Eumenes of Cardia (c. 362 to 316)

Eumenes of Cardia was a Greek who served both Philip II and Alexander the Great as secretary and archivist. In 330 he became Alexander’s principal secretary and keeper of the Royal Journal. As such he was one of Alexander’s clossest associates, but his main claim to fame was his career after the death of Alexander.

In the settlement of Babylon that followed Alexander’s death, Eumenes was made satrap of the as yet unconquered provinces of Cappadocia and Paphlagonia, then still held by the ex-Persian satrap Ariarathes. He was helped to conquer his satrapy by Perdiccas, the regent of the kingdom, and became a loyal follower of Perdiccas.

Fighting soon broke out between Alexander’s successors. The first round saw Perdiccas and Eumenes taking on most of their colleagues. Perdiccas left Eumenes in charge in Asia Minor, while he led an expedition against Ptolemy in Egypt. Eumenes’s first task was to prevent Craterus leading his army across the Hellespont. He failed in this, partly because Neoptolemus, the governor of Armenia, deserted him at a crucial moment.

Eumenes then retreated back towards his own satrapy. In 321 BC he met and defeated Craterus and Neoptolemus in a battle on the border of Cappadocia. Eumenes is said to have killed Neoptolemus in hand to hand combat. Sadly for Eumenes the victory counted for nothing, for soon afterwards Perdiccas was murdered by his own officers. Ptolemy then took over Perdiccas’s army, and persuaded them to condemn Eumenes. In the settlement made at Triparadisus (320 BC), Antigonus was given the task of hunting down Eumenes.

Eumenes was quickly forced back through Cappadocia, until he was besieged with a small number of followers in the fortress of Nora, in the northern Taurus. His fortunes were revived by the death of Antipater. Antigonus decided that he wanted Eumenes’s help in the fighter against Antipater’s nominated successor Polyperchon. Eumenes agreed to join Antigonus, and was released.

He very quickly changed sides. Eumenes was generally a support of the idea of a unified empire and of the legitimate kings, partly because as a Greek he had a limited claim on the loyalty of his Macedonia troops. In an attempt to preserve that loyalty, Eumenes encouraged a cult of Alexander, holding councils in the presence of Alexander’s regalia.

In 319 Polyperchon represented the legitimate power because he had possession of the kings. He offered Eumenes the post of Strategos (general) of Asia, and accepted. The Second Diadoch War quickly became two unrelated wars. Antigonus defeated the loyalist’s fleet at a battle in the Bosporus (318), isolating Eumenes from Polyperchon.

Over the next two years Eumenes was slowly forced east. He briefly occupied Phoenicia, taking it off Ptolemy, who had only recently conquered it himself. Antigonus then forced him out again, into Iran. Their armies clashed at Paraetacene in 317, where Eumenes won a minor victory, and at Gabiene in 316. On the first day of fighting at Gabiene the result was undecided, but Antigonus captured Eumenes’s baggage. After the battle, Eumenese attempted to persuade his troops to fight again on the next day, but one of his best units, the veteran Silver Shields, decided to sell their commander to Antigonus in return for their baggage and wives. After a brief delay Eumenes was executed.

A surprisingly able general, Eumenes was never particularly popular with his Macedonian troops, who did not like being commanded by a Greek. Of all the successors he was perhaps the one who remained most loyal to Alexander’s vision of a union between east and west.

Ancient Warfare Magazine: Volume III Issue 2: Alexander's Funeral Games. This issue focuses on the prolonged and intensive period of warfare that followed the death of Alexander the Great, when his generals fought for power, at first hoping to inherit Alexander's entire empire and later to preserve their new kingdoms. After a general overview of the wars the articles pick out some of the more interesting aspects of the wars, including the rollercoaster career of Demetrius Poliorcetes, and the important early battle at Gabiene. [see more]

Ancient Warfare Magazine: Volume III Issue 2: Alexander's Funeral Games
How to cite this article: Rickard, J (3 July 2007), Eumenes of Cardia (c. 362 to 316),

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