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Empire of Cassander

Antipater had been quiet during the latter years: he reigned in the name of Arrhidaeus, and of the little son of Alexander, who at his death was not yet seven years old. Heracles was older, but illegitimate, and was regarded as incapable of succeeding his father: he too was in Macedonia with his mother Barsine. Antipater kept the royal family at Pella in a state of splendid captivity, while he himself livea in the greatest simplicity. But when his end was approaching, he made a singular arrangement concerning the regency (319 BC). Two of his sons, Cassander and Philip, were still living. Antipater did not give the regency and hia power to either of them, but to a petty Epirot prince of the name of Polysperchon or Polyperchon.

This arrangement made Cassander and Polysperchon enemies. As soon as the father had closed his eyes, and Polysperchon had entered upon the administration, Cassander quitted Macedonia, went to Ptolemy in Egypt, assembled troops, and prepared to attack Polysperchon. He was conscious of his own superiority: he was a man who in great difficulties knew how to extricate himself; he was a general who undertook little, but was very cautious in what he did undertake, and a remarkable instrument in taking revenge for Alexander's cruelty against the Greeks. Antigonus and Ptolemy, as we have already mentioned, joined him; though the latter took no active part in the war, being desirous firmly to establish his own dominion in the interior.

A war now arose which was carried on with the most fearful devastation of unhappy Greece; the ravages were constantly repeated, until the country was brought down so completely, that it was entirely annihilated. This war between the two pretenders to the crown of Macedonia, and to the guardianship of the unfortunate royal family, however, inflicted even more suffering upon Macedonia than upon poor Greece.

The cruelties of Olympias, mother of Alexander the Great, excited discontent and rebellion among the restless and mutinous Macedonians. When Polysperchon was obliged to retreat from Megalopolis, most of the Greek cities declared for Cassander. Cassander thus gained a firm footing in Greece; and, while Polysperchon retreated, Cassander followed him into Macedonia, where the people declared for him, Pella, Pydna, and Amphipolis alone declaring against him. Olympias, with her grandson Alexander, Roxane, and others, had fled to Pydna. Polysperchon was deserted by his troops, who were bribed by Cassander, and was obliged to flee with a few faithful adherents into AEtolia.

Olympias was thus shut up in Pydna; it was situated quite close to the sea, and there was no one inclined to afford her assistance. The party blockaded at Pydna were suffering from the most terrible famine, and Olympias was compelled to surrender. She stipulated for her life, and Cassander promised to spare her, but had no intention of keeping his word. The Avidows and orphans of those who had been murdered by Olympias brought charges against her before the Macedonians, who again formed a champ de Mars. Olympias did not appear, and was sentenced to death. Afterwards, she declared her willingness to appear before a court of Macedonians; but Cassander ordered her to be executed, saying, that he must obey the will of the nation.? Olympias received warning that she must prepare for death [316 BC].

She put on her royal robes and came forward, leaning on two of her women, to meet the soldiers. Even they were so overpowered by the majesty of her presence, and by the numberless great recollections attached to her name, that they could not bring themselves to execute Cassander's order. He was obliged to commit the deed of blood to the persons who had accused her, and who were eager enough for revenge to undertake it themselves. She submitted to her fate with unbending firmness, neither shrinking from their swords nor uttering a word unworthy of her birth and fortunes.& Young Alexander, and his mother, Roxane, were sent to Amphipolis, where, for a time, they were kept in close confinement, and afterwards put to death. Hercules, the son of Barsine, was likewise murdered, and that too by Polysperchon; but when this happened cannot be accurately determined. Polysperchon now disappears from history. His son, Alexander, continued to play a part for some time, but it did not last long.

After the fall of Olympias, all the other places, which had till then held out, opened their gates to Cassander; and he now was king of Macedonia, without having the regal title.

When Cassander was once in possession of Macedonia, he extirpated the family of Alexander, without a hand being raised in their defence. Aristobulus, who wished to interfere, was delivered up and sacrificed. Hence it is remarkable that he married Thessalonice, the only surviving daughter of Philip; but this may have arisen from the pride of the usurper, or from the hope of thereby establishing his dominion. His government of Macedonia was at the same time a perfect dominion over Greece, with very few exceptions, one of which was Sparta.

Thebes had been restored by Cassander immediately after the conquest of Macedonia (316 B.C.), for, in his hatred of Alexander, he undid all that Alexander had done. By their possession of the Theban territory the Boeotians were so much bound up with the interests of Macedonia, that it became a question as to whether it was prudent to restore Thebes. It is not certain whether they had incurred the suspicion of Cassander. It was a matter of great difficulty to induce the Boeotians to consent to the restoration ; in all of the rest of Greece it was regarded as an act of the greatest justice, and it seems to have been a general national consolation.

About the same time Cassander founded Cassandrea, a remarkable proof that he was a man of practical sagacity. Philip had extirpated or sold the Greek population on the Macedonian coast, with the exception of that of Amphipolis and Pydna. One of these destroyed cities was Potidaea, which had at first been a Corinthian colony, but afterwards belonged to Athenian cleruchi. Now, on that site, Cassander assembled, not only many strangers, but all the Greeks, especially those Olynthians who were still surviving from the destruction of their city, and built Cassandrea. On the site of the insignificant town of Therma, he founded Thessalonica, which he called after the name of his wife. This act also shows great practical wisdom.

Cassander died of dropsy in 297. His eldest son Philip appears to have been his sole heir, but he died soon afterwards at Elatea, 296; two other sons, Antipater and Alexander, then divided the empire between themselves. Both were very young, and their mother Thessalonice, a daughter of King Philip, was the only surviving member of the family; they can scarcely have been more than grown up boys, if the time of Cassander's marriage with Thessalonice is correctly stated in Diodorus. Thessalonice was appointed guardian, or she was commissioned to divide the empire between her two sons. To do this fairly, was a difficult task.

Antipater, the elder, thinking himself wronged by his mother in the division, murdered her; and applying to Lysimachus, his father-in-law, he was supported by him. But Alexander, who was confined to western Macedonia, applied to Pyrrhus, who in the meantime had returned to his paternal kingdom, to obtain his assistance, for this purpose he ceded to him the possessions which the Macedonian kings had in Epirus, together with Ambracia and Acarnania.

After many attempts, and repeated snares, Demetrius struck the blow and caused Alexander to be murdered. The Macedonian troops of the latter now had no king; Demetrius came forward with a proclamation, in which he declared that he had acted only in self-defence; that his life had been in danger (which was really true, but all the Macedonian princes were equally bad); and called upon the Macedonians to submit to him. The troops submitted to Demetrius and he was proclaimed king. Lysimachus having put himself in possession of the dominion of Antipater, his son-in-law, gave up his new Macedonian possession and made peace with Demetrius, who thus became master of all Macedonia. He now ruled over Macedonia, Thessaly, Attica, Megara, and most of the towns of Peloponnesus. The Spartans, however, continued the war against him.

Demetrius soon concluded peace with Pyrrhus, and if he had waited patiently, he would have been certain of his restoration; but he coulc not wait, he wanted to decide everything at once, and thus in his restlessness he crossed over into Asia. Demetrius landed in Asia Minor, wishing to undertake an expedition into the interior of Asia, like a man who has no more to lose; heaven knows what dreams he may have indulged in of overthrowing the empire of Lysimachus and Seleucus. It was impossible for him to conceive anything else but a successful result of his scheme.

He accordingly first appeared with lis troops in the Asiatic provinces of Lysimachus, where he was met by Agathocles, a son of Lysimachus, who successfully manoeuvred him out of those provinces, so that he was obliged to proceed to the interior. In this manner he dragged his army into Armenia, just as Charles XII dragged his into the Ukraine. His desponding troops at length delivered him up to Seleucus, who had surrounded him and cut him off from the sea. He was accordingly taken prisoner, but Seleucus treated him with great clemency. He continued to live for a time very contentedly and happily as a perfectly reckless man.

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Page last modified: 13-09-2012 19:11:52 ZULU