Plutarch on the siege of Nora

After the death of Alexander the Great on June 11, 323, Perdiccas was appointed as regent for Alexander's half-witted brother Philip Arridaeus and his baby son Alexander. Soon, Perdiccas lost control of the empire, and he had to fight a civil war against rebel officers like Ptolemy, Antipater, and Craterus.

Perdiccas' most important ally was Eumenes of Cardia, who defeated Craterus. However, Perdiccas himself was assassinated and Antipater divided the empire again (settlement of Triparadisus, 320; text). He made Antigonus Monophthalmus supreme commander in Asia, and ordered him to fight against Eumenes.

The story is told by Plutarch of Chaeronea in his Life of Eumenes 10-12. The anonymous translation belongs to the Dryden series.

The siege of Nora

[10.1] From this time Eumenes, daily flying and wandering about, persuaded many of his men to disband, whether out of kindness to them, or unwillingness to lead about such a body of men as were too few to engage and too many to fly undiscovered.

Taking refuge at Nora, a place on the confines of Lycaonia and Cappadocia note with 500 horse and 200 heavy-armed foot, he again dismissed as many of his friends as desired it, through fear of the probable hardships to be encountered there, and, embracing them with all demonstrations of kindness, gave them permission to depart.

[10.2] Antigonus, when he came before this fort, desired to have an interview with Eumenes before the siege; but he returned answer that Antigonus had many friends who might command in his place; but they whom Eumenes defended had nobody to substitute if he should miscarry; therefore, if Antigonus thought it worth while to treat with him, he should first send him hostages. And when Antigonus required that Eumenes should first address himself to him as his superior, he replied, "While I am able to wield a sword, I shall think no man greater than myself."

[10.3] At last, when, according to Eumenes' demand, Antigonus sent his own nephew Ptolemy to the fort, Eumenes went out to him, and they mutually embraced with great tenderness and friendship, as having formerly been very intimate. After a long conversation (in which Eumenes made no mention of his own pardon and security but required that he should be confirmed in his territories and restitution should be made him of the rewards of his service) all that were present were astonished at his courage and gallantry.

[10.4] Many of the Macedonians flocked to see what sort of person Eumenes was, for since the death of Craterus no man had been so much talked of in the army. But Antigonus, being afraid lest he might suffer some violence, first commanded the soldiers to keep off, calling out and throwing stones at those who pressed forwards. At last, taking Eumenes in his arms, and keeping off the crowd with his guards, not without great difficulty, he returned him safe into the fort.

[11.1] Then Antigonus built a wall round Nora and left a force sufficient to carry on the siege, and drew off the rest of his army.note Eumenes was beleaguered and kept garrison. He had plenty of grain and water and salt, but no other thing, either for food or delicacy; yet with such as he had, he kept a cheerful table for his friends, inviting them severally in their turns, and seasoning his entertainment with a gentle and affable behavior.

[11.2] For he had a pleasant countenance, and looked not like an old and practiced soldier, but was smooth and florid, and his shape as delicate as if his limbs had been carved by art in the most accurate proportions. He was not a great orator, but winning and persuasive, as may be seen in his letters.

[11.3] The greatest distress of the besieged was the narrowness of the place they were in, their quarters being very confined, and the whole place but 360 meters in compass, so that both they and their horses fed without exercise.

[11.4] Accordingly, not only to prevent the listlessness of such inactive living, but to have them in condition to fly if occasion required, Eumenes assigned a room 40 meters long, the largest in all the fort, for the men to walk in, directing them to begin their walk gently, and so gradually mend their pace. And for the horses, he tied them to the roof with great halters, fastening which about their necks, with a pulley he gently raised them, till standing upon the ground with their hinder feet, they just touched it with the very ends of their forefeet.

[11.5] In this posture the grooms plied them with whips and shouts, provoking them to curvet and kick out with their hind legs, struggling and stamping at the same time to find support for their forefeet, and thus their whole body was exercised, till they were all in a foam and sweat; excellent exercise, whether for strength or speed; and then he gave them their grain already coarsely ground, that they might sooner dispatch and better digest it.

[12.1] The siege continued long, and Antigonus received the news that Antipater was dead in Macedonia,note and that affairs were embroiled by the differences of Cassander and Polyperchon,note upon which he conceived no mean hopes, purposing to make himself master of all, and, in order to his design, thought to bring over Eumenes, that he might have his advice and assistance.

He, therefore, sent Hieronymusnote to treat with him, proposing a certain oath,

[12.2] which Eumenes first corrected, and then referred himself to the Macedonians themselves that besieged him, to be judged by them, which of the two forms was the most equitable. Antigonus in the beginning of his version of the oath had slightly mentioned the kings as by way of ceremony, while all the sequel referred to himself alone; but Eumenes changed the form of it to Olympias and the kings,note and proceeded to swear not to be true to Antigonus but to them, and have the same friends and enemies, not with Antigonus, but with Olympias and the kings.

[12.3] The Macedonians thought this the more reasonable, and Eumenes swore according to it, and raised the siege, sending also to Antigonus that he should swear in the same form to Eumenes. Meantime, all the hostages of the Cappadocians Eumenes had in Nora he returned, obtaining from their friends war-horses, beasts of carriage, and tents in exchange. And collecting again all the soldiers who had dispersed at the time of his flight, and were now wandering about the country, he got together a body of almost 1,000 horse, and with them fled from Antigonus, whom he justly feared. For he had sent orders not only to have him blocked up and besieged again, but had given a very sharp answer to the Macedonians for admitting Eumenes' amendment of the oath.