Babylon. Perhaps as a result of that, he did badly in the settlement. He was made “guardian of the monarchy”, but did not have physical possession of either of the kings (Alexander’s infant son and mentally incapable brother) but lost Macedonia.

Events now pulled him back to Greece. On hearing of Alexander’s death, a revolt broke out, led by Athens (Lamian War). Antipater was besieged in the town of Lamia. The first Macedonian commander to react, Leonnatus, was killed in Thessaly. Craterus responded by sending one of his officers, Cleitus, to take command of the Macedonian fleet. He won two battles, destroying Athenian naval power at the second (Amorgos). Craterus then moved his army to Greece in time to take part in the battle of Crannon (322), at which the Greeks were defeated.

He was thus in Greece when the first war between the successors (First Diadoch War) broke out. This was triggered by suspicions that Perdiccas was aiming to seize the Macedonian throne. Craterus led an expedition into Asia Minor, which was opposed by Eumenes of Cardia, one of Perdiccas’s few important supporters. Eumenes was unable to prevent Craterus from crossing into Asia Minor, partly because Neoptolemus, satrap of Armenia, changed sides at a key moment. Eumenes retreated into his own satrapy of Cappadocia. Craterus and Neoptolemus followed, but were then defeated in battle at an unknown location on the border of Cappadocia. Both Craterus and Neoptolemus were killed in the battle, making Craterus the first of the important successors to be killed (Perdiccas was murdered in Egypt soon afterwards).

How to cite this article: Rickard, J (2 July 2007), Craterus (c.370-321 BC),

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