The Scepsis Inscription

The Scepsis Inscription: text of a letter in which Antigonus Monophthalmus explains his policy.

Between 314 and 311, Antigonus Monophthalmus, the strongest of the generals who were contending for the inheritance of Alexander the Great, fought the Third Diadoch War against Ptolemy of Egypt, Lysimachus of Thrace, and Cassander of Macedonia. In 311, he agreed to a peace treaty. An inscription found in Scepsis in the Troad contains the text of a letter he sent to the Greek towns to explain his behavior: he had not crushed Ptolemy and agreed to unfair demands by Cassander, because he wanted to settle the affairs in Greece as soon as possible. The translation was made by M.M. Austin.

[1] [Several lines lost]

... we displayed zeal for the freedom of the Greeksnote and made for this purpose many considerable conclusions including the gift of money, and to this end we sent out jointly Aeschylus and Demarchus. As long as there was agreement on this point, we took part in the meeting at the Hellespont,note and if certain men had not raised difficulties, the matter would have been settled then.

[2] But now when Cassander and Ptolemy were discussing a truce and Prepelaus and Aristodemus came to see us on this matter, although we saw that some of Cassander's demands were excessive, we thought we ought to overlook them since there was agreement about the Greeks, so that the essential points should be implemented as soon as possible; we should have thought it a great achievement to arrange something for the Greeks as we had wished, but because this would have been a rather lengthy process and delay can often bring about many unforeseen consequences, and because we were anxious to see the affairs of the Greeks settled in our lifetime,note we thought it imperative that questions of detail should not prevent the implementation of the essential points.

[3] How great is the zeal we have displayed over this will, I think, be clear I to you and to all others from the actual dispositions taken. When we had reached agreement with Cassander and Lysimachus, for which purpose they had sent Prepelaus with full powers, Ptolemy sent ambassadors to us requesting a truce with himself and his inclusion in the same agreement. We saw that it was no small matter to give up part of the goal for which we had taken great trouble and spent much money, and that when we had reached a settlement with Cassander and Lysimachus and the rest of the task was easier; nevertheless, because we understood that a settlement with Ptolemy too would speed up a solution to the question of Polyperchon,note since he would have no allies, and because of our relationship with him, and also because we saw that you and the other allies were burdened by military service and by expenses, we thought it was right to give way and to conclude a truce with him too.

[4] We dispatched Aristodemus, Aeschylus and Hegesias to conclude the agreement. They have returned after receiving pledges, and the envoys from Ptolemy, Aristobulus and his colleagues, have arrived to receive pledges from us. Know therefore that the truce has been concluded and that peace has been made.

[5] We have written a clause into the agreement that all the Greeks should join together in protecting their mutual freedom and autonomy, in the belief that in our lifetime they would in all human expectation be preserved, but that in future with all the Greeks and the men in powernote bound by oath, the freedom of the Greeks would be much more securely guaranteed. To join in the oath to protect what we agreed with each other did not seem to us inglorious or without advantage to the Greeks. It therefore seems to me right that you should swear the oath which we have sent to you. We shall endeavor in future to achieve whatever is in your interests and that of the other Greeks.

[6] Concerning these matters I resolved to write to you and to send Acius to discuss them with you; he brings you copies of the agreement we have made and of the oath. Farewell.

This page was created in 2003; last modified on 23 September 2020.