Nicanor is first mentioned as one of those who received a satrapy at the settlement at Triparadisus (320 BCE), where the empire of Alexander the Great was divided (text). He received Cappadocia. In the years that followed, he sided with Antigonus Monophthalmus, who was satrap of the adjacent territories Hellespontine Phrygia, Lycaonia, Pamphylia, and Lycia.
When Antigonus fought with Eumenes, Nicanor took part in the campaign to the east (318-316), and was probably at Babylon when Antigonus forced its satrap Seleucus into exile. He was also present when the victorious Antigonus had satrap Peithon of Media executed, and succeeded this man. His new capital was Ecbatana.
In May 311, Seleucus returned to Babylonia, which marks the beginning of the Babylonian War. Nicanor and the satrap of Aria, Euagoras, marched from Media to the west, and encountered Seleucus' army near the Tigris. During the battle, Euagoras fell, and his soldiers sided with Seleucus. Nicanor had to retreat. Seleucus followed immediately, and defeated Nicanor. He was killed in action. Media was added to Seleucus' possessions.