Study Guide for Plutarch's Life of Demetrius
Text taken from Thomas North and/or John Dryden
Study Guide by Anne White
"But certainly there never was any king upon whom Fortune made such short turns, nor any other life or story so filled with her swift and surprising changes, over and over again, from small things to great, from splendour back to humiliation and from utter weakness once more to power and might."
"As, indeed, what other end or period is there of all the wars and dangers which hapless princes run into, whose misery and folly it is, not merely that they make luxury and pleasure, instead of virtue and excellence, the object of their lives, but that they do not so much as know where this luxury and pleasure are to be found?"
(Plutarch's Life of Demetrius)
Why study someone with such a negative reputation?
In a prologue which is not included in this text, Plutarch wrote:
We may, I think, avail ourselves of the cases of those who have fallen into indiscretions, and have, in high stations, made themselves conspicuous for misconduct, and I shall not do ill to introduce a pair or two of such examples among these biographies; not, assuredly, to amuse and divert my readers, or give variety to my theme, but as Ismenias the Theban used to show his scholars good and bad performers on the flute, and to tell them, "You should play like this man," and, "You should not play like that"... So, in the same manner, it seems to me likely enough that we shall be all the more zealous and more emulous to read, observe, and imitate the better lives, if we are not left in ignorance of the blameworthy and the bad.
For this reason, the following book contains the lives of Demetrius Poliorcetes and Antonius the Triumvir; two persons who have abundantly justified the words of Plato, that great natures produce great vices as well as virtues.
Plutarch was also careful to point out the positive aspects of Demetrius' character: for instance, he attempted to preserve the local government and culture of the cities he captured. Plutarch also commended Demetrius for his persistence, energy, wit, and loyalty to his father.
However, as noted elsewhere, this is not a story which should be handed intact to young students.
What was Demetrius' proper name?
Demetrius is more formally known as Demetrius Poliorcetes, or Demetrius I of Macedon. "Poliorcetes" is a surname, or additional name, meaning "The Besieger." You may also see it written as Demetrios Poliorketes.
Is it Macedon or Macedonia? Were the Macedonians Greeks?
The names are used interchangeably. Macedonia, or Macedon, was a kingdom in the northeastern part of mainland Greece. The Macedonians were Greek in many respects, such as religious beliefs; but they valued their distinct heritage and identity.
A Fighting Family
The surname of Demetrius' father Antigonus (#1) was Monopthalmus, meaning "one-eyed." It is believed that he lost an eye when he was struck by a catapult bolt. That, indeed, tells you something about his strength and determination.
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). The two 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 worried about sleeping through the bugle call.
Demetrius' wives...and others
The official wives of Demetrius were (at various times) Phila, Eurydice, Deidamia, Lanassa, and Ptolemais. Not content with those marriages (most of which were made for political reasons), Demetrius had many other involvements which are omitted from this edition.
Demetrius had at least three children (some others are named at the end of Lesson Twelve). His daughter, Stratonice, from his marriage to Phila, was later married to King Seleucus (Lesson Six). His youngest son, called Demetrius the Fair, was born during his marriage to Ptolemais. But it is his older son, Antigonus II Gonatas (#2), whose life may suggest a Creative Narration activity (see Lesson One).
A second Demetrius
Demetrius of Phalerum was an Athenian orator and philosopher. He served as the temporary governor of Athens, and he is also mentioned in Plutarch's Life of Demosthenes. He will be called Demetrius (#2).
The World of Demetrius
Since his father was both a Macedonian general and a provincial ruler, and then became one of the successors to Alexander's empire, Demetrius grew up in the center of military and political events.
Philip and Alexander
During the years leading up to Demetrius' birth, King Philip II of Macedonia planned to combine his military power with that of the Greek states, mainly to attack the weakening empire of Persia. His assassination in 336 B.C. left that ambition unfulfilled. However, his son Alexander ("The Great") spent the next thirteen years conquering a previously undreamed-of share of the world. When Demetrius was four, his father Antigonus was made governor of Phrygia in the region of Anatolia (now part of Turkey); and Demetrius likely spent some of his childhood there as well.
The Wars of the Diadochi
After Alexander's sudden death, his relatives and military colleagues were left to parcel out the pieces of his empire among themselves. This bitter struggle is known as the Wars of the Diadochi(pronounced dye-AD-a-kee), meaning "successors," and they can be divided into various groups. There were the remaining members of the Macedonian royal family (see The Kings of Macedonia, below). But there were even more determined and powerful competitors in Macedonia, such as Alexander's bodyguards, including Ptolemy and Lysimachus; and the satraps, or governors of provinces, including Antigonus, Seleucus, and Polyperchon. Pyrrhus of Epirus was one of the few non-Macedonians counted in the group. Demetrius and Cassander were considered second-generation members of the Diadochi.
(If you have done the Life of Eumenes study in the book The Practical Plutarch, you can refer to the character cards created there.)
Who was Ptolemy?
Ptolemy I Soter ("Ptolemy the Saviour"), a Macedonian general and friend of Alexander the Great, ruled Egypt after Alexander's death.
Who was Lysimachus?
Lysimachus was king of Thrace. He died in battle in 281 B.C.
Who was Seleucus?
Seleucus I Nicator was a former general in Alexander's army. His territory was the eastern part of the empire, including Babylonia.
Pyrrhus was king of the Molossians, and later of Epirus; his sister Deidamia was married to Demetrius. Lanassa, a later wife of Demetrius, was first married to Pyrrhus.
Who was Cassander?
Cassander was king of Macedonia for several years. Year ago he had been a student of Aristotle, along with Alexander the Great. His father, Antipater (see Kings of Macedonia), had also been a close friend of Alexander.
The Kings of Macedonia
King Philip II of Macedonia was succeeded by his son Alexander III (The Great). But what happened after that?
Alexander died without a clear heir to his throne, although his wife was expecting a child. His older half-brother Arrhidaeus became king (he was officially called Philip III), but due to a disability he was unable to carry out his role fully, and most of the decisions were made by regents: Perdiccas, then Antipater, and finally Polyperchon. Antipater's decision to name Polyperchon as the next regent, instead of his son Cassander, caused an ugly power struggle.
Alexander's son, born after his death, also had people who supported his right to the throne over that of his uncle; and after Philip III was put to death in 317 B.C., he became King Alexander IV, and "ruled" until he was murdered in 310 or 309 B.C.
And what about Cassander? He essentially ruled Macedonia from 317 B.C. until he was formally made king in 305; and he died in 297 B.C. It was his son Alexander V (yet another Alexander) who was put to death in 294 B.C. by Demetrius (Lesson Eight).
Top Vocabulary Terms in theLife of Demetrius
If you recognize these words, you are well on the way to mastering the vocabulary for this study. They will not be repeated in the lessons.
1. barbarous people, barbarians: This refers to people who were not Greek, specifically the tribes of the former Persian empire.
2. citadel: castle, fortress
3. confederacy: joining of military forces; alliance. Those who join together are confederates.
4. countenance: face
5. despatch: an older spelling of dispatch. This has two very different meanings: first, to send something or someone; second, to kill. The only way to tell which is meant is by the context.
6. engines, engines of battery: large constructions used to attack enemy fortifications or besiege a city. You may want to look for pictures of Demetrius' Helepolis, or "City-Taker."
7. foot: foot soldiers, infantry. In the same way, horse is often used to refer to soldiers on horseback, or cavalry.
8. forbear (past tense, forbore): to restrain or keep oneself from doing something. Note the spelling difference between forbear and one's forebears, or ancestors.
9. galley: a large ship, having sails but generally powered by banks of oars. A trireme was a ship with three banks of oars.
10. garrison: either a fort, or the soldiers in the fort (often those who were occupying a town)
11. javelin: long spear used for hunting or fighting
12. spoil, spoils: treasure, loot; weapons and money taken from an enemy. The word can be either a noun or a verb in the same way as loot ("They spoiled/looted the enemy's camp").
13. talent: a unit of money, measured by weight. The measure varied according to the time and place, but it was always a very large amount. An Attic (Greek) talent equaled about 57 pounds of gold or silver (25 or 26 kg). Another way to measure its value was in the years it would take a person to earn that much money: one talent would have meant about nine years' earnings for a skilled worker; or a months' pay for a whole trireme crew.
Demetrius was born into a powerful family in a rapidly changing, unpredictable world; and as he grew up, he accepted the many challenges that came with that position.
counterfeit to his likeness: do justice to his appearance
Bacchus: the Roman name for Dionysus, the Greek god of wine
not so much owing to fear…: his attachment to his father seems to have been from actual love and affection rather than merely because of "fear or duty."
all the successors of Alexander; all the other families: see introductory notes about the Diadochi
postulate: (noun) something assumed or believed to be true for the purposes of reasoning.
Antigonus (#1): the father of Demetrius (see introductory note)
Philip (#1): the brother of Demetrius. Although we do not know his birthdate, it is recorded that he commanded troops in 310 B.C., four years before his death.
Philip (#2): Philip V of Macedon, the great-grandson of Demetrius, who had his own son put to death for treason
Mithridates: later known as Mithridates I of Pontus
c. 382 B.C.: Birth of Antigonus I Monophthalmus
356 B.C.:Birth of Alexander the Great
337 B.C.: Birth of Demetrius I Poliorcetes
336 B.C.:Alexander became king of Macedon
334 B.C.:Alexander began his invasion of the Persian empire
327 B.C.: Alexander began his campaign in India
323 B.C.: Death of Alexander
323-320 B.C.: Antigonus ruled Phrygia, Lycaonia, Pamphylia, Lycia, and western Pisidia, and then became Strategos of Asia
c.320 B.C.: Birth of Demetrius' son Antigonus II Gonatas
On the Map
As an introduction to this study, it would be useful first of all to look at a map of Alexander's empire (it was very large!), and then another one showing how it was broken up after his death (when Demetrius was fourteen). A historical atlas will often show a series of such maps, or they can be found online. It is also important to locate Macedonia and Greece, reviewing cities such as Athens and Corinth if necessary. The island of Cyprus will be mentioned.in Lesson Two.
Phrygia: A region of Anatolia, part of present-day Turkey.
Pontus: an ancient kingdom in Cappadocia
Antigonus (#1) had two sons by his wife Stratonice, the daughter of Corraeus: the one of whom, after the name of his uncle, he called Demetrius; the other had that of his grandfather, Philip (#1), and died young. This is the most general account, although some have related that Demetrius was not the son of Antigonus, but of his brother; and that his own father dying young, and his mother being afterwards married to Antigonus, he was accounted to be his son.
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 anyone 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 was wonderfully fond of his father Antigonus; and the tenderness he had for his mother led him, for her sake, to redouble attentions, which it was evident were not so much owing to fear or duty as to the more powerful motives of inclination. It is reported that, returning one day from hunting, he went unto his father Antigonus, who was conversing with some ambassadors, and after stepping up and kissing his father, he sat down by him, just as he was, still holding in his hand the javelins which he had brought with him. Whereupon Antigonus, who had just dismissed the ambassadors with their answer, called out in a loud voice to them, as they were going, "Mention, also, that this is the way in which we two live together"; as if to imply to them that it was no slender mark of the power and security of his government that there was so perfect good understanding between himself and his son.
Such an unsociable, solitary thing is power, and so much of jealousy and distrust in it, that the first and greatest of the successors of Alexander could make it a thing to glory in that he was not so afraid of his son as to forbid him standing beside him with a weapon in his hand. And, in fact, among all the successors of Alexander, that of Antigonus was the only house which, for many descents, was exempted from crime of this kind; or, to state it exactly, Philip (#2) was the only one of this family who was guilty of a son's death. All the other families, we may fairly say, afforded frequent examples of fathers who brought their children, husbands their wives, children their mothers, to untimely ends; and that brothers should put brothers to death was assumed, like the postulate of mathematicians, as the common and recognized royal first principle of safety.
Let us here record an example in the early life of Demetrius, showing his natural humane and kindly disposition. It was an adventure which passed between him and Mithridates, the son of Ariobarzanes, who was about the same age with Demetrius, and lived with him, in attendance on Antigonus; and although nothing was said or could be said to his reproach, he fell under suspicion, in consequence of a dream which Antigonus had. Antigonus thought himself, in a fair and spacious field, where he sowed golden seed, and saw presently a golden crop come up; of which, however, looking presently again, he saw nothing remain but the stubble, without the ears. And as he stood by in anger and vexation, he heard some voices saying Mithridates had cut the golden harvest and carried it off into Pontus.
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 when the young man came, as usual, to pass his time with him, to keep his oath he forbore from saying a word, but, drawing him aside little by little from the company, as soon as they were by themselves, without opening his lips, with the point of his javelin he traced before him the words: "Fly, Mithridates." Mithridates took the hint, and fled by night into Cappadocia, where Antigonus's dream about him was quickly brought to its due fulfillment: for he got possession of a large and fertile territory; and from him descended the line of the kings of Pontus, which, in the eighth generation, was reduced by the Romans. This may serve for a specimen of the early goodness and love of justice that was part of Demetrius' natural character.
[Omission for length]
Narration and Discussion
Demetrius grew up in a culture full of "jealousy and distrust." How did his family manage to avoid this? How do you think it might affect his life later on?
Does the story of Demetrius and Mithridates have any similarities to that of David and Jonathan (1 Samuel 18-20)?
Creative narration: Demetrius' son Antigonus II Gonatas was born in about 320 B.C. and died at about the age of eighty, in 239 B.C. Although he was raised in a "fighting family," and was a commander of troops, even winning back the Macedonian throne for himself in 277 B.C., his personal interests were more philosophical and literary. Zeno of Citium, the founder of Stoicism, was a favourite guest at court, and Antigonus (#2) wrote letters to Zeno, asking him to help "guide him in virtue" on behalf of his people.
As a single or ongoing activity for this study, create a family history as it might have been told by the younger Antigonus. This could cover many years, or just a short time. It might be a reminiscence in old age, or it could be a letter written in adulthood, or even a school-aged project telling about the people in his family.
As a variation, this activity could be done in dramatized format.
A caveat: Any additional reading on these lives should be overseen by the teacher/parent.
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 with an additional message of "now 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: reasons to fight
near the city of Gaza: see Historic Occasions
requiting: paying back
Nabataean Arabs: a wealthy tribe living along the Red Sea. Antigonus hoped to add their territory to that which he already controlled in Syria and Phoenicia.
beacon: a light set up as a signal or warning
within a kenning: within range of sight
hurly burly: alarm, confusion
palisade: fence, enclosure
trench: a large ditch surrounding the city, one of the tactics used in siege warfare (see circumvallation)
sacked: robbed and ruined
Ptolemy, Cassander, Seleucus: see introductory note
Demetrius of Phalerum (#2): see introductory notes
Stilpo the philosopher: a teacher of Zeno (the founder of Stoicism)
319-315 B.C.: Seleucus, Ptolemy, Lysimachus, and Cassander formed an alliance to fight against Antigonus
312 B.C.: Demetrius was defeated at the Battle of Gaza
311 B.C.: Peace was declared among the Diadochi, but it did not last long
309-308 B.C.: Ptolemy took the towns of Lycia and Caria from Antigonus, then seized several Greek cities.
307 B.C.: Demetrius captured Megara
On the Map
Review maps of the post-Alexander empire, pointing out Mesopotamia (and the river Euphrates), Syria, and Babylon.
Celenae: a town of Phrygia
Mount Caucasus: probably Mount Kazbek, in the Caucasus Mountains
Halicarnassus: a city in Anatolia
Munichia (or Munychia): a steep hill in Piraeus, the harbour town near Athens
Thebes: a city in Boeotia, in central Greece
Megara: an ancient city in west Attica, near the island of Salamis.
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 (#1) 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, near the city of Gaza, in which overthrow were slain five thousand men, and almost eight thousand taken. His own tent, also his money, and all his private effects and furniture, were captured. 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 dominion.
Demetrius accepted the gift, praying only to the gods not to leave him long in Ptolemy's debt, but to let him have an early chance of doing the like to him. He took his disaster, also, with the temper not of a boy defeated in his attempt, but of an old and long-tried general, familiar with reverse of fortune. 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 not to humble the spirit of his son, he acceded to his request, and left him to command on the next occasion.
Not long after, Cilles, Ptolemy's lieutenant, with a powerful army, took the field, and looking upon Demetrius as already defeated by the previous battle, he had in his imagination driven him out of Syria before he saw him. But he quickly found himself deceived; for Demetrius came so unexpectedly upon him that he surprised both the general and his army, making him and seven thousand soldiers prisoners of war, and possessing himself of a large amount of treasure. But his joy in the victory was not so much for the prizes he should keep, as for those he could restore; and his thankfulness was less for the wealth and glory than for the means it gave him for requiting his enemy's former generosity. He did not, however, take it into his own hands, but wrote to his father. And on receiving leave to do as he liked, he sent back to Ptolemy Cilles and his friends, loaded with presents.
This defeat drove Ptolemy out of Syria, and brought Antigonus from Celenae to enjoy the victory and the sight of the son who had gained it.
Soon after, Demetrius was sent to bring the Nabataean Arabs into obedience. And here he got into a district without water, and incurred considerable danger; but by his resolute and composed demeanour he overawed the barbarians, and returned after receiving from them a large amount of [treasure] and seven hundred camels.
Not long after, Seleucus, whom Antigonus had formerly chased out of Babylon, but who had afterwards recovered his dominion by his own efforts and maintained himself in it, 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 defense, suddenly passed over the Euphrates, and made his way into Babylonia unexpectedly, where he succeeded in capturing one of the two citadels, out of which he expelled the garrison of Seleucus, and placed in it seven thousand men of his own. 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.
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, which Ptolemy and Cassander had everywhere reduced to slavery. 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 Greeks 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 beacon 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 of Phalerum (#2) was governing the city for Cassander, and kept a great strong garrison there within the haven and castle of Munichia. By good fortune and skillful management he appeared before Piraeus, on the twenty-sixth of 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 (#1) 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 caused a herald with a loud voice to make proclamation 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. The people, hearing this, at once threw down their shields, and clapping their hands, with loud acclamations entreated Demetrius to land, calling him their deliverer and benefactor. And Demetrius of Phalerum (#2), who saw that there was nothing for it but to receive the conqueror, whether he should perform his promises or not, sent, however, messengers to beg for his protection; to whom Demetrius (#1) gave a kind reception, and sent back with them Aristodemus of Miletus, one of his father's friends. Demetrius of Phalerum, under the change of government, was more afraid of his fellow-citizens than of the enemy; but Demetrius (#1) took precautions for him, and out of respect for his reputation and character, sent him with a safe conduct to Thebes, whither he desired to go. For himself, he declared he would not, in spite of all his curiosity, put his foot in the city till he had completed his deliverance by driving out the garrison. So blockading Munichia with a palisade and trench, he sailed off to attack Megara, where also there was one of Cassander's garrisons.
[omission for content]
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 (#1) 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 Demetrius' goods to him, after defeating him? How did Demetrius react to that?
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?
Creative narration #1: Continue the "family history project" as Antigonus II Gonatas might have written it (see Lesson One).
Creative narration #2: Dramatize the story of Stilpo the philosopher, or retell it in some other way.
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.
laid siege to the castle of Munichia: see Historic Occasions
razed it to the ground: tore it down
the war of Lamia and the battle before Crannon: The Lamian War, including the Battle of Crannon, was fought from 323-322 B.C.
the government had been administered nominally as an oligarchy: it had (officially) been ruled by a small group of people
the lineal descendants…: see introductory notes for this study
tutelar, tutelary: protecting, guarding, acting as patron
deity, divinity: a god, one with divine status(Dryden uses both terms)
archon: chief magistrate
were in anxiety…: they were worried about who would win the war
Menelaus: King in Cyprus under his brother Ptolemy I Soter.
307 B.C.: Demetrius retook Athens (see previous lesson)
307 B.C.: Demetrius married Eurydice
On the Map
Cyprus, Salamis, Corinth: These can be reviewed as needed
Sicyon: a city-state in the northern Peloponnesus
Shortly after, he returned again unto Athens, and laid siege to the castle of Munichia, 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 the 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 would enable them to build a hundred galleys [North says a hundred and fifty]. Thus, the Athenians, through Demetrius' means, recovered the Democratia again (to wit, their popular government), fifteen years after they had lost it, from the time of the war of Lamia and the battle before Crannon, during which interval of time the government had been administered nominally as an oligarchy, but really by a single man, Demetrius of Phalerum (#2) being so powerful.
But by this means they made their saviour and preserver of their country, Demetrius (#1), 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 (#1) and Demetrius (#1) 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.
They decreed, also, that the figures of Antigonus and Demetrius should be woven, with those of the gods, into the pattern of the Great Robe. They consecrated the spot where Demetrius first alighted from his chariot, and built an altar there, with the name of the Altar of the Descent of Demetrius. They created two new tribes, calling them after the names of these princes, the Antigonid and the Demetriad; and to the council, which consisted of five hundred persons, fifty being chosen out of every tribe, they added one hundred more to represent these new tribes. 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 the members of any deputation that the city should send to Demetrius or Antigonus should have the same title, "Ministers of the Sacrifices," as those sent to Delphi or Olympia for the performance of the national sacrifices in behalf of the state at the Greek festivals.
[Omission regarding the character of Stratocles]
And last of all, they changed the name of the month Munychion (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 also called the Demetrion; and they turned the feast of Bacchus, the Dionysia, into the feast of Demetrius.
[Omission for length: further description of these honours]
Thus laying upon Demetrius all these foolish mockeries, who besides was no great wise man, they made him a very fool.
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. But Demetrius was very free in these matters, and was the husband of several wives at once; the highest place and honour among all being retained by Phila, who was Antipater's daughter, and had been the wife of Craterus, the one of all the successors of Alexander who left behind him the strongest feelings of attachment among the Macedonians. And for these reasons Antigonus had obliged him to marry her, notwithstanding the disparity of their years, Demetrius being quite a youth, and she much older.
[Omission for content]
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 Greeks at liberty), the which had been far more honourable and famous. Before he departed from Athens, he sent unto Cleonides, Ptolemy's general, who was holding garrisons in Sicyon and Corinth, to offer him money if he would set those cities at liberty. But on his refusal, he set sail hastily, taking additional forces with him, and made for 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 Sicyon. And not they alone, but all the other potentates and princes of the time were in anxiety for the uncertain impending issue of the conflict; as it seemed evident that the conqueror 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
How did the honour shown to Demetrius make him "hateful and odious?"
Creative narration #1: This lesson lends itself well to dramatization or other creative activities about the honouring of Antigonus and Demetrius. One suggestion might be to create some "merchandise" or souvenirs (realistic, or anachronistic such as t-shirts).
Creative narration #2: Continue the "family history project" as Antigonus II Gonatas might have written it.
For further thought: 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," and that "all these foolish mockeries…made him a very fool." 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)
Demetrius took his ships to Salamis, against those of Ptolemy. His father Antigonus was left at home, biting his nails and hoping for good news. But when the news did finally come, one little word attached to it changed their lives forever.
sally: charge; move out suddenly and forcefully
impetuosity: this usually means without giving something proper consideration, but in this case it means more like "without giving it another thought"
military engines: see introductory vocabulary notes
thou hast kept us in a trance a good while: Dryden says, "as you chose to torture us so long for your good news"
royal band or diadem: coronet, crown
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
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 other Diadochi (such as Lysimachus) followed suit.
306 B.C.: Death of Demetrius' brother Philip
On the Map
Miletus: a city of Anatolia
Ptolemy had brought a hundred and fifty galleys with him, and gave orders to Menelaus to sally, in the heat of the battle, out of the harbour of Salamis, and attack with sixty ships the rearward of Demetrius' ships, to break their order. Demetrius, on the other side, opposing these sixty with ten of his galleys, which were a sufficient number to block up the narrow entrance of the harbour, and drawing out his land forces along all the headlands running out into the sea, went into action with a hundred and eighty galleys, and, attacking with the utmost boldness and impetuosity, utterly routed Ptolemy, who fled with eight ships, the sole remnant of his fleet, seventy having been taken with all their men, and the rest destroyed in the battle; while the whole multitude of attendants, friends, and women, that had followed in the ships of burden, all the arms, treasure, and military engines, fell, without exception, into the hands of Demetrius, and were by him collected and brought into the camp.
[Omission for content]
After this victory by sea, Menelaus made no more resistance, but yielded up Salamis and his ships unto Demetrius, and put into his hands also twelve hundred horsemen, and twelve thousand footmen, well-armed. But that which added more than all to the glory and splendour of the success was the humane and generous conduct of Demetrius to the vanquished. For, after he had given honourable funerals to the dead, he bestowed liberty upon the living; and that he might not forget the Athenians, he sent them, as a present, complete arms for twelve hundred men.
To carry this happy news, Aristodemus of Miletus, the most perfect flatterer belonging to the court, was despatched to Antigonus; and he, to enhance the welcome message, was resolved, it would appear, to make his most successful effort. 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 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, it put him into yet greater trouble; he could scarcely forbear from going out to meet him himself; he sent messenger on messenger, and friend after friend, to inquire 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 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."
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." And, because it should not seem that for one overthrow received, their hearts were dead, Ptolemy's followers also took occasion to bestow the style of king upon him [Ptolemy]; and the rest of the successors of Alexander were quick to follow the example. Lysimachus began to wear the diadem, and Seleucus, who had before received the name in all addresses from the barbarians, now also took it upon him in all business with the Greeks. Cassander still retained his usual superscription in his letters, but others, both in writing and speaking, gave him the royal title.
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 appareling 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. He 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 met with many difficulties by land; and Demetrius, encountering a great storm at sea, was driven, with the loss of many of his ships, upon a dangerous coast without a harbour. So the expedition returned without effecting anything.
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?"
Creative narration #1: Act out the scene between Antigonus and Aristodemus. Which of them had the last laugh?
Creative narration #2: Continue the "family history project."
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 them some of the machinery, as a memorial both to their courage and his power.
sober and continent: self-restrained, moderate in habits
not to be satiated: he could never have enough of this
machines: see introductory vocabulary notes
cuirass: a piece of body armour
style or graver: a tool with a hard point used for writing or engraving
the honourable example of the Athenians: this is a flashback to the days of King Philip
affront: insult, offense
Minerva: the Roman name for Athena, the patron goddess of Athens
Lysimachus: one of the Diadochi (see introductory notes)
Protogenes the Caunian: a famous Greek artist
Ialysus: a legendary Rhodian hero
Apelles: a rival painter
305-304 B.C.: The Siege of Rhodes
302 B.C.: Demetrius returned to Greece
On the Map
Cilicia: a region of southern Anatolia
Rhodes (Rhodians): a large island in the Aegean Sea, and the city by that name
Heraclea: a city-state near Thermopylae
Antigonus (#1), now nearly eighty years old, was no longer well able to go through the fatigues of a marching campaign, though rather on account of his great size and corpulence than from loss of strength; and for this reason he left things to his son, whose fortune and experience appeared sufficient for all undertakings, and whose luxury and expense and revelry gave him no concern. For in time of peace, he [Demetrius] was given over to all those vices; but in time of war, he was as sober and continent as any man so born by nature.
[Omission for content]
So Antigonus did gently bear with his son's faults, in respect of the many other virtues he had. The Scythians in their drinking bouts, twang their bows to keep their courage awake amidst the dreams of indulgence; but he [Demetrius] would resign his whole being, now to pleasure, and now to action; and though he never let thoughts of the one intrude upon the pursuit of the other, yet when the time came for preparing for war, he showed as much capacity as any man.
And indeed his ability displayed itself even more in preparing for than in conducting a war. He thought he could never be too well supplied for every possible occasion, and took a pleasure, not to be satiated, in great improvements in ship-building and machines. He did not waste his natural genius and power of mechanical research on toys and idle fancies, turning, painting, and playing on the flute, like some kings.
[omitted for length: descriptions of the hobbies of various kings]
But when Demetrius played the workman, it was like a king, and there was magnificence in his handicraft. The articles he produced bore marks upon the face of them not of ingenuity only, but of a great mind and a lofty purpose. They were such as a king might not only design and pay for, but use his own hands to make; and while friends might be terrified with their greatness, enemies could be charmed with their beauty; a phrase which is not so pretty to the ear as it is true to the fact. The very people against whom they were to be employed could not forbear running to gaze with admiration upon his galleys of five and six ranges of oars, as they passed along their coasts; and the inhabitants of besieged cities came on their walls to see the spectacles of his famous City-Takers.
For Lysimachus, who of all other kings did malice Demetrius most, coming to raise the siege from the city of Soli in Cilicia, sent first to desire permission to see his galleys and engines, and, having had his curiosity gratified by a view of them, expressed his admiration and quitted the place. The Rhodians, also, whom he long besieged, begged him, when they concluded a peace, to let them have some of his engines, which they might preserve as a memorial at once of his power and of their own brave resistance.
The quarrel between Demetrius and the Rhodians was on account of their being allies to Ptolemy, and in the siege the greatest of all the engines was planted against their walls. The base of it was square, each side containing twenty-four cubits; it rose to a height of thirty-three cubits, growing narrower from the base to the top. Within were several apartments or chambers, which were to be filled with armed men, and in every story the front towards the enemy had windows for discharging missiles of all sorts, the whole being filled with soldiers for every description of fighting. And what was most wonderful was that, notwithstanding its size, when it was moved it never tottered or inclined to one side, but went forward on its base in perfect equilibrium, with a loud noise and great impetus, astounding the minds, and yet at the same time charming the eyes of all the beholders.
Whilst Demetrius was at this same siege, there were brought to him two iron cuirasses from Cyprus, weighing each of them no more than forty pounds; and Zoilus, who had forged them, to show the excellence of their temper, desired that one of them might be tried with a catapult missile, shot out of one of the engines at no greater distance than six-and-twenty paces; and, upon the experiment, it was found that though the dart exactly hit the cuirass, yet it made no greater impression than such a slight scratch as might be made with the point of a style or graver. Demetrius took this for his own wearing, and gave the other to Alcimus the Epirot, the best soldier and strongest man of all his captains, the only one who used to wear armour to the weight of two talents, one talent being the weight which others thought sufficient. (He fell during this siege, in a battle near the theatre.)
The Rhodians made a brave defense, insomuch that Demetrius saw he was making but little progress, and only persisted out of obstinacy and passion; and the rather because the Rhodians, having captured a ship in which some clothes and furniture, with letters from herself, were coming to him from Phila his wife, had sent on everything to Ptolemy, and had not copied the honourable example of the Athenians, who, having surprised an express sent from King Philip, their enemy, opened all the letters he was charged with, excepting only those directed to Queen Olympias, which they returned with the seal unbroken.
Yet, although greatly provoked, Demetrius, into whose power it shortly after came to repay the affront, would not suffer himself to retaliate. Protogenes the Caunian had been making them a painting of the story of Ialysus, 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. It is said to having Protogenes seven years to paint, and they tell us that Apelles, when he first saw it, was struck dumb with wonder, and called it, on recovering his speech, "a great labour and a wonderful success," adding, however, that it had not the graces which carried his own paintings as it were up to the heavens. This picture, which came with the rest in the general mass to Rome, there perished by fire.
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 (#1) and Demetrius against all enemies, Ptolemy excepted.
The Athenians entreated his help against Cassander, who was besieging the city. So he went thither with a fleet of three hundred and thirty ships, and many soldiers; and not only drove Cassander out of Attica, but pursued him as far as Thermopylae, routed him and became master of Heraclea, which came over to him voluntarily, and of a body of six thousand Macedonians, which also joined him. Returning hence, he gave their liberty to all the Greeks on this side of Thermopylae, and made alliance with the Boeotians, took Cenchrae; 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 [omission] should be prepared as a house for him to lie in: and so they said that the goddess Minerva did lodge him with her [omission for content].
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 military weapons (past or present) that might charm you with their beauty?
"Yet, although greatly provoked, Demetrius, into whose power it shortly after came to repay the affront, would not suffer himself to retaliate." Why not?
For further thought: Plutarch says that Demetrius "did not waste his natural genius and power of mechanical research on toys and idle fancies, turning, painting, and playing on the flute, like some kings." Is he saying that painting and playing on the flute are "idle fancies" for everyone, or only for kings? Do you agree? (Consider what Demetrius had to say about the painting by Protogenes.)
For older students and further thought: 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?
Creative narration: Continue the "family history project."
Cassander, Seleucus, Ptolemy, and Lysimachus had already achieved political and military power; but now, along with Antigonus and Demetrius, they viewed themselves as kings; and Antigonus found himself at war with the other "kings." After a variety of disputes over territories and borders, things came to the point where Antigonus had to bring Demetrius back from Greece (where he had been battling against Cassander), to help him fight Lysimachus. In the previous lesson, we were told that "Antigonus, now nearly eighty years old, was no longer well able to go through the fatigues of a marching campaign…." However, he decided to push himself to fight in person at the Battle of Ipsus.
Feast of Juno: The Heraea, a festival held at Argos every five years in honour of the goddess Hera (called Juno by the Romans), which included athletic games
concourse: meeting, assembly
comic, comedy: a play with a happy ending (vs. a tragedy)
trifling concessions: small compromises
Jupiter: the god Zeus
lost him the day: lost him the battle
the main battle of Antigonus: his troops
fidelity: faithfulness, loyalty
Antiochus the son of Seleucus: Antiochus I Soter
301 B.C.: The armies of Cassander, Seleucus, and Lysimachus fought Demetrius and Antigonus at the Battle of Ipsus
301 B.C.: Death of Antigonus, and the breakup of his territories. Demetrius' mother Stratonice fled to the island of Salamis.
300 B.C.: Demetrius took his daughter, also named Stratonice, to Rhodes, to be married to Seleucus
On the Map
Peloponnesus or Peloponnese: the southern half of Greece, below the Isthmus of Corinth (the strip of land joining the two parts together)
Acte: the peninsula containing Mount Athos, in northeastern Greece
Arcadia: a region in the central Peloponnese
Mantinea: a city of Arcadia
Argos: a city in the Peloponnese, known for being one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world
Sicyon: a city-state in the northern Peloponnese. It was renamed Demetrias for a short time, but then returned to its old name.
Molossians: a tribe of the region of Epirus in northwestern Greece
Ephesus: A Greek city on the coast of Ionia; located in present-day Turkey
Chersonesus or Chersonese: A Greek colony which was located in the southwestern part of the Crimean Peninsula
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.
After this Demetrius marched with his forces into Peloponnesus, where he met with none to oppose him, his enemies fleeing before him, and allowing the cities to join him. He received into friendship all Acte, as it is called, and all Arcadia except Mantinea. He bought the liberty of Argos, Corinth, and Sicyon, by paying a hundred talents to their garrisons to evacuate them.
At Argos, during the Feast of Juno, which happened at the time, he presided at the games, and, joining in the festivities with the multitude of the Greeks assembled there, he celebrated his marriage with Deidamia, daughter of Aeacides, king of the Molossians, and sister of Pyrrhus.
At Sicyon he told the people they had put the city just outside of the city, and, persuading them to remove to where they now live, gave their town not only a new site but a new name, Demetrias, after himself.
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; whose superior he, in the present height of his prosperity and power, was willing enough to consider himself. And certainly, in one respect, he outdid Alexander, who never refused that title to other kings, or took on himself the style of "king of kings," though many kings received both their title and their authority as such from him; whereas Demetrius used to ridicule those who gave the name of king to any except himself and his father; and in his entertainments was well pleased when his followers, after drinking to him and his father as kings, went on to drink the health of Seleucus, with the title of "Master of the Elephants"; of Ptolemy, by the name of "High Admiral"; of Lysimachus, with the addition of "Treasurer"; and of Agathocles, with the style of "Governor of the Island of Sicily."
The other kings merely laughed when they were told of his vanity; Lysimachus alone expressed some indignation.
[Omission for length and content]
And now the story passes from the comic to the tragic stage in pursuit of the acts and fortunes of its subjects.
A general league of the kings, who were now gathering and combining their forces to attack Antigonus (#1), recalled Demetrius from Greece. He was encouraged by finding his father full of a spirit and resolution for the combat that belied his years. Yet it would seem to be true, that if Antigonus could only have borne to make some trifling concessions, and if he had shown any moderation in his passion for empire, he might have maintained for himself till his death and left to his son behind him the first place among the kings. But he was of a violent and haughty spirit; and the insulting words as well as actions which he allowed himself could not be borne by young and powerful princes, and provoked them into combining against him. Though now when he was told of the confederacy, he could not forbear from saying that this flock of birds would soon be scattered by one stone and a single shout.
Antigonus took the field at the head of more than seventy thousand foot, and of ten thousand horse, and seventy-five elephants. His enemies had sixty-four thousand foot and five hundred more horse than he; elephants to the number of four hundred, and a hundred and twenty chariots. 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 whereas in all former campaigns he had ever shown himself lofty and confident, loud in voice and scornful in speech, often by some joke or mockery on the eve of battle expressing his contempt and displaying his composure, he was now remarked to be thoughtful, silent, and retired.
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. Demetrius, in a dream, had seen Alexander, completely armed, appear and demand of him what word they intended to give in the time of the battle; and Demetrius answering that he intended the word should be "Jupiter and Victory." "Then," said Alexander, "I will go to your adversaries and find my welcome with them." And afterwards, at the very day of the overthrow, when all their army were set in battle array, 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. And on recovering his feet, lifting up his hands to heaven, he prayed the gods to grant him, "either victory, or death without knowledge of defeat."
When the armies engaged, Demetrius, who commanded the greatest and best part of the cavalry, made a charge on Antiochus the son of Seleucus; and, gloriously routing the enemy, followed the pursuit, in the pride and exultation of success, so eagerly, and so unwisely far, that it fatally lost him the day; for when, perceiving his error, he would have come in to the assistance of his own infantry, he was not able, the enemy with their elephants having cut off his retreat.
On the other hand, Seleucus, observing the main battle of Antigonus left naked of their horse, did not charge, but made a show of charging; and keeping them in alarm and wheeling about and still threatening an attack, he gave opportunity for those who wished it to separate and come over to him; which a large body of them did, the rest taking to flight.
But the old King Antigonus still kept his post, and when a strong body of the enemies drew up to charge him, and one of those about him cried out to him, "Sir, they are coming upon you," he only replied, "What else should they do? But Demetrius will come to my rescue." [North: He answered again: "But how should they know me? And if they did, my son Demetrius will come and help me."] And in this hope he persisted to the last, looking out on every side for his son's approach, until he was borne down by a whole multitude of darts, and fell. His other followers and friends fled, and Thorax of Larissa remained alone by the body.
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; so 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 before. As for Demetrius, with five thousand foot and four thousand horse, he fled at his utmost speed to Ephesus, where it was the common opinion he would seize the treasures of the temple to relieve his wants; but he, on the contrary, fearing such an attempt on the part of his soldiers, hastened away, and sailed for Greece, his chief remaining hopes being placed in the fidelity of the Athenians, with whom he had left part of his navy, and of his treasures, and his wife Deidamia. And in their attachment he had not the least doubt but he should in this his extremity find a safe resource.
[Omitted for length: After losing this battle and his 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 trouble in trying to round up even his own troops.]
He therefore took his course to the Chersonesus, where he ravaged the territories of Lysimachus, and by the spoils which he took, maintained and kept together his troops, which were now once more beginning to recover and to show some considerable front. Nor did any of the other princes care to meddle with him on that side; for Lysimachus had quite as little claim to be loved, and was more to be feared for his power.
[Omission for length]
Narration and Discussion
How did Demetrius' dream about Alexander affect his actions?
Plutarch says that the story here turns from comic to tragic. What does he mean? (A "comedy" was not necessarily humorous, but a story in which the characters triumphed over adversity.)
Creative narration #1: Although Demetrius had lost his father and his kingdom, the passage ends on a more positive note. If he had been interviewed at this time, what might he have said about his current situation and his plans for the future?
Creative narration #2: Continue the "family history project." What might Antigonus (#2) write as a tribute to his grandfather?
Relations between Demetrius, Seleucus, and the other Diadochi continued to go up and down. Demetrius allowed Seleucus to marry his daughter Stratonice, and at first that new alliance seemed to go well. However, mistrust and jealousy lurked beneath the surface courtesies.
One major event at this time was the Siege of Athens, in 287 B.C. Athens, under a tyrant ruler named Lachares, had attacked the Macedonian garrison; and Demetrius successfully besieged the city. But he had plans for more, including the unheard-of capture of Sparta; and even to retake his own kingdom of Macedonia. As Plutarch says of him,
But certainly there never was any king upon whom Fortune made such short turns, nor any other life or story so filled with her swift and surprising changes, over and over again, from small things to great, from splendour back to humiliation and from utter weakness once more to power and might…
he should marry his daughter Ptolemais: this did not happen until sometime later
usurper: someone who takes a position illegally or by force
in a petty manner: with brief battles and raids
straiten: put someone into a tight place
a proportion: a small number
consternation: state of dismay and upset
in the pulpit for orations: on the speakers' platform
which might give him the trouble of quitting his other enterprises: Demetrius was hoping Athens would remain peaceful so that he could focus on his other problems.
his mother and children: It is not clear which children are referred to.
recompense for his succour: reward for his trouble
Lachares: a political leader in Athens, who had expelled Demochares, the leader of an opposing party, and had taken sole power
Epicurus: famous philosopher, founder of Epicureanism
Archidamus: Archidamus IV, one of the kings of Sparta at the time (Sparta had an unusual tradition of having two kings at once.)
297 B.C.: Death of Cassander
294 B.C.: Demetrius took power in Athens
On the Map
Tyre and Sidon: coastal cities which are now part of Lebanon
Attica: the region of Athens
Messene: a city in the Peloponnese (not to be confused with Messina in Sicily)
Laconia: the region around the city of Sparta (Sparta was also called Lacedaemon)
Dium: a port city of Macedonia
[Omission for length: see notes above]
Not long after this, Demetrius' wife Deidamia contracted an illness, of which she died. After her death, Demetrius, by the mediation of Seleucus, became reconciled to Ptolemy, and an agreement was made that he (Demetrius) should marry his daughter Ptolemais.
Thus far all was handsomely done on the part of Seleucus. But, shortly after, desiring to have the province of Cilicia from Demetrius for a sum of money, and being refused it, he then angrily demanded of him the cities of Tyre and Sidon, which seemed a mere piece of arbitrary dealing, and, indeed, an outrageous thing, that he, who was possessed of all the vast provinces between India and the Syrian sea, should think himself so poorly off as, for the sake of two cities which he coveted, to disturb the peace of his "dear connection," already a sufferer under a severe reverse of fortune. However, he did but justify the saying of Plato, that the only certain way to be truly rich is not to have more property, but fewer desires. For whoever is always grasping at more avows that he is still in want, and must be poor in the midst of affluence.
But Demetrius, whose courage did not sink, resolutely sent him answer that, though he were to lose ten thousand battles like that of Ipsus, he would pay no price for the goodwill of such a son-in-law as Seleucus. He reinforced those cities with sufficient garrisons to enable them to make a defense against Seleucus, and, receiving information that Lachares, taking the opportunity of their civil dissensions, had set himself up as a usurper over the Athenians, he imagined that if he made a sudden attempt upon that city, he might now without difficulty get possession of it.
Demetrius crossed the sea in safety with a large fleet; but passing along the coast of Attica, was met by a violent storm, and lost the greater number of his ships, and a very considerable body of men on board them. As for him, he escaped, and began to make war in a petty manner with the Athenians, but, finding himself unable to effect his design, he sent back orders for raising another fleet, and, with the troops which he had, marched into Peloponnesus and laid siege to the city of Messene. In attacking that place, he was in danger of death; for a missile from an engine struck him in the face, and passed through the cheek into his mouth.
He recovered, however, and as soon as he was in a condition to take the field, won over divers cities which had revolted from him, and made an incursion into Attica, where he took Eleusis and Rhamnus, and wasted the country thereabout. And that he might straiten the Athenians by cutting off all manner of provision, a vessel laden with corn bound thither falling into his hands, he ordered the [officers] to be immediately hanged, thereby to strike terror into others, that so they might not venture to supply the city with provisions. By which means they were reduced to such extremities that a bushel of salt sold for forty drachmas, and a peck of wheat for three hundred. Ptolemy had sent to their relief a hundred and fifty galleys, which came so near as to be seen off Aegina; but this brief hope was soon extinguished by the arrival of three hundred ships, which came to reinforce Demetrius, from Cyprus, Peloponnesus, and other places; upon which Ptolemy's fleet took to flight, and 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 [Dryden: mouse] 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.
In this condition was the city when Demetrius made his entrance and issued a proclamation that all the inhabitants should assemble in the theater; which being done, he drew up his soldiers at the back of the stage, occupied the stage itself with his guards, and presently coming in himself by the actors' passages, when the people's consternation had risen to its height, with his first words he put an end to it.
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 appointed as magistrates persons acceptable to the people.
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 the others 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 was passed accordingly, and Demetrius, of his own motion, added a third garrison [omission] as a precaution against any new restiveness on the part of the people, which might give him the trouble of quitting his other enterprises.
He had not long been master of Athens before he had formed designs against Lacedaemon; of which Archidamus, the king, being advertised, came out and met him, but he was overthrown in a battle near Mantinea; after which Demetrius entered Laconia, and, in a second battle near Sparta itself, defeated him [Archidamus] again with the loss of two hundred Lacedaemonians slain, and five hundred taken prisoners. And now it was almost impossible for the city, which hitherto had never been captured, to escape his arms.
But certainly there never was any king upon whom Fortune made such short turns, nor any other life or story so filled with her swift and surprising changes, over and over again, from small things to great, from splendour back to humiliation and from utter weakness once more to power and might [omission]. Now again when Demetrius' affairs prospered so well, and that he was likely to recover a great force and kingdom: news was brought to him, first, that Lysimachus had taken all his towns from him, which he held in Asia; and on the other side, that Ptolemy had reduced all Cyprus with the exception of Salamis, and that in Salamis his mother and children were shut up and close besieged [omission].
The same fortune that drew him off with these disastrous tidings from Sparta, in a moment after opened upon him a new and wonderful prospect, of the following kind. Cassander, king of Macedon, dying, and his eldest son, Philip, who succeeded him, not long surviving his father, the two younger brothers fell at variance concerning the succession. And Antipater having murdered his mother Thessalonica, Alexander, the younger brother, called in to aid him Demetrius and Pyrrhus, the one out of the realm of Epirus, and the other out of Peloponnesus.
Pyrrhus arrived first, and, taking in recompense for his succour a large slice of Macedonia, had made Alexander begin to be aware that he had brought upon himself a dangerous neighbour. And, that he might not run a yet worse hazard from Demetrius, whose power and reputation were so great, the young man hurried away to meet him at Dium, whither he, who on receiving his letter, had set out on his march, was now come. And, offering his greetings and grateful acknowledgements, he at the same time informed him that his affairs no longer required the presence of his ally; thereupon he invited him to supper.
There were not wanting some feelings of suspicion on either side already. So it chanced 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. Thus Alexander's servants, finding themselves overpowered, had not courage to attempt anything. 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.
Narration and Discussion
Try to chart the "ups and downs" of Demetrius' life and career at this time. What were the times in which he showed wisdom and good leadership? When did he not do so well?
Why did Alexander change his mind about accepting help from Demetrius? Describe the cat-and-mouse game that they played. How do you think this will end?
Creative narration #1: Dramatize the scene in which Demetrius addressed the people of Athens after the siege.
Creative narration #2: Continue the "family history project."
Demetrius, like a game player collecting up properties, became ruler of Athens, and king of both Macedon and Thessaly. However, as in a game, the tables could easily be turned.
clemency: mercy, forgiveness
two furlongs: a furlong was equivalent to 220 yards (201 m)
heat and contentiousness: anger, spite
animosity: resentment, hatred
Cleonymus of Sparta: a member of the Spartan royal family with a rather complicated career history. The Spartans sent him to Boeotia to help defend it against Demetrius.
Hieronymus, the historian: the writings of Hieronymus may have been one of Plutarch's sources for this Life
Pyrrhus: see introductory notes
Pantauchus: a Macedonian general
294 B.C.: Demetrius' murder of Alexander of Macedon
294 B.C.: Demetrius' actions in Sparta
292-291 B.C.: The events described here in Boeotia
292 B.C.:Pyrrhus invaded Thessaly, but withdrew after a counterattack by Demetrius
291 B.C.:Lanassa left her husband Pyrrhus for Demetrius
On the Map
Thessaly: a region of Greece; its capital was Larissa
Boeotia (Boeotians): another region of Greece; its capital was Thebes
Thespiae (Thespians): a city which belonged to the Boeotian League
Thrace: a region now split among Greece, Bulgaria, and Turkey
Thermopylae: a narrow coastal passage into Greece
Delphi: among other things, it was the traditional site of the games
Alexander was very glad to see that Demetrius went his way out of Macedon not offended, but of his own goodwill; and proceeded to accompany him into Thessaly. But when they came to Larissa, new invitations passed between them, new professions of goodwill, covering new conspiracies; by which Alexander put himself into the power of Demetrius. For as he did not like to use precautions on his own part, for fear Demetrius should take the hint to use them on his, the very thing he meant to do was first done to him. He accepted an invitation, and came to Demetrius's quarters; and when Demetrius, while they were still supping, rose from the table and went forth, the young man rose also, and followed him to the door, where Demetrius, as he passed through, only said to the guards, "Kill him that follows me," and went on; and Alexander was at once despatched by them, together with such of his friends as endeavoured to come to his rescue, one of whom, before he died, said, "You have been one day too quick for us."
All that night was (as may be supposed) 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 for his murder 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.
And the Macedonians at home, who had not forgotten or forgiven the wicked deeds committed by Cassander on the family of Alexander, were far from sorry at the change. Any kind recollections that still might subsist of the plain and simple rule of the first Antipater went also to the benefit of Demetrius, whose wife was Phila, Antipater's daughter; and his son by her, a boy already old enough to be serving in the army with his father, was the natural successor to the government.
To add to this unexpected good fortune, news arrived that Ptolemy had dismissed his [Demetrius'] mother and children, bestowing upon them presents and honours; and also that his daughter Stratonice, whom he had married to Seleucus, was remarried to Antiochus, the son of Seleucus, and proclaimed Queen of Upper Asia.
[Omission for length and content. Note: 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.]
Having obtained the crown of Macedon, Demetrius presently became master of Thessaly, also. And holding the greatest part of Peloponnesus, and, on this side of the Isthmus, the cities of Megara and Athens, he now turned his arms against the Boeotians. They at first were willing to make peace with him. But Cleonymus of Sparta having ventured with some troops to their assistance, and having made his way into Thebes, and Pisis the Thespian, who was their first man in power and reputation, animating them to make a brave resistance, they broke off the treaty.
No sooner, however, had Demetrius begun to approach the walls with his engines, by Cleonymus in affright secretly withdrew; and the Boeotians, finding themselves abandoned, made their submission. Demetrius placed a garrison in charge of their towns, and, having raised a large sum of money from them, he placed Hieronymus, the historian, in the office of governor and military commander over them, and was thought on the whole to have shown great clemency, more particularly to Pisis, to whom he did no hurt, but spoke with him courteously and kindly, and made him chief magistrate of Thespiae.
Not long after, Lysimachus by chance was taken prisoner by another prince called Dromichaetes; and Demetrius went off instantly in the hopes of possessing himself of Thrace, thus left without a king. Upon this the Boeotians revolted again, and news also came that Lysimachus had regained his liberty. Then he [Demetrius] returned back with all speed, marvellously offended with the Boeotians, whom he found already discomfited in battle by his son Antigonus (#2); and he went again to lay siege to the city of Thebes, being the chief city of all that province of Boeotia.
But understanding that Pyrrhus had made an incursion into Thessaly, and that he was advanced as far as Thermopylae, leaving Antigonus to continue the siege, he marched with the rest of his army to oppose this enemy. Pyrrhus, however, made a quick retreat. So, leaving ten thousand foot and a thousand horse for the protection of Thessaly, he returned to the siege of Thebes, and there brought up his famous City-Taker to the attack; which, however, was so labouriously and so slowly moved on account of its bulk and heaviness, that in two months it did not advance two furlongs.
In the meantime the citizens made a stout defense, and Demetrius, out of heat and contentiousness very often, more than upon any necessity, sent his soldiers into danger; until at last Antigonus, observing how many men were losing their lives, said to him, "Why, my father, do we go on letting the men be wasted in this way without any need of it?" But Demetrius, in a great passion, interrupted him, "And you, good sir, why do you afflict yourself for the matter? Will dead men come to you for rations?" But that the soldiers might see that he valued his own life at no dearer rate than theirs, he fought with them freely, and was wounded with a javelin through his neck, which put him into great hazard of his life. But, notwithstanding, he continued the siege, and in conclusion took the town again.
And after his entrance, when the citizens were in fear and trembling, and expected all the severities which an incensed conqueror could inflict, he only put to death thirteen and banished some few others, pardoning all the rest. Thus the city of Thebes, which had not yet been ten years restored, in that short space was twice besieged and taken.
Shortly after, the Festival of the Pythian Apollo was to be celebrated, and the Aetolians having blocked up all the passages to Delphi, Demetrius held the games and celebrated the feast at Athens, alleging there was great reason those honours should paid in that place, Apollo being the paternal god of the Athenian people, and the reputed first founder of their race.
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 as 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. But whilst Demetrius entered Epirus, and laid all waste before him, Pyrrhus fell upon Pantauchus, and in a battle in which the two commanders met in person and wounded each other, he gained the victory, and took five thousand prisoners, besides great numbers slain in the field.
The worst thing, however, for Demetrius was that Pyrrhus had excited less animosity as an enemy than admiration as a brave man. His taking so large a part with his own hand in the battle had gained him the greatest name and glory among the Macedonians.
Narration and Discussion
Demetrius said to his son, "What needest thou to care? Is there any corn to be distributed to those that are dead?" (North's translation). Why might he have said this? Did his actions afterwards speak louder than his words?
Creative narration #1: Write or act out a conversation between two Macedonians, one who has become a fan of Pyrrhus, and the other defending Demetrius.
Creative narration #2: Continue the "family history project."
For further thought: Is it true that people are more easily ruled in wartime than in peace?
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. But he was not willing to give up the throne of Macedonia—his "home turf"—without a fight.
when his reverse overtook him: when he lost his kingdom
after the Laconian manner: in few words
in some apparent fit of a more popular and acceptable temper: wanting to appear more friendly to the people
written petitions: formal requests to have their cases heard
on the stocks: being built
execrations: denunciations, curses
rifle: rob, loot
289 B.C.:After winning the battle against Macedonian forces led by Pantauchus, the Epirots returned to their own country (as did the Macedonians). Later the same year, though, Demetrius became ill, and Pyrrhus took advantage of the situation to invade Macedonia.
289-288 B.C.:Demetrius made peace with Pyrrhus but was already making plans against Asia.
288 B.C: Lysimachus and Pyrrhus became co-rulers of Macedon.
On the Map
Pella: the capital city of Macedonia
Edessa: another important city of Macedonia
Beroea (also Veria, Veroia, or Berea): a city of Macedonia, mentioned in Acts 17.
Now many of the Macedonians began to say that Pyrrhus was the only king in whom there was any likeness to be seen of the great Alexander's courage; the other kings, and particularly Demetrius, did nothing but personate him, like actors on a stage, in his pomp and outward majesty.
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. One robe in particular, a most superb piece of work, was long in the loom in preparation for him, in which was to be wrought the representation of the universe and the celestial bodies. This, left unfinished when his reverse overtook him, not any one of the kings of Macedon, his successors, though divers of them proud and arrogant enough, ever presumed to use.
But it was not this theatric pomp alone which disgusted the Macedonians, but his profuse and luxurious way of living; and, above all, the difficulty of speaking with him or of obtaining access to his presence. For either he would not be seen at all, or, if he did give audience, he was violent and overbearing. Thus he made the envoys of the Athenians, to whom yet he was more attentive than to all the other Grecians, wait two whole years before they could obtain a hearing. 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."
Once when, in some apparent fit of a more popular and acceptable temper, he was riding abroad, a number of people came up and presented their written petitions. He courteously received all these, and put them up in the skirt of his cloak, while the poor people were overjoyed, and followed him close. But when he came upon the bridge of the river Axius, shaking out his cloak, he threw 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. They called to mind what some of them had seen, and others had heard related of King Philip's unambitious and open, accessible manners. One day when an old woman had assailed him [Philip] several times in the road, and importuned him to hear her after he had told her he had no tie, "If so," cried she, "you have no time to be a king." And this reprimand so stung the king that, after thinking of it awhile, he went back into the house, and setting all other matters apart, for several days together he did nothing else but receive, beginning with the old woman, the complaints of all that would come. And to do justice, truly enough, might well be called a king's first business [omission].
Demetrius fell into a great and dangerous sickness in the city of Pella, and during this time Pyrrhus pretty nearly overran all Macedon, and advanced as far as the city of Edessa. On recovering his health, he [Demetrius] quickly drove him out, and came to terms 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. This was no less than to endeavour the recovery of the whole empire which his father had possessed, and his preparations were suitable to his hopes and the greatness of the enterprise. He had arranged for the levying of ninety-eight thousand foot and nearly twelve thousand horse; and he had a fleet of five hundred galleys on the stocks, some building at Athens, others at Corinth and Chalcis, and in the neighbourhood of Pella. And he himself was passing evermore from one to another of these places, to give his directions and his assistance to the plans, while all that saw were amazed, not so much at the number, as at the magnitude of the works. Hitherto, there had never been seen a galley with fifteen or sixteen ranges of oars.
[omitted for length: comparison to a later, even larger Egyptian ship]
These mighty preparations against Asia, the like of which had not been made since Alexander first invaded it, united Seleucus, Ptolemy, and Lysimachus in a confederacy for their defense. They also despatched ambassadors to Pyrrhus, to persuade him to make a diversion by attacking Macedonia; he need not think there was any validity in a treaty which Demetrius had concluded, not as an engagement to be at peace with him, but as a means for enabling himself to make war first upon the enemy of his choice.
So when Pyrrhus accepted their proposals, Demetrius, still in the midst of his preparations, was encompassed with war on all sides. Ptolemy, with a mighty navy, invaded Greece; Lysimachus entered Macedonia upon the side of Thrace, and Pyrrhus, from the Epirot border, both of them spoiling and wasting the country.
Demetrius, leaving his son to look after Greece, marched to the relief of Macedon, and first of all to oppose Lysimachus. On his way, he received the news that Pyrrhus had taken the city of Beroea; and this news being blown abroad amongst the Macedonians, all Demetrius' doings were turned topsy turvy. The camp was filled with lamentations and tears, anger and execrations on Demetrius; they would stay no longer, they would march off, as they said, to take care of their country, friends, and families; but in reality the intention was to yield themselves unto Lysimachus. Demetrius, therefore, thought it his business to keep them as far away as he could from Lysimachus, who was their own countryman, and for Alexander's sake kindly looked upon by many; they would be ready to fight with Pyrrhus, a newcomer and a foreigner, whom they could hardly prefer to himself.
But there his judgement failed him. For when he advanced and pitched his camp near, the old admiration for Pyrrhus's gallantry in arms revived again; and as they had been used from time immemorial to suppose that the best king was he that was the bravest soldier, so now they were also told of his [Pyrrhus'] generous usage of his prisoners; and, in short, they were eager to have anyone in the place of Demetrius, and well pleased that the man should be Pyrrhus.
At first, some straggling parties only deserted; but in a little time the whole army broke out into a universal mutiny, insomuch that at last 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 this was thought fair and moderate language, compared with the fierceness of the rest.
So Demetrius 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 immediately took possession of the camp without a blow, after which he, with Lysimachus, parted the realm of Macedon betwixt them, after Demetrius had securely held it just seven years.
Narration and Discussion
Demetrius had great plans and built wonderful warships. How did his "mighty preparations" now work against him?
Creative narration #1: As an interviewer, talk to people on the streets of Macedonia, either before or after the news that the kingdom had fallen to Pyrrhus and Lysimachus. What did they have to say about Demetrius?
Creative narration #2: Continue the "family history project." How might Antigonus (#2) have viewed his father's overthrow?
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. He began a siege there, and was then talked out of it, perhaps distracted by the promise of better territory waiting for him in Asia. Fortune, however, seemed to be deserting him on this expedition.
archons: Athenian magistrates
straitened him much in his forage: made it hard for him to get food and supplies
to gauge the ford: to judge the depth and conditions of the river crossing
pass their jests: make jokes
Oedipus: Oedipus Rex, a tragedy by Sophocles
in their extreme necessity: in their dire need
Crates the philosopher: Crates of Thebes, who was likely a student of Stilpo (Lesson Two)
Agathocles, the son of Lysimachus: a prince who would have been, it was assumed, Lysimachus' heir; but because of family intrigues and strife, he was put to death soon afterwards on suspicion of treason.
288 B.C.: Demetrius fled to Cassandrea
288/287 B.C.: Demetrius' wife Phila killed herself with poison
c.287 B.C.: Demetrius married Ptolemais
287 B.C.: Demetrius besieged Athens
287/286 B.C.: Demetrius left Antigonus (#2) in charge of the war in Greece, and seized power in Caria and Lydia,provinces of Lysimachus; he also captured Sardis
286 B.C.: Demetrius and his army retreated to eastern Asia Minor
286/285 B.C.: Demetrius requested a small mountain territory for himself
On the Map
Cassandrea or Cassandreia: an important city in Macedonia
Asia: This does not refer to the continent as we know it, but to Anatolia or Asia Minor, which included the regions of Caria and Lydia. Lydia's capital city was Sardis.
Miletus: a city on the west coast of Anatolia
Armenia: at that time, a country of western Asia
Media (Medes): a region now part of northwestern Iran
Tarsus: a city in Cilicia, known as the birthplace of St. Paul
Mount Taurus: The Taurus Mountains are a range across the southern coast of Asia Minor.
Cataonia: a region of Cappadocia, in Asia Minor
Now Demetrius being thus miserably overthrown, and turned out of all his realm: he fled unto the city of Cassandrea. His wife Phila, in the passion of her grief, could not endure to see her hapless husband reduced to the condition of a private and banished man. She refused to entertain any further hope, and resolving to quit a fortune which was never permanent except for calamity, took poison and died.
Demetrius, determining still to hold on by the wreck, went off to Greece, and collected his friends and officers there.
[omitted: thoughts about the rising and falling of one's fortunes]
Now when he began to have some hope again, and (as it were) entered into the great highway of kings, he began once more to have about him the body and form of empire.
The Thebans received back, as his gift, their ancient constitution.
The Athenians had deserted him. They displaced Diphilus, who was that year the priest of the two Tutelar Deities, and restored the archons, as of old, to mark the year; and on hearing that Demetrius was not so weak as they had expected, they sent into Macedonia to beg the protection of Pyrrhus. Demetrius, in anger, marched to Athens, and laid close siege to the city.
In this distress they sent out to him Crates the philosopher, a person of authority and reputation, who succeeded so far that, what with his entreaties and the solid reasons which he offered, Demetrius was persuaded to raise the siege; and, collecting all his ships, he embarked a force of eleven thousand men with cavalry, and sailed away to Asia, to Caria and Lydia, to take those provinces from Lysimachus.
Arriving at Miletus, he was met there by Eurydice, the sister of Phila, who brought along with her Ptolemais, one of her daughters by King Ptolemy, who had before been affianced to Demetrius. So he married Ptolemais there, with the goodwill and consent of her mother Eurydice.
Immediately after, he proceeded to carry out his project, and was so fortunate in the beginning that many cities revolted to him; others, as particularly Sardis, he took by force; and some generals of Lysimachus, also, came over to him with troops and money.
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 many skirmishes and conflicts occurred, in which Demetrius had still the advantage; but Agathocles straitened him much in his forage, and his men showed a great dislike to his purpose, which they suspected, of carrying them far away 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.
Still, however, they could pass their jests, and one of them fixed upon Demetrius's tent-door a paper with the first verse, slightly altered, of the Oedipus:--
Child of the blind old man, Antigonus,
Into what country are you bringing us?
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.
With the rest of his men, Demetrius retreated and came to Tarsus. And because that city was within the dominions of Seleucus, he was anxious to prevent any plundering, and wished to give no sort of offense to Seleucus.
But when he perceived it was impossible to restrain the soldiers in their extreme necessity, Agathocles also having blocked up all the avenues of Mount Taurus, he wrote a letter to Seleucus, bewailing first all his own sad fortunes, and proceeding with entreaties and supplications for some compassion on his part towards one nearly connected with him, who was fallen into such calamities as might extort tenderness and pity from his very enemies.
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 Patrocles, a person whose judgment was greatly valued, and who was a friend highly trusted by Seleucus, pointed out to him that the expense of maintaining such a body of soldiers was the least important consideration, but that it was contrary to all policy to let Demetrius stay in the country, since he, of all the kings of his time, was the most violent, and most addicted to daring enterprises; and he was now in a condition which might tempt persons of the greatest temper and moderation to unlawful and desperate attempts.
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.
From there he went envoys to Seleucus, to request from him that he would permit him the liberty to settle with his army somewhere among the independent barbarian tribes, where he might be able to make himself a petty king, and end his life without further travel and hardship; or, if he refused him this, at any rate to give his troops food during the winter, and not expose him in this distressed and naked condition to the fury of his enemies. But Seleucus, mistrusting his demands, sent unto him that he should winter if he thought good, two months, but no more, in Cataonia, provided he gave him the chiefest of his friends for hostages. Howbeit, in the meantime, Seleucus stopped up all the ways and passages going from thence into Syria.
Narration and Discussion
Was Demetrius still showing good judgment as a military leader? How did he handle the problems of sickness and lack of food in the camp?
Creative narration #1: Write some diary entries or a letter home by one of Demetrius' soldiers.
Creative narration #2: Continue the "family history project."
Creative narration #3 (for older students): Write a Shakespearian monologue for Demetrius, trying to decide whether to beg for help from Seleucus.
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. This was definitely a difficult position to be in.
armed carts with scythes: chariots with blades attached
elated: delighted, happy
putting on his boots: North says "putting on his hose"
mercenary soldiers: hired soldiers, often foreigners
vicissitudes: sudden changes of fortune
surrender at discretion: surrender unconditionally
signet: a ring used as identification
protracted the time: delayed things
285 B.C.: Demetrius fought with Seleucus in Syria, but became ill, and essentially surrendered himself
284 B.C.: Lysimachus had his son Agathocles put to death on suspicion of treason
On the Map
Cyrrhestica: a district of Syria, located east of Amanus (a mountain range also called the Nur Mountains)
Caunus (Kaumos): a seaport city in Anatolia
Chersonesus of Syria or Syrian Chersonese: The exact location of this is undetermined, but it is believed to be near Antioch, a city founded by Seleucus near the Orontes River
So that Demetrius, who saw himself thus, like a wild beast, encompassed on all sides, 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, expelling the troops that were in guard of the mountain passes, made himself master of the roads leading into Syria. And now, elated himself, and finding his soldiers also animated by these successes, he was resolved to push ahead, and to have one deciding blow for the empire with Seleucus; who indeed was in considerable anxiety and distress, 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 meanwhile, Demetrius fell into a great sickness, the which brought his body very weak and low, and had almost utterly overthrown his affairs. His men deserted to the enemy, or dispersed. At last, after forty days, he began to be so far recovered as to be able to rally his remaining forces, and marched as if he directly designed for Cilicia; but in the night, raising his camp without sound of trumpet, he took a countermarch, and, passing the mountain Amanus, he ravaged all the lower country as far as Cyrrhestica.
But Seleucus followed him, and camped close by. 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 amazement and fear withal, got up, and sounded the alarm: and as he was putting on his boots to mount his horse, he cried out (speaking to his friends and familiars about him), "We have now a cruel and dangerous beast to deal with."
But Demetrius, by the noise he heard in the camp, finding they had taken the alarm, drew off his troops in haste.
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, lighting from his horse, pulling off his helmet, and taking a target, advanced to the foremost ranks of the mercenary soldiers, and, showing them who he was, bade them come over and join him, telling them that it was for their sakes only that he had so long forborne coming to extremities. And thereupon without a blow more, they saluted Seleucus as their king and passed over.
Demetrius, who felt that this was his last change of fortune, and that he had no more vicissitudes to expect, fled to the passes of Amanus, where, with a very few friends and followers, he threw himself into a dense forest, and there waited for the night, purposing, if possible to make his escape towards Caunus, where he hoped to find his shipping ready to transport him. But upon inquiry, finding that they had not provisions even for that one 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. 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, perceiving by the fires that the enemies had occupied them, he gave up all thought of that road, and retreated to his old station in the wood, but not with all his men; for some had deserted, nor were those that remained as willing as they had been. So, one among the rest took upon him to say that there was no other way to escape, 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 persuading him to do as had been said. So at last he gave way, and sent to Seleucus, to surrender himself at discretion.
Seleucus was so joyful of the news, that he said it was not Demetrius' good fortune that saved him, but his own, which had added to his other honours the opportunity of showing his clemency and generosity. And forthwith he gave order to 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. Seleucus sent him 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. No sooner was this message known, but the courtiers and officers, some few at first, and afterwards almost the whole of them, thinking Demetrius would presently become of great power with the king, hurried off, vying who should be foremost to pay him their respects. 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 allowed 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, however, finding himself in this condition, sent letters to those who were with his son, and to his captains and friends at Athens and Corinth, that they should give no manner of credit to any letters written to them in his name, though they were sealed with his own signet, but that, looking upon him as if he were already dead, they should maintain the cities and whatever was left of his power for Antigonus, as his successor.
Antigonus received the news of his father's captivity with great sorrow. He put himself into mourning and wrote letters to the rest of the kings, and to Seleucus himself, making entreaties, and offering not only to surrender whatever they had left, but himself to be a hostage for his father. Many cities also and princes joined in interceding for him; only Lysimachus sent and offered a large sum of money to Seleucus to take away his life. But he, who had always shown his aversion to Lysimachus before, thought him only the greater barbarian and monster for it. Nevertheless, he still protracted the time, reserving the favour, as he professed, for the intercession of Antiochus and Stratonice.
Narration and Discussion
At the beginning of this passage, why did Seleucus not want to fight against Demetrius? What changed things?
When Demetrius finally surrendered to Seleucus, why was Seleucus so lenient with him? Should he have taken Lysimachus' advice and put him to death?
Creative narration #1: Dramatize any part of this passage.
Creative narration #2: Continue the "family history project."
For further thought: Plutarch makes this interesting comment: "So that Demetrius, who saw himself thus, like a wild beast, encompassed on all sides, was driven to trust to his own strength." He seems to imply that this was not a good thing. What or who else might Demetrius have trusted?
For older students: Can you think of any other stories of people suddenly having their enemy in their hands, but not knowing what to do with them? (One example: Elizabeth I and Mary Queen of Scots.)
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.
he himself also did much repent him: he was very sorry
cadences: beat, rhythm
Perseus (212-166 B.C.): the last king of Macedon
283 B.C.: Death of Demetrius
239 B.C.: Death of Antigonus II Gonatas (Demetrius' son)
On the Map
Iolcus: a town of ancient Thessaly, whose inhabitants became part of Demetrius' new city there
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 took to dice and drinking, in which he passed most of his time, whether it were to escape the thoughts of his present condition, with which he was haunted when sober, and to drown reflection in drunkenness, or that he acknowledged to himself that this was the real happy life he had long desired and wished for, and had foolishly let himself be seduced away from it by a senseless and vain ambition , which had only brought trouble to others; that highest good which he had thought to obtain by arms and fleets and soldiers he had now discovered unexpectedly in idleness, leisure, and repose. As, indeed, what other end or period is there of all the wars and dangers which hapless princes run into, whose misery and folly it is, not merely that they make luxury and pleasure, instead of virtue and excellence, the object of their lives, but that they do not so much as know where this luxury and pleasure are to be found?
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 years 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 funeral urn, 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 urn 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. Xenophantus, the most famous musician of the day, played on the flute his most solemn measure, to which the rowers, as the ship came in, made loud response, their oars, like the funeral beating of the breast, keeping time with the cadences of the music.
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 (#2), whom they saw all beblubbered with tears, appareled as a mourner in blacks.
After crowns and other honours had been offered at Corinth, the remains were conveyed to Demetrias, a city to which Demetrius had given his name, peopled from the inhabitants of the small villages of Iolcus.
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 Thin, by an Illyrian mother, and one who ruled in Cyrene, by Ptolemais. He had also, by Deidamia, a son, Alexander, who lived and died in Egypt; and there are some of say that he had a son by Eurydice, named Corrhabus. His family was continued in a succession of kings down to Perseus, the last, from whom the Romans took Macedonia.
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 older students: "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 follow 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 true of Demetrius?
Creative narration #1: Write a conversation between people in one of the towns as the funeral fleet passed by.
Creative narration #2: Complete the "family history project." What would Antigonus have to say about his father's life and ending, or perhaps about his own plans for the future?
For Younger Students
1. How was Demetrius inspired by the example of his father Antigonus?
2. Describe a) the early life and career of Demetrius, b) his final days.
For Older Students
1. See (2) above.
2. (High School) Plutarch wrote: "So, in the same manner, it seems to me likely enough that we shall be all the more zealous and more emulous to read, observe, and imitate the better lives, if we are not left in ignorance of the blameworthy and the bad." Do you agree? How might this apply to the Life of Demetrius?