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Alexander’s Veterans and the Early Wars of the Successors

Joseph Roisman
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7560/735965
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    Alexander’s Veterans and the Early Wars of the Successors
    Book Description:

    From antiquity until now, most writers who have chronicled the events following the death of Alexander the Great have viewed this history through the careers, ambitions, and perspectives of Alexander's elite successors. Few historians have probed the experiences and attitudes of the ordinary soldiers who followed Alexander on his campaigns and who were divided among his successors as they fought for control of his empire after his death. Yet the veterans played an important role in helping to shape the character and contours of the Hellenistic world.

    This pathfinding book offers the first in-depth investigation of the Macedonian veterans' experience during a crucial turning point in Greek history (323-316 BCE). Joseph Roisman discusses the military, social, and political circumstances that shaped the history of Alexander's veterans, giving special attention to issues such as the soldiers' conduct on and off the battlefield, the army assemblies, the volatile relationship between the troops and their generals, and other related themes, all from the perspective of the rank-and-file. Roisman also reexamines the biases of the ancient sources and how they affected ancient and modern depictions of Alexander's veterans, as well as Alexander's conflicts with his army, the veterans' motives and goals, and their political contributions to Hellenistic history. He pays special attention to the Silver Shields, a group of Macedonian veterans famous for their invincibility and martial prowess, and assesses whether or not they deserved their formidable reputation.

    eISBN: 978-0-292-73597-2
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-vii)
  3. Map of Alexander’s Campaigns
    (pp. viii-x)
  4. LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. PREFACE
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  6. INTRODUCTION
    (pp. 1-8)

    In the spring of 319 BCE, Eumenes of Cardia and Antigonus the One-Eyed—both former commanders under Alexander the Great—fought at Orcynia in Cappadocia over the control of Asia Minor.¹ Antigonus won the battle and Eumenes fled in the company of Macedonian troops who had served with Alexander.

    Eumenes’ biographer, Plutarch, relates that in the course of his flight Eumenes came across Antigonus’s rich baggage but decided not to seize it. He feared that the heavy booty would slow down his men and make them too spoiled (lit. “softer,”malakoteroi) to endure the wanderings and the long recovery required...

  7. CHAPTER 1 MOTIVES AND BIAS IN THE HISTORY OF HIERONYMUS OF CARDIA
    (pp. 9-30)

    One is reluctant to begin an investigation by lamenting the sorry state of the evidence, but the case of Hieronymus of Cardia justifies this not-uncommon complaint. Too little is known about the career of this historian, whom many scholars regard as the bedrock of early Hellenistic history, and whose account arguably included our most valuable information on Alexander’s veterans.

    The known facts about Hieronymus are few and discontinuous. He came from the city of Cardia in the Thracian Chersonese, and is said to have died at the age of 104, perhaps ca. 270–260.¹ Around 319 he represented the general...

  8. CHAPTER 2 ALEXANDER AND DISCONTENT: THE KING AND HIS ARMY IN INDIA AND OPIS, MESOPOTAMIA
    (pp. 31-60)

    The chronological starting point for the history of Alexander’s veterans is the king’s death at Babylon in June 323. Yet there is something to learn about their conduct and ambitions in the post-Alexander era from two episodes of their conflict with him while he lived. The first took place in 326 on the River Hyphasis in India, and the second in 324 at Opis in Babylonia. Modern studies of these events tend to deal with their impact on the king and his policies, or to focus on the power relationships among the king, his commanders, and the army. This chapter...

  9. CHAPTER 3 THE VETERANS AND THE MACEDONIAN INTERNAL STRIFE IN BABYLON (323)
    (pp. 61-86)

    On June 11, 323 BCE, Alexander died in Babylon without leaving an heir.¹ The question of who would replace him as king and as the ruler of the empire led to dissension both within the elite and between the elite and the masses. The crisis also provided the rank and file with an opportunity rare in Macedonian history: the chance to participate meaningfully in the politics of the kingdom.

    In investigating the events immediately after Alexander’s death, scholars have tended to focus on source analysis and especially on the nature of the Macedonian political institutions, such as the council and...

  10. CHAPTER 4 THE DISSOLUTION OF THE ROYAL ARMY, I: THE VETERANS OF PERDICCAS AND CRATERUS
    (pp. 87-118)

    At the time of Alexander’s death, the two largest concentrations of veterans were in the royal army in Babylon and with Craterus in Asia Minor. Soon the Macedonian core of the royal army would shrink. Every general who left Babylon for his satrapy must have wanted to take with him at least a Macedonian guard unit and, if he could get it, a piece of the phalanx. The number of veterans each took depended on Perdiccas and on the deals made with him, about which we know nothing. But we do hear of Macedonians who fought under different commanders in...

  11. CHAPTER 5 THE DISSOLUTION OF THE ROYAL ARMY, II: THE VETERANS OF EUMENES, NEOPTOLEMUS, AND ALCETAS, AND THE MEETING IN TRIPARADEISUS
    (pp. 119-144)

    Eumenes, Neoptolemus, and Alcetas were generals who supported Perdiccas and who operated in different territories in Asia Minor. Perdiccas later appointed Eumenes as his chief commander in Asia Minor, but seems to have allocated veterans only to Neoptolemus and Alcetas.

    We have discussed Eumenes’ earlier career and his role in Babylon in a previous chapter (chap. 3). After the Babylonian settlement in the summer of 323, Eumenes was given the governorship of Cappadocia and Paphlagonia, provinces that had mostly escaped Alexander’s conquest. Perdiccas asked Leonnatus and Antigonus Monophthalmus, the satrap of Greater Phrygia, to assist Eumenes in taking over these...

  12. CHAPTER 6 THE VETERANS, EUMENES, AND ANTIGONUS IN ASIA MINOR
    (pp. 145-176)

    The history of the Macedonian veterans from the settlement of Triparadeisus (summer 320) to Eumenes’ assumption of the command over the Silver Shields (spring 318) must be reconstructed from highly condensed accounts and fragmentary or anecdotal evidence. It is by observing the fortunes of the individual commanders, tied by the sources to those of their troops, that we shall best be able to follow the veterans’ divergent paths.

    Thanks probably to Hieronymus, our information is most abundant on Eumenes and his army. Of the different scholarly reconstructions of his actions, the following sequence appears least controversial. After news of his...

  13. CHAPTER 7 EUMENES AND THE SILVER SHIELDS
    (pp. 177-211)

    Shortly after leaving Nora in the spring of 318, Eumenes received letters from the royal guardian, Polyperchon, and Alexander’s mother, Olympias. The consequent change in his fortunes delights our sources, who are keen on highlighting the roller-coaster nature of his career. Diodorus and Plutarch summarize and paraphrase the letters, which included an invitation to Eumenes to be the protector of the Macedonian kings (especially Alexander IV), to lead the war against Antigonus, to take money from the Cilician treasury of Cyinda, and to assume command over the Macedonian veterans known as the Silver Shields.¹

    Scholars have persuasively shown that the...

  14. CHAPTER 8 THE SILVER SHIELDS IN BATTLE AND EUMENES’ DEATH
    (pp. 212-236)

    In previous chapters we have discussed the relationships between the Silver Shields and their commanders, along with the unit’s role and status in the Successors’ armies. Oddly, and in spite of the veterans’ formidable military reputation, the ancient accounts barely refer to their performance on the battlefield after they joined Eumenes. This picture changes, however, when the sources come to describe the battles between Eumenes and Antigonus in Iran and their aftermath.

    After Eumenes’ recovery from his illness, he and Antigonus stood with their massive armies one day’s march apart, probably somewhere around Yezd-i-Khast, south of Esfahan.¹ Each general took...

  15. CONCLUSION
    (pp. 237-244)

    The Silver Shields were the last of Alexander’s veteran infantrymen to leave an impression on the histories of the period. Faint traces of their existence after they moved to Antigonus’s side may be found in his colonies. When Seleucus returned to Mesopotamia in 312, he drafted Macedonian settlers in Carrhae into his force. A. B. Bosworth has identified them as the Silver Shields whom Antigonus is said to have used for garrison duties.¹ The suggestion is attractive but not without problems. Polyaenus (4.6.15) reports that their garrison duty was performed in “strong and impassable” places, a description that does not...

  16. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 245-256)
  17. INDEX
    (pp. 257-264)