Antipater (399-319): supreme commander of the Macedonian forces in Europe during the eastern campaign of Alexander the Great, later regent for Alexander's mentally unstable brother Philip III Arridaeus.

Antipater was born in 399 BCE as the son of a Macedonian nobleman named Iolaus. He served as a soldier and diplomat under the kings Perdiccas III (365-360) and Philip II (360-336) and seems to have developed a personal interest in the education of the latter's crown prince Alexander. When the king was killed, Antipater and Philip's trusted general Parmenion made sure that Alexander succeeded his father. Antipater arranged that the army greeted Alexander as king, probably played a role in the murder of a rival candidate, and Parmenion got rid of another candidate.

In the following year (335), Alexander rewarded them: he appointed many relatives of Parmenion as commanders in the Macedonian army, and made Antipater supreme commander of the forces in Europe. Both men saw action. Philip had sent Parmenion to Asia as commander of the advance guard of an expeditionary force that was to overthrow the Achaemenid Empire; the old general now had to defend himself against the Persian commander Memnon of Rhodes. Antipater was with Alexander during the campaign against the rebellious Greek city Thebes.

In 334, Alexander joined Parmenion, leaving Antipater in charge of Macedonia and Greece. Although the main fighting was done by Alexander's army, Antipater was involved in the war too. In the winter of 334/333, he sent reinforcements to Gordium, where Alexander was staying. Next summer, the Persian navy, commanded by Memnon and Pharnabazus, invaded the Aegean Sea and threatened to bring the war to Thrace and Macedonia. With a combination of force and good luck, Antipater kept the situation under control. After Alexander's victories at Issus (333) and Tyre (332), the Persian naval power was broken, and peace returned to the Aegean region.

However, the Spartan king Agis III (338-330) had accepted money from Pharnabazus and had built a large army, consisting of 20,000 men. In 331, he organized an anti-Macedonian coalition. Alexander sent enormous amounts of money to Macedonia, where Antipater broke off a campaign in Thrace and built another army, twice as big as Agis' force. In the Spring of 330, the Spartan king was defeated at Megalopolis. He died on his way back to Sparta. Antipater sent his own mercenaries to the east, where they met with Alexander in Sogdia (329).

Meanwhile, a conflict had broken out between Antipater and Alexander's mother Olympias. She decided to go to Molossis, the small kingdom where she was born. Here, she quarreled with her daughter and Alexander's sister, queen Cleopatra, who decided to go to Antipater and stayed at his court for seven years.

During this period, Olympias continued to write letters to her son, in which she informed him of Antipater's continuing misbehavior. Alexander ignored the first complaints -which must have coincided with the arrival of the reinforcements- but later, he seems to have lost his temper. In 324, when he returned from India, he ordered Antipater to come to Babylon. He sent his trusted general Craterus with 11,500 veterans back to Europe, where he was to succeed Antipater as supreme commander of the Macedonian forces in Europe.

Antipater, however, was unable obey. In the summer, Alexander had ordered all Greek towns to accept their exiles and give them back their possessions (text). This had created great tensions and Antipater knew that he could not reduce the strength of his forces. He sent his son Cassander to Babylon, but his diplomatic mission was a failure, because Alexander interpreted Antipater's refusal as a confirmation of the reports by Olympias. The family of Antipater was now in disgrace, and when the king died on 11 June 323 BCE, it was rumored that Cassander had poisoned him.

The conqueror was succeeded by his half-brother Philip Arridaeus, who was not only a bastard, but also mentally unfit to rule. Therefore, general Perdiccas was made regent. Almost immediately, the war that Antipater had predicted broke out; it is called the Lamian War. The Athenians had been preparing for some time and were now joined by several other Greek towns. They occupied Thermopylae, and when Antipater arrived, he was repelled and forced to hide in the nearby fortress of Lamia.

In the spring of 322, Leonnatus, the satrap of Hellespontine Phrygia, was able to relieve him, but the liberator died in action and the war continued. In the summer, however, Craterus arrived with the 11,500 veterans and a navy that he had built in Cilicia. This meant the end of the war. Using these reinforcements, Antipater was able to defeat the Greeks at Crannon (5 September 322). Their towns, which had been free allies during Alexander's reign, were from now on treated as Macedonian subjects. It also meant the end the Athenian democracy.

At the same time, Cleopatra left Pella and went to Sardes in Lydia, where she offered her hand to Perdiccas. A union between the sister of Alexander the Great and a general would serve the unity and stability of the empire, because the unstable Philip Arridaeus would be replaced by a stronger man.

There was one complication. Perdiccas was engaged to Antipater's daughter Nicaea, and when this engagement was broken off, Antipater felt insulted. But what really made war inevitable was the growth of Perdiccas' power and the fear which this caused among the other Macedonian leaders - Antipater in the first place, but also Craterus and Ptolemy, the satrap of Egypt. Civil war (the First Diadoch War) broke out in the last weeks of 322. During the next spring, the rebels cemented their alliance by intermarriage. Antipater gave his daughters Phila and Eurydice to Craterus and Ptolemy; Nicaea, who had once been promised to Perdiccas, married to Lysimachus, the governor of Thrace.

Perdiccas saw that a formidable coalition was being organized. He decided to invade Egypt, but was killed by his own officers Peithon, Antigenes, and Seleucus (summer 320). Ptolemy and Perdiccas' officers started negotiations. Ptolemy was offered the regency, but he was too smart to take the bait: he wanted to keep what he had won, not risking it in a larger game. He appointed Peithon and an officer named Arridaeus, two people who were clearly lacking prestige and would never be able to stop separatists like Ptolemy.

Antipater was not happy with this arrangement. He wanted to be the new regent, because he was capable of keeping Alexander's empire uinted. At Triparadisus (perhaps at Baalbek), he settled the affairs in the way he wanted (details). Early in 319, Antipater and his pupil Philip Arridaeus went to Macedonia, where Antipater succumbed a few months later to old age. He was eighty years old.

Antipater was succeeded by an old officer named Polyperchon, but he soon lost control of the situation, and was replaced by Antipater's son Cassander.

This page was created in 2002; last modified on 2 October 2020.