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Polyaenus on the Babylonian war

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Seleucus I Nicator. Bust at the Louvre, Paris (France). Photo Marco Prins.
Seleucus I Nicator (Louvre)
The Greek-Roman author Polyaenus (second century CE) is the author of a large collection of stratagems, which was presented to the emperors Marcus Aurelius and Lucius Verus on the occasion of the latter's war against the Parthian Empire. Polyaenus is interested in the technique of war, not in history for its own sake. Therefore, he often carelessly confuses the names of opposing generals. The following anecdote can not be cited as evidence that Antigonus Monophthalmus and Seleucus nicator ever waged war, although it can, in the context of the Babylonian war, certainly not be excluded. The translation of Stratagems 4.9.1 was made by P. Krentz & E.L. Wheeler.

A pitched battle between Seleucus and Antigonus was undecided. When night came, it seemed best to both sides to postpone the fighting until the next day. Antigonus' men encamped unarmed, while Seleucus ordered his soldiers to eat wearing their armor and to sleep in battle order. Just before daybreak, Seleucus' men advanced armed and in formation. Antigonus' men, caught without arms and in disorder, quickly gave the victory to the enemy.

Although it is possible that this happened during the Babylonian war (311-308), there is something odd with this anecdote: Antigonus was probably the most competent of Alexander's successors, and is caught blundering. This is too stupid to be true.


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