Study Guide for Plutarch's Life of Demetrius

Text by Thomas North
Study Guide by Anne White

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Demetrius (337-283 B.C.)

The World of Demetrius

When Demetrius was an infant, Alexander III, or Alexander the Great, took the throne in Macedon. Since Demetrius' father, Antigonus I Monopthalmus, was one of Alexander's generals, the rise of this powerful but short-lived empire was the background to his childhood. When Demetrius was four, his father was made governor of the region of Phrygia, and he defended Alexander's empire against the Persians. After the death of Alexander in 323 B.C., Antigonus fled to Greece along with Demetrius, so it seems likely that his sons had been with him during the years in Phrygia.

The world that Demetrius entered as a young man was one of conflict between four "power blocks": Ptolemaic Egypt, Mesopotamia/Central Asia (the Seleucid Empire), Anatolia, and Macedon. These territories were fought over, after Alexander's death, by his highest-ranking generals, along with a few hereditary kings.

Demetrius and Antigonus (I)

Demetrius and his father seem to have had an unusually trusting relationship, as demonstrated by Antigonus' allowing Demetrius to sit near him with a spear (Lesson One), and Demetrius' being sent out to fight against Ptolemy at the age of twenty-two (Lesson Two). They fought together on many occasions, although Antigonus did not readily share information or ask opinions from others, including his son. Once, when Demetrius asked when they would be striking camp, Antigonus asked him sarcastically if he was afraid of sleeping through the bugle call.

Demetrius' wives . . . and others (important to read)

The official wives of Demetrius were (at various times) Phila, Eurydice of Athens, Deidamia of Epirus, Lanassa, and Ptolemais. Not content with the marriages that he made for political reasons, Demetrius had many other involvements (mostly omitted from this edition). He had a deep friendship with a courtesan, or "professional girlfriend," named Lamia of Athens, who held Demetrius' attention even after her physical beauty had faded.

Who was Antigonus (II)?

Antigonus II Gonatus was the son of Demetrius.

Who was Pyrrhus?

Pyrrhus (subject of Plutarch's Life of Pyrrhus) was king of the Molossians, and later king of Epirus; his sister Deidamia was married to Demetrius. Lanassa, a later wife of Demetrius, was first married to Pyrrhus.

Who was Ptolemy?

Ptolemy I Soter ("Ptolemy the Saviour"), a Macedonian general and close friend of Alexander the Great, became ruler of Egypt after Alexander's death. He lived from about 367-283 B.C.

Who was Cassander?

Cassander lived from about 350-297 B.C., and was king of Macedon for several years. He had been a student of Aristotle, along with Alexander the Great. His father, Antipater, had also been a close friend of Alexander. The struggle between Cassander's son Alexander and Demetrius is described in Lesson Seven.

Who was Seleucus?

Seleucus I Nicator, like the others, was a former general of Alexander. His territory was the eastern part of the empire, including Babylonia.

Who was Lysimachus?

Lysimachus was king of Thrace. He died in battle in 281 B.C.

Why study someone with such a negative reputation?

In Plutarch's introduction to the Lives of Demetrius and Mark Antony, he pointed out that "the ancient Lacedaemonians in their solemne feasts forced their Ilotes the bondmen, to overcharge them selves with wine: and suche they shewed them unto their youth, by the apparant beastlines of dronken men, to worke in them an abhorring of so lothesome vice." ("See that? Don't do it.")

He continued with these words:

Wherin, although I cannot much praise them for humanity or wisedom, that corrupt and spoile one man, by example of him, to correct and reclaim an other: yet (as I hope) it shall not be reprehended in me, if amongst the rest I put in one or two paier of such, as living in great place and accompt, have increased their fame with infamy.

Which in truth, I doe not, to please and draw on the reader with variety of report : but as Ismenias the Theban Musitian shewed his schollers, both those that strake a cleane stroke, with, Do so, and such as bungled it, with. Do not so : and Antigenidas thought men should like better, and with greater desire contend for skill, if they heard and discerned untunable notes: so thinke I, we shall be the forwarder in reading and following the good, if we know the lives, and see the deformity of the wicked.

Plutarch was also careful to point out the positive things that leaders such as Demetrius and Mark Antony did. Demetrius, for instance, attempted to preserve the local government and culture of the cities he captured. Plutarch also commended him for his persistence, energy, wit, and filial reverence.

Lesson One


Demetrius was born into a powerful family in a volatile world, and as he grew up, he took on the roles and challenges that came with his position. A question to consider now and throughout the study is how much we act and think according to where we find ourselves, and how much of our character we are able to determine for ourselves.


counterfeit to his likeness: do justice to his appearance

entertain: please

darts: javelins, spears

so jealous is a king to have a companion: being in power is lonely

both in manner of an age: the same age

familiars: friends, companions

realm of Pont, kingdom of Pont[us]: a state within the region of Cappadocia


Antigonus: the father of Demetrius (see introductory note)

Mithridates: Mithridates I Ctistes

Historic Occasions

337 B.C.: the birth of Demetrius

Lesson One Reading

Part One

Antigonus had two sons by his wife Stratonice, the daughter of Corraeus: the one of them, he named Demetrius, and the other Philip, after his father's name. Thus far the most writers do agree: howbeit some hold opinion, that Demetrius was not the son of Antigonus, but his nephew. But because his father died leaving him a child, and that his mother was straight married again unto Antigonus: thereupon came the report that he was Antigonus' son. Howsoever it was, Philip, that was not much younger than Demetrius, died.

Now for Demetrius, though he was a very big man, he was nothing so high as his father, but yet so passing and wonderful fair, that no painter could possibly draw his picture and counterfeit to his likeness. For they saw a sweet countenance, mixed with a kind of gravity in his face, a fear with courtesy, and an incomparable princely majesty accompanied with a lively spirit and youth, and his wit and manners were such, that they were both fearful and pleasant unto men that frequented him. [For as he was the most easy and agreeable of companions, and the most luxurious and delicate of princes in his drinking and banqueting and daily pleasures, so in action there was never any one that showed a more vehement persistence, or a more passionate energy. Bacchus, skilled in the conduct of war, and after war in giving peace its pleasures and joys, seems to have been his pattern among the gods.]

He marvellously loved and reverenced his father, and it seemeth that the dutifulness he shewed unto his mother, was more to discharge the due obedience and duty of a son, than otherwise to entertain his father, for fear of his power, or hope to be his heir. And for proof hereof we read, that one day as he came home from hunting, he went unto his father Antigonus, giving audience to certain ambassadors, and after he had done his duty to him, and kissed him: he sat down by him even as he came from hunting, having his darts in his hand, which he carried out a-hunting with him. Then Antigonus calling the ambassadors aloud as they went their way, having received their answer: "My lords," said he, "you shall carry home this report of my son and me, be witnesses I pray you, how we live one with another." As meaning to shew thereby, that the agreement betwixt the father and the son together, is a great safety to the affairs of a king, as also a manifest proof of his greatness: so jealous is a king to have a companion, besides the hate and mistrust it should breed. So that the greatest prince and most ancientest of all the successors of Alexander, boasted that he stood not in fear of his son, but did suffer him to sit by him, having a dart in his hand. So was this house only of all other the Macedonian kings, least defiled with such villainy, many successions after: and to confess a truth, in all Antigonus' race there was not one, but Philip only, that slew his own son.

Part Two

But further, to shew you more plainly that Demetrius was of a noble and courteous nature, and that he dearly loved his friends: we may allege this example. Mithridates, the son of Ariobarzanes, was his familiar friend and companion (for they were both in manner of an age) and he commonly followed Antigonus' court, and never practised any villainy or treason to him, neither was he thought such a man: yet Antigonus did somewhat suspect him, because of a dream he had. He thought that being in a goodly great field, he sowed [golden seed], and that of that seed, first of all came up goodly wheat which had ears of gold: howbeit that shortly after returning that way again, he found nothing but the straw, and the ears of the wheat cut off, and that he being angry and very sorry for it, some told him that Mithridates had cut of these golden ears of wheat, and had carried them with him into the realm of Pont.

Antigonus being marvellously troubled with this dream, after he had made his son swear unto him that he would make no man alive privy to that he would tell him: he told him all his dream what he had dreamed, and therewith that he was determined to put this young man Mithridates to death. Demetrius was marvellous sorry for it, and therefore the next morning, this young noble prince going as he was wont to pass the time away with Mithridates, he durst not by word of mouth utter that he knew, because of his oath: howbeit, taking him aside from his other familiars, when they were both together by themselves, he wrote on the ground with the end of his dart, Mithridates looking on him: "Fly, Mithridates." Mithridates found straight what he meant, and fled the very same night into Cappadocia: and shortly after it was his destiny to fulfill Antigonus' dream. For he conquered many goodly countries, and it was he only that established the house of the kingdom of Pont[us]. [This may serve for a specimen of the early goodness and love of justice that was part of Demetrius' natural character.]

Narration and Discussion

Why did Antigonus pay so much attention to his dream? Can you think of any similar dreams in the Bible?

Does the story of Demetrius and Mithridates have any similarities to that of David and Jonathan (1 Samuel 18-20)?

In the story about Demetrius arriving with weapons in his hand, Antigonus says (in Dryden's translation), "Such an unsociable, solitary thing is power, and so much of jealousy and distrust in it...." What does Plutarch mean by this? Is he right?

Lesson Two


Demetrius, now an eager young commander, was sent out to lead his first battle against his father's rival, Ptolemy. He lost spectacularly, but was treated with unusual respect by the enemy, although perhaps with an additional message of "you owe me one." But one defeat was not going to end his career; Demetrius was already aiming at glory.


the successors of Alexander: see introductory note

occasion of brawl: opportunities to fight

his whole carriage: everything he had

requite: repay

astonished the barbarous people: Dryden says he "overawed" them

confines: borders

distressed the garrison: emptied it of soldiers

cresset light: a torch, beacon

within a kenning of the city: within range of sight

hurly burly: alarm, confusion

galley: a large ship, having sails but rowed by banks of oars


Stilpo the philosopher: a teacher of Zeno, who was the founder of Stoicism

Ptolemy, Cassander, Seleucus: see introductory note

Lesson Two Reading

Part One

Though all the successors of Alexander were at continual wars together, yet was it soonest kindled, and most cruel, between them which bordered nearest unto each other, and that by being near neighbours, had always occasion of brawl together; as fell out at that time between Antigonus and Ptolemy. [News came to Antigonus that Ptolemy had crossed from Cyprus and invaded Syria, and was ravaging the country and reducing the cities. Remaining, therefore, himself in Phrygia, he sent Demetrius, now twenty-two years old, to make his first essay as sole commander in an important charge.] But he being a young man, and that had no skill of wars, fighting a battle with an old soldier (trained up in the discipline of wars under Alexander the Great, and that through him, and in his name, had fought many great battles) was soon overthrown, and his army put to flight, by the city of Gaza. At which overthrow were slain five thousand men, and almost eight thousand taken: and besides, Demetrius lost his tents and pavilions, his gold and silver, and to be short, all his whole carriage. But Ptolemy sent him all his things again, and his friends also that were taken after the battle, with great courteous words: that he would not fight with them for all things together, but only for honour and empire. Demetrius receiving them at his hands, besought the gods that he might not long live a debtor unto Ptolemy for this great courtesy, but that he might quickly requite it with the like again.

Now Demetrius took not this overthrow like a young man, though it was his first soldierfare: but like an old and wise captain, that had abidden many overthrows, he used great diligence to gather men again, to make new armours, and to keep the cities and countries in his hands under obedience, and did train and exercise his soldiers in arms, whom he had gathered together.

Antigonus, having news of the overthrow of his son Demetrius, said no more but that Ptolemy had overcome beardless men: and that afterwards he should fight with bearded men. But now, because he would not discourage his son altogether, who craved leave once again to fight a battle with Ptolemy: he granted him. So, shortly after came Cilles, Ptolemy's general, with a great army, to drive him altogether out of Syria. For they made no great account of Demetrius, because he had been once overthrown before. Howbeit Demetrius stole upon him, gave him charge on the sudden, and made him so afraid, that he took both the camp, and the general, with seven thousand prisoners besides, and won a marvellous treasure of money: which made him a glad man, not so much for the gain he should have by it, as for the opportunity he had thereby to come out of Ptolemy's debt, nothing regarding the treasure nor the honour he had gotten by this victory, but only the benefit of his requital of Ptolemy's courtesy towards him. But yet he did nothing of his own head, before he had written to his father: and then receiving full grant and commission from him to dispose of all things as he thought good, he sent back Cilles unto Ptolemy, and all his other friends besides, with great and rich gifts which he bountifully bestowed on them. This misfortune and overthrow did utterly put Ptolemy out of all Syria, and brought Antigonus also from the city of Celaene, for the exceeding joy he had of this victory, as also for the great desire he had to see his son.

After that, he sent Demetrius into Arabia, against a people called the Nabathaeians, to conquer them: but there he was in great danger and distress in the deserts for lack of water, howbeit he never shewed any sign that he was afraid. Thereby he so astonished the barbarous people, that he had leisure enough to retire with safety, and with a great booty of a thousand [Dryden says 700] camels, which he brought away with him.

About that time Seleucus, (whom Antigonus had driven from Babylon) returning thither again, he came and conquered it without other aid than of himself: and went with a great army against the people and nations [on the confines of India], and the provinces adjoining unto Mount Caucasus, to conquer them. Thereupon Demetrius hoping to find Mesopotamia without any guard or defence, suddenly passed over the river of Euphrates, and came unlooked for unto Babylon, and there distressed the garrison of Seleucus, that kept one of the castles or citadels of the city, being two of them: and then put in seven thousand soldiers to keep them, he commanded the rest of his men to get what they could, and to bring it away with them. [And after allowing his soldiers to enrich themselves with all the spoil they could carry with them out of the country, he retired to the sea, leaving Seleucus more securely master of his dominions than before, as he seemed by this conduct to abandon every claim to a country which he treated like an enemy's.]
Part Two

At his return home, news were brought him that Ptolemy lay at the siege of the city of Halicarnassus: whereupon he drew thither with speed to make him raise the siege, and thereby saved the city from him. Now, because by this exploit they won great fame, both of them (Antigonus and Demetrius) fell into a marvellous desire to set all Greece at liberty, the which Ptolemy and Cassander kept in servitude and bondage. Never king took in hand a more honourable nor juster war and enterprise, than that was. For what power or riches he could gather together, in oppressing of the barbarous people: he bestowed it all in restoring the Grecians to their liberty, and only to win fame and honour by it.

So, they being in consultation what way to take, to bring their purpose and desire to pass, and having taken order to begin first at Athens: one of Antigonus' chiefest friends about him told him that he should take the city, and place a good garrison there for themselves, if they could once win it. "For," said he, "it will be a good bridge to pass further into all Greece." Antigonus would not harken to that, but said that the love and goodwill of men was a surer bridge, and that the city of Athens was as a beacon to all the land, the which would immediately make his doings shine through the world, as a cresset light, upon the top of a keep or watchtower.

Thus Demetrius hoisted sail, having five thousand silver talents, and a fleet of two hundred and fifty sail, and sailed towards the city of Athens: in the which Demetrius the Phalerian was governor in the behalf of Cassander, and kept a great strong garrison there within the haven and castle of Munichia. He had an excellent good wind to further his journey, so that with his good foresight and speed he made, he arrived in the haven of Piraea, the five and twenty day of the month Thargelion (now called May), before any man knew of his coming. Now when this fleet was within a kenning of the city, and less, that they might easily see them from thence: every man prepared himself to receive them, taking them to be Ptolemy's ships. But in fine, the captains and governors understanding too late who they were, did what they could to help themselves: but they were all in hurly burly, as men compelled to fight out of order, to keep their enemies from landing, and to repulse them, coming so suddenly upon them. Demetrius having found the [entrances of the port] open, launched in presently. Then being come to the view of them all, and standing upon the hatches of his galley, he made signs with his hand that he prayed silence.

The tumult being pacified, he proclaimed aloud by one of his heralds, that his father had sent him in happy hour to deliver the Athenians from all their garrisons, and to restore them again to their ancient liberty and freedom, to enjoy their laws and ancient government of their forefathers. And for Demetrius himself, although he was very desirous to see the city, he said he would not come into it, before he had first restored it unto her ancient liberty and freedom, and also driven away the garrison thence: and thereupon he cast trenches [as a blockade] round about the castle of Munichia.

In the mean season, because he would not be idle, he hoisted sail, and coasted towards the city of Megara, within the which Cassander also kept a strong garrison. The city of Megara was taken and won from Cassander's men, [and] Demetrius' soldiers would have sacked all: howbeit the Athenians made humble intercession for them, that they might not be spoiled. Demetrius thereupon, after he had driven out Cassander's garrison, he restored it again to her former liberty.

[While he was occupied in this, he remembered that Stilpo the philosopher, famous for his choice of a life of tranquility, was residing here.] He sent for him, and asked him if any of his men had taken anything of his. Stilpo answered him, they had not: "For," quoth he, "I saw no man that took my learning from me." [Pretty nearly all the servants in the city had been stolen away; and so, when Demetrius, renewing his courtesies to Stilpo, on taking leave of him], said unto him, "Well, Stilpo, I leave you your city free." "It is true, O King," quoth he, "for thou hast left us never a slave."

Narration and Discussion

Why did Ptolemy return all Demetrius' goods to him, after defeating him?

Demetrius raided Babylon, and then left again, leaving Seleucus (as Plutarch points out) still master of the area. Why did he not take charge permanently?

Plutarch describes the goal of setting all the Greek cities at liberty with great admiration: "Never king took in hand a more honourable nor juster war and enterprise, than that was." Why did he say this? Could Demetrius be compared somewhat to Robin Hood?

Lesson Three


How would you like to be a Tutelary Divinity? How about having your face woven into the Pattern of the Great Robe? Or having a tribe named after you? Or maybe even a month? In this passage, Demetrius and Antigonus were offered all the rewards the grateful Athenians could dream up. But too many honours could also cause problems.


razed it to the ground: tore it down

odious: offensive

tutelar or tutelary: protecting, guarding, acting as patron

archon: chief magistrate

whom they sent to Delphes, etc.: those sent out to perform religious rites, such as sacrifices and oblations

won: persuaded

consorting with any number of mistresses: having other women besides his wives; see introductory note

Lesson Three Reading

Part One

Shortly after, he returned again unto Athens, and laid siege to the castle of Munichia, the which he took, and drove out the garrison, and afterwards razed it to the ground. After that, through the entreaty and earnest desire of the Athenians, who prayed him to come and refresh himself in their city: he made his entry into it, and caused all the people to assemble, and then restored unto them their ancient laws and liberty of their country, promising them besides, that he would procure his father to send them a hundred and fifty thousand bushels of wheat, and as much wood and timber as should serve to make them a hundred and fifty galleys. Thus, the Athenians through Demetrius' means, recovered the Democratia again (to wit, their popular government), fifteen years after they had lost it. [They were supposedly] under the government of a few governors in sight, but in truth [it was] a monarchy or kingdom, because they were [really] under the government of one man, Demetrius the Phalerian, that had absolute authority over them.

But by this means they made their saviour and preserver of their country, Demetrius (who seemed to have obtained such honour and glory through his goodness and liberality) hateful and odious to all men, for the overgreat and unmeasurable honours which they gave him. For first of all, they called Antigonus and Demetrius kings, who before that time had always refused the name, [as the one remaining royal honour still reserved for the lineal descendants of Philip and Alexander, in which none but they could venture to participate. Another name which they received from no people but the Athenians was that of the Tutelar Deities and Deliverers. And to enhance this flattery, by a common vote it was decreed to change the style of the city, and not to have the years named any longer from the annual archon; a priest of the two Tutelary Divinities, who was to be yearly chosen, was to have this honour, and all public acts and instruments were to bear their date by his name.] And besides all this, that [the Athenians] should cause their pictures to be drawn in the veil or holy banner, in which were set out the images of their gods, the patrons and protectors of their city. And furthermore they did consecrate the place, where Demetrius first came out of his coach, and there did set up an altar, and called it "The altar of Demetrius coming out of his coach"; and unto their tribes they added two other[s], the Antigonides and the Demetriades. (Their great council-at-large, which they created yearly of five hundred men, was then brought into six hundred, because every tribe must needs furnish of themselves fifty councillors.)

But yet the strangest act, and most newfound invention of flattery, was that of Stratocles (being the common flatterer and people-pleaser), who put forth this decree, by the which it was ordained that those whom the commonwealth should send unto Antigonus and Demetrius, should instead of ambassadors be called Theori, as much to say, as ministers of the sacrifices. For so were they called, whom they sent to Delphes, to Apollo Pytheas, or unto Elide, to Jupiter Olympias, at the common and solemn feasts of all Greece, to do the ordinary sacrifices and oblations for the health and preservation of the cities.

[necessary omission regarding the character of Stratocles]

And last of all, they changed the name of the month Munichion (to wit, the month of January) and called it Demetrion: and the last day of the month which they called before the new and old moon, they then called it the Demetriade: and the feasts of Bacchus, also called then Dionysia, they presently named Demetria.

Thus laying upon Demetrius all these foolish mockeries, who besides was no great wise man, they made him a very fool.

[further description of these events is omitted here for length]

Part Two

Demetrius being at that time at leisure in Athens, he married a widow called Eurydice, which came of that noble and ancient house of Miltiades, and had been married before unto one Opheltas, prince of the Cyrenians, and that after his death returned again to Athens. The Athenians were very glad of this marriage, and thought it the greatest honour that came to their city, supposing he had done it for their sakes. Howbeit he was soon won to be married, for he had many wives.

But amongst them all, he loved Phila best, and gave her most honour and pre-eminence above them all: partly for the respect of her father Antipater, and partly also for that she had been first married unto Craterus, whom the Macedonians loved best when he lived, and most lamented after his death, above all the other successors of Alexander.

[Any respect, however, which he showed either to Phila or to his other wives did not go so far as to prevent him from consorting with any number of mistresses, and bearing, in this respect, the worst character of all the princes of his time.]

[back to the story]

While these things passed on in this sort, he was commanded by his father to fight with Ptolemy for the realm of Cyprus. So there was no remedy but he must needs obey him, although otherwise he was very sorry to leave the war he had begun (to set the Grecians at liberty), the which had been far more honourable and famous. Before he departed from Athens, he sent unto Cleonides, Ptolemy's general, that kept the cities of Corinth and Sicyone, to offer him money if he would set those cities at liberty. But Cleonides would not be dealt withal that way.

Thereupon Demetrius straightway took sea, and sailed with all his army towards Cyprus, where at his first coming he overcame Menelaus, Ptolemy's brother. But shortly after, Ptolemy went thither in person with a great army both by sea and land, and there passed betwixt them fierce threatenings and proud words to each other. For Ptolemy sent to Demetrius to bid him to depart if he were wise, before all his army came together: which would tread him under their feet, and march upon his belly, if he tarried their coming. Demetrius on the other side sent him word, that he would do him this favour to let him escape, if he would swear and promise unto him to withdraw his garrisons which he had in the cities of Corinth and Sicyone.

So the expectation of this battle made these two princes not only very pensive to fight one with the other, but also all the other lords, princes, and kings: because the success thereof was uncertain, which of them two should prevail. But every man judged this, that which of them obtained the victory, he should not only be lord of the realm of Cyprus and Syria, but therewith also of greater power than all the rest.

Narration and Discussion

Throughout this Life, we are reminded of the good qualities in Demetrius, such as his vision of restoring liberty in the cities he conquered, and his obedience when he was commanded to fight Ptolemy again. However, Plutarch admits here that Demetrius was "no great wise man." Dryden translates it this way: "With this befooling they completed the perversion of a mind which even before was not so strong or sound as it should have been." What does the Bible say about listening to flatterers? (Prov. 26:28, 29:5)

Lesson Four


Demetrius took his ships to Salamis, against those of Ptolemy. Antigonus was left at home, biting his nails and hoping for good news. When the news of victory arrived, however, one little word attached to it began a new kind of turmoil.


three score: sixty

haven: harbor

nine score: nine times twenty, so a hundred and eighty

carect: also spelled carack or carrack; a large ship

courtesan: see introductory note

countenance and credit: desirability, renown

jealousy and emulation: a desire to equal or outdo each other

wrote themselves, subscribed: signed their letters

made them stand upon themselves: made them proud and arrogant

dissemble: the modern meaning of this word is to do something falsely, but in this context it means to ignore, let pass unnoticed

eftsoons: soon afterward

Historic Occasions

306 B.C.: Demetrius defeated Ptolemy and Menelaus at Salamis, and also conquered Cyprus. Following this victory, Antigonus declared both himself and Demetrius to be kings, and the others (such as Lysimachus) followed suit.

Lesson Four Reading

Part One

Ptolemy in person with fifty sail began to row against his enemy Demetrius, and commanded his brother Menelaus that when he saw them fast grappled in fight together, he should launch out of the haven of Salamina, and give charge upon the rearward of Demetrius' ships, to break their order, with the three score galleys he had in charge. Demetrius, on the other side, prepared ten galleys against these three score, thinking them enough to choke up the haven mouth, [it] being but narrow, so that none of the galleys that were within could come out: and furthermore, he dispersed his army by land upon the foreland points which reach into the sea, and went himself into the main sea with nine score galleys, and gave such a fierce charge upon Ptolemy, that he valiantly made him flee. Who, when he saw his army broken, fled as speedily as he could with eight galleys only: for all the rest were either broken or sunk in fight, and those eight only escaped, besides three score and ten which were taken, and all their soldiers in them. And as for his carriage, his train, his friends, his officers, and household servants, his wives, his gold and silver, his armour, engines of battery, and all such other warlike furniture and munition as was conveyed aboard his carects and great ships riding at anchor: of all these things nothing escaped Demetrius' hands, but all was brought into his camp.

Among those spoils also was taken that famous courtesan Lamia, who at the first had her name only for her passing playing upon the flute: but after she fell to courtesan trade, her countenance and credit increased the more. So that even then when her beauty through years fell to decay, and that she found Demetrius much younger than herself: yet she so won him with her sweet conversation and good grace, that he only liked her, [though] all the other women liked him.

[back to the story]

After this victory by sea, Menelaus made no more resistance, but yielded up Salamina and his ships unto Demetrius, and put into his hands also twelve hundred horsemen, and twelve thousand footmen, well armed. This so famous and triumphant victory was yet much more beautified, by Demetrius' great bounty and goodness which he shewed in giving his enemies slain in battle honourable funerals, setting the prisoners at liberty without ransom paying, and giving moreover twelve hundred complete armours unto the Athenians.

After this, Demetrius sent Aristodemus Milesian unto his father Antigonus, to tell him by word of mouth the news of this victory. Aristodemus was the greatest flatterer in all Antigonus' court, who devised then, as it seemeth to me, to add unto this exploit the greatest flattery possible. For when he had taken land after he was come out of the isle of Cyprus, he would in no wise have the ship he came in to come near the shore, but commanded them to ride at anchor, and no man so hardy to leave the ship: but he himself got into a little boat, and went unto Antigonus, who all this while was in marvellous fear and perplexity for the success of this battle, as men may easily judge they are which hope after so great uncertainties.

Now when word was brought him that Aristodemus was coming to him all alone, then was he worse troubled than afore, insomuch that he could scant keep within doors himself, but sent his servants and friends one after another to meet Aristodemus, to ask him what news, and to bring him word presently again how the world went. But not one of them could get anything out of him, for he went on still fair and softly with a sad countenance, and very demurely, speaking never a word. Wherefore Antigonus' heart being cold in his belly, he could stay no longer, but would himself go and meet with Aristodemus at the gate, who had a marvellous press of people following on him, besides those of the court which ran out to hear his answer. At length when he came near unto Antigonus, holding out his right hand unto him, he cried out aloud, "God save thee, O King Antigonus: we have overcome King Ptolemy in battle by sea, and have won the realm of Cyprus, with sixteen thousand and eight hundred prisoners." Then answered Antigonus, "And God save thee too: truly, Aristodemus, thou hast kept us in a trance a good while, but to punish thee for the pain thou hast put us to, thou shalt the later receive the reward of thy good news."

Part Two

Then was the first time that the people with a loud voice called Antigonus and Demetrius "kings." Now for Antigonus, his friends and familiars did at that present instant put on the royal band or diadem upon his head: But for Demetrius, his father sent it unto him, and by his letters called him "king." They also that were in Egypt with Ptolemy, understanding that, did also call and salute him by the name of "king": because it should not seem that for one overthrow received, their hearts were dead.

Thus, this ambition by jealousy and emulation, went from man to man, to all Alexander's successors. For Lysimachus then also began to wear the diadem, and likewise Seleucus, as often as he spake with the Grecians: for before that time, he dealt in matters with the barbarous people as a king. But Cassander, though others wrote themselves kings, he only subscribed after his wonted manner. Now this was not only an increase of a new name, or changing of apparel, but it was such an honour, as it lifted up their hearts, and made them stand upon themselves: and besides it so framed their manner of life and conversation with men, that they grew more proud and stately, than ever they were before: like unto common players of tragedies, who apparelling themselves to play their parts upon the stage, do change their gait, their countenance, their voice, their manner of sitting at the table, and their talk also. So that afterwards they grew more cruel in commanding their subjects, when they had once taken away [that modest style under which they formerly dissembled their power], which before made them far more lowly and gentle in many matters unto them. And all this came through one vile flatterer, that brought such a wonderful change in by the world.

Antigonus therefore, puffed up with the glory of the victory of his son Demetrius, for the conquest of Cyprus: he determined forthwith to set upon Ptolemy. Himself led the army by land, having his son Demetrius still rowing by the shoreside with a great fleet of ships. But one of his familiars called Medius, being asleep had a vision one night that told him what should be the end and success of this journey. He thought he saw Antigonus [and his whole army running, as if it had been a race], and that at the first he ran with great force and swiftness: but that afterwards his strength and breath failed him so much, that when he should return, he had scant any pulse or breath, and with much ado retired again. And even so it chanced unto him. For Antigonus by land, was eftsoons in great danger: and Demetrius also by sea was often in hazard to leave the coast, and by storm and weather to be cast into places, where [there] was neither haven, creeks, nor harbour for his ships. And at length, having lost a great number of his ships, he was driven to return without any attempt given.

Narration and Discussion

Describe the epidemic of "kingliness" that broke out among the rulers at that time. Why does Plutarch blame it all on "one vile flatterer?" (See James 3:5.)

Creative narration: Act out the scene between Antigonus and Aristodemus. Which of them had the last laugh?

For older students: If you have read Shakespeare's Macbeth, you may find it interesting to compare its theme of ambition with this story of Demetrius.

Lesson Five


Antigonus, aging and less able to fight, was willing to overlook his son's personal failings because of his many talents. Demetrius was turning out to be a born engineer, as well as a good military leader. After he used his siege engines to subdue the Rhodians, they asked if he would please leave some of the machinery, as a memorial both to their courage and his power.


four score years old: eighty

did not pass for: did not concern himself about

furniture: equipment

engines of battery: war machines

turner's craft: wood turning

nether: lower

so well framed and counterpealed: well-balanced

honest courtesy: honourable example

Minerva: Athena

Historic Occasions

305 B.C.: Demetrius decided to punish the Rhodians

302 B.C.: Demetrius returned to Greece and reinstated the Corinthian League

Lesson Five Reading

Part One

Now Antigonus was at that time little less than four score years old, but yet his fat and corpulent body was more cumbersome to him than his years: therefore being grown unmeet for wars, he used his son in his place. Who for that he was fortunate, as also skillful through the experience he had gotten, did wisely govern the weightiest matters. His father besides did not pass for [Demetrius'] youthful parts, lavish expenses, and common drunkenness he gave himself unto. For in time of peace, he was given over to all those vices: but in time of war, he was as sober and continent, as any man so borne by nature.

[omission regarding the vices of Demetrius]

So Antigonus did gently bear with his son's faults, in respect of his many other virtues he had. The voice goeth that the Scythians, when they are disposed to drink drunk together, do divers times twang the strings of their bows, as though that would serve to keep the strength of their courage and hardiness, which otherwise the pleasantness of the wine would take from them. But Demetrius gave himself to one thing at one self time. Sometime to take his pleasure, sometime to deal in matters of weight, and in all extremity he ever used but one of them, and would never mingle the one with the other: and yet this notwithstanding he was no less politic and circumspect to prepare all manner of munition for wars.

For as he was a wise captain to lead an army, so was he also very careful to provide all things meet for their furniture, and would rather have too much, than too little. But above all, he exceeded in sumptuous building of ships, and framing of all sorts of engines of battery, and specially for the delight he took to invent and devise them. For he had an excellent natural wit to devise such works, as are made by wit and hand, and did not bestow his wit and invention in handicrafts, in trifling toys and baubles: as many other kings that have given themselves to play on flutes, others to paint and draw, and others also to turner's craft.

[omitted for length: descriptions of the hobbies of particular kings]

But the artificers' works which Demetrius practised, shewed that they came from a king. For his manner of workmanship had a certain greatness in it, the which even with the subtlety and fineness of his works, shewed the trim handling of the workman: so that they appeared not only worthy the understanding and riches of a king, but also the forging and making by the hands of a great king. For his friends did not only wonder at their greatness, but his very enemies also were delighted with the beauty of them. And this is more true, than meet to be spoken: the enemies could but marvel when they saw his galleys rowing alongst the coast, with fifteen or sixteen banks of oars: and his engines of battery which they called Elepolis (to say, engines to take cities) were a spectacle of great admiration unto those whom he besieged, as the events following did thoroughly witness. For Lysimachus, who of all other kings did malice Demetrius most, coming to raise the siege from the city of Soli in Cilicia, the which Demetrius besieged: he sent unto him to pray him to let him see his engines of battery, and his galleys rowing upon the sea. Demetrius granting him, Lysimachus returned with wonderful admiration. The Rhodians also having long time defended his siege, at the last made peace with him, and prayed him to leave some one of his engines with them, for a perpetual testimony and remembrance both of his power, and also of their courage and valiantness.

Part Two

The cause why Demetrius made war with the Rhodians was because they were confederates with King Ptolemy. He brought against their walls the greatest engine he had, the foot whereof was like a tile, more long than broad, and at the base on either side it was eight and forty cubits long, and three score and six high, rising still narrow even to the very top: so that the upper parts were narrower than the nether, and within it were many pretty rooms and places conveyed for soldiers. The forepart of it was open towards the enemy, and every room or partition had windows, out of the which they bestowed all kind of shot, because they were full of armed men, fighting with all sorts of weapons. But now, because it was so well framed and counterpealed, that it gave no way, nor reeled of either side, which way soever they removed it, but that it stood fast and upright upon her foundation, making a terrible noise and sound: that made the work as wonderful to behold, as it was a marvellous pleasure for men to see it.

In this siege the Rhodians did valiantly defend themselves, that Demetrius could do no act worthy [of] memory. This notwithstanding, although he saw he could not prevail but lose his time, yet was he the more obstinately bent against them, to be even with them: because they had taken a ship of his, in the which his wife Phila had sent unto him certain hangings of tapestry, linen, apparel, and letters, and because they had sent them all unto Ptolemy, as soon as they had taken them. But therein they did not follow the honest courtesy of the Athenians: who having intercepted certain couriers of King Philip's that made war against them, they opened all the letters they carried, and read them, saving only his wife Olympia's letters she sent him, the which they sent unto King Philip sealed, as they were when they received them.

Now though this part did much grieve and offend him, yet he could not find in his heart to serve them in that sort, when he might have done it not long after. [Protogenes the Caunian had been making them a painting of the story of Ialysius, which was all but completed, when it was taken by Demetrius in one of the suburbs.] The Rhodians thereupon sending a herald unto him, to beseech him to spare the defacing of so goodly a work: he returned them answer, that he would rather suffer his father's images to be burnt, than [a piece of art which had cost so much labour].

Now as the Rhodians were desirous to be rid of this war, and that Demetrius also was willing to take any honest occasion to do it: the ambassadors of the Athenians came happily to serve both their desires, who made peace between them with these conditions: that the Rhodians should [bind themselves to aid Antigonus and Demetrius against all enemies, Ptolemy excepted].

Part Three

The Athenians sent for Demetrius, upon Cassander's coming to lay siege to their city. Whereupon Demetrius immediately hoisted sail towards Athens, with three hundred and thirty galleys, and a great number of men of war besides: so that he did not only drive Cassander out of the province of Attica, but followed him even to the strait of Thermopyles, and there overthrew him in set battle, and received the city of Heraclea, which willingly yielded unto him, and six thousand Macedonians [which also joined him].

So in his return back, he set all the Grecians at liberty on this side [of] the strait: he made league with the Boeotians, and took the city of Cenchreae; [and reducing the fortresses of Phyle and Panactum, in which were garrisons of Cassander, restored them to the Athenians]. Therefore though it seemed the Athenians had before bestowed to their uttermost power all kinds of honours that could be offered him, every man striving for life to prefer the same: yet they found out new devices to flatter and please him. For they ordained that the place behind the temple of Minerva, called [the] Parthenon (as who would say, the temple of the virgin) should be prepared for his house to lie in: and they said, that the goddess Minerva did lodge him with her.

Narration and Discussion

"For his friends did not only wonder at their greatness, but his very enemies also were delighted with the beauty of them." Are there any weapons (past or present) that might charm you with their beauty?

For older students: In Part One, how well did Demetrius seem to be able to control his use of alcohol and other distractions? If you have read Charlotte Mason's writings on the Will, how does Plutarch's description of Demetrius meet the requirements of Will, such as having an object outside of oneself?

Lesson Six


Antigonus, wanting to prove that his career was not yet finished, decided to take part in the Battle of Ipsus, with disastrous results. In the time following his father's death, Demetrius fought other roadblocks to success (such as being told that "kings" were no longer welcome in Athens). He also lost one wife, but acquired another.

This is a long lesson, and you may wish to read it in more than one session.


Acte: the peninsula containing Mount Athos, in northeastern Greece

the Isthmus: the strip of land joining the Peloponnesus to the rest of Greece; the site of Corinth

three score and ten: seventy

pensive: quietly thoughtful

Jupiter: the god Zeus

marred all: ruined everything

Antigonus' battle; Antigonus' host: his troops

environ: surround

expostulate: complain loudly

an agreement was made that he should marry his daughter Ptolemais: this occurs in Lesson Ten


Pleistarchus: the brother of Cassander; see introductory note to Demosthenes

Historic Occasions

301 B.C.: Cassander, Seleucus, and Lysimachus fought Demetrius and Antigonus at the Battle of Ipsus

Lesson Six Reading

Part One

[Between Lessons Five and Six is a passage about Demetrius' defilement of the temple. Please leap over it if you are reading from or listening to a complete text. There are several additional omissions in this lesson.]

From thence Demetrius went into Peloponnesus, and never an enemy of his durst tarry his coming, but all fled before him, and left him their castles and towns. Thus Demetrius won unto himself all the country called Acte, and all Arcadia, saving the city of Mantinea: and for the sum of an hundred talents given amongst them, he delivered the cities of Argos, Sicyone, and Corinth, from the garrisons that lay amongst them.

About that time fell out the great Feast of Juno in Argos. Therefore Demetrius, to honour this feast with the Grecians, married Deidamia (the sister of Pyrrhus); and persuaded the Sicyonians to leave their city, and to come and build in another goodly place near unto it, where they now do dwell; and so with the place and situation, he changed also the name of the city. For instead of Sicyone, he made it to be called Demetriade. [A general assembly met on the Isthmus, where he was proclaimed, by a great concourse of the people, the Commander of Greece, like Philip and Alexander of old]; unto whom he did not only compare himself, but thought himself greater than they, because fortune smiled on him, and for that he had so good success in all his affairs.

[further omission here for length and content]

Part Two

But now, the misfortunes and jests of him we presently write of: they do transport our history, as from a comical into a tragical theater, that is to say, from pleasant and light matter, into lamentable and bitter tears. For all the princes and kings conspired generally against Antigonus, and joined all their force and armies together. Therefore, Demetrius departed forthwith out of Greece, and came to join with his father, whose courage he found more lively and better given to this war, than his years required: besides that Demetrius' coming made him the bolder, and did lift up his heart the more.

And yet it seems to me, that if Antigonus would but have yielded up a few trifling things; and that he could or would have bridled his over-immoderate, covetous desire to reign; he [would have] both kept for himself, all the time of his life; and also left after his death unto his son, the supremest dignity and power, above all the other kings and successors of Alexander. But he was so cruel, and rash of nature, and as insolent and brave in his doings as in his words: that thereby he stirred up, and brought upon him as his enemies, many great and mighty princes. For, even at that present time, he said that he would as easily disperse and scatter asunder that conspiracy against him, as little birds coming to peck up the corn newly sown, are easily scared away with a stone, or making any little noise.

So he carried to the field with him above three score and ten thousand footmen, ten thousand horsemen, and three score and fifteen elephants. His enemies had three score and four thousand footmen, and five hundred horsemen more than he, with four hundred elephants, and six score carts of war. When the two armies were one near unto the other, methinks he had some imagination in his head that changed his hope, but not his courage. For in all other battles and conflicts, having commonly used to look big of the matter, to have a loud high voice, and to use brave words, and sometime also even in the chiefest of all the battle to give some pleasant mock or other, shewing a certain trust he had in himself, and a contempt of his enemy: then they saw him oftentimes alone, and very pensive, without ever a word to any man.

One day he called all his army together, and presented his son unto the soldiers, recommending him unto them, as his heir and successor, and talked with him alone in his tent. Whereat men marvelled the more, because that he never used before to impart to any man the secrets of his counsel and determination, no not to his own son, but did all things of himself: and then commanded that thing openly to be done, which he had secretly purposed. For proof hereof it is said, Demetrius being but a young man, asked him on a time when the camp should remove: and that Antigonus in anger answered him, "Art thou afraid thou shalt not hear the sound of the trumpet?"

Furthermore, there fell out many ill signs and tokens that killed their hearts. For Demetrius dreamed that Alexander the Great appeared armed unto him at all pieces, and that he asked him what word or signal of battle they were determined to give at the day of the battle. He answered that they were determined to give "Jupiter and Victory." "Then," said Alexander, "I will go to thine enemies that shall receive me." And afterwards, at the very day of the overthrow, when all their army were set in battle [ar]ray, Antigonus coming out of his tent, had such a great fall, that he fell flat on his face on the ground, and hurt himself very sorely. So when he was taken up, then lifting up his hands to heaven, he made his prayers unto the gods, that it would please them to grant him victory, or sudden death without great pain, before he should see himself vanquished, and his army overthrown.

When both battles came to join, and that they fought hand to hand: Demetrius that had the most part of the horsemen with him, went and gave charge upon Antiochus the son of Seleucus, and fought it out so valiantly on his side, that he overthrew his enemies, and put them to flight. But too fondly following the chase of them that fled, and out of time: he marred all, and [that] was the occasion of the loss of his victory.

For when he returned from the chase, he could not join again with their footmen, because the elephants were between both. Then Seleucus perceiving Antigonus' battle was naked of horsemen, he did not presently set upon them, but turned at one side as though he would environ them behind, and made them afraid: yet making head as he would charge them, only to give them leisure to come on their side, as they did. For the most part of Antigonus' host did forsake him, and yielded unto his enemies: and the rest of them fled every man. And when a great troop of men together went with great fury to give charge on that side where Antigonus was: one of them that were about him, said unto him: "Your grace had need take heed, for these men come to charge us." He answered again: "But how should they know me? And if they did, my son Demetrius will come and help me." This was his last hope, and still he looked every way if he could see his son coming towards him: until at length he was slain with of arrows, darts, and pikes. For of all his friends and soldiers there tarried not one man by his body, but Thorax of the city of Larissa in Thessaly.

Now the battle having such success as you have heard, the kings and princes that had won so glorious a victory, as if they had cut a great body in sundry pieces: they divided Antigonus' kingdom among them, and every man had his part of all the provinces and countries which Antigonus kept, adding that unto their other dominions which they possessed afore.

Part Three

[Omitted for length: After losing this battle and the kingdom, Demetrius expected to find safety in Athens, but was told that the Athenians had just passed a law "to suffer no more kings to come into Athens." He reclaimed his large galley, but otherwise had bad luck in trying to round up even his own men.]

Therefore leaving Pyrrhus his lieutenant in Greece, he took sea again, and sailed towards Chersonesus, and there with the mischiefs he did, and with the spoils he got in King Lysimachus' land, he paid his men, and enriched his army, the which began again to increase, and to be dreadful to his enemies.

Shortly after, Seleucus sent unto Demetrius, to require his daughter Stratonice in marriage. Demetrius presently took his daughter with him, and sailed with all his ships directly towards Syria.

[Having during his voyage to touch several times on the coast, among other places he landed in part of Cilicia, which by the apportionment of the kings after the defeat of Antigonus was allotted to Pleistarchus, the brother of Cassander. Pleistarchus, who took this descent of Demetrius upon his coasts as an infraction of his rights, and was not sorry to have something to complain of, hastened to expostulate in person with Seleucus for entering separately into relations with Demetrius, the common enemy, without consulting the other kings. Demetrius, receiving information of this, seized the opportunity, and fell upon the city of Qinda, which he surprised, and took in it twelve hundred talents still remaining of the treasure. With this prize, he hastened back to his galleys, embarked, and set sail.]

[back to the story]

So Seleucus received them all near unto the city of Rhosus, and there their meeting was princely, without sorrow or suspicion one of the other. First of all Seleucus did feast Demetrius in his tent, in the midst of his camp: and afterwards Demetrius feasted him again in his galley, with thirteen banks of oars. Thus they passed many days together, feasting and rejoicing each with other, being unarmed, and having no soldiers to wait upon them: until at length Seleucus with his wife Stratonice departed, and took his way with great pomp towards the city of Antioch. Now for Demetrius, he kept the province of Cilicia, and sent his wife Phila unto her brother Cassander, to answer the complaints and accusations of Pleistarchus. In the meantime Deidamia his wife departed out of Greece to come unto him: who after she had remained with him a few days, died of a sickness.

Afterwards Demetrius coming again in favor with Ptolemy, by Seleucus his son-in-law's means: [an agreement was made that he should marry his daughter Ptolemais].

Narration and Discussion

How did Demetrius' dream about Alexander affect his actions?

Was the death of Antigonus to be blamed on his age and physical condition, or was it simply bad luck in battle?

Creative narration: Act out the dream scene between Alexander and Demetrius. Another conversation, written or acted out, might be between Demetrius and his daughter Stratonice, on board ship to Syria. What might they discuss?

Lesson Seven


The major event of this lesson is the Siege of Athens, in 287 B.C. As we heard previously, Athens had decided they wanted "no more kings." They had installed Lachares as ruler, and had attacked the Macedonian garrison. As punishment, Demetrius put the city under siege, and this is where the lesson begins.


extreme necessity: very bad situation, desperation

a proportion: a small number

preferring: proposing

Lacedaemonians: Spartans

puissant: powerful

Laconia: the region around Sparta

for recompense of his pains: as a reward for his trouble

the great train: the great number of people

suffer: allow

prevented them but one day: they would have killed him the next day

issue and posterity: descendants


Epicurus: famous philosopher, founder of Epicureanism

Historic Occasions

297 B.C.: Lysimachus seized the towns that Demetrius had held in Asia Minor

297 B.C.: the death of Cassander

295/294 B.C.: Ptolemy reconquered Cyprus

294 B.C.: Demetrius fought against Lachares at Athens, and forgave the Athenians for their rebellious actions in 301;

294 B.C.: the murder of Alexander

287 B.C.: the siege of Athens

Lesson Seven Reading

Part One

[The description of the beginning of the siege is omitted for length]

[In their] extreme necessity, the Athenians had but a short joy for the hundred and fifty galleys they saw near unto Aegina, the which Ptolemy sent to aid them. For when the soldiers that were in them saw that they brought unto Demetrius a great number of ships out of Peloponnesus, out of Cyprus, and divers other parts, which amounted in the whole to the number of three hundred sail: they weighed their anchors, and fled presently. Then Lachares, [the tyrant, ran away, leaving the city to its fate].

Now the Athenians, who before had commanded, upon pain of death, that no man should make any motion to the council to treat of any peace with Demetrius: they did then, upon Lachares' fleeing, presently open the gates next unto Demetrius' camp, and sent ambassadors unto him, not looking for any grace or peace, but because necessity drove them to it.

During this so hard and strait siege, there fell out many wonderful and strange things: but among others, this one is of special note. It is reported that [a] father and the son sitting in their house, void of all hope of life: there fell a dead rat before them from the top of the house, and that the father and son fought who should have it to eat. Moreover, that at the selfsame siege the philosopher Epicurus maintained himself and his scholars, by giving them a proportion of beans every day, by the which they lived.

Thus the city of Athens being brought unto this extremity, Demetrius made his entry into it, and gave commandment to all the citizens, that they should assemble every man within the theater: where he made them to be compassed in with armed soldiers, and then placed all his guard armed about the stage. Afterwards he came down himself into the theater, through high galleries and entries by which the common players used to come to play their parts in tragedies, insomuch as the Athenians were then worse afraid than before: howbeit Demetrius presently pacified their fear, as soon as he began to speak unto them.

For he did not fashion his oration with a hasty angry voice, neither did he use any sharp or bitter words: but only after he had courteously told them their faults and discourtesy towards him, he said he forgave them, and that he would be their friend again: and furthermore, he caused ten million bushels of wheat to be given unto them, and [e]stablished such governors there, as the people misliked not of. Then Dromoclides the orator, seeing that the people gave out great shouts of joy in the praise of Demetrius, and that the orators daily contended in the pulpit for orations, who should exceed other in preferring new honours for Demetrius: he caused an order to be made, that the havens of Piraeus and Munichia should be put into Demetrius' hands, to use at his pleasure. This being [e]stablished by voices of the people, Demetrius of his own private authority did place a great garrison within the fort called Musaeum, because the people should rebel no more against him, nor divert him from his other enterprises.

Thus, when he had taken Athens, he went to set upon the Lacedaemonians. But Archidamus, king of Lacedaemon, came against him with a puissant army, whom he discomfited in battle, and put to flight, by the city of Mantinea. After that he [Demetrius] invaded Laconia with all his army, and made an inroad to the city of Sparta, where he once again overthrew the Lacedaemonians in set battle, took five hundred of them prisoners, and slew two hundred: insomuch that every man thought he might even then go to Sparta without any danger to take it, the which had never yet been taken afore by any.

But there was never king that had so often and sudden changes of fortune variable as Demetrius, nor that in other affairs was ever so often little, and then great: so suddenly down, and up again: so weak, and straight so strong. Now again when his affairs prospered so well, and that he was likely to recover a great force and kingdom: news were brought him, first that Lysimachus had taken all his towns from him, which he held in Asia: and on the other side, that Ptolemy had won from him all the realm of Cyprus, the city of Salamina only excepted, in the which he kept his mother and children very straitly besieged.

[Plutarch leaves this story for now to focus on the power struggle in Macedon.]

Part Two

After the death of Cassander, Philip who was the eldest of all his other sons, and left his heir and successor in the kingdom of Macedon: he reigned no long time over the Macedonians, but [died] soon after his father. The two other brethren also fell at great variance, and wars together: so that the one called Antipater slew his own mother Thessalonica: and the other, Alexander, called in to aid him Demetrius and Pyrrhus, the one out of the realm of Epirus, and the other out of Peloponnesus. Pyrrhus came first before Demetrius, and kept a great part of Macedon for recompense of his pains, coming to aid him at his desire: so that he became a dreadful neighbour unto Alexander himself, that had sent for him into his country. Furthermore, when he was advertised that Demetrius did presently, upon the receipt of his letters, set forward with all his army to come to aid him: the young Prince Alexander, was twice as much more amazed and afraid, for the great estate and estimation of Demetrius. So he went to him notwithstanding, and received him at a place called Deion, and there embraced and welcomed him. But immediately after, he told him that his affairs were now in so good state, that praised be the gods he should not now need his presence to aid him. After these words the one began to mistrust the other.

So it chanced one day that as Demetrius went to Alexander's lodging where the feast was prepared: there came one to him to tell him of an ambush that was laid for him, and how they had determined to kill him when he should think to be merry at the banquet. But Demetrius was nothing abashed at the news, and only went a little softlier, not making such haste as he did before, and in the meantime sent to command his captains to arm their men, and to have them in readiness: and willed his gentlemen and all the rest of his officers that were about him, (which were a greater number by many than those of Alexander's side) every man of them to go in with him into the hall, and to tarry there till he rose from the table. By this means the men whom Alexander had appointed to assault him, they durst not, being afraid of the great train he had brought with him. Furthermore, Demetrius feigning that he was not well at ease at that time to make merry, he went immediately out of the hall, and the next morning determined to depart, making him believe that he had certain news brought him of great importance: and prayed Alexander to pardon him, that he could no longer keep him company, for that he was driven of necessity to depart from him, and that another time they would meet together, with better leisure and liberty.

Alexander was very glad to see that Demetrius went his way out of Macedon not offended, but of his own goodwill: whereupon he brought him into Thessaly, and when they were come to the city of Larissa, they began again to feast one another, to entrap each other: the which offered Demetrius occasion to have Alexander in his hand, as he would wish himself. For Alexander of purpose would not have his guard about him, fearing lest thereby he should teach Demetrius also to stand upon his guard. Thus Alexander turned his practise for another, upon himself: for he was determined not to suffer Demetrius to [e]scape his hands, if he once again came within danger. So Alexander being bidden to supper to Demetrius, he came accordingly. Demetrius rising from the board in the midst of supper, Alexander rose also, being afraid of that strange manner, and followed him foot by foot to the very door. Then Demetrius said but to his warders at the gate, "Kill him that followeth me." With those words he went out of the doors, and Alexander that followed him was slain in the place, and certain of his gentlemen with him which came to rescue him: of the which, one of them, as they killed him, said that Demetrius had prevented them but one day.

All that night, (as it is no other likely) was full of uproar and tumult. Howbeit, the next morning the Macedonians being marvellously troubled and afraid of Demetrius' great power; when they saw that no man came to assail them, but that Demetrius in contrary manner sent unto them to tell them that he would speak with them, and deliver them reason for that he had done; then they all began to be bold again, and willingly gave him audience.

Now Demetrius needed not to use many words, nor to make any long orations, to win them unto him: for, because they hated Antipater as a horrible murderer of his mother; and because they had no better man to prefer, they easily chose Demetrius king of Macedon, and thereupon brought him back into Macedon, to take possession of the kingdom. This change was not misliked of the other Macedonians that remained at home in their country, for that they yet remembered the traitorous and wicked fact of Cassander, against Alexander the Great: for which cause they utterly hated and detested all his issue and posterity. And furthermore, if there were any spark of remembrance in their hearts, of the bounty and goodness of their grandfather Antipater: Demetrius received the fruit and benefit, for his wife Phila's sake, by whom he had a son that should succeed him in the kingdom, and was a proper youth, in camp with his father.

Narration and Discussion

Discuss this saying of Plutarch's: "But there was never king that had so often and sudden changes of fortune variable as Demetrius, nor that in other affairs was ever so often little, and then great: so suddenly down, and up again: so weak, and straight so strong."

Why did Alexander change his mind about accepting help from Demetrius? Describe the cat-and-mouse game that they plaid. Was there a point at which it could have ended peacefully?

Lesson Eight


Demetrius, like a game player collecting up properties, was now the king of both Macedon and Thessaly, and the ruler of Athens. However, as in a game, the tables could easily be turned. (Maps showing places such as Thebes, Thrace, and Thessaly would be helpful in this lesson.)


hap: luck

engines: war machines

levied: collected

the country of Thracia: Lysimachus was the king of Thrace

foraged: scavenged the area for food

constrained: forced

engine of battery: a war machine; see Lesson Five

two furlongs: a furlong was equivalent to 220 yards or 201 metres

replenished with people: Thebes had been destroyed by Alexander the Great, but had been re-established by Cassander in about 315 B.C.


Cleonymus, king of Sparta: he was a son of the king, but was passed over in favour of his nephew, so did not actually rule (and therefore had a grudge against his own people).

Hieronymus the historian: the writings of Hieronymus may have been one of Plutarch's sources for this Life

Pyrrhus: see introductory notes

Historic Occasions

291 B.C.: Demetrius captured Thebes

288 B.C.: Demetrius was forced to leave Macedon

Lesson Eight Reading

Part One

Demetrius having this great good hap and fortune come unto him, he received news also that Ptolemy had not only raised his siege from the city of Salamina, where he [Ptolemy] kept his [Demetrius'] mother and children straitly besieged: but further, that he had done them great honour, and bestowed great gifts upon them. On the other side also he was advertised, that his daughter Stratonice, who had before been married unto Seleucus, was now married again unto Antiochus, the son of the said Seleucus, and how that she was crowned queen of all the barbarous nations inhabiting in the high provinces of Asia.

[Why did Seleucus allow his wife to be married to his son, an unusual act even in his time and culture? Short version: the son was so lovesick that Seleucus took pity on him. The passage detailing this is omitted.]

But now to return again to the history of Demetrius. Demetrius came by the kingdom of Macedon and Thessaly, by this means as you have heard, and did moreover possess the best part of Peloponnesus, and on this side [of] the strait, the cities of Megara, and Athens. Furthermore he led his army against the Boeotians, who were at the first willing to make peace with him. But after that Cleonymus, king of Sparta, was come into the city of Thebes with his army, the Boeotians encouraged by the fair words and allurement of [Pisis the Thespian, who was their first man in power and reputation]: they gave up their treaty of peace they had begun with Demetrius and determined to make war.

[No sooner, however, had Demetrius begun to approach the walls with his engines, but Cleonymus in affright secretly withdrew; and the Boeotians, finding themselves abandoned, made their submission.] Demetrius, putting great garrisons into the cities, and having levied a great sum of money of the province, left them Hieronymus the historian [as] his lieutenant and governor there. So it appeared that he used them very courteously, and did them many pleasures, and specially unto Pisis. For when he had taken him prisoner, he did him no hurt, but received him very courteously, and used him well: and furthermore, he made him [chief magistrate of Thespiae].

Shortly after these things were thus brought to pass, King Lysimachus by chance was taken by another barbarous prince called Dromichaetes. Thereupon, Demetrius, to take such a noble occasion offered him, went with a great army to invade the country of Thracia, supposing he should find no man to withstand him, but that he might conquer it at his pleasure. Howbeit, so soon as Demetrius' back was turned, the Boeotians revolted again from him, and therewithal news was brought him, that Lysimachus was delivered out of prison. Then he returned back with all speed, marvellously offended with the Boeotians, whom he found already discomfited in battle by his son Antigonus; and went again to lay siege to the city of Thebes, being the chief city of all that province of Boeotia.

But at that present time, Pyrrhus came and foraged all Thessaly, and entered even to the strait of Thermopylae. Therefore Demetrius was constrained to leave his son to continue the siege at Thebes, whilst he himself went against Pyrrhus, who suddenly returned again into his realm. So Demetrius left ten thousand footmen and a thousand horsemen in Thessaly to defend the country, and returned with the rest of his army to win Thebes.

Part Two

Thereupon he brought his great engine of battery, called Elepolis, against the wall, as you have heard before, the which was thrust forward by little and little, with great labour, by reason of the weight and heaviness of it: so that it could scant be driven forward two furlongs in two months. But the Boeotians and the Thebans did valiantly defend themselves: and Demetrius, of a malicious mind and desire of revenge, (more oftener than needful, or to any purpose) compelled his men to go to the assault, and to hazard themselves: so that there were daily a great number of them slain. Antigonus his son perceiving it: "Alas," said he, "why do we thus suffer our men to be slain and cast away to no purpose?" Wherefore Demetrius angrily answered him again: "What needest thou to care? Is there any corn to be distributed to those that are dead?" But notwithstanding, because men should not think he still meant to put others in danger, and durst not venture himself: he fought with them, till at length he was shot through the neck with a sharp arrowhead, that was shot at him from the wall.

Wherewithal he fell very sick, but yet raised not his siege, nor removed his camp, but took the city of Thebes again by assault: the which being not long before again replenished with people, was in ten years' space twice won and taken. Now he put the Thebans in a marvellous fear, by his cruel threats he gave them at his coming into Thebes: so that they looked to have received the extremest punishment the vanquished could have, through the just wrath and anger of the conqueror. Howbeit after Demetrius had put thirteen of them to death, and banished some, he pardoned all the rest.

From thence he returned into Macedon, and knowing that it was against his nature to live idly, and in peace, and seeing on the other side also that the Macedonians did him more service, and were more obedient to him in wars, and that in time of peace they grew seditious, full of vanity and quarrel: he went to make war with the Aetolians, and after he had spoiled and destroyed their country, he left Pantauchus his lieutenant there, with a great part of his army. Demetrius himself went in the meantime with the rest of his army against Pyrrhus: and Pyrrhus also against him, but they missed of meeting each with other. Whereupon Demetrius passed further unto the realm of Epirus, the which he spoiled and foraged. Pyrrhus, on the other side, went on so far that he met with Pantauchus, Demetrius' lieutenant, with whom he fought a battle, and came to the sword with him: so that he did both hurt him, and was also hurt by him.

But in the end Pyrrhus had the upper hand, he put Pantauchus to flight, and slew a great number of his men, and took five thousand prisoners: the which was the chief overthrow of Demetrius. For Pyrrhus won not the Macedonians' ill will so much for the mischiefs and hurts he had done unto them, as he got himself great fame and renown with them; because himself alone had, with his own hands, done all the noble exploits of war in that journey; for the which, he was afterwards had in great estimation among the Macedonians.

Narration and Discussion

"Wherefore Demetrius angrily answered him again: 'What needest thou to care? Is there any corn to be distributed to those that are dead?'" Why might Demetrius have said this? How did he show his concern afterwards?

Is it true that people are more easily ruled in wartime than in peace?

Lesson Nine


Demetrius now had a true rival for power: Pyrrhus, whom, it was believed, carried on the greatness of Alexander. Demetrius' kingly robes no longer seemed to impress the people, and neither did his arrogance.


piece of work: piece of embroidery

by the change of his fortune: by the time he lost his kingdom

not wont to be acquainted withal: not used to that

ill to come to, and worse to be spoken with: it was hard to get an appointment with him

after the Laconian manner: in few words

The poor suitors: those waiting to have their cases heard

Mars: Ares, the god of war

levied: collected

haven: harbour

artificers: builders

tracted time, stayed yet: delayed things

would not prefer Pyrrhus, a stranger, before him: would be less likely to desert to Pyrrhus than they would to Lysimachus

good occasion: a reasonable excuse

Lesson Nine Reading

Now many of them began to say, that [Pyrrhus] was the only king of all others, in whom the lively image of the hardiness and valiantness of Alexander the Great was to be seen: and that all the rest, (but specially Demetrius) did but counterfeit his gravity and princely countenance, like players upon a stage that would counterfeit his countenance and gesture.

[And Demetrius truly was a perfect play and pageant, with his robes and diadems, his gold-edged purple and his hats with double streamers, his very shoes being of the richest purple felt, embroidered over in gold.] And furthermore, he had long before caused a cloak to be made of a marvellous rich and sumptuous piece of work. For upon it was drawn the figure of the world, with stars and circles of heaven, the which was not thoroughly finished by the change of his fortune. So there was never king of Macedon after him that durst wear it: though there were many proud and arrogant kings that succeeded him.

Now the Macedonians were not only sorry, and offended to see such things, as they were not wont to be acquainted withal: but they much more misliked [his profuse and luxurious] manner of life, and specially because he was ill to come to, and worse to be spoken with. For he gave no audience, or if he did, he was very rough, and would sharply take them up that had to do with him. As, he kept the ambassadors of the Athenians two years, and would give them no answer: and yet made as though he loved them better than any other people of Greece. Another time also he was offended, because the Lacedaemonians had sent but one man only [as] ambassador unto him, taking it that they had done it in despite of him. And so did the ambassador of the Lacedaemonians answer him very gallantly, after the Laconian manner. For when Demetrius asked him, "How chanceth it that the Lacedaemonians do send but one man unto me?" "No more but one," said he, "O king, unto one."

On [one occasion] he came abroad more plainly and popularlike, than he was wont to do: whereby he put the people in good hope that they might the easilier speak with him, and that he would more courteously hear their complaints. Thereupon many came, and put up their humble supplications and bills of petition unto him. He received them, and put them in [the skirt of] his cloak. The poor suitors were glad of that, and waited upon him at his heels, hoping they should quickly be dispatched: but when he was upon the bridge of the river of Axius, he opened his cloak, and cast them all into the river. This went to the hearts of the Macedonians, who then thought they were no more governed by a king, but oppressed by a tyrant. For truly nothing becometh a prince better, than to minister justice: for Mars (as Timotheus saith) signifieth force, and is a tyrant: but Law, according to Pindarus, is queen of all the world.

[omitted: a brief rabbit trail about Jupiter]

But now to return where we left: Demetrius fell into a great and dangerous sickness in the city of Pella, during which time he almost lost all Macedon, by a sudden invasion Pyrrhus made, who in manner rode it all over, and came as far as the city of Edessa. Howbeit so soon as he recovered health again, he easily drove him out, and afterwards made peace with him, [being desirous not to employ his time in a string of petty local conflicts with a neighbour, when all his thoughts were fixed upon another design].

For he [Demetrius] had no small matters in his head, but thought to recover all the realms his father had: and besides, the preparation he made was no less sufficient, than the purpose of such an imagination required. For he had levied and assembled an army of a hundred thousand footmen, lacking but two thousand: and unto them he had also well near twelve thousand horsemen, and had besides gotten above five hundred ships together, which were built part in the haven of Piraeus, part at Corinth, part in the city of Chalcis, and part about Pella. He himself in person went through their workhouses, and shewed the artificers how they should make them, and did help to devise them: so that every man wondered not only at his infinite preparation, but at the greatness and sumptuousness of his works. For at that time there was no man living that ever saw a galley of fifteen or sixteen banks of oars.

[omitted for length: comparison to a later, larger Egyptian ship]

Thus as this great power and preparation was in hand, being such as never king before (since the time of Alexander the Great) had assembled a greater to invade Asia: these three kings, Ptolemy, Seleucus, and Lysimachus, did all join together against him. And afterwards also, they sent ambassadors unto Pyrrhus in the name of them all, to draw him to their side, alluring him to come into Macedon, persuading him not to repose any trust in the peace Demetrius had made with him, to make account of it as a good and sure peace. For they said that Demetrius did not give him pledge that he would never make war with him, but rather first took opportunity himself to make war with whom he thought good.

Pyrrhus considering so much, and finding their words true: there rose a sharp and cruel war on every side against Demetrius, who tracted time, and stayed yet to begin. For at one self time, Ptolemy, with a great fleet of ships, came down into Greece, and made all Greece revolt from him: and Lysimachus also on Thracia's side, and Pyrrhus upon the borders of Epirus, confining with the realm of Macedon, they entered with a great army, and spoiled and sacked all as they went. Thereupon Demetrius leaving his son Antigonus in Greece, he returned with all possible speed into Macedon, to go first against Lysimachus. But as he was preparing to go against him, news were brought him that Pyrrhus had already taken the city of Berrhoea. This news being blown abroad amongst the Macedonians, all Demetrius' doings were turned topsy turvy.

For all his camp was straight full of tears and complaints, and his men began openly to shew their anger against him, speaking all the ill they could of him: so that they would tarry no longer, but everyone prayed leave to depart, pretending to look to their business at home, but in truth to go and yield themselves unto Lysimachus. Wherefore Demetrius thought it best for him to get him as far from Lysimachus as he could, and to bend all his army against Pyrrhus; because the other [Lysimachus] was their countryman, and familiarly known among the most of them, for that they had served together under Alexander the Great, and that as he thought, the Macedonians would not prefer Pyrrhus, a stranger, before him. But there his judgement failed him. For as soon as Pyrrhus had pitched his camp hard by him, the Macedonians, that had ever loved valiantness, and had of ancient time esteemed him worthier to be king, that was the best soldier and valiantest in the field, and furthermore had heard the report of his great clemency and courtesy he had shewed to the prisoners he had taken: they having had goodwill of longtime sought but good occasion to forsake Demetrius, and to yield themselves unto Pyrrhus, or to any other prince; whatsoever he were.

Then they secretly began to steal away one after another, by small companies at the first: but afterwards there rose such a general tumult against him throughout all the camp, that some of them [went up and told him openly that if he consulted his own safety he were best to make haste to be gone, for that the Macedonians were resolved no longer to hazard their lives for the satisfaction of his luxury and pleasure.] And yet Demetrius found these words more gentle, and modest, in respect of the vile and cruel words which others gave him. So he went into his tent, and cast a black cloak about his face, instead of his rich and stately cloak he was wont to wear: not like unto a king, but like a common player when the play is done, and then secretly stole away. When this was known in the camp, many of his soldiers ran to his tent to rifle it, and every man took such hold of it to have his part, that they tore it in pieces, and drew their swords to fight for it. But Pyrrhus coming in the midst of the tumult, pacified this stir, and presently, without blow given, won all Demetrius' camp: and afterwards he divided the realm of Macedon with Lysimachus, in the which Demetrius had quietly reigned the space of seven years.

Narration and Discussion

Demetrius had great plans and built wonderful warships. How was he so suddenly defeated?

Creative narration: The scene with the waiting petitioners, and Demetrius' response, would be a good one to act out. A reporter might be called to interview one of the complainants.

Lesson Ten


Demetrius was, by this point, "the most miserable king." But, being Demetrius, he always seemed to have a plan for recovery; and this one began with Athens. As an honourable warrior, he tried to respect old alliances, such as that with Seleucus; but he did not realize how much times and friendships could change.


the rest of his shipwrecks: Dryden translates it "determining still to hold on by the wreck"; the meaning seems to be to hold onto or salvage the little that was left.

by repair: by the return

meanly apparelled: poorly dressed

in this estate: in this fashion

wight: a spirit or ghost, or an unfortunate person

revoke the dignity and priesthood of Diphilus, etc.: refers to the laws (see Lesson Three) which honoured the "priest of the two Tutelar[y] Deities" (Demetrius and Antigonus).

divers: a number of, several

forage: search for food

want of victuals: lack of food

to gauge the ford: to judge the depth and conditions of the river crossing

Lesson Ten Reading

Part One

Now Demetrius being thus miserably overthrown, and turned out of all his realm: he fled unto the city of Cassandria. There he found his wife Phila, who took it marvellous heavily, and could not abide to see him again a private man, driven out of his kingdom, and the most miserable king that ever was of all other. Wherefore intending no more to follow vain hope, and detesting the fortune of her husband: she [Fortune] being more constant in calamity than in prosperity, [Phila] killed herself with poison she took.

Demetrius went from thence into Greece, purposing to gather together the rest of his shipwrecks: and there assembled all his captains and friends that he had.

[omitted for length: verses about the rising and falling of one's fortunes]

[And] when every man thought his force and power utterly overthrown, then began he to rise again by repair of soldiers, which by little and little came unto him, and straight revived him with good hope.This was the first time that he was ever seen meanly apparelled, like a private man up and down the country, without some shew or tokens of a king. And there was one that seeing him in this estate at Thebes, pleasantly applied these verses of Euripides unto him:

Of god immortal, now become a mortal wight:
Ismenus' banks and Diro's streams he haunteth in our sight.

Now when he began to have some hope again, and (as it were) entered into the great highway of kings, and had gotten soldiers about him, which made a body and shew of royal power: he restored the Thebans their liberty and government again. But the Athenians once more revolted from him, and did revoke the dignity and priesthood of Diphilus, who had been that year created [the priest of the two Tutelar Deities, and [they] restored the archons, as of old, to mark the year]; and they sent also into Macedon unto King Pyrrhus, rather to terrify Demetrius (whom they saw begin to rise again) than for any hope they had he [Pyrrhus] would come and help them.

Howbeit Demetrius came against them with great fury, and did straitly besiege the city of Athens. Then the Athenians sent Crates the Philosopher to him, a man of great estimation and authority, who so handled him, partly by entreaty, and partly also through his wise persuasions and counsels he gave him for his profit: that Demetrius presently raised the siege. Wherefore, after he had gathered together so many ships as were left him, and had embarked twelve thousand footmen, and a small number of horsemen: he presently took sea, and sailed towards Asia, meaning to take the provinces of Caria and Lydia from Lysimachus, and to make them to rebel against him.

There Eurydice, sister to his wife Phila, received him by the city of Miletum, having with her one of Ptolemy's daughters and hers, called Ptolemais, the which had been afore affianced to him by Seleucus' means. So he married Ptolemais there, with the goodwill and consent of her mother Eurydice.

Part Two

After his marriage, he presently went into the field again, and did set forwards to win some cities, whereof many willingly received him, and others he took by force. Amongst them he took the city of Sardis, whither came divers captains unto him of King Lysimachus, who yielded themselves, and brought him a great number of men, and much money besides. [But when Agathocles, the son of Lysimachus, arrived with an army, he retreated into Phrygia, with an intention to pass into Armenia, believing that, if he could once plant his foot in Armenia, he might set Media in revolt, and gain a position in Upper Asia, where a fugitive commander might find a hundred ways of evasion and escape.] Agathocles followed him very near, and yet skirmishing divers times with him, Demetrius alway[s] had the better; howbeit Agathocles did cut off his victuals from him every way, and kept him at such a strait that his men durst no more stray from the camp to forage: wherefore they sustained great want of victuals; and then began his men to be afraid, and to mistrust that he would make them follow him into Armenia and Media.

The famine daily increased more and more in his army, and it chanced besides, that missing his way, and failing to gauge the ford well as he passed over the river of Lycus, the fury and force of the river carried his men down the stream, and drowned a great number of them. The plague began also in the midst of this famine, (a common thing, and almost a matter of necessity, it should so be) because that men being driven to need and necessity, do frame themselves to eat all that comes to hand: whereupon he was driven to bring back those few men that remained, having lost of all sorts (good and bad) not so few as eight thousand fully told.

Part Three

When he came into the province of Tarsus, he commanded his men in no case to meddle with anything, because the country was subject unto King Seleucus, whom he would in no wise displease. But when he saw it was impossible to stay his men being now brought to such extremity and need, and that Agathocles had barred up the straits and passages of Mount Taurus against him: he wrote a letter unto Seleucus, first declaring his miserable state and hard fortune, and then presenting his humble petition and request unto him, praying him to take pity upon his friend, whom spiteful fortune had thrown into such misery and calamity, that could not but move his greatest enemies to have compassion of him.

These letters somewhat softened Seleucus' heart, insomuch that he wrote to his governors and lieutenants of those parts to furnish Demetrius' person with all things needful for a prince's house, and victuals sufficient to maintain his men. But one Patrocles, a grave wise man, accounted Seleucus' faithful friend also, came to tell him that the charge to entertain Demetrius' soldiers was not the greatest fault he made therein, and most to be accounted of: but that he did not wisely look into his affairs, to suffer Demetrius to remain in his country, considering that he had alway been a more fierce and venturous prince than any other, to enterprise any matters of great importance, and now he was brought to such despair and extremity, that he had framed his men which were but rank cowards (contrary to their nature) to be most desperate and hardy in greatest dangers.

Seleucus, being moved with these persuasions, presently took his journey into Cilicia with a great army. Demetrius being astonished with this sudden change, and dreading so great an army, got him to the strongest places of Mount Taurus. Then he sent unto Seleucus, first of all to pray him to suffer him to conquer certain barbarous people thereabouts, who lived according to their own laws, and never had [a] king: to the end that he might yet there with safety end the rest of his life and exile, staying at length in some place where he might be safe. Secondly, if that liked him not, then that it would yet please him to victual his men for the wintertime only, in the same place where they were, and not to be so hardhearted unto him as to drive him thence, lacking all needful things, and so to put him into the mouth of his most cruel and mortal enemies.

But Seleucus, mistrusting his demands, sent unto him that he should winter if he thought good, two months, but no more, in the country of Cataonia, [provided] he gave him the chiefest of his friends for hostages: howbeit in the meantime he [Seleucus] stopped up all the ways and passages going from thence into Syria.

Narration and Discussion

How did Demetrius handle the problems of sickness and lack of food in his army? What choices did he have to make?

For older students: In the verses that were omitted in Part One, Plutarch (speaking of Demetrius) quotes the character Menelaus in an unknown play of Sophocles, who says:

"For me, my destiny, alas, is found
Whirling upon the gods' swift wheel around,
And changing still, and as the moon's fair frame
Cannot continue for two nights the same,
But out of shadow first a crescent shows,
Thence into beauty and perfection grows,
And when the form of plenitude it wears,
Dwindles again, and wholly disappears."

As a challenging creative narration, respond to Menelaus in a verse with the same metre. Or discuss his (typically Greek) view of fate, and compare it with other philosophical or religious beliefs.

Lesson Eleven


After a chase through Cyrrhestica, Seleucus caught up with Demetrius and put him under house arrest. But what was he then to do with him? He could kill him, of course. But if he let Demetrius go, perhaps with conditions, he could remind him forever of how kind he had been.


toil: strife, battle

armed carts with scythes: chariots with scythe blades mounted on the sides.

to set all at six and seven: We still use the phrase "at sixes and sevens" to mean chaotic, upset. Dryden writes "to have one deciding blow for the empire with Seleucus."

at a strait with himself: confused, frustrated

listed: desired

hard by him: near to him

putting on his hose: Dryden says "putting on his boots"

target: shield

victuals, provision: food, supplies

his clemency and courtesy: how nice and generous he was

compassed in: surrounded

suffered: allowed

Lesson Eleven Reading

Part One

Demetrius now seeing himself kept in of all sides, like a beast to be taken in the toil: he was driven to trust to his own strength. Thereupon he overran the country thereabouts, and as often as it was his chance to have any skirmish or conflict with Seleucus, he had ever the better of him: and when they drove the armed carts with scythes against him, he overcame them, and put the rest to flight.

Then he drove them away that kept the top of the mountains, and had barred the passages to keep him that he should not go into Syria, and so kept them himself. In fine, finding his men's hearts lift[ed] up again, and prettily encouraged: his heart also grew so big, that he determined to fight a battle with Seleucus, and to set all at six and seven. So that Seleucus was at a strait with himself, and wist not what to do. For he had returned back the aid which Lysimachus sent unto him, because he was afraid of him, and mistrusted him, [being averse to any assistance from Lysimachus, whom he both mistrusted and feared, and shrinking from a battle with Demetrius, whose desperation he knew, and whose fortune he had so often seen suddenly pass from the lowest to the highest].

But in the mean space Demetrius fell into a great sickness, the which brought his body very weak and low, and had almost utterly overthrown his affairs. For his soldiers, some of them yielded themselves to his enemies, and others stole away without leave, and went where they listed. Afterwards when he had hardly recovered his health, and within forty days' space was prettily grown to strength again: with those few soldiers that remained with him, he seemed to his enemies, that he would go and invade Cilicia. But then suddenly in the night without sounding any trumpet, he removed his camp, and went another way: and having passed over Mount Amanus, he spoiled all the country under it, as far as the region of Cyrrhestica.

But Seleucus followed him, and camped hard by him. Thereupon Demetrius suddenly armed his men, and went out by night to assault Seleucus, and to take him sleeping when he mistrusted nothing. So that Seleucus knew nothing of his stealing on him but late enough, until that certain traitors of Demetrius' camp that fled before, went quickly to advertise him, finding him asleep, and brought him news of the danger he was in. Then Seleucus in amaze[ment] and fear withal, got up, and sounded the alarm: and as he was putting on his hose and making him ready he cried out (speaking to his friends and familiars about him), "We have now a cruel and dangerous beast to deal with."

Demetrius on the other side perceiving by the great stir and noise he heard in the enemies' camp, that his enterprise was discovered: he retired again with speed, and the next morning by break of day, Seleucus went and offered him battle. Demetrius prepared himself to join with him, and having given one of his faithful friends the leading of one of the wings of his army, himself led the other, and overthrew some of his enemies on his side. But Seleucus, in the midst of the battle, lighted from his horse, and taking his helmet from his head, he took a target on his arm, and went to the first ranks of his army, to make himself known unto Demetrius' men: persuading them to yield themselves unto him, and to acknowledge in the end, that he had so long time deferred to give them battle, rather to save them, than to spare Demetrius. Demetrius' soldiers hearing him say so, they did him humble reverence, and acknowledging him for their king, they all yielded unto him.

Demetrius, [who felt that this was his last change of fortune], thinking yet to [e]scape this last also, and to pass it over: he fled unto the [passes of Amanus]. There he found certain little thick groves, where he determined to stay all night with certain gentlemen of his house, and a few other of his household servants and officers which had followed him: meaning, if he could possible, to take his way towards the city of Caunus, to go to that seacoast, hoping to hear of his ships there. But when it was told him he had no victuals nor provision left only to serve him that day: he began then to devise some other way.

At length, one of his familiar friends, Sosigenes, came unto him, that had four hundred pieces of gold about him in his girdle. So hoping that with the same money he might flee to the sea, they took their way by night directly, to the top of the mountain. But when they perceived that the enemies kept watch there, and that there were great store of fires hard by them: they then despaired to pass any further, least they should be seen. So they returned to the selfsame place from whence they came, not all of them, for some of them fled: neither had they that remained also any life in them as before.

So, one among the rest took upon him to say that there was no other way to [e]scape, but to put Demetrius into Seleucus' hands. Demetrius therewithal drew out his sword, and would have slain himself: but his friends about him would not suffer him, but persuaded him to yield himself unto Seleucus.

Part Two

Thereupon he sent unto Seleucus, to tell him that he yielded himself unto him. Seleucus was so joyful of the news, that he said it was not Demetrius' good fortune that saved him, but his own: who besides many other happy good turns she had done him, gave him yet so honourable occasion and good hap, as to make the world to know his clemency and courtesy. Thereupon immediately he called for his officers of household, and commanded them to set up his richest pavilion, and to prepare all things meet to receive him honourably.

There was one Appolonides, a gentleman in Seleucus' court, who sometime had been very familiar with Demetrius: him Seleucus sent immediately unto Demetrius, to will him to be of good cheer, and not to be afraid to come to the king his master, for he should find him his very good friend. So soon as the king's pleasure was known, a few of his courtiers went at the first to meet him: but afterwards, every man strived who should go meet him first, because they were all in hope that he should presently be much made of, and grow in credit with Seleucus.

But hereby they turned Seleucus' pity into envy, and gave occasion also to Demetrius' enemies and spiteful men, to turn the king's bountiful good nature from him. For they put into his head many doubts and dangers, saying, that certainly so soon as the soldiers saw him, there would grow great stir and change in their camp. And therefore, shortly after that Apollonides was come unto Demetrius, being glad to bring him these good news, and as others also followed him one after another, bringing him some good words from Seleucus, and that Demetrius himself after so great an overthrow (although that before he thought it a shameful part of him to have yielded his body into his enemy's hands) changed his mind at that time, and began then to grow bold, and to have good hope to recover his state again: behold, there came one of Seleucus' captains, called Pausanias, accompanied with a thousand footmen and horsemen in all, who compassed in Demetrius with them, and made the rest depart that were come unto him before, having charge given him not to bring him to the court, but to convey him into Chersonesus of Syria, whither he was brought, and ever after had a strong garrison about him to keep him.

But otherwise, Seleucus sent him officers, money, and all things else meet for a prince's house: and his ordinary fare was so delicate, that he could wish for no more than he had. And furthermore, he had places of liberty and pleasure appointed him, both to ride his horse in, and also pleasant walks, and goodly arbours to walk or sit in, and fine parks full of beasts where he might hunt: moreover, the king suffered his own household servants that followed him when he fled, to remain with him if they would. And furthermore, there daily came someone or other unto him from Seleucus, to comfort him, and to put him in hope that so soon as Antiochus and Stratonice were come, they would make some good agreement and peace between them. Demetrius remaining in this estate, wrote unto his son Antigonus, and to his friends and lieutenants which he had at Corinth, and Athens, that they should give no credit to any letters written in his name, though his seal were to them: but that they should keep the towns they had in charge for his son Antigonus, and all the rest of his forces, as if he himself were dead.

When Antigonus heard the pitiful captivity of his father, he marvellous grievously took his hard fortune, wearing blacks for sorrow, and wrote unto all the other kings, but unto Seleucus specially, beseeching him to take him[self] as a pledge for his father, and that he was ready to yield up all that he kept, to have his father's liberty. The like request did many cities make unto him, and in manner all princes but Lysimachus: who promised Seleucus a great sum of money to put Demetrius to death.

But Seleucus, who of long time had no great fancy to Lysimachus, but rather utterly despised him: did then think him the more cruel and barbarous for this vile and wicked request he made unto him. Wherefore he still delayed time, because he would have Demetrius delivered by his son Antiochus and Stratonice's means, for that Demetrius should be bound to them for his delivery, and forever should acknowledge it to them.

Narration and Discussion

What would you have done, at this point, if you were Seleucus? How would you have acted if you were Demetrius?

Creative narration: Make a "most wanted" poster for Demetrius.

Lesson Twelve


Seleucus was relieved of the need to make a decision about Demetrius, as he died of more-or-less natural causes. His death seemed to cause a surprising amount of sorrow…or was it just for show? You will have to decide for yourself.


gross: overweight

dicing: gambling

turmoiling: upsetting, troubling

he himself also did much repent him: he was very sorry

nosegays: small bunches of flowers

Historic Occasions

283 B.C.: the death of Demetrius

Lesson Twelve Reading

Now for Demetrius, as he from the beginning patiently took his hard fortune, so did he daily more and more forget the misery he was in. For first of all, he gave himself to riding and hunting, as far as the place gave him liberty. Then by little and little he grew to be very gross, and to give over such pastimes, and therewithal he fell into drunkenness and dicing: so that in that sort he passed away the most part of his time, as it should seem, either to avoid the grievous thoughts of his hard fortune, which came into his mind when he was sober: or else under colour of drunkenness and eating, to shadow the thoughts he had: or else finding in himself that it was that manner of life he had long desired, and that through his vain ambition and folly till that time he could never attain unto, greatly turmoiling and troubling himself and others, supposing to find in wars, by sea and land, the felicity and delight which he had found in ease and idleness, when he neither thought of it, nor looked for it. For what better end can evil and unadvised kings and princes look for, of all their troubles, dangers, and wars? who indeed deceive themselves greatly, not only for that they followe their pleasure and delights as their chiefest felicity, instead of virtue and honest life: but also, because that in truth they cannot be merry, and take their pleasure as they would.

So, Demetrius after he had been shut up in Chersonesus three years together, by ease, grossness, and drunkenness, fell sick of a disease whereof he died, when he was four and fifty year[s] old. Therefore was Seleucus greatly blamed, and he himself also did much repent him that he so suspected him as he did, and that he [had let himself be so much outdone by the barbarian Dromichaetes of Thrace, who had shown so much humanity and such a kingly temper in his treatment of his prisoner Lysimachus].

But yet there was some tragical pomp in the order of his funeral. For his son Antigonus understanding that they brought him the ashes of his body, he took sea with all his ships, and went to meet them, to receive them in the isles. [They were there presented to him in a golden urn, which he placed in his largest admiral galley.] So, all the cities and towns whereby they passed, or harboured, some of them did put garlands of flowers about the pot, others also sent a number of men thither in mourning apparel, to accompany and honour the convoy, to the very solemnity of his funerals. In this sort sailed all the whole fleet towards the city of Corinth, the pot being plainly seen far off, standing on the top of the admiral galley: all the place about it being hanged about with purple, and over it, the diadem or royal band, and about it also were goodly young men armed, [to receive it at landing]. Furthermore, Xenophantus, the famousest musician in that time, being set hard by it, plaid a sweet and lamentable song on the flute, wherewithal the oars keeping stroke and measure, the sound did meet with a gallant grace, as in a convoy where the mourners do knock their breasts at the foot of every verse.

But that which most made the people of Corinth to weep and lament, which ran to the pier, and all alongst the shoreside to see it: was Antigonus, whom they saw all beblubbered with tears, apparelled as a mourner in blacks. Now, after they had brought a wonderful number of garlands and nosegays, and cast them upon the funeral pot, and had solemnized all the honours possible for the funerals at Corinth: Antigonus carried away the pot to bury it in the city of Demetriade, the which bare the name of Demetrius that was dead, and was a new city, that had been replenished with people, and built little towns which are about Iolcos.

Demetrius left two children by his first wife Phila, to wit, Antigonus and Stratonice: and two other sons, both of them named Demetrius; the one surnamed the Lean, of a woman of Illyria, and the other king of the Cyrenians, of his wife Ptolemais; and another by Deidamia called Alexander, who lived in Egypt. And it is reported also, that he had another son called Corrhaebus, by his wife Eurydice, and that his posterity reigned by succession from the father to the son, until the time of Perseus: who was the last king of Macedon, whom the Romans overcame by Paulus Aemilius, and won all the realm of Macedon unto the empire of Rome.

Narration and Discussion

How did Demetrius' funeral rites mirror his life?

The surname or nickname given to Demetrius was Poliorcetes, meaning "Besieger," or in North's translation, "Fort-gainer." Do you think this name was well chosen? Can you think of a better one?

"For what better end can evil and unadvised kings and princes look for, of all their troubles, dangers, and wars? who indeed deceive themselves greatly, not only for that they followe their pleasure and delights as their chiefest felicity, instead of virtue and honest life: but also, because that in truth they cannot be merry, and take their pleasure as they would." Was this statement true of Demetrius?

Possible Examination Questions

For younger students: How was Demetrius inspired by the example of his father Antigonus?

For older students: Describe a) the early life and career of Demetrius, b) his final days.

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