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Eumenes (362-312) – From Secretary to Satrap

A Greek Among Macedonians

Roman Parallel – Sertorius (c. 123-72 BC)

Eumenes, pejoratively called the Greekling by his contemporaries, rises from secretary to cavalry commander. In his leadership roles after Alexander’s death, he attempts to keep the succession in the family of Philip and Alexander. While he fails to achieve his goal, Plutarch holds him up as an example for us of self-control and prudence in the face of corrupting wealth and perfidious allies.

Important People

  • Alexander – The successors of Alexander who battle it out for the next two generations are known as the Diadochoi (the successors) and Eumenes fights in the first three major wars as they are now delineated by historians.
  • Hephestion – Eumenes and Alexander’s best friend often clashed.
  • Perdiccas – The first regent serving the interests of the Philip Arrhidaeus and the not-yet-born son of Roxane, who would be called Alexander IV. Eumenes initially allies himself with Perdiccas, though he is assassinated in Egypt within a couple years of Alexander’s death.
  • Neoptolemus – A former officer of Alexander’s, his satrapy is Armenia but he immediately challenges Eumenes in Cappadocia and loses to him not once but twice before his death.
  • Craterus – We remember him from the Life of Alexander as the leader of the Macedonian troops, well loved by all the Macedonians because he remained culturally Macedonian even as Alexander and his other friends adopted more and more Persian customs. He meets his end (much to his surprise) in battle against Eumenes.
  • Ptolemy – Another of Alexander’s trusted generals, he carves out Egypt for himself early and always attacks from a position of wealth and security. In all the ups and down of the Wars of Succession, Ptolemy manages to build a dynasty in Egypt that lasts until Julius Caesar.
  • Antigonus I (Monophtalmus – One-Eyed) – His son Demetrius will be important to the next generation of Successors of Alexander.
  • Antipater – We also remember him from the Life of Alexander. He had been left as regent in Macedonia while Alexander campaigned. He conquered Sparta while Alexander was away and was constantly scheming against Olympias, Alexander’s mother. After Perdiccas suddenly dies (assassinated) near Egypt, Antipater becomes the regent ruling for the king that all these successors are theoretically going to put on the throne.
  • Peucestas – Satrap of Persis and unreliable ally of Eumenes in his final battles.
  • Antigenes and the Silver-Shields – Allied troops of Eumenes resentful at his higher rank and ablities. These men and their leaders will ultimately hand Eumenes over to Antigonus.

Important Places

  • Cardia – Eumenes’s Hometown, on the Thracian Chersonese (see map), making him an Ionian Greek. Perhaps growing up around the rough and tumble Thracians taught him some early lessons that he applied in the struggle for supremacy after Alexander’s death.
  • Nora – Eumenes finds himself besieged in this mountainous fortification and only escapes by trickery.

Regions of Asia Minor (see map):

  • Cappadocia – Originally granted to Eumenes as his satrap, he never fully settles in as satrap, being pushed back into the heart of Alexander’s Empire by Antigonus.
  • Lycaonia
  • Paphlagonia
  • Phrygia
  • Trapezus
  • Cilicia
  • Lydia
  • Satrapies of Alexanders Empire (see map):
    • Armenia
    • Egypt
    • Persis
    • Media
  • Important Locations in Alexander’s Empire
    • Babylon – The city in which Alexander died, but increasingly important as a base of operations for different successors, most notably Seleucus who eventually builds the Seleucid empire from here.
    • Arachosia – Originally called Alexandropolis, this is the modern name of Kandahar, Afghanistan and the region around this strategic city. The silver-shields are banished to this satrapy by Antigonus after their poor treatment of Eumenes.
    • Gabiene – Southern Iran, in the midst of the modern Zagros mountains. This is the place of the final battle between Eumenes and Antigonus. Even though Antigonus loses, he captures the baggage train and uses it to negotiate for Eumenes’s men to betray him and deliver him to Antigonus.

Key Virtues and Vices

  • Bravery (ἀνδρεῖος) – Eumenes, in spite of being the head secretary, is no pencil pusher. Plutarch wants to emphasize this even from the beginning. His education in and prowess in wrestling impress Philip equally as much as his intelligence. Both become an asset to Philip and then Alexander. On top of that, he’s able to defeat many of Alexander’s most competent generals in battle and gain a reputation among the Macedonians as a bold leader.
  • Justice (δικαιοσύνη) – Eumenes, of all the successors, seems most motivated to keep the dynastic succession in order and rule Alexander’s new domains along the lines the Persian leaders had set up before. In other words, he considers it just to step into his role as satrap and leave it at that. As the other kings become greedier and more prideful, Eumenes serves the interests of the regent and, as he sees it, the rightful kings on the throne. He even tells Antigonus that he values his life less than the trust people have placed in him. He is just and willing to put his life on the line for it. How’s that for skin in the game?
  • Wisdom (σοφία) – As much wiliness in this life as wisdom, Eumenes has the ability to convince those hostile to him to listen, to ourmaneuver even talented generals, and to inspire confidence through competence. He’s also smart enough to recognize all his enemies and finds ways to profit from his enemies: somethine Plutarch would be proud of, since he wrote a whole essay on the topic in the Moralia.
  • Arrogance (ἀλαζονεία) – Categorized by Aristotle as the excess over honesty (), this vice is rooted in a form or self-deception: seeing yourself as greater than you are. Other definitions include pretension and imposture. Plutarch points out the successors of Alexander suffer under this vice, unaware of their limitations and unwilling to accept that none of them measure up to Alexander.

C. 1 – Youth and Character

  1. Son of a poor man but received a liberal (ἐλευθερίως) (i.e. freeman’s) education in literature and athletics (ἐν γράμμασι καὶ περὶ παλαίστραν). Philip once observed the boy wrestling and was impressed enough by his intelligence (συνετός) and bravery (ἀνδρεῖος) to take him into his household staff.
  2. More likely, to Plutarch at least, was some tie of guest-friendship first led him to Philip’s staff. By Alexander’s time, he holds the title of chief secretary (ἀρχιγραμματεύς). By the time Alexander had reached India, this secretary was given charge of cavalry.
  3. When distritbuting wives (see Life of Alexander 70.2), Alexander gives Eumenes one of Barsine’s sisters. Barsine was the only Asian woman through whom Alexander had a son (named Heracles).

C. 2 – Fights with Alexander and Hephestion

  1. Fight with Hephestion who places a flute-player in quarters already set aside for Eumenes. Alexander takes his side at first…
  2. but later changes his mind and angered at the insolence with which Eumenes had approached Alexander. Also Alexander later asks for 300 talents and Eumenes only gives 100. Alexander orders them to light Eumenes’ tent on fire to test whether Eumenes was lying.
  3. 1000 talents of melted silver and gold discovered in the aftermath, but Alexander repents all the documents lost, so he takes none of the wealth.
  4. Eumenes and Hephestion fought about a gift just before Hephestion died. After Heph’s death, Alexander rememered and held it against Eumenes that they had fought.
  5. But Eumenes suggested new titles for Hephestion in death and even donated money toward Hephestion’s lavish tomb project.

C. 3 – Eumenes the Satrap

  1. Once Alexander died, the succession question becomes heated. [Infantry: Arrhidhaeus, Alexander’s half-brother; Cavalry and Officers: Child of Roxana with Perdiccas as regent]. Eumenes sides with the officers, though he kept his rhetoric open to both sides, being a stranger to this Macedonian quarrel (hence, being Greek not the same as being Macedonian). He worked for a settlement of the issue in Babylon even after many of the officers had left.
  2. As the officers start to divide the empire (ostensibly into satrapies and not yet into distinct empires), Eumenes receives Cappadocia, Paphlagonia, and Trapezus (southern coast of the Black Sea), though this territory was not completely conquered by the Macedonians.
  3. Antigonus ignores Perdiccas, and the other general who was supposed to escort Eumenes to Asia Minor is distracted by the war in Greece against Antipater (Macedonian regent in Alexander’s absence).
  4. Eumenes and Hecataeus (tyrant of Cardia in Asia Minor) have a long-lived political rivalry. Eumenes tried to get Hecataeus replaced to “restore freedom” to Cardia. He also feared that, if he joined the expedition against the revolting Greeks, Antipater would kill him to please Hecataeus.
  5. Leonnatus, the other general who was supposed to escort Eumenes to his satrapies, really wanted to take Macedonia from Antipater and marry Alexander’s sister, Cleopatra (who would also be asked by 6 of Alexander’s other generals for marriage). Eumenes sneaks out at night seeing the perfidy of both men.
  6. He flees to Perdiccas and reveals Leonnatus’s plan, now trusted in Perdiccas’s council. Perdiccas finally brings him into Cappadocia, conquers its current king, and declares Eumenes its satrap.
  7. After arranging matters as he saw fit in his satrap, he continues on with Perdiccas and those who are supporting the heirs of Alexander.

C. 4 – Siding with Perdiccas

  1. Eumenes quickly sent back by Perdiccas not only to keep Cappadocia safe, but to deal with Armenia which had started breaking away under another former officer, Neoptolemus.
  2. Eumenes tries to bring Neoptolemus back through personal influence (ὁμιλίαις). When Neoptolemus brings cavalry against him, Eumenes raises a force of his own by exempting from taxes any who serve in the cavalry.
  3. And by giving horses to those of his followers he trusted most. Then he had to train them (this feels like Agesilaus’s attempt to raise a cavalry force from Asia by incentivizing first and then training second, cf. Life of Agesilaus). Eumenes ends with a cavalry force of 6300.

C. 5 – Two-Front War

  1. Craterus and Antipater together overpower the Greeks (battle of Crannon – Aug 7 322 ending the “Lamian War”), but then march across to take down Perdiccas next, but Perdiccas was busy taking on Ptolemy in Egypt, so Eumenes appointed commander in Armenia and Cappadocia with full powers (αὐτοκράτορα).
  2. The cracks begin to show. Perdicass’s brother refuses to serve under Eumenes, afraid his men will be ashamed to fight Antipater or like Craterus more and switch sides. Neoptolemus summoned but does not obey and chooses to give Eumenes a two-front war.
  3. Eumenes defeats Neo’s infantry and then overwhelms so much with cavalry that they swear an oath to him as general after that.
  4. Neoptolemus flees with a few of his men to Craterus and Antipater. These two offer Eumenes his current satrapies and additional troops and territory if he’ll switch to Antipater’s friendship.
  5. Eumenes reminds Antipater that he’s been his enemy for a long time and won’t change now, but he’s ready to help reconcile Craterus and Perdiccas in justice (ἐπὶ τοῖς ἴσοις καὶ δικαίοις). He would, though, as long as he was alive, fight for the injured party preferring to lose his life over his honor.

C. 6 – Keeping Craterus a Secret

  1. Neoptolemus catches up with Craterus and Antipater as they receive Eumenes’s message. Neo begs Craterus to put himself in front of the Macedonians and they will immediately switch sides.
  2. Most of the Macedonians did prefer Craterus after the death of Alexander. They saw him as a strong balance to Alexander’s Persianizing and keeping Macedonian culture simple.
  3. Craterus sends Antipater to help Ptolemy and marches on Eumenes himself. Eumenes such a good general that Craterus can’t take him by surprise, as he had planned.
  4. He also moved his soldiers against Craterus before they knew against whom they were fighting. He told his men it was Neoptolemus again with a larger force.
  5. One night in camp he had a dream of two Alexanders leading phalanxes against each other, one with Athena’s help (wisdom) and the other with Demeter’s (grain?). Athena’s Alexander wins and Demeter weaves a crown of grain.
  6. So he makes his password “Demeter and Alexander” and is heartened by the dream (Weird… but shouldn’t he make his password Athena and Alexander as it is for the enemy?)
  7. He kept control and didn’t even tell his principal officers the Macedoniansagainst whom they were fighting.

C. 7 – Against Craterus and Neoptolemus

  1. He lines up foreign troops to fight against Craterus’s side with strict orders to charge at full speed and not receive a herald from their side.
  2. Eumenes lined himself against Neoptolemus. Craterus surprised to see the men attacking and not changing sides, but he encourages his officers and charges into battle.
  3. Craterus wounded in the fight and falls to the ground.
  4. Many men run and gallop past him, Gorgias, one of Eumenes’s officers recognizes him and guards his dying body. [Homeric Moment]: Neoptolemus also engages with Eumenes. They draw swords and fall on each other in the third charge.
  5. Their horses clash together like triremes and they each wrestle each other off their horses and to the ground.
  6. Neoptolemus tries to rise first and Eumenes wounds him in the leg while recovering his footing. Neo fights boldly but dies from a wound in the neck.
  7. Eumenes goes in too early to strip the armor and Neo strikes one more times, wounding Eumenes in the groin, but too feeble to do real damage. Eumenes remounts and goes to relieve the other wing of the army.
  8. He discovers Craterus is dying but arrives at him while he is still conscious, weeps and laments fortune forcing him into conflict with a friend and comrade (φίλῳ καὶ συνήθει).

C. 8 – Eumenes’s Reputation

  1. Thus Eumenes won two battles in a span of ten days: two of them against Neoptolemus. He also defeated Craterus, Alexander’s head of Macedonian infantry. The accomplishment was credited to his wisdom and bravery (σοφίᾳ δὲ ἀνδρείᾳ). Unfortunately, it made his allies hate and envy him as much as his enemies because he had used Macedonian arms to kill a Macedonian favorite.
  2. Perdiccas killed in a mutiny of his own Macedonians in Egypt and never hears of Eumenes’s victory (or the death of Craterus). Antigonus and Antipater now join forces to march on Eumenes, whom most Macedonian troops now hate and still see as a foreigner (a Greekling?).
  3. Eumenes continues to increase his cavalry and, secretary as always, keeps good records which Antipater finds amusing.
  4. Eumenes wants to fight in the plains because of his superior numbers of cavalry, but he winters closer to the mountains and competes with three others to be in command of his troops…
  5. Eumenes arranges their pay but often has to pay them in spoils captured rather than gold already in his coffers.
  6. The other leaders try to entice the Macedonians to assassinate Eumenes, but they instead form a bodyguard for him.
  7. Eumenes already starting to act like a king, distributing purple caps and military cloaks. [how many were calling themselve king? None before Eumenes’s death, which will mark a watershed in the Wars of the Diadochoi]

C. 9 – Eumenes v. Antigonus: The Battle of Orkynia

  1. Prosperity lifts us up to look down on others, but the magnanimous and constant man (ὁ δὲ ἀληθῶς μεγαλόφρων καὶ βέβαιος) reveals himself in adversity and misfortunes. That’s how we know Eumenes was great.
  2. By 320, he’d been defeated by Antigonus who had bribed a section of his cavalry away from him in the middle of the battle. He even concealed his movements so that he could return to the battlefield and bury the dead. Antigonus admires his constancy and boldness (θαυμάζειν τὸ θάρσος αὐτοῦ καὶ τὴν εὐστάθειαν).
  3. When presented with an opportunity to raid Antigonus’s baggage train, he’s worried how it will weight down his men for flight. He knew that one of his most helpful allies was running down the clock (see Pericles’s advice to Tolmides in Life of Pericles 18) on Antigonus.
  4. Hard to tell Macedonian troops not to despoil so obvious and easy a target, so he instead sends a message to the man in charge of Antigonus’s baggage telling him to hurry up and get to a more defensible place.
  5. Eumenes jumps on his horse to lead the charge only to discover from his scouts that the baggage train is now out of reach. Shucks! [deceiving his own men to keep his reputation among them high; strong understanding of what motivates his troops (love of gain)]
  6. Antigonus has to remind his Macedonians later that he did not spare their belongings out of clemency, but out of awareness of keeping his flight light.

C. 10 – Eumenes Negotiates

  1. Now Eumenes dismisses troops as he moves to safer and safer locations, no longer with an army big enough to give battle, but still large enough to get the attention of the other kings.
  2. Antigonus wants to conference before the siege begins, but Eumenes has no guarantee against treachery. Antigonus demands to be addressed as a superior. Eumenes’s response: ἐμαυτοῦ κρείττονα νομίζω, μέχρι ἂν ὦ τοῦ ξίφους κύριος. I regard no one as greater than me while I am master of my own sword.
  3. In the conference Eumenes demands his satrapies back, not asking for his safety or his life, but asking to be restored to his former powers.
  4. Many Macedonians want to get a glimpse at Eumenes again, since his fame had grown in their ranks since the death of Craterus. Antigonus has to physically prevent the Macedonians from coming to see Eumenes.

C. 11 – Eumenes Besieged

  1. Antigonus leaves a force large enough to besiege Nora behind and Eumenes stuck with just grain, water, and salt. Nonetheless, he keeps his men happy, seasoning his meals with charming and friendly conversation. (ὁμιλίᾳ χάριν ἐχούσῃ καὶ φιλοφροσύνην ἐφηδύνων)
  2. His face was pleasant to look on and his body had pleasing symmetry. Though not powerful or loud as a speaker, he had plenty of wiliness and persuasion (αἱμύλος δὲ καὶ πιθανός).
  3. The place so small that the men and horses don’t get enough exercise, so Eumenes comes up with a plan to keep them active and alert for escape.
  4. He had the men time their laps to and from a certain house, always increasing their speed. He kept the horses in good shape by
  5. inventing a king of treadmill for them, keeping their forelegs off the ground so they never galloped forward.

C. 12 – Escape through an Oath – Words as Weapons

  1. Antipater (who had taken over regency after Perdiccas) dies in 320, [leaving his kingdom not to his son but to Polysperchon, a distinguished officer from Alexander’s army, excluding his own son Cassander] Cassander and Polysperchon immediately at odds. Antigonus sees an opportunity to reconquer the whole of Alexander’s empire and seeks Eumenes’s friendship again.
  2. Eumenes resubmits Antigonus’s request, with some corrections, to his besiegers. Eumenes wanted to swear an oath not to Antigonus, but to Olympias and “the kings” (what does this mean?). His Macedonian besiegers agree and raise the siege when Eumenes takes teh oath.
  3. Thus Eumenes escapes and gathers a body of about 1000 horsemen about him, worried that Antigonus will get his revenge soon. Antigonus bitter to hear about the “corrections” to the oath.

C. 13 – Eumenes Works with Enemies

  1. Now Eumenes has some choices to make: Olympias asks him to take over teaching Alexander’s young son. Polyperchon and Philip Arrhidaeus command him back to Cappadocia to fight Antigonus, using the treasure from Quinda to replenish his money [much of the treasury of Susa had been deposited here by two of Alexander’s officers of the silver-shields, Teutamus and Antigenes].
  2. These two commanders treat Eumenes with friendliness but envy him and hate being under his command. Eumenes didn’t want to anger them further and thus refused to take any of the money.
  3. He then [wily and persuasive] used superstition to bring them in line with his command. He tells them about a dream he has in which Alexander has a royal tent with a throne in it in which he tells Eumenes and the other two to conduct all their planning with Alexander’s blessing.
  4. So, they erect this tent, dedicate it to Alexander, and it becomes a neutral meeting-place where they can plan. Now Peucestas, the satrap of Persia (and a distinguished officer during Alexander’s life) meets up with Eumenes, but the leaders had been corrupted by luxury so things looked good, but just under the surface…
  5. They thought and acted like tyrants (φρονήματα τυραννικὰ) with barbaric arrogance (βαρβαρικαῖς ἀλαζονείαις) now. Their harshness toward each other was making them hard to reconcile and the constant gifts to the soldiers meant they had been corrupted to follow the highest bidder, not the best leader.
  6. One way Eumenes keeps himself alive: borrowing from his enemies. A crafty tactic that Plutarch admires for its uniqueness: making the wealth of others his bodyguard (συνέβη τὸν ἀλλότριον πλοῦτον αὐτῷ φύλακα τοῦ σώματος ἔχειν)

C. 14 – Eumenes as Sole Commander?

  1. Eumenes’s soldiers waffle as to whom they’ll choose for their leader, until Antigonus and the real danger arrives, then they all listen to Eumenes.
  2. Eumenes, without his allies, fights Antigonus as he crosses the river, taking 4K prisoners. The other generals didn’t even know Antigonus’s position or movements!
  3. Peucestas was expecting to be chosen commander-in-chief primarily because of the banquets and sacrifices he’d lavished on the Macedonian soldiers when in Persis. But Eumenes had contracted a sickness that seemed to endanger his life and was carried outside the camp to get peace and quiet (raucous camp life).
  4. As the enemy approached, though, the men demanded Eumenes lead them.
  5. Eumenes brought up his litter to the front ranks and showed himself to the men, at which points they raise the battle cry.

C. 15 – Antigonus’s Opportunity

  1. Antigonus, hearing that Eumenes was sick, sees this as his opportunity to crush the other resistance.
  2. Antigonus amazed to see the army so well-arrayed against him, but then he laughs when he sees the litter being carried behind the ranks, knowing he is still fighting Eumenes.
  3. Later, as winter sets in, the Macedonians resisting Antigonus spread their forces too thin in seeking winter quarters (all over the Gabene [MAP]?) spread over 100 mile line. Antigonus marches double-quick through uninhabited areas to catch them,
  4. but the cold and wind force him to burn fires that give away his position. Peucestas reacts in fear and wants to flee
  5. Eumenes promises to give the other officers three days to prepare, and sets out with all speed to meet Antigonus first. Then he sets his own fires in his winter quarters as if his men are staying.
  6. Antigonus sees these fires up on the mountain and supposes the enemy had been warned by his approach and were coming to meet him assembled again in their greatest numbers. So he changes his route to be sure his men get the warmth, rest, and supplies they need. It also, as Eumenes thought, buys time for the other armies.
  7. Antigonus realizes the trick soon enough and, embarassed, now tries to give open battle.

C. 16 – The Battle of Gabiene

  1. When the forces gather together, they ask for Eumenes as sole commander, annoying the leaders of the silver shields: Antigenes and Teutamus. They began a conspiracy against Eumenes’s life with the other satraps.
  2. Use him in battle, then kill him. That was the plan. Two people whom Eumenes owes money warn Eumenes of this plan! Eumenes goes to his tent to write his will and destroy any papers he doesn’t want surviving him.
  3. Now he had a decision: flee or stay and then try to escape death? He decides to lead in battle and encourages Philip and Alexander’s oldest infantrymen, some in their sixties and seventies (Plutarch says none below sixty…)
  4. As these old men charge, they shout “You fight against your fathers!” and crush the phalanx of Antigonus.
  5. His cavalry, though, got the upper hand against Peucestas and Antigonus captured the baggage. The terrain worked to Antigonus’s advantage.
  6. The sandy soil kicked up a white dust that obscured the vision of the entire field. thus, Antigonus could capture the baggage before anyone even saw.

C. 17 – Eumenes’s Final Speech

  1. When Teutamus opens negotiations for the baggage train, Antigonus asks for Eumenes in exchange and the Silver-Shields plan to hand him over.
  2. They physically grab him, remove his sword, and tie him up. Eumenes asks only to speak…
  3. “You admit defeat for your baggage and surrender your victory with your general…
  4. Kill me here since my blood is already on your hands and Antigonus only wants me dead, not alive”
  5. “And if you can’t kill me, loosen one of my hands and I’ll do it, or throw me under your elephants. If you kill me, I’ll consider you absolved”

C. 18 – What to Do with Eumenes

  1. Many moved by his words to sadness, but the silver-shields call him a pest from the Chersonesus who goaded the Macedonians into infinite wars should then rob them of all their winnings (i.e. the baggage train) in their old age.
  2. Antigonus refuses to see Eumenes and asks that he be guarded as a lion or an elephant would be.
  3. Eventually, he allows Eumenes’s chains to be taken off and gives him a personal servant. Antigonus deliberates for several days what to do with Eumenes. Demetrius (Antigonus’s son and the next Life of Demetrius) and Nearchus (Cretan) want to save Eumenes. Everyone else wants him dead.
  4. Back and forth between Onomarchus, his guard, and Eumenes about bravery and biding time.

C. 19 – Death and Burial

  1. Antigonus gives orders to starve Eumenes but when he was without food for three days, they must break camp so men are sent to finish Eumenes. [Cornelius Nepos claims that his guards kill him without Antigonus’s knowledge or orders] His body is brought to Antigonus, who burned it, collected the ashes in a silver urn and gave it to his wife and children.
  2. Antigonus puts the silver-shields under the command of the governor of Arachosia [modern Afghanistan] with orders to wear them out there so that they’ll never return home to Greece. By this punishment, Eumenes was avenged. [How often do we end not with the death and legacy, but the death and revenge: Life of Pelopidas, Life of Dion, any others?]

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